Spanish Direct Object Pronouns and Indirect Object Pronouns are placed in certain positions in the sentence, following some simple rules.
In this lesson, we will first review their forms, and then learn how to place them correctly. We will go through the following points:
1. Object Pronouns: Forms
Let us first review the 2 sets of pronouns we are talking about:
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 two sets are almost identical in their forms, except for the 3rd persons singular and plural, which we have highlighted in black.
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, 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.
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.
Mandarles la carta es importante.
It is important to send them the letter (infinitive)
Buying them… (gerundio)
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.
Both these sentences mean “I’m doing it”:
Lo estoy haciendo.
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. What happens 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.
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)
4. When there are both an Indirect and a Direct Object Pronoun, AND the Indirect one 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.
Se las he mandado.
I have sent them to him/her/them
Juan quiere decírselo.
Juan wants to say it to him/her/them.
5. Practice: A Quiz!
Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge!:
6. Practice: An Exercise
In the following dialogs, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns.
Sometimes to might need to use two words, or a verb with pronouns attached at the end.
After completing the exercise, check the solutions at the end of this post.
– ¿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