Direct objects and their corresponding pronouns are an essential part of the Spanish language. Learn how to use them properly with this easy guide:
What is a direct object?
A direct object is the name we give to either an object or person who is directly impacted by the action of the verb:
- María compró el libro. María bought the book.
- Juan prepara la cena. Juan prepares dinner.
- María llamó a Juan. María called Juan.
The direct object answers the question “¿qué?” (what?) or “¿a quién?” (whom?) when we wish to know what the doer of the action (sujeto/subject) is doing:
- ¿Qué compró María? María compró el libro. What did María buy? María bought the book.
- ¿Qué prepara Juan? Juan prepara la cena. What does Juan prepares? Juan prepares dinner.
- ¿A quién llamó María? María llamó a Juan. Whom did María call? María called Juan.
Direct object pronouns
To avoid repetition within a conversation or text, we can replace the full version of the direct object for their corresponding pronoun:
|Person||Number of the object pronoun|
|1st person, singular||María me conoce (a mí). María knows me.|
|2nd person, singular||María te conoce (a ti). María knows you.|
|3rd person, singular||María lo/la conoce (a él, a ella, a usted). María knows you.|
|1st person, plural||María nos conoce (a nosostros/nosotras). María knows us.|
|2nd person, plural||María os conoce (a vosotros). María knows you.|
|3rd person, plural||María los/las conoce (a ellos, a ellas, a ustedes). María knows them.|
In Spanish, direct object pronouns vary according to both gender and number of the noun referred to.
Notice also that the direct object pronoun goes before the verb.
- María compra la camisa. –> María la compra. María buys the shirt. –> María bought it.
- María compra el billete. –> María lo compró. María buys the ticket. –> María bought it.
- María compra las camisas. –> María las compra. María buys the shirts. –> María bought them.
- María compró los billetes. –> María los compra. María buys the tickets. –> María bought them.
Please note that:
The form se is used when the direct object pronoun and the subject are the same. This form is equivalent in English to the reflexive pronoun (-self).
- María se peina. Maria combs her hair (literally – María combs herself).
- Las niñas se peinan. The girls comb their hair (literally – The girls comb themselves).
Compared the above examples with the following ones where the subject and direct object are different:
- María peina a su niña. –> María la peina. María combs her daughter. –> Maria combs her.
- Las niñas peinan a sus muñecas. –> Las niñas las peinan. The girls comb their dolls. –> The girls comb them.
Direct object pronouns can be repeated if the speaker whishes to put emphasis on it.
- María me conoce. María knows me. (Just a fact).
- María me conoce a mí. María knows me (as opposed to other people).
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