Subject Pronouns

Every sentence must have a subject. Any pronoun used to replace a noun that serves as the subject of the sentence comes from the subject case and is called a “subject pronoun.” Subject pronouns have been used throughout this text in conjugation charts; the order in which subject pronouns appear in conjugation charts is important because the other cases of pronouns are written in the same order.

Note the order and grouping of the pronouns in Table . Notice that nosotros/nosotras is across from yo; vosotros/vosotras is across from tú; él is across from ellos; ella is across from ellas; and usted is across from ustedes. It is important to maintain this form when you write the pronouns in a conjugation chart.

The pronouns listed above are arranged in a chart form that is used for grammatical explanations. Grammatical terms such as “first person singular” or “third person plural” are often used to identify pronouns listed in a specific order. Each different pronoun case is listed in the same order as the subject pronouns listed above. Any new pronoun case presented in this book will be in the same order as the subject case.

The pronouns in the top row ( yo and nosotros) are called first person pronouns. On the left is the first person singular ( yo) and on the right is the first person plural ( nosotros). In English, when I have a group with me, the plural of “I” is “we.” The same is true in Spanish, the plural of yo is nosotros (or nosotras if we are all females).

Pronouns in the second row are second person pronouns ( and vosotros/vosotras). On the left, refers to one person; on the right, vosotros or vosotras refers to more than one person, as in the English “you guys” or “y'all.”

The pronouns in the third, fourth, and fifth rows are called third person pronouns. There is a third person singular pronoun for each gender: él and ella. The third person plural also specifies gender ( ellos or ellas); you use it when talking about any group of people or things that does not include yourself.

In English, because things or inanimate objects do not have gender, the pronoun “it” is used to represent a thing or inanimate object that is the subject of the sentence. There is no Spanish equivalent to the subject pronoun “it” because, in Spanish, all nouns are either masculine or feminine. If you want to say something such as, “It's important,” or, “It's raining,” you simply use the él form of the verb with no subject pronoun.

In the subject pronoun chart, usted and ustedes are tricky. Even though they both mean “you” and “you” is a second person pronoun in English, these two “respectful” pronouns are treated as third person pronouns in Spanish (and, thus, are listed with the third person pronouns).

The second person pronoun in English is “you.” This is an extremely vague pronoun because it can refer to one person or to more than one person (as in “you guys” or “y'all”). Spanish, however, has singular and plural versions of “you.” The singular pronoun usted is often abbreviated Ud, and the plural version ( ustedes) is abbreviated as Uds.

Usted, however, is not always the appropriate pronoun to use for “you”: The pronoun is the informal way to say “you.” is used when you are speaking to someone younger than you or to someone who is a close friend or family member. You must consider whether you should use the “friendly” or “informal” tú, or the “respectful” or “formal” usted, depending on the age and position of the person you are calling “you.”

It is always safer to use the usted way of saying “you” unless you are absolutely certain that you won't be insulting someone by using the informal pronoun. (Although, in our current culture, some people don't want to be referred to as usted because they say it makes them feel old.) The plural form of is vosotros or vosotras, which is rarely used outside of Spain. Latin Americans generally use ustedes for the plural of both and usted. Some people don't bother to learn the vosotros/vosotras pronoun because ustedes can be used as the plural form of “you” for any situation. Because Spanish is new to you, it's easier to use ustedes any time you want to address a group as “you guys” or “y'all.”

There is not always an easy match between English and Spanish pronouns. The list below is not presented in standard chart form, but, rather, is meant to help you understand what each of the subject pronouns means.

  • yo = I
  • = you (informal)
  • usted (Ud.) = you (formal)
  • ustedes (Uds.) = you (plural)
  • él = he
  • ella = she
  • nosotros = we
  • nosotras = we (feminine)
  • ellos = they
  • ellas = they (feminine)

Subject pronouns in Spanish are generally not capitalized unless they are the first word in a sentence. Notice, however, that the abbreviated forms Ud. and Uds. are always capitalized, although the longer versions ( usted and ustedes) are not capitalized except when they're the first word in a sentence. You don't think about the fact that the English pronoun “I” is always capitalized, but you must remember that the Spanish equivalent ( yo) is not capitalized unless it is the first word of the sentence.

It is important to know that the top row is called first person ( yo and nosotros/nosotras). The second row is called the second person ( and vosotros/vosotras), and anything lower on the chart is called the third person ( él, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, and ustedes).

The pronouns in the left‐hand column of the chart are all singular ( yo, tú, él, ella, and usted) and those on the right‐hand side are their plural equivalents. The plural of yo is nosotros/nosotras, the plural of is vosotros/vosotras, the plural of él is ellos, the plural of ella is ellas, and the plural of usted is ustedes