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Spanish 101A

Spanish 101B

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In English, the Indirect Object follows the verb in an active voice sentence just as a Direct Object does. But the function of an Indirect Object is different. Instead of being the object of the action of the verb as a Direct Object is, the Indirect Object is the person or thing to whom or for whom the action is performed:

I write a letter (direct object) "to my friend" (indirect object)

I bought a sweater (direct object) "for Jennifer" (indirect object)

She borrowed a CD (direct object) "from me" (indirect object)

The Direct object is something that is acted on directly by the verb whereas the Indirect object gets the Direct object (thereby being indirectly affected by the verb.)

I like to think of it as, the direct object gets the direct action. The indirect object gets stuff.

Keanu besa a la profe (here la profe is the direct object and gets all the kissing action.

Keanu le da un beso a la profe. (here la profe is the indirect object, and she get the kiss (which is given as the direct object.)

In English, the Indirect Object pronouns are Me, You, Him, Her, Us, and Them which are different from the Subject pronouns which are I, You, He, She. It, We, They.

In Spanish, they are

Subject Pronoun

Indirect Object pronouns

Yo Me
Te
Él, ella, usted Le
Nosotros Nos
Vosotros Os
Ellos, ellas, uds. Les

Note: There are no masculine or feminine Indirect Object Pronouns - only singular or plural. (Yay!)

Let's look at an example: (Remember that sentences marked with * are grammatically incorrect.)

I give a ticket to the crazed driver.

Let's take a look at the components of the sentence:

I the subject (the person for whom we conjugate the verb)
give the verb [transitive] (transfers action to an object -requires an object)
a ticket direct object (receives the action of TO GIVE) - it's what is given.
(to) the crazed driver the indirect object (this is to whom the ticket is given)

Now let's replace the Indirect Object "the speeding maniacal driver" with the Indirect Object Pronoun ("him") This pronoun will refer to the driver without naming him.

  • I give him [or her] a ticket.

Now we'll do a similar sentence in Spanish:

Yo le doy una boleta al chofer loco.

Let's take a look at the components of the sentence:

Yo the subject (the person for whom we conjugate the verb)
doy the verb [transitive] (transfers action to an object -requires an object)
una boleta direct object (receives the action of TO GIVE) - it's what is given.
(al) chofer enloquecido

the indirect object (this is to whom the ticket is given)

Let's replace the Indirect Object chofer with the Indirect Object Pronoun le. We use le because chofer is singular.

*Yo doy una boleta [le].

Like the Direct Object pronoun, in Spanish you must place the indirect object directly in front of the active (conjugated) verb:

Yo le doy una boleta.

"But wait!", you say, "The le was already there!"

The sample sentence was "Yo le doy una boleta al chofer loco!"

This is because Spanish uses redundant object pronouns to specify the person to whom the speaker is referring. In English, we either use the pronoun or name the indirect object but not both:

"You give the money to Thomas."

or "You give the money to him."

But not: *"You give him the money to Thomas" .

I have to replace Thomas' name with the pronoun in English - I can't use both in English.

But we can use both the pronoun and the indirect object in Spanish. In fact, even when you identify the person by name, you must still use an Indirect Object pronoun:

Yo le doy el dinero a Tomás.

We cannot say * Yo doy el dinero a Tomás.

Clarification Tags

The a Tomás calarifies to whom you are referring specifically. We know that Le (him) refers to Tomás.

If I say, Te doy el dinero or Sara nos dio la información or even Sara me escribió un email, we know who the indirect object is (You, us or me). It is with le and les that confusion can occur:

  • Le di el libro is vague if we don't already know exactly to whom I am referring. It means "I gave the book to him / her / you formal."
  • Le di el libro a Juan is much clearer: I gave the book to Juan.

  • Les mandé las cartas is not as specific as Les mandé las cartas a Ken y Barbie.
  • It all depends upon whether you need to clarify to whom you are referring.

  • Note that we use the Directional (prepositional) "a" when we add the indirect object:
      • Le di el libro a Antonio.
      • Me dio las flores a mí.
      • Nos describió la escena a nosotros.
      • Les mostró las fotos a los estudiantes.
      • Te dio un beso a ti.

Information on Pronoun Placement

  • All Pronouns are placed directly before a single conjugated verb, and can be placed before the conjugated verb even when we use a compound verb:
      • Yo le doy una boleta.
      • Yo le quiero dar una boleta.

  • And, we can attach it also to the end of a present participle or an infinitive:
      • Yo quiero darle una boleta.
      • Yo estoy dándole una boleta.
  • (We put an accent on dando to preserve the pronunciation.)