I often read from the Bible when studying Spanish as it's very easy to read the English and Spanish in parallel. Here's a passage from Genesis 1:10 that got me thinking.

A lo seco, Dios lo llamó «tierra», y al conjunto de las aguas lo llamó «mares». Y vio Dios que era bueno.

There is no subject in the second clause of the second sentence and I was initially thinking about what makes the subject unambiguous. In other words, how do I know by context with certainty which way to read this?

And God saw that he was good. (No?)

And God saw that it was good. (Yes!)

Plugging both of those English sentences into Google Translate just now produced identical sentences in Spanish without any pronoun for clarification. No help there.

So I started comparing some of the various editions of Reina Valera. The original Reina Valera is many hundreds of years old though it had been revised several times in recent decades and consistently rendered the same as above. But then I saw that the Reina Valera Actualizada has added an explicit pronoun.

Y vio Dios que esto era bueno.

RVA seems to be it's own branch of the translation tree starting in the early 1980s. One description of RVA says: "The RVA uses a contemporary language that people can understand throughout the Spanish speaking world." https://www.logos.com/product/339/reina-valera-actualizada

Most of the versions I had available to examine were one of these two Spanish sentences with the concensus leaning toward omitting the pronoun. I can't tell at a glance whether there was a trend based on recency of the translations. In case anyone cares, other variations were:

Y Dios consideró que esto era bueno. (NBD)

Al ver Dios que todo estaba bien, ... (DHH)

Y Dios vio que estaba muy bien esto que había hecho. (PDT)

Al ver Dios tal belleza, dijo: ... (TLA)

So here's my question: Is there a tendency for modern speakers to favor the inclusion of esto here? A potential explanation is that this represents a more universally understood translation across the whole Spanish-speaking world without confusion and possibly education level being a factor. As evidence of preference, perhaps this topic is even addressed in style guides for Spanish-language publications. (I would have checked http://www.manualdeestiloap.com/ except I'd need to buy an account.) Or is all this speculation completely off base?

Any insights on why some don't include the pronoun while others do?

  • 1
    This is opinion-based but I would say that influence from English can be a reason. A non-native Spanish speaker or an amateur Spanish translator would be likely to repeat English structures when writing in Spanish or translating from English, resulting in the retaining of pronouns or passive voice, for example, where natural Spanish writing would not use them.
    – JMVanPelt
    Aug 15, 2016 at 18:47
  • If you want to have a bit of a laugh, think of the sentence Me voy a comer "I'm going to eat." Aug 19, 2016 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


Probably one of the most difficult questions in this site. I can only give my opinion: the Bible has always been one of the most studied books, and hence one of the most known. One of the first translations (from 1569) said this:

Y llamó Dios à la ſeca Tierra, y al ayuntamiento de las aguas llamó Mares: y vido Dios que era bueno.

As this is the first chapter of the Bible, what is said here is what is most learned and what people most know. So I think the translators had to be careful not to change sentences that were already in the minds of the people. The sentence in fact has arrived our days unchanged, but for me it sounds very archaic, the kind of sentence you expect to read just in the Bible, and nowhere else. When I make cupcakes I don't say "y vio Carlos que eran buenas". Neither with nor without the subject in the relative sentence.

So maybe the Bible is the book that follows absolutely no guide of translation, except for the very new ones, that speak the nowadays Spanish. In this version that sentence just disappears, or is changed for "al ver Dios tal belleza", as you state in your question.

  • 3
    I agree, the Bible is not a good book to learn Spanish.
    – DGaleano
    Aug 14, 2016 at 21:20
  • 1
    @DGaleano agreed. The Bible could be the last book I'd recommend to learn Spanish.
    – Charlie
    Aug 14, 2016 at 21:23
  • I'm fairly advanced although I agree it doesn't help with colloquial language. Personally I like to study a broad range of literature, which really is just part of my larger ideas about self-education, and it suits me well.
    – shawnt00
    Aug 15, 2016 at 4:36
  • 3
    @shawnt00 of course, I said that generally speaking. If you think you are ready you can read the Bible, just be warned that the kind of Spanish you'll find there is probably unique and not found anywhere else in the Spanish literature.
    – Charlie
    Aug 15, 2016 at 7:48
  • IMHO, the Bible is not a good book to learn any language at all. The original one was written in several ancient languages (including latin, greek and hebrew), and there are a pletora of translations made in different modern languages, epochs, countries, and christians (catholics, protestants, ortodox...).
    – mclopez
    Aug 19, 2016 at 18:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.