Direct Objects and Direct Object Pronouns

The direct object is simply who or what receives the action of a verb. Looking at a few examples can illustrate just how simple this is. Read the following sentences in English. Find the verb and ask yourself who or what is receiving the action of the verb.

You should be able to easily identify the direct objects in the sentences above. In the first sentence, bought is the verb and computer is the direct object because it answers the question bought what? In the second sentence, saw is the verb and Martha is the direct object because this answers the question who or what did I see? In the last sentence, found is the verb and keys is the direct object because this answers the question who or what did I find? Direct object pronouns are simply words that replace the direct object. Let’s look at these same sentences again. This time, the direct object in each sentence has been replaced with the appropriate direct object pronoun.

In the above sentences, it, her and them are direct object pronouns that replace the original direct objects computer, Martha and keys, respectively. Now, let’s take a look at the direct object pronouns in Spanish.

Direct Object Pronouns

* Use te when “you” is someone you would address as tú. When “you” is someone you would address as usted, use lo for a man and la for a woman. ** Os is used only in Spain when “you all” refers to a group of people you would normally address as vosotros. In Latin America, use los or las for “you all” (las when “you all” refers to a group of females only).
Spanish English Spanish Example English
me me ¿Me ves? Do you see me?
te
lo
la
you* Te veo bien.
La veo bien.
Lo veo bien.
I see you well.
lo
la
itLo tengo.
La tengo.
I have it.
lo
la
him
her
Lo veo.
La veo.
I see him.
I see her.
los
las
them Los encontré anoche.
Las encontré anoche.
I found them last night.
nosus ¿Nos encontraron? Did they find us?
os
los
las
you all**Os vi ayer.
Los vi ayer.
Las vi ayer.
I saw you all yesterday

Notice that there are two words for it and two words for them. Use lo when it refers to a masculine singular noun and la when it refers to a feminine singular noun. Likewise, use los when them refers to a masculine plural noun and las when them refers to a feminine plural noun. If them refers to a combination of both masculine and feminine nouns, use los. Direct object pronouns cause quite a bit of trouble for students because of two factors: First, there are more of them in Spanish than in English. Second, they are normally placed before a conjugated verb which sounds strange to English speakers. Mastering direct object pronouns will take a lot of practice. Study over the following examples until you feel comfortable with how these pronouns work in Spanish. The direct object pronouns are in bold.

Yo te vi en clase. I saw you in class.
¿Nos llamó el profesor? Did the teacher call us?
Encontré una moneda y la puse en mi bolsillo. I found a coin and put it in my pocket.
Busqué a mis hijos y los encontré en el parque. I looked for my kids and found them in the park.
Marta me llamó anoche. Marta called me last night.
Compré un diccionario pero no lo tengo ahora. I bought a dictionary but I don’t have it right now.
Busqué a Alicia pero no la encontré. I looked for Alicia but I did not find her.
Lo vi en el banco ayer por la tarde. I saw him at the bank yesterday afternoon.

The Personal A

To conclude this discussion of direct objects, it should be noted that whenever a direct object is a person, you will precede it with a. There is no English equivalent to a in this context. Here are a few examples:

Yo encontré a Miguel en el parque. I found Miguel in the park.
Mi madre quiere ver a su hermana. My mother wants to see her sister.
Necesito llamar a mi abuela. I need to call my grandmother.





Indirect Objects and Indirect Object Pronouns

Whereas the direct object of a verb answers the questions who or what receives the action of a verb, the indirect object answers the questions to whom or for whom the direct object is intended. Consider the following examples in English.

In the first sentence, flowers is the direct object and Michelle is the indirect object because this answers the question for whom are the flowers? In the second sentence, Jacob is the indirect object because this answers the question to whom was the computer given? Finally, in the last sentence, the indirect object is my friends since this answers the question to whom was the letter written? As with direct objects, indirect objects are frequently replaced with indirect object pronouns. Let’s look at the above sentences again, this time with the indirect objects replaced by their corresponding indirect object pronouns.

In these sentences, her, him and them are indirect object pronouns that refer back to the indirect objects Michelle, Jacob and my friends, respectively. Now, let’s take a look at indirect object pronouns in Spanish.

Indirect Object Pronouns

*Use te when the indirect object is someone that you would address as tú. Use le when referring to someone you would address as usted. **In Spain, os is used when referring to two or more people you would address as vosotros. Use les when referring to two or more people that you would address as ustedes.
Spanish English Spanish Example English
me to me; for me Juan me compró un teléfono. Juan bought a phone for me.
te
le
to you; for you* Yo te mandé una carta.
Yo le mandé una carta.
I sent a letter to you.
le to him; for him
to her; for her
Miguel le mandó un paquete. Miguel sent a package to him.
nos to us; for us Carlos nos compró la leche. Carlos bought the milk for us.
os
les
to you all; for you all**Yo os mandé un regalo.
Yo les mandé un regalo.
I sent a gift to you all.
les to them; for them Yo les preparé la cena. I prepared the dinner for them.

Indirect object pronouns in Spanish are normally placed immediately before a conjugated verb. Below are some complete sentence examples with indirect object pronouns.

¿Le escribiste la carta a Miguel? Did you write the letter to Miguel?
Sí, le escribí la carta. Yes, I wrote the letter to him.
¿Me mandaste las flores? Did you send the flowers to me?
Sí, te mandé las flores. Yes, I sent the flowers to you.
¿Les presentó el profesor los verbos a los estudiantes? Did the teacher present the verbs to the students?
Sí, les presentó los verbos. Yes, he presented the verbs to them.

Notice how two of these questions contain both the indirect object and the indirect object pronoun (Miguel/le and los estudiantes/les). While this may seem strange and redundant to English speakers, it is nonetheless correct for a sentence in Spanish to include both the indirect object and the corresponding indirect object pronoun. Notice also that when the indirect object is spelled out, it is preceded by a: “¿Le escribiste la carta a Miguel?” This is not the personal a that was mentioned earlier. In this case, a refers to the preposition to.

Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns Together

Many sentences will contain both a direct and an indirect object pronoun. Consider the following example in English:

In the above example, them is the direct object pronoun and her is the indirect object pronoun. To form sentences containing both direct and indirect object pronouns in Spanish, follow these guidelines:

The indirect object pronoun will always come before the direct object pronoun:

The indirect object pronouns le or les will become se when followed by the direct object pronouns lo, la, los or las:

Here are a few more examples of sentences containing both a direct and an indirect object pronoun. In each example, the direct object pronoun is underlined and the indirect object pronoun is in bold.

Ella me la mandó. She sent it to me.
Alberto nos lo compró. Alberto bought it for us.
Yo te los di. I gave them to you.
El profesor se la dio. The teacher gave it to them.

More on the Placement of Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns

As previously stated, you will normally place direct and indirect object pronouns before a conjugated verb as all of the previous examples have demonstrated. However, there are some exceptions to this rule:

When a conjugated verb is followed by an unconjugated verb (infinitive), you may attach the direct and/or indirect object pronouns to the end of the unconjugated verb (though this is not required... it is simply an option). The following two sentences have identical meanings and are both grammatically correct.

When a direct or indirect object pronoun is part of an affirmative command, you will attach it to the end of the command form of the verb. For negative commands, the pronoun(s) will precede the verb.

In the present progressive, a direct or indirect object pronoun can either precede the verb estar or be attached to the end of the present participle.



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