Learning a new language can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding grammar nuances. Spanish pronouns are one such area that can trip up even experienced learners. Fortunately, with a little knowledge and practice, anyone can master these essential elements of Spanish communication.
This guide will provide a concise yet comprehensive overview of Spanish pronouns: their usage, types, gender agreement rules, placement in sentences, examples, and more. By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of how to correctly use these important parts of speech to communicate confidently in Spanish. Read on!
Pronouns in Spanish: What Do They Do?
Just like in English, Spanish pronouns perform the basic function of pronouns: they are used to replace nouns in a sentence and refer to people, places, things, and even abstract concepts. Pronouns can change depending on where and how they’re used in a sentence – as direct objects, to show possession or direction, or after prepositional phrases.
This way, pronouns make it easier for us to communicate without having to repeat the same noun over and over again. For example, instead of saying
Juan habla español.
Juan speaks Spanish.
you can use the pronoun él (he) to say
Él habla español.
He speaks Spanish.
There are different types of pronouns in Spanish depending on their function: personal, possessive, demonstrative, reflexive, prepositional, indefinite, and relative. While there are many of them, which might feel intimidating, they’re used a lot like English pronouns – the way the personal pronoun I will turn into me or my, depending on its role in the sentence.
Now, let’s take a closer look at different types of Spanish pronouns and the grammar associated with them:
Spanish Personal Subject Pronouns
Grammar note: Personal subject pronouns are used to replace the subject of a sentence, i.e., the person or thing that is performing the action in a sentence.
The Spanish subject pronouns are:
- yo (I),
- tú/usted (you, singular informal/formal),
- él (he),
- ella (she),
- nosotros/nosotras (we, masculine/feminine),
- vosotros/vosotras (you, plural informal),
- ustedes (you, plural formal),
- ellos /ellas (they).
Memorizing them is essential for understanding Spanish verb conjugation later on.
The use of these pronouns is determined by the context, but there are a few general rules to keep in mind.
- Pronouns ending with os indicate the masculine form, used for either groups of men or both men and women. So, if you’re talking about a group that includes both genders, use the masculine pronoun, such as nostrosos, vostrosos, or ellos.
- The as endings indicate the feminine form, meaning that nostrosas, vostrosas, and ellas should be used only if referring to a group of all women.
Carlos y Mia se casan. Ellos tienen un perro.
Carlos and Mia are getting married. They have a dog.
Ellis y Beta son mejores amigos. Ellas conocieron en la universidad.
Ellis and Beta are best friends. They met in college.
Another thing to remember is that, as you’ve already noticed, you in Spanish has both formal and informal forms. The second-person singular tú should be used for friends and family, while usted is the right way to refer to someone you don’t know or to show respect (often the case when speaking to older people).
As for the plurals, vosotros/vosotras are used mainly in Spain informally, while the rest of the Spanish-speaking world tends to prefer ustedes in both formal and informal contexts.
It’s also worth noting that, unlike English, you won’t come across pronouns used instead of subjects. In the Spanish language, the ending of the verb is different for every subject. As such, you can use verb conjugation to show the subject of a sentence, so the pronoun will simply be omitted.
Spanish Possessive Pronouns
Grammar note: Possessive pronouns are used to express possession or ownership of something, i.e., to answer the question “Whose is it?”
Typically, there are four forms for each Spanish pronoun, since gender agreement is mandatory in Spanish. These are:
- singular masculine,
- singular feminine,
- plural masculine,
- plural feminine.
Furthermore, Spanish possessive pronouns are always used with the Spanish equivalent of the, which should also be aligned with the gender of the noun being owned – el, la, los, and las.
Here are the Spanish possessive pronouns:
- mine: el mío, los míos, la mía, las mías
- yours: el tuyo, los tuyos, la tuya, las tuyas
- his, hers, or its: el tuyo, los tuyos, la tuya, las tuyas
- ours: el nuestro, los nuestros, la nuestra, las nuestras
- yours: el vuestro, los vuestros, la vuestra, las vuestras
- theirs: el suyo, los suyos, la suya, las suyas
For example, if you want to say “The book is mine,” you’ll first need to determine the gender of the Spanish noun you’re going to replace with a pronoun.
El libro es el mío.
The book is mine.
Note that this isn’t the same as saying “my book.” From the perspective of the Spanish language, to say “my book,” we’re not using “my” as a pronoun but as an adjective, because you aren’t replacing the noun but describing it. So, here are Spanish possessive adjectives:
- my: mi, mis
- your: tu, tus
- his, her, its, their: su, sus
- our: nuestro, nuestros, nuestra, nuestras
- your (plural): vuestro, vuestros, vuestra, vuestras
Este es mi libro.
This is my book.
Spanish Prepositional Pronouns
Grammar note: Prepositional pronouns are used to replace a noun that appears after a preposition (at, for, from, etc.).
Only two pronouns in Spanish change following a preposition:
- Yo becomes mí (I becomes me).
- Tú becomes ti (you).
The rest of the Spanish prepositional pronouns will be the same as the subject pronouns. Like here:
/Esto es para mí, esto es para ti, y esto es para ella./ [This is for me, this is for you, and that is for her.]
