Types of Spanish Pronouns

Uses parallel those in English

Teatro Colón en Buenos Aires
El teatro está en Buenos Aires. No lo he visto. (The theater is in Buenos Aires. I have not seen it.).

Roger Schultz / Creative Commons.

Almost all of us like to take shortcuts, and that's one way to think about what pronouns are: In both Spanish and English, they're usually a shorter and quicker way of referring to a noun. Common pronouns in English include "he," "she," "what," "that" and "yours," all of which usually would be replaced by longer words or more words if we didn't have the pronouns at our disposal.

Spanish and English Pronouns Compared

In general, pronouns in Spanish function much as they do in English. They can fulfill any role in a sentence that a noun can, and some of them vary in form depending on whether they're used as a subject or an object. Probably the biggest difference is that in Spanish most pronouns have gender, whereas in English the only gendered pronouns are "he," "she," "he," and "him."

If a pronoun has gender, it is the same as that of the noun to which it refers. (In English, gendered pronouns nearly always refer to people are animals, although it is possible to refer to a few personified objects by gender, such as when a ship or a nation is referred to as "she" instead of "it.") In Spanish, there are also a few neuter pronouns that can be used to refer to an unknown object or to ideas or concepts.

In the list of pronoun types below, be aware that many of the pronouns can have more than one translation, many English pronouns can have more than one Spanish equivalent, and not all pronouns are listed in the examples. For example, the English "me" can be translated as both me and , depending on the context, and the Spanish lo can be translated as "him," or "it." Not all Spanish pronouns are listed here, but enough to convey how others would be classified. Note also that many of these words that function as pronouns, particularly the indefinite and relative pronouns, can serve as other parts of speech.

Types of Pronouns

Pronouns can be classified as to how they are used, and all of these classifications apply to both Spanish and English. Note that some pronouns, such as me and ella, can be more than one type of pronoun.

Subject pronouns replace the subject of a sentence. Examples include yo (I), (you), él (he), ella (she), ellos (they), and ellas (they).

  • Yo quiero salir. (I want to leave. "I" or yo replaces the name of the person speaking.)

Demonstrative pronouns replace a noun while also pointing to it. Examples include éste (this), ésta (this), ésa (that), and aquéllos (those). Note that many demonstrative pronouns have written or orthographic accents on the stressed vowel. Although such accents used to be considered mandatory, these days they are treated as optional if they can be omitted without causing confusion.

  • Quiero ésta. I want this. (Ésta or "this" replaces the name of the object the speaker is referring to.)

Verbal object pronouns functions as the object of a verb. Examples include lo (him or it), la (her or it), me (me), and los (them).

  • Lo no puedo ver. (I can't see it. Lo or "it" replaces the name of the unseen object.)

Reflexive pronouns are used when the direct object and the subject of a verb refer to the same person or thing. They are used much more in Spanish than in English. Examples include me (myself), te (yourself), and se (himself, herself, themselves).

  • Juan se baña. (John is bathing himself. "John" is the subject of the sentence, and he is performing the action of the verb on himself.)

Prepositional object pronouns are used as objects of a preposition. Examples include (me), ella (her), and nosotros (us).

  • Raúl lo compró para nosotros. (Raúl bought it for us. Nosotros and "us" are the objects of the prepositions para and "for," respectively.)

Prepositional reflexive pronouns are used when the object of a preposition following a verb refers back to the verb's subject. Examples include (myself) and (himself, herself, itself, themselves).

  • María lo compró para sí mismo. (María bought it for herself. and "herself" are the objects of para and "for," respectively, and refer back to María, the sentences' subject.

Possessive pronouns refer to something owned or possessed by someone or something. Examples include mío (mine), mía (mine), míos (mine), mías (mine), and suyo (his, hers, theirs).

  • La mía es verde. Mine is green. (Mía and "mine" refer to the object possessed. The feminine form in Spanish is used here because it refers to an object name that is feminine. The possessive pronouns in Spanish are usually preceded by el, la, los, or las, especially when they are subjects.)

Indefinite pronouns refer to nonspecific people or things. Examples include algo (something), nadie (nobody), alguien (anybody), todo (all), todas (all), uno (one), unos (some), and ninguno (none).

  • Nadie puede decir que su vida es perfecta. (Nobody can say his life is perfect.)

Relative pronouns introduces a clause that gives more information about a noun or pronoun. Examples include que (that, which, who, whom), quien (who, whom), cuyo (whose), cuyas (whose), donde (where), and lo cual (which, that which).

  • Nadie puede decir que su vida es perfecta. (Nobody can say that his life is perfect. The relative pronouns here are que and "that." The clause su vida es perfecta gives more information about nadie.)

Interrogative pronouns are used in questions. Examples include cuál (what), quién (what), and cuándo (when). Spanish interrogative pronouns use an orthographic accent.

  • Cuál es tu problema? (What is your problem?)