The 8 Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish and How to Use Them with Ease
Direct object pronouns in Spanish are little words that replace nouns so you don’t sound repetitive and unnatural.
Think of them like this: in English, we use direct object pronouns in sentences like “I bought it today” instead of “I bought a car today.”
In this blog post, you’ll learn how to use direct object pronouns in Spanish.
- What Is a Direct Object Pronoun in Spanish?
- What Is an Object in Spanish?
- The 8 Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish
- How to Use Direct Object Pronouns
- Direct Object Pronouns vs. Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish
- How to Combine Indirect and Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish
What Is a Direct Object Pronoun in Spanish?
Spanish pronouns are words that substitute nouns.
For example, if you say “I like the apple” and you want to substitute “apple” for a pronoun, you’d replace “apple” with the pronoun “it.” The sentence then becomes “I like it.”
A direct object pronoun is an object pronoun that receives the action of the verb directly.
For example, when you decide to buy a watermelon, you’re directly buying it. There’s nothing between the action of buying and the watermelon itself.
You buy a watermelon, and so you have:
I am buying a watermelon (direct object). → I am buying it (direct object pronoun).
We can then infer that “to buy” will be followed by a direct object or a direct object pronoun.
What Is an Object in Spanish?
An object in Spanish is the person or thing that receives the action of a verb.
If you decide to write an email to your friend Laura, Laura will be getting the action of the verb. So Laura will be an object in the sentence “I am writing to Laura.”
Likewise, if you decide to buy a watermelon, the watermelon will be the thing receiving the action of the verb, so in the sentence “I am buying a watermelon,” the watermelon is an object.
When we combine the concepts of pronoun and object, what we get is an object pronoun. An object pronoun fuses the two definitions we’ve just talked about. On one hand, it substitutes a noun because it’s a pronoun and on the other hand, it receives the action of the verb because it’s an object.
The 8 Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish
There are eight direct object pronouns in Spanish:
|Direct Object Pronouns|
|me (me)||nos (us)|
|te (you)||os (you all)|
|lo , la (him, her, it, you formal)||los , las (them, you all formal)|
How to Use Direct Object Pronouns
Now that we know how to find the direct object in a sentence, let’s see how we can substitute them for direct object pronouns.
Take a look at these three examples:
Tu hermano odia nosotros → Tu hermano nos odia. (Your brother hates us.)
María quiere yo → María me quiere. (María loves me.)
Yo quiero tú/ustedes → Te quiero / Os quiero. (I love you/you all.)
Note with the first sentences, you’d definitely get funny looks if you said them in a conversation because they need the direct object pronoun to sound natural.
Now let’s look at a few more examples with items instead of people:
He comprado una casa. (I have bought a house.)
Ayer perdí mi teléfono. (I lost my phone yesterday.)
Estoy comiendo manzanas. (I am eating some apples.)
Juan no lee libros. (Juan does not read books.)
For these, we have four options: lo, la, los and las.
To know which one to use, you only need to look at the nouns and see what their gender and number is:
una casa (feminine singular)
mi teléfono (masculine singular)
manzanas (feminine plural)
libros (masculine plural)
Since we always put the pronoun in front of the verb, the correct direct object pronoun substitutions would be:
He comprado una casa → La he comprado
Ayer perdí mi teléfono → Ayer lo perdí
Estoy comiendo manzanas → Las estoy comiendo
Juan no lee libros → Juan no los lee
Perfect! You can now tell yourself you’re awesome because you’ve had your first practice with direct object pronouns.
Direct Object Pronouns vs. Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish
Object pronouns are divided into direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns.
So what exactly is the difference between these two types of object pronouns?
Well, a direct object pronoun receives the action of the verb directly. Going back to the watermelon sentence, when you decide to buy a watermelon, you’re directly buying it. There’s nothing between the action of buying and the watermelon.
If you say “I am writing an email to Laura,” you aren’t writing Laura, you are writing an email. The email will then be the direct object, but Laura will be indirectly affected because she will be receiving that email, so she’s the indirect object.
If we were to replace all the nouns with pronouns, we would get something like the following:
I am writing an email (direct object) to Laura (indirect object). → I am writing it (direct object pronoun) to her (indirect object pronoun).
How to Combine Indirect and Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish
What do you do when you have a direct and indirect object pronoun in the same sentence?
Which one goes first?
Where do we put them?
Here are a few simple rules you need to follow:
1. The indirect object pronoun always goes before the direct object pronoun
When we have a double-object verb (a verb with a direct and an indirect object), 99% of the time the direct object will be a thing and the indirect object will be a person.
We should always put the person first, as in these examples:
Le compro caramelos a Laura. (I buy Laura some sweets) → Le los compro a ella. (I buy them for her.)
Les envío una carta a mis amigos. (I send my friends a letter) → Les la envío a ellos. (I send it to them.)
However, before using the second version, read this next rule:
2. Use se when there’s a third person direct object pronoun and a third person indirect object pronoun
You’d do this like so:
|Original Version||Correct Version|
|le lo||se lo|
|le la||se la|
|le los||se los|
|le las||se las|
|les lo||se lo|
|les la||se la|
|les los||se los|
|les las||se las|
Don’t get overwhelmed by this though. It’s as easy as always substituting le or les and leaving the rest as it is.
Taking this into account, the previous examples would be corrected like this:
Le los compro a ella. → Se los compro a ella. (I buy them for her.)
Les la envío a ellos → Se la envío a ellos. (I send it to them.)
Here you have two more examples:
Se lo digo a ellos. (I tell it to them.)
Se los robó a él. (He stole them from him.)
For more on indirect object pronouns see our post here:
Direct object pronouns are tiny words, but they greatly impact Spanish sentences.
Not only do you need them to express yourself with correct grammar, but you’ll also encounter them daily when chatting with native speakers.
Once you get the hang of ’em, you’ll be using direct object pronouns daily, too!