Personal Pronouns in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

Personal pronouns, or los pronombres personales, identify the subject or object of a verb, whether they are people, animals or things. We can use them to replace a previously-mentioned noun, speak about ourselves, or address other people. The type of pronoun we use depends on the function of that noun in a sentence i.e. subject or object.

Learn how to use Spanish personal pronouns and the difference between prepositional, indirect and direct object pronouns with Lingolia. Then practise in the exercises.

Example

Yo tengo una novia. Ella es muy simpática y a me gusta mucho. Me encanta cantarle canciones con la guitarra. Quizás a ti no gustan, pero ella no las puede dejar de escuchar.

Eres mi sol y me haces feliz.

Para , eres el amor de mi vida.

y yo amaremos siempre, ¡oh, sí!

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Overview of Spanish Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns identify the participants in a discussion. Use the first person to refer to the speaker, the second person to the listener, and the third person to someone outside the conversation.

Personal pronouns in Spanish can act as the subject or object of a verb (i.e. who performs the action, who receives it, etc.). Depending on their function, pronouns take on different forms. The table below provides an overview of Spanish personal pronouns. Note that the third person singular and all plural pronouns have different forms for masculine and feminine.

person subject direct object indirect object prepositional English Translation
singular 1st person yo me I, me
2nd person te ti you (informal)
usted* lo/la le, se usted* you (formal)
3rd person él lo él he, him
ella la ella she, her
plural 1st person nosotros nos nosotros we, us (masculine)
nosotras nosotras we, us (feminine)
2nd person vosotros os vosotros you all (masculine)
vosotras vosotras you all (feminine)
ustedes* los/las les, se ustedes* you all (formal)
3rd person ellos los ellos they, them
ellas las ellas

* Usted and ustedes are formal. They are used to show respect to a conversation partner in Spanish. They can be used in singular and plural together with a verb conjugated in the third person.

voseo

In many Latin-American countries, the pronoun vos is used with the conjugation of the 2nd person plural instead of the pronouns , vosotros and usted/ustedes. This phenomenon is known as voseo. There are different ways of conjugating the verb in different regions.

Example:
tú cantas → vos cantás
usted come → vos comés

How to use personal pronouns in Spanish

Subject pronouns

The Spanish subject pronouns, or los pronombres personales de sujeto, are summarized in the table below:

subject pronouns example
singular 1st person yo Yo no tengo ni idea.I have no idea.
2nd person
vos
¿Y tú qué necesitas?And what do you need?
Vos tenés razón.you are right.
3rd person él, ella,
usted
Ella es la jefa.She’s the boss.
¿Usted necesita algo más?Do you anything else?
plural 1st person nosotros, -as Nosotras nos marchamos ya.We are leaving.
2nd person vosotros, -as
¿Vosotros sois de aquí?Are you from here?
3rd person ellos, -as
ustedes

Ellos no tienen las llaves.They don’t have the keys.

Ustedes esperen fuera, por favor.Please wait outside.

Sometimes personal pronouns can be used as an attribute as well as a subject in sentences with verbs like ser, estar and paracerbe, seem.

Example:
Yo soy yo.I am who I am. (yo = attribute)

Since the conjugated verb endings in Spanish grammar already indicate person and number, subject pronouns can be left out.

Example:
Yo tengo una novia./Tengo una novia.I have a girlfriend.

However, there are still some cases when it is necessary to use a subject pronoun:

  • to emphasise the subject
    Example:
    Ella es la que es muy simpática.She is the one who’s very nice.
  • when a pronoun is used without a verb
    Example:
    ¿Quién canta canciones? - Yo.Who sings songs? - Me.
  • in comparisons after que
    Example:
    Mi novia es más alta que yo.My girlfriend is taller than me.
  • before certain words such as a, mismo, también, tampoco
    Example:
    Yo mismo no puedo dejar de cantar mis canciones.I myself can’t stop singing my songs.

Direct object pronouns

The direct object, or complemento directo, is necessary to the meaning of a verb. Verbs that take a direct object are known as transitive verbs. Direct objects can be objects or people.

Direct Object Pronouns Example
Singular 1st person me ¿Me llamas mucho?Do you call me a lot?
2nd person te Te echo de menos.I miss you.
3rd person lo
la
¿Lo has visto?Have you seen it?
La venderé a finales del año.I will sell it at the end of the year.
Plural 1st person nos Nos quieren mucho.They love us a lot.
2nd person os Os colocan por grupos.They place you by groups.
3rd person los
las
Los he invitado a todos.I have invited all of them.
Las renovarán este verano.They will renew them this summer.

Info

The masculine form of the third person direct object pronoun is lo. However, le is also used in some regions of Spain when talking about a person. Many Latin American countries do not accept this usage.

Example:
A Javi no lo/le he invitado a la fiesta.I haven’t invited Javi to the party.

The following things can help you to identify the direct object in a sentence and help you to use the correct direct object pronoun:

  • Direct objects are always used with transitive verbs. These verbs require an object in order to make sense.

