The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Subject Pronouns
He said this, but she replied with that. We believe this, but what do you think? Each word bolded in the previous two sentences is called a subject pronoun. While you may not know them by name, they make up a huge part of our daily conversations. In Spanish, subject pronouns are just as important, and they actually express a lot more than in English! We’re going to explore all of the Spanish subject pronouns, their meaning and usage, and a couple of fun activities to continue to practice them outside of the classroom. Let’s get started!
Translating Spanish Subject Pronouns
When learning a new language, you tend to translate directly from English into the foreign language. However, each language has a unique way of expressing concepts and ideas, and some things don’t always translate to or from English. One of the best examples of this is Spanish subject pronouns: not all the pronouns in either language translate to the other. Check out the chart below to learn more.
|English Subject Pronoun||Spanish Subject Pronoun||Pronunciation|
As you can see, there are some interesting changes with the Spanish subject pronouns! Let’s check out each difference more in-depth.
Spanish Subject Pronouns: tú, vos, and usted
In English, we use the singular pronoun “you” for everyone from your best friend to a police officer to the president. The Spanish subject pronouns are a bit more complex, though. All three words tú, vos, and usted all translate to “you” in English. However, they are not used interchangeably and each word has a unique meaning. Below is a short introduction to the intricacies of these pronouns. Read more about vos or the differences between tú and usted when you start craving more details!!
Tú: Use this pronoun with people of similar age and occupation. For example, you can use tú for your classmates, colleagues, or people younger than you. Tú reflects closeness and friendship.
Usted: This pronoun shows respect for others, including a person who is older or in a higher position than you. For instance, if you are talking to your teacher, a government official, or someone whom you don’t know well, you would use usted.
Vos: While vos is not commonly taught in schools, it’s typical in everyday speech across Latin America. Vos reflects a deeper connection with someone, so you would use it with people you are quite close to. Best friends and partners are the best examples of people with whom you can use vos.
This is just an overview of the elaborate world of “you” in Spanish; these rules are not set in stone, and there are numerous different ways to use each of these pronouns. Keep learning more with our blog posts, and don’t forget to talk with one of our amazing Spanish teachers! They can explain more about the usage of tú, usted, and vos in Spanish.
Spanish Subject Pronouns: “It” Doesn’t Exist?
Why is the row for “it” blank in the chart above? You may think that we forgot to include a translation for it, but in reality, this Spanish subject pronoun doesn’t exist. Yup, this is one of those things that exists in English but not in Spanish. How in the world do people express themselves without the word “it”?
One thing to keep in mind is that Spanish subject pronouns are optional. They are not always necessary for the sentence to make sense. Often, just by using context clues or verb conjugations, the subject pronoun is understood without being said. Also, if a pronoun is absolutely necessary, the word eso (“that”) replaces “it” in a sentence. Let’s see some examples:
- It starts at three. Empieza a la tres. (There is no Spanish subject pronoun here!)
- It is very dirty. Eso está muy sucio. (Eso is used as a way to express the idea of “it” in Spanish.)
Spanish Subject Pronouns: The Gender of -os and -as
Look at the chart again. How many pronouns have two forms, one ending in -os and one ending in -as? Yes! Three different pronouns have two forms: nosotros, vosotros, and ellos. These endings represent the gender of the people we are talking about! Let’s see how we can use them.
- -as: Each of these pronouns (nosotros, vosotros, and ellos) are plural pronouns, used to talk about more than one person. If the group of people is made up completely of girls, then you use the ending -as.
- Tonight is girls’ night! We want to watch a movie and get a manicure. ¡Hoy tenemos una noche de chicas! Nosotras queremos ver una película y recibir una manicura.
- -os: Likewise, if a group is made up completely of guys, then you need to use the -os ending. Additionally, if a group is made up of both guys and girls, then you would use the -os ending. Here are some examples!
- The whole class is here. They came to celebrate your birthday. Toda la clase está aquí. Ellos vinieron para celebrar tu cumpleaños.
The Difference Between ustedes and vosotros
While you now know why there are two forms of nosotros and vosotros, the next question is what is the difference between these two Spanish subject pronouns?
While nosotros and vosotros look very similar, vosotros is more closely related to ustedes. Both vosotros and ustedes translate to “you” or “you all” in English. However, just like tú, usted, and vos, these two pronouns have unique uses depending on where you use them.
