When practicing your Spanish with native speakers, you may notice something strange: they keep dropping their subject pronouns.
While you carefully say, “Yo soy bajo,” your friend says, “Soy bajo.” You might say “Nosotros somos amigos,” while they simply say, “Somos amigos.”
Why? Simply put, in Spanish, it isn’t always necessary to use subject pronouns.
In this article, we’ll cover what subject pronouns are (along with their various forms) and show you how to use them correctly.
Let’s get started!
Subject pronouns in Spanish
Let’s start by briefly reviewing what a pronoun is. Pronouns are words that replace a noun. And while there are many different types of pronouns in Spanish, we’re just going to focus on subject pronouns right now.
Subject pronouns replace or refer to the subject of a sentence. A subject pronoun will tell you who or what performs the action of a verb, making them quite handy to know.
But if they are so handy, why are Spanish speakers dropping them all the time? Don’t worry we’ll get to that soon.
First, let’s look at a list of Spanish subject pronouns.
Spanish subject pronouns
|ustedes||you (formal-Spain/informal- Latin America)||neutral||plural|
Note: Spelling matters. Be sure to use the accents on both tú (you) and él (he) as both words have different meanings without them. Also take a look at the different uses of “you” in Spain vs Latin America.
How to use subject pronouns in Spanish
In a Spanish sentence, subject pronouns are usually used before the verb.
Let’s take a look at some basic examples:
Yo estudio español. (I study Spanish.)
Tú eres inteligente. (You are intelligent.)
Él trabaja en una oficina. (He works in an office.)
Usted habla muy bien inglés. (You speak English very well.)
Nosotros vamos al parque. (We are going to the park.)
Vosotros sois mis amigos. (You all are my friends.)
Subject pronouns are commonly used:
- When you are comparing something.
- When you want to replace the subject.
- When you want to emphasize the subject of a sentence.
Subject pronouns used to make a comparison:
- Él es más rápido que ella. (He is faster than she is.)
Subject pronouns used to replace the subject:
- Juan es un excelente jugador de fútbol. Él marca goles impresionantes. (Juan is an excellent soccer player. He scores impressive goals.)
Subject pronouns used to emphasize the subject:
- Nosotros mismos lo hicimos. (We did it ourselves.)
Note: See that “que” is used directly before the subject pronoun in the comparative example.
In the above examples, did you notice that the subject pronouns determine how the main verb is conjugated? Because of this, it is particularly important to make sure you are using the right one.
This is also why it is possible to drop the subject pronoun from your sentence in certain situations.
We’ll touch on that more in a minute, but first let’s look at how Spanish subject pronouns are used with the verb ser (to be).
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Spanish subject pronouns + ser (to be)
The verb [ser (to be)](https://www.busuu.com/en/spanish/ser) is one of the most commonly used verbs in Spanish. It often goes with subject pronouns to describe attributes and identities of a subject. Ser and Spanish subject pronouns are combined to indicate:
Let’s look at some examples of how ser is used to establish a connection between the description or characteristic of a subject:
Ella es médica. (She is a doctor.)
Él es alto. (He is tall.)
Nosotros somos mexicanos. (We are Mexican.)
And now, let’s get to the good part - how and when you can drop your subject pronouns in Spanish.
Dropping your Spanish subject pronouns
In situations where the verb ending indicates the subject, we can drop our subject pronouns in Spanish.
We often do this with nosotros / nosotras, vosotros / vosotras, ellos / ellas, and ustedes, but if context allows, it is possible with all subject pronouns, not just the ones mentioned.
This is often done when ser is being used to describe the subject in some way (as we covered above: characteristics, identity, occupation, etc.).
- Yo soy estudiante. (I am a student.)
- Soy estudiante. (I am a student.)
Keep in mind that the subject pronoun is always needed when the subject of the sentence must be emphasized or clarified. It is important to avoid ambiguity.
But when it is implied (by conversational context or verb conjugation), feel free to leave it out.
Note: Dropping the subject pronoun in Spanish is common in everyday conversation, but when writing (especially formal writing) it’s best to keep it in the sentence.
Here are more examples of dropping the subject pronoun when using ser:
Somos maestras. (We are teachers.)
Es cantante. (He / She is a singer.)
Sois camareros. (You all are waiters.)
Son maestros. (They are teachers.)
Take a look at this other example:
- Somos estudiantes de medicina.
Can you guess the correct subject pronoun?
If you guessed nosotros, you’re right.
The sentence somos estudiantes de medicina (we are students of medicine) does not require the subject pronoun nosotros because the verb ser implied it in its conjugated form.
Spanish subject pronouns: Let’s recap
Spanish subject pronouns are used to distinguish or emphasize the subject of a sentence. They can also be used to make a comparison.
When the context of the verb conjugation indicates the subject, you can drop them.
But don’t forget that Spanish subject pronouns should always be included when it is necessary to emphasize or distinguish the subject in a sentence.
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