I dont speak any Spanish (obviously), and i'm attempting to learn. I was wondering when, if at all, it is appropriate to use the words "soy" or "yo soy". I was told they both mean "i am" (permanent condition). Whats the difference? How do i use them properly?
They do both mean "I am." Soy is from ser, which essentially means "to be". Soy is the form used to refer to "I" in the present tense, or how English speakers would say "I am". Since the conjugation by it's nature tells you who the subject is (I) you do not need to put yo in front of it. You can, and no one will say anything about it, it's just a little odd and rarely done except as a point of emphasis. At least that is my understanding of it.
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Spot on. There are only a few instances where you need to add the "yo" for as first and third person have the same conjugation so you need the "yo" to clarify.
Generally speaking, you don't need to add "yo". It can be used for placing emphasis on the I. In writing, using "yo" with "soy" outside of these situations which require extra emphasis will seem like unnecessary redundancy, or at the very least odd.
I'm not a native speaker so I can't confirm, but I read in "Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish" that using "yo" too often when you don't need to comes across as narcissistic.
When I visited the Dominican Republic, the natives corrected me whenever I said "yo soy" and instead seemed to prefer "soy." "Yo soy" is probably a little repetitious, but I think still technically correct.
Sometimes you use it when somebody asks a general question to a group of people, for example:
Where are you guys from?
I am from Argentina
De donde son, chicos?
Yo soy de Argentina
but when a question is directly asked to you:
Where are you from?
I am from Argentina
De donde eres?
Soy de Argentina ( you can even skip "soy")
In many cases the pronoun e.g. yo is redundant, but sometimes it's absolutely vital. A person mentioned that sometimes it's needed for clarification when 1st and 3rd person conjugations are the same as is often the case with the subjunctive (sea, tenga, etc.).
Another important note is that sometimes it's absolutely necessary or unnecessary to omit or include the pronoun.
Someone tells you urgently, "Can you help me with that pot over there and bring it over to the table?" Answer: Voy, voy voy... and never "Yo voy". "Voy yo" would be an appropriate response if the person were asking a group of people who would like to help him/her, because the yo stresses who will be doing the action rather than the urgency of the action.
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"Who the fuck drank all my milk?" Answer: "Yo no he sido!/Yo no fui!, ha sido/fue él!" A "No he sido" or "No fui" would not sound correct here, although it would be understood, obviously.