I have a question about using "de él" in Spanish.

I was reading the following sentence as part of a review in a hotel during my Spanish class:

Reservé una habitación individual en este hotel porque vi fotos de él en la página web y me pareció muy bonito.

I know that hotel is a masculine noun i.e. el hotel, and in other sentences e.g.:

Él dijo a su madre "¡Que bueno es!"

the pronoun "él" refers to the boy i.e. "he" in English.

However, I was struggling on the sentence regarding the review of the hotel because the hotel isn't intrinsically a person or a being with an emotion (like an animal, for instance), so I couldn't justify the use of "él" (noting that it is a masculine noun) to say:

vi fotos de él

Why do we say "de él" and not e.g. "de lo", where lo is a direct object pronoun that would be more attributable to a non-being entity without gender e.g. this hotel?

2 Answers 2


It is the third person neuter pronoun in English that takes the place of inanimate nouns (amoung other things). Spanish does not have this. The third person nominal pronoun is él, regardless of animacy.

Leí ese libro pero no me acuerdo mucho de él

Lo is the masculine and neuter directo object pronoun. It takes the place of any precedent that is masculine or genderless, i.e. a verb or phrase.

Fui al lugar del que hablabas. Lo encontré fácilmente.

No lo suelo hacer, pero ayer tomé mucho.

The nominal neuter pronoun is ello and it is never used to take the place of a noun, animate or not.

Le va muy bien en los negocios. Siempre se jacta de ello.

Just remember that subject pronouns are used mostly only to clarifiy ambiguity or for emphasis. It would sound weird to use the pronoun for an inanimate object as the subject of a verb.

La pluma está sobre la mesa. // Está sobre la mesa. // ❌Ella está sobre la mesa??

  • Do feminine nouns also take ella as a third person nominal pronoun as well, or is it always él, regardless of animacy and gender?
    – vik1245
    Sep 11, 2021 at 23:50
  • 2
    Ella is indeed used for feminine nouns. The pronoun must always have the same gender as the noun that it is replacing. Estaba muy oscuro en la ciudad. Había unas nubes enormes sobre ella.
    – nopaltepec
    Sep 12, 2021 at 0:51

When there is no ambiguity, it's preferable to use su/sus/suyos/suyas, but in the above example:

  • "Reservé una habitación individual en este hotel porque vi fotos(=del hotel y/o de una habitación del hotel) en la página web y me pareció todo muy bonito."

It seems much more natural to me. I think it goes without saying.

  • "Reservé una habitación individual en este hotel porque vi fotos de él(=de una persona en el hotel, sus fotos, unas fotos suyas) en la página web..."

The possessive adjective refers to the person who owns it(of him/hers , his/her pictures), not to a thing.


  • "Pull it straight out from the connector" (I'd say "tírelo/la", jálelo/la (coloquial), "tire de eso/ello" (formal), "tire del objeto", tire el objeto (coloquial) instead of "tire de él/ella[Personification]")

  • "It will not switch over to use them" (I'd prefer to say "no los/las va a usar", "no los/las usará", "no hará uso de ésos/ésas/éstos/éstas, de tales objetos" instead of "no hará uso de ellos/de ellas[Personification]")

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