This is lesson 5 in the Crashed Culture Spanish Grammar series.
Subject pronouns in Spanish
Subject pronouns in Spanish are the first step in building any Spanish sentence about a particular person (me, you, he, etc.), so suffice to say it’s pretty important. And, since these words are so important, really make sure you get it into your brain.
Without further ado, these are the subject pronouns in Spanish that you need to know:
To be used with:
siblings, friends, coworkers, etc.
To be used with:
bosses, politicians, teachers, etc.
When/how to use the formal usted
As you can see, there are a few differences when it comes to subject pronouns in Spanish as opposed to English. For one, there are formal and informal subject pronouns in Spanish. Yeah, they might be different, but I’ll be honest: I spent a year living in Spain, and not once did I hear anybody use the formal usted!
Nonetheless, you can see how the formal case should be used. I think of it like this: when you’re addressing someone higher-up than you (your boss, your friend’s mom, etc.), you shouldn’t get too familiar, at least until they give you permission to refer to them as the informal tú.
In Spanish, use the usted/ustedes form to put a degree of verbally acknowledged separation between you and the people in your life who you’re expected to respect. Your best friend and your cousin don’t need these fancy words, but the President does.
Saying ‘you’ in Spanish: vosotros meaning
The next thing you’ll probably notice is that there is more than one way to say ‘you’ in Spanish. This isn’t too difficult when you get a hang of it, fortunately. Because, in reality, the only difference (besides the formal usted, which we’ve already discussed) is the word ‘vosotros/as’.
Vosotros, meaning “you all”, just doesn’t exist in English. I mean, in the south you’ll hear “y’all”, which is the same idea, but that’s more of a regional dialect than proper English.
In Spanish, we use vosotros/as whenever we refer to more than one person as “you”. If every single one of those ‘you’s is feminine, we can use vosotras, but as soon as we have at least one male in the bunch, we switch to vosotros, following our normal rules for masculine and feminine words.
Yeah I know – as soon as one male shows up, it’s like none of the females matter. Don’t worry, they’re working on it!
Subject pronouns in Spanish: a summary
I know, this is a short lesson, but this is another backbone to the entire Spanish language. Here are a couple of reminders:
- The formal ‘usted’ is only used with those you should be expressing respect
- Vosotros/as is used to refer to more than one person in the informal ‘you’
- Only use the feminine ‘vosotras’ and ‘nosotras’ if there are zero men present
Ready to move on?
Check out the next lesson: ser & estar