Personal Pronouns in Spanish Translation


A pronoun is a word that is used in place of a noun. Pronouns can be of the following types: personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns and indefinite and negative pronouns. These categories of pronouns exist in both English and Spanish.

Spanish personal pronouns, however, are more numerous than their English cousins. Besides, in Spanish, various kinds of subjects of verbs, objects of verbs and objects of prepositions have their own set of pronouns, and none of the sets are interchangeable with each other.


For example, the English ‘you´ serves as both the subject pronoun and the direct object pronoun in the singular and the plural, in informal as well as formal occasions. In Spanish translation, the ‘you´ will be rendered as ‘tú´ in case of a singular subject pronoun in an informal occasion and ‘te´ in case of a singular direct object pronoun in an informal occasion. Further variations are introduced for the plural number and for formal occasions.

In the first place, Spanish translators must be well-versed in all these usages. In the second place, they must remember that Spanish subject personal pronouns need to be rarely used because the gender and the number of the subject in a Spanish sentence are indicated by the verbs themselves. Thus, while working on a Spanish translation, they can safely omit the Spanish subject personal pronouns.

There are two instances when the Spanish subject personal pronoun needs to be retained in the Spanish translation: firstly, during the use of the formal ‘you´ in Spanish, that is ‘usted´ and ‘ustedes´, and secondly, for the sake of emphasis.

Other personal pronouns

The single English subject pronoun ‘you´ can create a whole host of problems during Spanish translation. That is because ‘you´ has four distinct forms regarding personal pronouns Spanish translation.

‘You’can become any of the following:

  1. tú— singular second person form for informal occasions;
  2. vosotros — plural second person form for informal occasions;
  3. usted – singular third person form for formal occasions;
  4. ustedes — plural third person form for formal occasions.

Translators must remember that none of these forms are interchangeable. They must remember not to shift between ‘tú´ and ‘usted´ during Spanish translation because that will introduce a note of anger or displeasure into the discourse. He or she must conform to the distinctions that exist between the formal and informal forms of discourse.

Direct and Indirect Object

Spanish translation of direct and indirect object personal pronouns is also governed by a strict set of rules. Such pronouns must occupy previously defined positions in a sentence, for example, with affirmative commands, they must be placed at the end of a sentence; if a direct and an indirect object personal pronoun appear together, the indirect object must be placed before the direct object, etc.

Translators must pay particular attention to the Spanish indirect object because its meaning changes with the verb with which it appears. While generally it stands for ‘to´ or ‘for´, it can stand for ‘from´ when used with verbs like ‘comprar´, ‘quitar´ or ‘robar´.

Other Personal Pronoums

We will conclude the discussion on personal pronouns with an examination of reflexive pronouns and pronouns that are objects of prepositions in Spanish translation. When the action that is being carried out by the subject of the verb is directed back upon itself we have an example of a reflexive object. English sentences make sparse use of reflexive objects.

Reflexive Object

On the contrary, Spanish verbs are usually accompanied by reflexive objects, and translators must be capable of correctly introducing them during Spanish translation. The English sentence ‘George took off his shirt and washed his hands´ is conspicuously free of the reflexive object ‘himself´, but its Spanish translation, ‘Jorge se quitó la camisa y se lavó las manos´ has used it (in the form of ‘se´) twice.

The English ‘each other´ can be variously translated into Spanish as ‘se´, ‘nos´ or ‘os´. The pronouns that are the objects of prepositions are also known as disjunctive pronouns.


Most objects of prepositions are the same as subject pronouns. The only exceptions are ‘mí´ (me) and ‘ti´ (you). When ‘mí´ (me) and ‘ti´ (you) are used as objects of the preposition ‘con´, they appear in conjunction with ‘conmigo´ and ‘contigo´.

It is also customary to use the disjunctive pronoun with the preposition ‘a´ for the sake of drawing attention to an indirect object pronoun. For example, the correct Spanish translation of ‘She likes to swim´ will read as ‘A ella le gusta nadar´.

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]