spanish pronouns

Spanish Pronouns and How to Use Them

Imagine a world where there were no possessives.

Imagine if you referred to others as just “other,” and not he, she, we, you, they.

Well, it doesn’t matter.

Because just like making adjectives agree, and the verbs ser and estar, pronouns are part of your everyday Spanish life.

So what exactly are Spanish pronouns, and what’s their deal?

Contents

What Are Spanish Pronouns?

Pronouns are small words that take the place of nouns and make things more concise, so you don’t have to continue saying someone’s name over and over again.

For example, instead of saying:

Juan es alto. Juan es guapo.
(Juan is tall. Juan is handsome.)

We can instead say:

Juan es alto. Él es guapo.
(Juan is tall. He is handsome.)

There are nine types of Spanish pronouns:

  • Subject pronouns
  • Possessive pronouns
  • Direct object pronouns
  • Indirect object pronouns
  • Prepositional pronouns
  • Reflexive pronouns
  • Relative pronouns
  • Indefinite pronouns
  • Demonstrative pronouns

Let’s explore each of them in-depth now.

9 Different Types of Spanish Pronouns

1. Subject Pronouns

English PronounSpanish PronounExample Sentence
I Yo Yo estoy estudiando.
(I am studying.)
You (singular, informal) eres muy inteligente.
(You are very intelligent.)
You (singular, formal) Usted Usted es muy amable.
(You are very kind.)
He Él Él trabaja en un banco.
(He works at a bank.)
She Ella Ella canta muy bien.
(She sings very well.)
We Nosotros Nosotros vamos al cine.
(We are going to the movies.)
You (plural) Ustedes Ustedes son mis amigos.
(You all are my friends.)
You (plural, masculine, Spain) Vosotros Vosotros sois mis mejores amigos.
(You all are my best friends.)
You (plural, feminine, Spain) Vosotras Vosotras estáis organizando la fiesta.
(You all are organizing the party.)
They (masculine) Ellos Ellos están estudiando para el examen.
(They are studying for the exam.)
They (feminine) Ellas Ellas son muy talentosas.
(They are very talented.)

The subject of a sentence is the person, place or thing that is linked to your main verb. It’s the most important noun in your sentence.

Take the phrase Juan es alto (Juan is tall).

Juan is our subject and es (from ser) is our verb.

To avoid repeating the name of our person, place or thing (in this case, Juan) over and over again, we use a subject pronoun to replace it.

This post can show you more about Spanish subject pronouns, but here are some main points to keep in mind:

  • You may have noticed that Spanish has more than one type of “you.” There’s a difference between formal and informal as well as singular versus plural, which you can read about here if you’re not familiar
  • Also, be careful that you add the accent to él and tú: this way, you’ll say “he” instead of “the” (el), and “you” instead of “your” (tu)
  • Spanish also has some pronouns to say the word “it,” however they are very rarely used. But for the sake of completeness, they are: él (“it” masculine), ella (“it” feminine) and ello (“it” neutral)

2. Direct Object Pronouns

English PronounSpanish PronounExample Sentence
Me Me Mi mamá me llamó.
(My mom called me.)
You (singular, informal) Te Te vi en el parque.
(I saw you in the park.)
Him / it (masculine) Lo Lo conozco desde hace mucho tiempo.
(I have known him for a long time.)
Her / it (feminine) La Vi a María en el parque. La saludé.
(I saw María in the park. I greeted her.)
Us Nos Nos invitaron a la fiesta.
(We were invited to the party.)
You (plural, informal, Spain) Os Os vi en la tienda.
(I saw you all in the store.)
You / them (plural, masculine) Los Los escuché cantar.
(I heard you all singing.)
You / them (plural, feminine) Las Las entregué esta mañana.
(I delivered them this morning.)

To understand this type of pronoun, we need to know what the object of a sentence is.

Remember that the subject of a sentence is the person, thing or place that is directly linked to the verb. Well, the object of the sentence is the thing or person that receives the action of the subject.

So in the example “Juan hit the ball” (Juan golpeó la bola), Juan is the subject and the ball is the object. 

Again, to avoid repetition, we often use a direct object pronoun.

In English, these are the same as the prepositional object pronouns, which is why English speakers often mix up the two in Spanish.

So, let’s say we ask where the ball is:

¿Dónde está la bola? 

We then can answer using a direct object pronoun, since the speaker already knows we are referring to the ball:

Juan la tiene. (Juan has it.)

