Spanish has a lot of quirks that make it difficult for native English speakers. One of these quirks is choosing le or lo in a sentence.
When choosing ‘le’ or ‘lo’ we can feel confused because of how similar they sound.
The difference between these two comes down to simple grammar.
Let’s outline common situations when you need to use ‘le’ in Spanish.
What is “le” in Spanish?
‘Le’ is an indirect object pronoun in Spanish. The indirect object pronoun tells us who or what received an action. We use it when multiple objects are in a sentence. It can be masculine and feminine. You don’t always need ‘le.’ Other times it is obligatory and cannot be ignored, the sentence decides.
What are the rules for “le” in Spanish?
You need to follow a few rules when using ‘le’ in Spanish.
When a referent appears before the verb, you must always include the indirect object pronoun ‘le.’ A referent is who or what the sentence is telling us received the action.
If the referent appears after a verb, you do not need to use ‘le.’ Still, many Spanish speakers will use this.
How can you use ‘le’ in a Spanish sentence?
Usually, the indirect object pronoun ‘le’ tells us about people.
It can have the preposition “a” (to) or “para” (for).
It is not uncommon to see ‘le’ after a referent and before a verb in Spanish. Here is how you can use it with referents before the verb.
A mi amiga le escribo un correo electrónico.
I write an email to my friend.
Here you can see the preposition ‘a’, which tells us the referent in the sentence. ‘Mi amiga’ is the referent before the verb ‘escribo.’
Since the referent is before the verb, you must say ‘le’ after it. If you do not use it, your sentence is wrong because the referent is before the verb.
In this sentence, my friend is the indirect object because she receives the letter. The letter is the direct object because I am writing it.
‘Le’ tells me about the person receiving the letter, not the letter itself.
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When to use ‘le’ if there is a direct and indirect object?
When there is a direct and indirect object in a sentence, you can use lo/la for the thing and ‘le’ for the person.
The indirect object pronoun ‘le’ should come first.
Let’s see an example and explanation.
Le arreglé la bicicleta roja.
I fixed his/her red bike.
‘Le’ is telling us about the person. In this case, we do not know if it is a boy or a girl.
We must include ‘le’ before the noun because it tells us who we fixed the bike for. The bike is the direct object because I fixed it, so we use la.
Le’ is the indirect object because it tells me who I fixed the bike for. In this sentence, ‘le’ tells us about a person.
When using le to refer to a direct object there are two possible situations
The first is using a verb and the personal ‘a.’ Personal ‘a’ comes before a person in a Spanish sentence that is a direct object.
You can find the direct object by asking “who do you” and if your answer is a person, they are the direct object. It’s also easy to find this because the person ‘a’ will come before the name.
Do not use the personal ‘a’ with animals or objects, only people.
Le besé a Juan.
I kissed Juan.
Here you can see ‘le’ and ‘a Juan.’ Juan is the direct object in this sentence and you know because you personal ‘a’ comes before Juan.
Juan is a person so you use ‘le’ in front of the verb and the personal ‘a.’ You can ask, “who do you kiss?” and because the answer is Juan he is the direct object.
The personal ‘a’ literally means ‘to Juan’ but we do not need to say ‘to’ in English because it’s incorrect to put a preposition between a verb and subject.
In Spanish, you must include the personal ‘a’ when the direct object is a person or the sentence is wrong.
Here’s another example.
A ella le llamo.
I call him/her.
Here ‘le’ tells us about the direct object because ‘a ella’ has the personal a. It tells us the person or object that received the action and means ‘to/for.’
Again you can ask, “who did you call?” and reply with ‘ella’ or her. So, we know she is the direct object.
In English we remove this because it’s incorrect to says “I call to her.” In Spanish you must include this or the sentence is incorrect.
You can use la for a woman instead of ‘le’ if you want. According to the RAE (Real Academia Española), you should use la.
But when people speak this rule is often ignored and you will hear “le llamo.” It is descriptive grammar, not prescriptive.
The next situation is when a verb allows an object or person but not both. In both instances, we will refer to a direct object.
When we have a transitive verb like this we remove ‘le’ because it is not needed. A transitive verb is one that requires an object that is a person or a thing.
Some verbs like ‘dar’ (give) require an object so it is a transitive verb. We cannot give someone nothing, we must give them something.
Here’s an example and an explanation.
Perdono a mi amigo.
I forgive my friend.
Here my friend is the direct object. We must remove ‘le’ because there is no indirect object.
There is only the direct object, my friend. We know he is the direct object because we are forgiving him.
We cannot say the following sentence.
Le perdono a mi amigo.
When we say ‘le’ here it is incorrect because he is not an indirect object of the verb.
