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An Introduction to Verbs and Personal Pronouns
Free Spanish Lessons

  Verb Tenses  
    An introduction to verbs & personal pronouns  
    Verbs - Ser (to be) Estar (to be)  
    The present simple tense - regular verbs (I am)  
    The present simple tense - irregular verbs (I am)  
    The past simple tense - regular verbs (I was)  
    The past simple tense - irregular verbs (I was)  
    The imperfect tense - all verbs (I used to)  
    The future tense - all verbs (I will be)  
    The continuous tenses (I am going)  
    The perfect tenses - regular and irregular verbs  
    The conditional tense - regular and irregular verbs  
    The present subjunctive tense  
    The past subjunctive tense (If I were to)  
    The infinitive tense (verbs in their original forms - to be)  
    The imperative tense (command verbs - go / stay etc)  
    'Haber' with the conditional and past subjunctive tenses  
  More About Verbs  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 1  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 2  
    The 'Gerund' (the equivalent of forming 'ing...' verbs)  
    'Gustar' and similar verbs - A different way of using verbs  
Spain v Latin America
  All About Articles  
    Articles - definite / indefinite ('the' and 'a' in English)  
  All About Nouns  
    Nouns - Part 1 - (Masculine or feminine?)  
    Nouns - Part 2 - (Gender and forming plural nouns)  
  All About Adjectives  
    Adjectives - (Agreement and word order)  
    Adjectives - (Comparative and superlative)  
  All About Pronouns  
    Pronouns - object pronouns (direct / indirect)  
  Adjectives & Pronouns  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (demonstrative)  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (possessive)  
    Adjectives and pronouns (indefinite)  
  All About Adverbs  
    Adverbs - Part 1 - (words ending in -ly in English)  
    Adverbs - Part 2 - (Other forms / making comparisons)  
  Prepositions  
    An introduction to prepositions and relative pronouns  
    Prepositions - A comprehensive list with examples  
  Conjunctions  
    Conjunctions - linking words  
  Questions & Negatives  
    Questions and negatives (question words)  
         

   
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Video Lessons
Summary of Lesson
Defining what verbs, personal pronouns and subject personal pronouns are and taking a look at some verb tenses.
Looking at each Spanish subject personal pronoun and comparing them with the English equivalents.
Looking at common characteristics that exist with all Spanish verbs.
A look at one verb in one particular tense to show how subject personal pronouns and verbs are connected. Looking at when subject personal pronouns might be used with other words.
   
  What you can learn from this lesson
   
Understanding what verbs and personal pronouns are and appreciating the differences that exist between how subject personal pronouns are used in both Spanish and English.
Knowing when and how to use subject personal pronouns and understanding why sometimes they may not be used in speech.
Understanding how Spanish subject personal pronouns are used in conjunction with verbs. Appreciating the importance of gender and being polite.
Knowing with which other words, subject personal pronouns are sometimes used with.
Appreciating how different verb tenses and whether a verb is regular or irregular affect the way a verb is formed.
Quizzes
Affiliates
ROCKET SPANISH
Rocket Spanish
ROSETTA STONE
Rosetta Stone
The subject of this first lesson has been chosen in order to prepare the student for the coming lessons, which explain verbs and and verb tenses in much more detail. Subject person pronouns form an integral part of all Spanish verb formations. Understanding how they are used with verbs is a necessary step in understanding how all Spanish verbs are formed and used.

PART 1

 

The first part of the lesson looks at certain definitions. What are verbs, personal pronouns in general and more specifically, 'Subject' personal pronouns?

Definition of a verb


‘A doing word which describes what someone or something does.’ English examples include; to eat / to drink


The verb examples given above are known as infinitive verbs. These are verbs that haven't been formed in any particular tense. All English infinitive verbs begin with the word (preposition), to. In Spanish nothing precedes a verb in its infinitive form.

 

Definition of a personal pronoun


‘A word that is used to refer to the person or people that you are talking to or the people or things you are talking about.’


Personal pronouns are divided into subject and object personal pronouns. Subject personal pronouns are explained in this lesson. I / you / he / she etc.. (yo / tú / él / ella etc..) To learn more about object personal pronouns take a look at the separate lesson on direct and indirect object pronouns. me / you / him / her etc.. ( me / te / le etc..)


