Spanish Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns | My Daily Spanish

Spanish Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns (Not to be Confused with Reflexive Pronouns!)

¡Hola! In this lesson, let's discuss Spanish direct and indirect object pronouns.

You might have seen little words in Spanish like me, te, lo, nos, etc. These words are called object pronouns (los pronombres personales de complemento) which can be split into three types:

  • direct
  • indirect
  • reflexive

With this article we aim to show you how to use direct and indirect object pronouns, and not to confuse them with reflexive ones!

To make things clearer, we’ve color-coded things for you!

Key:

Scarlet: Subject

Dark green: Direct Object

Indigo: Indirect Object

Spanish Direct Object Pronouns

Direct object pronouns are used to refer to the object of the sentence, i.e. the thing that’s having something done to it. For example, the direct object in this example is ‘the car’:

David admires the car.

This can be translated as:

David admira el coche.

But sometimes we don’t want to keep repeating ‘the car’—we prefer to say ‘it.’

David admires it.

David lo admira.

In this case, lo is the direct object pronoun.

Table

This table shows you all the direct object pronouns, as you might want to say that David washes me, you, him, her, us, you, them, etc.

me

me

us

nos

you (informal)

te

you (informal plural)

os

him/it/you (formal)

lo

them/you (formal masc.)

los

her/it/you (formal)

la

them/you (formal fem.)

las

All you have to do is find your subject and your verb, and ask who or what is being ~verbed~ by David.

Who/what is David admiring?

David admires me.

David admira a .

David admires me.

David me admira.

David admires you.

David admira a ti.

David admires you.

David te admira.

David admires Moorish architecture.

David admira la arquitectura mora.

David admires it.

David la admira.

David admires us.

David admira a nosotros.

David admires us.

David nos admira.

David admires you all.

David admira a vosotros.

David admires y’all.

David os admira.

David admires the trees.

David admira los árboles.

David admires them.

David los admira.

Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns

In contrast, indirect object pronouns are when you do something to someone or something. For example, the direct object here is the gift (el regalo) and the indirect object is Irina.:

  • José gives the gift to Irina.

This can be translated as:

  • José da el regalo a Irina.

Sometimes, if we know for a fact that the interaction is between José and Irina, we’ll quit repeating her name.

  • José gives the gift to her./José gives her the gift.
  • José le da el regalo.

Table

Check out this table. It shows you all the indirect object pronouns, as you might want to say that José gives the gift to me, to you, to him, to her, to us, to you, to them, etc.

me

me

us

nos

you (informal)

te

you (informal plural)

os

him/it/you (formal)

le

them/you (formal masc.)

les

her/it/you (formal)

le

them/you (formal fem.)

les

All you have to do is find who or what is on the receiving end of the verb.

Who is José giving the gift to? In other words, who is receiving the gift?

José gives the gift to me.

José da el regalo a .

José gives me the gift.

José me da el regalo.

José gives the gift to you.

José da el regalo a ti.

José gives you the gift.

José te da el regalo.

José gives the gift to him/her/you formal.

José da el regalo a él/ella/usted.

José gives him/her/you formal the gift.

José le da el regalo.

José gives the gift to us.

José da el regalo a [email protected].

José gives us the gift.

José nos da el regalo.

José gives the gift to you plural.

José da el regalo a [email protected].

José gives y’all the gift.

José os da el regalo.

José gives the gift to them/you formal plural.

José da el regalo a ellos/ellas/ustedes.

José gives them/you formal plural the gift.

José les da el regalo.

This is how the verb gustar works! ‘Me gusta’ doesn’t technically mean ‘I like.’ It means ‘it is pleasing TO me.’ There’s no direct object in this case.

  • I like apples. Apples please me.
    •   Me gustan las manzanas.
  • I like you. You please me.
    • Me gustas ().
  • Do you like me? Do I please you?
    • ¿Te gusto (yo)?
  • (FYI: it doesn’t sound as creepy as ‘do I please you?’ once you put it in Spanish.)

Difference between direct and indirect object pronouns

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify whether an object is direct or indirect. Think of it like this:

Direct: who/what is being verbed?

Indirect: who/what is that object being verbed TO?

If that’s not clear yet, don’t worry!

Most of the time, you don’t even have to be certain which one you’re using. The only ones that differ are lo/la/los/las vs. le/le/les.

Direct

Indirect

me

me 

te

te

lo/la/(occasionally le)

le

nos

nos

os

os

los/las/(occasionally les)

les

When le becomes se

When combining a direct object pronoun and an indirect object pronoun, the indirect one will come first. This will lead to instances of le lo and les lo, or le la and les la. Although they make logical sense, these are actually wrong.

