Knowing that verbs imply the subject (unlike English), when is it necessary to be redundant and use the subject? I gathered that it is only used at the beginning of a conversation, but I'm not sure.

Soy alto (inteligente, moreno, etc.)


Yo soy alto (inteligente, moreno, etc.)

Also applies to "tú eres", "el(la) es", "nosotros somos", etc.


Generally, we specify the subject for emphasis. Using your examples:

Soy alto (inteligente, moreno, etc.)

In this sentence, I am specifying one of my characteristics, which are the important part of the sentence. I don't need to specify the subject, since it is inferred from the verb.

Yo soy alto (inteligente, moreno, etc.)

Subtly different: once again, I am specifying a characteristic of mine, but I have put some emphasis on the subject, by mentioning it when it is unnecessary. By putting more importance on the subject, I am making it stand out.

For instance, if we are about to meet for the first time and you ask me how will you recognise me among a group, I may answer:

Yo soy alto, moreno y llevo gafas.

With this, I am implying that I will be the only one in that group that meets the description (if you see someone with these characteristics, that's me). If, on the other hand, I answer:

Soy alto, moreno y llevo gafas.

I am describing myself, hoping that this will help you, but I am not implying anything about other people in the group (maybe because I don't know who else will be there).

As you can see, this is a subtle difference. In case of doubt, you are generally better off by not mentioning the subject.

  • In case of doubt, you are generally better off by not mentioning the subject. <-- That was the most helpful part ;) thanks for the explanations.
    – Timtech
    Sep 17 '14 at 11:06
  • 1
    ^^ This is what I teach my students. It serves a double purpose too, both being the norm and forcing them to pay attention to verb endings rather than using the pronouns as a crutch. Probably the best rule of the thumb for English-speakers is if you would stress the pronoun in speech or italicize it in writing, go ahead and use it. Otherwise, omit. Sep 17 '14 at 11:22
  • Indeed, specifying the subject (especially when it is yo) a lot makes you appear as egotistic. Though, if you are a foreigner, people will understand that you are not yet used to these nuances. If any, they will identify you as an English-speaking person who must always use the subject in his native language.
    – Gorpik
    Sep 17 '14 at 14:18

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