When can you exclude ‘le’ in a sentence?
When a referent appears after a verb, then ‘le’ is optional. Many Spanish speakers will still include ‘le’ when speaking.
Let’s see an example sentence using and excluding ‘le’ for reference.
El perro mordió al niño.
The dog bit the boy.
Here the referent (el niño) comes after the verb (morder). We can use “le,” but it is optional.
It does not change the meaning of the sentence if we remove this. Let’s see how the sentence will look with “le.”
El perro le mordió al niño.
The dog bit the boy.
Here we included the optional le. Since the referent (el niño) comes after the verb we do not need to include this.
In this sentence, ‘le’ still tells me about the indirect object that received the action. It means that the dog bit the boy.
The boy received the action, not the dog.
If you want to understand when to use le in a sentence you need to understand grammar.
It depends on the sentence and its structure.
If you are referring to an indirect object you need to use ‘le’ in Spanish.
If you are referring to a direct object use lo/la/los/las according to the noun you are talking about.
Frequently asked questions about “le” in Spanish
Is ‘le’ always needed?
No, sometimes you can leave it out. If a referent comes after a verb you can remove le.
Does le always refer to an indirect object?
No. Sometimes it can refer to a direct object but only when a noun is transitive. It is not correct when writing but is often done when speaking.
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How do you use Le in Spanish? ›
Le and les are the indirect object pronouns of Spanish, but they are sometimes used in situations where English uses direct objects. Verbs used to indicate that something gives pleasure or displeasure often use le. Several verbs use le when the object of a verb is a person but lo or la when the object is a thing.How do you know when to use Lo or Le? ›
The big takeaway is that lo (and la, los, and las) are direct objects–the verbed nouns–and le (or les and sometimes se) are indirect objects, which play an additional essential role in a situation when the verb calls for it.How do you know when to use indirect object pronouns in Spanish? ›
The Spanish indirect object pronouns are used to replace a word or phrase, which in the sentence, fulfills that function. They are usually placed before the verb, when this is conjugated. If the verb is not conjugated, then the indirect object pronoun is placed after the verb.Where do you put Le? ›
It can be placed at the end of a sentence; It can be used to indicate that something has happened or has occurred; It can be used to show or confirm a certain fact; There usually is a time word in the sentence; if not, the sentence will indicate that something happened or occurred just now.What is the example of Le? ›
In the masculine, we use the definite article “ le ” or “ l' ”. For example: “le bus” or “l'avion”. In the feminine, we use the definite article " la " or " l' ".What is Le Gusta? ›
s/he likes; you like (formal)What is Le in a sentence? ›
Le and les are pronouns: they replace a noun (person, animal or thing) used as the indirect object in the sentence (object introduced by the preposition a).What is Le in plural? ›
The French word for “the,” if followed by a masculine noun, is “Le” if followed by a feminine noun, it is “La” and, when followed by any noun in the plural, it is “Les”Can Le be a direct object? ›
Direct objects can be replaced by direct object pronouns (me, te, le, la, nous, vous, les), which will agree in number and gender with the noun they replace. Direct object pronouns precede the verb in all sentences except affirmative imperatives. Elle les met.How do you know which indirect object pronoun to use? ›
You must use an indirect object pronoun any time there is an indirect object, but you may choose to use only the indirect object pronoun if the actual indirect object is clear. The indirect object pronoun is placed before the conjugated verb or attached to an infinitive like a direct object.
How do you tell if a sentence has an indirect object? ›
You can find an indirect object by asking yourself “who or what is receiving the direct object?” In the example sentence above, who is receiving the ball? Simmons gets the ball in the pass, so Simmons is the indirect object. Indirect objects can only be placed directly after the verb and before the direct object.Why is there an A before le gusta? ›
Spanish: A él le gusta escuchar la música. Literal Translation: Listening to music is pleasing to him. The personal “a” is used in this sentence because the pronoun for the word he (él) is used before the conjugated verb form. 5.When placed after an adjective What does Le indicate? ›
When an adjective indicates a change to the subject, 了(le) is placed at the end of the sentence to indicate a change of state.What type of pronoun is le? ›
Me, te, le, nos, os, les are indirect object pronouns in Spanish. They are used to indicate who benefits from or is affected by the action of the verb in the sentence. The most common translations in English are: (to/for) me, you, him, her, us, them. As pronouns they replace people, animals or objects.What is Le in a word? ›
a suffix of verbs having a frequentative force: dazzle; twinkle. a suffix of adjectives formed originally on verbal stems and having the sense of “apt to”: brittle. a noun suffix having originally a diminutive meaning: bramble.What is Le Casa? ›
La Casa in Spanish means “the home, the house”, buying a property is one of the most expensive expenses and important assets for people.What does Le Pepe? ›
pépé, le ~ (m) (grand-père) grandfather, the ~ Noun. grandpa, the ~ Noun. granddad, the ~ Noun.What is no me gusta? ›
i don't like.Is Le past tense? ›
As we know that only action verbs can be marked as complete, '了(le)' can only be used with action verbs to indicate past tense.How do you use le gusta in a sentence? ›
(Pizza is pleasing to you.) Le gusta la pizza. She likes pizza.
