Subject Pronouns in Spanish: Explained for beginners

Subject pronouns in Spanish

Get our free email course, Shortcut to Conversational.

Have conversations faster, understand people when they speak fast, and other tested tips to learn faster.

More info

Subject pronouns in Spanish, or los pronombres personales, are used as the subject of a sentence. Their main function is to replace the noun that carries out the sentence’s main action.

Today we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Spanish subject pronouns. We’ll start by defining what a subject pronoun is, then we’ll introduce the full list of subject pronouns in Spanish. We’ll look at each one in detail, comparing them with their English counterparts.

The rules for how to use Spanish subject pronouns are a bit different than for English subject pronouns, so we’ll go into how to use the subject pronouns in Spanish. As always, we’ll demonstrate everything with plenty of examples. Finally, we’ll finish up with some exercises to give you some Spanish subject pronoun practice.

Let’s get started!

What is a subject pronoun?

Before we get into the specifics of Spanish subject pronouns, let’s just make sure we’re clear on this grammatical category of words. As we mentioned at the start of this post, subject pronouns serve as the subject of a sentence. Like all pronouns, they allow us to refer to a noun without needing to name it explicitly.

Subject pronouns are the most important category in the larger group of personal pronouns. The other categories of personal pronouns are direct object pronouns, indirect object pronouns, and reflexive pronouns. It’s the subject pronoun that determines how the sentence’s action verb needs to be conjugated.

Personal pronouns can be both singular and plural, while also reflecting the grammatical person of the noun. Grammatical persons define the relationship of the pronoun to the speaker. The speaker is in the first person, the speaker addresses their audience in the second person, and anyone outside the conversation is in the third person.

For comparison, here are the subject pronouns in English:

English subject pronouns Singular Plural
First-person I we
Second-person you you
Third-person he (masculine)
she (feminine)
it (neuter)

In English you have it easy with so few subject pronouns! Apart from the third-person singular (he, she, it), there’s no differentiation to account for gender. And with only one second-person subject pronoun (you), there’s no differentiation between singular and plural, nor is there a way to account for different levels of formality.

Let’s move on and see how things get a lot more detailed with the Spanish subject pronouns.

What are the subject pronouns in Spanish?

In Spanish, the subject pronouns follow the same principles we just saw with the English ones, but with more options to account for gender and levels of formality. Here’s the complete list of pronouns that correspond to the English ones above.

Spanish subject pronouns Singular Plural
First-person yo nosotros (masculine)
nosotras (feminine)
Second-person (informal) vosotros (masculine)
vosotras (feminine)
Second-person (formal) usted ustedes
Third-person él (masculine)
ella (feminine)
ellos (masculine)
ellas (feminine)

Now let’s look at each one of these cases to see how similar or different they are from their English counterparts.

I in Spanish: Yo

This is surely the easiest one, since there’s just one form. Just like in English, yo can be used by a man or a woman, with no differentiation for gender. Yo in Spanish is always the direct equivalent to I in English.

We in Spanish: Nosotros, Nosotras

If there are several of us, we need to use the right form of we in Spanish to reflect our genders. Nosotros is the masculine version, used for all-male or mixed-gender groups. If we are all female, we use nosotras. To be more inclusive, you’ll often see these two options written as nosotros/as.

Singular You in Spanish: Tú, Usted

When addressing a single person as you, Spanish has two second-person subject pronouns:  is the familiar form, while usted is the formal option. The gender of the person has no bearing on the choice of subject pronoun; it’s all about how much respect the speaker intends to convey.  is used among friends, with peers, or to children, while usted is used with strangers, with elders, and in most professional contexts.

This differentiation of formal vs informal you is respected throughout the Spanish-speaking world. For more depth on these levels of formality, check out our post on tú vs usted.

In some South American countries, especially Argentina, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, and some regions in Colombia, there’s yet another subject pronoun for the singular you in Spanish: vos. This pronoun takes the place of , and it is equally informal. The phenomenon is known as voseo, and is explained more in our post on how and when to use voseo.

Plural You in Spanish: Vosotros, Vosotras, Ustedes

When addressing multiple people,  and usted each have their plural counterparts, though there are big differences in their use between Spain and Latin America.

