How to use Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish: Sentences + Practice

¡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 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, just like in these examples:

  • El maestro me explicó el tema nuevamente. (The teacher explained the topic to me again.)
  • Los voluntarios nos dieron los paquetes ayer. (The volunteers gave us the packages yesterday.)

In the last two sentences, both “ME” and “NOS” are indirect object pronouns. Each object pronoun must agree with the subject pronoun or noun in the sentence, as shown in this chart:

The rules on How to use indirect object pronouns in Spanish sentences

In the picture, you can see the sentence “Yo compré un perro para Claudia”. Here, the phrase “para Claudia” is considered an “indirect complement” or extra information telling us for whom the dog was bought for. We must clearly understand the parts of the sentences and identify the indirect object:

SubjectVerbDirect objectFor whom? (indirect object)
Yocompré (comprar)un perropara Claudia.

Following the chart, the indirect object pronoun that should replace “para Claudia” (for her) would be “LE”, and this pronoun will be placed before the conjugated form of the verb COMPRAR, to say “le compré”. This way, the final sentence will look like this: Yo le compré un perro.

Making sentences with indirect object pronouns in Spanish

Indirect object pronouns will 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, but in order to replace the right words, we first need to know who this recipient is by asking ourselves, “for whom?”, as shown in this sentence:

  • Traje unos juguetes geniales para los niños. (I brought some cool toys for the kids.)
  • ¿Para quién? – Para los niños. (For whom? – For the children.)

Now that we know who the recipient of the action is, we just have to find a pronoun that matches the indirect object “para los niños”, which would be the one for “ELLOS”, that is, “LES”. This way, the previous sentence could be rephased as follows:

  • Les traje unos juguetes geniales. (I brought them some cool toys.)

Indirect object pronouns in Spanish are very useful to talk about many topics like saying who likes an activity or who is buying something. Next, listen and analyze a group of sentences 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. (to whom? – to 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. (to whom? – 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)

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” clause part and just say “Le dieron un reconocimiento.”. The indirect pronoun tells us that we are talking about her or another person – a man – if given more context. 

Verbs that often need indirect object pronouns

Some Spanish verbs like DAR (to give) and DECIR (to say/tell) will need one of these pronouns to complement their meaning most of the time, as it is necessary to say who you are giving something to or telling something, just like this:

  • Yo le di mi número de teléfono. (I gave him/her my phone number.)
  • Ella les dijo que teníamos examen. (She told them that we had an exam.)

Spanish indirect object pronouns are also commonly used before the verbs “Aburrir, Doler, Encantar, Fascinar, Gustar, Importar, Interesar, Molestar, Parecer, Quedar” under the forms “Me gusta”, “¿Te duele?”, “Les molesta” and so forth. Keep in mind that not all sentences with these verbs require an indirect pronoun, especially when we talk in an impersonal way, for example:

  • Duele escuchar malas noticias. (It hurts to hear bad news.)
  • Queda poco tiempo. (There is little time left.)

Pay attention to these examples using indirect object pronouns in Spanish with these verbs:

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.

Interactive quiz No. 1

Spanish indirect object pronouns after gerunds or infinitives

Additionally, indirect object pronouns in Spanish can be added after the infinitive or gerund form of verbs when needed, but forming a single word. This is more common when talking about obligations, but can always use the indirect pronoun before the main verb as we did before, just like this:

  • Le debo pagar mañana. (I must pay him/her tomorrow.)
  • Debo pagarle mañana. (I must pay him/her tomorrow.)
  • Martín le está escribiendo una carta a su mamá. (Martín is writing a letter to his mother.)
  • Martín está escribiéndole una carta a su mamá. (Martín is writing a letter to his mother.)

Again, 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 whom? to me)
La policía estaba preguntándoles dónde estaban. (¿A quién? – A ellos)
The police were asking them where they were. (To whom? – To them)

Spanish direct and indirect object pronouns in the same sentence

Sometimes, 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 “Yo te compraré un cachorro.”, the word “TE” is an indirect object pronoun that makes reference to the person I am giving the puppy, and “un cachorro” is the direct object (the thing I plan to buy), which could be replaced by the direct pronoun “LO”. This way, by adding the direct object pronoun, we could rewrite this sentence as: “Te lo compraré”. Here is another example:

  • El artista cantó su canción favorita para nosotros (The artist sang his favorite song for us.)
SubjectVerbDirect objectFor whom? (indirect object)
El artista (él)cantósu canción favoritapara nosotros.

The correct direct object pronoun to replace “su canción favorita” is “LA” and the one for “ELLOS” is LES. As a result, we could rephrase the sentence like this:

  • El artista nos cantó su canción favorita. (The artist sang his favorite song for us.)
  • El artista nos la cantó. (The artist sang it to us.)

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, cómpramelo.
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. 

Interactive quiz No. 2

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