This is easier than saying “Juan tiene la bola.” Note that the direct object pronoun goes before the verb, not afterwards (another common mistake English speakers make!).

If we’re talking about something masculine, not feminine, like a book, for example, then we need to use the masculine pronoun: lo.

So if Diego has the book, we could say, “Diego lo tiene.” (Diego has it.) If Diego has more than one book, we make our pronoun plural: Diego los tiene. (Diego has them.)

3. Indirect Object Pronouns

English PronounSpanish PronounExample Sentence
To me Me Mi mamá me dio un regalo.
(My mom gave me a gift.)
To you Te Te presté mi libro.
(I lent you my book.)
To him/her/it Le Le dije la verdad.
(I told him/her the truth.)
To us Nos Nos entregaron el paquete.
(They gave us the package.)
To you Os Os he hecho la cena.
(I have made dinner for you.)
To you/them Les Les di las llaves.
(I gave them the keys.)

An indirect pronoun tells us where the direct object is going (to whom?/for whom?). 

Let’s look at the sentence: “Juan gives the ball to Laura.” (Juan da la bola a Laura).

What’s our subject? Juan.

What’s our direct object? The ball.

And where is our direct object going? To Laura. So she must be our indirect object!

In some sentences, our direct object isn’t explicit, like in the sentence, “Diego le contó” (Diego told her/him). We have both a subject (Diego) and an indirect object (her/him), but we don’t know what the direct object is.

We have to assume that the answer is “it,” or a juicy secret about Juan.

4. Prepositional Object Pronouns

English PronounSpanish PronounExample Sentence
Me Este regalo es para .
(This gift is for me.)
You (singular, informal) Ti Estoy pensando en ti.
(I'm thinking of you.)
You (singular, formal) Usted La reunión es importante para usted.
(The meeting is important for you.)
Him Él Habló de él durante la conferencia.
(He talked about him during the conference.)
Her Ella Él salió a cenar con ella.
(He went out for dinner with her.)
It Él/Ella Amo este libro, no puedo vivir sin él.
(I love this book, I can't live without it.)
Us Nosotros Llamaron a un Uber para nosotros porque era tarde.
(They called an Uber for us because it was late.)
You (plural) Ustedes Organizamos una fiesta sorpresa para ustedes.
(We organized a surprise party for you all.)
You (plural, masculine, Spain) Vosotros Tengo algo para vosotros.
(I have something for you all.)
You (plural, feminine, Spain) Vosotras No puedo esperar a irme de vacaciones con vosotras.
(I can't wait to go on vacation with you.)
Them (masculine) Ellos Yo fui a la playa sin ellos.
(I went to the beach without them.)
Them (feminine) Ellas Vamos de compras con ellas.
(We are going shopping with them.)

These pronouns are used after prepositions such as for, with, from, without, etc.

A quick note on mí: it’s important to remember the accent on this word or you’ll be saying mi (my) instead. Mí also often gets confused with yo as Spanish uses “I” and “me” differently than English.

For example, if a teacher asked:

Alguien robó mi libro, ¿quién fue?
(Someone has stolen my book, who was it?)

The perpetrator should say “Yo” (I) and not mí (me).

Another rule to remember is that after the preposition con, the rules change ever so slightly:

Con mí → conmigo

Con ti → contigo

For example, “Come with me” would be Ven conmigo,” and “He wants to go with you” would be Él quiere ir contigo.

5. Reflexive Pronouns

English PronounSpanish PronounExample Sentence
Myself Me Me cepillo los dientes todas las mañanas.
(I brush my teeth every morning.)
Yourself (singular, informal) Te Te lavas las manos antes de comer.
(You wash your hands before eating.)
Yourself (singular, formal) Se Se peina el cabello todos los días.
(You brush your hair every day.)
Himself / herself / itself Se Se mira en el espejo.
(He/She looks at himself/herself in the mirror.)
Ourselves Nos Nos ayudamos mutuamente.
(We help each other.)
Yourselves (plural) Se Se cuidan mucho.
(You all take care of yourselves.)
Yourselves (plural, informal, Spain) Os Os peináis antes de salir.
(You all comb your hair before going out.)
Themselves Se Se visten elegantemente.
(They dress themselves elegantly.)

Reflexive verbs are a common source of grievance for beginners as they add an extra dimension to the verb, but they are actually pretty simple.

