Lo, la or le? Direct and indirect pronouns

Lo, la or le? Direct and indirect pronouns

Sometimes it can be difficult to know if you should use lo/la or le when we talk about people in Spanish.
You see it with both, but why? Isn't a person indirect object and therefore le?

Well, let's go into detail and see all the different cases:

Direct object

About objects or people
What or who

Veo un parqueLo veo
I see a park/I see it

Veo a tu padreLo veo
I see your dad/ I see him

What /who do you see? - The park/your dad

Indirect object

Usually about people, but can also work for objects
To what or to/for whom

Can have the preposition “a” (to) or “para” (for)

Le arreglé la chaqueta
I fixed him/her the jacket / I fixed the jacket for him/her

Le arreglé la manga a la chaqueta
I fixed the sleeve “to” the jacket / I fixed the jacket’s sleeve

To/for whom I fixed the jacket?
To what jacket I fixed the sleeve?

Usually, we need use the indirect object pronoun even when we're not replacing (read the rest of the post to see when that doesn't happen):

Le arreglé la manga a la chaqueta
Le arreglé la chaqueta a Pedro

Direct and indirect object

If there is a direct object and also an indirect object in the sentence:

Verb + something + to someone

Use one for each:

La,lo,los,las for the something
Le/le for someone

The indirect object (in this case le/les) will go first.

When le/les it's combined with lo/la/los/las it becomes "se": se lo, se la, se los, se las.

Dar - to give
Someone gives something to someone

María (le) da una planta a Martín
María gives a plant to Martín
Le – Martín

María la da a Martín
María gives it to Martín
La – planta

María se la da
María gives it to him
Se – Martín la - planta

Again in this case,we really need to use the indirect object pronoun even when we're not replacing:

Le doy una planta a Martín

Verb + direct object only

This happens in two situations:

1- Verbs + personal "a"

If you can ask "who do you _" and answer with the person in the sentence, it's a direct object.

You can use "le/les" also, but you don't need to

Ayudar a + person – To help someone

Ex: La ayudo / le ayudo - I help her.
Lo ayudo / le ayudo - I help him.

Officially, the rule says we have two options for masculine (le or lo) but for feminine, you can only use "la", although we generally don't pay much attention to that rule in the practice.

To want something
To love someone

La quiero - I love her / I want it (fem object)

What do I want? / Who do I love? – Both are direct object

2- Verb + either person or object

When a verb allows an object or a person but not both and the meaning doesn't change we use direct object regardless

Ex: Perdonar - To forgive someone, never something

Le perdono or lo/la perdono -I forgive him/her

Because there is no confusion whatsoever in these two cases, we don't use the indirect object pronoun when we're not replacing:

Right: Perdono a mi amiga .
Wrong: Le perdono a mi amiga. We don't need that le.

Verbs that change meaning

If I can have a direct object or a indirect object but each goes with a different meaning, I have to choose:

Ex: Pegar

To hit someone
to stick something somewhere

Lo/la pego en la nevera - I stick it in the fridge
Le pego - I hit him/her

Everytime I use the direct object it means I'm choosing to talk about an object and the meaning is "to stick something"

Everytime I use the indirect object I'm choosing the meaning of "to hit someone"

Verb + someone + infinitive

Verb + someone + do something
Nothing changes, you still need to identify if it's direct or indirect object.

Examples with lo/la

Hacer + infinitive (do make someone do something)

When the second verb has no direct object, we use "lo/la/los/las" before hacer:

Lo hago correr – I make him run

When the second verb has direct object, we use "le/les" before hacer:

Le hiciste comer insectos - You made him/her eat insects.

Ver + infinitive (do see someone do something)

La vi coger un taxi – I saw her take a taxi

Example with le

Ex: Querer + person (to want to do something for someone)

Le quiero regalar algo – I want to buy something for him/her.

Him or her is the recipient of something – I use Indirect object

It’s not to love someone,like in the previous section, so using direct object would be confusing.

We don't need the indirect object pronoun when we mention the person in this case, but we can use it.

Quiero regalar algo a mi prima - we don't need the le but it's fine to use it: "le" quiero regalar algo a mi prima.

Key points

If I had to summerise this theory to give you the information that will make the most impact, most of the times, it would be:

1- Querer - lo/la/los/las with things or actions (wanting something or to do something) and le/la/les/las with people (loving people).

2- Ver - to see things or people, both are direct objects (lo/la/los/las.

3- Verbs for communication - The person will always be indirect object (le/les) and the direct would be what you're saying, if it exists (usually it does).

4- Make someone do something. You can use lo/la/los/las if there's only an infinitive, but use le/les if there is a direct object too.

5- For emergencies: If you're in doubt and there's one person or object (just one), go for direct. If you have both, think the object is the thing and the person the indirect.

I'm referring to lo,la,le... pronouns to give these tips because those are where people would make a mistake most often and when it would show, but of course both direct and indirect objects can be replaced with me,te,nos,os too, it's just that in that case if you don't know which is it, it's not going to be noticed as they are the same for both direct and indirect.


Use le, les, lo, la, los or las to fill in the blanks. Use “se” (instead of le/les) if necessary.

  • _ quiero ver pronto (mi mejor amiga)

I want to see _ soon(my best friend).

  • Puedo cuidar___ los días que estás fuera.

I can take care of it (the boy) the days you're out.

  • Voy a pegar___ (el imán) en la nevera.

I'm going to stick/hit _ (the magnet) in the fridge.

  • ¿Estás utilizando__ todavía? (la lavadora)

Are you still using__ (the washing machine)?

  • Nunca vas a olvidar___ (a ella).

You're never going to forget_ (her).

  • Siempre voy a ayudarte. Recuérda___

I'm always going to help you. Remember_

  • _ corté las hojas (a la planta)

I cut_ the leaves (to the plant)

  • __ quiero muchísimo (a mi sobrino)

I love_ a lot (my nephew).

  • _ hice coser su propio chaleco (a él)

I made _ (him) sew his own vest.

  • ____ hice coser (a él)

I made _(him) sew.

  • _ he pensado y creo que no voy a ir.

I have thought about _ and I think I'm not going to go.

  • ¿Cuándo ___ lo vas a decir? (a tu novio)

When are you going to tell _? (to your boyfriend)

  • _ avisé (a él) de que iba a llegar tarde

I warned __ that I was going to be late.


I know this can be tricky!
So read it as many times as possible, think of more examples and let it sink in, with patience!

¡Hasta luego! :)