Most who are reading this article are most likely native speakers of English. So, you know that while we speak, read, and write in English, we are spoiled. When we learn Spanish, a problem can arise: where are the pronouns? Pronouns are our indicators as to who is speaking. These pronouns are: “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “it”, “we”, and “they”.
1. Look for names of people being referred to. To find them, you must study a list of names of people in Spanish. You can find a lot of help doing this on the Internet. Generally, most names for a male, ends in “o” or “os”, such as: “Marcos”, “Pedro”, “Mateo”, “Alejandro”. Names for females usually end in “a”, such as: “Maria”, “Leticia”, “Lola”, “Elisa”.
2. Spanish verbs are somewhat unlike English verbs because, more “conjugation” is involved. In other words, there are different endings in the verbs that indicate who is doing the action. For example, in English, we say: I speak, you speak, he/she speaks, we speak, they speak. But in Spanish, “I speak” is “Yo hablo”; “you speak” is “tú hablas”; he/she speaks; él/ella habla; we speak: nosotros hablamos; they speak: Ellos/Ellas hablan. Unfortunately, Spanish doesn’t require personal pronouns usage, like we do in English. So, “Yo hablo” can be simply “Hablo”; “Tu hablas” can be “hablas” and “El/Ella/Usted habla” can be “habla”.
3. So, “habla” can mean “he speaks”, “she speaks”, “it speaks”, or “you speak”. So, how do you know who “habla” refers to? The first indicator I pointed to can be names. Another way is to keep reading the paragraphs before and after that sentence with the verb you see by itself to indicate who is doing the action. In other words, you need to be able to read and translate Spanish very well, so you understand the situation and descriptions that are being developed to determine which of the characters is speaking.
4. Always keep track of each line of dialogue. If you are reading a conversation between two people. Each characters’ lines leapfrog between which the other person speaks. If you still get confused, go back from where you started reading and look for names or pronouns. As you read along, underline and mark who said what and to whom.
5. Look for adjectives that describe a person or more than one person. Most adjectives can be useful in distinguishing between males and females using the last letters of the word: -o, -a, -os, -as. For example, take the word, “Bueno” or “Good”.
So, a man is “Bueno”: A woman is “Buena”.
Several men are “Buenos”: Several women are “Buenas”.
6. Indirect objects can also be used. When a person speaks to another person, indirect objects become handy. If a person says, “I’m giving this book to him”: “Yo le doy el libro a él.” (‘A él’, refers “to him”, with “le”. “I’m giving the book to her”: “Yo le doy el libro a ella.” (‘A ella’, refers to “le”). The plural of both is “les”:
“Yo les doy el libro a ellos.”: “I give the book to them.” (“a ellos” refers to men and women. “A ellas” refers to women only.
7. Analyze the way the person speaks and seek clues that determine whether the speaker is masculine or feminine. When you read or listen to a conversation in any language, men and women usually talk differently in tone and theme. A man might speak more authoritatively and talk about items that relate to men. Women usually talk more softly and about items that are interesting to them.
English pronouns are easier to recognize than in Spanish. Of course, understanding Spanish pronouns take a lot more study and reading. There are many resources online to uncover.