The Spanish language has a range of pronouns that in some ways work quite differently from English ones. The system is more complicated, but richer. Correct pronoun use is essential for successful relationships with other people. In addition, subject pronouns are often omitted, and object pronouns usually precede the verb.
- 1 Personal pronouns
- 2 Table of personal pronouns
- 3 Tú / vos and usted
- 4 Old forms
- 5 Regional variations
- 6 The use of le/les
- 7 Prepositions with multiple personal pronouns
- 8 Demonstrative pronouns
- 9 Relative pronouns
- 9.1 Que
- 9.2 El cual
- 9.3 Quien
- 9.4 Donde, a donde, como and cuando
- 9.5 Cuyo
- 9.6 Note on relative and interrogative pronouns
- 10 Reflexive pronouns and impersonal se
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The table below shows a cumulative list of personal pronouns from Peninsular, Latin American and Ladino Spanish.
Subject personal pronouns are usually omitted in both spoken and written language, as the grammatical person and number of the subject are made explicit in the verb form. For this reason Spanish is considered a "pro-drop language". Nevertheless, subject pronouns can be used for emphasis or contrast, or to avoid ambiguity.
With regard to pronouns, Latin American Spanish differs from Peninsular Spanish mainly in the usage of vos in some areas and in the absence of vosotros, among other things. Note that Ladino and Latin American Spanish (like most other "colonial" speech) tend to be conservative in their structural changes compared with that of the country of origin. The next section explains their usage.
Table of personal pronouns
|vos (*)||te||te||tuyo(s)/tuya(s)||vos||con vos|
|usted||lo, la, se||le||suyo(s)/suya(s)||usted||con usted|
|3rd||él, ella, ello||lo, la, se||le, se||suyo(s)/suya(s)||sí, él, ella, ello||con él/ella/ello
|Plural||1st||nosotros, nosotras||nos||nos||nuestro(s)/nuestra(s)||nosotros, nosotras||con nosotros/nosotras|
|2nd||vosotros, vosotras (**)||os||os||vuestro(s)/vuestra(s)||vosotros, vosotras||con vosotros/vosotras|
|ustedes||los, las, se||les||suyo(s)/suya(s)||ustedes||con ustedes|
|3rd||ellos, ellas||los, las, se||les, se||suyo(s)/suya(s)||sí, ellos, ellas||con ellos/ellas|
(*) Only in countries with voseo
(**) Only in Spain
- Consigo is only used reflexively, unlike conmigo and contigo.
- Consigo can also be translated as "I get", first person singular of the Spanish verb "conseguir". Context tells whether it is a verb or a pronoun.
- Se is used as a reflexive pronoun as in "Él se lava" (He washes himself), the subject of an indefinite construction of the passive voice as in "Se dice" (It is said), and as an indirect object if the same sentence contains a direct object pronoun as well: "Se lo di" (I gave it to him/her).
- Nominative case (subject, stressed)
- yo, tú, vos, usted, él/ella/ello, nosotros/nosotras, vosotros/vosotras, ustedes, ellos/ellas
- Accusative case (direct object, unstressed, but see below for direct objects preceded by preposition "a")
- me, te, lo/la, se, nos, os/vos, los/las
- Dative case (indirect object, unstressed, but see below for indirect objects preceded by preposition "a")
- me, te, le/se, nos, os/vos, les/se
- Prepositional case (objects and complements preceded by prepositions, except for preposition "con", stressed)
- mí, ti, vos, él/ella/ello/sí, nosotros/nosotras/nos, vosotros/vosotras/vos, ellos/ellas/sí
Observe that for direct and indirect objects, when they are preceded by the preposition a the pronoun will be in the prepositional case instead of in the accusative or dative. Thus, "I saw her" becomes La vi a ella and "He gave it to me" becomes Me lo dio a mí (see also clitic doubling for the use of reduplicated pronouns).