The informal plural you in Spanish is technically vosotros or vosotras, which follow the same gender rules we saw above with nosotros and nosotras. However, in the contemporary Spanish language, vosotros/as is rarely used outside of Spain.

The formal plural you in Spanish is ustedes. There’s only one form, regardless of the gender of the people being spoken to. Ustedes is indeed used in Spain as a measure of respect as the formal plural you. In most Latin America, however, ustedes is the only plural you in use; there’s no differentiation between levels of formality.

We go into these differences and more in our in-depth post on all the different forms of You in Spanish.

He, She, It in Spanish: Él, Ella

At first glance, these third-person singular pronouns appear straightforward enough: él means he and ella means she. You make a differentiation by gender with your English subject pronouns, except that you also have a neuter gender: you use it for nouns that aren’t clearly masculine or feminine.

So how do you say it in Spanish? Well, we use either él or ella, depending on whether the noun itself is masculine or feminine. Every noun has a gender in Spanish, so the corresponding third-person pronouns always just follow that gender. There’s no neutral it in Spanish.

Note that we do have one neutral pronoun that’s used in certain instances, lo, but its translation is closer to that. On its own, lo is not a subject pronoun. We explain this multi-faceted little word in our post on the different uses of Lo in Spanish.

They in Spanish: Ellos, Ellas

The third-person plural pronouns in Spanish follow the same rules we just saw for their singular counterparts. We use ellos to refer to any group of people or things that are all masculine or mixed-gender, and we use ellas to refer to an all-feminine group.

In short, ellos is our masculine they in Spanish, and ellas is our feminine they.

Spanish subject pronouns and conjugation

Now that we’ve seen all of the Spanish subject pronouns and how they compare to the English subject pronouns, we need to consider their conjugation patterns. As in English, it’s the subject of a sentence that determines how the action verb needs to be conjugated.

Unlike in English though, where only the third-person singular conjugation differs from all the others, most tenses in Spanish have a different conjugation for each grammatical person. To see this in action, let’s compare the six different conjugations for the verb to see in English vs its Spanish equivalent, ver:

  • I see, we see, you see, you see, he sees, they see
  • yo veo, nosotros vemos, tú ves, vosotros veis, él ve, ellos ven

For the most part, the grammatical person that a subject represents in a sentence also defines how its action verb is conjugated. The exception in Spanish is with usted and ustedes, which are conjugated in the third person even though they serve as second-person pronouns.

That’s right, a literal translation of the conjugation would suggest that usted ve could be you sees! Just remember that usted is always conjugated to the same grammatical person as él and ella, so “él ve, ella ve, y usted ve” translates as “he sees, she sees, and you see.” Likewise with the plural ustedes, which always takes the same conjugations as ellos and ellas.

We sum this up in the following table, showing the grammatical persons that each Spanish subject pronoun needs to conjugated to.

Conjugation patterns Singular Plural
First-person yo nosotros/as
Second-person , vos* vosotros/as
Third-person él, ella, usted ellos, ellas, ustedes

*Notice that we included vos as taking the second-person singular conjugation. For most tenses, vos indeed takes the exact same conjugations as . However, there are three tenses where there’s a unique second-person singular tense for vos! See our post on voseo to go more into this phenomenon.

When to use (or not) subject pronouns in Spanish

As we saw in the last section, most Spanish tenses have six unique verb conjugations for the six grammatical persons. Once we know our conjugations, we can therefore identify the grammatical person of the sentence’s subject simply by looking at the conjugated verb. Because of this, it’s very common to simply omit the Spanish subject pronoun altogether!

Since we know that veo is the yo conjugation of ver, for example, we could say “I see the moon” with either “yo veo la luna,” or “veo la luna,” and the meaning is identical. ¿Ves lo que decimos? – You see what we’re saying?

Evidently, a point of confusion for many Spanish students is whether to even use subject pronouns or not. The short answer is that in most situations where the subject is clear, we can omit the pronoun. However, there are certain scenarios where we still include the subject pronoun in Spanish. Let’s take a look.

