Spanish Indirect and Direct object pronouns
In English there are pronouns “I, you, he, she, we, they”, and there are pronouns “me, you, him, her, us, them”. There are analogues in Spanish, however they are more complicated, because there are direct and indirect object pronouns, and pronouns with a preposition.
The table below shows the Spanish analogues of English pronouns “me, you, him, her, us, them”.
|Who?||Direct object||Indirect object||With preposition|
*- Le,Les placed before Lo, La, Los, Las become SE
And the first question here is: what is the difference between direct and indirect object pronouns?
Direct object pronoun indicates an object of an action. Hint phrases are: “I can see (whom? What?)”, “I use (whom? what?)” “I do (what?)”
Indirect object pronoun indicates an indirect object of an action. Hint phrases are: “I give (to whom? to what?)”, “I do it (for whom? For what?)”
In English language the direct and indirect object pronouns match. However we can make some examples to show the difference between direct and indirect objects:
I give it to him – “it” is direct and “him” is indirect objects of the action “give” in this sentence.
We will send him to you – The action is “send”, its direct object is “him”, its indirect object is “you”.
They do it for us – the action is “do”, its direct object is “it”, its indirect object is “us”.
And in Spanish:
Ella lo ve – She sees him/it (direct)
Nosotros los necesitamos – We need them (direct)
Ellos nos explican – They explain to us (indirect)
Ustedes me prometieron – You promised me (indirect)
¿Por qué vosotros le prohibisteis? – Why did you prohibit him/her? (indirect)
Te recordaré siempre – I will remember you always (direct)
Analogue of English pronoun ‘it’:
The direct object pronouns pronouns LO and LA can be translated the following ways:
Lo – him, it;
La – her, it;
They all can mean “it”, and it depends on grammatical gender of the object that we describe by this pronoun:
Yo compro el libro – I buy the book (el libro – masculine)
Yo lo compro – I buy it (it – masculine object)
Yo compro la comida – I buy food (la comida – feminine)
Yo la compro – I buy it (it – feminine object)
And as you can see, the pronouns Me, Te, Nos, Os match for direct and indirect objects.
When a sentence contains both direct and indirect objects, the indirect pronoun is always placed in front of the direct one:
Su jefe se lo dio – Her boss gave it to her (se – indirect, lo – direct)
No te lo dijimos – We didn’t tell it to you (te – indirect, lo – direct)
¿Por qué no se lo ayudará? – Why it doesn’t help me? (le – indirect, lo – direct)
It was already mentioned before that le,les become SE in front of lo, los, la, las, here are some more practical examples:
Nosotros les se lo damos – We give it to them
Por qué él no le se la da? – Why he doesn’ give it to her?
Ella le se lo dio – She gave it to him
What’s more: when we use a verb in infinitive, the pronoun (me, te, la, le, nos, os, los, las, les) is placed in the ending of a verb or in the beginning the sentence:
Ayudar – to help, Ayudarnos – to help us
No quiero preguntarte – I don’t want to ask you
Te no quiero preguntar – I don’t want tp ask you
Yo puedo explicarte – I can explain you
Te puedo explicar – I can explain you
¿Cuándo quierías llamarnos? – When did you want to call us?
¿Cuándo nos quierías llamar? – When did you want to call us?
And, an infinitive verb can be accompanied by both direct and indirect object pronouns at the same time. The following examples show equal expressions:
Quiero decírtelo (te + lo) – I want to tell it to you
Te lo quiero decir – I want to tell it to you
Necesitamos comprarselo (se + lo) – We need to buy it for him/her/them. Don’t forget that SE equals le/les when it is placed before lo, la, los, las.
Se lo necesitamos comprar – We need to buy it for him/her/them
¿Ustedes pueden darnoslos? (nos + los) – Сan you give them to us?
¿Nos los pueden dar Ustedes? – can you give them to us?
Also, these pronouns can be used in the following ways:
- Clarification and avoiding ambiguity
As you could notice, the indirect object pronoun LE can have many meanings, i.e it can mean “him, her, it, you(formal)”. That’s why it can cause ambiguity, for example:
Le digo – I say him/her/it/you(formal)
Yo le di – I gave her/him/it/you(formal)
Ella se lo compra – She buys it for him/her/them/it/you(formal)
No se lo va a ayudar – It is not going to help him / her / them / it / you(formal)
Le escribo un mensaje – I write a message to him / her/ it / you(formal)
As you can see, there is ambiguity between “her, him, them, it, you(formal)” in such sentences in a context where the recipient of the action is not identified. If we want to clarify the object or person – receiver of the action, we have to add A+OBJECT:
Le digo a Pablo – I say it to Pablo
Yo le di a ella – I gave it to her
Ella se lo compra a su hermano – She buys it for her brother
No se lo va a ayudar a ellos – it is not going to help them
Le escribo un mensaje a mi madre – I write a message to my mother
One can emphasize a recipient of an action by adding the same formula A+OBJECT:
Yo la veo – I see her
Yo la veo a ella, pero a los demás no – I see her, but not others. (los demás – others). This expression emphasizes that I see exactly her but not anyone else
Nadie me da un consejo – Nobody gives me an advice
Nadie me da un consejo a mí* – Nobody gives me an advice, this expression emphasizes that nobody gives an advice exactly to me but not anyone else (*- this is a pronoun with preposition)
And finally, we have one more category here – Personal pronouns with preposition. For example, with DE, A, POR, PARA, CON, EN and all others. All you need to memorize is only MÍ and TÍ, all others are the same as initial.
