An Epic Grammar Guide to ‘Lo’ in Spanish: ¡Sí, Lo Puedes Aprender!
Who knew such a tiny word could cause such big confusions? Lo is a wacky word—and the moment you want to translate it from Spanish into English, it starts to get rough.
What does lo mean? Here are some examples of its versatility in meaning:
Lo quiero. (it)
I want it.
Lo vi. (him)
I saw him.
Lo difícil es comenzar. (the)
The hard part is getting started.
Lo siento. (no translation)
¿Ella es de México? Sí, lo es. (no translation)
Is she from Mexico? Yes, she is.
Had enough? I could go on with more examples, but you’ve seen enough for now. With this blog post, you’re going to learn the secret to understanding lo in Spanish and never get confused again.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Meanings and Functions of Lo in Spanish
- 10 Common Spanish Expressions With Lo
- 3 Typical Errors Using ‘Lo’ (Don’t Use It Like This!)
- How to Practice Live With a Native Speaker
The Meaning and Functions of Lo in Spanish
It’s challenging to define lo. So, instead of translating lo into English, you have to understand its role in a sentence.
The truth is, translation will drive you crazy. As you’ve already seen above, you can translate lo as “it,” “him,” “the,” “she,” and even “I’m.” Where’s the logic?
Figuring out why lo is there in a sentence is the key to success.
Languages have different structures, and translating word by word won’t get you very far.
And always translating lo into “it” can get you into even more trouble.
That’s why you have to understand how lo functions in Spanish, which you’ll discover in the following six ways to help you avoid common errors.
1. Lo as a Direct Object Pronoun (masculine, neuter, formal you masculine)
There are seven direct objects in Spanish, and lo is one of them. Use it for third person masculine and neuter pronouns (him, it), and the formal masculine “you.”
SIngular Direct Object Pronouns
|Subject Pronouns||Direct Object Pronouns|
|yo (I)||me (me)|
|tú (you)||te (you)|
|él (he)ella (she)usted (you)||lo (him, it, masc.)la (her, it, fem.)lo (formal you, masc.)la (formal you, fem.)|
Let’s see some example sentences to see the three possible translations for lo as a direct object pronoun:
Ayer vi a tu hermano y lo saludé.
Yesterday I saw your brother and greeted him.
Me compré esté libro ayer y ya lo leí.
I bought this book yesterday, and I have already read it.
Señor presidente, siempre lo he apoyado.
Mr. President, I have always supported you.
As you can see, when lo functions as a direct object pronoun, it can be translated into “him,” “it,” and “you.”
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2. Lo as a Neuter Definite Article
Surely you already know the four definite articles that exist in Spanish: el, la, los, las. You always translate them into “the.”
But did you know that there is one more definite article in the Spanish language?
(Spoiler—yes, it’s “lo”!)
In this function, it’s called a “neuter definite article.”
The difference is that it’s never followed by a noun, as in other definite articles, but it can be followed by an adjective, a possessive pronoun, or an ordinal number.
Let’s take a look.
Lo + Adjective
If an adjective follows lo, an abstract noun is created. Remember, the adjective must always be in its masculine form. This means it will always end in ‘o’ or ‘e.’
lo bueno – the good thing
lo difícil – the difficult thing
lo fácil – the easy thing
lo importante – the important thing, what is important
lo malo – the bad thing
lo mejor – the best part
lo peor – the worst part
And here are some Spanish sentences to practice:
Lo bueno de ella es que nunca se enoja.
The good thing about her is that she never gets mad.
Lo peor es que todavía tenemos que estudiar.
The worst thing is that we still have to study.
Lo difícil es comenzar
The hard part is to start.
Lo interesante está por llegar.
The interesting part is yet to come.
Handpicked for you: A Massive List of Spanish Adjectives and How To Use Them
Lo + Possessive Pronoun
You can also pair lo with Spanish possessive pronouns and create abstract nouns.
Just to remind you, there are four possible forms of possessive pronouns in Spanish: mío (mine), tuyo (yours), suyo (his, hers, your, theirs), and nuestro (ours).
You’ll use the masculine singular ending “o” of a possessive pronoun with the neuter definite article lo to emphasize that a thing, object, or group of things belong to somebody.
No hablemos de lo tuyo.
Let’s not talk about your things/what is yours.
Lo tuyo es absolutamente intolerable.
Your stuff (or what you did) is absolutely intolerable.
Correr no es lo mío.
Running is not my thing.
Handpicked for you: How to Use Possessive Pronouns in Spanish
Lo + Ordinal Numbers
In the same way, you can link the neuter definite article lo with an ordinal number, usually just with the first three, to refer to the importance or urgency.
Lo primero es salir de aquí.
The first thing is to get out of here.
Lo segundo no es tan importante.
The second is not so important.
Y por fin, lo tercero es acabar a tiempo.
And finally, the third thing is to finish on time.
Handpicked for you: Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
3. Lo with Ser and Estar
When somebody asks you a question, you can use lo in the answer before one of the verbs that mean “to be” in Spanish (ser or estar). With this construction, you reference the noun or adjective from the question, no matter their gender or number.
¿Eres inocente? Sí, lo soy.
Are you innocent? Yes, I am.
¿Es tu maestra? Sí, lo es.
Is she your teacher? Yes, she is.
¿Ustedes son felices? Sí, lo somos.
Are you happy? Yes, we are.
4. Lo with Relative Pronouns (lo que, lo cual)
If you add relative pronouns que or cual, to the Spanish lo, you will create a relative pronoun.
This combination will introduce a relative clause that helps you add information without starting a new sentence.