For example, when you say, “Se llama Diego” (His name is Diego), you are using the reflexive verb llamarse (to call oneself). 

Reflexive verbs always end in –se in the infinitive. When you conjugate the verb, you need to drop the se from the end of the verb, and put it before the verb.

You may or may not change the se to another reflexive pronoun, depending on who you’re talking about.

Think back to some of those first Spanish verbs you ever learned, like:

  • vestirse (to dress oneself, aka to get dressed)
  • peinarse (to brush/to comb oneself)
  • ducharse (to shower/to shower oneself).

You might say something like:

Me ducho por las mañanas antes de vestirme.
(I take a shower in the morning before I get dressed)

You would be using reflexive pronouns without even realizing it. 

6. Relative Pronouns

English PronounSpanish PronounExample Sentence
Who / that (singular) Que El hombre que está hablando es mi hermano.
(The man who is speaking is my brother.)
Who / that (plural) Que Los alumnos que estudian mucho tienen buenas notas.
(The students who study a lot have good grades.)
Whom A quien Él es el hombre a quien saludé.
(He is the man whom I greeted.)
Which Que Este es el libro que me recomendaste.
(This is the book which you recommended to me.)
Whose Cuyo El hombre cuyo coche se averió llamó a una grúa.
(The man whose car broke down called a tow truck.)
That Que Los amigos que están aquí son muy divertidos.
(The friends who are here are very fun.)

Relative pronouns are words or phrases that refer back to a noun previously mentioned.

In English, they’re words like “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” “that,” “what,” “where” and “when.”

Note that some of these change based on gender and number.

Also, it’s not possible to omit the relative pronoun in Spanish. In English, you could say “The car (that) you crashed was new.” In Spanish, you cannot omit the “that,” and you have to say:

El auto que chocaste era nuevo.

More on these pronouns can be found here

7. Possessive Pronouns

English PronounSpanish Pronoun (Singular)Spanish Pronoun (Plural)Example Sentence
Mine (masculine) Mío Míos El libro es mío.
(The book is mine.)

Los libros son míos.

(The books are mine.)
Mine (feminine) Mía Mías La casa es mía.
(The house is mine.)

Las casas son mías.

(The houses are mine.)
Yours (masculine) Tuyo Tuyos El coche es tuyo.
(The car is yours.)

Los coches son tuyos.

(The cars are yours.)
Yours (feminine) Tuya Tuyas La bicicleta es tuya.
(The bicycle is yours.)

Las bicicletas son tuyas.

(The bicycles are yours.)
His / hers (masculine) Suyo Suyos El perro es suyo.
(The dog is his/hers.)

Los perros son suyos.

(The dogs are his/hers.)
His / hers (feminine) Suya Suyas La flor es suya.
(The flower is his/hers.)

Las flores son suyas.

(The flowers are his/hers.)
Ours (masculine) Nuestro Nuestros El proyecto es nuestro.
(The project is ours.)

Los proyectos son nuestros.

(The projects are ours.)
Ours (feminine) Nuestra Nuestras La empresa es nuestra.
(The company is ours.)

Las empresas son nuestras.

(The companies are ours.)
Yours (masculine) Vuestro Vuestros El regalo es vuestro.
(The present is yours.)

Los regalos son vuestros.

(The presents are yours.)
Yours (feminine) Vuestra Vuestras La carta es vuestra.
(The letter is yours.)

Las cartas son vuestras.

(The letters are yours.)
Theirs / yours (masculine) Suyo Suyos El sombrero es suyo.
(The hat is theirs/yours.)

Los sombreros son suyos.

(The hats are theirs/yours.)
Theirs / yours (feminine) Suya Suyas La llave es suya.
(The key is theirs/yours.)

Las llaves son suyas.

(The keys are theirs/yours.)

Possessive pronouns have four forms: the masculine and feminine forms in both plural and singular.

They are always used with the definite article “the” (el, la, los, las).

The possessive pronouns work much like their English counterparts, so in answer to:

¿De quién es este auto?
(Whose car is this?)

You might say:

Es mío.
(It’s mine.)

Or:

Es nuestro.
(It’s ours.)

The form of the possessive pronoun must match the noun it’s replacing. So in the above example, the noun we are talking about is el auto, which is why the possessive pronoun is singular and masculine.

Be careful not to mix up possessive pronouns with possessive adjectives, which mean the same as the possessive pronouns in English: my, your, his/her/its/ours/yours/theirs, but are slightly different in Spanish.

