Direct Object Pronouns
Pronoun: a pronoun stands for, or replaces, a noun. In the example which follows, He and Él are the pronouns that replace the noun. In this case, because the noun is the subject of the verb, He and Él are subject pronouns.
Roger teaches. He teaches. / Roger enseña. Él enseña.
Direct Object: In the sentence Roger teaches Spanish / Roger enseña el español, we find the direct object of the verb by asking the question "What does Roger teach?" Answer: Spanish. Spanish is, then, the direct object of the verb to teach. This question and answer sequence can be used in most cases: I see the book / veo el libro; what do I see? The book / el libro -- direct object.
Direct Object Pronouns: To locate a direct object pronoun, we join the two preceding sequences: I see the house / veo la casa; I see it [la casa] / la veo. Note that in Spanish, the direct object pronoun is placed directly before the conjugated verb. There are three exceptions to this rule, and we will discuss them later.
Direct object pronouns may refer to people: me, you, him, her, them, us etc / me / me, te / you, nos / us, os / you (vosotros), la / her or it, las / them (people and things), le / him, les / them [leísmo is to use the le / les form for males; this is done mainly in Spain], lo / it or him , los / them (people and things) , [loísmo is to use the lo / los form for males; this is done mainly in Latin America].
Pronouns as code: To use pronouns is to speak in code. She sees it / ella la ve. Who is she? What does she see? The only clue we have, in Spanish, is that she is feminine singular and what she sees is feminine singular too! Breaking the pronoun code is one of the most difficult things to do in any language. Context and understanding the context are essential!
Direct object pronouns may also refer to things. In this case, with the exception of el, which changes to lo, the direct object pronoun is the same as the definite article.
I see the book / veo el libro; I see it / lo veo.
I see the house / veo la casa; I see it / la veo.
I see the dogs / veo los perros; I see them / los veo.
I see the pens / veo las plumas / las veo.
Position of pronouns: As we said earlier, pronouns are usually placed immediately before the conjugated verb. However, there are three exceptions to this rule:
1. Pronouns follow, and are attached to, an infinitive:
I want to write the exam / quiero escribir el examen. // I want to write it / quiero escribirlo [lo quiero escribir is also acceptable in some regions]. I hope to buy the house / espero comprar la casa. // I hope to buy it / espero comprarla [again, la espero comprar is sometimes heard].
2. Pronouns follow, and are attached to, a present particple:
I am watching television / estoy mirando la televisión // I am watching it / estoy mirándola. [Again, la estoy mirando is also becoming more accepted]. Note that when you add a pronoun to a present participle, you must add an accent to the vowel that would normally be stressed: mirAndo / mirÁndola.
3. Pronouns follow, and are attached to, a positive command:
Look at it! / ¡Mírelo Ud.! (usted form), ¡Míralo tú! (tú form), ¡Mírenlo Uds.! (ustedes form). Note that when you add a pronoun to a positive command, you must add an accent to the vowel that would normally be stressed: ¡Mire usted! / ¡MÍrelo Ud.!
Return to Basic Grammar