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Spanish: Direct and Indirect Objects

Written by tutor Jamie L.

You might be thinking about good old fashioned sentence diagramming when you think of grammar. I will not be covering that, but I will be discussing the correct usage of direct and indirect objects in Spanish.

Direct Objects

Think in terms of the basic structure of a sentence; S (subject) + V (verb) + O (object). You should be able to answer the question “what?” or "who?" For example:

La familia cocina la cena.
(The family cooks the dinner.)
S + V + O

La familia cocina "what?"
La cena (direct object).

Often the direct object is reduced to a pronoun “it.” To appropriately determine the proper pronoun for it, you look to the quantity and gender of the object noun. In this case, “la cena” is singular and feminine, so it will be converted to “la.”

La familia la (direct object) cocina.
(The family cooks it.)

The direct object pronouns are:

me
te
la, lo
nos
os
las, los

Indirect Objects

These are who the action happens to. You should be able to answer the question, “for whom?” or “to whom?” when it relates to which item is the indirect object. For example:

La familia cocina la cena para nosotros.
(The family cooks the dinner for us.)

La familia cocina la cena "for whom?"
Nosotros (indirect object).

Similar to the direct object, the indirect object can be replaced by a pronoun. The pronoun will agree in number to the recipients. In this case, “nosotros” is plural, so it will be converted to “nos.”

La familia nos la cocina.
(The family cooks it for us.)

The indirect object pronouns are:

me
te
le
nos
os
les

Note: The indirect object pronoun always comes before the direct object pronoun when using them together in a sentence. Also, when the direct object is “lo,” “la,” los,” or “las,” and the indirect object is “le” or “les,” the indirect object is converted to “se.”

le(s) lo = se lo
le(s) la = se la
le(s) los = se los
le(s) las = se las

Double verb sentences

In sentences with two verbs, the indirect and direct objects can be compounded onto the end of the second infinitive verb. For example:

La familia debe cocinar la cena para nosotros.
(The family should cook the dinner for us.)

La familia debe cocinárnosla.
(The family should cook it for us.)

When attaching the indirect and direct objects after the second verb, an accent needs to be placed above the last vowel in the second verb and emphasis is given to that syllable.

Hopefully this is helpful to you as you study and prepare for speaking Spanish fluently!

Direct and Indirect Object Quiz

Determine whether the underlined word is a direct or indirect object.

A direct object of a sentence should be able to answer the question, “what?”

A. True
B. False
The correct answer here would be A.

When converting direct and indirect objects to pronouns in the same sentence, the direct object goes first?

A. True
B. False
The correct answer here would be B.

The indirect object should be listed first.

Which of the following is the correct conversion for “le” and “les” as indirect object pronouns when the direct object is “lo,” “la,” “los,” or “las?”

A. fe
B. se
C. de
The correct answer here would be B.

To able to attach the indirect and direct objects to the end of a verb, there must be an infinitive verb to attach it to?

A. True
B. False
The correct answer here would be A.
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