Placement of Object Pronouns in Spanish – The Ultimate Guide

Placement of Object Pronouns in Spanish

Welcome to our grammar lesson about the Placement of Object Pronouns in Spanish.

Object Pronouns include both Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns. What these 2 sets of pronouns have in common is that they occupy the same positions in the sentence.

In this lesson, we will learn the rules to place them properly, with example sentences. We will also see what happens when a sentence contains both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun.

At the end, you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise for practice.

1. Object Pronouns – All Forms

First, let’s review the 2 sets of pronouns we are talking about in this lesson:

Direct Object pronouns (“Complemento Directo”):

me
te
lo – la
nos
os
los – las

Indirect Object pronouns (“Complemento Indirecto”):

me
te
le
nos
os
les


Direct Object Pronouns represent the person or thing directly receiving the action of the verb.

Indirect Object Pronouns represent the person or thing indirectly receiving the action of the verb (to whom or for whom the action is done).

As we notice in the lists above, the two sets are almost identical in their forms, except for the 3rd persons singular and plural.

For the rest of the lesson, we will keep the green color for Direct and pink for Indirect.

2. Placement of Object Pronouns

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, they can occupy 2 different places:

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

Let’s study both possibilities:

Right before the Verb, written separately

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

Examples:

Marta lo sabe.
Marta knows it. (present tense)

Les he comprado un coche.
I have bought them a car. (present perfect)

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

Os contaremos un chiste.
We will tell you guys a joke. (future tense)

Le mandarías una carta.
You would send him/her a letter. (conditional tense)

Ella nos llamó.
She called us. (preterite tense)

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:

Mandarles la carta es importante.
It is important to send them the letter (infinitive)

Estoy comprándolos.
I’m buying them. (gerundio)

Hazlo.
Do it! (affirmative command)

Note about accent marks: When we attach pronouns at the end of a Gerundio, it always gets an accent mark, on the third vowel counting from right to left. For example. See “comprándolos” in the example above.


With a combination of 2 verbs: Either before the first or attached after the second

In the case where we have 2 verbs combined as a “team”, with the second verb being in Infinitive or Gerundio, we have the freedom to choose: We can either place the Object Pronoun before the first verb, or attached at the end of the second verb.

Examples:

Both these sentences mean “I’m doing it”:
Lo estoy haciendo.
Estoy haciéndolo.


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.

3. Sentences with both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun

There are sentences that include both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun. In this case, 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.

Examples:

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

mela
Give it to me (affirmative command)

Special case: “le” or “les” becoming “se”

There is a special case where the Indirect Object pronoun “le” or “les” must become “se”.

It happens in sentences where these 2 conditions are met:

  • In principle, there should be an Indirect Object pronoun “le” or “les”.
  • Right after the Indirect, there is one of these Direct Object Pronouns: “lo, la, los, las”

If this happens, “se” must replace “le” or “les”.

This transformation makes sense because, for example, “le lo” would sound ugly. “Se lo” sounds much better.

Examples:

Se las he mandado.
I have sent them to him/her/them (instead of “le las he mandado” or “les las he mandado“)

Juan quiere decírselo.
Juan wants to say it to him/her/them. (instead of “decírlelo” or “decírleslo“)

4. Practice Object Pronoun Placement

Quiz

Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about the placement of Object Pronouns:

Exercise

In the following dialogs, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns. 

Sometimes you might need to use two pronouns, or a verb with pronouns attached at the end.

After completing the exercise, check the solutions below:

– ¿Me amas?
– Sí, ___ (1) amo.

– ¿Estás haciendo las tareas?
– Sí, estoy _______ (2).

– ¿Me has mandado el correo?
– Sí, ___ ___ (3) he mandado.

– ¿Le habéis dado el regalo a Carlos?
– Sí, ___ ___ (4) hemos dado.

– ¿Vais a explicarme el problema?
– Sí, vamos a _______ (5).

– ¿Nos vas a llamar?
– Sí, voy a _______ (6).

Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = te, 2 = haciéndolas, 3 = te lo, 4 = se lo, 5 = explicártelo, 6 = llamaros