Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns

Give them to us!

What's a direct object?

The object that directly receives the action of the verb is called the direct object.

Bill hit the ball.
"Ball" receives the action of the verb "hit."

Sherry reads the book.
"Book" receives the action of the verb "reads."



The direct object can also be a person.

Sherry hit Bill.
(DO=Bill)



The direct object answers the question "what?" or "whom?" with regard to what the subject of the sentence is doing.

Bill hit the ball.
Bill hit what?
Bill hit the ball.

Sherry hit Bill.
Sherry hit whom?
Sherry hit Bill.



Often, it is desirable to replace the name of the direct object with a pronoun.

Example 1

Paul bought the flowers. He took the flowers home and gave the flowers to his wife.

Example 2

Paul bought the flowers. He took them home and gavethem to his wife.

01040 Spanish Lesson - Direct objects (lo, la, los, las)

When the pronoun replaces the name of the direct object, use the following pronouns:

me (me)
te (you-familiar)
lo, la (him, her, it, you-formal)

nos (us)
os (you-all-familiar)
los, las (them, you-all-formal)



In an affirmative statement with one verb, the direct object pronoun comes immediately before the conjugated verb.

Tengo = I have
Tengo la pluma. = I have the pen.
La tengo. = I have it.

The pronoun (la) comes immediately before the verb (tengo).



Notice that if the subject of the sentence changes, this does not affect the direct object pronoun.

Juan la tiene.

Juan tiene = John has
Juan tiene la pluma. = John has the pen.
Juan la tiene. = John has it.

and

María la tiene.

María tiene = Mary has
María tiene la pluma. = Mary has the pen.
María la tiene. = Mary has it.



However, if the direct object of the sentence changes to a masculine noun, the masculine pronoun must be used.

Juan lo tiene.

Juan tiene = John has
Juan tiene el libro. = John has the book.
Juan lo tiene. = John has it.

but

Juan la tiene.

Juan tiene = John has
Juan tiene la pluma. = John has the pen.
Juan la tiene. = John has it.



Likewise, if the direct object of the sentence changes from singular to plural, the plural pronoun must be used.

Juan lo tiene.

Juan tiene = John has
Juan tiene el libro. = John has the book.
Juan lo tiene. = John has it.

but

María los tiene.

María tiene = Mary has
María tiene los libros. = Mary has the books.
María los tiene. = Mary has them.



Look at how Spanish and English are different.

"Lo tengo" and "La tengo" BOTH mean "I have it."

Differences:

  1. "It" has two forms in Spanish: lo, la
  2. "Tengo" one word in Spanish = two words in English (I have)
  3. The word order is different. In Spanish, the pronoun (lo, la) comes before the verb; in English, the pronoun (it) comes after the verb.

02 Spanish Lesson - Direct Objects (parte 2)

Unos ejemplos...

Now, some examples of plural direct objects.

Juan come dos sándwiches.
Los come. or Juan los come.

María tiene tres libros.
Los tiene. or María los tiene.

El chico compra dos revistas.
Las compra. or El chico las compra.

La chica ve dos coches.
Los ve. or La chica los ve.

Ella compra dos televisores.
Los compra. or Ella los compra.

Tenemos dos mesas.
Las tenemos. or Nosotros las tenemos.



Now, some examples where the direct object is a person.

I know you.
Te conozco.

She loves him.
Ella lo ama.

She loves me.
Ella me ama.

Juan sees her.
Juan la ve.

They call us.
Ellos nos llaman.

We call them.
Los llamamos.


Spanish Grammar: Direct Objects and Direct Object Pronouns Lesson 1
Direct Object Pronoun Song (Señorita Rau's version of "Bad Sentence" by Señorita Colbert)

What's an indirect object?

The indirect object (IO) tells us where the direct object (DO) is going.

He gives the book to María.
DO=Book

Where is the book going?
To María.

IO=María


He gives María the book.
DO=Book

Where is the book going?
To María.

IO=María



The indirect object answers the question "To whom?" or "For whom?" the action of the verb is performed.

He gives María the book.
To whom does he give the book?
To María.

IO=María

He buys me flowers.
For whom does he buy the flowers?
For me.

IO=me



Sentences that have an indirect object usually also have a direct object. Remember, the IO tells us where the DO is going. Notice how the sentences below just wouldn't work without a direct object.

He gives María . . .
the book, the pen, the diamond, etc.

He buys me . . .
flowers, candy, an ironing board, etc.



Sometimes the direct object is not stated; rather it is implied, or understood.

My mother writes me every week.
DO=letter (understood)
IO=me
(My mother writes me a letter every week.)

She told him.
DO=it (understood)
IO=him
(She told it to him.)



To identify the indirect object use our two guidelines:


  1. The IO tells us where the DO is going.
  2. The IO answers the question "to whom?" or "for whom" the action of the verb is performed.


Learn Spanish 2.3 - Parties with Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns (part 1)
02 Spanish Lesson - Indirect Object Pronouns (me, te, le, nos, *os, les)
Learn spanish direct and indirect objects

When a pronoun takes the place of the name of the indirect object, use the following pronouns:

me (me)
te (you-familiar)
le (him, her, you-formal)

nos (us)
os (you-all-familiar)
les (them, you-all-formal)



In an affirmative statement with one verb, the indirect object pronoun comes immediately before the conjugated verb.

Juan me compra un regalo.
John buys me a gift.
John buys a gift for me.

Juan te compra un regalo.
John buys you a gift.
John buys a gift for you.

Juan le compra un regalo.
John buys her a gift.
John buys a gift for her.

Juan nos compra un regalo.
John buys us a gift.
John buys a gift for us.

Juan os compra un regalo.
John buys you-all (familiar) a gift.
John buys a gift for you-all.

Juan les compra un regalo.
John buys them a gift.
John buys a gift for them.

The key to learning to use the indirect object pronouns is the same as the key for direct object pronouns. You must learn to think in phrases, not words.

The IO pronouns le and les present a special problem because they are ambiguous. That is, they can stand for different things.

le
to (for) him
to (for) her
to (for) you-formal

les
to (for) them
to (for) you-all-formal



The following sentences, while grammatically correct, are ambiguous:

Ella le escribe una carta.
Ella les escribe una carta.

Out of context, there is no way we can know the meaning.

Ella le escribe una carta.
She writes him a letter.
She writes her a letter.
She writes you (formal) a letter.

Ella les escribe una carta.
She writes them a letter.
She writes you-all (formal) a letter.



Since le and les can mean more than one thing, a prepositional phrase is often added to remove the ambiguity.

Ella le escribe a Juan una carta.
Ella le escribe a su hermana una carta.
Ella le escribe a usted una carta.

Ella les escribe a sus padres una carta.
Ella les escribe a ustedes una carta.



Sometimes a prepositional phrase is added not for clarity, but rather for emphasis.

Juan me da a mí el dinero.
John gives me the money.
(emphasizing that the money is given to me and not to someone else)

Juan te da a ti el dinero.
John gives you the money. (emphasis on you)

Let's sum up the important points of this lesson:

  • The IO tells us where the DO is going.
  • The IO answers the question "to whom" or "for whom."
  • Sentences that have an IO usually also have a DO
  • Sometimes the DO is not stated, but rather is implied, or understood.
  • The IO pronouns are: me, te, le, nos, os, les.
  • Place the pronoun before the conjugated verb.
  • Think in phrases, do not translate word-for-word.
  • Le and les are ambiguous.
  • Prepositional phrases are often used for clarity and for emphasis.
Learn Spanish 2.3 - Parties with Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns (part 2)