We are now going to look at some things called Disjunctive Pronouns. I know the name sounds rather like an eye infection, but please stay with me for a while. Grammar words are almost always off-putting, but if we understand what they mean it can help us to understand their use.
Pronouns, as we have learned before, are words that replace nouns. If I say ‘he’ instead of ‘Pedro’, or ‘it’ instead of ‘computer’, I am using a pronoun. As for the ‘disjunctive’ bit, it sounds like ‘disjointed’ and that is what it is. It refers to pronouns that do not connect directly to verbs, but which stand on their own in some way.
In most cases Disjunctive Pronouns follow prepositions. I can feel your eyes rolling, but please, keep reading …! This is what I mean: ‘with me’, ‘to you’, ‘about him’, ‘for us’ – these are all prepositions with Disjunctive Pronouns and this is what we are going to learn in this article. I’m sure you will agree that they are very useful things indeed.
Let’s take the example of a phrase which I’m sure you use frequently: para mí (for me). You learnt to say this with un café con leche or una cerveza grande within a short period of arriving in Spain. ‘Para’ is a preposition, and ‘mí’ is a Disjunctive Pronoun.
We can use ‘mí’ with other prepositions. We can say for example:
“He is talking about me” – “Está hablando sobre mí” or “Está hablando de mí”
“You can go without me” “Puedes ir sin mí”.
We can also say: ‘a mí’ (to me) often when we want to be emphatic:
“A mí me gusta” – “I like it”).
This is stronger than just ‘me gusta’ on its own. Also, ‘dámelo a mí’- “Give it to me’. “Dámelo” already means “Give it to me”; the extra “a mí” makes it more emphatic.
I know a lot of this is difficult to translate into English or even comprehend via the English language which does not work the same way, but hopefully you are getting the general idea.
We have only looked at the ‘first person singular’, mí, but we can replace this for the ‘second person singular’, ti, as in ‘para ti’ (for you), ‘sin ti’ (without you) and so on.
You will be delighted to know that apart from those two forms (mí, ti), the rest of the Disjunctive Pronouns are exactly the same as the subject pronouns. Here are all of the Spanish disjunctive pronouns to refresh your memory.
Here is just one more example of use and a phrase that could be useful if you want to give someone a tip in a courteous way: ‘para usted’ (for you) as you hand over the money.
There’s just one little one I’ve missed from the above list which is ‘sí’ – ‘sí’ (with an accent) means ‘yes’ and ‘si’ (without an accent) means ‘if’! Now we have another accented ‘sí’ which is an impersonal Disjunctive Pronoun. It can mean ‘one’ or ‘oneself’ or ‘itself’ in certain neutral types of sentences. I’ll leave it there for now!
Two more things to say:
Firstly in answer to the question, “Why does ‘mí’ have an accent, whereas ‘ti’ does not? The answer is that ‘mí’ has an accent to prevent it from being confused with ‘mi’ meaning ‘my’, as in ‘mi hermano’ (my brother).
Secondly, there are two particular forms which are ‘on-offs’ and just different from all the others. They are ‘conmigo’ (with me) and ‘contigo’ (with you). Don’t ask why these two are different, because you’ll only get that most annoying of answers – ‘because they are’!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.