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Spanish subject pronouns

Learn Spanish subject pronouns, such as él, ella, nosotros, and yo, using a memory palace! After learning how to say the Spanish words for “he”, “she”, “I”, etc., you’ll be able to form a lot of sentences entirely in Spanish.

Full Podcast Episode


Today, “he”, “she”, “we”, and SOME sentences entirely in Spanish.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Let’s learn the words for pronouns that would be used as the subject of a sentence. We’re going to do this two different ways: First I’ll just tell you what they are and quiz you on them, and then I’ll present our recommended memory palace for these words.

So the word for I is yo, the word for “you” when it’s a subject pronoun is , the word for “she” is ella, and the word for “he” is él (which sounds the same as our word for “the”, but this one has an accent mark on it).

So for example, how would you say “he and she”? …That’s él y ella.

How about “you and I are from Colombia”? …That would be:

Tú y yo somos de Colombia.

Tú y yo somos de Colombia.

The word for “we” is nosotros, and the word “they” can be translated either as ellos or as ellas; you’ll use ellas if it’s a group of only feminine people.

So for example, how would you say “they are my friends” if you’re talking about a group of guys?

Ellos son my friends.

Ellos son mis amigos.

How about: You and we are here now. …Be careful! In this case you won’t use Ser, because we’re not describing what you and we are, we’re describing where you and we are. So we’ll say that this is:

Tú y nosotros are here now.

Tú y nosotros estamos aquí ahora.

So if you feel perfectly fine with él, ella, yo, , nosotros, ellos, and ellas, you can skip the next 9 minutes of this episode and go straight to the quiz to practice this, at minute mark 12:45. But we’ve found that most students benefit from using a memory palace specifically for pronouns, since pronouns are some of the easiest words to confuse with one another, so I’m going to present our pronoun memory palace right now.

So the setting of this palace is similar to the one for the direct objects, but in this case you’re walking through a peaceful countryside down a path that goes between two fenced pastures, and you can see sheep grazing in the pastures on either side. Today you’re joined by your motley crew of short and tall friends, but for today, your friends aren’t going to talk, because they’re suffering from a breathing problem that I’ll describe in a minute.

Suddenly the guy with a beard, the one who offered you tea on the hill, is confronting you on the path again and stopping you in your tracks. This time he’s holding two different cups of tea, and he says, “Here, this one’s yours!” But you’re not sure which one he’s referring to; it’s not clear. So you’re like, “I don’t know which one of the two is mine.”

It’s time to give this weird guy a name. He’s pretty important, because he’s actually the shepherd who owns and cares for all the sheep around you, and his name is . (That’s T-U with an accent mark over the U.) In this universe, people call this funny shepherd because he has a habit of holding two things at once and referring to them as one thing, as he just now did to you. Now, in a different scene, the direct object scene, we called him te because that’s the direct object word for “you”. But the subject pronoun for “you” is , so that’s what we call him in this scene.

So you’ll use when the word “you” is interchangeable with “I” or “he”, but you’ll use te when it’s interchangeable with “him”. For example, to say “you eat”, you would say “ eat.” And to say “you see me”, you would say “tú me see”. But to say “I see you”, you would say “I te see.”

Now let’s go ahead and learn the word for “I”. The shepherd, , has decided that it’s time to make introductions. He says, “I’m . I’ll introduce you to my favorite sheep, as well… but what’s your name?”

You don’t feel like giving your real name, so out of nervousness, the first thing that pops out of your mouth is “yo!”. This word, Y-O, means “I”. So for example, you see me would be tú me see, but I see you is yo te see.

The shepherd says, “hi, yo! Meet my favorite male sheep. His name is él.”

He points to a sheep that’s in the pasture to the right, very close to the fence. In each of the sheep pastures, there are a lot of sheep, but there’s clearly one favorite sheep in each pen. The male sheep, on the right, is reclining and chugging a glass of ale, and his name is él with an accent mark. The main sheep on the left is a female, and she’s dancing with a hula hoop. The shepherd says, “HEYA! look at how she dances!” He seems to like saying “heya!” when he looks at this dancing sheep. But he often says this without pronouncing the H, pronounced like “ey-ya”. And then the shepherd, , lets you know that that’s this sheep’s name: ella. It’s spelled like the name “EL-la”, with two Ls, but in Spanish it’s pronounced “ey-ya”. This is common in Spanish: two Ls next to each other make a “y” sound.

So what we’ve learned here is that the word for “he” is él, and “she” is ella. And you’ll notice that these words are laid out exactly how the words were laid out in the direct object scene, with in front of you, ella on the left, and él on the right. All four of these words are pretty easy to use as the subject of a sentence.

