Easy Learning Spanish

Personal pronouns: indirect object - Easy Learning Grammar Spanish

What is an indirect object pronoun?
An indirect object pronoun is used instead of a noun to show the person or thing an action is intended to benefit or harm, for example, me in He gave me a book.; Can you get me a towel?; He wrote to me.

1   Using indirect object pronouns

  • It is important to understand the difference between direct and indirect object pronouns in English, as they can have different forms in Spanish.
  • You can usually test whether an object is a direct object or an indirect one by asking questions about the action using what and who:
  • an indirect object answers the question who ... to? or who ... for?, equally what ... to? or what ... for?
He gave me a book. → Who did he give the book to? → me
(=indirect object pronoun)
Can you get me a towel? → Who can you get a towel for? → me
(=indirect object pronoun)
We got some varnish for it. → What did you get the varnish for? → it
(=indirect object pronoun)
  • if something answers the question what or who, then it is the direct object and NOT the indirect object.
He gave me a book. → What did he give me? → a book
(=direct object)
I saw Mandy. → Who did you see? → Mandy
(=direct object)
We got some varnish for it. → What did you get? → some varnish
(=direct object)
  • Note that a verb won’t necessarily have both a direct and an indirect object.
  • Here are the Spanish indirect object pronouns:
SingularMeaningPluralMeaning
meme, to me, for menosus, to us, for us
teyou, to you, for you (relating to )osyou, to you, for you (relating to vosotros/vosotras)
lehim, to him, for him her, to her, for her it, to it, for it you, to you, for you (relating to usted)lesthem, to them, for them you, to you, for you (relating to ustedes)
  • The pronouns shown in the table are used instead of using the preposition a with a noun.
Estoy escribiendo a Teresa. I am writing to Teresa. →
Le estoy escribiendo. I am writing to her.
Compra un regalo a los niños. Buy the children a present. →
Cómprales un regalo. Buy them a present.
  • Some Spanish verbs like mirar (meaning to look at), esperar (meaning to wait for) and buscar (meaning to look for) take a direct object, because the Spanish construction is different from the English.
Grammar Extra!You should usually use direct object pronouns rather than indirect object pronouns when replacing personal a + noun.
Vi a Teresa.La vi.I saw Teresa. → I saw her.

2   Word order with indirect object pronouns

  • The indirect object pronoun usually comes BEFORE the verb.
Sofía os ha escrito.Sophie has written to you.
¿Os ha escrito Sofía?Has Sofía written to you?
Carlos no nos habla.Carlos doesn’t speak to us.
¿Qué te pedían?What were they asking you for?
  • In orders and instructions telling someone TO DO something, the pronoun goes on the end of the verb to form one word.
Respóndeme.Answer me.
Dime la respuesta.Tell me the answer.
  • Note that you will often need to add a written accent to preserve the spoken stress.
  • For more information on Stress, see Stress.
  • In orders and instructions telling someone NOT TO DO something, the pronoun does not join onto the end of the verb.
No me digas la respuesta.Don’t tell me the answer.
  • If the pronoun is the object of an infinitive (the to form of the verb) or a gerund (the -ing form of the verb), you always add the pronoun to the end of the verb to form one word, unless the infinitive or gerund follows another verb. Again, you may have to add a written accent to preserve the stress.
Eso de darle tu dirección no fue muy prudente.It wasn’t very wise to give him your address.
Gritándole tanto lo vas a asustar.You’ll frighten him by shouting at him like that.
  • Where an infinitive or gerund follows another verb, you can put the pronoun either at the end of the infinitive or gerund, or before the other verb.
Quiero decirte algo. or
Te quiero decir algo.
I want to tell you something.
Estoy escribiéndole. or
Le estoy escribiendo.
I am writing to him/her.
Key points
  • The Spanish indirect object pronouns are: me, te, le in the singular, and nos, os, les in the plural.
  • They can replace the preposition a (meaning to) + noun.
  • Like the direct object pronoun, the indirect object pronoun usually comes before the verb.
  • Object pronouns are joined to the end of infinitives, gerunds or verbs instructing someone to do something.
  • If an infinitive or gerund follows another verb, you can choose whether to add the object pronoun to the end of the infinitive or gerund or to put it before the first verb.

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