are words that are used in place of nouns or phrases, to prevent unnecessary repetition or to simplify how we reference subjects or objects once known. David is my brother. David is 20 years old. David is very tall, and we love David dearly.
In the above sentences we are talking about David, but as we can see, it’s not a very natural sounding group of statements. The repetition of the word David becomes tiresome.
Below is the same group of statements, but with pronouns used in place of the noun David. David is my brother. He is 20 years old. He is very tall, and we love him dearly.
After we have established that David is the subject (and in this case also an object) we can substitute any further references to him with pronouns. This clearly makes things scan much more naturally without needing to repeat the noun over and over. So we can see how invaluable pronouns are to constructing natural sounding sentences.
Pronouns extend to beyond just the subject of a sentence. In fact there are several types of pronoun we must learn. This makes the subject rather complicated. So, today we will attempt to introduce the easier types of pronoun as an introduction, and return to more involved types another time. Subject pronouns
Loosely speaking, the subject of the sentence is who or what the sentence is about. Almost anyone or anything can be a subject including inanimate objects and things.
Rather like verbs, we group pronouns into the six form paradigm, depending which type of subject they represent. Subject pronouns
| ||Singular ||Plural |
|1st Person ||yo (I) ||nosotros/nosotras (we) |
|2nd Person ||tú (you) ||vosotros/vosotras (you all) |
|3rd Person ||él (he) |
|ellos/ellas (they) |
ustedes (you all)
Note: The nosotros
forms each have the feminine versions of nosotras
Remember: The formal usted
forms for "you" and "you all" are associated with the third person.
Let’s see some VERY basic sentences using some of these pronouns:
|Yo hablo español ||I speak Spanish |
|Tú hablas español ||You speak Spanish |
|Él come mucho ||He eats a lot |
|Nosotros comemos bien ||We eat well |
|Vosotras vivís aquí ||You all live here |
|Ellos viven aquí ||They live here |
Often, it is unnecessary to include a subject pronoun in a sentence. In fact, they usually only appear when we need clarification on the subject, or if we want to emphasis who the subject is. Otherwise they are usually omitted. Reasons for clarification include: a change of subject, there being more than one possible subject or that the verb conjugation used is not unique within the tense.
In English, when the subject is a thing or does not have a gender we may use the pronoun “it”. In Spanish there is no subject pronoun for “it”, so we omit the subject pronoun altogether.
Subject pronouns typically precede a verb and all other pronouns that may be associated with it, including negation. For instance:
no les hablé” (I did not speak to them)
The subject pronoun precedes even the negation, but remember it’s not usually necessary unless you’re emphasising the point. Prepositional object pronouns
is a word that usually precedes a noun or pronoun, and expresses a relationship to another words in the sentence. Let’s see some examples of sentences using prepositions:
|I'm giving them to David |
|It's for him |
|Come towards me |
|Spending time with them |
|Bring it to her, and not to me |
In the above examples, we can see prepositions like “to”, “from”, “with”, “towards” etc., they all express a relationship with what precedes them and either a noun or pronoun.
Let’s see the types of pronouns we can use with prepositions. As usual, grouped into the six form paradigm. Prepositional object pronouns
| ||Singular ||Plural |
|1st Person ||mí (me) ||nosotros/nosotras (us) |
|2nd Person ||ti (you) ||vosotros/vosotras (you all) |
|3rd Person ||él (him) |
sí (himself, herself, yourself)
|ellos/ellas (them) |
ustedes (you all)
sí (themselves, yourselves)
Now let’s see some basic sentence constructions using pronouns after prepositions:
|Es para mí ||It's for me |
|Yo estaba pensando en ti ||I was thinking about you |
|¿Son para ella? ||Are they for her? |
|No te vayas sin nosotros ||Don't go without us |
|Este lugar no es para vosotros ||This place is not for you |
|Quiero ir con ellos ||I want to go with them |
Notice that in the last example, we are using the word “con” meaning with
Whenever we combine “con” with the pronouns “mí”, “ti” or “sí”, then we must use the special case vocabulary “conmigo”, “contigo” or “consigo”. Thus, expressions like “Come with me” become “Ven conmigo” and never “Ven con mí”. Possessive pronouns
As their name may suggest, possessive pronouns express when a person or thing belongs to another. Words like “mine”, “yours”, “his”, “hers”, "ours" and “theirs” are all examples of possessive pronouns.
Before we look at some sentence constructions using possessive pronouns. Let’s quickly review their forms: Possessive pronouns
| ||Singular ||Plural |
|1st Person ||el mío, |
las mías (mine)
|el nuestro, |
las nuestras (ours)
|2nd Person ||el tuyo, |
las tuyas (yours)
|el vuestro, |
las vuestras (yours)
|3rd Person ||el suyo, |
las suyas (his, hers, its, yours formal)
|el suyo, |
las suyas (theirs, yours formal)
Notice that within the usual six form paradigm, the pronouns appear to act like adjectives, whereby there are four versions of each that distinguish between gender and plurality.
You may have also noticed that all forms are prefixed with an article, which also agrees.
To use possessive pronouns, we select the form by subject then further select a form that agrees with the gender and plurality. Let’s look at some examples to help clarify this:
|¿Qué perro se lo comió, el mío o el tuyo? ||Which dog ate it, mine or yours? |
|¿Qué perra se lo comió, la mía o la tuya? ||Which dog (bitch) ate it, mine or yours? |
|Tu madre y la mía son amigas ||Your mother and mine are friends |
|Me gustan mis cosas y él prefiere las suyas ||I like my things and he prefers his |
|Lo nuestro es genial ||What we have is great |
|¡Son míos! ||They are mine! |
|Cariño, soy tuyo ||Darling, I'm yours |
Notice that in the last two examples, we appear to be missing an article. This is because: following the verb Ser,
possessive pronouns function adjectivally, meaning we do not use an article.
When we want to talk about an abstract idea, rather than physical things, we may use a neuter
possessive pronoun, which will use the neuter
article “lo” which in turn forces a singular masculine form.
The example given “Lo nuestro es genial” literally means: “Ours is great”. But as we are using a neuter form, “ours” becomes more idiomatic in meaning and less literal. Conclusion | En conclusión
As we alluded to earlier, pronouns are an extremely tricky and involved topic. Today, we’ve only scratched the surface with regards to the different types of pronouns. We will return to this subject in more detail another time, where we will look more closely at the types of object pronouns that go hand in hand with verbs.