indirect-object-pronouns-pizza

Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish [Quiz Included]

Indirect object pronouns help to make you sound more natural in your target language.

For example, in English, you’d often change “I ate the pizza” to “I ate it,” where “it” is the indirect object pronoun. That way, if you want to continue talking about eating pizza afterward, you don’t have to sound like a broken record by saying “pizza” again and again. 

But what do indirect object pronouns in Spanish look like, and how do they work?

In this post, you’ll learn the six Spanish indirect object pronouns, their meanings, some common verbs that use them, how to use them, word order rules for them and common mistakes Spanish learners make when working with indirect object pronouns.

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Contents

What Are the Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns?

table-of-spanish-indirect-pronouns

You may have already learned about Spanish pronouns, which include indirect object pronouns.

Spanish indirect object pronouns (also known as pronombre de objeto indirecto ) answer the question “to whom” or “for whom.” They differ from direct object pronouns in that, while a direct object pronoun receives the action of the verb directly, the indirect object pronoun receives the direct object.

For example:

Yo compré pizza para mi familia.  (I bought pizza for my family.)

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Here, the pizza is the direct object, because it’s what you bought. But  mi familia (my family) is the indirect object because they’re the recipient of the direct object and are indirectly affected by the action of the verb.

Therefore, if you’re going to use an indirect object pronoun for the above sentence, you’d say:

Yo les compré pizza. (I bought pizza for them.)

Notice that we’ve not only replaced mi familia with  les (them), but we’ve also changed the order of the sentence.

Don’t worry: We’re going to dig deeper into the specific word order rules later!

For now, here are the indirect object pronouns in Spanish you should know:

  • me (me — singular)
  • te (you — singular)
  • le (him, her, you — formal and singular)
  • nos (us — plural)
  • os (you all — plural)
  • les (them, you all — formal and plural)

If you’ve already learned the direct object pronouns, you might’ve noticed that these are identical, except for the third-person pronouns le and les.

Here’s how they’d look in action:

Spanish Indirect Object PronounsExample Sentence
me
(me — singular)
María me dio un regalo sorpresa.
(Maria gave me a surprise gift.)
te
(you — singular)
Te compré un libro que sé que disfrutarás.
(I bought you a book that I know you will enjoy.)
le
(him, her, you — formal and singular)
Mi abuela está enferma, así que le envié una carta.
(My grandmother is sick, so I sent her a letter.)
nos
(us — plural)
¿Nos podrías prestar tu coche para el fin de semana?
(Could you lend us your car for the weekend?)
os
(you all — plural)
¿Os han dicho los resultados de los exámenes?
(Have they told you (all) the exam results?)
les
(them, you all — formal and plural)
Les envié las invitaciones por correo electrónico.
(I sent them the invitations by email.)

Spanish Verbs That Take Indirect Object Pronouns

Some verbs are more likely to use indirect object pronouns than others. As you’ll see, they’re the ones that often involve giving something (concrete or abstract) to someone—or, put in another way, someone receiving something. 

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Here are 13 of the most common Spanish verbs that take indirect object pronouns:

Spanish Verbs That Take Indirect ObjectsExample Sentence
dar
(to give)
Le di un regalo.
(I gave him/her a gift.)
decir
(to say, to tell)
Te digo la verdad.
(I'm telling you the truth.)
enseñar
(to teach)
Mi maestra me enseñó matemáticas.
(My teacher taught me mathematics.)
contar
(to tell, to count)
Ella nos contó una historia.
(She told us a story.)
mostrar
(to show)
Les mostré el camino.
(I showed them the way.)
prestar
(to lend)
Te presté mi libro.
(I lent you my book.)
mandar
(to send)
Le mandé una carta.
(I sent him/her a letter.)
explicar
(to explain)
Ana me explicó la lección.
(Ana explained the lesson to me.)
devolver
(to return something)
Le devolví el dinero.
(I returned the money to him/her.)
ofrecer
(to offer)
Les ofrecí ayuda.
(I offered them help.)
hacer
(to do, to make)
Les hice un pastel.
(I made them a cake.)
poner
(to put, to place)
Te puse la comida en la mesa.
(I put the food on the table for you.)
traer
(to bring)
Mamá me trajo un regalo.
(Mom brought me a gift.)