It’s otherwise unclear who the subject is

Often we include the subject pronouns simply because the identity of the people we’re referencing wouldn’t be clear otherwise. This is mostly necessary in the third person, especially since the conjugations are the same for él/ella and usted, and for ellos/ellas and ustedes.

  • I wanted to invite some extra friends to your party, but you never gave me a clear answer. – Quería invitar a algunos amigos más a su fiesta, pero ustedes nunca me dieron una respuesta clara.
  • When you come back with your wife to rent the bikes, you should take this one and she should take that one. – Cuando vuelvas con tu esposa a alquilar las bicicletas, usted debes llevar esta y ella aquella.
  • Andres and Angelica are breaking up. He lost his job and she can’t accept it. – Andrés y Angélica se separan. Él perdió su trabajo y ella no puede aceptarlo.

The subject needs to be emphasized

When we want to really emphasize the person we’re talking about, we can intentionally use the subject pronoun even if it’s grammatically unnecessary. Including it helps to really point out the person or people we’re referring to.

  • I think Taylor Swift sings way better than Madonna. – Yo creo que Taylor Swift canta mucho mejor que Madonna. (If you’re debating a topic and really want to emphasize your opinion, you include yo.)
  • She is the person I admire the most. – Ella es la persona que más admiro. (She is the only person I really admire.)
  • They were the guys who came here yesterday. – Ellos son los tipos que vinieron ayer. (They were the only ones who came.)
  • Many people were wearing pink t-shirts, but she wore a green one. – Muchas personas estaban usando franelas rosadas, pero ella usaba una verde. (She really stood out in her green t-shirt.)
  • José is her best friend. He listens to her anytime. – José es su mejor amigo. Él la escucha en cualquier momento. (He is the one who listens to her.)

For contrast using pero

This use is somewhat similar to the previous one, in that we’re really emphasizing one subject compared to the other when we make a comparison using pero, meaning but in Spanish. In some cases it’s also similar to our first case, where we need to state the subject simply to make it clear who we’re talking about.

  • Our brother caught the bus, but we missed it. – Nuestro hermano tomó el autobús, pero nosotras lo perdimos.
  • Her boyfriend has about 100 tattoos, but she doesn’t have any. – Su novio tiene unos 100 tatuajes, pero ella no tiene ninguno.
  • We got here on time, but you were late. – Nosotros llegamos a tiempo, pero ustedes llegaron tarde.

Making a comparison using que

In English, you make comparisons using than in a similar way to our use of que. In English you can use a subject pronoun and the conjugated verb as a dependent clause (as in, “he is taller than I am”), or you can replace the dependent clause with an object pronoun (as in, “he is taller than me”). For the same type of comparisons in Spanish we just use the subject pronoun and that’s it. See this in some examples where we include the English conjugated verbs in square brackets.

  • Julián is taller than I [am]. – Julián es más alto que yo.
  • The teacher said Carlitos was smarter than she [was]. – La maestra dijo que Carlitos era más listo que ella.
  • María and Jimena are more qualified writers than you [all] [are]. – María y Jimena son escritoras más calificadas que ustedes.
  • Nancy was born in 1985 and Marcos in 1989; she is older than he [is]. – Nancy nació en 1985 y Marcos en 1989; ella es mayor que él.
  • She is a better dancer than you [are]. You must improve your dance moves. – Ella es mejor bailarina que tú. Debes mejorar tus pasos de baile.

Making comparisons using tan como

In English, you make comparisons using the construction as [adjective] as in the same way that we use tan [adjective] como in Spanish. As with the comparisons in the previous section using que, the Spanish version always just uses the subject pronoun, while you have a couple of options in English.

  • Are you as tired as I [am]? – ¿Estás tan cansado como yo?
  • I think your dog is as confused as you [are]. – Creo que tu perro está tan confundido como tú.
  • The artists’ kids are as artistic as they [are]. – Los hijos de los artistas son tan artísticos como ellos.

Conclusion: Subject pronouns in Spanish

Today we’ve covered everything you need to know about Subject pronouns in Spanish. Let’s do a quick review of what we learned before we go.

We started out by simply answering the question, “what is a subject pronoun?” We demonstrated this with the list of subject pronouns in English, broken down by grammatical person and singular vs plural.

