Spanish Grammar


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Subject Personal Pronouns in Spanish

Subject personal pronouns in Spanish are a series of pronouns that perform the function of the subject in a sentence.

Remember that a pronoun is a type of word that represents a grammatical person. But what is a grammatical person?



Grammatical Persons in Spanish

Subject personal pronouns have a direct relationship with grammatical persons, that are the elements of communication in relation to the speaker:

  • The first person is the sender of the message: yo, nosotros, nosotras.
  • The second person is the receiver of the message: tú, vosotros, vosotras, usted, ustedes.
  • The third person is what is being talked about: él, ella, ellos, ellas.


Table of subject personal pronouns in Spanish


Position of Subject Personal Pronouns in Spanish

The position of subject personal pronouns is very flexible in Spanish. It is determined by emphatic functions (highlighting the person) or deictic functions (pointing out the person mentioned before or after).

The usual position is before the verb. In this case the speaker’s intention is to emphasize the person:

Yo no he hecho nada malo.

However, the position postposed to the verb can point to a noun that has appeared earlier in the sentence or will be introduced later.

La empleada que necesitamos para nuestra empresa es ella.

Also, in a question, it can be placed before the interrogative or after the verb.

¿Quién eres ? / ¿ quién eres?

In any case, subject personal pronouns in Spanish do not usually appear explicitly in the sentence. We only use them when we want to convey the speaker’s intention. We will now analyze the situations in which we usually use subject personal pronouns.

Explicit Use of Subject Personal Pronouns

As we have mentioned, it is not usually necessary to use the subject personal pronouns in the sentence. This is because Spanish verbs express the grammatical persons in their endings:

Hablo (yo) / Hablaste (tú)

However, there are situations in which their explicit use is necessary to express certain intentions of the speaker. Let’s look at some of them:

  • With non-personal verb forms (infinitives, gerunds and participles) to differentiate persons from another personal verb form:

Al hablar ella, me emocioné.

  • To omit a verb that has already appeared previously:

¿No tienes que trabajar hoy? Yo, sí. (Yo sí tengo que trabajar).

  • To avoid ambiguities caused by overlapping verb endings.

Cuando María ganó el premio, vivía yo en París. (If we did not use the pronoun, we would think that Maria lived in Paris).

  • To distribute actions among different people:

Cuando terminamos la universidad yo me fui a Madrid, te quedaste en Barcelona y ella se marchó al extranjero.

  • To contrast opinions:

¿En serio piensas así? Yo no lo veo de esa manera.

  • In response to a question that seeks to identify a person:

—¿Es usted el propietario del vehículo?

—Sí, soy yo.

  • To emphasize some emotion:

Yo ya no puedo más. Necesito unas vacaciones.

In summary, subject personal pronouns in Spanish are normally only used to express a specific intention of the speaker or to avoid confusion. If you want to learn more communicative situations where you should use them, don’t hesitate to reserve classes at


Infographics about subject personal pronouns in Spanish