Conquer Direct Objects In Spanish With This Strategic Guide
Direct objects in Spanish are a simple yet important grammar topic to study. They’re common to hear in a conversation or see written in a newspaper or book.
In this strategic guide, I give you a definition of direct objects in Spanish and show you how to use them using straightforward formulas and easy-to-follow examples. Finally, you’ll be able to check how much you already know by doing a simple quiz on direct objects in the Spanish language.
What are Direct Objects in Spanish?
Let me explain it with an example. Look at this sentence:
Pedro reads a book.
“Pedro” is the subject, “reads” a verb, and “a book” is… Yes, you guessed it: the direct object!
A direct object is a person or thing that receives the action of the verb in a sentence. To find it, you just need to repeat the verb and ask “what?” or “who?”. Like this:
Pedro reads a book.
And this is how you get to the direct object. Let’s try again.
John sees Mary.
John sees who?
Direct Object: Mary.
It’s almost exactly the same in Spanish. You ask ¿qué? or ¿a quién?
Pedro lee un libro.
Qué lee Pedro?
Juan ve a María.
¿A quién ve Juan?
Did you notice the preposition a before María? When a direct object is a person (not an object or idea), you need to put the preposition a before it.
Él saluda a Pilar.
He greets Pilar
Ana llama a su amigo.
Ana calls her friend.
Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish
However, object pronouns don’t always appear in a sentence as nouns. Quite often, pronouns replace nouns.
DIrect pronouns, subject pronouns, and indirect pronouns are the three types of pronouns in Spanish.
Singular Direct Object Pronouns
Plural Direct Object Pronouns
There are seven forms altogether: me, me, lo, la, nos, los, and las.
Example Sentences in Spanish
Ayer lo vi.
I saw him yesterday.
Nos llamaron de la escuela.
They called us from the school.
Lo tiro mi mamá.
My mom threw it.
I love you / them.
Sometimes, Spanish speakers duplicate the direct object and use the noun form with the pronoun.
A Juan, lo vi ayer.
I saw him (Juan) yesterday.
Placement of Direct Objects in Spanish
The placement of direct object pronouns in Spanish follows the same rules as the placement of indirect object pronouns.
Direct objects in Spanish may appear as a pronoun before or after the verb.
If direct objects precede the verb, you write them as separate words:
Lo vi ayer.
I saw him yesterday.
If they go after the verb, the direct object is attached to the end of the verb.
Quiero verlo otra vez.
I want to see him again.
But how do you know if you should put the direct object before or after the verb? You just need to learn four possible scenarios.
1. Direct Objects in Spanish with One Conjugated Verb
Let’s start with the easiest option. If a sentence has one conjugated verb, the direct object pronoun always comes before the verb.
Formula: Direct Object Pronoun (DOP) + conjugated verb
Me llamó el president.
The president called me.
2. Direct Objects in Spanish with an Infinitive
If the verb in your sentence is in the infinitive form, there are two further things to consider. The position of the direct object pronoun depends on whether the infinitive is the only verb in the sentence or there is another conjugated verb form.
With an Infinitive in Simple Form
Just the infinitive? The direct object pronoun comes after the verb then.
Al escucharte, entendí que estaba equivocada.
Listening to you, I understood that I was wrong.
With an Infinitive in a Verbal Periphrasis
However, the infinitive often accompanies another, conjugated verb. In this case, you’ve got even more freedom—the direct object pronoun can go either before the conjugated verb or after the infinitive.
Formula: DOP + conjugated verb + infinitive
conjugated verb + infinitive + DOP
Tienes que atraparlo. / Lo tienes que atrapar.
You have to catch him.
Note that if the conjugated verb appears in the impersonal form, the direct object pronoun must go after the infinitive.
Hay que verlo.
You have to see it.
Incorrect: Lo hay que ver.
It’s also more acceptable to put the direct object pronouns after the infinitive in a periphrasis verbal if the conjugated verb before it expresses beliefs, fears, wishes, preferences, or knowledge, such as:
- creer (to believe)
- temer (to fear)
- desear (to wish)
- preferir (to prefer)
Creo haberlo visto. (instead of Lo creo haber visto.)
I think I have seen it.
Temo perderlo. (instead of Lo temo perder.)
I’m afraid of losing him.
Deseo comerlo. (instead of Lo deseo comer.)
I want to eat it.
Prefiero verte mañana. (Instead of Te prefiero ver mañana.)
I’d rather see you tomorrow.
3. Direct Objects in Spanish with a Gerund
Direct objects work exactly the same way with gerunds.
With a Gerund in Simple Form
If the gerund is the only verb in the clause and does not form part of a verbal periphrasis, the direct object pronoun comes after it.
Formula: gerund + DOP
Se durmió viéndolo.
She fell asleep looking at him.
With a Gerund in a Verbal Periphrasis
But if the gerund is part of verbal periphrasis, the direct object pronoun can appear before the conjugated verb or after the gerund.
Formula: DOP + conjugated verb + gerund
conjugated verb + gerund + DOP
Me estás siguiendo. / Estás siguiéndome.
You’re following me.
4. Direct Objects in Spanish with an Imperative
If the imperative is in affirmative form, the direct object pronoun comes right after it.
Formula: Affirmative imperative + DOP
But, if the imperative is in a negative form, the direct object pronoun precedes it.
Formula: DOP + Negative imperative
No lo hagas.
Don’t do it.
No lo compre.
Don’t buy it.
If the imperative depends on another verb, it goes after the direct object pronoun.
Que lo diga.
Let him say it.
Quiero que lo entiendas.
I want you to understand it.
Direct Objects in Spanish: Multiple Choice Quiz
Do you want to check your new knowledge of direct objects in Spanish? Let’s see how much you can remember from this lesson.
1. Which sentence is correct?
2. Which sentence is correct?
3. Which sentence is correct?
4. Which sentence is correct?
5. Which sentence is correct?
6. Which sentence is correct?
7. Which sentence is correct?
8. Which sentence is correct?
9. Which sentence is correct?
10. Which sentence is correct?
Practice with Direct Objects in Spanish
To learn even more about direct objects in Spanish, check out:
- The Ultimate Guide to Using Double Object Pronouns in Spanish
- Practice Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish: 10 Brainy Exercises
- Pronombres personales átonos
It’s also key to learn about indirect objects and indirect object pronouns in Spanish to complete your knowledge about these verbal complements.
- Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish: 10 Great Online Exercises
- What You Should Know about Indirect Objects in Spanish
Understanding indirect and direct objects in Spanish is essential if you’re serious about gaining Spanish proficiency. It’s so worth the effort. Just by being bilingual, you can grow your social circle. Did you know that the US is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country? Yes! According to CNN, 41 million native Spanish speakers live here.
If you want to sound like a Spanish native speaker, sign up for a free trial class to practice direct objects in Spanish and other topics. The friendly, certified, native-speaking teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy are ready to help you reach your goals!
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