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If I want to say I am close to a person, I can say

Estoy cerca de Pedro.

or use a pronoun and say

Estoy cerca de él.

If I’m referring to an inanimate object, I can say

Estoy cerca del carro.

but what pronoun can I replace carro with? Would I just use the same pronoun as if it were a person?

I would guess this but can’t think of any time I’ve heard a pronoun like él being used for something other than a being, and in English it would be totally wrong.

What pronoun is used for inanimate objects in cases like this?

2

To refer to inanimate objects (or subjects), you will not normally use tonic personal pronouns (él, ella, ellos, ellas). You can use demonstrative pronouns, or make them tacit.

  • Este auto es lindo. Ese no.

  • Me gusta este auto. No me gusta ese.

  • ¿Te gusta este auto? / No me gusta.

  • ¿Estás cerca del auto? / No, estoy lejos.

Note: After reading the other reply, I have to clarify that él, ella, ellos, ellas can be used to refer to objects. The example in that reply is good, as is this one:

  • He comprado una libreta. En ella escribiré mis apuntes.

Instead, some other deictic mechanism may be chosen to avoid the personal pronoun:

  • He comprado una libreta, donde escribiré mis apuntes.
  • He comprado una libreta. Allí escribiré mis apuntes.

However, the example proposed by OP is highly unlikely unless the car is personified:

  • Es muy inseguro. Por eso tiene un auto grande, y sólo se siente seguro cerca de él.
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  • Estoy cerca de él. where él = el coche

  • I am close to it. where it = the car

In Spanish, to use él or ella, you need to know if the noun is masculine or feminine.

All nouns are one or the other: masculine or feminine.

Pronouns can refer to people or things.

However, the él or ella for masculine and feminine nouns is used in dialogue slightly differently at times. Cerca de él is not wrong for close to it for a car, but generally, in Spanish, you would use the actual noun there or turn the sentence around.

In Spanish, it would be more usual to say:

El coche está cerca de mí.

Real Academia Española él

  1. pron. person. 3.ª pers. m., f. y n. Forma que, en nominativo o precedida de preposición, designa a la persona, el animal o la cosa de los que se habla, por oposición a quien enuncia el mensaje y a su destinatario.

[ejemplo] Ellos son los culpables. Le llevé el informe, pero no se refirió a él en ningún momento.

Translation: Third person pronoun, masculine, feminine and neuter. A form which in the nominative [as a subject] or preceded by a preposition designates the thing, animal or thing which is/are being talked about as opposed to whom utters the message and its receiver.

él y ella in Spanish

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