- Comitative case (prepositional complement preceded by the preposition "con" (with), stressed)
When the preposition is con, the first, second and third person singular take the following forms:
- *con mí → conmigo = "with me"
- *con *ti → contigo = "with you"
- *con sí → consigo = "with yourself(formal)/himself/herself/itself" (reflexive)
The other persons do not have distinct comitative case forms and simply take the prepositional case preceded by "con" (e.g., con nosotros, con vosotras, con ella, con ellos...). The plural first and second person forms, connosco and convosco, are archaic forms no longer in use but some vestiges may be found in Ladino variants.
- Genitive case (possessive)
Adjectival forms (cf. English my, your), unstressed:
- mi / mis
- tu / tus
- su / sus
- nuestro / nuestra / nuestros / nuestras
- vuestro / vuestra / vuestros / vuestras
- su / sus
Pronominal forms (cf. English mine, yours), stressed:
- mío / mía / míos / mías
- tuyo / tuya / tuyos / tuyas
- suyo / suya / suyos / suyas
- nuestro / nuestra / nuestros / nuestras
- vuestro / vuestra / vuestros / vuestras
- suyo / suya / suyos / suyas
The unstressed accusative and dative pronouns are attached as enclitics to the end of the infinitive, gerund and imperative (including the subjunctive forms used as imperative in positive commands): decirlo, besándose, hazlo, tráelo, dígaselo, amémonos, repartíos, pónganse. In the combination -mos + nos the s is dropped, as is the d in the sequence -d + os. The acute accent is written according to the general accentuation rules. In modern Spanish, these clitic pronouns usually precede the rest of verb forms (me lo das, se lo pondrán, si se lo creyeran), including compound and passive ones (se lo ha comido, nos habían sido impuestas) and all forms of subjunctive in negative commands (no lo hagas, no lo traigas, no se lo diga, no nos amemos, no os repartáis, no se pongan). In some periphrastic constructions, the pronouns may go either before the main (or auxiliary) verb of after the dependent infinitive or gerund (te lo voy a decir or voy a decírtelo, se las estaban repartiendo or estaban repartiéndoselas, no me lo intentes ocultar or no intentes ocultármelo).
The clitic pronouns, whether enclitic or proclitic, normally cluster in the same order: dative clitics precede accusative clitics, se is in the front always, then follow second persons, then first persons and third persons are always last; furthermore, in a sequence of two third-pronominal object clitics, the dative one must always be se (e.g. Juan se lo mandó "Juan sent it to him").
Tú / vos and usted
Like French and other languages with the T-V distinction, modern Spanish has a distinction in its second person pronouns that has no equivalent in English. The most basic is the difference between tú (vos in voseo areas) and usted: tú or vos is the "familiar" form, and usted, derived from the third-person form "your grace" (vuestra merced) is the "polite" form. The appropriate usage of these forms is fundamental to interpersonal communication. Using the usted form when addressing someone implies that the person addressed is a social superior, someone to whom respect is owed, or someone with whom one does not have a close relationship; in conservative families a child will use usted when addressing a parent. In contrast, the use of tú or vos implies that the person addressed is an equal, a comrade, a friend, someone with whom one has a close relationship, or a child or other social inferior, including (traditionally) a maid or other household employee. One can give offense by addressing someone with tú instead of usted, similar to inappropriately calling someone by his/her first name in English. Spanish has a verb, tutear, used to mean that two people agree that their relationship is such that the tú form is appropriate (Nos tuteamos, ¿verdad?, we agree, don't we, that our relationship is now such that we will henceforth use the tú form).
In the plural, in Spain other than the Canary Islands, and partially in western Andalusia, the distinction berween "familiar" vosotros/vosotras and "polite" ustedes is identical. In Spanish America and the Canary Islands, where vosotros is not used, there is no such distinction in the plural.
