The 12 Spanish Subject Pronouns with Real-world Example Sentences
The 12 Spanish subject pronouns are:
- yo (I)
- tú/usted (you – informal/formal)
- él/ella (he/she)
- nosotros/nosotras (we)
- vosotros/vosotras (you – plural, informal)
- ustedes (you – plural, formal)
- ellos/ellas (they)
They’re bound to look familiar to anyone who has even barely cracked open a beginner’s Spanish book.
But after reading this post, you’ll know how to use them like a true native speaker (no matter where you travel).
I’ll guide you through each one of these handy pronouns with simple explanations and tons of real-world usage examples.
The 12 Spanish Subject Pronouns with Real-world Example Sentences
The first person pronoun is yo (I).
This pronoun is an example of usefulness at its best. It always refers to the person who is speaking, and it saves us from the embarrassment of having to talk about ourselves in the third person. Be thankful!
Yo is one of the easy pronouns, so the only thing you need is a couple of examples.
Yo tengo 27 años. (I am 27 years old.)
Yo no soy polaco. (I am not Polish.)
Yo estoy escuchando música. (I am listening to music.)
Another one of the easy pronouns. Every time you are talking directly to another person, you need to use the pronoun “you” in English.
In Spanish, however, we use the singular pronoun tú (or its conjugations) only in situations where we know the other person and we have a close bond. This is called tutear (to address as tú) and it is indeed very common, but you need to remember you can only use it in specific situations.
I cannot imagine myself talking to an older person, my boss or an unknown person on the street (unless they were a little child) and using the form tú. In these formal situations we use usted (you, singular and formal), but more on this later.
Back to tú. As I said, if you know a person and you are talking directly to them, use this pronoun and/or its conjugations. Easy!
Here you have some examples:
Tú eres muy inteligente. (You are very intelligent.)
¿Quieres tú un café? (Do you want a coffee?)
Tú no puedes venir porque tú no has hecho los deberes. (You can’t come because you haven’t done your homework.)
Él / Ella
Let’s get this party started, shall we?
Él and ella are the Spanish third person singular personal pronouns, and they are translated as “he” and “she,” respectively.
Let’s have a look at some examples:
Mi hermana es estudiante. Ella estudia biología. (My sister is a student. She studies biology.)
El profesor llegó 5 minutos tarde. Él había perdido el autobús. (The professor arrived 5 minutes late. He had missed the bus.)
Ana es de Perú, pero ella vive en Barcelona. (Ana is from Peru, but she lives in Barcelona.)
Have you noticed any pattern in the subjects presented above?
If you have answered that they are all people, you are absolutely right. We have “he” or “she” in all of the sentences because they are all human subjects.
But what happens when we have animals or things? How would you translate “it” into Spanish?
This may come as a surprise for many of you, but the truth is that we don’t have “it” in Spanish, we don’t have a separate pronoun for animals and things.
Each and every noun in Spanish is either feminine or masculine, so it doesn’t matter if our third person is a person, an animal, a thing or a thought, all of them will just be either “he” or “she.” I kid you not!
This is why it is so important to know the gender of Spanish nouns from the very beginning of your language adventure!
Try to get past the fact that we “personify” everything. Just get used to it and use the grammar correctly. There is no other way.
Here you have some examples:
El perro se llama Pepe. Él es muy divertido. (The dog is called Pepe. It/He is very funny.)
Mi gata está en la cocina. Ella tiene hambre. (My she-cat is in the kitchen. It/She is hungry.)
(Yo) Me he encontrado un libro. Él es muy antiguo. (I have found a book. It/He is very old.)
I know it is weird to refer to a book as a “he,” or to a piedra (stone) as a “she,” but that is how we do it in Spanish. Look on the bright side: you don’t have to learn an additional pronoun!
Usted (abbreviated Ud. or Vd.) is one of those words that exists in Spanish but that you don’t have in English.
The translation of usted is “you,” but it is no ordinary “you.” In Spanish, usted is the pronoun we use when talking directly to someone in a formal context.
To add another twist to it, usted is a third person singular pronoun, so its verb has to be conjugated in the third person singular as well!
This may seem a little complicated, but it really is not. Both tú and usted mean “you,” but they are used in different situations, the former when the context is informal, and the latter when the context is formal.
