Los pronombres de objeto directo

Antes de entrar en una explicación de la formación y la función de los pronombres de objeto un español, es importante reinforzar un aspecto fundamental de la sintaxis (orden de palabras) el español en contraste con la sintaxis del inglés. El inglés suele seguir el siguiente orden de palabras:

Sujeto ... Verbo ... Objeto ...
The boy sees the girl.

Por esta razón el anglohablante espera que el primer elemento de una oración sea el sujeto, o el agente de la acción. Es decir, la persona o la entidad que hace la acción. En el ejemplo, “the boy” es el sujeto de la oración, o el que hace la acción. El objeto es el elemento de la frase que recibe la acción—en este caso, “the girl”. Muchas veces el objeto contesta las preguntas, “¿qué?” o “¿quién?”. En las frases típicos del inglés, el objeto se encuentra después del verbo.

The boy sees what or whom?

The boy sees the girl.

En español, el orden de palabras en una oración es variable:

Sujeto ... Verbo ... Objeto ...
El chico ve a la chica.
Objeto ... Verbo ... Sujeto ...
A la chica ve el chico.

Se usa la palabra “a” para señalar que el elemento de la frase es el objeto, así eliminándose cualquier ambigüiedad o confusión. 

Processing the first element of the sentence as the object rather than the agent of the action of the verb is really hard for English speakers. We really want that first element to be the subject of the sentence. As you can imagine, this leads to frequent misinterpretation of sentences that have O(bject) V(erb) S(ubject) word order in Spanish. 

What does all of this have to do with object pronouns in Spanish? Well, they come before the verb, too. But first, let’s recall what pronouns are and what purpose they serve. Pronouns take the place of a noun when we know what it is we are referring to.

The boy sees the girl.

When we know who and/or what we are talking about, we can use pronouns to replace the nouns in a sentence:

He sees her.

FORMAS

Subject pronouns   Object pronouns
I we   me us
you you (guys)   you you
he/she/it they   him/her/it them
Pronombres de sujeto   Pronombres de objeto
yo nosotros/as   me nos
vosotros/as   te os
él/ella1 ellos/ellas   lo/la los/las

[1There is no subject pronoun “it” in Spanish. You just omit the subject: El coche es nuevo. Funciona muy bien. (The car is new. It works very well.) Many English speaking Spanish learner really want “lo” and “la” to be subject pronouns equivalent to “it” in English because they use to filling that spot before the verb, but alas, they are ALWAYS object pronouns.]

Going back to our example sentence, in English, the pronouns still follow our expected word order

He sees her.
S V O

In Spanish, however, sentences that include object pronouns can be OVS or SOV, and the subject pronoun is optional!

La ve (él).
O V S
(Él) la ve.
S O V

When an English-speaking learner sees a sentence like the ones above, there is a strong inclination to interpret the first element of the sentence as the subject or agent, resulting in the incorrect interpretation, “She sees him.” In order to successfully interpret these sentences, you really have to pay attention to whether the first element of the sentence is a subject pronoun or an object pronoun!

All of the examples so far have included both subjects and objects that are human. The same Spanish object pronouns are used for inanimate objects.

El chico lee el libro
The boy reads book.

El chico lo lee.                   o          Lo lee el chico.
The boy reads it.                          The boy reads it.

Lo lee.
He reads it.

El chico escucha la radio
The boy listens to the radio.

El chico la escucha        o        La escucha  el chico.
The boy listens to it.                       The boy listens to it.

La escucha.
He listens to it.

La chica mira los partidos.
The girl watches the games.

La chica los mira.            o           Los mira la chica.
The girl watches them.                The girl watches them.

Los mira.
She watches them.

La chica lee las cartas.
The girl reads the letters.

La chica las lee.               o           Las lee la chica.
The girl reads them.                    The girl reads them.

Las lee
She reads them.

One final note: Understanding this intellectually (which we are sure you do or you would be going immediately to your instructor’s office hours) and being able to process direct object pronouns in real time are two very different things. Retraining your brain to accept the first element of a sentence as an object takes practice. Take the following mini quiz to make sure that you understand the concepts and then practice in MySpanishLab.

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