Definition of a 'Subject' personal pronoun

 

‘A word that is used with a verb or sometimes by itself to show who or what is carrying out the action of the verb.’ An English example; he eats. (The subject personal pronoun - he - is carrying out the action of the verb - to eat. )

Using verbs

In language we use certain words; verbs in particular, to indicate whether or not we are talking about somebody or something in the present, past or future. The Spanish language is no exception. The present past and future tenses can also be split into different types. Other verb tenses exist too, such as the ‘hypothetical tenses’ or the ‘command tenses’.

 

At this stage it is important not to get too confused with the number and usage of different verb tenses. Instead it is better to think about three basic tenses as indicated in the example below.

 

Caminar – To walk

 

present simple tense – example I walk yo camino or just camino
past simple tense – example I walked yo caminé or just caminé
future simple tense – example I will walk yo caminaré or just caminaré

 

PART 2

 

The second part of the lesson looks at subject personal pronouns. Below, is a list of each of the Spanish and English subject personal pronouns.

 

yo I
you
él he
ella she
usted you (more formal / respectful)
nosotros / nosotras we (masculine and feminine)
vosotros / vosotras you (all) - (masculine and feminine)
ellos/ ellas they (masculine and feminine)
ustedes you (all) (more formal / respectful)


Note: The subject personal pronoun and él take an accent mark (tilde), to differentiate them between the possessive adjective tu (your) and definite article el (the).

 

The English subject personal pronouns it and they when referring to things, do not exist in Spanish. Instead an actual noun might be used in the sentence which will refer to it or they. Sometimes it or they might be things in general which don't need to be specified or they may be implied only.

 

¿Cómo están las papas? Están duras How are the potatoes? They're hard. they, is referred to by the potatoes
¿Qué es? What is it? it, is implied and does not need to be specified


Different Spanish subject pronouns which mean 'you' in English

In English we use the pronoun 'you' to refer to both male and female individuals and groups of people. In Spanish a different pronoun is used for each. There is also another form that is used when we want to talk to individuals or groups of people in a more polite way.

 

Spanish English When the Spanish pronoun is used
you used to refer to a friend or someone we know well
usted (Ud or Vd) you used to refer to someone we don't know well or someone that we want to be respectful or polite to
vosotros you (all) used to refer to a group of male people
vosotras you (all) used to refer to a group of female people
ustedes (Uds or Vds) you used to refer to a group of male, female or mixed group of people that we want to be respectful or polite to



Note: In Latin America the pronouns vosotros/vosotras are not used. Instead the pronoun ustedes is used to refer to all groups of people; male, female, those that merit respect and those that don't.


To learn more about the differences between the Spanish that is spoken from Spain and Latin America take a look at the pre lesson information which explains these differences in more detail.


Subject personal pronouns that refer to different genders


In English we use the words we, they and you (all) to refer to both masculine and female groups of people. In Spanish a different pronoun is used for each. This may seem a little confusing if you are a native speaker of English. However, as you progress, identifying when and how to use words with the correct gender will become easier.

 

Spanish English When the Spanish pronoun is used
nosotros we used to refer to a group of male people
nosotras we used to refer to a group of female people
vosotros you (all) used to refer to a group of male people
vosotras you (all) used to refer to a group of female people
ellos they used to refer to a group of male people
ellas they used to refer to a group of female people

 

PART 3

 

The third part of the lesson looks at common characteristics that exist in the makeup of all Spanish verbs. The main point to remember here and one which will very quickly become second nature is the fact that at a basic level there are only three types of verbs in the Spanish language. Those that end in either AR, ER, or IR. A sample list is given here:


hablar to speak/talk comer to eat vivir to live
nadar to swim romper to break venir to come
prestar to borrow tener to have sentir to feel

 

There are no exceptions to this rule, which is a rare thing! Now of course, despite this regularity there are many ways in which verbs can be constructed, but as you will see in future lessons the way certain verbs are used and constructed ultimately depends on whether they end in AR, ER, or IR.

 

Spanish verbs are either regular or irregular. If they are regular then it means that the verb takes a common formation pattern which can be applied to all regular verbs.

 

All verbs are made up of a stem and an ending. Look at these examples of infinitive verbs. (A verb in its original form with no alteration to the stem or ending.)


    stem ending
caminar to walk camin ar
comer to eat com er
vivir to live viv ir

 

The stems of all regular verbs do not change. Only the endings change and they all change in the same way. This makes regular verb formations much easier to learn.

 

Irregular verbs are formed by changing both the ending of the verb and sometimes the stem. This is why they are usually more difficult to learn. Some verbs are considered more irregular than others. Some verbs are so irregular that their formation is unique to that verb only.

