Keys with easy examples to know more about the direct and indirect object in Spanish.
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Direct and indirect object in Spanish language

In Spanish language, the verb has a series of complements (elements with the function of complementing the verb). Two basic complements are Direct Object (DO) and Indirect Object (IO).

The Direct Object is the person, animal or thing that suffers verbal action. It usually follows to the verb and it is never followed by a preposition (except the preposition “a”, which is the only preposition that can accompany Direct Object).

DO doesn’t have to agree in number and person with the verb. The verbs that can’t make a complete predicate, that is, the verbs that need a Direct Object, are named “transitive verbs”. (Examples: “comprar” (to buy”), “leer” (to read), “mirar” (to look).

On the other hand, the verbs that can’t be followed by a Direct Object are named “intransitive verbs”. (Examples: “ir” (to go), “nacer” (to be born), “morir” (to die), “llorar” (to cry), “florecer” (to bloom), etc.)

We can identify DO from the following criteria:

1. Asking the verb: “¿qué? (what?) or “¿a quién?” (to whom?):
El otro día fui al hospital a ver a Adrián. > ¿A quién fui a ver al hospital? > A Adrián.

2. It can be replaced by the pronouns lo(s), la(s), depending on the grammatical gender and the number:
El otro día fui al hospital a ver a Adrián > El otro día fui al hospital a verlo.
Me comí todas las lentejas > Me las comí todas.

Note that in some regions of Spain, also is used the pronoun “le(s)” in this context to refers to people.

El otro día fui al hospital a ver a Adrián > El otro día fui al hospital a verle.

3. If the Direct Object is an object, it can be replaced by “eso”/ “esas cosas”.:

Voy al cine a ver un documental > Voy al cine a ver eso.

4. In a passive sentence, the Direct Object is the passive Subject:

Voy al cine a ver un documental > El documental va a ser visto en el cine.
Note that in some cases, this “transformation” is no possible.

The Indirect Object is the person, animal or thing that indirectly receives benefit or damage of the action. It can be followed by the prepositions “a” and “para”.

Compró comida para Rosa
CD                  CI

We can identify Indirect Object from the following criteria:

1. We must ask the verb “¿a quién? (to whom) or “¿para quién?” (for whom?)
Compró comida para Rosa

¿Para quién compró comida? > Para Rosa.

2. Indirect Object can be replaced by “le(s)”, regardless if the IO is female or male

Escribí una nota al profesor > Le escribí una nota.
Pidió disculpas a su hermana > Le pidió disculpas.

If IO and DO are in the same sentence with pronominal forms, the Indirect Object is replaced by “se”. The order of the sentence is: IO+ DO

Compró comida para Rosa > Se la compró.
Se (Rosa) la (comida) compró.

IO + DO + Verb

By Veronica Rodriguez , who is graduate in Spanish Language and Hispanic literatures by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, for Practica Español

(Text translated by Sandra Municio)

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