In the fourth class of our Absolute Beginner Spanish course we are going to learn the subject pronouns: what they are and when to use them (hint: definitely not as often as in English).
The basic mechanisms of the subject pronouns in Spanish are similar to those in English. To start off on the right foot, though, we need to fully understand what pronouns are and what the subject of a verb is.
What are pronouns?
In plain English, pronouns are substitutes for nouns: they work instead of nouns. Imagine the following: This is my friend Juan. Juan lives in Madrid.
Too many Juans. We would rather say: This is my friend Juan. He lives in Madrid. The pronoun he refers to Juan, but without repeating Juan.
In Spanish as well as in English, there are different types of pronouns. The most frequent ones are personal pronouns. And also personal pronouns are classified according to their function: subject, object, etc.
For example, in English we say He lives in Madrid (referring to Juan), but Do you know him? (also referring to Juan). Both pronouns refer to Juan, but one works as the subject of the sentence and the other as the object.
In this class, we are going to study the subject personal pronouns.
What is the subject?
We don’t have to know all the details, so let’s make it simple. In English, the subject is what rotates with the auxiliary verb:
You are eating chocolate → Are you eating chocolate?
The most important thing we need to know about the subject is this: the subject always agrees with the verb in person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular, plural).
For example, in English we say: I am, you are, he is, etc. One changes, the other one changes too.
This is called concordancia (agreement) and it’s very important, even more in Spanish.
The subject personal pronouns
Now we can learn the Spanish subject personal pronouns. Please notice that the following table represents the pronouns used in most of Spain, but different varieties of Spanish (Mexican, Colombian, Argentinian, even some varieties in Spain, etc.) can prefer other pronouns, mostly in the 2nd person plural.
|vosotros||you (plural masculine)|
|vosotras||you (plural feminine)|
These are the most important pronouns and the ones you will be using most of the time.
There are also two other pronouns: usted (formal you singular) and ustedes (formal you plural). In most of Spain they are quite restricted to formal situations or when you are addressing people much older than you.
Even if they refer to you (2nd person), they require the verb to be in the 3rd person. You’ll see in the next class.
When to use subject personal pronouns in Spanish
English is a language that requires the subject to be present in every sentence. English uses subject pronouns by default.
In Spanish, this is quite different! By default, do not use the subject pronouns. Even if this should be easy (just don’t say anything), it tends to be rather hard at first.
Spanish just doesn’t need the subject pronouns because the verbal endings already tell what the subject is (thanks to the agreement!).
And yet they exist. This is because they are used. The question then is… When to use subject pronouns in Spanish, if we shouldn’t use them by default?
Mostly for emphasis and/or contrast:
—¡Te estoy esperando!
—¡Yo te estoy esperando!
—Tú ve a casa y yo voy al supermercado.
And that’s it for this lesson. All of this will be important for the next class, where we will start learning about verbs!