¡Hola! Thanks for joining us in this grammar lesson. This time, we will explain the basic rules to use indirect object pronouns in Spanish. This lesson includes many examples of sentences and simple explanations. You will also have the chance to practice with an interactive quiz. Let’s start…
What are indirect object pronouns in Spanish?
Indirect object pronouns in Spanish are a special type of pronouns that tell us exactly who is being affected by the main verb in the sentence. To put it differently, these pronouns are words like “Me, te, le...” and others that are linked to the person that becomes the recipient of an action (verb) in a sentence. For example, in the sentence “Yo compré un perro para Claudia”, the phrase “para Claudia” would be the “indirect complement” (extra information that tells who I bought the dog for) that we could replace using an indirect pronoun. Following the chart in the next picture, the indirect object pronoun that we need for “ELLA (Claudia)” would be “LE”. This special pronoun will be placed before the conjugated form of the verb. This way, the final sentence will look like this: “Yo le compré un perro”. Pay attention to the chart and the example in this picture:
Making sentences with indirect object pronouns in Spanish
As you can see, indirect object pronouns will basically tell us who likes, loves or asks about something. These words will be used every time we need to make clear who the recipient of an action is. That’s the reason why they are so useful to talk about many topics; for example, they can be used to specify who likes an activity or who is buying something. Next, we will be using each of the pronouns in the chart above in sentences:
A mi me gusta comer mariscos. (¿A quién? – A mi )
I like to eat seafood. (¿Who? – me )
A ti te dije que hoy era mi cumpleaños. (¿A quién? – A ti)
I told you today was my birthday. (To whom? – To you)
A María le dieron un reconocimiento en su trabajo. (¿A quién? – A ella)
Maria was given a recognition at work. (Who? – Her)
Le compraron una computadora nueva. (¿A quién? – A él/ella/usted)
They bought him/her a new computer. (To whom? – To him / her / you)
Nos preguntaron si queremos ser parte del grupo de danza. (¿A quién? – A nosotros)
They asked us if we wanted to be part of the dance group. (To whom? – To us)
Os traje los vegetales que necesitabais. (¿A quién? – A vosotros)
I brought you the vegetables you needed. (To whom? – To you)
A los niños les encanta jugar juntos en el parque. (¿A quién? – A ellos)
Children love to play together in the park. (To whom? – To them)
From the previous examples, we can tell that there is no need to add the recipient of the action to the sentences if it can be inferred. This means that if we are having a conversation about María, we could omit the “Para María” part in the third sentence and just say “Le dieron un reconocimiento…”. That pronoun should tell us that we are talking about her or another person – a man – if given more context.
Most of the time, the verbs DAR (to give) and DECIR (to say/tell) will need one of these pronouns to complement their meaning. Also, indirect object pronouns are used before the verbs “Aburrir, Doler, Encantar, Fascinar, Gustar, Importar, Interesar, Molestar, Parecer, Quedar” under the forms “Me aburre”, “¿Te duele?”, “Les molesta” and so forth. Know that not all sentences with these verbs require an indirect pronoun, especially when we talk in an impersonal way, e.g. “Duele escuchar malas noticias” or “Queda poco tiempo“. Pay attention to these examples using indirect object pronouns in Spanish:
Ana le dio su número de teléfono ayer.
Ana gave him her phone number yesterday.
La maestra les dijo que dejaran de hacer ruido durante la clase.
The teacher told them to stop making noise during class.
Me aburre ver películas del mismo género todo el día.
It makes me feel bored to watch movies of the same genre all day.
A Juan le molesta el ruido de su motocicleta.
Juan gets annoyed by the noise of his motorcycle.
Nos parece que el proyecto va por buen camino.
It seems to us that the project is on the right track.
Additionally, these pronouns will be added after the infinitive or gerund form of verbs when needed, but they will form a single word such as “pagarle”, “encantarme”, “robándole” and so on. This structure is very useful for orders and commands. To illustrate this, we will make a couple of sentences with the “IR A + infinitive” structure (future tense) and another two with the present progressive in Spanish or “perifrasis durativa”:
Yo voy a comprarle un libro que leí cuando era niño. (¿A quién? – A él/ella/usted)
I’m going to buy him a book that I read as a child. (To whom? – To him / her / you)
Francisco dijo que él va a ayudarnos con la tarea. (¿A quién? – A nosotros)
Francisco said that he is going to help us with the homework. (To whom? – To us)
Los chicos estaban ayudándome a plantar los árboles. (¿A quién? – A mi)
The boys were helping me plant the trees. (to who? to me)
La policía estaba preguntándoles dónde estaban. (¿A quién? – A ellos)
The police were asking them where they were. (To whom? – To them)
Interestingly, we can have both a direct and indirect object pronoun in the same sentence, or add both of them to the same verb. For example, in the sentence “Te compraré un cachorro”, the word “TE” is an indirect object pronoun that makes reference to the seller and “un cachorro” is the direct object (the thing I plan to buy), which could be replaced by the pronoun “LO”. This way, we could rewrite this sentence as: “Te lo compraré”. Notice that the indirect object pronouns goes before the direct object pronoun. Pay attention to these examples:
Yo compré estos chocolates para ti. / Yo te los compré.
I bought these chocolates for you. / I bought them for you.
Ella cocinó pizza para nosotros. / Ella nos la cocinó.
She cooked pizza for us. / She cooked it for us.
Por favor, compra este helado para mi. / Por favor, compramelo.
Please buy this ice cream for me. / Please buy it for me.
To conclude, what’s interesting about these pronouns is the fact that they specify who the action affects. If we said, “Ana dio su número ayer”, we are not telling exactly who she shared her phone number with. On the other hand, if we said “Ana nos dio su número…”, then it would mean that it is us who got her number, whereas if we said “Ana os dio su número…”, it would mean that it is you who got it. The same rule applies to most verbs. By adding an indirect object pronoun, we will definitely say “to whom” we are explaining a topic, giving a gift or telling something new.