Lo que translates into “what” or “that.” Lo cual translates into “which.”
NOTE! Always use a conjugated verb after these constructions.
No todo lo que brilla es oro.
Not all that glitters is gold.
Lo que hablamos ayer no es importante.
What we talked about yesterday is not important.
No entendí lo que dijiste.
I didn’t understand what you said.
Esperé que me llamarán, lo cual no pasó.
I waited for my name to be called, which didn’t happen.
Nunca tuve mucho dinero, lo cual afectó mis posibilidades de estudiar en el extranjero.
I never had much money, which affected my chances of studying abroad.
Bonus: If you add a preposition en before lo que, you’ll get the expression en lo que that could translate into “while.”
Podemos leer en lo que se prepara la comida.
We can read while the food is ready.
En lo que trabajabas, yo lavé los platos.
While you were working, I washed the dishes.
Handpicked for you: How to Use Relative Pronouns in Spanish
5. Lo de (the thing about…, the matter of…)
If you add a preposition de to Spanish lo, you’ll create a structure that can translate into “the matter about” or “the thing about.”
The only parts of speech that can appear after this construction are an infinitive, a noun, or an adverb.
Lo de trabajar en casa está de moda.
Working at home is all the rage.
Lo de Juan no es cierto.
That thing about Juan is not true.
Tenemos que hablar de lo del dinero.
We need to talk about the money thing.
Lo de ayer no fue fácil.
That matter from yesterday wasn’t easy.
Handpicked for you: How to Use ‘Lo Que’ and ‘Lo De’ in Your Conversations
10 Common Spanish Expressions with Lo
Ready for the easy part? There are ready-made Spanish expressions with lo that you can memorize to impress your teacher or Spanish-speaking friends.
1. a lo loco (without thinking, like crazy)
No lo hagas a lo loco. Planea, analiza y después te pones a construirlo.
Don’t do it without thinking. Plan, analyze, and then start building it.
2. a lo largo de (over, along)
John Smith escribió 10 libros infantiles a lo largo de su vida.
John Smith wrote 10 children’s books in his lifetime.
3. a lo lejos (in the distance)
A lo lejos, pude divisar un pequeño barco.
In the distance, I could spot a small boat.
4. a lo mejor (maybe)
A lo mejor me voy a estudiar a Guatemala.
Maybe I’m going to study in Guatemala.
5. lo más seguro (most likely)
Lo más seguro es que no vengan, ya es muy tarde.
Most likely they won’t come, it’s already too late.
Remember: Use the subjunctive after lo más seguro.
6. por lo menos (at least)
Por lo menos esfuérzate.
At least make an effort.
7. por lo general (generally, usually)
Por lo general no como dulces, pero este pastel me encanta.
I don’t usually eat sweets, but I love this cake.
8. por lo pronto (for now)
Por lo pronto podemos desempacar, y después iremos a conocer el vecindario.
For now, we can unpack, and then we’ll go out and see the neighborhood.
9. por lo tanto (so, hence, thus, therefore, as a result)
Necesitas unos zapatos nuevos, por lo tanto, toma el dinero y cómprate unos ahora.
You need some new shoes, therefore, take the money and buy some now.
10. por lo visto (apparently)
Por lo visto se van a mudar el mes que viene.
Apparently, they’re moving in next month.
3 Typical Errors Using ‘Lo’ (Don’t Use It Like This!)
Because lo in Spanish has so many variations, it’s no surprise that Spanish learners and even native Spanish speakers make mistakes using it.
Let me show you some things you should watch out for and avoid. If it’s marked with an *asterisk, it’s wrong!
1. Translating “it” into lo every single time
It’s a beginner’s mistake. Some people, when they get to know that lo means it, tend to overuse it.
*Lo está lloviendo.
*Lo es super interesante.
It’s super interesting.
Of course, now you know that lo can translate to “it” only as a direct object pronoun, and not as a subject pronoun.
2. Putting lo in the wrong place as a direct object pronoun.
Remember the rule: Place “lo” before the verb—unless the verb is an infinitive, a present participle, or a positive imperative, then it goes after.
To get more practice, read: Conquer Direct Objects In Spanish With This Strategic Guide.
3. Falling prey to ‘loismo’
Some Spanish native speakers incorrectly use lo as an indirect object pronoun.
*Lo di un libro.
I gave him a book.
The correct sentence should be: Le di un libro (a él).
You can read more about this in an article in Spanish by the Royal Spanish Academy: Uso de los pronombres «lo(s)», «la(s)», «le(s)». Leísmo, laísmo, loísmo or here.
¡Ya lo sabes! It’s Time to Practice Live With a Native Speaker
Now, you’re an expert on lo in English and Spanish—meaning and use. Congratulations!
What’s next? Time to practice!
Grammar is tricky. It’s not enough to know it, you need to use it over and over again to become a capable user.
Proper motivation can be helpful with finding the strength to practice almost daily.
I know that traveling with ease to Spanish-speaking countries is a tempting perspective.
But if you want something even more practical, did you know that being bilingual can bring you a higher salary?
Yes! According to a study conducted by The Economist, a person can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $125,000 extra just by knowing a foreign language.
Isn’t it exciting?
To practice in real-time and with real people, sign up now for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Let our friendly and professional teachers from Guatemala help you reach your fluency goals and use lo in Spanish in a 1-to-1 conversation!
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“HSA offers very affordable, quality, one on one classes with a native speaker. My son has greatly benefited from taking classes. We have seen his confidence increase as well as his pronunciation improve, because he learns from a native Spanish speaker. HSA has quick, personal customer service. Our family has been very pleased with our experience so far!”
– Erica P. Parent of 1
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