For example, “My girlfriend is pretty” translates to:

Mi novia es guapa.

In this case, “my” is a possessive adjective because it describes a noun (girlfriend).

Now if you say La tuya no es guapa.” (Yours isn’t pretty), “yours” takes the place of “girlfriend” and uses a possessive pronoun. 

This post can show you even more about possessive pronouns.

8. Indefinite Pronouns

English PronounSpanish PronounExample Sentence
Everyone Todos / todas Todos están invitados a la fiesta.
(Everyone is invited to the party.)
Someone Alguien Alguien llamó a la puerta.
(Someone knocked on the door.)
Anyone Alguien ¿Hay alguien aquí?
(Is there anyone here?)
Anyone Cualquiera Cualquiera puede hacer eso.
(Anyone can do that.)
Nobody Nadie Nadie conoce la respuesta.
(Nobody knows the answer.)
Everybody Todos / todas Todos están disfrutando del concierto.
(Everybody is enjoying the concert.)
Something Algo Hay algo en la caja.
(There is something in the box.)
Anything Algo ¿Quieres algo de beber?
(Do you want anything to drink?)
Nothing Nada No hay nada en la mesa.
(There is nothing on the table.)
Each one Cada uno / cada una Cada uno tiene su propia opinión.
(Each one has their own opinion.)
Many Muchos / muchas Muchos vinieron a la reunión.
(Many came to the gathering.)
Few Pocos / pocas Pocos saben la verdad.
(Few know the truth.)
Several Varios / varias Varios están interesados en el proyecto.
(Several are interested in the project.)

Indefinite pronouns are pronouns where the thing we’re talking about isn’t clear.

In English, they are words like “somebody,” “nobody” and “anybody.” In Spanish, they’re the same, just translated.

If you want to know more about indefinite pronouns, check out this post.

9. Demonstrative Pronouns

English PronounSpanish Pronoun (Masculine)Spanish Pronoun (Feminine)Example Sentence
This Este Esta Este es interesante.
(This is interesting.)
These Estos Estas Estos son interesantes.
(These are interesting.)
That Ese Esa Ese es grande.
(That is big.)
Those Esos Esas Esos son grandes.
(Those are big.)
That (over there) Aquel Aquella Aquel es antiguo.
(That over there is old.)
Those (over there) Aquellos Aquellas Aquellos son antiguos.
(Those over there are old.)

The only other type of pronoun that you could possibly need are demonstrative pronouns.

These are the equivalent of “this/that/these/those one/s” in English.

These demonstrative pronouns are the same as the demonstrative adjectives, but they replace, rather than describe a noun.

Other demonstrative pronouns that don’t change according to gender or whether they’re plural are esto (this matter/this thing), eso (that matter or that thing) and aquello (that matter/thing over there).

For example, you might say:

Esto es muy difícil.
(This is very difficult.)

Pronoun Placement in a Sentence

You might know all the pronouns but they won’t be of any use to you if you don’t know where to stick them in a sentence. Here are some ground rules for pronoun placement in Spanish:

Where to Place Subject Pronouns

Subject pronouns can be omitted entirely—they’re typically used for emphasis or clarification, as the verb conjugation already indicates the subject. They usually come before the verb.

Example:

Yo hablo español.
(I speak Spanish.)

Where to Place Direct Object Pronouns

Direct object pronouns replace the direct object of a verb and are placed before the verb.

Example:

Lo vi ayer.
(I saw him yesterday.)

Where to Place Indirect Object Pronouns

Indirect object pronouns replace the indirect object of a verb and also show up before the verb.

Example:

Le dije la verdad.
(I told him/her the truth.)

Where to Place Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns indicate that the subject performs the action on themselves. They generally come before the verb.

Example:

Me lavo las manos.
(I wash my hands.)

Where to Place Pronouns with Infinitives

When a pronoun is used with an infinitive verb (that is, an unconjugated one), it can either be attached to the end of the infinitive or placed at the beginning of the sentence.

Example:

Voy a hacerlo. / Lo voy a hacer.
(I am going to do it.)

How to Use Pronouns with Gerunds

When a pronoun is used with a gerund (the “-ing” form of a verb), it can either be attached to the end of the gerund or placed before it.

Example:

Estoy leyéndolo. / Lo estoy leyendo.
(I am reading it.)