The distinction extends to other types of pronouns and modifiers: when using usted one must also use the third-person object pronouns and possessive adjectives. "Tu casa" (tú with an (acute) accent is the subject pronoun, tu with no accent is a possessive adjective) means "your house" in the familiar singular: the owner of the house is one person, and it is a person with whom one has the closer relationship the tú form implies. In contrast, su casa can mean "his/her house", but it can also mean "your house" in the polite singular: the owner of the house is someone with whom one has the more distant or formal relationship implied by the use of usted.
Similarly, the use of usted requires third-person object pronouns. Te lavas means "you [familiar singular] wash yourself", but se lava can mean "you [polite singular] wash yourself", as well as "he/she/it washes himself/herself/itself"'.
In the past, the pronoun vos was used as a respectful form of address, semantically equivalent to modern usted. This pronoun used the same conjugations as modern vosotros (see below) and also the oblique form os and the possessive vuestro/-a/-os/-as. However, unlike vosotros which always refers to more than one person, vos was usually singular in meaning. The modern voseo of several countries (see below) derives from this old form, but has become a generic form of address instead of a specifically respectful form. Vos and its related forms are still used in literature, cinema, etc. when trying to depict the language of past centuries.
The pronoun "vos" is used in some areas of Latin America, particularly in Central America, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, the state of Zulia in Venezuela, and the Andean regions of Colombia, Bolivia, Perú, and Ecuador.
In some areas, like the River Plate region, vos has become the only generic form of address for singular second person, that is, it has the same meaning that tú has elsewhere (informal and intimate). In other areas, like Chile, it persists as a fairly stigmatized form alongside the more prestigious tú. In some other areas, it is employed among equals but not for very close people (couples or family) or to inferiors (children, animals etc.), where the pronoun tú would normally be used.
Ladino speakers use vos as well, except that they employ it as in Old Spanish (see above), that is, as a respectful form of address, equivalent to how usted is used elsewhere. In fact, Ladino speakers do not use usted at all because vos implies the same respect that it once had in Old Spanish. In Ladino, tú is used towards anyone in an informal manner.
The use of vusted and vuestra merced
The variant vusted/vustedes is mostly a regionalism of some South American countries. It is common to hear it in isolated areas of Colombia and Venezuela. Other speakers consider it archaic because it is an older form of a contraction of vuestra merced. In Colombia, it is not unusual to hear people use "su merced" interchangeably with usted. It can be used as a vocative as well, e.g. when speaking to an older person, as in "Su merced, ¿por qué no vienen vusted y sus nietos a mi casa esta tarde?"
Vuestra merced (literally 'your grace') is the origin of usted, usarcé and similar forms that govern third-person verb forms with a second-person function. They are mostly confined to period works now.
It is unlikely that similar-sounding Arabic ustādh ('professor') was involved in the formation of Spanish usted, given the weakness of the semantic link and the fact that usted is not documented before 1598 (see the online Corpus del Español) — over a century after the fall of Moorish Granada.
The use of vosotros
Today, the informal second-person plural pronoun vosotros is widely used by most residents in Spain, except in some southwestern regions and in most of the Canary Islands, where its use is rare. Among the former colonies of the Spanish Empire, the use of vosotros and its normal conjugations is also retained in the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea. Vosotros is the only form used by the Sephardic Jews that speak Ladino.
Conversely, the use of vosotros is completely absent in Latin America, except sometimes in written legal or other highly formal language. Throughout Latin America, the second person plural pronoun ustedes is universally used when communicating in both formal and informal contexts.
Forms based on vosotros and vos are used in many Spanish-based creole languages.
In Chavacano, spoken in the Philippines, vo is used alongside tu as a singular second-person pronoun in Zamboangueño, Caviteño, and Ternateño. In Zamboangueño, evos is also used. For the plural, Zamboangueño has vosotros while Caviteño has vusos. Papiamento, spoken in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, maintains boso (singular) and bosonan (plural). Since it was used with slaves, the forms that seemed disrespectful in the rest of America were common.
