The Low-Down on ‘Lo’ in Spanish
If you’ve been receiving language lessons for a while now, you’ve noticed the appearance of lo in Spanish quite often. Is it an article, or a pronoun? Why does it appear as a direct object, and why do native speakers love saying lo in Spanish so much? This is one of the trickier words for beginners to learn, but it’s worth the challenge as it fuels your journey to Spanish fluency.
While there are many different ways to use this word, you’re about to get a comprehensive look at all of them!
Here’s the low-down on lo in Spanish!
Lo as a Direct Object
Direct objects in Spanish are known as el objeto directo or el complemento directo. They are the part of the sentence that indicates who or what receives the action of a transitive verb (which is simply a verb that “does something” to someone or something). In this case, lo in Spanish works as a masculine singular pronoun, with its plural being los.
When using lo in Spanish as a direct object, a special rule about its positioning exists. Usually, direct objects in Spanish go after the verb. As lo replaces the noun, it’s placed right before the verb.
This shortens the sentence and is most likely the reason that lo in Spanish is so frequently used.
Abbreviating words and phrases is something all languages love to do. If you look at the following examples translated to English, you’ll see how how we position lo in the Spanish sentence:
Sara encontró el zapato perdido.
Sara found the lost shoe.
Sara lo encontró.
Sara found it.
Pedro terminó el libro antes de tiempo.
Pedro finished the book early.
Pedro lo terminó antes de tiempo.
Pedro finished it early.
Roberto trajo un pie de manzana de postre.
Roberto brought an apple pie for dessert.
Roberto lo trajo de postre.
Roberto brought it for dessert.
Luisa cruzó el puente sin pensarlo dos veces.
Luisa crossed the bridge without thinking twice.
Luisa lo cruzó sin pensarlo dos veces.
Luisa crossed it without thinking twice.
Lo as a Neuter Definite Article
There are not many gender-neutral words in Spanish. Most gender-neutral words are related to professions, such as presidente, artista, and cantante. However, lo in Spanish can be used as a neuter definite article in reference to concepts, categories, or ideas—never concrete objects or people.
You will want to use lo in Spanish as a neuter definite article to turn adjectives and adverbs into nouns.
Lo peor es que olvidé las llaves dentro del carro.
The worst part is that I forgot the keys inside the car.
Lo más lindo de tí es lo mucho que me quieres y me cuidas.
The nicest thing about you is how much you love and take care of me.
Este nuevo álbum combina lo clásico con lo moderno.
This new album combines the classic with the modern.
Las paletas de sandía fueron lo más vendido de todo el bazar.
The watermelon lollipops were the most sold item in the whole bazaar.
El ajuste de concentración es lo útil de esta nueva cafetera.
The strength settings are what’s useful on this new coffee maker.
Using Lo in Common Spanish Phrases
Lo in Spanish takes part in many common phrases. These are colloquial with varying meanings that depend on the context in which they’re used.
Usually, these phrases translate to words like “which,” “what,” “while,” “about,” and “because.” The best way to understand them is by looking at some examples, so let’s check them out!
Lo Que – what
Lo que pasa es que el motor no tiene gasolina.
What happened is that the engine has no gas.
Lo que quiero es verte todos los días.
What I want is to see you every day.
Te daré lo que quieras para tu cumpleaños si lo pides con anticipación.
I’ll give you whatever you want for your birthday if you ask for it with anticipation.
Lo Cual – which
Dejé el agua corriendo, lo cual causó una inundación.
I left the water running which caused a flood.
Me mentiste, lo cual me molesta mucho.
You lied to me, which makes me very upset.
Sofía estaba triste, lo cual era obvio al ver su expresión.
Sofía was sad, which was obvious when looking at her expression.
En Lo Que – while
Podemos ir por comida en lo que mamá sale de su cita.
We can go for food while mom gets out of her appointment.
Cociné un pavo en lo que ibas al supermercado.
I cooked a turkey while you went to the supermarket.
Puedes gastar este dinero en lo que quieras.
You can spend this money on whatever you like.
Lo De – about
¿De conté lo de mi hermana?
Did I tell you about my sister?
Me enteré de lo de la pizza gratis y me puse contento.
I got wind of the free pizza and I was happy.
No sé qué pensar respecto a lo de ayer.
I don’t know what to think about yesterday.
A Lo Que – to which
Me preguntó si había agua, a lo que respondí que sí.
He asked me if there was water, to which I replied that there was.
Por Lo Que – for which, for what, for whatever
No traje paraguas, por lo que te pido que me prestes el tuyo.
I didn’t bring an umbrella, which is why I’m asking to borrow yours.
Te cambio este sandwich por lo que quieras.
I’ll trade you this sandwich for whatever you want.
Vengo por lo que me pidieron ayer.
I come for what you asked for yesterday.
De Lo Que – of which(ever), for what
Debes hacerte responsable de lo que sientes.
You have to take responsibility for what you’re feeling.
Puedes pedir un dibujo de lo que más te guste.
You can ask for a drawing of whichever you like the most.
Lo Que Sea – anything, whatever
Con mi novia puedo hablar de lo que sea.
With my girlfriend, I can talk about anything.
Lo in Spanish is also used in some idiomatic expressions! One of the most famous ones is lo siento, which is a way of saying sorry in Spanish. Let’s look at this and some other idiomatic expressions that have lo in them:
Means “I’m sorry.” This is just one of the ways to say “I’m sorry” in Spanish. Read more about this idiomatic phrase in our blog post about using ‘lo siento’ in Spanish.
Retiro Lo Dicho
Retiro lo dicho means “I take back what I said.” Which is pretty self explanatory once you read the translation. If you want to double down on what you said, you can always say No retiro lo dicho instead.
Lo Hecho, Hecho Está
This idiomatic expression is used when you can’t change the course of the past. It translates to “What is done, is done” and it’s a realistic take on life that’s useful to know!
Loísmo, and Why You Should Avoid It.
Loísmo is the incorrect use of lo in Spanish. It occurs when you use the word lo instead of le. This substitution is an incorrect way to use lo in Spanish, even though it’s commonly used in some Spanish-speaking regions of Spain. Since the majority of Spanish-speaking countries don’t use loísmo as a part of their colloquial language, it’s probably best to avoid using it altogether.
Lo Lograste, Aprendiste un Poco Mȧs de Español!
Learning how to use lo in Spanish is a milestone for beginner and intermediate language learners. It might be harder to use than other pronouns and articles, but the reward is more satisfying as a result.
Now all you need to do is practice all the different ways you can use this word to truly master lo in Spanish.
Did you know that Guatemala is a great place to learn Spanish?
Our light accent and slower than average talking speed have attracted thousands of students from around the world looking to learn Spanish. Luckily, you don’t have to travel to get that experience anymore!
With Homeschool Spanish Academy, you can receive Spanish lessons from certified Spanish teachers from Guatemala from the comfort of your home. If you want to see for yourself, you should take a free class with us and start practicing using lo in Spanish with the guidance of an expert!
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