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Ultimate Guide to Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish

Ultimate Guide to Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish (PART 1)
Ultimate Guide to Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish (PART 2)

One of my favorite subjects is grammar… ¡No es cierto! (It’s not true!) But what is true is that sometimes we need to talk about it.

In another video I taught you los pronombres de objeto directo (direct object pronouns) and on this occasion you will learn los pronombres de objeto indirecto (indirect object pronouns) —en español of course!

I have divided this topic into two parts. This is the first part and covers the basics. Things will a little bit in the second part.

Indirect Object… what?!

Indirect object pronouns are not a Spanish thing only, you use them all the time in English, in phrases like: 

  • Would you call her a taxi? 
  • Show me the money!

An indirect object is the part of a sentence that indicates to whom or for whom the action of a verb in a sentence is performed. 

At the Spring Spanish Academy we have figured out a way not to get entangled in grammar shenanigans. You’ll discover a bit about it in this article, but you can also find out more about how we do it in the Free Spanish Training we are currently offering on our website.

Use of indirect object pronouns

In order to use an indirect object pronoun, you need a special kind of verb, one that indirectly affects other things. Some common verbs of this type are:

  • contar (to tell) — because you tell something TO someone
  • dar (to give) because you give something TO someone
  • decir (to say) because you say something TO someone
  • devolver  (to return) — because you return something TO someone
  • dejar (to leave) — because you leave something FOR someone
  • explicar (to explain) — because you explain something TO someone
  • hablar (to talk) — because you talk TO someone

To start using indirect object pronouns, vamos a observar (we are going to observe) two phrases and identify the indirect object pronoun in them:  

  • NOS dieron un premio. (They gave us a prize). 

To whom was the prize given? To nosotros (us), so we use the pronoun NOS. 

  • ¿ME puedes conseguir un taxi? (Can you get me a taxi?) 

For whom can you get a taxi? For me! Then, we use the pronoun that corresponds to I: me.

Spanish indirect object pronouns

SingularMeaningPluralMeaning
meme, to me, for menosus, to us, for us
teyou, to you, for you (relating to )lesyou, to you, for you (relating to ustedes)
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 pronoun SE is not on the list, but it is extremely important to knowFor now just keep in mind that SE is really important, but we will talk about it in the second part of this topic. 

More examples!

Let’s practice using indirect object pronouns in several sentences: 

  • Mi amiga me cuenta sus problemas. (My girlfriend tells me her problems.) 
  • Cada Navidad te doy un regalo. (Each Christmas I give you a present.)
  • Ya le dije a mi mamá. (I already told my mom.) 
  • Les dejé una lasaña en el refri. (I left you guys a lasagna in the fridge.) 
  • No nos explicaron qué hacer. (They did not explain to us what to do.)
  • Les hablamos pero no nos contestaron. (We called them/you, but they didn’t answer.) 

QUICK TIP!

Here’s an easy way to get better at using indirect object pronouns: learn them by heart in the context of a sentence, as chunks!

For example, you could create a flashcard like this, where you have to fill in the pronoun and verb.

On the front:

Mi amiga ______________ (tells me) sus problemas.

So what’s the answer? Mi amiga ME CUENTA sus problemas. (Write it on the back of the flashcard!)

Position of indirect object pronouns

Quick recap: indirect object pronouns answer to the question to whom or for whom something is performed. 

Spanish indirect object pronouns are as follows: 

SingularMeaningPluralMeaning
meme, to me, for menosus, to us, for us
teyou, to you, for you (relating to )lesyou, to you, for you (relating to ustedes)
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)

Examples

  • Les dejé una lasaña en el refri. (I left you/them a lasagna in the fridge.) 

You can see that, in an affirmative sentence, the indirect object pronoun (les) comes before the conjugated verb “dejé” (I left).

This is different from English, where the verb comes first

  • I left you a lasaña in the fridge.