Menda is the equivalent of I in Caló, where it is concords in first person singular. In Spanish slang, el menda / la menda can be used as an emphatic I, concording with a third person verb, but its use is receding.
The use of le/les
The pronouns le (singular) and les (plural)—which do not change form for gender—are used to replace the indirect object of a sentence. They also usually accompany an explicit indirect object, "redundantly". For example, in "Le di el libro a María" (I gave the book to María), both "Le" and "a María" refer to the same person (María) as the indirect object. In spoken language, les is frequently replaced by le, and this replacement—although not approved by normative grammar—can often be found in written, published texts as well. When the indirect object pronoun is followed in sequence by a direct object pronoun beginning with l- (lo, la, los, las), both le and les are replaced by se:
- Le di el libro. = "I gave the book to her/him."
- Se lo di. = "I gave it to her/him/them."
Generally, the unstressed third-person object pronouns in Spanish are lo, la, los, las. This is the current position of the Real Academia Española. This is a reasonable generalisation given that it is true in over ninety percent of cases in the Spanish-speaking world. However, it is helpful to take note of the various exceptions to this general rule whereby le/les rather than lo, la, los, las are used. Note however that this use is rather modern and often found only in part of Spain whereas the use of lo, la, los, las is considered more traditional.
Theoretical basis for the use of direct-object le/les
There are various diachronic and synchronic reasons for the use of le/les for direct objects. To understand why there is vacillation and hesitation in usage, it is helpful to understand these often-conflicting linguistic forces.
- a) Masculine e
There is a strong tendency in Spanish, inherited from Latin, for pronouns and determiners to have a set of three different endings for the three genders. These are: -e or ∅ for masculine pronouns, -a for feminine pronouns and -o for neuter pronouns.
Thus, éste, ésta, esto; ése, ésa, eso; aquél, aquélla, aquello; el, la, lo; él, ella, ello.
In this context, it would make sense to say le vi "I saw him" for any masculine noun, la vi "I saw her/it" for any feminine noun, and lo vi "I saw it" when no noun is being referred to. This gives us a set like the above: le, la, lo.
- b) Indirectness for humans — general
Spanish has a tendency, discussed at Spanish prepositions, to treat as indirect objects those direct objects which happen to refer to people. In this context, it would make sense to say le/les vi "I saw him/her/them" when referring to people and lo/la/los/las vi "I saw it/them" when referring to things.
- b1) Indirectness for humans — respect for the interlocutor
The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when the speaker wishes to convey respect. The third person in Spanish can be used as the second person to mean "you". In this context, it would make sense to use lo/la/los/las vi "I saw him/her/it/them" when one is speaking about a third party or an object, but le/les vi "I saw you" when the pronoun is intended to represent usted/ustedes.
- b2) Indirectness for humans — contrast with inanimate things
The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when the subject of the sentence is not human, thus creating a contrast in the mind of the speaker between the human and the thing. In this context, it would make sense to say la halagó "he flattered her" when the subject is "he" referring to a person, but le halagó "it flattered her" when the subject is "it", a thing.
- b3) Indirectness for humans — humanity otherwise emphasised
The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when the humanity of the person who is the object of the sentence is emphasised by the way the verb is used. In this context, it would make sense for a subtle distinction to be made between lo llevamos al hospital "we took/carried him to the hospital" when the patient is unconscious and le llevamos al hospital "we took/led him to the hospital" when the patient is able to walk.
- b4) Indirectness for humans — with impersonal se
The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when impersonal se is used instead of a real subject. This is to avoid the misinterpretation of the se as being an indirect object pronoun. In this context, it would make sense to say se le lee mucho "people read him/her a lot" if "se" means "people" and "le" means "him/her", and reserve se lo/la lee mucho "he/she reads it a lot for him/her" for sentences in which the "se" is not impersonal.
Direct-object le/les in practice
All of the theoretical reasons for using le/les detailed above actually influence the way Spanish speakers use these pronouns, and this has been demonstrated by various surveys and investigations.
