Subject pronouns refer to the noun categories that determine how verbs are conjugated.
Formally this refers to the different "voices" in a language: First Person Singular, First person Plural, Second person singular, etc. We informally list these categories in English as: I, You, He/She/It, We, They.
Here are the Spanish subject pronouns en español
|Yo||I||Nosotros||We (mixed group of men and women or all men)|
|Tú||You (casual)||Nosotras||We (group of women)|
|Usted||You (polite)||Ustedes||You all|
|él||He||Ellos||They (mixed group of men and women or all men)|
|ella||She||Ellas||They (group of women)|
Notice that Spanish has gender (male-female distinction) for two pronoun categories:
- ellos "they" which are all men or a mix of men and women
- and ellas "they" which are all women.
With ellos, there can be a thousand women in a room, but if one man enters, you refer to the entire group as ellos .
- nosotros means "we" men or mix of men and women
- while nosotras means "we" women.
Spanish also has separate forms to express "you"
- tú (familiar or casual, used with children, close friends & close family)
- and usted (polite or formal, used with everyone else)
In English, we speak politely when addressing strangers, people older than ourselves or authority figures. We usually convey our politeness through tone and body language. You can greet your best friend as well as the Queen of England with, "How are you?" but you say it differently.
Asking ¿Cómo está usted? is like saying "How are you, sir /ma'am?" Using Señor or Señora has the same effect: Buenos días, Señor/a means "Good morning, sir."
The best rule of thumb is use the Usted form when addressing a stranger, a person older than yourself, or an authority figure. It conveys courtesy and respect. If you aren't sure which form is appropriate, use Usted and allow the other person to suggest using the Tú form.
Regionally, there are other forms of "you": vosotros, the casual "you all" in Spain, and the vos, the casual "singular you" form (like tú in Argentina. If you travel to these countries or read literature published there, you will be able to quickly pick these up.
- I eat, you eat, we eat, they eat, etc.
In English we have to use the subject pronouns all of the time. But in Spanish, since most verb conjugation forms are unique and reveal the subject, we don't always have to use the subject pronouns. The present tense Yo form always ends in -o or -oy, while the nosotros form ends in -mos. We usually know who the subject is by the verb form itself.
In cases where you are conjugating for “he”, “she” or “they”, you may need to use a subject pronoun or even a name so it is clear who the subject is.