How to Use Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish (with examples)

Hola and welcome to a new grammar lesson. This time, we will discuss the rules to use direct object pronouns in Spanish, a special type of pronouns used to refer to things and people. They are essential in daily conversations, as they help to simplify speech and let the other person know who or what we are talking about. With that said, let’s start…

What are direct object pronouns in Spanish?

Direct object pronouns in Spanish are words like “LO, LOS, LA, LAS, LE” that are always used as a reference to an object that was mentioned before in a statement. As we will soon see in this lesson, the pronoun to use in a sentence must correspond with the number and gender of the objects we refer to. For instance, in the sentence “El televisor está encendido ¿Lo puedes apagar?“, the word LO is a direct object pronoun that refers to “el televisor” (the TV). In this example, we used LO because “TELEVISOR” is a singular, masculine noun. On the other hand, for a singular feminine noun like BILLETERA (wallet), we must use LA: “Busqué la billetera media hora, pero al fin 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

How to use direct object pronouns in Spanish to refer to people

Let’s try to understand where direct object pronouns in Spanish come from. When we speak Spanish, we normally use the preposition “A” to show some kind of relationship between a subject and an object, just the way “TO” is used in the English language sometimes. This means that something like “Ana listens to Carlos”, where “Ana” is the subject and “Carlos” is the object, would be easily translated into “Ana escucha a Carlos”. The word “A” corresponds to the preposition TO in this case. If we used a direct object pronouns in Spanish to replace the proper noun CARLOS instead, we would need to replace “A Carlos” for the corresponding pronoun for him, that is “LO” or “LE”. After identifying the object pronoun that we need, we must place it before the correct conjugation of the verb (ESCUCHA), having “Ana lo escucha” as a result of the transformation. Note that on some formal occasions, some speakers substitute the pronoun LO for LE, something called “leísmo”. This way, we could have said: “Ana le escucha.” (Ana listens to him). Check the examples in the picture below for more details:

Using Spanish direct object pronouns to replace people in sentences after the preposition A

Following the same rule, it is all a matter of finding the right pronoun to replace the object in the sentence for one of the pronouns in the chart. Please listen and analyze the following group of sentences using direct object pronouns in Spanish to refer to people.

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 Juan / El guía lo ayudó/ El guía le ayudó.
The guide helped Juan / The guide helped him

How to use direct object pronouns in Spanish for things

If you understood how to use these pronouns to replace people when they work as the object of the sentence, then it will be a lot easier for things. A sentence like “Carlos bought a car” can be translated into “Carlos compró un auto”. The main object in this sentence is “un auto”, something we know by asking ourselves the question ¿Qué es lo que + action in the sentence? as in ¿Qué es lo que Carlos compró?Un auto. Now that we know what the object is, we can replace this noun for a pronoun that matches it in gender and number, that is “LO”. With that in mind, we can simply say “Carlos lo compró” where LO refers to the car itself. Here is a picture illustrating this relationship between objects and these pronouns a bit better:

Using Spanish direct object pronouns to replace things in sentences.

Next, read and listen to some examples of sentences using object pronouns in Spanish to replace things:

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

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