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Spanish Grammar: The Dreaded Pronoun


One of the topics in Spanish many people struggle with are direct object and indirect object pronouns. So what are direct and indirect object pronouns anyway? Basically these pronouns are words that replace nouns, for example: me, him, her, them, etc. They help us to make sentences shorter and avoid repetition.

First off, we’ll start with the basics, Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns:

Direct Object Indirect Object English
Me Me Me
Te Te You
Lo, La (Le) Le (Se) Him, Her, It
Nos Nos Us
Os Os You guys/ You all
Los, Las Les (Se) Them

In the sentences below we define direct and indirect objects:

Direct objects receive the action.

“Maria has the pen”, pen is the direct object —> “Maria has it

“Maria tiene el bolígrafo”   “Maria lo tiene”


Indirect objects tell us where (or to/for who) the object is going. 

“Maria gives the pen to Elisa”, Elisa is the indirect object —> “Maria gives the pen to her

“Maria da el boli a Elisa”       “Maria le da el boli”


Unfortunately we not only have to remember which pronoun to use, but also where to put the pronoun in the sentence! 

Direct and Indirect object pronouns go BEFORE the verb, with some exceptions, but we’ll get to that later!

Example Sentences:

Isa gave the food to us.                                                 Isa nos dió la comida (a nosotros).

Isa gave it to us.                                                                Isa nos la dió.


So what happens when we have to use “LE” and “LO” together? If we need to say “le lo” together, it’s a bit difficult to say, right? So we change the “LE” to “SE”! So this will only apply to sentences using the form of him/her/it.

Example Sentences:

Isa bought chocolate for Hannah.                            Isa compró el chocolate a Hannah .

Isa bought it for her.                                                        Isa se lo compró.


EXCEPTIONS for Pronoun Placement

In the following exception, the indirect object pronoun goes AFTER the verb:

Commands: “Cómpralo” =  “Buy it”

In the following 2 exceptions, the indirect object pronoun can go BEFORE or AFTER the verb:

Verb followed by infinitive: “Voy a comprarlo” OR “Lo voy a comprar” = “I am going to buy it”

Verb followed by another (conjugated) verb: “Estoy comprandolo” OR “Lo estoy comprando” = “I am buying it”

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