Spanish Direct Object Pronouns
Firstly, let’s break down what these things are. There are two main parts here: “Direct object”, and “pronoun”.
What are direct objects?
These are what “directly” receive the action of the verb. In the well-known phrase “Dog bites man”, the “man” is the object which is directly receiving the verb – he is the one being bitten. In the sentence “Rob sent Liz a message”, what is the direct object?
In this case, “a message” is the direct object, as that’s what receives the action of the verb – ie, what is being sent. “Liz” is the indirect object. The indirect object is the benefactor – the person or thing that “gets” the direct object. In this case, Liz gets breakfast!
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are words which replace nouns, and are used so that we can avoid repetition. Look at the following sentence:
“Rob made Liz breakfast. Liz was very happy with the breakfast”
Here, the second instances of “Liz” and “breakfast” are redundant, and should be replaced by pronouns.
“Rob made Liz breakfast. She was very happy with it”
In this second sentence, the word “it” replaces “breakfast”, a direct object. Therefore, it is a direct object pronoun. Direct object pronouns are simply pronouns (“you”, “her”, “it”, “them”, etc) which replace direct objects!
To use direct object pronouns in Spanish, we need to learn a) the forms, and b) the word order.
Direct Object Pronoun Forms
|Direct object pronouns|
|Lo, la||Los, las|
The forms for the singular direct object pronouns, along with translations:
|Lo||It (masculine), you (masculine, formal)|
|La||It (feminine), you (feminine, formal)|
And the plural forms:
|Los||You (masculine, formal), them (masculine)|
|Las||You (feminine, formal), them (feminine)|
Depending on which form of the verb you use, the placement of direct object pronouns can vary. When we talk about placement, we are referring to where the pronoun sits in relation to the verb:
Before the verb
This is the placement you will most often encounter, and when you will most often be using direct object pronouns. When dealing with conjugated verbs, either positive or negative, in the indicative or subjunctive (ie, any of them!), the direct object pronoun goes before the verb.
“Comieron la sopa” → “La comieron”
“Marcaron dos goles” → “Los marcaron”
When telling someone NOT TO DO something, we use the same form as the subjunctive:
“No me hables así” Don’t talk to me like that
Attached to end of the verb
When telling people TO DO something, attach the pronoun to the end of the verb. There is no space between the verb and the pronoun.
“Déjalo ahi” Leave it there
“Comelo” Eat it
Before or after the verb
Infinitives are the verb forms you’ll find in the dictionary which require conjugation. When they are used as infinitives (for example, when used in combination with other verbs, such as “quiero comer” I want to eat), the pronoun can either go before or after the verb group:
“No puedo verlo” or “No lo puedo ver” I can’t see it
“Voy a terminarlo mañana” or “Lo voy a terminar mañana” I’m going to finish it tomorrow
The gerund is equivalent to the English “ing” ending, and typically ends with “ando” or “(i)endo” in Spanish. As with the infinitive, the pronoun can be placed before or after the verb group:
“Estaba escribiéndola” or “La estaba escribiéndo” I was writing it
And that´s about all you need to know about Spanish direct object pronouns! The key lies in practice and exposure. Now you´re aware of these things, listen to some of our podcasts and see if you can hear them in use!