How to Use Pronouns with Commands

When a pronoun is used with an affirmative command, it’s attached to the end of the verb. For negative commands, it’s placed before the verb.

Example:

Hazlo. (Do it.) or No lo hagas.
(Don’t do it.)

How to Use Pronouns with Compound Verbs

When a verb is formed with an auxiliary verb and a main verb, the pronoun is usually placed before the auxiliary verb.

Example:

Me han dicho.
(They have told me.)

How to Avoid Confusion with Pronoun Placement

To avoid confusion or ambiguity, Spanish allows the use of redundant pronouns. This means that both the pronoun and the noun can be used together in a sentence.

Example:

El libro, yo lo leí.
(The book, I read it.)

It’s important to note that there are additional rules and exceptions depending on the specific verb tense, mood and structure of the sentence.

How to Use Pronouns Together

What happens if you have both an indirect and a direct object in one sentence? Look at this example:

She gave it to you.

Our subject is “she,” our object is “it” and our indirect object is “you.”

In Spanish, the direct and indirect object must always be placed side by side, with the indirect object first. So in Spanish, the sentence would be:

Ella te lo dio. 

We couldn’t say, for example, Ella te dio lo, nor Ella lo te dio. 

Things get just slightly modified when you have two pronouns that begin with “l.”

For example, ella les lo dio (she gave it to them) is too much of a mouthful for anyone to bear. But whenever both pronouns begin with “l,” change the first one (the indirect pronoun) to se:

Ella les lo dio → Ella se lo dio.

If you want to read more about how this works, check out our post on using direct and indirect object pronouns together. 

Here are a few more tips:

1. Pronoun Order: In Spanish, the order of pronouns in a sentence is typically as follows: reflexive pronoun → indirect object pronoun → direct object pronoun (me, te, lo/la, nos, os, los/las).

Example:

Me lo dio.  (He gave it to me.)

2. Indirect and Direct Object Pronoun Placement: When using both an indirect object pronoun and a direct object pronoun together in a sentence, the indirect object pronoun generally comes before the direct object pronoun.

Example:

Él me lo dijo.  (He told it to me.)

Subject Pronoun Omission

As I mentioned earlier, it’s pretty normal to hear someone in Spanish say a sentence that starts with the verb and doesn’t have a pronoun.

This is because pronouns are sort of seen as irrelevant for the most part—you (usually) know who the subject is based on the verb conjugation.

In fact, it sounds a bit strange if you include pronouns in every single sentence that you say. Especially when it comes to yo, because saying “I” over and over can come across as a bit self-important.

Just remember that you don’t need a subject pronoun to be grammatically correct and it’s often encouraged to leave it out since it makes things faster.

For example:

Yo voy a la playaVoy a la playa.
(I’m going to the beach.)

Gender with Spanish Pronouns

If you look at the third person pronouns, you can see that él/ellos are used for males and ella/ellas is for females. 

If you are talking in the first person plural (nosotros — we), it does change with gender.

If you’re in a group of girls, you would use nosotras instead of nosotros if you’re in a group of all men or mixed genders. 

The same principle applies to vosotras and vosotros. So it’s important to pay attention to what genders are in a group so you can use the correct pronoun.

Yo, tú, usted and ustedes do not change with gender. 

Formality with Spanish Pronouns

Pay attention to the context of a situation, so that you can address someone with the proper pronoun. This is referring to the formal or informal “you.” 

If you don’t know someone very well or they are considered to be above you in a social hierarchy, you should use the formal usted (ustedes if there are multiple people).

If you call the wrong person tú, you might find yourself in an awkward situation.

How to Practice Spanish Pronouns

Pretty much all Spanish students struggle with pronouns, so don’t worry too much if you can’t get your head around them the first time through. 

For now, here are some great ways to practice Spanish pronouns:

  • Write some practice sentences. Try writing them with specific nouns and then substituting the correct pronouns.
  • Immerse yourself in Spanish media to hear how pronouns are actually used in real life. FluentU is a helpful resource for this—the language learning platform creates an immersive experience via Spanish video clips paired with learning tools.

    FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

    You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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  • Use online resources for practice exercises and quizzes. This site has some great practice exercises and quizzes, or a quick Google will no doubt leave you with a bunch of other sites!
  • Speak with a native speaker and listen to how they use pronouns. Then you can try them out yourself and receive feedback!

 

Try writing practice sentences with each of these nine types of pronouns so you can really get the hang of it. You can do it!

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