Then we introduced the full list of subject pronouns in Spanish, following the same breakdown. We saw that there are several other grammatical persons than he/she that differentiate by gender, and we also saw the different levels of formality inherent in the different forms of Spanish you.

We noted that, in contrast to all the other grammatical persons, usted and ustedes are conjugated in the third person even though they refer to the second person.

To round out our lesson, we considered when it’s necessary to use the Spanish subject pronouns in a sentence. These are essentially considered exceptions, since in most cases we can omit the subject pronouns altogether.

With that, you should have a full understanding of all the subject pronouns in Spanish. With a bit of practice, you’ll have them all mastered in no time! Before you go, why not try a few exercises to see how well you’ve grasped them already!


Based on the context and the verb conjugations, choose the right Spanish subject pronoun from the options. The answers and translations are below. Remember that in many cases it’s not even obligatory to include these subject pronouns, though the meaning remains the same either way.

1. A mis padres les gusta mucho viajar. Ellos / Ellas / Yo conocieron Roma y Madrid el año pasado.

2. ¿Ella / Ellos /  vendrás a la fiesta de navidad? Porque necesitaremos algo de ayuda.

3. Él / Ustedes / Yo estoy aprendiendo inglés y francés, pero ellas / nosotros /  están aprendiendo italiano.

4. María y yo somos amantes de la ciencia ficción. Nosotros / Ellas / Él hemos leído cientos de libros en muy poco tiempo.

5. A Gabriela y Daniel les gustaría comprar una casa en Colombia. Nosotros / Él / Ustedes quiere vivir en Cartagena, pero ella / ellas /  prefiere una ciudad como Bogotá.

6. Nosotras / Ustedes / Usted fuimos al teatro anoche. ¿Qué hicieron  / ella / ustedes?

7. Yo /  / Ella necesitas pasaporte vigente y el certificado de salud para poder viajar a Brasil.

8. Mi hermano y su novia estudian en Uruguay, ustedes / vosotros / él estudia medicina y  / ella / vosotras estudia ingenieria.

9. Michelle y Katherine amaban la música, es por eso que ellas /  / nosotras solían cantar y bailar muy bien.

10. Él / Yo / Nosotros haré la tarea cuando pueda. No tengo tiempo.


1. A mis padres les gusta mucho viajar. Ellos conocieron Roma y Madrid el año pasado. – My parents like to travel a lot. They visited Rome and Madrid last year.

2. ¿ vendrás a la fiesta de navidad? Porque necesitaremos algo de ayuda. – Will you come to the Christmas party? Because we’ll need some help.

3. Yo estoy aprendiendo inglés y francés, pero ellas están aprendiendo italiano. – I am learning English and French, but they are learning Italian.

4. María y yo somos amantes de la ciencia ficción. Nosotros hemos leído cientos de libros en muy poco tiempo. – María and I are science fiction lovers. We have read hundreds of books in a very short time.

5. A Gabriela y Daniel les gustaría comprar una casa en Colombia. Él quiere vivir en Cartagena, pero ella prefiere una ciudad como Bogotá. – Gabriela and Daniel would like to buy a house in Colombia. He wants to live in Cartagena, but she prefers a city like Bogotá.

6. Nosotras fuimos al teatro anoche. ¿Qué hicieron ustedes? – We went to the theater last night. What did you do?

7.  necesitas pasaporte vigente y el certificado de salud para poder viajar a Brasil. – You need a valid passport and health certificate to travel to Brazil.

8. Mi hermano y su novia estudian en Uruguay, él estudia medicina y ella estudia ingenieria. – My brother and his girlfriend study in Uruguay, he studies medicine and she studies engineering.

9. Michelle y Katherine amaban la música, es por eso que ellas solían cantar y bailar muy bien. – Michelle and Katherine loved music, that’s why they used to sing and dance very well.

10. Yo haré la tarea cuando pueda. No tengo tiempo. – I will do my homework when I can. I have no time.


Get our FREE 7-day email course, Shortcut to Conversational

The exact strategies you need to become conversational in Spanish this year. Join the course now, before we come to our senses and charge for it!

This blog is presented by BaseLang: Unlimited Spanish Tutoring for $179 a Month. Learn more here.