The Personal Pronouns él, ella and usted  

Spanish Pronouns Personal Pronouns El, Ella and Usted

Quick explanation:
In Spanish we use the personal pronouns él for he, ella for she and usted1 for you (formal). We often see them before the verb. We use them for emphasis or to avoid confusion. They also might go after a verb in questions.
Él va a su casa.2
He goes to his house.
Ella va a la escuela.3
She goes to school.
Usted va al parque.
You are going to the park.

Long Explanation:

Just like yo and , these are optional when used with verbs.4 Many explain this by saying that in Spanish: the verb tells the story. Notice in the sentences below how they are not needed and the meaning stays the same.

    Él quiere dormir.
       He wants to sleep.
    Quiere dormir.
       He wants to sleep.

    Ella tiene ochenta uvas.
       She has eighty grapes.
    Tiene ochenta uvas.
       She has eighty grapes.

    ¿Cómo se llama Ud?5
       What's your name?
    ¿Cómo se llama?
       What’s your name?

    When it is obvious who we're talking about, we won't use él, ella or usted before our verbs at all.

      ¿Cómo se llama (usted)?
         What is your name? / What do you call yourself?
      Sí señora, ¿qué necesita (usted)?
         Yes ma’am, What do you need?
      (Ella) Se llama Rebecca.
         Her name is Rebecca. / She calls herself Rebecca.

    However, notice in the following examples the endings of the verb for each person.

      Él necesita un paraguas.
         He needs an umbrella.
      Ella necesita más dinero.
         She needs more money.
      ¿Usted necesita algo?
         Do you need something?

    They’re all the same! This means if you do not explain who does something with – él, ella, usted – before the verb, it could mean any of the three. For example:

      ¿Quiere ir al hospital?
         Does he want to go to the hospital?
         Does she want to go to the hospital?
         Do you want to go to the hospital?
      ¿Tiene una cuenta con nosotros?
         Does he have an account with us?
         Does she have an account with us?
         Do you have an account with us?
      ¿Qué necesita?
         What does he need?
         What does she need?
         What do you need?

    When there might be confusion, use él, ella, or usted in the sentence.

    So in the following we would might add in the information needed so it isn't so confusing.
      ¿Usted quiere ir al hospital?
         Do you want to go to the hospital?
      ¿Él tiene una cuenta con nosotros?
         Does he have an account with us?
      ¿Qué necesita ella?
         What does she need?
1. We can substitute él for the name of a boy/man in a sentence.
Él va a su casa. Juan va a su casa.
He goes to his house. Juan goes to his house.
2. We can substitute ella for the name of a girl/woman in a sentence.
Ella va a la escuela. Julia va a la escuela.
She goes to school. Julia goes to school.
3. If you’re wondering about the differences between (you) and usted (you) see the chart below.
4. see lesson on yo and here
5. Ud. and Vd. are both used to abbreviate “usted”.

tú vs. usted
Here are some of the main differences between tú and usted.

We usually use (informal) when talking to:

  • spouses / boyfriends / girlfriends / lovers
  • family
  • friends
  • children
  • animals (pets)

We usually use usted (formal), when talking to:

  • people that you don’t know
  • people that are more important than you
  • people that you respect
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