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Published on: Grammar Bites

What are ‘los objetos indirectos’?

Recently we discussed the very important objetos directos, and now it’s the turn of their sometimes partners: los objetos indirectos. Let’s have a look!

We use indirect object to indicate where the action received by the direct object is going.

  • María compra un libro a JuanMaria buys a book for Juan.
  • Juan prepara una sorpresa para MaríaJuan prepares a surprise for María.

The indirect object answers the question “¿A quién?” (To whom?) or “¿Para quién? (For whom?) the action of the verb is performed.

  • ¿A quién le compra el libro María? María lee el libro a Juan. For whom does María buy the book? María buys the book for Juan.
  • ¿Para quién prepara una sorpresa Juan? Juan prepara una sorpresa para MaríaFor whom does Juan prepare a surprise? Juan prepares a surprise for María.
Important:

Sentences that have an indirect object usually also have a direct object, but a lot of times that direct object will be implied or understood by context.

  • María le lee (un libro) a Juan todas las noches. She reads (a book) to him every night.
INDIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS

We can also use pronouns to replace the full version of the indirect object.

Person Number of the object pronoun
1st person, singular María me envía una postal (a mí). María sends me a postcard.
2nd person, singular María te envía una postal (a tí). María sends you a postcard.
3rd person, singular María le envía una postal (a él, a ella, a usted). María sends him/her/you (formal) a poscard.
1st person, plural María nos envía una postal (a nosotros/nosotras). María sends us a postcard.
2nd person, plural María os envía una postal (a vosotros/vosotras). María sends you a postcard.
3rd person, plural María les envía una postal (a ellos, a ellas, a ustedes). María sends them a postcard.

Indirect object pronouns do not change according to gender and they typically go before the verb.

  • María envía una postal a Juan. –> María le envía una postal. María sends a postcard to Juan. –> María sends him a postcard.
  • María envía una postal a Ana. –> María le envía una postal. María sends a postcard to Ana. –> María sends her a postcard.
  • María envía una postal a Juan y a Pedro. –> María les envía una postal. María sends a postcard to Juan and Pedro. –> María sends them a postcard.
  • María envía una postal a Ana y a Rosa. –> María les envía una postal. María sends a postcard to Ana and Rosa. –> María sends them a postcard.
Important:

The form se is used when the indirect object pronoun and the subject are the same. This form can be equivalent in English to the reflexive pronouns (-self), and we use it for all numbers and genders. This form can also be equivalent to the English reciprocal, each other or one another.

  • María se envía una postal. Maria sends herself a postcard.
  • Los niños se envían una postal. The children send themselves a postcard or the children send each other postcards.

Indirect object pronoun can be repeated if the speaker wishes to put emphasis on it.

  • María me envía una postal. María sends me a postcard.
  • María me envía una postal a míMaría sends me a postcard (as opposed to other people).
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