Using Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns


Getting Started

First, a quick review of direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns in Spanish:

direct object pronouns:





lo, la

los, las

indirect object pronouns:







Notice the differences in the third-person row. In order to use object pronouns correctly, we need to know what kind of pronoun we’re dealing with.

We’ve already looked at how to use DOPs and IOPs individually, but what if we want to use them together in the same sentence?

How to Use Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns Together

We can use both a DOP and an IOP in the same sentence. Both of the object pronouns are going to be placed in front of the verb, but we need to pay attention to the order; the indirect object is always going to come in front of the direct object. Therefore the sentence order will be as follows:

subject → IOP → DOP → verb

For example:

Mi madre regaló juguetes a mí.
My mom gave toys to me.

Mi madre me los regaló.
My mom gave them to me.

The indirect object, a mí, becomes me. The direct object, juguetes, becomes los. The order is subjectIOPDOPverb.

Another DOP and IOP example:

Mi abuela mandó unas flores a mi tía.
My grandmother sent some flowers to my aunt.

Mi abuela se las mandó.
My grandmother sent them to her.

What!? Now what just happened? The IOP should be le, right? Yes, but …

Substituting Se

In order to avoid alliteration, if we have two object pronouns in a row that begin with the letter “l,” we always change the first pronoun to “se.” That means that anytime le or les is combined with lo, la, los, or las, the le or les becomes se. This rule only applies to “l” words; me, te, nos, and os are unaffected. And since the IOP always comes first in the sentence, you will only ever substitute se for le or les, never for lo, la, los, or las:




le lo

se lo

le la

se la

le los

se los

le las

se las




les lo

se lo

les la

se la

les los

se los

les las

se las

Note that le and les both become se. There is no “ses”.

For example:

Los estudiantes devolvieron el libro a la maestra.
Jaime mandó la carta a su hijo.
Nosotros dimos las fotos a nuestros padres.

Los estudiantes se lo devolvieron.
Jaime se la mandó.
Nosotros se las dimos.

Alternative Pronoun Placements

If our sentence has an infinitive, we may choose to attach the object pronouns to it:

No te lo quiero comprar. / No quiero comprártelo.
I don’t want to buy it for you.

We may also choose to attach object pronouns to present participles:

Te lo estoy comprando. / Estoy comprándotelo.
I am buying it for you.

If our sentence involves an affirmative command, we must attach our pronouns to end of the verb. The IOP will still come before the DOP:

Buy it for me!

Note: Se substitution rules still apply when attaching pronouns: No quiero devolvérselo.

When attaching pronouns we usually need to add an accent mark to the verb to preserve the original stress. When we have a compound verb, we may either attach our pronouns to the second verb or put them in front of the first, but we can’t put them in between the two verbs.

Furthermore, both of the pronouns stick together; we don’t put one in front of the verb and one behind. And remember, if we don’t have an affirmative command, infinitive, or present participle, the objects must come in front of the verb:

¡No me lo compres!
Don’t buy it for me!

Ya te lo compré.
I already bought it for you.

No te la he comprado.
I have not bought it for you.

What Your Spanish Teacher Isn’t Telling You

As if all this DOP and IOP stuff weren’t hard enough already, there are some regional variances you should be aware of.


Note: While it’s important to be aware of this phenomenon, it is not considered grammatically correct and should be avoided.

In parts of Spain, the masculine DOP, lo, will be replaced with the IOP, le, if the direct object is a person. Occasionally this will happen with the feminine DOP (la) too.


correct Spanish:

leísmo Spanish:

I want to see him.

Yo quiero verlo.

Yo quiero verle.

I know her.

Yo la conozco.

Yo le conozco.

Loísmo and Laísmo

Note: Just like leísmo, loísmo and laísmo are considered incorrect and should be avoided.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, you guessed it, IOPs occasionally get swapped for DOPs as well. This tends to occur due to the fact that le can be very ambiguous since it doesn’t take the gender of the person into account.


correct Spanish:


I spoke to him.

Yo le hablé.

Yo lo hablé.

I gave her a gift.

Yo le di un regalo.

Yo la di un regalo.