7.4 Indirect Object Pronouns

Spanish indirect object pronouns are the same in form as direct object and reflexive pronouns, except in the third persons.

Singluar Plural
me – (to) me nos – (to) us
te – (to) you-fam. s. os – (to) you-fam. pl. [Spain only]
le – (to) him, her, it, you-form. s. les – (to)them, you-form. pl.

Especially in the third persons, you will often see what can be described as a “redundant” indirect object pronoun when a prepositional phrase clarifies (or emphasizes) it. This is because the pronoun, which may refer to an object as well as a person, must be present in the first place so that the prepositional phrase is clarifying or emphasizing it.

Emilio le dice la verdad. Emilio tells her (him, you) the truth.

But:

Emilio le dice la verdad a él. Emilio tells him the truth.
Emilio le dice la verdad a ella. Emilio tells her the truth.
Emilio le dice la verdad a Ud. Emilio tells you the truth.

Likewise:

Simón les cuenta mentiras. Simón tells them/you [pl.] lies.

But:

Simón les cuenta mentiras a ellos. Simón tells them lies.
Simón les cuenta mentiras a Uds. Simón tells you (pl.) lies.

There is also flexibility in the placement of the prepositional phrase. Some of the above examples could also be Emilio le dice a Ud. la verdad and Simón les cuenta a ellos mentiras. 

No clarification is ever needed with the first and second persons, though a prepositional phrase may be used for emphasis. (See section 8.2)

Me dice la verdad. He tells me the truth (tells the truth to me).
Me dice la verdad a mí. He tells me the truth (the truth to me).

As with direct object and reflexive pronouns, when a conjugated verb + infinitive is present, the indirect object may either precede the conjugated verb or be attached to the infinitive:

¿Vas a comprarme el boleto? Are you going to buy me the ticket?

Or:

¿Me vas a comprar el boleto? Are you going to buy the ticket for me?

As can be seen in the second English translation above, the indirect object can at times translate as “for” instead of, or as well as “to.” Although the Spanish examples above are synonymous, the English are not necessarily so, though context should clear up the mild ambiguity if needed.

Especially in more literary writing, the indirect object pronoun is at times seen with the verb ser (and occasionally estar and other intransitive verbs) and often translates as “for” + prepositional object pronoun. Study these examples:

Esto le es difícil. (Esto es difícil para ella.) This is difficult for her.
Nos es imposible. (Es imposible para nosotros.) It’s impossible for us.
Estas respuestas me son convincentes. (Estas respuestas son convincentes para mí.) The answers are convincing to (for) me.

The parenthetical sentences are the more common of the two possibilities, and these provide no particular comprehension difficulty, while the ones not in parentheses may pose a problem in understanding.

Last revised on June 16, 2021.