Direct Object Pronouns In Spanish | A Simple Guide On How to Use Them

Contrary to what you may think, direct object pronouns in Spanish are here to make your life easier.

Spanish direct object pronouns like me, te, lo, and la are an essential part to a Spanish speakers vocabulary so it’s important that you fully grasp this concept.

Direct object pronouns in Spanish

In this concise article, I’m going to walk you through all the crucial elements of these pronouns that you need to know.

I will be providing you with a plethora of examples to make sure you are fully grasping this topic.

Now let’s get down to business!

What Are Spanish Direct Object Pronouns?

Spanish Direct Object Pronouns

Alright, I know what you might be thinking, what exactly is a direct object pronoun in Spanish?

Simply put, a direct object pronoun replaces a direct object, which is a noun.

By doing this, you avoid unnecessarily repeating the noun.

The noun in question could be a person, a thing, or a noun phrase that directly receives the action of the verb in a sentence.

Did I already lose you?!

If so, no worries, there will be lots of examples coming your way to make sense of all this pronoun jargon.

When you replace the direct object with a direct object pronoun you must make sure it agrees in number (singular, plural) and gender (feminine, masculine).

Singular

Plural

me (me)

nos (us)

te (you, familiar)

os (you-all-familiar)

lo, la (him, her, it, you-formal)

los, las (them, you-all-formal)

It’s not just a Spanish thing though. You have direct object pronouns in English too.

The main difference between the use of direct object pronouns in Spanish and in English is their placement. While in English they are placed after the verb, in Spanish this pronoun is placed in front of the verb.

Let’s take a look at some helpful examples. Remember the direct object (noun) can be a person, a thing, or a noun phrase.

what is a Spanish Direct Object Pronoun?


Pepe besó a Lisa. => Pepe la besó.

Juan cocinó la torta. => Juan baked the cake.
Juan la cocinó. => Juan baked it.

“Torta” receives the action of the verb “cocinar.”

Pepe besó a Lisa. => Pepe kissed Lisa.
Pepe la besó. => Pepe kissed her.

“Lisa” receives the action of the verb “besar.”

Clara comió las manzanas. => Clara ate the apples.
Clara las comió. => Clara ate them.

“Manzanas” receives the action of the verb “comer.”

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Spanish pronouns work the same way. We use them to avoid repetition.

Marcos sonríe porque Marcos es feliz. => Marcos smiles because Marcos is happy.


Marcos sonríe porque él es feliz. => Marcos smiles because he is happy.

Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish: Key Details

Let's take a closer look at how direct object pronouns work.

Don’t worry it gets easier...

Direct Object Pronouns And People: Whom?

Like we established at the beginning of the article, a direct object pronoun replaces a direct object, which is a noun that, among other things, can be a person.

Here’s a question for you.

Whom is the action of the subject (that which gives the action) affecting?

Your answer is the direct object noun.

Remember to make sure the direct object pronoun agrees with the noun in number (singular, plural) and gender (feminine, masculine).

Let’s break it down.

kids hugging
 Los niños abrazaron a sus amigos. => The kids hugged  their friends.

“Sus amigos” is the direct object (noun), which can be replaced by the direct object pronoun “los.”

Los niños los abrazaron. => The kids hugged them.

Here are a few more examples.

La policía detuvo a los ladrones. => The police detained the thieves
La policía los detuvo. => The police detained them

La lluvia mojó a Ana. => The rain got Ana wet.
La lluvia la mojó. => The rain got her wet.

Argentine Slang

La película entristeció al señor Parker. => The movie saddened Mr. Parker.
La película lo entristeció. => The movie saddened him.

La película nos entristeció (a nosotros). => The movie saddened us.

La película me entristeció (a mí). => The movie saddened me.

La película te entristeció (a tí). => The movie saddened you.

La película os entristeció (a vosotros). => The movie saddened you.

Direct Object Pronouns And Things: What?

First, we identify the thing (noun) that receives the action of the verb and then we proceed to replace it with the correct direct object pronoun (masculine, feminine, singular, plural). 

What is the action of the subject of the sentence affecting?

El huracán destruyó la casa. => The hurricane destroyed the house.

Check it out, “la casa” is receiving the action of “destruir.

So that translates to...

El huracán la destruyó. => The hurricane destroyed it.

Here are a few more examples.

Pedro cortó el árbol.  => Pedro cut the tree.

Pedro lo cortó. => Pedro cut it.

Spanish love expressions and words

Carlos me rompió el corazón. => Carlos broke my heart.
Carlos me lo rompió.  => Carlos broke it.

La fe me devolvió la esperanza. => Faith restored my hope.
La fe me la devolvió. => Faith restored it.

Direct Object Pronouns And Noun Phrases

The only difference to the previous examples (people and things) is that noun phrases use more words.

José compró muchas flores. => José bought a lot of flowers.
José las compró. => José bought them.

Clara ha escrito una innumerable cantidad de poemas. => Clara has written an endless amount of poems.

Clara los ha escrito. => Clara has written them.

Spanish Direct Object Pronouns In Negative Sentences And Questions

Take a look at the placement of the direct object pronoun in negative sentences with only one verb.

Let’s compare an affirmative and a negative sentence so you can see it clearly.

First, let's start with an affirmative sentence.

Spanish Direct Object Pronoouns

Él lee novelas románticas. => He reads romantic novels.


Él las lee. => He reads them.