Is Le definite or indefinite? ›
The French definite articles are le for masculine nouns, la for feminine nouns, or l' when the noun begins with a vowel. Les is used for plural nouns. The French indefinite articles are une for feminine nouns, un for masculine nouns, and des for plural nouns.Does Le mean he or she? ›
You can also use 'le' as an indirect object pronoun for both genders. "To him" and "to her" are the same in Spanish, but 'le' can also mean just 'him'.Which is correct Sally and me or Sally and I? ›
The important part of that lesson was being polite, not using good grammar. But you need to know that you should say "Sally and I" ONLY when you need the subject of a sentence or phrase. If the words "Sally and I" are serving as the object of a phrase, then you need to switch to "Sally and me."Should it be me or I? ›
Sometimes it can be tricky to determine if you should be using "me" or "I" in a sentence. Use the pronoun "I" when the person speaking is doing the action, either alone or with someone else. Use the pronoun "me" when the person speaking is receiving the action of the verb in some way, either directly or indirectly.Is pizza a direct object? ›
For example: Laura wants pizza. In this sentence, “pizza” is the direct object that Laura wants.What are the three rules of pronouns? ›
RULE: Pronouns have three cases: nominative (I, you, he, she, it, they), possessive (my, your, his, her, their), and objective (me, him, her, him, us, them). Use the nominative case when the pronoun is the subject of your sentence, and remember the rule of manners: always put the other person's name first!What is the rule of changing pronouns? ›
Rule 1. If the reported speech has 1st person pronoun (e.g., I, we, me, my, mine, us, our), and the reporting verb has 3rd person pronoun (e.g., he, she, they, it, his, her, their, its), the pronoun of the reported speech is changed according to the pronoun (subject) of the reporting verb.How do you tell if a word is a direct or indirect object? ›
A direct object is the person or thing that directly receives the action or effect of the verb. It answers the question "what" or "whom." An indirect object answers the question "for what," "of what," "to what," "for whom," "of whom," or "to whom" and accompanies a direct object.What two questions do direct object pronouns answer? ›
A direct object answers the question of who(m) or what. In the sentence above, you could determine that 'baseball' is a direct object by asking the question: What did Alice catch? She caught the baseball.What are the 5 indirect object pronouns? ›
The IO pronouns are: me, te, le, nos, os, les. Place the pronoun before the conjugated verb.
Is cake an indirect object? ›
Cake is therefore the direct object because it is the direct receiver of the action of baking: it was the cake (and not Jason) that was baked.What are the 2 preposition used in indirect object? ›
Indirect Objects or Prepositional Phrases
'Indirect objects' can be placed at the end of the sentence following the prepositions 'to' and 'for. ' In this case, they make a prepositional phrase that is used as a complement, not as an indirect object.
'La' = 'it' for feminine nouns and is also the word for 'her'. 'Le' = this is called the indirect object pronoun, we'll talk more about that later. For example, let's take a book. In Spanish, this noun is masculine - 'el libro'.Is Le used for masculine? ›
In summary: The + masculine noun = le. The + feminine noun = la.Is it Le or la Leche? ›
- La leche (The milk)Is it la Rouge or Le Rouge? ›
La rouge. Yes, That car, the red one,/cette voiture, la rouge. since car(voiture) is feminine, you use 'la' .What is a ella le gusta? ›
Speaking. (a ella) le gusta cantar. she likes singing.How do you respond to le gusta? ›
The answer will be sí, me gusta(n)… or no, no me gusta(n)…What is Le pronoun? ›
Le replaces any masculine noun, whether human or inanimate, while la replaces any feminine noun. Le is also a neuter object pronoun.What is the contraction for a Le? ›
À + le = au, à + les = aux, de + le = du, de + les = des (French Contracted Articles)
Which part of speech is le? ›
a suffix of verbs having a frequentative force: dazzle; twinkle. a suffix of adjectives formed originally on verbal stems and having the sense of “apt to”: brittle. a noun suffix having originally a diminutive meaning:bramble.Is Le an indefinite article? ›
There are two types of articles: definite articles (articles définis) (le, la, les) and indefinite articles (article indéfinis) (un, une, des).