Subject Pronouns in Spanish

The Subject Pronouns in Spanish (“Pronombres personales de sujeto”) are the pronouns referring to the person who performs the action of the verb.

They are probably the first thing you will learn in any Spanish course, as they are the equivalent to the English words “I, you, he…”

Here is the list of subject pronouns, plus the conjugation in Present tense of the verb “Hablar” for each person:

EnglishSpanishverb "Hablar"
Iyohablo
you (sing.)hablas
he
she
you (sing. polite)
él
ella
usted
habla
we (masc.)
we (fem.)
nosotros
nosotras
hablamos
you (masc. pl.)
you (fem. pl.)
vosotros
vosotras
habláis
they (masc.)
they (fem.)
you (pl. polite)
ellos
ellas
ustedes
hablan

Did you notice these two words we have highlighted in purple (“usted”, “ustedes”)? They are the polite forms of “you” (singular) and “you” (plural).

But if they mean “you”, why are they grouped with the third persons in that table? Let’s go into that.



“Usted” and “ustedes”: they mean “you”, but they conjugate the verbs in THIRD person

“Usted” is the pronoun we use to say “you” to one person in a polite way. And “ustedes” to several pepole.

But the interesting thing is, when using the polite “usted” or “ustedes”, we must conjugate the verb in the THIRD person (singular or plural), not in the second. That is the reason why, in the table above, we have grouped “usted” with “él, ella” and “ustedes” with “ellos, ellas”.

Remember: The polite “usted” and “ustedes” conjugate the verb in the THIRD persons.

Examples:

 

  • él come = he eats
  • ella come = she eats
  • usted come = you (polite, singular) eat.

See?  “Usted” conjugates the verb in third person singular, just like “él” and “ella”

 

 

  • ellos comen = they eat
  • ellas comen = they (feminine) eat
  • ustedes comen = you (polite, plural) eat.

See?  “Ustedes” conjugates the verb in third person plural, just like “ellos” and “ellas”

 

In Spanish, we actually don’t need to say the subject pronouns: We CAN, but we DON’T NEED to

Yes, that is very different in English and in Spanish.

In English, you never just say, for example, “eats”. You always need a person to couple with the verb, for example “he eats” or “she eats”.

But in Spanish you are allowed to say just the verb and leave the subject pronoun unsaid. So if you wan’t to say “I speak”, you can choose to say or not say “yo”.

Two options for “I speak”:

  • hablo
  • yo hablo

Two options for “we eat”:

  • comemos
  • nosotros comemos

So how do we decide whether to say the person or not? Very easy: we will mention the person when we want to emphasize it. “Hablo” means “I speak”, and “Yo hablo” would be more similar to the English “Me, I speak…”, emphasizing the person.

So it’s basically a matter of emphasis. You can say the verb alone, or you can add the subject pronoun for more emphasis.

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