In order to master the Spanish language, there are several series of personal pronouns which you need to learn. Among them are these 3 groups, whose placement within the sentence we’ll study in this post:
Direct Object pronouns (“Complemento Directo”):
me, te, lo / la, nos, os, los / las
Indirect Object pronouns (“Complemento Indirecto”):
me, te, le, nos, os, les
Reflexive pronouns (“Reflexivo”):
me, te, se, nos, os, se
As you can notice highlighted in bold, the 3 groups are coincident except for the third persons singular and plural. In any case, in this post we will assume you already now the pronouns and we’ll just focus on their place within the sentence.
Where to place them
To place these pronouns correctly, what you need to consider is the tense of the verb they are connected to. Depending of its tense, the pronoun can go right before the verb (written separately) or right after it (written together). Let’s see the cases:
Case 1: Before the verb, written separately
This is the most frequent case. It happens when the verb is conjugated for any tense except for Infinitive, Gerund and Positive Imperative. That includes all the Present, Past and Future tenses, as well as Condicional and Subjuntivo.
Me ducho = I shower (myself) (present tense)
No los hemos visto = We haven’t seen them (past tense)
Te lo** diré mañana = I will tell it to you tomorrow. (future tense)
Les compraría un coche de juguete = I would buy them a toy car (condicional tense)
No me insultes = Don’t insult me (negative imperative tense)
** read the note at the end of this post
Case 2: After the verb, written together
We place this pronouns after the verb and written together when the verb is in Infinitive, Gerund or Positive Imperative.
Levantarse temprano es importante = It’s important to get up early (infinitive)
Concentrándome, concentrándome… = Concentrating myself, concentrating myself… (gerund)
Dámelo** = Give it to me (positive imperative)
Case 3: With two verbs. Either before the first verb or after the second
In this case, you have the freedom to chose!
It happens when the pronoun is connected to a couple of verbs working together as unit: one conjugated, and the other in infinitive or gerund.
In this case, you can chose to place the pronoun before the first verb, or after the second.
Lo quiero hacer
= I want to do it.
Both placements for the personal pronoun “lo” are equally valid.
More examples, same logic:
No te lo** puedo contar
No puedo contártelo**
= I can’t tell it to you
María se está enfadando
María está enfadándose
= María is getting angry
Os queremos hacer un regalo
Queremos haceros un regalo
= We want to make you (plural) a present
La tenemos que arreglar
Tenemos que arreglarla
= we have to fix it (“it” being something feminine, like “la radio”)
** When we have both an Indirect Object and an Direct Object pronoun, we place them precisely in that order: first the Indirect, then Direct.