They’re kind of a mouthful to say (try saying ‘Laura les la dio’ three times fast) so we change the le or les to a se. This does NOT mean we’re dealing with reflexive verbs or anything like that. Just makes it easier to pronounce. Easy peasy!
  • Laura gave the fruit to her grandparents.
    • Laura dio la fruta a sus abuelos.
  • Laura gave them the fruit.
    • Laura les dio la fruta.
  • Laura gave them it.
    • Laura les la dio. Laura se la dio.

Order

As you know, word order in Spanish can be different from how it is in English. There are a few rules when it comes to word order of pronouns in different situations.

Order of a Spanish direct object pronoun and indirect object pronoun

If you’ve got one of each, stick the indirect one first.

  • Pablo gave the flowers to Carolina.
    • Pablo dio las flores a Carolina.
  • Pablo gave them to her.
    • Pablo le las dio Pablo se las dio.

Order with infinitives—either before or after

You can whack object pronouns straight onto the ends of infinitives.

  • I want to donate the money.
    • Quiero donar el dinero.
  • I want to donate it.
    • Quiero donarlo.
  • I want to donate it to the homeless lady.
    • Quiero donarlo a la señora sin techo.
  • I want to donate it to her.
    • Quiero donárlelo. Quiero donárselo.

But you have other options, too! You can stick them before the infinitive and the verb that triggers the infinitive.

  • I want to donate the money.
    • Quiero donar el dinero.
  • I want to donate it.
    • Lo quiero donar.
  • I want to donate it to the homeless lady.
    • Lo quiero donar a la señora sin techo.
  • I want to donate it to her.
    • Le lo quiero donar. Se lo quiero donar.

Order with the gerund

This works the same as it does with the infinitive. You can choose where to put the object pronoun(s).

  • I’m sending the email to you.
    • Estoy enviando el correo electrónico a ti.
  • I’m sending it to you.
    • Te lo estoy enviando. (Pronouns at the beginning)
    • Estoy enviándotelo. (Pronouns at the end)

Order with the present tense

With the present tense, both direct and indirect object pronouns go before the verb (the indirect comes first).

  • Marina sends the letters to me.
    • Marina envía las cartas a .
  • Marina sends me the letters.
    • Marina me envía las cartas.
  • Marina sends me them.
    • Marina me las envía.

Order with the perfect tense

The same rule applies to the perfect tense—indirect then direct then verbs!

  • Carlos has told the story to his friends.
    • Carlos ha contado la historia a sus amigos.
  • Carlos has told them the story.
    • Carlos les ha contado la historia.
  • Carlos has told it to them.
    • Carlos les la ha contado. Carlos se la ha contado.

Order with the preterite

The rule is the same again for this version of the past tense! ☺

  • Enrique sold the shoes to you.
    • Enrique vendió los zapatos a ti.
  • Enrique sold you the shoes.
    • Enrique te vendió los zapatos.
  • Enrique sold you them.
    • Enrique te los vendió.

Order with future

You won’t believe your luck ... same rule again.

  • We’ll sing the song to her.
    • Cantaremos la canción a ella.
  • We’ll sing her the song.
    • Le cantaremos la canción.
  • We’ll sing it to her.
    • Le la cantaremos. Se la cantaremos.

Order with affirmative imperatives

When you’re telling someone to do something, just stick the object pronouns on the end of the verb. Indirect then direct.

  • Bring the food to me.
    • Trae la comida a .
  • Bring me the food.
    • Tráeme la comida.
  • Bring it to me.
    • Tráemela.

Order with negative imperatives

When you have to tell someone NOT to do something, the object pronouns go between the no and the verb.

  • Don’t bring the food to me.
    • No traigas la comida a .
  • Don’t bring me the food.
    • No me traigas la comida.
  • Don’t bring it to me.
    • No me la traigas.

Don’t confuse them with reflexive pronouns!

Reflexive pronouns are tiny words which look very similar to object pronouns, so try not to get them confused. Reflexive pronouns tell us a verb is reflexive, i.e. it’s something that you do to yourself, e.g. lavarse las manos (to wash one’s own hands). They are:

me

nos

te

os

se

se

When a reflexive pronoun is thrown into the mix, just make sure you put it before any object pronouns.

Here’s an example. We put it before the direct object pronoun:

  • I wash my hands.
    • Me lavo las manos.
  • I wash them.
    • Me las lavo.

Watch out for se, as it could be reflexive OR it could just be the easier-to-pronounce-object-pronoun-combo that we looked at earlier!

We know that’s a lot to take in ...

... but we hope this has given you a solid foundation for using direct and indirect object pronouns in all kinds of different situations. Be sure to practice a little every day. ¡Hasta la próxima!


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About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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