él

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Could you give me some examples of where "él" is used as "it" and not he'

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updated FEB 5, 2013
posted by Melanie

10 Answers

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James Santiago said:

Thanks. I realized that it was a subject in disguise right after I posted, but decided to leave the post since I was hoping someone would provide an example that was not a prepositional phrase. I think látigo may be right that that is the only time a subject pronoun can be used for "it."

The rule, as I remember it, only says that they cannot be used to refer to objects if they are the grammatical subject. The prepositions "entre" and "hasta" can work as adverbs before the subject of a sentence, but this does not allow you to use objects:

Entre él y ella llenaron la habitación (él y ella cannot refer to a sofa and a table)
Hasta él estaba allí (él cannot be a well)

These pronouns require a preposition for almost all functions when they are not subjects, but the presence of preposition alone does not guarantee that you can use them for objects. Latigo's rule it is reasonably practical and efficient, especially if know very little grammar and you don't know how to identify the subject of a sentence, but it is not ideal for advanced students.

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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Thanks. I realized that it was a subject in disguise right after I posted, but decided to leave the post since I was hoping someone would provide an example that was not a prepositional phrase. I think látigo may be right that that is the only time a subject pronoun can be used for "it."

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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James Santiago said:

I can't think of a good example in which "él" would be used for an inanimate object, that does not involve a prepositional phrase. Would the following be correct? Mira ese pozo. Creo que él es muy profundo.

It sounds wrong to me.

That "él" is the subject of the clause, so it is wrong (and it sounds wrong).

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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It does not necessarily have to be used in a prepositional phrase, as long as it is not the subject.

I can't think of a good example in which "él" would be used for an inanimate object, that does not involve a prepositional phrase. Would the following be correct?

Mira ese pozo. Creo que él es muy profundo.

It sounds wrong to me.

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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You have the right idea: "él", "ella", "ellos" and "ellas" cannot be used with people if when they are the subject of a sentence (there are special cases where they can, but never mind). A sentence like:

It is beautiful

Cannot be translated using "él" or "ella", as "it" is the subject of the sentence. You either mention the object, or use a demonstrative like "eso". But in sentences like:

Mira ese pozo. En él encontrarás...

the use of "él" is fine, since it is not the subject. It does not necessarily have to be used in a prepositional phrase (if you can find one), as long as it is not the subject.

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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Then you are saying (to paraphrase) a pronoun may only be used as the subject of a verb when the pronoun refers to a living being'

I've been cogitating on this, and I have come to the tentative conclusion that this is true. Continuing with my well series:

  • She fell into a well. It was very deep and cold.
  • Se cayó en un pozo. Era muy profundo y frío.

Grammatically, the "era" could refer to either "she" or "the well," but the context makes the correct interpretation obvious here (since she is unlikely to be called deep or cold). If necessary (that is, in other contexts), the sentence could be rewritten as:

  • Se cayó en un pozo, el cual era muy profundo y frío.

Or, in other cases, the subject would just be repeated.

Waiting to hear from the usual native speakers...

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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látigo said:

"él" never equal "it" when it is a subject pronoun: talking about a writing pen that is red= Es rojo, never él es rojo. But, as a prepostional pronoun like James points out "..al fondo de él." Yes, él = it.
Then you are saying (to paraphrase) a pronoun may only be used as the subject of a verb when the pronoun refers to a living being'

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by samdie
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"él" never equal "it" when it is a subject pronoun: talking about a writing pen that is red= Es rojo, never él es rojo. But, as a prepostional pronoun like James points out "..al fondo de él." Yes, él = it.

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by ltigo
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Lazarus, I think you have misread the question. Melanie wants to know when él can be used to mean "it," not "he."

How about this one?

La moneda se cayó en el pozo, y nadie ha descendido nunca al fondo de él.

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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samdie said:

So it would be sufficient to change your example to "El boligrafo y la pluma están encima de la mesa. ÿl es negro." in order to make the pronoun necessary.

Actually, that would sound a bit weird, if you are referring to an object.

Let me give you a couple:

To differenciate form 'her':
Lucía y Enrique van a la misma escuela, pero él no sabe leer bien aún.

To make a contrast (he, and only he):
Solamente él sabía dónde estaba enterrado el tesoro.

updated NOV 2, 2008
posted by lazarus1907