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I am wondering on whether there is a "his/her" phrase in Spanish. In English, we just say "his/her", but in Spanish do we just say "su"? Or do we say something like "su/su", or even "de él/de ella"? Or is there just not an expression like this in the first place?

And as a follow-up question, what about "he/she" or "him/her"?

For example, "Do you know the owner? No, but I think this is his/her cat."

Thanks!

  • What's the context? We just say "su" ("su * de él/ella/usted/..." are awkward ways to avoid ambiguity, to be used only when there is no alternative), and we seldom need "él/ella" because we can drop pronouns when they add no information. – OnlyThenDidIReckonMyCurse Aug 17 at 20:04
  • Your question is very broad. There are subject pronouns, possessive pronouns and direct/indirect objects pronouns. That is an entire introductory course in Spanish.... – Lambie Aug 17 at 20:16
  • This can get you started: intro2spanish.com/intro/intro-pronouns.htm – Lambie Aug 17 at 20:18
  • I've written a minimal answer, leaving out many details and complications. If you need more clarification, you're welcome to write more questions. The rules of this forum are that you should ask one question per post, so that each answer can focus on one topic. The more specific your question is, and the more context it has, the better we will be able to answer to your doubts. – pablodf76 Aug 17 at 21:29
  • –1: This is something you could have easily looked up on Google. Why should people on SE spend time to help you if you won’t spend the time to consult Google? – gen-ℤ ready to perish Aug 18 at 12:03
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There is no need for a phrase like English “his/her” in Spanish, because there is only one third person singular possessive pronoun in Spanish, su, and it is not marked for gender.

If the need arises to make it clear that something belongs to “him” or to “her”, then there is the alternative of rephrasing using de él or de ella. In this case the noun must be preceded by the definite article, which does of course have gender, but it's the gender of the possessed noun, not of the possessor.

  • El auto de María = el auto de ella = su auto
  • El auto de José = el auto de él = su auto
  • La casa de María = la casa de ella = su casa
  • La casa de José = la casa de él = su casa

With the third person pronouns the situation is reversed because both the subject and the direct object pronouns have gender, and there is no simple way to include both except by writing él/ella (subject) or lo/la (direct object). The indirect object pronoun is gender-invariable le.

When the sentence has a direct object it is impossible to avoid this kind of double pronoun. When the problematic pronoun is the subject, though, it is often easier because Spanish can usually simply drop the subject pronoun, so there is no need to mention either él or ella. There is no equivalent to the English usage of “they/them” as gender-indifferent pronoun.

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    su libro, sus zapatos....You left out the plural. And I can't even really understand your third paragraph. Maybe an example would help it....Those last two paragraphs are aimed at people who already understand how all this works. – Lambie Aug 17 at 22:15
  • @Lambie in his comment on the question Pablo indicated that this answer leaves out many details and complications and invited the OP to develop further questions if necessary. – mdewey Aug 18 at 8:09

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