In both English and Spanish, we use direct and indirect objects. These are two types of objects that receive the action of a verb. With practice and dedication, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the two and use them either separately or together in sentences in Spanish. It is quite difficult for beginners, and because the system in Spanish is not similar to the structure in English, it can take a while to master. This is a more advanced topic, but you can do it, so read on!
Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish
A direct object in Spanish is called an objeto directo. It is the noun or pronoun that directly receives the action of a verb. Direct objects answer the question “what?” or “whom?” when dealing with the action of the verb. For example, in the sentence “I read the book,” our direct object is the book since it is describing what is being read. In the sentence “I spoke to Juan,” our direct object would be Juan because it is describing whom the person was speaking to. Not all verbs will require the use of a direct object to complete the meaning of the sentence. We can say “I read” or “I spoke” without defining what we are reading or whom we are speaking to. When we do use a direct object, it is often directly following the verb.
In Spanish, direct objects are often nouns that are preceded by the definite article that agrees in gender and number of the noun. Here is a table that lays out the definite articles in Spanish. This will be helpful later on.
|Article||Gender & Number|
Our example sentence of “I read the book” would be written “Yo leo el libro” using the masculine singular article because book is a masculine word, and in our example, there is only one of them. If we wanted to add more books, we could write “Yo leo los libros”. An example with a feminine singular article would be “Yo leo la carta” (I read the letter) since carta is a feminine article. We could make it plural by writing “Yo leo las cartas” (I read the letters). In these sentences, book and letter are the direct objects.
Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish
An indirect object is a noun or pronoun that indirectly receives the action of a verb in a sentence. The indirect object will answer the question “to whom” or “for whom” in regards to the verb in question. It is common to see indirect objects when talking about giving things to others, telling someone something, sending things to people, or showing things to people. When we interact with others and bring people into our sentences, our chance of using indirect objects increases.
When we speak about other people, it becomes necessary to use prepositions like “a”, which means to or “para”, which means for. These are typically placed before the direct object. For example, to say “I read the book to her” we would write “Le leo el libro a ella”. Because we have pronouns that mean “to him”, “to her”, etc. it is common to omit the a and person in question at the end of a sentence. In our example sentence, “to her” is the indirect object while “the book” is the direct object. Below is a chart of the indirect object pronouns that can be used.
|Te||To you (informal)|
|Le||To him / To her / To you (formal)|
|Os||To you all (informal)|
|Les||To them / To you all (formal)|
Here are a few example sentences to help you understand direct and indirect objects:
Le di el regalo. (I gave the gift to him. Direct object - regalo/gift; Indirect object - le/to him)
Te sirvió el té. (He served the tea to you. Direct object - té/tea; Indirect object - te/to you)
Nos ofrecieron las galletas. (They offered the cookies to us. Direct object - galletas/cookies; Indirect object - nos/to us)
Os recomendó la película. (She recommended the movie to y’all. Direct object - película/movie; Indirect object - os/to y’all)
Me mostró la biblioteca. (He showed the library to me. Direct object - biblioteca/library; Indirect object - me/to me)
Combining Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish
It is possible to combine direct and indirect objects in Spanish without repeating the nouns in question. We can say “He served it to us”, for example, instead of saying “He served us the steak”. We can begin with the sentence in question, which translates to “Nos sirvió el bistec”. All we have to do is take off the noun and article (Nos sirvió) and place the corresponding direct object pronoun before the verb. In this case, it is lo. (Nos lo sirvió.) Here’s a chart of the direct object pronouns that correspond with the articles we talked about earlier. As with everything in Spanish, we need to match gender and number.
|Article||Gender & Number||Direct Object Pronoun|
Luckily, the only difference between the articles and direct object pronouns is el —> lo. When combining le or les with a direct object pronoun, it becomes se. For example, I give it to them is not “Les lo doy”, rather “Se lo doy”.
Practice Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish
Here are a few practice problems. Fill in the blank with the correct direct and/or indirect object pronouns. The answers will follow.
- María compra los zapatos para su hermana. María se ____ compra. (María buys the shoes for her sister. María buys them for her.)
- Juan _____ envía una carta a su abuela. Juan ___ envía por correo. (Juan sends a letter to his grandmother. He sends it by mail.)
- Marta quiere comer la pizza. Marta ____ encuentra deliciosa. (Marta wants to eat the pizza. Marta finds it delicious.)
- Pedro no entiende las instrucciones. Pedro no _____ comprende. (Pedro doesn’t understand the instructions. Pedro doesn’t understand them.)
- Los niños ven a los perros. Los niños ____ acarician. (The children see the dogs. The children pet them.)
- Carmen da un regalo a su amiga. Carmen ____ da una sorpresa. (Carmen gives a gift to her friend. Carmen gives her a surprise.)
- Jorge invita a María a la fiesta. Jorge ____ conoce desde hace tiempo. (Jorge invites María to the party. Jorge has known her for a long time.)
- Luis necesita dinero. Luis ___ ___ pide prestado a su hermano. (Luis needs money. Luis borrows it from his brother.)
- Ana mira el cuadro. Ana ___ admire mucho. (Ana looks at the painting. Ana admires it a lot.)
- El chef prepara una cena especial. El chef ___ cocina con cuidado. (The chef prepares a special dinner. The chef cooks it carefully.)
Answers to Direct and Indirect Object Pronoun Practice
Here are the answers to the practice problems. How did you do?
- María compra los zapatos para su hermana. María se los compra. (María buys the shoes for her sister. María buys them for her.)
- Juan le envía una carta a su abuela. Juan la envía por correo. (Juan sends a letter to his grandmother. He sends it by mail.)
- Marta quiere comer la pizza. Marta la encuentra deliciosa. (Marta wants to eat the pizza. Marta finds it delicious.)
- Pedro no entiende las instrucciones. Pedro no las comprende. (Pedro doesn’t understand the instructions. Pedro doesn’t understand them.)
- Los niños ven a los perros. Los niños los acarician. (The children see the dogs. The children pet them.)
- Carmen da un regalo a su amiga. Carmen le da una sorpresa. (Carmen gives a gift to her friend. Carmen gives her a surprise.)
- Jorge invita a María a la fiesta. Jorge la conoce desde hace tiempo. (Jorge invites María to the party. Jorge has known her for a long time.)
- Luis necesita dinero. Luis se lo pide prestado a su hermano. (Luis needs money. Luis borrows it from his brother.)
- Ana mira el cuadro. Ana lo admire mucho. (Ana looks at the painting. Ana admires it a lot.)
- El chef prepara una cena especial. El chef la cocina con cuidado. (The chef prepares a special dinner. The chef cooks it carefully.)
Use Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish Like a Pro!
Direct and indirect objects can be challenging at first. Don’t get discouraged if you found this difficult. Keep practicing and soon enough, it will be like second nature and you’ll be using this advanced Spanish grammar structure with ease!