Spanish Subject Pronouns: A Quick & Simple Guide

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, these words 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

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

Plural Subject Pronouns

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

Take Note: Nosotros, ustedes, ellos, and vosotros are used to describe a group of people or express that they perform an action. Keep in mind that, in Latin America, the pronoun vosotros is never used. Instead, some countries use vos as an informal way to say ‘you’. This subject pronoun 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. 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 Spanish Subject Pronouns

As its name suggests, a subject pronoun replaces the subject of a sentence. In other words, they replace the person that is performing the action. Using these words prevents you from 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 inglés.
María, Joe, Vanessa, and her cousins speak English.

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

With subject pronouns

Ellos hablan inglés.
They speak English.

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, in Spanish, you don’t need to use subject pronouns all the time. In fact, the ending of a conjugated verb, conveys 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 your sentence actually needs to use a 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:

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.

Spanish Pronouns: Personal Pronoun vs Subject Pronoun

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 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:

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

Take Note: Every subject pronoun has their own object pronouns (direct, reflexive, indirect). However, object pronouns do not replace the person performing the action, but rather the person or thing receiving it.

Key Points

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

  • A subject pronoun replaces 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

Download the Subject Pronouns PDF Cheat Sheets

Download a copy of the PDF cheat sheet containing all the highlights, graphics and key points for this guide as well as links to related articles and next steps to take in learning the fundamentals of Spanish grammar.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest