Quick answer – ‘tú’ is a “subject pronoun” (a pronoun that takes the place of the subject of the sentence) and ‘ti’ is what we call a “prepositional pronoun”. Both actually translate to ‘you’, but ‘ti’ is ALWAYS used after a preposition (‘a ti’, ‘de ti’, ‘por ti’, etc.).
And what about ‘tu’ (without an accent)?
Well, ‘tu’ – without an accent – is actually a “possessive adjective” (used to make clear exactly who or what owns something); it translates to ‘your’.
Worry not as I´m here to dispel all your doubts!
Let’s get into it!
- ‘Tú’ is a subject pronoun (¿Tú quieres comer? = Do you want to eat?)
- ‘Tu’ is used to indicate possession (Este es tu libro = This is your book)
- ‘Ti’ is used AFTER a preposition (Estoy enamorado de ti = I´m in love with you)
Erika´s top tip – if you want to know what the similar sounding ‘te’ means, be sure to check out our article on ‘te’ vs ‘tu’!
When to use ‘tú’
‘Tú’ is what we call a “subject pronoun”.
These are basically pronouns used to refer to the SUBJECT of a sentence (i.e., the person / thing doing the action).
Yo = I
Tú = You
Él / Ella = He / She
Nosotros = We
Vosotros = You (plural)
Ellos / Ellas = They
‘Tú’ is second person singular and translates to ‘you’ in English.
You can do it!
¿Vas a venir solo tú, o también vendrá Isaac?
Are you coming alone, or will Isaac come too?
One major difference between English and Spanish is that subject pronouns are often omitted in Spanish.
This is because, unlike in English, it´s already clear who exactly is being referred to just by looking at the conjugated verb.
Let´s look at an example –
¿Tú quieres comer antes de irnos?
Do you want to eat before going out?
¿Quieres comer antes de irnos?
Do you want to eat before going out?
The sentence above works both with AND without the subject pronoun ‘tú’ because native speakers know instinctively that ‘quieres’ is the second person singular of the verb ‘querer’.
Yo quiero = I want
Tú quieres = You want
Él / Ella quiere = He / She wants
Nosotros queremos = We want
Vosotros queráis = You (plural) want
Ellos / Ellas quieren = They want
So, when DO we use subject pronouns in Spanish?
Well, native speakers tend to use them in the following situations –
- If there´s any ambiguity as to who´s being referred to
- When addressing a specific person in a group
- For emphasis (they´re often used to express surprise)
María y Luis son mellizos pero él tiene el pelo oscuro y ella lo tiene súper rubio.
María and Luis are twins, but he has dark hair and she has very blonde hair.
Hablando a una persona especifica en un grupo
¿Tú qué piensas?
Talking to a specific person in a group
What do you think?
Para expresar sorpresa
¿TÚ quieres ver la película?
¡Creí que no te gustaba ver películas!
To express surprise
YOU want to see the movie???
I thought you didn’t like watching movies.
If you removed ‘tú’ from the last example, the meaning would change (as would the stress and tone of voice!).
It would end up being more like an invitation –
Do you want to watch the movie?
When to use ‘ti’
As I mentioned briefly above, ‘ti’ is what we call a “prepositional pronoun”.
These are pronouns that we use directly AFTER a preposition.
And what´s a preposition, I hear you cry?
Well, they´re basically words that tell us the relation of one noun to another; they very often tell us WHERE something is or WHEN an event occurred.
Words such as ‘on’, ‘in’, ‘at’, ‘behind’, ‘for’, ‘about’ and ‘near’ are all prepositions.
And guess what …
… “prepositional pronouns” in Spanish are EXACTLY the same as the “subject pronouns” apart from the first and second person (´me´ and ´you´).
mí = me
ti = you
él / ella = him / her
nosotros = us
vosotros = you (plural)
ellos / ellas = them
Let´s look at some examples –
Cliente – ¡Gracias!
Vendedor – ¡A ti!
Client –Thank you!
Seller – You´re welcome!
El regalo en la mesa es para ti.
The gift on the table is for you.
Pensé en ti el otro día.
I thought about you the other day.
No hagas lo que no quieres que te hagan a ti.
Don’t do things that you don’t want others to do to you.
As you can see, ‘ti’ ALWAYS comes after a preposition.
¡Ojo! (Watch out!) – both ‘mí’ and ‘ti’ change to ‘migo’ and ‘tigo’ when used after the preposition ‘con’ (‘with’ in English).
con + migo = conmigo
con + tigo = contigo
That´s all for today, guys.
Just remember that ‘tú’ is used to replace the person / thing doing the action (i.e., the subject of the sentence) + that ‘ti’ comes after a preposition and you´ll be good to go.
Oh, and definitely give our article on ‘se’ vs ‘le’ a quick once over if you´d like to find out more about Spanish pronouns!
¿Tú quieres probarte a ti? – Wanna test yourself?
1. ¿Para quién es ese regalo? – ¡Es para ___________!
2. ¿Quién tendrá que ir a la tienda esta vez? – ¡ ___________!, yo fui la última vez.
3. ¿Hablaste ___________ en la mañana?, no escuché el teléfono.
4. Si el trabajo viene a ___________, ¡aprovéchalo!
5. Si ___________ quieres trabajar, entonces prepárate estudiando.
6. Este dibujo hecho por ___________ está precioso.
7. Si ___________ no vienes, entonces te lo perderás.
8. A ___________ te pedimos que nos ayudes a juntar dinero para esta causa.
9. Últimamente me he acordado mucho de ___________, cuando eras un niño.
10. ___________ eres el que cocina rico.