Easy tricks to remember Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish (and always get them right)

Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish: Easy tricks to remember & always get them right

In this article you will learn all you need to know about pronombres de objeto directo – direct object pronouns – in Spanish. If you have no idea about how to use them or even what on Earth they are, you have come to the right place!

1. Grammar warning about direct object pronouns in Spanish ⚠️

Before we get into la carnita (the meat) of this subject, you should know:

If you ask an average Spanish speaker if they can explain the use of pronombres personales átonos to you and their direct complement function, they’ll probably be like “what?” 🤷‍♀️

Grammar IS important, but our goal at Spring Spanish is not to make you memorize all the rules. Instead, we want you to learn how to do it naturally…

2. Why are direct object pronouns in Spanish relevant?

Your life will be much more simple if you always keep in mind that the main function of direct object pronouns is to refer to a certain entity and replace a name or noun.

Direct object pronouns are not a Spanish-only thing. You use them in English all the time! Actually, I just did… Did you notice?

I didn’t say: You use direct object pronouns in English all the time. Instead, I said “them“, which is a direct object pronoun! 

3. How to identify direct object pronouns?

So, how do you know what is being replaced in a sentence? Well, you have to ask WHAT OR WHOM, plus the verb:

For example: 

  • Los maestros felicitaron a sus estudiantes. (The teachers congratulated their students.)

Whom did the teachers congratulate? Their students! 

Sus estudiantes” (their students) is the direct object (a noun in this case) and it may be replaced by the direct object pronoun los because it’s plural and masculine:

Los maestros los felicitaron.
(The teachers congratulated them.) 

Another example:

  • El huracán destruyó la casa. (The hurricane destroyed the house.) 

What did the storm destroy? La casa. Therefore, if we include a direct object pronoun to replace “the house”, the sentence would read:

El huracán la destruyó.
(The hurricane destroyed it.)

4. Direct object pronouns in Spanish

The following chart summarizes direct object pronouns in Spanish: 

Me (I)Nos (us)
Te (You, familiar)Los (you-all)
Lo, la (him, her, it, you-formal)Los, las (them, you-all-formal)

5. Position of direct object pronouns

Now, have a look at the following sentences for you to identify the position of direct object pronouns in Spanish:

  • El guardia me saludó. (The guard greeted me.)

Whom did the guard greet? Me! So, the direct object is me… and how convenient! We use the same particle in Spanish!  

El guardia me saludó.

But what if the guard did not greet me and greeted you instead? 

  • El guardia te saludó. (The guard greeted you.) — My trick to remember this is: starts with a T, just like te, so tú-te

What if he greeted us?

  • El guardia nos saludó. (The guard greeted us.) 

Trick to remember nos? It’s like short for nosotros. So, super easy!

6. Detailing lo, los, la, las – agreeing in number and gender

It gets a little tricky when we get to the third person because the noun and the direct object pronoun must agree in number (plural or singular) and gender (feminine or masculine). 

  • El guardia lo saludó. (The guard greeted him.)
  • El guardia la saludó. (The guard greeted her.) 
  • El guardia los saludó. (The guard greeted them.) — masculine
  • El guardia las saludó. (The guard greeted them.) — feminine

7. Direct object pronouns in questions and answers

Now, let’s look at some questions and answers: 

  • ¿Recibieron el paquete? (Did they receive the package?)
    • Sí, lo recibieron. (Yes, they received it.)
      • singular and masculine
  • ¿Compraste la medicina? (Did you buy the medicine?)
    • No, no la compré. (No, I didn’t´t buy it.)
      • singular and feminine
  • ¿Donald recogió sus papeles? (Did Donald pick up his papers?)
    • Sí, los recogió. (Yes, he picked them up.)
      • plural and masculine
  • ¿Escuchaste a las chicas cantando? (Did you hear the girls singing?)
    • No, no las escuché. (No, I didn’t hear them.)
      • plural and feminine

Did you notice that, in Spanish, the pronoun goes before the verb?

When I say the verb, I refer to the conjugated verb only… How do you know if the verb is conjugated? It will not end in -er, -ar, or -ir

8. Exceptions: Infinitive, -ing verbs, imperative

Let’s go over some exceptions as regards the position of the pronouns lo, los, la, las


You will see this when there are two verbs in a sentence: 

  • Quiero escuchar esa canción. (I want to listen to that song.) 

In English, using a direct object pronoun you would say: “I want to listen to it.” 

What do I want to listen to? Esa canción.

Remember, the pronoun must agree in gender and number. In this case, the noun (esa canción) is singular and feminine. Therefore, we use la

But there are two verbs! Quiero (I want) and escuchar (to listen). Remember, the pronoun goes before the conjugated verb (in this case, quiero). The result would then be: 

La quiero escuchar. 
(I want to listen to it.)

OR, and this is when it gets interesting: 

Quiero escucharla.
(I want to listen to it.)

At the end? Yes, because in that phrase the verb escuchar (to listen) is not conjugated. It ends in ar. Consequently, the pronoun la can go at the end.

Verbs ending in -ing 

Same example:

  • Estoy escuchando la canción. (I’m listening to the song.)
    • La estoy escuchando OR Estoy escuchándola 

Another example: 

  • Estás viendo un video de YouTube. (You’re watching a YouTube video.)
    • Lo estás viendo OR Estás viéndolo

For English-speaking students, this last example might seem easier because it feels closer to just adding “to it” like they do in their mother tongue.

Imperative — giving orders

  • ¡Escucha la canción! (Listen to the song!)
    • Escúchala. (Listen to it!) 
  • ¡Ve el video de YouTube! (Watch the YouTube video!)
    • ¡Velo! (Watch it!) 

9. Learn direct and indirect object pronouns in Spanish with FREE Spanish training

We’ve covered a lot of ground here! But please if you’re mareado (dizzy), don’t worry. Te prometo que un día (I promise that one day), it will all “click”! And you’ll be like “Aaaah! I get it now!”

You may find out more about how we get to those euraka Moments at our Spring Spanish academy by signing up to the Free Spanish training we are currently offering on our website. You will also get free sample Spanish lessons!

Additionally, you should check out the series of Spanish beginner videos you will find on our YouTube channel! 

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