Negative sentence
Él no lee novelas románticas. => He doesn’t read romantic novels.
Él no las lee. => He doesn’t read them.

Let’s compare a few more.

Argentinian Slang

Ella las quiere. => She wants them.
Ella no las quiere. => She doesn’t want them.

Ellos lo buscan. => They look for him/it.
Ellos no lo buscan. => They don’t look for him/it.

Los entregué. => I delivered them.
No los entregué. => I didn’t deliver them.

Ellos nos gritaron. => They yelled at us.
Ellos no nos gritaron. => They didn’t yell at us.

As you can see, the placement of the word “no” after the subject, makes the whole sentence negative.

Now let’s compare affirmative and negative sentences with two verbs.

When this happens, the first verb is conjugated and the second one remains in the infinitive form.

Also, there are two possible spots for the direct object pronoun: right before the conjugated verb or attached right after the infinitive.

?

Spanish Direct Object Pronoun Comparison

Option 1 
Lo quiero estacionar. => I want to park it
No lo quiero estacionar. => I don’t want to park it


Option 1
La puedo terminar. => I can finish it
No la puedo terminar. => I can’t finish it.


Option 1
Lo prefieren escuchar más tarde. => They prefer to listen to him/it later. 
No lo prefieren escuchar más tarde. => They don’t prefer to listen to him/it later. 

Option 2
Quiero estacionarlo. => I want to park it
No quiero estacionarlo. => I don’t want to park it.


Option 2 
Puedo terminarla. => I can finish it
No puedo terminarla. => I can’t finish it.


Option 2
Prefieren escucharlo más tarde. => They prefer to listen to him/it later. 
No prefieren escucharlo más tarde. => They don’t prefer to listen to him/it later.

I have good news for you! These same rules apply for questions, both affirmative or negative!

Ella las quiere. => She wants them.
¿Ella las quiere? => Does she want them?

Los entregué. => I delivered them.
¿Los entregué? => Did I deliver them?

La puedo terminar. => I can finish it.
¿La puedo terminar? => Can I finish it?

Puedo terminarla. => I can finish it.
¿Puedo terminarla? => Can I finish it?

Summing Up the Essentials...

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As a reminder, what is a direct object pronoun in Spanish?

  1. Direct object pronouns are: me, te, lo, la, nos, os, los, las.
  2. Noun and direct object pronouns must agree in number (plural, singular) and gender (feminine, masculine).

In order to master these pronouns those are two rules you must know.

In addition, direct object pronouns replace…

  • People - Marcos ama a Claudia. Marcos la ama. => Marcos loves Claudia. Marcos loves her.
  • Things - Marcos compró el auto. Marcos lo compró. => Marcos bought the car. Marcos bought it.
  • Noun phrases - Marcos lee muchas novelas románticas. Marcos las lee. => Marcos reads a lot of romantic novels. Marcos reads them. 

Affirmative vs. Negative sentences  => Same Rules Apply to Questions!

Here’s a few examples of affirmative and negative sentences.

Notice how option 1 and 2 have two verbs and can be used in two different ways.

Marcos la ama. => Marcos loves her.
Marcos no la ama. => Marcos doesn’t love her.

When there are two verbs you have two options...

Option 1
Marcos la quiere amar.  => Marcos wants to love her.
Marcos no la quiere amar. => Marcos doesn’t want to love her.


Option 2
Marcos quiere amarla. => Marcos wants to love her.
Marcos no quiere amarla. => Marcos doesn’t want to love her.

Final Piece of Advise (For Spanish Students)

There is one more important thing to remember.

Even though the two languages share similarities, Spanish and English ARE completely different languages.

You’ve probably noticed that sometimes you are able to translate word for word...

Pedro come bananas. => Pedro eats bananas.
Pedro las come. => Pedro eats them.

...and sometimes it’s just not that easy.

When to use Spanish Direct Object Pronouns

La compré.
                         => I bought it.
Lo compré.

Confusing, right?

Sometimes a literal translation can end in a hot mess.

La compré (DOES NOT EQUAL) It I bought. Do NOT attempt to do this at home!

When it comes to translating, you must be open minded.

Over time, you will learn to translate groups of words and phrases, without questioning it and without translating word for word. Accept and embrace.

Lo acepto. I accept it.

Once you do this, you will be a happier Spanish student because of it. I’m completely confident you will be speaking with Spanish direct object pronouns in no time.

Te lo prometo.

5 thoughts on “Direct Object Pronouns In Spanish | A Simple Guide On How to Use Them”

  1. Great explaination of direct object pronoun use. Thank you. I do have a question. In the following examples why is the word ‘me’ left in the sentence using the d.o. pronoun?

    Carlos me rompió el corazón. => Carlos broke my heart.
    Carlos me lo rompió. => Carlos broke it.

    La fe me devolvió la esperanza. => Faith restored my hope.
    La fe me la devolvió. => Faith restored it.

  2. Hola, ¿cómo estás? Vengo a comentar para decirte en serio felicitaciones por tu blog está súper completo y tiene todo muy bien explicado. Pienso que si alguien no sale de aquí aunque sea sin un poco de conocimiento, no sé en que está pensando. Sigue así, ayudarás a muchos.

    Saludos desde Venezuela.

    • Hola Sabrina,

      Muchas gracias por tu lindo comentario. Me alegra escuchar que te gusta lo que estamos haciendo, y sí, queremos ayudar a muchos. Un abrazo.

      Andrea

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