Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns (“Pronombres de Complemento Indirecto”) are a collection of pronouns which point to the person or thing that indirectly receives the action of the verb. In other words, to whom or for whom the action of the verb is done.
In this post we will learn all about Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns, going through the following points:
- 1. Indirect Object Pronouns: All Forms
- 2. Use of Indirect Object Pronouns
- 3. Forms “le” and “les”, included even when we mention the person
- 4. Verbs that often use Indirect Object Pronouns
- 5. Placement of Indirect Object Pronouns
- 6. Using Indirect and Direct Object Pronouns together
- 7. Practice: A Quiz
- 8. Practice: An Exercise
1. Indirect Object Pronouns: All Forms
Here is the full list of Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns and their meaning in English:
Spanish English me me te singular you le him, her, it, formal singular you nos us os plural you les them, formal plural you
As you can see, gender is irrelevant in all Indirect Object Pronouns, even in the third persons.
2. Use of Indirect Object Pronouns
Indirect Object Pronouns point to the thing or person to whom or for whom the action of the verb is done.
Look at the Indirect Object Pronouns in the following examples. They all refer to the person or thing to whom or for whom the action is done:
¿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 him/her a kiss.
Nuestra madre nos cuenta un cuento.
Our mother tells us a story.
¿Qué os han dicho?.
What have they told you guys?
Les llevo bebidas.
I bring drinks to them.
Let’s analyze the last sentence of the examples above: “I bring drinks to them”. In that sentence, what I am bringing is drinks. But to whom or for whom? To them. Therefore, the right Indirect Object Pronoun to use is “les”.
3. Forms “le” and “les”, included even when we mention the person
Something very interesting occurs with forms “le” and “les”:
Even when we mention explicitly a 3rd person to whom or for whom the action is made, we can still include the pronoun “le” or “les” in the sentence at the same time. Not only we can, but it sounds better that way.
For example, take these two sentences in English:
- I tell her a story.
- I tell Maria a story.
In English, either we mention the person directly (“María”) or we replace “María” with the pronoun “her”.
But in Spanish, for the 3rd persons, it sounds better to include “le” or “les” in the sentence even if we also mention the person directly:
Le cuento una historia.
I tell her a story.
Le cuento una historia a María.
I tell María a story.
One more example of this phenomenon:
Les compramos una pelota.
We buy them a ball.
Les compramos una pelota a los niños.
We buy the children a ball.
4. Verbs that often use Indirect Object Pronouns
Here are some verbs which tend to use Indirect Object Pronouns, because they refer to actions that are done to someone or for someone:
Spanish English 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)
Also, Indirect Object Pronouns are used in sentences with verbs like “Gustar”. Click here to check out our post about “Gustar”.
5. Placement of Indirect Object Pronouns
In order to place Indirect Object 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:
- Right before the verb, written separately
- 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.
Ana le manda una carta.
Ana sends him/her a letter (present tense)
¿ Te han dicho algo?
Have they told you anything?
No me pidas más cosas.
Don’t ask me for any more things (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.
Es importante explicarles el tema.
It is important to explain the topic to them (infinitive)
Mis amigos están organizándome una fiesta.
My friends are organizing a party for me (gerundio)
Cuéntanos la historia.
Tell us the story! (affirmative command)
With two Verbs combined… Either before the first verb 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.
La chica les quiere dar una sorpresa.
La chica quiere darles una sorpresa.
Both these sentences mean «The girl wants to give them a surprise»
Luis me está enseñando su coche.
Luis está enseñándome su coche.
Both these sentences mean “Luis is showing me his car”
Te voy a decir algo.
Voy a decirte algo.
Both these sentences mean “I’m going to tell you something”
6. Using Indirect and Direct Object Pronouns together
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.
Apart from that, the rules we have explained in this lesson still apply: The 2 pronouns are placed either before the verb or attached at the end depending on the tense, as already learned.
Te lo diré mañana.
I will tell it to you tomorrow. (future tense)
Give it to me (affirmative command)
Special case: “se” replacing “le” or “les”
If we have a sentence where there are both an indirect and a direct object pronoun working together, and the indirect pronoun would be “le” or “les”… then the pronoun “se” replaces “le” or “les”.
This makes sense aesthetically, because combinations such as “le lo” would sound rather ugly. “Se lo” sounds much better.
Se las he mandado.
I have sent them to him/her/them (instead of
“le las he mandado”)
Juan quiere decírselo.
Juan wants to say it to him/her/them. (instead of
“Juan quiere decírlelo“)
7. Practice: A Quiz
Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge!:
8. Practice: An Exercise
Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using Indirect Object Pronouns. Then check the solutions at the end of this post.
– ¿Me has mandado la carta?
– Sí, _____ (1) he mandado la carta.
– ¿Ana os enseña su casa?
– Sí, ella _____ (2) enseña su casa.
Luis _____ (3) compra un regalo a Laura.
Luis _____ (4) compra un regalo a sus padres.
Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = te, 2 = nos, 3 = le (or blank), 4 = les (or blank)