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Ti vs. Tu: The Difference Between These Spanish Pronouns

Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn, first, because it is phonetic — what you see is what you say — and because it doesn’t have as many exceptions to the rules as English does.

There are some, but the rules within the Spanish language are much more straightforward, like the difference between ti and tu.

The difference between Ti and Tu lies in where you use them in a sentence. Ti is a prepositional pronoun, a word that is the object of prepositions like before, about, after, for, etc. Tu is a possessive pronoun and works like “your” in English. Both words refer to the singular third-person

To understand the difference between these words better, let’s look at a few examples and also investigate any exceptions that there might be.

While we’re at it, we might as well see what happens to the meanings of ti and tu when we add an accent to the word — yes, that is a thing in Spanish and can muddle things up a bit.

Ti — A Prepositional Pronoun

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Ti is a personal pronoun for “you,” but we use it as an object for prepositions. That is why we call it a prepositional pronoun. We do not have prepositional pronouns in English and simply use the object pronoun after prepositions:

English Object PronounSpanish Prepositional Pronoun
memí 
youti

Let’s first discover some Spanish prepositions in a few example sentences to understand how to use ti. The five most basic Spanish prepositions are:

Spanish PronounEnglish Translation
ato
conwith
deof / from
enin / on / at
parafor (a beneficiary)
porfor (unspecified time) / because of

Este regalo es para ti. This present is for you.

Puedes venir a . You can come to me.

La idea vino de ti. The idea came from you.

Hay algo bueno en . There is good something in me

Ella se fue por ti. She left because of you.

The use of the word ti is pretty straightforward, as you can see in these example sentences. But you might have noticed that we didn’t use con

Con with ti and mí

The word “with” in Spanish, con, is one of those exceptions to the rules that we find in all languages. You might wonder why there are rules if there are so many exceptions, and I must say that I wonder about the same thing.

When we express doing something with me or you, the word con changes significantly. Perhaps it will set your mind at ease to know it is only with the first- and second-person singular, you and I, with which this happens.

Let’s translate:

He is dancing with me. Él está bailando conmigo.

I will go with you. Iré contigo.

As you can see, when we use con, we use the words tigo and migo as prepositional pronouns and write them as one word.

That pretty much covers ti. Let’s move on and find out where and how to use tu.

Tu — A Possessive Determiner

Possessive determiners are those little words that tell us who something belongs to, and a possessive pronoun replaces the determiner and the noun. We are only going to look at the first- and second-person singular again:

Possessive DeterminerPossessive Pronoun
mymine
youryours

Spanish is a bit more complicated because the language makes a distinction between masculine and feminine words and indicates plurals with their possessives (source):

Spanish Possessive Pronouns — First & Second-Person Singular

SingularPlural
TranslationMasculineFeminineMasculineFeminine
minemíomíamíosmías
yourstuyotuyatuyostuyas

Spanish Possessive Determiners — First & Second-Person Singular

SingularPlural
TranslationMasculine / FeminineMasculine / Feminine
mymimis
your (familiar)tutus

We are going to use these possessives in a few sentences to understand their place better:

Ese es mi perro, es mio. That’s my dog, he is mine.

Esa es tu gata, ella es tuya. That’s your cat, she is yours.

The word tu, without the accent, means “your” in English, and it will always appear in front of a noun that belongs to “you.”

Now that I’ve brought up the accent, we should probably look at that, especially because it is a punctuation mark that is quite common in Spanish. But first, let’s make sure we are clear on parts of speech.

Pronouns Explained: Parts of Speech

Let’s start with parts of speech. These are the names we give certain types of words so that we can talk about them. 

Verbs

Verbs are, for example, one of the most important parts of speech in most languages. A sentence cannot really be a sentence without a verb because verbs are the action words. 

They describe actions in the past, present, and future. See the underlined verbs in these sentences:

My sister and I are eating nachos for dinner.

Susan sits at the table when she studies.

Many people will read this article after it is published.

The man on the bench has finished his sandwich.

Nouns

Nouns are also parts of speech, and we use them to talk about people, places, and things. 

Examples of nouns include Susan, book, Africa, table, the sun, and many, many more. Let’s have a look at the sentences above and see where the nouns are:

My sister and I are eating nachos for dinner.

Susan sits at the table when she studies.

Many people will read this article after it is published.

The man on the bench has finished his sandwich.

Prepositions

Prepositions are little words that we use to connect or link ideas, words, phrases, people, and things. They explain the relationship between ideas and usually give you a better idea of time, place, or destination.

These words can become quite complicated, especially when you are trying to learn a new language. For example, prepositions in Spanish are very different from prepositions in English and are usually quite challenging for learners of either language. 