In Spanish the construction is more like: For you I left a lasaña 

The same is true for the negative version of the sentence:

  • No les dejé una lasaña en el refri. (I didn't leave you/them a lasagna in the fridge.)

The imperative form 

What happens when we give orders or instruct someone to do something?

In this case, the pronoun is “attached” to the conjugated verb to form one word:

  • Déjame una lasaña en el refri, por favor. (Leave me a lasagna in the fridge, please.) 

We have the word deja (from the verb dejar, to leave) and the matching pronoun for I (a personal pronoun), which is me. Therefore, we write:

deja + me = déjame 

We add an accent mark to maintain the original intonation. Here, the construction is closer to that in English:

leave me ~ déjame

However, if the instruction is to NOT DO something, no single word is formed; instead, we put the pronoun in the usual spot, i.e. right before the conjugated verb: 

  • ¡No le abras la puerta a nadie! (Do not open the door to anybody!)
  • ¡No les digas! (Do not tell them!)

Compound verbs 

When we have more than one verb in a sentence, there are two options to place the indirect object pronoun: 

1. Before the conjugated verb 

  • Les voy a dejar una lasaña. (I’m going to leave you guys/them a lasagna.)
  • Nos estás explicando los pronombres. (You are explaining the pronouns to us.) 

2. We can also attach the indirect object pronoun to the end of the infinitive form of the verb or to the verb ending in the Spanish version of -ing (i,e, – ando and – iendo).

For example:

  • Voy a dejarles una lasaña. (I’m going to leave you guys/them a lasaña.)
  • Estás explicándonos los pronombres (You are explaining the pronouns to us.) 

Again, if you want to memorize indirect object pronouns, you should do so in context, never in isolation. By doing so, you will be able to use them correctly in actual sentences (i.e learn “voy a dejarles” by heart, not just “les”).

Direct and indirect object pronouns may be combined!

When using a direct object pronoun and an indirect object pronoun in the same sentence, you should follow two simple instructions: 

  1. In Spanish, you should always put the indirect object pronoun BEFORE the direct object pronoun
  1. You have to use SE instead of LE (to him, to her, to you) and LES (to them, to you), when using lo, la, los, or las (direct object pronouns). Why? Because! That’s the way it is… Don’t fight it. We don’t fight against grammar at Spring Spanish we simply embrace it and move on! 

Look at the following phrases:

  • ¿Le cuentas tus problemas a tu amiga? Si, se los cuento. (Do you tell your problems to your girlfriend? Yes, I tell them to her)
  • ¿Nos explicaron el procedimiento? No, no nos lo explicaron. (Did they explain to us the procedure? No, they didn’t explain it to us. )
  • ¿Le diste la contraseña? Sí, se la di. (Did you give him/her the password? Yes, I gave it to him/ her.)

The following is a great chunk of Spanish you should learn because it uses both indirect and direct object pronouns: 

  • ¡Te lo dije! (I told you so) — If translated literally, it would be something like “To you it I told“… It’s like Yoda talk!

Repetition of the indirect object

In many phrases, there is no way to know who we are referring to by simply using the pronoun le or les

We would know by the context in most cases, but in others, we have to specify who we are talking about.

Look at these examples: 

  • LES dejé una lasaña en el refri. — This could be translated both as “I left you guys or I left them a lasaña”. We can’t tell, unless we specify it! 

If you say this phrase, your friend(s) might ask you “for whom is the lasaña?” And you’d probably have to say:

  • Les dejé una lasaña a ustedes (for you guys) OR Les dejé una lasaña a ellos (for them) 

FREE Spanish Training

¡Muy bien! Now you are ready to impress your Spanish-speaking friends when you use pronouns and  phrases like “te lo dije”. 

If you want to keep on learning, don't forget to watch the videos you will find on our channel and sign up to the free Spanish training we are currently offering on our website.

By doing so, you'll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish and you will also get free sample Spanish lessons that come straight from our Academy!

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