Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns
Now that you understand the concept of the direct object (i.e., the object to which the action is being done in a sentence), you are ready to look at the concept of the indirect object.
The Spanish indirect object pronouns are used to replace a word or phrase, which in the sentence, fulfills that function. They are usually placed before the verb, when this is conjugated. If the verb is not conjugated, then the indirect object pronoun is placed after the verb.
Resources for further reading:
The Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish are:
|le||"you (formal)" / "him"|
|le||"you (fem.; formal) / "her"|
|os||"you (plural; Spain)"|
|les||"you (plural)" / "them"|
|les||"you (fem.; plural)" / "them (fem.)"|
An indirect object is the person or thing for whom an action is being or has been performed, usually indicated in English by the words “to” or “for.”
For instance, take a look at the following sentence:
Jenny is writing a letter to her father.
The subject in this sentence is “Jenny,” and the verb is “is writing.” The direct object is “letter.” The indirect object—the person or thing for whom the action is being performed—is “father.”
You could also say the sentence in the following way:
- Jenny is writing a letter to him.
"Him" refers to Jenny’s father. In this sentence, the indirect object noun has been replaced by a pronoun.
You can do the same thing in Spanish, if you know the indirect object pronouns.
Unlike in English, the indirect object pronouns go directly before the verb. If the sentence is negative (has a “no” in it), the indirect object pronoun still goes directly before the verb (see example 2).
Por ejemplo (for example):
- "No voy a pedir a Pedro y Ernesto un favor." I’m not going to ask Peter and Ernest for a favour.
- "No les voy a pedir un favor." I’m not going to ask them for a favour.
- "Lupe está hablando con nosotros." Lupe is talking with us.
- "Lupe nos está hablando." Lupe is talking with us.
There is one case, however, in which the indirect object pronoun can be placed somewhere else. It can be attached to the end of an infinitive. For example, in example 1 above, the second sentence could be written, “Quiero comprarle un regalo.” In example 2 above, the second sentence could be written, “No voy a pedirles un favor.”
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Le quiero comprar un regalo.
I want to buy her a gift.
No les voy a invitar a la fiesta.
I'm not going to invite them to the party.
Lupe nos está hablando.
Lupe is talking with us.
To Whom? Adding Clarity to “Le” and “Les”
As you can see in the table above, when you use the indirect pronouns le or les, you could be referring to anyone: you, him, her, them! English is much more specific than Spanish in that sense. For that reason, if it is unknown or unclear to whom the indirect object pronoun is referring, it’s a good idea to use proper nouns in addition to the indirect object pronoun.
Jenny le está escribiendo una carta a su padre.
Jenny is writing a letter to her father.
Carlos quiere darles algo a ustedes.
Carlos wants to give you something.
Le voy a llamar a Juan mañana.
I'm going to call John tomorrow
You can also use the indirect object noun in addition to the pronoun if you want to emphasize to whom or for whom the action is occurring.
Te invito a ti y a nadie más.
I invite you and no one else.
A Note of Caution!
Indirect object pronouns in the “yo,” “tú,” “nosotros,” and “vosotros” forms are identical to reflexive pronouns! Their uses are quite different, however, so the only way you’ll be able to tell the difference is by the context of the sentence.
That's all on Spanish indirect object pronouns! Looking for more? Here are more lessons on Spanish pronouns:
- The construction of the Spanish direct object pronouns
- For more on Spanish relative pronouns check this lesson out.
See you soon! ¡Hasta pronto!
Mauricio Evlampieff: Rocket Spanish
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