Extreme preference for le/les is a dialectalism known as leísmo; however, not all use of direct-object le/les is dialectal. Some instances of it are universal across the educated Spanish-speaking world.
Let us first look at dialectal extremes. There is leísmo (covered under point a above) motivated by the tendency towards masculine e in uneducated Madrid speech. This actually used to be quite standard, and the Real Academia only stopped endorsing it in the 1850s. We therefore find in old texts:
- Unos niegan el hecho, otros le afirman = "Some deny the fact; others assert it" (B. Feijoo, mid-eighteenth century)
Such speakers would say le afirman in reference to a word like el hecho, la afirman in reference to a word like la verdad, and lo afirman only in reference to a general neuter "it".
The second extreme leísmo is the one motivated by the second point mentioned: the tendency to use indirect objects for people. This is noticeable in Northwestern Spain, especially Navarre and the Basque Country, where regional speech uses le vi for "I saw him/her" and lo/la vi for "I saw it". The same phenomenon is sporadically heard elsewhere, e.g. in Valencia and Paraguay.
Now let us look at less extremely dialectal cases. For the majority of educated speakers in Spain and parts of Latin America, neither of the two tendencies (a or b) is enough on its own to justify the use of le/les; but together they are. Thus, speakers who would reject sentences like le vi for "I saw it" and le vi for "I saw her" would nevertheless accept and use le vi for "I saw him". Indeed, this use of le to mean "him" is so common in standard Castilian speech that some would call the use of lo vi to mean "I saw him" an example of loísmo/laísmo, i.e. the dialectalism whereby lo is overused. The Real Academia's current line is that le for "him" is officially "tolerated".
A case on which the Academy is silent is the tendency described in point b1. It is perfectly common in educated speech in many parts of the world to distinguish between no quería molestarlo "I did not mean to bother him" and no quería molestarle "I did not mean to bother you". Those Spaniards who would not just say le anyway for the reasons explained in the last paragraph are likely to use le in this case. Butt & Benjamin (1994) says that their Argentine informants made this distinction, whereas their loísta Colombian informants preferred molestarlo always.
The Academy is also silent on the tendency described in b2; however, it is universal across the Spanish-speaking world. In a questionnaire given to 28 Spaniards in the Madrid region, 90% preferred la halagó for "he flattered her" and 87% preferred le halagó for "it flattered her". García (1975) reports a similar but less extreme tendency in Buenos Aires: only 14% of García's sample said él le convenció for "he convinced him" (the rest said él lo convenció). With an inanimate subject, a slight majority (54%) said este color no le convence.
García reports Buenos Aires natives differentiating between lo llevaron al hospital and le llevaron al hospital depending on how active the patient is, although anecdotal evidence suggests that Argentines are more loísta than this, and would prefer lo in both cases.
Point b3 is also backed up by the fact that many Latin Americans distinguish between le quiero "I love him" and lo quiero "I want him" (or indeed "I want it").
Prepositions with multiple personal pronouns
In some cases, if the object of a preposition is more than one pronoun, the preposition has to be repeated or a plural pronoun must be used.
- With para
- Not normative: *Este vino es solamente para mí y tú.
- Este vino es solamente para mí y para ti. = "This wine is only for me and (for) you."
- Este vino es solamente para nosotros. = "This wine is only for us."
- Near the speaker ("this"): éste, ésta, esto, éstos, éstas (from the Latin ISTE, ISTA, ISTVD)
- Near the listener ("that"): ése, ésa, eso, ésos, ésas (from the Latin IPSE, IPSA, IPSVM)
- Far from both speaker and listener ("that (over there)"): aquél, aquélla, aquello, aquéllos, aquéllas (from the Latin *ECCVM ILLE, *ECCVM ILLA, *ECCVM ILLVD)
N.B.: According to a decision of the Real Academia from the 1960s, the accents on these forms are only to be used when necessary to avoid ambiguity with the demonstrative determiners. However, the normal educated standard is still as above. Foreign learners may safely adhere to either standard.
