Spanish Grammar Guide

Order of Pronouns

Overview of Pronoun Order:

Review of Direct and Indirect Objects and their Pronouns

Remember, the direct object answers the question "what?"/¿qué? in relation to the verb. The indirect object answers the question "for/to whom?"/¿a/para quién? in relation to the verb, e.g.:

  • El camarero muestra el menú a los clientes.

In this example, el menú is the direct object, answering the question "what did the waiter show the clients?"/¿qué muestra el camarero a los clientes? In the same example, los clientes is the indirect object, answering the question "who did the waiter show the menu to?"/¿a quién muestra el menú? In general, the indirect object usually refers to a person, as opposed to an inanimate object. Let's review how to replace each type of object with corresponding pronoun.

We can replace the direct object with a direct object pronoun, agreeing in person, number and gender with the direct object, e.g.:              

  • El camarero lo muestra a los clientes.  

In this example, the direct object pronoun lo replaces the direct object el menú.        

We can replace the indirect object with an indirect object pronoun, agreeing in person and number with the indirect object, e.g.:

  • El camarero les muestra el menú.

In this example, the indirect object pronoun les replaces the indirect object los clientes.

The pronouns almost always go before the conjugated verb (i.e.: before muestra in these examples).

Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns Used Together

Now that we have reviewed how objects can be replaced with direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns in order to avoid repetition, we will look at how these pronouns can be used together. We can replace BOTH the direct object and the indirect object with their respective pronouns at the same time. When we do this, the indirect object pronoun ALWAYS goes before the direct object pronoun (IO before DO). Let's look at a few examples to see how this works.

  • El camarero sirve la comida a nosotros.                         

In this example, the direct object is la comida, which requires la as a pronoun, e.g.:

  • El camarero la sirve a nosotros.

In the same example, the indirect object is nosotros, which requires nos as a pronoun, e.g.:

  • El camarero nos sirve la comida.

To use both pronouns in the same sentence, put them both before the verb, with the indirect object pronoun before the direct object pronoun (IO before DO), e.g.:

  • El camarero nos la sirve.

Let's look at one more:        

  • Escribo una carta a ti.

In this example, una carta is the direct object, which requires la as a pronoun, e.g.:

  • La escribo a ti.

In the same example, ti is the indirect object, which requires te as a pronoun, e.g.:

  • Te escribo una carta.

To use both pronouns in the same sentence, put them both before the verb, with the indirect object pronoun before the direct object pronoun (IO before DO), e.g.:

  • Te la escribo. 

Remember, you can always place the pronouns before the conjugated verb. However, they can also be attached to infinitives or present participles as one word, just as the individual pronouns can. Note that you must add an accent on the normally stressed syllables when you add the pronouns to the infinitive or present participle. The following examples illustrate further how to use the pronouns together:

  • Regalan un libro a nosotros. > Nos lo regalan.
  • Pasa las bebidas a mí. > Me las pasa.
  • Preparo los camarones a vosotros. > Os los preparo.
  • Estoy trayendo mucha ropa a ti. > Te la estoy trayendo. OR Estoy trayéndotela.
  • No quieren dar dinero a mí.> No me lo quieren dar. OR No quieren dármelo.

Do not separate the pronouns and to not place them so as to separate a verb phrase, for example:

  • Pasa las bebidas a mí. > Me pasa las.
  • Estoy trayendo mucha ropa a ti. > La estoy trayéndote.

Third Person Object Pronouns Used Together

¡OJO! There is an irregularity when the indirect object pronoun refers to the third person (le, les). When this pronoun is used with the third person direct object pronouns lo/la or los/las, you must use a different indirect object pronoun, se. A rule to remember is that if there are two pronouns that start with the letter 'l', you must change the indirect object pronoun to se. Let's look at some examples to see how this works:

  • El camarero muestra el menú a los clientes.

The direct object is el menú, requiring the pronoun lo. The indirect object is los clientes, which would normally require the pronoun les, and you might be tempted to use the pronouns together like this:

  • El camarero les lo muestra.

However, this is incorrect. You must change les to se, as shown here:

  • El camarero se lo muestra.

All double 'l' combinations follow this same pattern: le(s) lo, le(s) los, le(s) la, and le(s) las. In all these cases you must substitute se for the indirect object pronoun le(s). Let's look at a few more examples:

  • El joven da un beso a su novia. > El joven se lo da. NOT El joven le lo da.
  • Nosotros queremos regalar ese carro rojo a nuestro hijo. > Nosotros queremos regalárselo. OR Nosotros se lo queremos regalar. NOT Nosotros queremos regalárlelo.
  • Tú devolviste sus discos campactos a ellas. > Tú se los devolviste. NOTles los devolviste.
  • Yo escribo una carta a María. > Yo se la escribo. NOT Yo le la escribo.

Note also that when the indirect object is the third person, the pronoun and the full indirect object are often used together. This is because the third person le(s) or se is ambiguous as to who is being referred to. The full indirect object phrase is included in order to clarify or emphasize, an example of which can be seen here:

  • El camarero se lo muestra a ellos/a ustedes/a ellas/a él/a ella/a ustedes/a Sarah. 

The use of the explicit third person object is avoided when it is clear who you are referring to through context, for example if the third person object was just previously mentioned as in:

  • Sarah quiere el pescado, pero el camarero no se lo puede traer porque no hay pescado.

Pronoun Order in Imperatives

Object pronouns that are used in affirmative imperatives are attached to the end of the imperative form, requiring an accent to be added on the normal stressed syllable of the imperative, e.g.:

  • Cómetela.
  • Tráemelos.
  • ¡Ábresela!

The order of the pronouns is the same as for the declarative sentences we saw above: the indirect object pronoun always comes before the direct object pronoun. In addition, the same double 'l' rule applies, changing le(s) to se if the second pronoun also starts with 'l'. 

In negative imperatives, the pronouns are always placed before the verb and also follow the same order as in declarative sentences with the indirect object pronoun always being placed before the direct object pronoun, e.g.:

  • No quiero el pan blanco, no me lo traigas.
  • Están allí los periódicos, no se los lleven a ningún lado.

Image result for cuidado

Tricky Stuff

  • The indirect object pronoun always goes before the direct object pronoun.
  • The pronouns can always go immediately before the conjugated verb, except for affirmative commands that must have the pronouns attached to the end of the verb.
  • When the pronouns are attached to the end of a verb, you usually have to add an accent to the vowel of the verb that would normally receive stress.
  • For third person pronouns, you cannot use any combination of double 'l', so le(s) is changed to se if it occurs before the direct object pronouns lo/la/los/las.
 
AppStore/Android AppStore
Android Market