What You Should Know About Indirect Objects in Spanish
Indirect objects in Spanish are a key topic to master. Spanish speakers use them in every single conversation. Understanding and knowing how to use indirect objects is essential.
Today, let me explain to you what indirect objects in Spanish are and how to use them in a sentence. I promise to give many formulas and examples to make this topic easy to follow.
This guide offers an answer to any question you might have about the topic.
At the end of the article, check your understanding with a multiple-choice quiz.
Ready? Let’s get started!
What are Indirect Objects in Spanish?
Indirect objects are words that tell you to whom or for whom something is done. They’re the receivers of the action of the verb.
First, let’s review how to identify an indirect object.
Ann me leyó el libro.
Ann read the book to me.
To find the indirect object in a sentence, you have to repeat the verb and ask
To whom? / For who?
The indirect object here is the pronoun “me.”
Now we’re ready to go into more detail.
Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish
An indirect object pronoun replaces an indirect object in a sentence.
Indirect object pronouns are one of the three types of pronouns in Spanish. The other two are subject pronouns and direct pronouns.
Singular Indirect Object Pronouns
Plural Indirect Object Pronouns
As you can see, there are only 5 forms: me, te, le, nos, and les.
Example Sentences in Spanish
Juan me llamó.
Juan called me.
Te lo dije.
I told you.
Le quieren ver los clients,.
The clients want to see you.
Nos dieron un descuento.
They gave us a discount.
Les compré un regalo.
I bought them a gift.
Because le and les refer both to masculine and feminine objects, you’ll often clarify the gender with the preposition a and the subject pronoun or proper name.
Le conté la historia a ella.
I told her the story.
Le conté la historia a María.
I told the story to María.
The clarification may also go at the beginning of the sentence.
A ella le conté la historia.
A María le conté la historia.
Verbs that Go with Indirect Objects in Spanish
Certain verbs often accompany with indirect objects in Spanish:
|to ask for
Example Sentences in Spanish
Nos dieron la beca.
They gave us the scholarship.
¿Te pido un café?
Shall I order you a coffee?
Sírveme el agua, por favor.
Pour me the water, please.
Placement of Indirect Objects in Spanish
Indirect objects in Spanish may come immediately before or after the verb.
If they come before the verb, you should write them as separate, independent words:
Te compré un libro.
I bought you a book.
When they appear after the verb, they’re attached to the end of the verb:
Quiero comprarte un conejo.
I want to buy you a bunny.
How do you know whether to put the indirect object before or after the verb? Well, that’s where this guide comes in handy. Keep in mind the following four situations to decide on the placement of indirect objects in Spanish.
1. Indirect Objects in Spanish with One Conjugated Verb
This is the easiest case. If there is only one verb in a sentence and it’s conjugated, the indirect object pronoun always comes before the verb.
Formula: Indirect Object Pronoun (IOP) + conjugated verb
Te cociné una sopa.
I made you soup.
2. Indirect Objects in Spanish with an Infinitive
If you want to use indirect objects in Spanish with an infinitive, you need to see if the infinitive is the only verb in the sentence or it appears together with another conjugated verb form.
With an Infinitive in Simple Form
If the infinitive stands alone, the indirect object pronoun will come right after it.
Formula: Infinitive + IOP
Enseñarle la solución no ayuda.
Showing him the solution doesn’t help.
With an Infinitive in a Verbal Periphrasis
However, if the infinitive is part of verbal periphrasis, and it is accompanied by another, conjugated verb, the indirect object pronoun can go either after the infinitive or before the conjugated verb.
Formula: IOP + conjugated verb + infinitive
conjugated verb + infinitive + IOP
Tienes que comprarle un estuche nuevo. / Le tienes que comprar un estuche nuevo.
You have to buy him a new pencil case.
However, it’s not possible to put the indirect object pronoun before the periphrasis verbal if the conjugated verb appears in the impersonal form.
Hay que darle un descanso.
You have to do it.
Incorrect: Le hay que dar un descanso.
It’s not common to put indirect object pronouns before conjugated verbs that express beliefs, fears, wishes, preferences, or knowledge, such as:
- creer (to believe)
- temer (to fear)
- desear (to wish)
- preferir (to prefer)
Prefiero ignorarte (I prefer to ignore you) is more common and sounds more natural than te prefiero ignorar.
3. Indirect Objects in Spanish with a Gerund
The same rules apply if we use indirect objects in Spanish with a gerund.
With a Gerund in Simple Form
If the gerund stands alone, the indirect object pronoun comes right after it.
Formula: gerund + IOP
Gritándome no conseguirás nada.
Yelling at me you won’t get anything.
With a Gerund in a Verbal Periphrasis
However, if the gerund is part of verbal periphrasis, the indirect object pronoun may go either after the gerund or before the conjugated verb.
Formula: IOP + conjugated verb + gerund
conjugated verb + gerund + IOP
Siempre está dándome lata./ Siempre me está dando lata.
He’s always nagging me.
4. Indirect Objects in Spanish with an Imperative
The Indirect object pronouns go after the imperative in affirmative form.
Formula: Affirmative imperative + IOP
Make me laugh.
Cómprenle algo bonito.
Buy her something beautiful.
In contrast, with negative imperative forms, the indirect object pronoun comes before the imperative.
Formula: IOP + Negative imperative
No me digan.
Don’t tell me.
If the imperative depends on another verb, the indirect object pronoun always goes first.
Que me cuente la verdad.
Let him tell me the truth.
Quiero que me cuente.
I want him to tell me.
Que no me cuentes.
Don’t tell me.
Digo que no me cuentes.
I say you don’t tell me.
Indirect Objects in Spanish: Multiple Choice Quiz
Let’s see how much you already know about indirect objects in Spanish. Challenge yourself with this multiple-choice quiz.
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 Indirect Objects in Spanish
You can read a detailed explanation of the indirect object in Spanish in Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts).
It’s essential to learn this topic along with direct objects. Understanding direct and indirect objects in Spanish gives you a full picture and moves you closer to fluency. Check out:
- The Ultimate Guide to Using Double Object Pronouns in Spanish
- Practice Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish: 10 Brainy Exercises
Keep a positive attitude and dedicate time to this topic if you want to sound like a Spanish native speaker one day. Remember, being bilingual pays off. Literally! According to a study conducted by The Economist, you can earn $50,000 to $125,000 more just by knowing a foreign language.
If you’re serious about gaining fluency in Spanish, sign up for a free trial class to practice indirect objects in Spanish and other topics. The friendly, certified native Spanish-speaking teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy are ready to help you reach your goals!
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