How to Use Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns

Find the Indirect Object in a Sentence

To find the indirect object, you need to ask “to/for what?” and “to/for whom?”

For example:

Ella compra un regalo para . (She is buying a present for me.)

Escribo una carta para ti. (I am writing a letter for you.)

In the first sentence,  is the indirect object because she’s buying the gift for “me.”

Similarly, in the second sentence, ti is the indirect object because I’m writing a letter for “you.”

Identify the Corresponding Indirect Object Pronoun

In our first example sentence above, the indirect object pronoun for would be me .

Likewise, the indirect object pronoun for ti would be te .

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Identify the Placement of the Indirect Object Pronoun

The indirect object pronoun may be placed before the verb or attached to the end of it.

Put the Indirect Object Pronoun Before the Verb

Typically, when you’re dealing with conjugated verbs, you put the indirect object pronoun before the verb.

Using our example sentences:

Ella me compra un regalo. (She is buying me a present.)

Te escribo una carta. (I am writing you a letter.)

Of course, we’re going to remove the para (for) at the end, because it wouldn’t make sense for it to be there in the new sentence. That would be like saying “She is buying me a present for” or “I am writing you a letter for”—which is just baffling both in Spanish and English!

Attach the Indirect Object Pronoun to the End of the Verb

Sometimes, you pop the indirect object pronoun at the end of the verb. This is often the case when you’re dealing with an infinitive, a progressive tense or an imperative

For example:

Type of VerbExample SentenceExplanation
Infinitive Me gusta leerlo.
(I like to read it.)
In the infinitive form, the indirect object pronoun ( le ) comes at the end of the verb ( leer or "to read") without any changes. The pronoun is attached to the infinitive.
Gerund Estoy haciéndolo.
(I am doing it.)
In the progressive form, the indirect object pronoun ( lo ) is placed at the end of the gerund ( haciendo or "doing"). The pronoun is attached to the gerund, maintaining the -iendo/-ando ending.

Note there's an accent mark on the stressed e. In Spanish, proparoxytones (words whose stressed syllable is on their third-to-the-last syllable) must always have an accent mark, so make sure to add one to the stressed vowel in the resulting gerund—either the e in -iendo or the a in -ando.
Imperative Hazlo rápido.
(Do it quickly.)
In the affirmative imperative form, the indirect object pronoun ( lo ) is attached to the verb ( haz or "to do"), coming after it.

An accent mark on the imperative's stressed vowel may be necessary depending on whether the resulting word is a proparoxytone. You can learn more about Spanish accentuation rules here.

I know this can all sound very confusing. After all, how do you even figure out whether to put the indirect object pronoun before the verb or after?

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Well, one great way is to expose yourself to a lot of authentic Spanish content. For example, you can head over to the language learning platform FluentU and watch out for those indirect object pronouns!

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Pronoun Changes with Indirect Object Noun

When an indirect object pronoun is used along with the actual indirect object noun, the pronoun must agree in number with the indirect object noun.

For example:

Le doy el libro a Juan.  (I give the book to Juan.)

Here, you use the singular pronoun  le to indicate that you’re only giving the book to one person (in this case, Juan). 

On the other hand:

Les doy el libro a Juan y a María.  (I give the book to Juan and María.)

This time, since the action (giving the book) is directed toward both Juan and Maria, the pronoun  les is used.

Using the Preposition A and the Indirect Object Pronouns Le and Les

Some Spanish verbs follow the pattern “verb + something + a + somebody” when they use the indirect object pronouns le and les .

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Two examples of this are:

dar algo a alguien (to give something to somebody)

decir algo a alguien (to tell something to somebody)

This is especially important if the context isn’t very clear.

For example, imagine saying something like this with no previous context:

Le doy caramelos. (I give ? some sweets.)

Here, you don’t really know if you’re giving the sweets to him, her or a formal you.

So, what do you do? Well, you can say who the recipient is by using the preposition a .

Therefore, the previous example would become:

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Le doy caramelos a él. (I give him some sweets.)

Some other examples of double indirect objects are:

Le escribo una carta a María. (I write a letter to María.)

Le compro un coche a él. (I buy him a car.)

Les doy un regalo a los niños. (I give the kids a present.)

Note that the preposition a doesn’t have one fixed meaning. Instead, it can vary depending on the context.

