Indirect Object Pronouns (“Pronombres de Complemento Indirecto”) are a collection of pronouns which point to the person or thing to whom or for whom the action of the verb is done.
Here is the full list with the Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish and their meaning in English:
te singular you
le him, her, it, formal singular you
os plural you
les them, formal plural you
As we said, these pronouns point to the thing or person receiving to whom or for whom the action of the verb is done. Here are some example sentences:
– ¿Me has mandado la carta? = Have you sent me the letter?
– Sí te he mandado la carta. = Yes, I have sent you the letter.
Le doy un beso = I give a kiss to him/her.
Nuestra madre nos cuenta un cuento = Our mother tells us a story.
¿Qué os han dicho? = What have they said to you?
Les llevo bebidas = I bring drinks to them.
In all of the examples above, the Indirect Object Pronouns goes right before the verb. That is their most usual placement, but it depends on the tense of the verb. There are tenses for which the pronoun is attached at the end of the verb. To study that more in depth please read this post with a full explanation on the placement of Direct, Indirect and Reflexive pronouns.
A bit more on the third person forms: “le, les”
Something very interesting occurs with the third person forms of the Indirect Object Pronouns: “le, les”. Which is: Even if you explicitly mention the person to whom or for whom the action is made, you can still use the pronoun “le” or “les” on top of it. Not only you can, but it sounds more natural that way.
Take these two sentences in English:
- I tell her a story.
- I tell Maria a story.
In English, either you say the person directly (“María”) or you replace her with the pronoun “her”. But in Spanish, for the third persons, it sounds better to say “le” even if you also mention the person:
I tell her a story. = Le cuento una historia.
I tell María a story. = Le cuento una historia a María
One more example of this:
We buy them a ball = Les compramos una pelota.
We buy the children a ball = Les compramos una pelota a los niños.
Verbs that often use Indirect Object Pronouns
Here are some verbs that tend to use Indirect Object Pronouns, because they refer to actions that are done to someone or for someone:
Comprar to buy (for someone)
Contar to tell (someone)
Dar to give (someone)
Mandar to send (to someone)
Mostrar to show (to someone)
Pedir to ask (of someone)
Prestar to lend (someone)
Quitar to take away (from someone)
Regalar to give a present (to someone)
Robar to steal (from someone)
Enseñar to teach / to show (someone)
Finally, Indirect Object pronouns are also the ones we use with verbs like “Gustar”.