Well I’m quite pleased with myself because I’ve managed to explain to my own satisfaction the meaning and use of the direct object pronoun in Spanish, which is no small task. Whether I’ve explained it to your satisfaction is quite another matter, but there again, that’s the beauty of writing for a magazine; you never actually find out what confusion you might have caused.
What I promised this month was a bit of consolidation; that is, looking at what we have already talked about in some sort of context. Even this isn’t as easy as you might think because in many typical everyday sentences some other pesky things called Indirect Object Pronouns pop up all over the place and I’m attempting to keep them out of it for the time being.
Here are one or two examples:
Mi madre me visita cada verano.
My mother visits me every summer.
Te veo mañana a la misma hora, ¿vale?
I’ll see you tomorrow at the same time, okay?
Lo comió todo de un tirón.
He (or she) ate it all in one go.
These three examples obey the rule we looked at before, which said that we have to put the Direct Object Pronoun in front of the verb and after the subject if there is one, as in:
Mi madre me visita … (My mother me visits …)
However, there are three instances, (and these are in fact very common), where the Direct Object Pronoun appears in a different place in the sentence. Here they are and I’m sure some will sound familiar to you; in fact one type we have looked at a bit already:
The Direct Object Pronoun can be tacked onto the end of these three forms:
The gerund (ie. – ing equivalent):
I am buying it.
Ese hombre está mirándote.
That man is looking at you.
The imperative (ie. commands):
Wait for us.
Infinitives (the basic form):
Tienes que explicarlo.
You have to explain it.
Voy a buscaros.
I’m going to look for you/I’m going to get you (plural you).
You may have noticed that in some of these examples we have added an accent. That is there to preserve the emphasis on the correct part of the verb and make sure it is not distorted by making the word longer.
One more important point:
In the case ‘gerunds’ (no. 1) and ‘infinitives’ (no. 3) the Direct Object Pronouns can in fact go in either place in a sentence. The difference just being a case of style and choice, so all the examples below are correct:
Estoy comprándolo./Lo estoy comprando
Ese hombre está mirándote./Ese hombre te está mirando.
Tienes que explicarlo/Lo tienes que explicar
Voy a buscaros/Os voy a buscar
If you’re not really coping with this, and I imagine that some of you aren’t, I can only console you by saying that this is one of the fiddliest things we ever have to learn! If you haven’t got it, forget it for now, or just memorise one or two examples you think might be useful.
Until next month – I hope!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.