Basic Spanish Course

A complete guide to personal pronouns in Spanish: CLASS 3

Click image to buy module 1 on Amazon!



Transcript of class:

CLASS 3: Personal pronouns in Spanish


Just because Spanish uses personal pronouns a lot less, doesn’t mean you get a free ride and don’t have to learn them. Not only are they used for emphasis, but unlike English, where one often responds to questions with the answer ‘me’ you answer with ‘I’ in Spanish.

Therefore, when someone says ‘who wants a drink?’ in Spanish you respond with ‘I’ (yo) rather than ‘me.’ So, you need to learn the following list of pronouns for a number of reasons.

Yo – I
Tú / usted – you
El – he
Ella – she
Lo / ello – it
Nosotros – we
Vosotros / ustedes
Ellos – they
Ellas – they


HOMEWORK: (The answer is not included because I presume that your only problem will be speed of recall not if you can remember or not. If you forget then consult the original list.) Please remember that for the purposes of this exercise we will translate ‘it’ as ‘ello’ or ‘lo’ but that it could be ‘el’ or ‘ella’ depending on the gender of an object.

Ella
Ellas
Yo
Vosotros

usted
El
Lo / ello
Ellos
Ellas
Ella

Lo / ello
Lo / ello
Ellas
usted
Nosotros
Ella
Yo
Ellas
Ella
usted
usted
Nosotros

Nosotros
Ellos
El
Ellos
Lo / ello
El
Lo / ello

Ellas
Vosotros
Vosotros
Ellos
El
Vosotros
Ellos
Nosotros
Nosotros

usted
Vosotros
Ellas
Yo
Ella

El
El
Ella
Yo
usted
Vosotros
Nosotros
Ellos
Vosotros
Yo
Lo / ello

 

Reference…

Yo – I
Tú / usted – you
El – he
Ella – she
Lo / ello – it  
Nosotros – we
Vosotros / ustedes
Ellos – they
Ellas – they


Complication 1

Now let’s look at the complications of Spanish pronouns: the first being the Spanish obsession with gender.

Spain is one of the true bastions of liberalism for gay and  transgender people, but their language is completely the opposite: everything is either masculine or feminine and there’s no grey areas. For example, in English we refer to a table as ‘it’ and a book as ‘it’ but in Spanish a table is ‘she’ (because it’s feminine) and a book is masculine. Curiously…the penis is feminine.

The best way of explaining this obsession with gender is to talk about pigs on trial.

A lot of people don’t know this, but throughout history it was common to put animals – and even insects on trial –  if they attacked or killed a human. And I mean… a full trial which could end up in a pig being hung. However, if you go back to the ancient world the relationship between man and the non human world was even stranger. Look at the famous case of Darius the Persian king ordering the sea to be whipped for not allowing his men to pass. Also, if a stone fell from a building in ancient Greece, the stone would be taken and would have to pass through a process of decontamination.

Now, you may well be asking yourself what the hell this has to do with Spanish: well, it’s the only reason I can think of why languages like Spanish have inanimate objects that are male or female. It’s some ancient idea that objects possess spirits or character.

However, let’s put our historical speculation to one side and deal with its contemporary consequences: that all objects are masculine or feminine and you don’t refer to them as ‘it’ but as ‘he – el’ or ‘ella- she.’

But here’s the really bad news…

…Not  only does your Anglo Saxon brain have to think of ‘he’ and ‘she’ for objects, but the whole masculine-feminine thing infects the entirety of Spanish grammar. For example, when you translate ‘this’ into Spanish you have to use one word for a masculine object and one word for a feminine object. This is a major point of difficulty for students.

Also, bear in mind that when you say ‘they’ you also have to think of gender. If it’s two guys you say ‘ellos’ but if it’s two girls you say ‘ellas’.

To conclude, Spain maybe very accepting of gender fluidity and transgender people, but it’s language is not!



Complication 2: The weak ‘it’


You will often see in textbooks that the translation of ‘it’ is ‘ello’. This is a very weak form of ‘it’ and is seldom used. One important phrase in which it is used is…

__ Estoy en ello __ I’m on it (I’m doing that thing you wanted me to do.)

Because the ‘it’ does not refer to a specific object it is neither masculine nor feminine so we use the weak Spanish ‘it’… ello (the neutral.)

Another important form of the neutral is ‘lo’. Think about the Nike slogan ‘just do it’. In this case we would translate the ‘it’ as ‘lo.’


 
Complication 3: You


‘You’ is extremely complicated. No, I’m not referring to you, you knucklehead, I’m talking about the word ‘you’ being complicated in Spanish.

There are three rules you need to know about ‘you.’

If you are referring to one person when you say ‘you’ then you translate it as ‘tu’.

If you are referring to two or more people when you say ‘you’ then you translate it as ‘vosotros’.

If you are talking to someone in authority or someone you respect then you refer to them as ‘usted’ or if there’s two of them ‘ustedes’. As a rude slacker like you has no respect for authority, however, you’ll probably never have to use the ‘usted’ form.


Let’s return to the list and refresh our memory.

 
Yo – I
Tú / usted – you
El – he
Ella – she
Lo / ello – it  
Nosotros – we
Vosotros / ustedes – you (plural)
Ellos – they
Ellas – they

The importance of personal pronouns.

As mentioned, the important thing about personal pronouns in Spanish is that you use them when referring to people. Instead of saying ‘me/him/them etc.’ when accepting an offer, you use ‘I/you/ he – yo/tu/el etc.’. Let’s look at a concrete example.

¿Quién quiere una bebida?__ Who wants a drink?

Yo __ me.

Let’s imagine that you know one of the guys wants a drink.

¿Quién quiere una bebida?__ Who wants a drink?

Él __ him.


HOMEWORK: SITUATION: Your host asks ‘¿quien quiere una bebida?’ (who wants a drink?) As leader of the group you need to answer for them. What pronoun do you respond with in the following sentences?


Him
Me
Us
Them (men)
You (plural)
Them (men)
Us
Me
Her
Him
You (plural)
Us
Me
Her
Him
Us
You (singular)
You (plural)
You (singular)
Me.
Him
Me
Us
Them (men)
You (plural)
Them (men)
Us
Me
Her
Him


Please note: The translation of ‘el’ as ‘him’ and ‘ella’ as ‘her’ only works in these types of sentences where the pronoun stands alone and is a single word answer. When a pronoun is accompanied by a verb – e.g. ‘call him’ or ‘give it to him’ – you use a different set of pronouns. But we will deal with that later.

 

Write A Comment

Skip to toolbar