Note also that there is never an accent on the neuter forms esto, eso and aquello (which do not have determiner equivalents).
The main relative pronoun in Spanish is que, from the Latin QVID. Others include el cual, quien and donde.
Que covers "that", "which", "who", "whom" and the null pronoun in their functions of subject and direct-object relative pronouns.
- La carta que te envié era larga = "The letter [that] I sent you was long" (restrictive relative pronoun referring to direct object)
- La carta, que te envié, era larga = "The letter, which I did send you, was long" (non-restrictive relative pronoun referring to direct object)
- La gente que no sabe leer ni escribir se llama analfabeta = "People who cannot read or write are called illiterate" (relative pronoun referring to subject)
- Esa persona, que conozco muy bien, no es de fiar = "That person, whom I know very well, is not to be trusted"
When the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition, the definite article is added to que, and this agrees for number and gender, giving us el que, la que, los que, las que and the neuter lo que. Note that in English there are two options: the preposition can go to the end of the sentence, or it can go right before the relative pronoun "which" or "whom".
- Ella es la persona a la que le di el dinero = "She is the person [that/whom] I gave the money to" / "She is the person to whom I gave the money"
- Es el camino por el que caminabais = "It is the path [that] you were all walking along" / "It is the path along which you were all walking"
In some people's style of speaking, this definite article may be omitted after a, con and de, particularly when the antecedent is abstract or neuter:
- La aspereza con [la] que la trataba = "The harshness with which he treated her"
- No tengo nada en [lo] que creer = "I have not anything to believe in" / "I have nothing in which to believe"
After en, the article tends to be omitted if precise spatial location is not intended.
- Lo hiciste de la misma forma en que lo hizo él = "You did it [in] the same way [that/in which] he did it" (note also how "in" with the word forma is translated as de when used directly, but then changes to en when used with the relative pronoun)
- La casa en que vivo = "The house in which I live" (as opposed to the following:)
- La casa en la que estoy encerrado = "The house inside which I am trapped"
Lo que has a slightly different meaning from el que, and is usually used as the connotation of "that which" or "what".
- Lo que hiciste era malo. - What you did was bad.
- Lo que creí no es correcto. - What I believed is not right.
Splitting "lo que" and adding an adjective in between changes the meaning slightly.
- Lo importante es que tenemos un hogar. - What is important is that we have a home.
- Lo mejor es que pierdas peso. - The best thing is that you lose weight (for the time being).
The pronoun el cual can replace [el] que. It is generally more emphatic and formal than [el] que. Note that it always includes the article. It derives from the Latin QVALIS.
It has the following forms: el cual, la cual, los cuales, las cuales and the neuter lo cual.
For subjects and direct objects
It can be used as a formal, emphatic replacement for que in non-defining clauses, for either subjects or direct objects. The fact that it agrees for gender and number can make it clearer to what it refers. The fact that it cannot be used for defining clauses also makes it clear that a defining clause is not intended.
- Los niños y sus madres, las cuales eran de Valencia, me impresionaron = "The children and their mothers, who were from Valencia, impressed me" (los cuales would have referred to the children, too, and not just their mothers)
When used for direct objects, the personal a is required if the antecedent is human.
- Esa persona, a la cual conozco yo muy bien, no es de fiar = "That person, whom I know very well, is not to be trusted"
As the object of a preposition
It can be used as a formal, emphatic replacement for el que, usually in non-defining clauses, as the object of a preposition (including a representing the indirect object). This happens in three main situations.
First, it can be purely a matter of high style. This is used sparingly in Spanish, and so foreigners should avoid over-using it.
- Es el asunto al cual se refería Vd. = "It is the matter to which you were referring"
In more everyday style, this might be phrased as:
- Es el asunto al que te referías = "It is the matter to which you were referring"
Second, el cual is often preferred after propositions of more than one syllable (para, contra, entre, mediante...) and after prepositional phrases (a pesar de, debajo de, a causa de, frente a, en virtud de, gracias a, por consecuencia de...).
