Direct and indirect object pronouns in Spanish are used to substitute indirect and direct objects. This lesson explores the proper way to do these substitutions using examples from our catalog of videos.
The direct and indirect object pronouns in Spanish are identical except for the third-person singular and plural (him, her, it, them) and the second-person formal (you) forms:
|Subject pronouns||Direct object pronouns||Indirect Object pronouns|
él, ella, usted
|lo, la|| |
|le||him, her, you|
|you (plural familiar)||os||you (plural familiar)||os||you (plural familiar)|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||they, you (plural formal)||los, las||them, you (plural formal)||les||them, you (plural formal)|
So, the pronoun me is used to substitute either the direct object, as in:
A Adícora me trajo el viento.
The wind brought me to Adícora.
Caption 7, Adícora, Venezuela - Darío y el KitesurfingPlay Caption
Or the indirect object, as in:
Mi papá había ido a Nueva York
My father had gone to New York
en un viaje de negocios y me trajo unos discos.
on a business trip and brought me some records.
Caption 1, Carli Muñoz - NiñezPlay Caption
In the previous example, me is the indirect object, while unos discos (some records) is the direct object, which is a plural masculine noun that according to our table is substituted by los (them). So, to substitute both objects you must say: me los trajo (he brought them to me).
Now, the pronoun te is used to substitute either the direct object:
Y de este lado sólo te revuelca,
And from this side it only pushes you around,
pero del otro lado te come.
but from the other side it eats you.
Captions 37-38, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ComicPlay Caption
or the indirect object:
Bueno y por eso te traje las aspirinas.
Well, and that's why I brought you the aspirins.
Caption 43, Muñeca Brava - 2 VenganzaPlay Caption
In the previous example, te is the indirect object, while las aspirinas (the aspirins) is the direct object, which is a plural feminine noun that according to our table is substituted by las (them). So, to substitute both objects you must say: te las traje (I brought them to you).
For the third person of singular (him, her, it & formal "you"), though, Spanish uses lo, la for direct object and le for indirect object. So, for a feminine noun as cicatriz (scar) in the direct object position we use la (in genderless English we use "it"):
Porque tiene una pequeña cicatriz en el brazo que sólo yo conozco
Because he has a small scar on his arm that only I know about
porque se la hizo jugando conmigo.
because he got it playing with me.
Captions 41-42, Yago - 10 EnfrentamientosPlay Caption
For a masculine noun as pollo (chicken) in the direct object position we use lo (again, English uses "it"):
Ya tenemos listo aquí nuestro pollo.
We already have our chicken ready here.
Y lo decoramos con un poco de ajonjolí y cebollín.
And we decorate it with a bit of sesame seeds and chives.
Captions 17-18, [Bears in the Kitchen] Osos en la cocina - Pollo asiáticoPlay Caption
Take note that lo and la are also used for usted (the formal you) in the direct object position. Lo is used for a noun in the direct object position that designates a male person (Morgan):
Morgan, la Señorita Victoria
Morgan, Miss Victoria
está enterada de su regreso y lo espera en el escritorio.
is aware of your return and awaits you in the study.
Caption 29, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La ApuestaPlay Caption
Or la for a noun in the direct object position that designates a female person (let's say Ms. Gonzalez):
Señora Gonzalez, el doctor la verá a las diez.
Ms. Gonzalez, the doctor will see you at ten.
On the other hand, the indirect object uses a different pronoun le (him, her, it & formal "you"). So, for a masculine noun like muchacho (boy) in the indirect object position we use le:
Otro muchacho que nunca escuchó
Another boy that never listened
Los consejos que su madre le dio
To the advice his mother gave him
Captions 40-41, La Secta - ConsejoPlay Caption
And we would also use le if we were talking about una muchacha (a girl):
Otra muchacha que nunca escuchó los consejos que su madre le dio
Another girl that never listened to the words of advice his mother gave her
Equally, we use le if we are addressing someone formally:
Usted que nunca escuchó los consejos que su madre le dio
You who never listened to the words of advice your mother gave you
Got it? Now a test. How do you substitute not only the indirect object (muchacho, muchacha, usted), but also the direct object los consejos (the words of advise) in the previous examples? This is how:
Otro muchacho que nunca escuchó los que su madre le dio
Another boy that never listened to the ones his mother gave him
Otra muchacha que nunca escuchó los que su madre le dio
Another boy that never listened to the ones his mother gave her
Usted que nunca escuchó los que su madre le dio
You who never listened to the ones your mother gave you
It's interesting to note how English can't use "them" to replace "the words of advise" in this particular construction because the wording is odd (it's somehow odd in Spanish as well). So let's simplify the example (the indirect object and indirect pronouns appear in bold):
Mamá dio unos consejos al muchacho / Mamá se los dio.
Mom gave the boy some words of advise / Mom gave them to him.
Mamá dio unos consejos a la muchacha / Mamá se los dio.
Mom gave the girl some words of advise / Mom gave them to her.
Mamá dio unos consejos a usted / Mamá se los dio.
Mom gave you some words of advise / Mom gave them to you.
As you can see, it was now possible to use "them" to replace "the words of advise" in English. But did you notice that Spanish used se instead of le to replace the indirect object this time! Why is that? Well, that's because in Spanish there's a special rule for combining pronouns: when le(s) and lo(s)/la(s) would end up next to each other in a sentence you must use se instead. So you can never say Mamá le los dio, you must say Mamá se los dio. We will learn more about this rule and continue with the plural forms of the direct and indirect pronouns in Part II of this lesson.