 

PART 4

 

So, now that we have looked at subject personal pronouns and the basic makeup of verbs, how do these two things fit together? This is what is covered in the fourth part of the lesson!

 

In order to illustrate how subject personal pronouns are used with verbs we will look at the verb, caminar (to walk), in the present tense as follows:

 

yo camino I walk (yo is not usually necessary)
caminas you walk ( is not usually necessary)
usted camina you walk – polite (usted is usually optional)
él camina he walks (él may be necessary)
ella camina she walks (ella may be necessary)
nosotros caminamos we walk – masculine (nosotros may be necessary)
nosotras caminamos we walk – feminine (nosotras may be necessary)
vosotros camináis you (all) walk- masculine (vosotros may be necessary)
vosotras camináis you (all) walk – feminine (vosotras may be necessary)
ellos caminan they walk – masculine (ellos may be necessary)
ellas caminan they walk - feminine    (ellas may be necessary)
ustedes caminan you (all) walk – polite  (ustedes is usually optional)

 

You can see that the verb itself changes depending on which subject personal pronoun is used. Only the ending of the verb changes because the verb caminar (to walk), is a regular AR verb.


Is the subject personal pronoun necessary?

 

So, why is it that sometimes the subject personal pronoun is necessary and sometimes not. In the first example, ‘hablo’ which means, ‘I speak’ there is no other possible meaning for this unique word. It has to mean, ‘I speak’ by the way the verb is constructed. However, ‘habla’ can mean three different things; you speak – polite, he speaks and she speaks. Therefore we might have to use the subject personal pronoun with the verb to identify who or what it is the verb is describing.

 

Comer (to eat)

 

(yo) como yo is not necessary - the verb formation como is unique
(tú) comes is not necessary - the verb formation comes is unique
Marco come él is not necessary because Marco replaces the pronoun él (it is clear that Marco is male)
Él come rápido él is necessary because without it we wouldn't know who eats quickly - with it, we know it is he who eats quickly

Being polite

 

On occasions we might be speaking or referring to older people, those we don’t know very well or those that we might want to be respectful to. On these occasions the polite form of subject personal pronouns should be used. So, for example:

 

¿Cómo está usted?=How are you? (Polite.)

¿Cómo están ustedes?=How are you (all)? (Polite.)

 

Masculine or feminine?

 

Similarly we will on occasions want to refer to things or people that have a specific gender. If this is the case then the correct gender form of the subject personal pronoun should be used with the verb. Often we use verbs in a general context where gender is not necessarily defined, important or where both genders at once are being referred to. In these cases the subject personal pronoun is often dropped altogether or if it is used then it is always the masculine form that is taken.

 

nosotros / nosotras comemos Although the verb formation is unique to the pronoun we, we might want to distinguish between groups of male or female people. If we do then the relevant subject personal pronoun should be used.
vosotros / vosotras coméis Although the verb formation is unique to the pronoun you all, we might want to distinguish between groups of male or female people. If we do then the relevant subject personal pronoun should be used.
ellos / ellas comen Although the verb formation is unique to the pronoun they, we might want to distinguish between groups of male or female people. If we do then the relevant subject personal pronoun should be used.


Much of the time distinguishing between genders is not important which is why subject personal pronouns are often not used in Spanish.

Using personal pronouns even if we don’t need to

 

On occasions we might want to use a personal pronoun in a sentence where in reality it is not actually necessary to do so. We often do this just to give emphasis or to make it absolutely clear about what is being said.


Yo te dije no. I told you no. for emphasis
Ellos están aquí excepto Maria. They're here except for Maria. for clarity

After the verb ser (to be)

Soy yo. It's me.
¿Eres ? Is it you?

 

Used without a verb or after a preposition or by themselves

 

Es para él.  It’s for him.
¿Quien dijo eso?  Yo.  Who said that? I did.

Sometimes when using the words que (than) or como (as) when making comparisons

 

Él es más grande que ella. He's taller than her.
Él es tan grande como ella. He's as tall as her.

It is important to note that it will never be considered wrong to use subject personal pronouns with verbs even where it is not absolutely necessary to use them. When first learning the Spanish language it is good practice to always use them.

 

In the following lessons you will see how verbs are formed when using different tenses. This will ultimately depend on four things:

 

1-     Whether the verb ends in AR, ER, or IR.

2-     Whether the verb is regular or irregular.

3-     What tense is being used with the verb.

4-     Which subject personal pronoun is being used with the verb.

 

That concludes this lesson on verbs and subject personal pronouns. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

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