- Un régimen bajo el cual es imposible vivir = "A régime under which it is impossible to live"
- Estas cláusulas, sin perjuicio de las cuales... = "These clauses, notwithstanding which..."
Third, el cual is preferred when it is separated from its antecedent by intervening words. The more words that intervene, the more the use of el cual is practically obligatory.
- Es un billete con el que se puede viajar [...] pero por el cual se paga sólo 2€ = "It is a ticket with which you can travel [...] but for which you pay just €2"
The pronoun quien comes from the Latin QVEM, "whom", i.e. the accusative of QVIS, "who".
It too can replace [el] que in certain circumstances. Like the English pronouns "who" and "whom", it can only be used to refer to people.
It is invariable for gender, and was originally invariable for number. However, by analogy with other words, the form quienes was invented. Quien as a plural form survives as an archaism that is now considered non-standard.
It can represent a subject. In this case, it is rather formal and is largely restricted to non-defining clauses.
Unlike el cual, it does not indicate gender, but it does indicate number, and also specifies that a person is referred to.
- Los niños con sus mochilas, quienes eran de Valencia, me impresionaron = "The children with their rucksacks, who were from Valencia, impressed me" (The use of quienes makes it clear that los niños is referred to. Que could refer to the rucksacks, the children, or both. Los cuales would refer to either the children or both. Las cuales would refer only to the rucksacks.
As the object of a preposition
Quien is particularly common as the object of a proposition when the clause is non-defining, but is also possible in defining clauses.
- Ella es la persona a quien le di el dinero = "She is the person to whom I gave the money"
- José, gracias a quien tengo el dinero, es muy generoso = "José, thanks to whom I have the money, is very generous"
Donde, a donde, como and cuando
The etymology of these words is as follows. Latin VNDE, meaning "whence" or "where from" gave onde, which lost the "from" meaning over the centuries and came to mean just "where". This meant that, to say "whence" or "where from", the preposition de had to be added. This gave d'onde. Again, the meaning was eroded over time until it came to mean just "where". Prepositions were therefore added once again. Therefore, nowadays, we have donde for "where" and a donde for "where to", amongst others. Note that all this means that, etymologically speaking, de donde is the rather redundant "from from where", and a donde is the rather contradictory "to from where". The tendency goes forward with the vulgar form ande (from adonde) often used for "where". In the Ladino dialect of Spanish, the pronoun onde is still used, where donde still means "whence" or "where from". In Latin America, isolated communities and rural areas still retain this as well.
Como is from QVOMODO, "how", the ablative of QVI MODVS, "what way".
Cuando is from QVANDO, "when".
Location and movement
Donde can be used instead of other relative pronouns when location is referred to. Adonde is a variant that can be used when motion to the location is intended.
- El lugar en que / en el que / en el cual / donde estoy = "The place where I am" / "The place in which I am"
- Voy a[l lugar] donde está él = Voy al lugar en el que está él = "I am going [to the place] where he is"
- Iré [al lugar] adonde me lleven = Iré al lugar al que me lleven = "I will go wherever they take me" / "I will go to whatever place to which they take me"
Como can be used instead of other relative pronouns when manner is referred to.
- La forma/manera en que / en la que / como reaccionasteis = "The way that / in which / how you reacted" (En que is the most common and natural, like "that" or the null pronoun in English; but como is possible, as "how" is in English.)
Note that for some reason mismo tends to require que:
- Lo dijo del mismo modo que lo dije yo = "She said it the same way [that] I did"
Cuando tends to replace the use of other relative pronouns when time is referred, usually in non-defining clauses.
- En agosto, cuando la gente tiene vacaciones, la ciudad estará vacía = "In August, when people have their holidays, the town will be empty"
- Sólo salgo los días [en] que no trabajo = "I only go out the days that I am not working"
Note that just que, or at the most en que, is normal with defining clauses referring to time. En el que and cuando are rarer.
