Mastering your Spanish: Don’t overuse personal pronouns

Colombian Spanish student in classroom

One of the most common mistakes new Spanish learners make is using personal pronouns unnecessarily.

We wouldn’t say it is a mistake to use the pronouns altogether with the verb. In fact, this is the way sentences are constructed, so they are grammatically correct. However, as you become more fluent in Spanish, you will notice that there is no need to use personal pronouns all the time; the verb itself will tell you who is doing the action.

Do you want to sound more natural when speaking Spanish?

Read this article carefully! We want you to speak fluent and high-quality Spanish.

The use of personal pronouns in Spanish

Mastering the Spanish pronouns is not easy. There are many pronouns (personal, demonstrative, interrogative, indefinite, and relative). Still, if you start by mastering the use of personal pronouns, you can quickly improve your Spanish beyond the beginner level.

How is that?

In English, for instance, all sentences require a personal pronoun. While in Spanish, we usually omit it. Have you noticed it?

If yes, congratulations! It is the first step to understanding how native speakers talk.

If not, do not worry, you will learn it today!

Your teacher will probably teach you to construct sentences under this structure when you are learning Spanish.

Pronoun + Conjugated Verb + Complement

Perhaps, this is why people keep this structure when constructing more difficult sentences or having conversations. However, for native Spanish speakers using both personal pronouns and conjugated verbs altogether doesn’t sound well in most cases.

Why don’t we always use personal pronouns in Spanish?

We don’t always use personal pronouns in Spanish because it’s implicit in the verb. As simple as that!

In Spanish, we conjugate the verbs according to each pronoun. Thus, when constructing a sentence and having a conversation, it is pretty easy to identify to whom we are referring just by how the verb is conjugated.

Thus, in most cases, there is no need to use the pronoun.

If you use the pronoun and the verb, all native Spanish speakers will understand but if you want to speak more fluently, learn how and when to omit personal pronouns.

Let’s start by conjugating one of the most common verbs, “querer” (to want):

Yo quiero (I want)
Tu quieres (You want) – You in the singular form
Vos querés (You want) – Only used in Argentina and a few regions of Colombia
Él/Ella quiere (She/He wants)
Nosotros queremos (We want)
Ustedes quieren (You want) – You in the plural form
Vosotros/as queréis (You want) – Only used in Spain
Ellos/Ellas quieren (They want)

As you can see, most of the pronouns have their conjugation. Therefore, when you are constructing a sentence or having a conversation, just by using the verb in its conjugated form, you will explain to whom you are referring, and the other person will easily understand.

In Spanish we would say:

  • “¿Quieres un café?”, instead of “¿Tú quieres un café?”
    (Do you want a coffee?)
  • “Quiero comprar un regalo para mi hermana”, instead of “Yo quiero comprar un regalo para mi hermana”
    (I want to buy a present for my sister)
  • “Queremos ir a la playa mañana”, instead of “Nosotros queremos ir a la playa mañana”
    (We want to go tomorrow to the beach)

Do you See? We don’t use the pronoun because each verb already explains who it is referring to. It is applied to affirmative sentences, negative sentences, and questions.

Let’s see other examples:

  • “¿Tienes sueño?”, instead of “¿Tú tienes sueño?”
    (Are you sleepy?)
  • “Voy a comprar una botella de agua”, instead of “Yo voy a comprar una botella de agua”
  • “¿Trabajas mañana?, instead of “¿Tu trabajas mañana?”

If you are a Spanish language learner, the next time you are having a conversation in Spanish, try to be aware of the number of times you use personal pronouns in your conversations. Think if it’s really necessary to use them; if not, start dropping them off.

When do we use the personal pronouns altogether with the verb?

It doesn’t mean we never use the pronouns. It doesn’t mean we never use the pronouns. We do use them but only when it is necessary!

Spanish pronouns can be added in the following scenarios:

1. To avoid ambiguity

Usually, the context of the sentences gives clarity on who is performing the action. However, context doesn’t always make clear who the subject is, and some verb forms are ambiguous. If that’s the case, personal pronouns should be used.

For example:

  • Yo tenía un perro.
    (I had a Dog)
  • Here the use of the personal pronoun is necessary because if we say “tenía un perro”, tenía could mean “I had,” “you had,” “he had” or “she had.”
  • Pedro y Carla son novios. Él trabaja mucho.
    (Pedro and Carla are a couple. He works a lot)
    Here, the personal pronoun is also necessary because if we say “trabaja mucho,” trabaja could refer to him or her.

2. For emphasis

We use the personal pronouns In Spanish simply to emphasize who is performing the action.

  • Yo pago la cuenta (…no tú)
    I am paying the bill (…not you)
  • Haz lo que tú quieras …
    “you do what YOU want…

3. Change of subject

We also use personal pronouns when contrasting two subjects. For example

  • Yo estudio y él escucha música.
    I’m studying and he’s listening to music.
  • Nosotros somos altas, pero ella es bajita.
    We are tall, but she is short.

In English, you might use intonation to add emphasis. But in Spanish, such stress is made by using pronouns.

4. To add a degree of Politeness (only with usted or ustedes)

Another scenario would be only to be a bit more polite. We would add “Usted” or “Ustedes” to the sentence even when it is not necessary.

  • ¿Cómo está usted?
    How are you?
  • Espero que ustedes esten muy bien!
    I hope you are doing great

Both sentences work perfectly fine without the pronoun, but if we add the pronoun “usted” or “ustedes” it sounds more formal. That’s all.

We hope this article has been useful for you. Once you become fluent in Spanish you will simply know when it feels right to use the pronouns and when it doesn’t. Trust us!

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