Lecciones de Español

Temas

How to Use Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns - Part 1

How to Use Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns - Part 2

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  

 

yo

 

I

   

  

me me     me me

 

 

you   te you   te you

 

él, ella, usted

 

he,

she,

you (formal)

  lo, la

        him,

her,

it,

you

  le him, her, you

 

nosotros, nosotras

 

we   nos us   nos us

 

vosotros, vosotras

 

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)

 

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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 Kitesurfing

 Play 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 - Niñez

 Play 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 - Comic

 Play 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 Venganza

 Play 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 lola 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 Enfrentamientos

 Play 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 asiático

 Play 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 Apuesta

 Play 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 - Consejo

 Play 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.

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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.

Grammar

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