¿Por qué no quieres hacerlo conmigo? – Why don’t you want to do it with me?
¿Qué hará ella con nosotros? – What will she do with us?
Quiero bailar contigo – I want to dance with you
Nadie puede cantar con ella – Nobody can sing with her
When the direct object of an action is a person (animated object), we must use the preposition “A” before that. The personal “a” is used only when the direct object is a person:
Yo llamo a mi amiga – I call my friend. “Mi amiga” is the direct object of the action “yo llamo”, and this is a person, so we must use the preposition “a” before it.
Nosotros vemos a nuestros padres – We see our parents. “Nosotros vemos” – action, “nuestros padres” – direct object as a person.
Ella ama a su gato – She loves her cat
¿A quien tú amas? – Who do you love?
Los padres apoyan a sus niños – The parents support their children
The rule A+el = Al is applied here too:
¿Tú viste al director? – Did you see the director?
Nosotros conocemos al autor de este libro – We know the author of this book
When the personal “a” is NOT used
- When the direct object is not a person (inanimate object):
Bebo la cerveza – I drink beer
Ella conduce un autobús – She drives a bus
- With TENER – to have:
Tengo muchos amigos – I have many friends
Tenemos una hermana – We have one sister
- With HAY – there is:
Hay cinco personas aquí – there are five persons here
Hay una chica que me gusta – there is one girl that I like
- When the direct object is indefinite person:
Ellos llaman un policía – They call a policeman
Él necesita nuevos empleos – He needs new employees
- With animals that are not pets:
Su hija vio un elefante en el zoo – His daughter saw an elephant in the zoo
¿Puedes atrapar ese pájaro? – Can you catch that bird?
Build sentences with these words:
|la cosa – thing|
el tejado – roof
la caja – box
el río – river
el lago – lake
el mar – sea
querido – dear,
rico – rich.
la leche – milk
el océano – ocean
el bosque – forest
|el árbol – tree|
el pescado – fish
la comida – food
le ensalada – salad
la carne – meat
el té – tea
el café – coffee
el vino – wine
la cerveza – beer
la tetera – teapot
|el idioma – language,|
el restaurante – restaurant,
la naturaleza – nature
difícil – difficult
la cocina – kitchen
el camarero – waiter
el viajero – traveler
el puente – bridge
el castillo – castle
tranquilo – quiet
Use appropriate pronoun (direct/indirect/with preposition)
- Yo _____ prometo – I promise her
- Dentro de – Inside of you(tú)
- ¿Ustedes _____ escuchan? – do you hear us?
- ¿Qué quieres saber de _____ ? – What do you want to know from me?
- El vendedor dio lo que ellos quisieron – The seller gave them what they wanted
- ¿Usted ayudó? – Did you help them?
- ¿_____ permitiste? – Did you permit him?
- Tu _____ ves? – Do you see her?
- No quiero _________ (DECIR – to say/tell) – I don’t want to tell you (tú)
- ¿Quién _____ sabe? – who knows it?
- _____ ayudaba a mi hermana muchos veces – I helped my sister many times
- _____ dan mucho dinero a sus hijos – They give a lot of money to their children
- Nosotros _____ _____ contamos – We told it to you(Usted)
- Su padre se _____ dio a ella – Her father gave it to her
- ¿Quién _____ _____ vendo? – Who sold it to you(tú)?
- Recuerdas el mensaje que tú _____ enviaste _________? – Do you remember the message that you send to her?
- Nuestro abuelo tiene un regalo para ___________ – Our granddad has a gift for us
- ¿Puedes cocinar algo para ________? – Can you cook something for me?
- El maestro _______ dio las tareas a sus estudiantes – The teacher gave tasks to his students
- Cómo tú _____ _____ explicaste ____________? – How did you explain it to them?
- Ella ______ quiere agradecer – She wants to thank me
1: le, 2: tí, 3: nos, 4: mí, 5: les, 6: les, 7: le, 8: la, 9: decirte, 10: lo, 11: le, 12: les, 13: se lo, 14: lo/la, 15: te lo, 16: le, a ella, 17: nosotros, 18: mí, 19: les, 20: se los, a ellos, 21: me