Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish – The Ultimate Guide

Cartoon of a girl giving a present to her mother

Welcome to our grammar lesson about Indirect Object Pronouns in 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.

Learning the forms is easy, the challenge is mostly to know when to use them, and where to place them within the sentence.

Let’s learn everything about Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish! At the end of the lesson, you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise for practice.

1. Indirect Object Pronouns – Forms

Here is the list of Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns and their meanings:

SpanishEnglish
meme
teyou
lehim, her (also "it" or formal "you")
nosus
osyou guys
lesthem (also, formal "you guys")

As we notice, gender is irrelevant in all Indirect Object Pronouns.

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, “to them” should be an Indirect Object pronoun, in this case “les”.

Forms “le” and “les”, included in the sentence even when we mention the person

Something interesting occurs with forms le and les:

If we have a sentence in which we mention explicitly a 3rd person to whom or for whom the action is done, 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 explicitly:

Yo le cuento una historia.
I tell her a story.

Yo le cuento una historia a María.
I tell María a story.

One more example of this phenomenon:

Nosotros les compramos una pelota.
We buy them a ball.

Nosotros les compramos una pelota a los niños.
We buy the children a ball.

3. Verbs that often work with Indirect Object Pronouns

Here are some verbs which tend to work with Indirect Object Pronouns, because they refer to actions that are done to someone or for someone:

SpanishEnglish
comprarto buy (for someone)
contarto tell (someone)
darto give (someone)
mandarto send (to someone)
mostrarto show (to someone)
pedirto ask (of someone)
prestarto lend (someone)
quitarto take away (from someone)
regalarto give a present (to someone)
robarto steal (from someone)
enseñarto teach / to show (someone)

Also, Indirect Object Pronouns are used with verbs like “Gustar”.

4. Placement of Indirect Object Pronouns in the Sentence

One of the challenges about Indirect Object Pronouns is knowing where to place them inside the sentence.

That actually depends on the verb tense. For most tenses, we place these pronouns before the verb (as seen in the example sentences in this lesson). But there are a few cases where they go attached at the end of the verb.

We have made a separate lesson where we explain that in detail, so make sure to read our Lesson about the Placement of Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns.

5. Practice Indirect Object Pronouns

Quiz

Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about this topic!:

Exercise

Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using Indirect Object Pronouns. Then check the solutions below:

– ¿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)