How to Use Spanish Direct Object Pronouns

Hola and welcome to a new lesson on Spanish grammar. This time, we will discuss how to use Spanish direct object pronouns for things and people in order to make reference to these persons or objects with fewer words and keep a conversation flowing without repeating the same words over and over again. That being said, “Comencemos”.

What are Spanish direct object pronouns?

Spanish direct object pronouns are words like “LO, LOS, LA, LAS, SE”  are always used as a reference to an object that was mentioned before. As we will see in this lesson, the pronoun to use must correspond to the number and gender of the objects we refer to. For instance, in the sentence “El televisor está encendido ¿Lo puedes apagar?” the pronoun LO refers to a “TV” because this word is a singular, masculine noun. On the other hand, for a singular feminine noun like BILLETERA(wallet), we must use LA: La encontré (I found it). Here is a chart for Spanish direct object pronouns plus a few examples similar to the ones we will see later.

Spanish direct object pronouns chart and examples
Los pronombres de objeto directo en español

Using Spanish direct object pronouns for people

Let’s try to understand where Spanish direct object pronouns come from. In Spanish, we normally use the preposition “A” to indicate whom the verb affects. This means that in order to say something like “Ana listens to Carlos”, we would need to say “Ana escucha a Carlos”. The word “A” corresponds to the preposition To. If we used Spanish direct object pronouns for people instead, we would have to replace “A Carlos” for the corresponding pronoun for him, that is “LO” or “LE” in some cases, and place this direct object pronoun before the right conjugation of the verb as in “Ana lo escucha”.

Following the same rule, all we need to find is the right pronoun to substitute the object in the sentence for one of the Spanish direct object pronouns in the chart. Listen to the audio examples below and see if you can figure out how they work.

Examples using Spanish direct object pronouns
Carmen ayuda a María / Carmen la ayuda / Carmen le ayuda
Carmen helps María / Carmen helps her
Fernando cuida a los niños / Fernando los cuida / Fernando les cuida.
Fernando takes care of the children/ Fernando takes care of them
El guía ayudó a nuestro grupo / El guía nos ayudó
The guide helped our group / The guide helped us

Using Spanish direct object pronouns for things

If you understood how to use these pronouns for people, then it will be a lot easier for things. A sentence like “Carlos bought a car” can be translated into “Carlos compró un auto”. In this sentence out object is “auto”, something we know by asking ourselves the question ¿Qué es lo que + action in the sentence? as in ¿Qué es lo que Carlos comprò? – Un auto. Now that we know the object is “auto” we can replace this noun for a pronoun that matches in gender and number: “LO”. Therefore, we can say “Carlos lo compró”. Here are some more examples using Spanish object pronouns:

Examples using Spanish direct object pronouns
Maria perdió su muñeca / María la perdió.
Maria lost her doll / Maria lost it(the doll)
Los estudiantes compraron los libros / Los estudiantes los compraron.
The students bought the books / The students bought them
El bebé abrió el bote / El bebé lo abrió
The baby opened the jar / The baby opened it

As you can see in the example, we need to be careful to use the appropriate Spanish direct object pronoun for the object we are referring to. SE is a special pronoun, often used in an impersonal way meaning BY ITSELF like in the sentences “La película se terminó” (The movie is over). Here are some more examples:

Examples with Spanish direct object pronouns
El televisor está encendido. ¿Lo puedes apagar?
The TV is on. Can you turn it off?
Yo perdí mi billetera pero la encontré después
I lost my wallet, but I found it later.
¿Viste los juguetes? No los encontramos
Did you see the toys? We couldn’t find them
Tengo las llaves. Las encontré en la cocina
I have the keys. I found them in the kitchen.
El carro se dañó.
The car broke down

Grammar quiz: Spanish direct object pronouns - Los pronombres de objeto directo

Here is a short quiz on Spanish direct object pronouns. Complete each statement with the correct word. You will get an interesting tip every time you find a correct answer. Press START when you are ready.
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