DIRECT TO PRONOUNS
If you think of how often we use pronouns in English, you wonder how we would be able speak without them. It’s no different in Spanish. There are many types of pronouns but the Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish (and English) are probably used most often. If we can get a good grasp on their placement and meaning in a Spanish conversation, it will help us understand and speak Spanish much better. It will also help us to learn about other types of pronouns. In some of my other articles, you have already seen several types of pronouns, especially direct object pronouns and reflexive pronouns. As the article on reflexive verbs included the use of reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, themselves etc.), this article will look further at using direct object pronouns.
Direct object pronouns take the place of an understood noun. All parties in a conversation have to know what or who is being referred to before they can start replacing a noun with a pronoun. Direct object pronouns answer the question in a sentence “whom” or “what”. For example, if I walked into a store and said, “I want to buy it”, the clerk’s first question would be “WHAT do you want to buy”? Or, walking into a hotel I ask the bellhop “Is she here”? He would ask me, “Is WHO here”?
In Spanish, the placement of pronouns in a sentence is usually (not always) different than English. This does take a bit of getting used to. I remember when I first started to learning Spanish pronouns, I was frustrated. But after wrestling with them for a while it was not so bad.
The direct object pronouns and their meanings are as follows:
Me – me. (pronounced almost like “may”).
Te – you (informal).
La or Lo – him, her, you, or it, (remember gender).
Las or Los – them, you-all. (If there is a gender mix, use los).
Nos - We
In a sentence with only one verb, the direct pronoun is always placed in front of the conjugated verb. The exception is when a direct pronoun is used in a one word Spanish command. We will look at Spanish commands in another article. In a normal sentence, placing the pronoun at the beginning of a verb is the reverse in English, and sounds odd to us. Look at these examples and assume you already know the “who” or “what” that is being referred to:
I invited her to the movies last night. - La invité al cine anoche.
She saw him at El Rey yesterday. – Lo vió en El Rey ayer.
They visited them today. – Los visitaron hoy.
I see it now. – Lo veo ahora.
I know you. – Te conozco. (informal)
They know us. – Nos conocen.
With the direct pronoun placed at the beginning of the verb, the examples translate like this:
Her, I invited to the movies last night.
Him, she saw at EL Rey yesterday.
Them, they visited today.
It, I see now.
You, I know.
Us, they know.
If you think of the sentence being structured this way it will be easier to place the pronoun correctly.
With a sentence containing two verbs, the first verb is usually conjugated and the second is in its ‘raw’ or infinitive form. You can either place a direct pronoun before the conjugated verb like the examples above, or you can place it after the infinitive. If placed after the infinitive, the infinitive verb and the pronoun form a single word. In the below examples, the pronoun is capitalized to highlight this:
I need to buy it at Super 99 as soon as possible. – Lo Necesito comprar en Super 99 en cuanto sea posible. Or, Necesito comprarLO en cuanto sea posible.
You don’t have to do it right now. – No lo tienes que hacer ahora mismo. Or, No tienes que hacerLO ahora mismo.
The beer (la cerveza). Are you going to drink it? - ¿La Va a tomar (or beber)? Or, ¿Va a tomarLA?
The wine (el vino). Are you going to sell it? – ¿Lo va a vender? Or, ¿Va a venderLO?
Your car (el carro). You should drive it slow when it rains. Lo debe manejar lento cuando llueve. Or, Debe manejarLO cuando llueve.
Placing the direct pronoun after the infinitive sounds more natural to us because that is where it is placed in English. However, you should get used to both ways, as you will hear it in Spanish used both ways.
You can also place a direct pronoun after a gerund or an “ing” word (playing, doing, following etc.). For example:
My chores. I am doing them now! – ¡Mis tareas, las estoy haciendo ahora! Or, ¡Estoy haciendoLAS ahora!
She is following me. – Ella me está siguiendo. Or, Ella está siguiendoME.
The game (el partido). They are playing it in the park. El partido. Lo están jugando en el parque. Or, Están jugandoLO en le parque.
Here again it is natural for us to want to put the pronoun after the gerund because it follows English. But do get used to using it each way.
The use of direct object pronouns in Spanish does become more complicated at times. But once you get the hang of using these pronouns, similar to examples above, your Spanish will become a lot more streamlined and efficient. Also, you will have a good base to learn more about direct pronouns and other pronouns in Spanish. Not to mention, you will become familiar with yet another challenging area of Spanish.
Hope this helps!