Subject Pronouns

What is a pronoun? A pronoun is a word that can replace a noun. Thus, in the simple sentence Roger teaches Spanish / Roger enseña el español, when we replace nouns with pronouns, we get He teaches it / Él lo enseña.

  English Spanish
Using nouns Roger teaches Spanish Roger enseña el español
Using pronouns He teaches it Él lo enseña
Using nouns Roger teaches Spanish to the students Él enseña el español a los alumnos
Using pronouns He teaches it to them Él se lo enseña a ellos

Types of pronouns: There are actually three different types of pronouns in the above sentences, and it is absolutely essential to distuinguish clearly between them all. We will do this a bit at a time, starting with the subject pronouns and moving in later sequences to direct and indirect object pronouns.

Subject prouns: Verbs are action words. The subject pronoun tells you who is performing the action of the verb. In English, verbs do not function well without subjects, thus work needs a subject pronoun so we know who is doing the working. I work means that I am working (subject pronoun -- I); you work means that you are working (subject pronoun you); he or she works means that he or she is working (subject pronoun he or she). We find the subject of the verb work by asking the question: Who is working? The answer: I, you, he, or she tells us the subject of the verb (ie who is doing the work).

Revision: We have met the subject pronouns before, when we looked at verbs in the present tense. Here they are again, in English and Spanish.

Present Tense

Present Tense

Subject Pronouns To speak To eat To live
I speak eat live
you speak eat live
he she speaks eats lives
we speak eat live
*There is no alternate form for you!!!      
they speak eat live


Subject Pronouns Hablar Comer Vivir
yo hablo como vivo
hablas comes vives
él, ella, usted, Ud. habla come vive
nosotros, nosotras hablamos comemos vivimos
vosotros, vosotras habláis coméis vivís
ellos, ellas, ustedes, Uds. hablan comen viven

Because the verb endings in Spanish indicate the subject of the verb clearly, subject pronouns are not needed in Spanish UNLESS the speaker wishes to emphasise one subject over another: YO hablo italiano, hablas griego / I speak Italian, YOU speak Greek or in those case where confusion might occur, for example hablan inglés has three possible subjects -- ellos hablan, Uds. hablan, ellas hablan. If there is any danger of confusion, in a specific context, then the subject pronoun is needed. In addition, when begiiners speak Spaniss, it is soemtimes useful to repeat the subject pronouns; this helps with the formula -- change the subject, change the verb ending.

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