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Grammar Basics



Spanish 101A

Spanish 101B

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In English, the Direct Object is an object which receives the "direct" action of a verb. If I buy a book, the book is the direct object because it is what I buy - it is being bought. It is being directly acted upon by the verb.

In English the direct object follows the verb in an active voice sentence.

Let's take a look at an example:

I steal the car.

Now let's examine the components of the sentence.

I This is the subject of the sentence - the person in charge of the verb.
steal This is the verb (and as a transitive verb, it transfers action to an object and so requires an object)
the car this is the direct object (it receives the action of the verb): The car is what I steal. The car is what is being stolen.

Now replace the Direct Object [the car] with a Direct Object Pronoun [it]:

I steal it.

"It" is a direct object pronoun ("it" refers to what was stolen - in this case, a car)

Why do we use a Direct Object Pronoun?

This relieves us from endlessly repeating the Direct Object itself:

I pick up the book. I look at the book and decide to buy the book.


I pick up the book. I look at it and decide to buy it.

Now let's look at the same sentence in Spanish:

Yo robo el carro.

Again, let's examine the components of the sentence.

Yo = the subject
robo = transitive verb
el carro = the direct object
  • Now we replace the Direct Object [un carro] with a Direct Object Pronoun [lo].
  • We use lo because carro is masculine and singular. Lo = it (un carro) [See the chart below for all of the direct object pronouns.]
  • * Yo robo [lo].

Direct Object Pronoun Placement (applies to all pronouns)

  1. In Spanish you must place the direct object pronoun directly in front of the active (conjugated) verb when you only have one verb: Yo lo robo.

  2. When we have compound verbs (two verbs) we can always put it directly in from of the conjugated verb: (Yo) lo voy a robar;
    • But since we have two verbs, we have two options. We can attach the pronoun to the end of an infinitive or a present participle:
      • Yo voy a robarlo. (infinitive)
      • Yo estoy robándolo. (present participle)

  3. Pronouns can also be attached to Affirmative commands- click here for information on commands and pronouns.
    • Róbalo [Affirmative Command]

We put an accent on robándolo and róbalo to preserve the pronunciation. If you aren't sure where to put the accent, cover up the direct object pronoun and pronounce the participle naturally: "roBANdo ". The vowel in the stressed syllable is where you put the accent. This will be on the "A" for -Ar verbs and on the "E" for -Er and -Ir verbs.

We can never place an object or object pronoun between the elements of compound verbs or verb phrases:

*Voy a lo hacer nor *Tengo lo que hacer.

The Direct Object pronouns:

Yo me nos Nosotros
Tu te os Vosotros
Él, Usted (male)
["it" masculine]
lo los Ellos, Ustedes
["those things" masculine]
Ella Usted (female)
["it" feminine]
la las Ellas, Ustedes
["those things" feminine]