Indirect object pronouns in Spanish

Indirect objects in Spanish

The indirect object in a sentence is that which answer to or for whom is an action done.  In Spanish we ask ¿a quién? of the verb.  Here are some examples in English.

He gave his homework to the teacher.

  •      To whom did he give his homework?  To the teacher.

She told me a secret.  

  •      To whom did she tell?  To me.

We can do the same thing in Spanish.

Dio su tarea a la profesora. 

  •      ¿A quién dio su tarea? A la profesora.

Ella me dijo un secreto.  

  •      ¿A quién dijo un secreto? A mí.

Indirect object pronouns in Spanish

The indirect object pronoun can either replace or appear simultaneously with the indirect object.  The forms can be seen below.

SingularPlural
memenoswe
teyouosyou
lehim / her / youlesthem / you

Indirect object pronouns generally come before the conjugated verb just like the direct object.

  • ¡Te digo en serio!  
  •      I’m telling you the truth!
  • Mis padres me regalaron ropa nueva.  
  •      My parents gave me new clothes.
  • Ellos nos invitaron pero no podemos ir.  
  •      They invited us but we can’t go.

Third person indirect object pronouns are often stated in addition to the indirect object for clarification since they can mean he, she, they or you.

  • Le dije a Ana.  
  •      I told Ana.
  • Le dije a usted.  
  •      I told you (formal).
  • Siempre les entrego la tarea a mis profesores.  
  •      I always hand in the homework to my professors.

If an infinitive verb is used in the construction, the indirect object pronoun may be placed in front of the conjugated verb or attached to the infinitive.

  • Debes decirles la verdad.  
  •      You should tell them the truth.
  • Les debes decir la verdad.  
  •      You should tell them the truth.

Command forms of verbs have special rules for the pronouns.

Affirmative commands attach the pronoun to the verb, placing an accent over the stressed verb.

  • Dígame a qué hora se va.
  •      Tell me what time you’re leaving.
  • Cómprame algo caro.
  •      Buy me something expensive.

Negative commands require that the pronoun go before the verb.

  • ¡No le digas a ella!
  •      Don’t tell her!
  • No nos traigas nada.
  •      Don’t bring us anything.

2 responses to “Indirect object pronouns in Spanish

A Spanish Teacher

A quien le envia Ud. el correo electronico? The ‘le’ in this sentence seems to be a typo because the other questions in the text do not incl the indirect object — it’s only in the replies. Can you explain why le would or would not be necessary here?

Thanks!

Rory Foster

Your sentence: ¿A quién le envía usted el correo electrónico? is fine. The hard part for us Spanish learners to grasp is that Spanish speakers tend to always use the indirect object pronoun and when it’s not clear to whom they’re referring, they’ll add a clarification: “a usted, a ella, a ellos, etc”. It’s mostly with 3rd person singular and plural (le & les) because there’s never any confusion about the indirect object when the pronouns “me”, “te”, & “nos” are used. We Spanish teachers sometime fabricate examples that aren’t too authentic to force the learner to choose the right pronoun when a more authentic example would probably include the pronoun and the object in the same sentence for starters. Then once context is clear, the object gets dropped and we just stick with the pronoun.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.