Exception: A preposition con (with) is a comitative form, and it changes mí to conmigo and ti to contigo.
¿Quieres venir conmigo?
Do you want to go with me?
Spanish Direct Object Pronouns
Grammar note: The direct object of a sentence is the recipient of the action. So, for example, in the sentence “I see you,” the pronoun “you” is the direct object, because it receives the action of seeing. As such, direct object pronouns are used instead of nouns to refer to the direct object in a sentence.
Here are Spanish direct object pronouns:
- me: me
- you: te
- him, her, it: lo, la
- us: nos
- you: os
- them: los, las (can be either people or items)
Note that when it comes to using direct object pronouns, Spanish has a different sentence structure than English: Subject – Direct Object Pronoun – Verb. So, you need to place the direct object pronoun before the verb. Take a look:
Lisa lo ve.
Lisa sees him.
Spanish Reflexive Pronouns
Grammar note: Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject of a sentence is performing an action on itself. In Spanish, a reflexive verb is used when the subject and object are the same and usually expresses something that you do to yourself.
As such, a reflexive verb needs to be paired with a reflexive pronoun for the sentence to make sense.
Here’s the list of Spanish reflexive pronouns:
- me: myself,
- te: yourself,
- se: himself, herself, itself,
- nos: ourselves,
- os: yourselves,
- se: themselves.
Me educo en línea.
I educate myself online.
Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns
Grammar note: Understanding the difference between direct and indirect objects will help you differentiate direct and indirect pronouns. The indirect object of a sentence is the person or thing affected by the action (verb) in the sentence. As such, an indirect object pronoun is used instead of a noun to refer to the indirect object in a sentence.
In contrast to a direct object, which doesn’t follow prepositions, an indirect object comes after the prepositions to or for. This means that a direct object is going to, or is for, an indirect object.
Here are indirect object pronouns in Spanish:
- to/for me: me
- to/for you: te
- to/for him, her, or it: le
- to/for us: nos
- to/for you all: os
- to/for them: les
As you can see, indirect object pronouns are practically the same as direct object pronouns, with only one exception – him, her, or it changed from lo/la/los/las to le/les.
And, just like direct ones, indirect object pronouns in Spanish come before the verb. Here’s an example:
Me compró un libro.
She bought a book for me.
Spanish Relative Pronouns
Grammar note: Relative pronouns are used to connect phrases to nouns or other pronouns – clauses within the sentence or separate sentences within the text. These are words like who, which, that, when, etc.
There are two widely used relative pronouns in Spanish:
- Que is used to say who, whom, that, and which and connects directly to the noun.
- Quien is used to say who or whom and is placed after a preposition, such as para (for) or con (with).
La cafetería que tiene tiramisú.
The coffee shop that has tiramisu.
Mi colega para quien traje café no estaba hoy en la oficina.
My colleague for whom I brought coffee wasn't at the office today.
There are also reflective pronouns like cual, cuyo, el que, cuando, and donde that can also act as question words in the Spanish language. We cover them in detail in our separate article.
Spanish Demonstrative Pronouns
Grammar note: Demonstrative pronouns are used to reference something specific.
English has two sets of demonstrative pronouns (this and that), used depending on the distance between the speaker and the thing being referenced. Spanish, in addition to este and ese has one more – aquel, meaning that one over there – used for an object more than just a short distance away.
Spanish demonstrative pronouns also have four forms, considering the number and gender of the object(s) they refer to. They are as follows:
- este (this one – masculine)
- estos (these ones – masculine)
- esta (this one – feminine)
- estas (these ones – feminine)
¿Le ha gustado este libro?
Did you enjoy this book?
- ese (that one – masculine)
- esos (those ones – masculine)
- esa (that one – feminine)
- esas (those ones – feminine)
¿Puedes pasarme ese bolígrafo?
Can you pass me that pen?
that/those one(s) over there
- aquel (that one over there – masculine)
- aquellos (those ones over there – masculine)
- aquella (that one over there – feminine)
- aquellas (those ones over there – feminine)
¿Cuánto cuestan aquellas flores?
How much are those flowers over there?
Note: Each demonstrative pronoun also has a neuter form in Spanish. They are used to refer to abstract ideas, or to an unknown object, and do not change for number or gender. These are:
- esto (this matter, this thing)
- eso (that matter, that thing)
- aquello (that matter/thing over there)
Eso me parece una tontería.
That sounds silly to me.
The Bottom Line
This concludes our comprehensive guide to Spanish pronouns! We hope it has been helpful and informative, giving you the tools you need to confidently and accurately use Spanish pronouns. So, don’t hesitate to give it a try and see the difference! You can also download our Langster app to facilitate the process of memorizing new Spanish words.
By now, you should have a better understanding of Spanish pronouns and their usage. Spanish pronouns are incredibly helpful when it comes to making our communication with native Spanish speakers easier and more efficient – just remember to pay attention to the gender agreement and placement in sentences in order to use them properly.
With enough practice and dedication, you’ll be able to confidently incorporate pronouns into every sentence you write or speak in Spanish.