- Ustedes: This Spanish subject pronoun is most commonly used throughout Latin America and many use it exclusively. As the spelling indicates, ustedes is the plural form of you, but it has no formal or informal meaning in most Spanish-speaking countries, as it is usually the only pronoun used for “you all.”
- Vosotros: This pronoun is exclusively used in Spain, and it is a more intimate form of “you all.” Just like vos represents a close relationship and usted a more formal one, vosotros is used between friends and family, while ustedes is for more formal groups. Again, this difference is only found in Spain and formal writings like the Bible.
How to Practice the Spanish Subject Pronouns
With all those different types of pronouns, it’s important to continue practicing! Whether you are a student, a parent, or a teacher, these activities will provide a variety of ways to commit these Spanish subject pronouns to long-term memory.
Make a Deck of Pronoun Flashcards
Since Spanish subject pronouns are one of the first things Spanish students learn, one of the best ways to practice them is with flashcards! To make the most of this exercise, it is important to do the following:
- Make sure to include EVERY pronoun. Yes, include even the pronouns like nosotros and nosotras even though they are the same base word. Including these slight differences as separate subject pronouns is imperative to remembering accurately their separate uses.
- On the English side, include a brief explanation of the pronoun’s usage for words like vos, ustedes, vosotros, tú, and usted. Don’t just write “you,” even though it is the correct translation. Including a short definition will help you memorize fully the difference between all these new Spanish subject pronouns.
Find Useful Images (or Draw Your Own!)
For all of you visual learners, using pictures and connecting them to the pronouns is a fantastic way to practice them. Draw an organized pronoun chart yourself or use a worksheet like this one. Keep in mind that by making the visual tools on your own, it helps significantly to reinforce what you’re learning. What’s more, it doubles as a handy resource for you (or your students, if that’s the case) to practice with later on. Ideally, your images will include visual representations of the difference between tú, vos, and usted as well as nosotros and nosotras. To do so, give some of these depictions a try:
- Usted: interaction with a normal person and a police officer, teacher, or president
- Tú: interaction between two classmates or two kids
- Vos: an image of best friends or a couple
- Vosotros: interaction between one person and their friends
- Ustedes: an image of a person speaking to a room of people
- Nosotras/ellas: a group of all girls
- Nosotros/ellos: a group of girls and guys
Set Up Group Activities for Interactive Practice
As a teacher or parent, ask your students to do some fun group activities to put these Spanish subject pronouns into practice. One idea is to separate the students into teams (if you are a parent with one or two kids, you can ask them to include their friends or even their stuffed animals/dolls/pets!) and challenge them to act out the Spanish subject pronouns for the other team to guess. For example, one team would act out nosotras by putting a group of girls together, and the other team would have to guess the pronoun in Spanish to win a point.
Another form of this game is to have your students sit in a circle and one by one pick a Spanish subject pronoun out of a hat. They then have to give an explanation of the pronoun (in Spanish if possible!) and the other students need to guess what word they are describing.
Practice Makes Perfect
Before you go try those activities, test yourself to see if you can identify all of the Spanish subject pronouns in this conversation! Once you have found them all, translate them and check your answers below.
Jorge: Hola, Ana. ¿Cómo estás tú?
Ana: ¡Hola! Yo estoy bien. ¿Y tú?
Jorge: Yo estoy bien también. ¿Ustedes ya terminaron la tarea?
Ana: No, nosotras no hemos terminado la tarea aún. ¿Tú quieres trabajar con nosotras?
Jorge: Sí, gracias. Yo estoy muy atrasado. Vamos a trabajar entonces.
Jorge: Hola, Ana. ¿Cómo estás tú? (you, singular, informal)
Ana: ¡Hola! Yo estoy bien. ¿Y tú? (I / you, singular, informal)
Jorge: Yo estoy bien también. ¿Ustedes ya terminaron la tarea? (I / you, plural)
Ana: No, nosotras no hemos terminado la tarea aún. ¿Tú quieres trabajar con nosotras? (we, feminine / you, singular, informal / we, feminine)
Jorge: Sí, gracias. Yo estoy muy atrasado. Vamos a trabajar entonces. (I)
Try It with a Native Spanish Speaker
How did you do with the exercise? I hope you did great! If you would like more help with the pronouns or if you would just like to practice with a native speaker, schedule a free class with us! Until then, ¡nosotros te deseamos suerte!
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