The Definitive Guide to Subject Pronouns in Spanish


Even if grammar is not your cup of tea, you’ve probably already heard about Spanish subject pronouns. And why should you care about these words? Because they communicate who does an action in a short, non-repetitive manner. 

In essence, subject pronouns in Spanish are fundamental! With that in mind, in this article, I’ll provide you with all the key information you need to understand these Spanish pronouns

The things you’ll learn throughout this lesson are:

List of Subject Pronouns in Spanish

Spanish has thirteen subject pronouns. These pronouns are classified into singular and plural based on the number of people they refer to

Singular Subject Pronouns in Spanish

  • Yo – I
  • (informal) – You
  • Vos (informal)* – You
  • Él – He
  • Ella – She
  • Usted (formal) – You

Plural Subject Pronouns in Spanish

  • Nosotros / Nosotras – We
  • Vosotros / Vosotras (Spain) – You 
  • Ellos / Ellas – They
  • Ustedes – You

*Vos is an informal way to say ‘you’ in Spanish. Vos is only used in Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Chile, and some regions of Bolivia. 

graphic showing the subject pronouns in spanish

Even though they have the same translation, there’s a clear distinction between tú, vos, and usted in Spanish. and vos are informal ‘you’ pronouns, meaning that we use them with family and friends. 

‘Usted’, on the other hand, is formal Spanish. We use this pronoun to respectfully address elderly people or those with a higher position than us. Some examples include teachers, bosses, and seniors. 

Take Note: Now that you’re getting familiar with subject pronouns, you’ll start hearing about 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person. Here’s what these classifications mean:

chart showing the singular and plural persons in spanish

Tip: Even though ‘usted’ and ‘ustedes’ are used to address a person directly, they’re classified as third person because they follow this conjugation pattern. 

How & When to Use Subject Pronouns in Spanish

Subject pronouns in Spanish replace the subject of a sentence. In other words, they replace the person that is performing the action. Using Spanish subject pronouns prevents repeating long nouns while reminding you who is doing the action. 

Check these examples below:

Without subject pronouns

María, Joe, Vanessa y sus primos hablan español.
María, Joe, Vanessa, and her cousins speak Spanish.

Claudia, Sally y yo trabajamos todo el día.
Claudia, Sally, and I work all day.

With subject pronouns

Ellos hablan español.
They speak Spanish.

Nosotras trabajamos todo el día.
We work all day. 

Pronouns like él, nosotros, and vosotros have a feminine form. However, the rest of the pronouns have a single form. With these single form pronouns, you must rely on the context or use Spanish adjectives if you need to indicate the gender of a noun.

Yo soy maestra.
I’m a teacher.

Tú eres muy alta.
You’re very tall.

Usted es muy gracioso.
You’re very funny.

Unlike English, you don’t need to use Spanish subject pronouns all the time. In fact, when conjugated, the endings of Spanish verbs already tell you who the subject is. 

So, by looking at the conjugation of the verb below, I know it’s you who is doing the action:

¡Comes un montón!
You eat a lot!

The situations where you actually need to use subject pronouns are:

  • To emphasize the subject
  • To clarify who the subject is when conjugations are similar
  • To avoid repeating the verb

Let’s take a look at examples for each situation so you know when to use them.

To emphasize the subject

Mira, ella es la maestra. Haz lo que dice.
Look, she’s the teacher. So, do what she says.

To clarify who the subject is when Spanish conjugations are similar (conditional and imperfect tense)

Yo jugaba con mi prima.
I played with my cousin.

Ella jugaba con su perro.
She played with her dog. 

Some Spanish tenses, like the conditional and imperfect tenses, share the same endings for different subjects (yo, él, etc.). Therefore, adding the subject pronoun is necessary to clarify who is performing the action.

To avoid repeating the verb  

Sonia tiene veinte años y yo quince.
Sonia is twenty years old, and I am fifteen.

By adding the subject pronoun (yo), we can avoid repeating the verb (tiene) that was used, since we’re describing the same thing (a person’s age) for both subjects.

Personal Pronouns vs. Subject Pronouns

Do you think personal pronouns and subject pronouns are the same? If you said yes, don’t feel bad, this is a common mistake. In fact, I’ve seen other articles and teachers treat them the same. They’re not.

What are Subject Pronouns?

As mentioned before, subject pronouns in Spanish are pronouns that we use to replace the subject of a sentence. Unlike other personal pronouns, subject pronouns are not mandatory since Spanish conjugations can help you identify who the subject of a sentence is.

What are Personal Pronouns?

Spanish personal pronouns are pronouns that we use to replace a person, thing, or place based on their function within a sentence. They’re called personal because they must agree in number and gender with the noun they’re replacing. 

As you’re about to learn, subject pronouns are a type of personal pronoun. 

Types of personal pronouns 

Personal pronouns in Spanish are:

  • Subject pronouns
  • Reflexive pronouns
  • Direct object pronouns
  • Indirect object pronouns 
  • Prepositional pronouns

Determining which type of pronoun to use depends on the elements of your sentence. 

Key Points

Subject pronouns in Spanish are crucial to building coherent sentences. So don’t underestimate their importance! Here are some key points to remember:

  • Spanish subject pronouns replace the (subject) person or thing performing the action of a sentence. 
  • Subject pronouns in Spanish are:
    • Yo – I
    • – You
    • Usted – You
    • Él – He
    • Ella – She
    • Nosotros – We
    • Vosotros – You (plural)
    • Ellos / Ellas – They
    • Ustedes – You (plural)
  • ‘Tú’ is the informal version of ‘you’, while ‘usted’ is the formal term. 
  • Since conjugated Spanish verbs indicate who the subject is, subject pronouns are often dropped from sentences. 
  • Subject pronouns must be included in sentences for Spanish tenses that share the same verb conjugations (i.e. imperfect and conditional).
  • Spanish personal pronouns are not the same as subject pronouns. Personal pronouns replace nouns with different functions. Subject pronouns are a subset of personal pronouns.
  • Based on their function in a sentence, Spanish personal pronouns are classified as
    • Subject pronouns
    • Reflexive pronouns 
    • Direct object pronouns
    • Indirect object pronouns
    • Prepositional pronouns

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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