Placement of Spanish Reflexive, Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns

In Spanish, there are 3 sets of personal pronouns whose placement inside the sentence works similarly. These personal pronouns are: Reflexive Pronouns, Direct Object Pronouns and Indirect Object Pronouns.

In this lesson, we will first review their forms, and then learn where to place them in the sentence. We will go through the following points:

  • Forms
  • Placement
  • Placement when there are both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun.
  • When there are both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun, AND the Indirect is «le» or «les»


Forms

Let us first review the 3 sets of pronouns we are talking about:

Reflexive pronouns («Reflexivos»):

me, te, se, nos, os, se

Direct Object pronouns («Complemento Directo»):

me, te, lo / la, nos, os, los / las

Indirect Object pronouns («Complemento Indirecto»):

me, te, le, nos, os, les


As we can see, the 3 sets are almost identical in their forms, except for the 3rd persons singular and plural, which we have highlighted in black.


Placement

In order to place these pronouns in a sentence, we need to consider the tense of the verb they are connected to.

Depending of the verb tense, these pronouns can occupy 2 different places:

  1. Right before the verb, written separately
  2. Attached at the end of the verb


1 – Right before the Verb, written separately

This is the most frequent case. It happens when the verb is conjugated for any tense with the exception of Infinitive, Gerundio and Affirmative Commands.

Examples:

Me ducho. = I shower (present tense)

No los hemos visto. = We haven’t seen them (past tense)

Les compraría un coche de juguete. = I would buy them a toy car(condicional tense)

No me insultes. = Don’t insult me (negative command)


2 – Attached at the end of the Verb

We attach these pronouns at the end of the Verb when it is in Infinitive or Gerundio, or an Affirmative Command.

Examples:

Levantarse temprano es importante. = Getting up early is important (infinitive)

Concentrándome, concentrándome = Concentrating myself, concentrating myself… (gerundio)

Hazlo = Do it! (affirmative command)


Special case: With two Verbs combined – Either before the first or attached after the second

In the case where there are 2 verbs combined as a «team», with the second verb’s form being Infinitive or Gerundio, we have the freedom to choose. 

We can either place the pronouns before the first verb, or attached at the end of the second one.

Examples:

Both these sentences mean «I want to do it»:
Lo quiero hacer.
Quiero hacerlo.


Both these sentences mean «María is getting angry»:
María se está enfadando.
María está enfadándose.


Both these sentences mean «We want to make you guys a present»:
Os queremos hacer un regalo.
Queremos haceros un regalo.


Both these sentences mean «we have to fix it»:
La tenemos que arreglar.
Tenemos que arreglarla.


Placement when there are both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun

There are sentences where both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun appear. If that happens, they need to be placed exactly in that order: First the Indirect, then the Direct.

The rules we have been explaining in this lesson apply: The 2 pronouns are placed either before the verb or attached at the end depending on the tense.

Examples:

Te lo diré mañana. = I will tell it to you tomorrow. (future tense)

mela = Give it to me (affirmative command)


When there are both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun, AND the Indirect is «le» or «les»

If this happens, we still follow the rules explained, but the pronoun «se» replaces «le» or «les».

This makes sense aesthetically, because for example «le lo» would sound rather ugly. «Se lo» sounds much better.

Examples:

Se las he mandado = I have sent them to him/her/them

Juan quiere decírselo = Juan wants to say it to him/her/them.

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