Word Order When Using Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish

When there’s a direct and indirect object pronoun in a sentence, there’s a specific word order you need to follow. In one special case, le and les change to se.

Indirect Object Pronouns Before Direct Object Pronouns

The direct object is normally a thing, and the indirect object is typically a person. This rule is easy to follow when you think of it that way. Simply put the person first.

Alternatively, if you’re more of a formula person:

indirect object pronoun + direct object pronoun + verb

Examples:

Ella me lo dio. (She gave it to me.)

Te lo enviaré mañana.  (I will send it to you tomorrow.)

Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns in the Third Person

Take a look at these:

Él se lo dio.  (He gave it to him/her/them.)

Ella se lo explicó. (She explained it to him/her/them.)

Ellos se lo compraron. (They bought it for him/her/them.)

In all of these sentences, lo is the direct object pronoun, while  le is the indirect object pronoun. When both pronouns are used together, the indirect object pronoun le changes to  se .

Here’s a table showing how the changes would take place across different scenarios:

OriginalCorrect
le lose lo
le lase la
le losse los
le lasse las
les lose lo
les lase la
les losse los
les lasse las

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns

Indirect object pronouns in Spanish can be tricky for learners, and there are several common mistakes you’ll want to watch out for. Here are some of them:

Incorrect Placement

Indirect object pronouns should be placed before the conjugated verb or attached to the end of an infinitive or gerund. Some learners mistakenly place them after the conjugated verb.

Example:

Incorrect: Quiero te ayudar. (I want to help you.)

Correct: Te quiero ayudar. (I want to help you.)

Correct:  Quiero ayudarte. (I want to help you.)

Confusing Le and Les

The indirect object pronouns  le and  les are often used for both masculine and feminine singular and plural, which can be confusing.

However, le is singular, while les is plural. If the indirect object is plural, use les regardless of gender.

Example:

Incorrect: Le di el libro a los chicos. (I gave the book to the boys.)

Correct:  Les di el libro a los chicos. (I gave the book to the boys.)

Using le(s), la(s), or lo(s) together

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes you’ll use a direct object pronoun and an indirect object pronoun in the same sentence. When this happens, watch out for pronoun combinations like le la, les lo, le los, etc. Remember: if you have two pronouns starting with l right next to each other, the first one will always change to se!

Example:

Incorrect: Vi una rosa y le la di. (I saw a rose and I gave it to him/her.)

Correct: Vi una rosa y se la di. (I saw a rose and I gave it to him/her.)

Incorrect: Ellos entendieron los temas en cuanto les los expliqué. (They understood the subjects as soon as I explained them [to them].)

Correct: Ellos entendieron los temas en cuanto se los expliqué. (They understood the subjects as soon as I explained them [to them].)

Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns Quiz

Now that you’ve got a decent idea on how Spanish indirect object pronouns work, let’s see how much you remember!

0%
Translate the sentence: "She sends a gift to them."
Correct! Wrong!

What is the indirect object pronoun for "her" in Spanish?
portrait-of-beautiful-woman-in-yellow-shirt-holding-index-finger-to-lips-against-blue-background
Correct! Wrong!

Select the correct indirect object pronoun for "you all" in Spanish:
handsome-young-man-in-focus-pointing-at-camera
Correct! Wrong!

Translate the following sentence: "They can send the letter to me."
hand-with-white-pen-writing-on-blank-notepad
Correct! Wrong!

Translate the following sentence: "I bought a toy for the kids and I gave it to them."
multicolored-building-blocks-and-multicolored-pens
Correct! Wrong!

Choose the correct indirect object pronoun for "us" in Spanish:
group-of-four-people-hugging-and-laughing
Correct! Wrong!

What is the indirect object pronoun for "you" (singular, formal) in Spanish?
Correct! Wrong!

Translate the following sentence: "I give the book to Maria."
Correct! Wrong!

Translate the sentence: "They explain the lesson to us."
Correct! Wrong!

What is the indirect object pronoun for "him" in Spanish?
handsome-man-wearing-glasses-and-brown-jacket-walking-down-the-street
Correct! Wrong!

Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns Quiz
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Learning to use indirect object pronouns in Spanish doesn’t just make you sound more fluent—it’s also more convenient! So make sure to drill this concept until you’ve got a rock-solid handle on it.

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