The only thing that can cause you a little trouble at the beginning is the use of the third person in the verb. I normally tell my students to think of this as distancing yourself from the person you are talking to. The distance is so big, that it becomes a whole different pronoun in Spanish.
I know it may sound a little silly, but it helps them to memorize the difference.
The good news is that usted does not differentiate gender, so the gender of the person you are talking to doesn’t matter. The pronoun will always be the same:
¿Quiere usted algo? (Would you like something?)
Deme usted la mano, por favor. (Give me your hand, please.)
Usted debe volver mañana. (You have to come back tomorrow.)
In case you are wondering, yes, usted can also be omitted and the other person will still know you are using it. Why? Because the verb is in the third person singular! There is no way of not knowing, really!
Nosotros / Nosotras
Nosotros and nosotras are translated as “we,” but unlike English, Spanish has two types of “we,” as you can see.
Use nosotros when you are talking about two or more people and you are included in the group.
Depending on the gender of the people referred to, you will have to use one form or the other.
These are the rules:
1. Use nosotros when there are only males in the group:
Nosotros vamos a ganar. (We are going to win.)
Nosotros no tenemos dinero. (We don’t have any money.)
2. Also use nosotros if the group is mixed in terms of gender:
Mi novia y yo nos queremos. Nosotros somos muy felices. (My girlfriend and I love each other. We are very happy.)
Mamá y yo vamos al cine. Nosotros pasaremos la tarde juntos. (Mom and I are going to the cinema. We will spend the afternoon together.)
3. Use nosotras when you are only referring to women:
Ana y yo hemos aprobado. Nosotras Habíamos estudiado mucho. (Ana and I have passed. We had studied a lot.)
Pepa y yo somos vecinas. Nosotras nos divertimos mucho juntas. (Pepa and I are neighbors. We have a lot of fun together.)
Vosotros / Vosotras
Here we have yet another pair of pronouns that are translated in English as “you.”
In this case, what we have is the informal second person plural personal pronouns. They will be used when you are talking directly to two or more people you know.
As you can see, this also has two different forms in Spanish, one masculine and one feminine.
The rules for using them are very similar to the ones we had before:
1. Use vosotros when you are referring to males only:
Vosotros sois los mejores. (You are the best.)
Vosotros habláis muy alto. (You speak very loudly.)
2. Also use vosotros when a group is mixed:
Recoge a María e id vosotros a casa. (Pick up María and go home.)
(Antonio + Susana) Vosotros sois españoles. (You are Spanish.)
3. Use vosotras when there are only females in a group:
Vosotras sois muy guapas. (You are very pretty.)
¿Por qué habéis venido vosotras? (Why have you come?)
Ellos / Ellas
Ellos / ellas are the third person plural personal pronouns, and they are translated as “they.”
There is a difference between Spanish and English here, though. English has a universal form, while Spanish, once again, distinguishes between male only, mixed and female only groups.
The rules are exactly the same as above, so I will go straight to the examples so as not to bore you:
(Juan + Antonio) Ellos tienen hambre. (They are hungry.)
(Pedro + Isabel) Ellos están casados. (They are married.)
(Ana + Lucía) Ellas son de Murcia. (They are from Murcia.)
Do you remember Spanish has a special third person pronoun (usted) that is used when you are talking formally to someone?
Well, sorry guys, but the same happens in the plural! When we have a formal situation and we are talking directly to a group of people, we have to use ustedes (abbreviated Uds. or Vds.).
However, just as with the form usted, the plural ustedes is not gender specific, so it doesn’t matter what the genders of any of the people in the group are. The pronoun will remain the same.
There is one last similarity between usted and ustedes: they both use the third person of the verb. Usted needed the third person singular, while ustedes uses the third person plural:
¿Tienen ustedes alguna pregunta? (Do you have any questions?)
Ustedes tienen razón. (You are right.)
¿De dónde son ustedes? (Where are you from?)
Real Talk: How to Use Spanish Subject Pronouns Like a Native
Technically speaking, subject pronouns are very similar in Spanish and in English.
As you’ve seen, we have one to indicate the person who is speaking: yo (I). We have another one to indicate the person who is listening: tú (you, singular). There is also a pronoun to indicate a third person: él/ella (he/she). And so on, and so forth.
Let me just tell you one very important difference.
