Los pronombres

There are five kinds of pronouns you need to know about—subject, direct object, indirect object, object of a preposition, and reflexive.
 
 
Subject
Direct object
Indirect object
Object of preposition
Reflexive
Yo
Nosotros
Me
Nos
Me
Nos
Nosotros
Me
Nos
Vosotros
Te
Os
Te
Os
Ti
Vosotros
Te
Os
Él, ella, Usted
Ellos/as, Ustedes
Lo, la
Los, las
Le
Les
Él, ella, Usted 
Ellos/as, Ustedes
Se
Se

 

Subject pronouns are the ones you learned in the first few days of your first Spanish class. They take the place of the subject (the person who performs the action in the sentence.) One thing you might not have noticed is that they only work for animate beings. If an inanimate thing is the subject, it can’t be replaced by a pronoun.

You use the subject pronoun when you don’t want to repeat the name (or other noun) but it’s not clear from the verb what the subject is.

Raquel y Arturo son amigos. Ella es abogada, y él es psiquiatra. Están buscando al hermano de Arturo.

Note that in the third sentence, you don’t need the pronoun because the verb and the context make the subject clear.

One thing you might not have noticed is that subject pronouns only work for animate beings (people or, on occasion, animals.)  If an inanimate thing is the subject, it can’t be replaced by a pronoun.  You either use the noun, or nothing.

La copa de bodas era de Rosario.  (ø) Es un recuerdo importante para Angela.


Direct object pronouns replace the person or thing to which the action is done directly—the direct object answers the question, "Whom or what does the subject verb?"

Raquel perdió su cartera.  [What did she loseLa cartera.]  Luego Pedro la encontró en su oficina.


Indirect object pronouns represent a person (or occasionally a thing) that benefits, suffers, or is otherwise affected by an action done to something or someone else.  Note that while a direct object pronoun is only used as a substitute for the noun, the indirect object pronoun must appear even if the noun is also present.  In other words, if there’s an indirect object in the sentence, there will be an indirect object pronoun.  There may also be an indirect object noun.

Arturo le regaló una foto a Raquel.  [What did he give? Una foto. The photo is the thing that actually receives the action—the photo is what "gets verbed"  Raquel is the one who benefits from that action, but Arturo didn’t give her to anyone.]  También le dio mucha información.

Some verbs almost always have an indirect object.  These include verbs of exchange like vender, dar, regalar, pasar, etc. and verbs of communication like decir, contar, explicar, prometer, mentir, etc.


Reflexive pronouns are used to indicate that the subject and the object are the same person—that someone is doing something to him or herself (or, in the plural, that several people are doing something to each other.)  Sometimes this relationship is obvious:

Raquel se pregunta si es más importante el trabajo o el amor. [Raquel (the subject) asks this question (direct object) to Raquel (indirect object).  Subject is also an object]

Raquel y Arturo se quieren mucho.  (They each like the other—Subject is also the object.)

In some cases, the reflexive nature of the action isn’t really obvious to the English speaker.  The reflexive is often used in cases where something happens to someone without any obvious cause:

Carlitos se enfermó, pero pronto se mejoró.   Raquel empezaba a enojarse con Luis.

Sometimes, but not always, this use corresponds to the English "to get + adjective"— Carlitos got sick, Raquel was beginning to get mad.  It’s a good idea to be aware that many verbs are always reflexive or have a different meaning when they’re reflexive, and to learn the reflexive meaning as vocabulary.


The object of a preposition is easy to identify—it’s a pronoun immediately following a preposition.

Arturo le dijo a Raquel que tenía una sorpresa para ella.  Luis dijo, "Compré dos boletos, uno para y otro para ti."

Two special notes: 1) the prepositional pronoun mí has a written accent to distinguish it from the possessive adjective mi  (Este es mi libro.)    2.) The preposition con uses the special forms conmigo and contigo.  No other prepositions use this form.