Let’s take our example sentences and identify the prepositions:

My sister and I are eating nachos for dinner.

Susan sits at the table when she studies.

Many people will read this article after it is published.

The man on the bench has finished his sandwich.

Can you see that the prepositions explain the relationship between the nouns? 

  • The word “for” explains the relationship between nachos and dinner
  • “At” gives us Susan’s position
  • The word “after” in the last example connects “this article” with when people will read it.
  • The word “on” tells us where the man is in relation to the bench.

Pronouns

That brings us to pronouns. These are words that we use as placeholders for nouns or noun phrases, and we use them so that we don’t have to keep repeating certain things when we are talking about them.

Most languages have pronouns, and we definitely use them in English and Spanish. There are a few different pronoun types, including personal, possessive, indefinite, relative, demonstrative, interrogative, and reflexive pronouns.

To answer this article’s key question, we only need to look at personal and possessive pronouns for now. Personal pronouns are the little words that we use to substitute the names of people (source).

If we didn’t use personal pronouns, we would talk like this:

Susan sits at the table when Susan studies.

The man on the bench has finished the man on the bench’s sandwich.

That is repetitive and would drive you crazy if you had to talk like that all the time, so we use personal pronouns in English and Spanish.

Pronouns can be the subject of a sentence or clause, as well as the object. Here is a table to see the English and Spanish personal pronouns for the first- and second-person singular:

EnglishSpanish
Subject PronounObject PronounSubject PronounObject Pronoun
IMeYoMe
YouYouTe

Let’s look at a few example sentences:

My name is Jane. Jane spoke to Susan, and Susan helped Jane.

My name is Jane. I spoke to Susan, and Susan helped me.

You can see where I used the pronouns for the first person — that’s me — as a subject and an object in these two sentences. Let’s try it with the second-person singular — that’s you.

Your name is Bill. Bill spoke to Susan, and Susan helped  Bill.

Your name is Bill. You spoke to Susan, and Susan helped you.

In Spanish, the verb changes according to the subject, so they usually leave out the subject pronoun, but we will use them for this exercise. You’ll also notice that the word order is different. The object pronoun comes before the verb instead of after it:

Mi nombre es Jane. Yo hablé con Susan y Susan me ayudó.

Tu nombre es Bill. hablaste con Susan y Susan te ayudó.

Now that we have the groundwork, we can really start answering your question and look at the Spanish word ti.

What about the Accent Mark?

Spanish is one of those languages that use diacritics, which are small letter-shaped symbols, or other types of marks that can be added to a vowel or consonant symbol to modify or refine its meaning (source).

Even though Spanish uses three diacritics, we are only going to look at the acute accent. This little mark that you find on the vowels of many Spanish words are mainly there for two reasons.

Exceptions to the Stress Rules

Spelling in Spanish is super consistent, and there are specific rules for which syllable of a word carries the stress when you pronounce them. 

Still, as with all rules, there are exceptions, and these exceptions are indicated with an acute accent, showing which syllable you need to stress. Examples of words that don’t follow the conventional rules include sofá, árbol, habló, inglés, estábamos, etc.

Distinguishing Homonyms

The second reason to use the acute accent is to differentiate between words spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings.

For example, the word “de” means “of” or “from,” but when you add an accent, , the meaning changes to give for the third-person singular. Here are a few more examples of how this little symbol changes the meaning:

Spanish without AcuteEnglishSpanish with AcuteEnglish
mimyme 
siifyes
teyou – object pronountea
elthe – masculine singularélhe
tuyouryou

So the meaning of the word tu changes when you add the acute accent mark. This is only an issue when you are writing because you will pronounce these little words in the same way.

On the other hand, we never write ti with an accent. This is a common mistake that happens because the prepositional pronoun for the first-person singular, , is written with an accent to distinguish it from the possessive determiner mi.

Final Thoughts

In closing, the words ti and tu belong to different parts of speech in the Spanish language, where ti is a prepositional pronoun that comes after prepositions to refer to “you” or the second-person singular. This word is never spelled with an acute accent mark.

Tu is a possessive determiner that indicates who something belongs to and also refers to “you” or the second-person singular. This word can be spelled with an acute accent mark on the “u,” but that changes the meaning to the personal subject pronoun “you.”

It always seems daunting to learn a new language, especially as we get older, but the benefits are just amazing. New languages open up our minds to different cultures and fresh perspectives, and Spanish is no different. 

One of the advantages of learning Spanish is that it follows grammar and spelling rules much more closely, and even the exceptions to the rules stay within their exceptional rules, making it so much easier to learn.