"Cuyo" is the formal Spanish equivalent for the English pronoun "whose." However, "cuyo" is inflected for gender and number (cuyos (m. pl.), cuya (f. sing.), or cuyas (f. pl.)) according to the word it precedes. Observe the following example:
- Alejandro es un estudiante cuyas calificaciones son siempre buenas. = Alejandro is a student whose grades are always good."
We can see in the above example that the gender and number of "cuyo" have changed to "cuyas" in order to match the condition of the following word, "calificaciones" (f. pl.)
In Old Spanish there were interrogative forms, cúyo, cúyas, and cúyos, no longer used.
In practice, cuyo is reserved to formal language. A periphrasis like Alejandro es un estudiante que tiene unas calificaciones siempre buenas is more common.
Cuyo is from CVIVS, the genitive (possessive) form of QVI.
Note on relative and interrogative pronouns
Note that relative pronouns often have corresponding interrogative pronouns.
"¿Qué es esto?" - "What is this?"
"Ese es el libro que me diste." - "That is the book that you gave me."
In the second line, que was helping to answer for what Qué was asking, a definition of "this".
Below is a list of interrogative pronouns and phrases with the relative pronouns that go with them.
- Qué - what/que - that
- Quién - who/quien - who
- A quién - whom/a quien - whom
- De quién - whose, of whom/cuyo - whose, of whom
Reflexive pronouns and impersonal se
The reflexive pronoun is used with pronominal verbs, also known as reflexive verbs. These verbs require the use of the reflexive pronoun, appropriate to the subject. The forms are as follows:
|Yo||me||Nosotros / Nosotras||nos|
|Tú / Vos||te||Vosotros / Vosotras||os|
|Él / Ella / Usted||se||Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes||se|
Some transitive verbs can take on a reflexive meaning, such as lavar (to wash) and lavarse (to wash oneself). Other verbs have reflexive forms which do not take on a reflexive meaning, such as ir (to go) and irse (to go away). Some verbs only have reflexive forms, such as jactarse (to boast).
- Universidad de Chicago : Diccionario Inglés - Español / Español - Inglés, Cuarta Edición (1987), POCKET BOOKS, una división de Simon & Schuster Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. ISBN 0671743481, página 27, "La Lengua Española en America"
- Franco, Jon. Agreement as a Continuum. 2000. In Beukema, Frits H. and Marcel den Dikken. (eds.) Clitic phenomena in European languages. P.164
- Desouvrey, Louis-H. 2005. Romance clitic clusters. The case connection. Heggie, Lorie and Fernando Ordóñez. Clitic and affix combinations: theoretical perspectives. P.56
- Pineda, Luis and Ivan Meza. The Spanish pronominal clitic system. P.3
- Harris, James. 1995 The Morphology of Spanish Clitics. P.168. In Campos, Héctor. (ed.) Evolution and revolution in linguistic theory.
- There are even more rules and restrictions on the possible clitic combinations. See e.g. Alba de la Fuente, Anahí. 2010 More on the clitic combination puzzle, in Colina, Olarrea and Carvalho (eds). Romance Linguistics 2009: Selected Papers from the 39th Linguistic Symposium.
- In José Rizal's Noli me tangere, Salomé uses vosotros to refer to Elías and his passengers that day. In its sequel, El filibusterismo, in the chapter entitled Risas, llantos, Sandoval addresses his fellow students using vosotros.
- Butt, John; & Benjamin, Carmen (1994). A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish (Second Edition). Great Britain: Edward Arnold. ISBN 0-340-58390-8
- García, Érica C (1975). The Role of Theory in Linguistic Analysis: The Spanish Pronoun System. Amsterdam-Oxford: North-Holland. ISBN 0-444-10940-4
- Appendix:Spanish pronouns on Wiktionary.