It’s simply a case of practice, practice, practice

Direct objects, indirect objects, pronouns – there’s a lot of terminology in the title today but it’s a certainty that you’ll have always used these grammatical items in your own language and it’s essential when learning Spanish to understand how they work. Why you might ask? Well, if you don’t want to sound like a loro (parrot), you need pronouns to replace nouns when speaking and writing to avoid repetition. Let’s have a look at what these terms mean and when, and how, to use them.

Direct object pronouns

These pronouns replace the direct object in a sentence. The direct object is the receiver of the action of the verb. For example, 

  • Leo el libro cada mañana > Lo leo cada mañana
  • I read the book every morning > I read it every morning

In the above case, el libro is the direct object because that is the thing I’m reading. See what we mean? We’ve then replaced el libro with lo which is the direct object pronoun equivalent of it in Spanish. Here are all the other direct object pronouns:

Personal Pronoun Direct Object Pronoun English
Yo (I) Me Me
(You informal) Te You
Él/Ella/Usted (You formal) Lo/La Him/Her/It/You
Nosotros (We) Nos Us
Vosotros (You informal group) Os You
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes (Them/You formal group) Los/Las Them/You

OK, so now we have a reference point, let’s check out some ejemplos (examples) of how to use all of these.

  • He hit me > Me golpeó
  • She loves you > Te ama
  • I’m waiting for her > La estoy esperando
  • The teacher helps us with our homework > El profe nos ayuda con los deberes
  • My mum shouted at you all > Mi madre os gritó
  • Juan doesn’t want them > Juan no los quiere

Indirect Object Pronouns

As you can probably guess from the name, these pronouns replace the indirect object in a sentence. Here is an example:

  • Di el bolígrafo a Pablo > Le di el bolígrafo
  • I gave the pen to Pablo > I gave the pen to him

From this we can see that the indirect object is the person or the thing which receives the direct object or the result of the action done to it. So this means it is one more step removed from the verb than the direct object. Now let’s see the indirect object pronouns in Spanish and their English equivalents.

Personal Pronoun Indirect Object Pronoun English
Yo (I) Me Me
(You informal) Te You
Él/Ella/Usted (You formal) Le Him/Her/It/You
Nosotros (We) Nos Us
Vosotros (You informal group) Os You
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes (Them/You formal group) Les Them/You

Do some of those look familiar? That’s because a lot of them are the same as the direct pronouns. Let’s see them being used in some different sentences.

  • Can you give me a pencil? > ¿Me puedes dar un lápiz?
  • Laura washed the car for you > Laura te lavó el coche
  • She always buys him expensive gifts > Siempre le compra regalos caros
  • My friends will bring us some wine > Mis amigos nos traerá vino
  • He gave you some sweets yesterday > Os dio unos chuches ayer
  • We will send them a letter > Les vamos a mandar una carta

So far, so good, right? When learning Spanish you will always need to use both sets of pronouns to make your speaking and writing sound more natural. You’ll also probably need to use both direct and indirect object pronouns together. Let’s look at how this works as there are a few changes to what we’ve seen so far.

Sentences with both Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns

Clearly, there’ll be many occasions where you want to use both types of pronouns together. This is simply a case of following some reglas (rules) and being careful with a couple of cambios (changes) which you need to make.

Firstly, you must always put the indirect object pronoun before the direct object pronoun. This is different to English and so you really need to remember this pattern. For instance,

English word order Spanish word order
We gave it to you Te lo dimos
She bought it for us Nos lo compró
They said it to you Os lo dijeron

Secondly, there’s a bit of a problem with the pronouns le/les and lo/la/los/las being used together. Because it’s a bit of a trabalenguas (tongue twister) to say Le lo dije (I said it to him/her), for example, we always change le/les to se when we are using both direct and indirect object pronouns together. Look at the following table of examples to get a clearer idea of how this rule works.

English word order Spanish word order
I gave it to her Se lo di – NOT Le lo di
She bought them for him Se los compró – NOT Le los compró
They said it to them Se lo dijeron – NOT Les lo dijeron

Thankfully, that’s all the rules you’ll need! It’s simply a case of practice, practice, practice. And where better place to get studying Spanish and having lots of chances to speak and write than by joining us at Hablamos! We have a full range of courses to suit all your needs and you’ll be slipping those pronouns into your speech like a native in no time

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