Basic Spanish Pronouns

Indirect Object Pronouns

An indirect object is usually a person receiving the direct object. The pronouns in Spanish are basically the same as the ones used for the direct objects, with the exception of the third person. It is important to remember that in Spanish, anytime that an indirect object is expressed, the pronoun must be present even if the indirect object is expressed in some other way (i.e., prepositional clause).

 Singular

Plural
Me (me) Nos (us)
Te (you) Os (you [all])
Le/se (him/her/it) Les/se (them)

 

As you see, we have one that can be used only for the singular (le), one used only for the plural (les), and yet another one (se) that can be used for both! Nevertheless, the 'se' form is used only when the direct object pronoun is also used for reasons that seem to be primarily aesthetic (such as the use of the 'n' with the indefinite article in English: "an apple" vs. "a apple"). Although you'll see the pesky 'se' everywhere in standard writing in Spanish (i.e., newspaper articles, literature, manuals, etc.), you should be aware that there are many uses of 'se', and that it's not always used as an indirect object pronoun. Just click here to see some other uses.

First, let's see a few examples where we substitute the indirect object without using the direct object pronoun, and then we'll see how these two pronouns act together.

 

 Spanish

English
With prepositional clause (Tú) Le das el libro a Pedro You give the book to Pedro
No prepositional clause (Tú) Le das el libro You give him the book [incorrect to express a prepositional clause].
With prepositional clause  Yo te doy el libro [a ti: redundant/emphasis] I give the book to you
No prepositional clause  Yo te doy el libro I give you the book.

 

Note how in both languages we can use the prepositional clause to know who is receiving the book. The prepositional clause is mainly used for clarification or for emphasis. Generally, in Spanish the prepositional clause is used at the end, whereas in English it would be incorrect to use it sometimes, as in the second sentence. In that case, we can identify the indirect object by using the name: "You give Pedro the book."

Using the Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns at the Same Time

When both pronouns are used, they will continue to be placed in front of the verb (linguists say that these pronouns become part of the verb). The order a declarative sentence will follow when both pronouns are present is: subject-indirect object pronoun-direct object pronoun-verb, or SIODOV for short. Remember that you might not see the subject expressed at the beginning of the sentence due to the fact that it is implied in the verb. However, a personal pronoun or name of the subject could be placed at the beginning of the sentence.

  • Direct object
  • Indirect object

 Spanish

English
(Yo) te doy el libro [a ti] I give the book to you
(Yo) te lo doy I give it to you [I give you it]
(Nosotros) les damos el libro a las niñas We give the book to the girls
(Nosotros) se lo damos We give it to them