We’ll practice it now, but to do this, we’re going to use some sentences that have both subject and object pronouns. Make sure you can identify whether the pronoun, he, him, she, her, you, me, or I, is the subject (meaning it’s interchangeable with “he”) or the object (meaning it’s interchangeable with “him”). If it’s the subject, use one of the names from this new scene with the sheep pastures. If it’s an object, interchangeable with “him”, use one of the words from the hymn scene.

She is my friend.

Ella es my friend.

Ella es mi amiga.

The dog sees you.

The dog te sees.

El perro te ve.

He sees me.

Él me sees.

Él me ve.

You know her.

Tú la know.

Tú la conoces.

I see you.

Yo te see.

Yo te veo.

She knows him.

Ella lo knows.

Ella lo conoce.

There are a few more words to learn here. Saying “they” is pretty easy. The dancing sheep is called ella, and it turns out that all of the sheep on the left side are able to dance. To say “they” about a group of feminine nouns, you say ellas, which is simply ella with a hard S at the end.

The word ellos applies to the group of sheep on the right. It’s just like ellas but with an O instead of an A, which is often the case when a pronoun is masculine instead of feminine.

There’s just one word left, the word “we”. There’s an awkward backstory to this word. As I mentioned, today your group of friends are letting you do all the talking. And that’s because they’re suffering from an unusual nasal condition. Just before you all went out for the day to walk through the countryside, they were all eating oatmeal. You told them a joke that was really funny, and they all started laughing while eating the oatmeal, and they laughed so hard that the oats went into their noses. So as uncomfortable as it is, the oats are blocking their nasal passages. All of this is to say that they’re not speaking today because it’s hard to talk with “nose oats”, as they call them.

The word for “we” is nosotros.

All right, quick quiz to make sure you can remember all of the words in this memory palace. Make sure it’s laid out properly, with one word right in front of you, two feminine words to the left, two masculine words to the right, and the words for “I” and “we” at the bottom of the image, close to you. So now that you’re visualizing this whole thing:

What is the word for “I”? …it’s yo.

What is the word for “you” as a subject pronoun? …it’s .

What about “he”? …it’s él.

How about “she”? …ella.

Next, “they” for a masculine group? …ellos.

And how about “they” for a feminine group? …ellas.

And what’s the word for “we”? …nosotros.

All right, it’s almost time for today’s quiz. But first, two more quick notes about subject pronouns.

First of all, note that the word nosotros can change to nosotras if you’re a group of all-feminine members. So we’ll include one or two instances of nosotras on today’s quiz.

Second, if you’ve ever studied grammar before, you might be wondering why we’ve learned the subject pronouns for “he” and “she” and so on, but not the word for “it”. The fact is that in Spanish, when “it” would be a subject pronoun, “it” pretty much always disappears. There actually is no subject pronoun for “it” in Spanish! So to say “He is a nice guy”, you could either say él es un nice guy or simply es un nice guy. But to say “it is a nice day”, you simply leave off the “it” in every case. Es un nice day.

All right, let’s practice all of these words, along with some of the things we’ve learned previously on the podcast. And remember that, as we learned in Episode 14, for our quizzes, you generally won’t actually name the subject pronouns a lot of the time; sometimes they disappear because the information is provided by the verb. You’ll pretty much only use these subject pronouns for clarity, specificity, or emphasis. I’ll try to make it clear whether or not you’re expected to use a subject pronoun, but also remember that there’s sometimes more than one right answer.

All right, first example:

What are they(m)?

¿Qué son ellos?

¿Qué son ellos?

That is because of the girls.

Eso es por las girls.

Eso es por las niñas.

They(m) did it, but she didn’t do it.

Ellos lo did, but ella no lo did.

Ellos lo hicieron, pero ella no lo hizo.

I’m not that, he is that.

Yo no soy eso, él es eso.

Yo no soy eso, él es eso.

I think even she knows them(m).

I think que even ella los knows.

Creo que incluso ella los conoce.

Why are they(f) your friends?

¿Por qué son ellas your friends?

¿Por qué son ellas tus amigas?

They(f) can see them(f), but you can’t see them(f)?

Ellas las can see, but ¿tú no las can see?

Ellas las pueden ver, pero ¿tú no las puedes ver?

They are by my favorite author.

Son por my favorite author.

Son por mi autora favorita.

We(m) aren’t eating that.

Nosotros no are eating eso.

Nosotros no estamos comiendo eso.

What are you for her family?

¿Qué eres tú para her family?

¿Qué eres tú para su familia?

He is much taller than we(f).

Él es much taller que nosotras.

Él es mucho más alto que nosotras.

Where are you from?

¿De where eres?

¿De dónde eres?

No, they(m) aren’t the winners.

No, ellos no son los winners.

No, ellos no son los ganadores.

I think that she is around here.

I think que ella is por here.

Creo que ella está por aquí.

To get more practice with subject pronouns and with everything we’ve learned so far, check out all the free materials at LCSPodcast.com/17.

Tomorrow we’re going to start putting Ser in the past!

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. Our music was provided by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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