When talking or writing in Spanish, you almost never need to use the personal pronouns unless you want to emphasize or specify. We native Spanish speakers don’t use them. It feels superfluous and unnecessary. So if you are not in a situation where you feel the message can be confusing, try to avoid them like the plague.
At the beginning it will sure seem unnatural to you, but I can assure you that you will be convinced once you see how often this holds true
Let’s use as an example this sentence:
Tengo 27 años. (I am 27 years old.)
Since Spanish fully conjugates its verbs, we know tengo is the first person singular of the verb tener. We do not have to add yo in order for the sentence to make perfect sense. We know the subject is yo. There is no need to give unnecessary info.
Now imagine a situation where I am talking to a friend and he says he thought it was my brother who was 27. I, so as to correct him, and emphasize that it is I who am 27, not my brother, would then use the personal pronoun to make things clear:
Pensaba que tu hermano tenía 27 años. (I thought your brother was 27 years old.)
No, yo tengo 27 años. (No, I am 27 years old.)
I have italicized I because in English you would emphasize that word to make it clear you are correcting the person and telling them you are referring to yourself. In Spanish, however, you do not even have to change the intonation. The very fact that you are adding the personal pronoun means you are emphasizing that person!
The More You Know: Regional Takes on the Personal Pronouns
If you thought I had finished, I am sorry, but there are still a couple of things you should know about our pronouns.
As you probably know, there are as many varieties of Spanish as there are Spanish-speaking countries.
Normally we tend to have similar grammar, vocabulary and usage, but there are times when you can clearly see the differences, especially between Spain’s Spanish and Latin America’s Spanish. Blame this on location, mainly, but you still have to give us a thumbs up for general homogeneity.
Jokes aside, there are a couple of differences in the use of some of our pronouns. These last two sections will deal with them.
Tú vs. Vos
It’s the secret second-person pronoun I didn’t tell you about earlier.
The pronouns tú and vos may seem to have different meanings when you look at them, but their meaning is exactly the same: they both mean “you” and refer to the informal second person singular.
The difference between them is just a matter of geography. Generally speaking, native speakers from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Nicaragua and parts of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica prefer to use vos, while the rest of Spanish-speaking countries tend to use tú.
There is not a clear line separating the regions that use tú from the ones using vos, but there are two facts no one can deny:
1. Vos is never used in Spain by native speakers. It is a Latin American feature.
2. Everybody knows what vos means.
Just to show you they have the same meaning, let me give you a couple of examples:
¿Tú cómo te llamas? / ¿Vos cómo te llamás? (What is your name?)
Tú eres muy inteligente. / Vos sos muy inteligente. (You are very intelligent.)
For more information on vos:
Vosotros vs. Ustedes
We have already learned that vosotros is the informal second person plural and ustedes is the formal third person plural. We translated both of them as “you” or “you all.”
However, I did not tell you everything about these two pronouns because I wanted to do it here in a separate section.
First of all, you should know the form vosotros is mainly used in Spain. Very rarely will you hear it in Latin America.
What do they use instead? The answer will probably make you very happy: they use ustedes just like you use the plural “you” in English, for both formal and informal conversations.
Again, the difference in use is mainly due to geographical reasons.
But before I finish this post, I want to share something with you.
If you have read my other posts, you already know I am from Spain. I was born in the south of Spain, more specifically in Andalusia.
I have no explanation for what I am about to tell you, and I have certainly not heard of this happening outside of the Andalusian region, but it is, at least for me, very curious.
Many people in this region, me included, use ustedes with an informal meaning, too. This is nothing special, I know. Latin Americans do the same. But the funny thing is this. We use ustedes, yes, but instead of adding a third person verb like other people do, we use the second person plural!
So the sentence ¿Ustedes qué quieren? (What do you want?) would be ¿Ustedes qué queréis? instead.
I know. Languages are crazy, but I love crazy!
For more information on vosotros, see:
I hope you now feel more confident when using Spanish subject pronouns.
Remember that learning is a process and it takes time, so if you feel you need to read this a million times, do it!
Already feeling great about this lesson and hooked on pronouns? Check out our other Spanish pronoun guides for even more valuable information:
- An Overview of Spanish Pronouns
- Spanish Possessive Pronouns
- Spanish Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns
- Spanish Indefinite Pronouns
- Spanish Interrogative Pronouns
- Spanish Demonstrative Pronouns
- Spanish Personal Pronouns
- Spanish Relative Pronouns