Combining Spanish Pronouns

If you’ve got a good grasp on the direct pronoun and indirect pronoun, you’ll soon find situations where you need to use both of these in the same clause. If you’re a grammar geek like we are, you can appreciate a kind of beautiful simplicity in Spanish, using few words efficiently where English uses many.  While combining pronouns is not particularly tricky, there are a couple of things to bear in mind. In this article, we outline what you need to know to combine the direct and indirect pronoun.

First off, let’s take a look at those pronouns side by side:

 

Direct Object Pronouns

Indirect Object Pronouns

Translation

me me me
te te you (informal)
lo, la le him, her, it, you (formal)
nos nos us
os os you (plural, informal)
los, las les them, you (plural, formal)

 

You’ll find that you need to use both types of pronoun in certain sentences – here are a couple of examples in English (direct object pronoun, indirect object pronoun):

I gave it to him

She told it to us

Word order

When both pronouns are used, the indirect pronoun goes before the direct one:

Te lo daré → I’ll give it to you 

Nos lo dijo → She told us

With negative statements, the negative word (“no”, “nunca”, etc) goes before both pronouns:

No me lo dió → He/she didn’t give it to me

Some word changes

When certain pronouns combine, the indirect pronoun becomes “se”.

 

This…

Becomes…

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

 

As you can see, this applies when both pronouns begin with the same letter “l”. This was originally to avoid tongue-twisting – “se la” is easier to say than “le la”. In each case, either “les” or “le” becomes “se”:

Se lo compró → He/she bought it for them

As “se” can be translated in so many ways, you´ll often find speakers using a personal pronoun to clarify things. This can be placed at the start or the end:

Se lo compró él or

él se lo compró

That’s it! Those are the basics of what you need to know to combine pronouns in Spanish. As we always say, true understanding of this will come with exposure and practice. So, check out our Spanish courses and see if you can spot us using these!

  • edell

    how does using a personal pronoun clarifay “se” ? – el se lo compro- (el=compro) nothing to do with “se” ?????

  • Jim G

    In the discussion “Combining Pronouns” you use the example “se lo compró él” to clarify why a personal pronoun is sometimes necessary. But isn’t “él” in the above example being used as a subject pronoun rather than an IO pronoun? Did you mean to say “se lo compró a él”?

    • spanishobsessed

      Hi Jim
      In this example, the “él” is the subject pronoun, as you say. We use “él” to clarify, as it could equally be “se lo compró ella”, for example, and we want to emphasise and clarify that it is he that is buying, rather than she.

      Hope that makes sense!