Example:
Me como una manzana. → Me la como.I eat an apple. → I eat it.
  • The direct object usually refers to objects that do not need a preposition. We use the preposition a in front of a direct object pronoun when the verb refers to a person or an animal.
Example:
Estoy esperando a mis padres. → Los estoy esperando.I’m waiting for my parents. → I’m waiting for them.
No encuentro a mi gato. → No lo encuentro.I can’t find my cat. → I can’t find him.
  • Common verbs that often take a person as their direct object are: echar de menos, esperar, invitar, llamar, querer, etc.to miss, to wait for, to invite, to call, to love
Example:
Echo mucho de menos a Marta. → La echo mucho de menos.I really miss Marta. → I really miss her.
¿Invitamos a Pablo también? → ¿Lo invitamos también?Shall we invite Pablo as well? → Shall we invite him as well?
  • The direct object of an active sentence becomes the subject when the sentence is in the passive.
    Example:
    Me como la manzana. I eat an apple. (active)
    La manzana es comida por mí.The apple is eaten by me. (passive)

Indirect object pronouns

The indirect object, or the complemento indirecto, refers to the recipient of the action expressed by the verb, and is always a living thing.

Indirect Object Pronouns Example
Singular 1st person me Me han dado la beca.They’ve given me the scholarship.
2nd person te Te voy a contar algo.I’m going to tell you something.
3rd person le
se*
Dile que no.Tell him no.
Se lo tienes que repetir.You have to repeat it to him.
Plural 1st person nos Nos dieron bottelas de agua.They gave us bottles of water.
2nd person os Os recomiendo visitar Asturias.I recommend that you visit Asturias.
3rd person les
se*
Les he traído un regalo.I’ve brought you a present.
Ya se lo he dado.I’ve already given it to them.

*When a sentence includes a direct object pronoun (lo/la/les/las) and an indirect object pronoun (le/les), the indirect object pronoun is changed to se to avoid confusion.

Example:
Ya se la he dado. (not: Ya le la he dado.)I’ve already given it to them.
But:
Ya les he dado la noticia.I’ve already given them the message.

Position of direct and indirect object pronouns

In Spanish, direct and indirect object pronouns have a specific place in sentences:

  • They come before the verb in all tenses.
    Example:
    Susan me conoce desde hace años.Susan has known me for years. (direct object)
    Me encanta cantar canciones.I love singing songs. (indirect object)
    La guitarra me la regaló mi madre.My mother gave me the guitar. (indirect object, direct object)
  • If a sentence contains a direct object pronoun and an indirect object pronoun, the indirect object pronoun always comes first.
    Example:
    ¿Quién te ha regalado la guitarra? – Me la regaló mi madre.Who gave you the guitar? – My mother gave it to me.
  • In sentences that contain a gerund or an infinitive, the pronoun can come at the beginning or it can follow the gerund/infinitive. When the pronoun comes before the verb we call them enclitic pronouns.
    Example:
    Quiero cantar otra canción. → La quiero cantar./Quiero cantarla.I want to sing another song. → I want to sing it.
    When the verb is placed at the end of the gerund or infinitive we sometimes have to add an accent to the verb to maintain the pronunciation.
    Estoy cantando canciones. → Las estoy cantando./Estoy cantándolas.I’m singing songs. → I’m singing them.
  • In imperative sentences, the personal pronoun comes after a positive imperative verb and before a negative imperative verb.
    Example:
    ¡Canta las canciones otra vez! → ¡Cántalas otra vez!Sing the songs again! → Sing them again! (negative imperative)
  • Two pronouns that begin with l- cannot follow each other. If a sentence contains one of the direct object pronouns lo, las, los or las together with one of the indirect object pronouns le or les, the indirect object pronoun becomes se to avoid confusion.
    Example:
    Canto canciones a mi novia. → Se las canto.I sing songs to my girlfriend. → I sing them to her. (not: Le las canto)

Prepositional pronouns

Personal pronouns are often used before a preposition. The table below provides an overview of the prepositional forms of the Spanish personal pronouns as well as example sentences.

Prepositional Pronoun Example
Singular 1st person No os marchéis sin mí.Don’t leave without me.
2nd person ti
vos
Todo eso es para ti.All of this is for you.
He venido por vos.I’ve come for you.
3rd person él, ella
usted
ello
El agua es para él.The water is for him.
Todos esperan por usted.Everyone is waiting because of you.
No cuentes con ello.Don’t trust him.
Marco solo piensa en sí mismo.Marco only thinks of himself.
Plural 1st person nosotros, -as No contéis con nosotras.Don’t trust us.
2nd person vosotros, -as Pueden ir con vosotros?Can they go with you?
3rd person ellos, -as
ustedes
El aplauso es para ellas.The applause is for them.
Es un placer contar con ustedes.It’s a pleasure to count on you.
Están hablando entre sí.They are talking amongst themselves.

Prepositional pronouns are used in the following cases in Spanish grammar:

  • after a preposition (a, con, hacia, para, por, sobre, sin etc.).to, with, towards, for, on, without etc.
Example:
Escribo canciones para ella.I write songs for her.
Escribo canciones para tí.
  • after the preposition a to emphasise who the verb is referring to (direct or indirect object)
Example:
A mí me conoces muy bien.You know me really well. → «a mí» emphasises the direct object (me)
A mí me cantan canciones todas las mañanas.I sing songs every morning. → «a mí» emphasises the indirect object (me)

The pronouns and ti have special forms when used with the preposition con: conmigo and contigo.

Example:
Me encanta escuchar música contigo.I love listening to music with you.

Exceptions:

The subject pronouns yo and tú are used after the following prepositions: entre, excpto. incluso, menos, salvo, según.

Example:
Entre tú y yo, no tengo ganas de ir a la fiesta.Between you and I, I don’t feel like going to the party.
Según tú, mañana lloverá.According to you it’s going to rain tomorrow.