Where to Place Direct and Indirect Pronouns in Spanish?


When it comes to Spanish, placing the indirect and direct pronouns correctly can be very challenging for new and even experienced Spanish speakers. However, learning where to put these pronouns in a sentence is very important for both your grammar skills and achieving fluency. 

So how do you place indirect and direct pronouns in Spanish? If it’s conjugated, indirect pronouns go before the verb. But, if the verb is either in the infinitive, gerund or imperative form, it may go after the verb and become one word. Direct object pronouns always go after the indirect pronoun. 

Just as in English, direct and indirect pronouns are very important because they’re not only replacing an important component, but also because they allow us to shorten our sentences, making our conversation more natural and fluent. 

Since this is a very wide topic, in this article, we’ll only show you where you need to put these pronouns in a sentence. We’ll give you some examples so you have a better understanding of this topic. Finally, we’ll provide you with some general rules that you need to keep in mind when using indirect and direct pronouns. These are some of the topics will cover in this article:

  1. Placing Indirect and Direct Pronouns in a Sentence
  2. How to Place Direct and Indirect Pronouns
  3. Indirect and Direct Pronouns with Infinitives and Gerunds
  4. Using Indirect and Direct Pronouns with Commands
  5. Direct and Indirect Pronouns Used Together

Where do you put indirect and direct Spanish pronouns in a sentence?

As you may know, all pronouns have one job: replace a part of the sentence in order to make it shorter or less repetitive. However, before you start working with these pronouns, you want to make sure that the context is clear enough and that using pronouns won’t affect your sentence’s clarity. The following sentence is a good example of when NOT to use an indirect pronoun:

Sí, se los compré ayer Yes, I bought them for her yesterday

So, when it comes to indirect and direct pronouns you have to keep in mind that these pronouns need to follow a specific order, which can vary depending on:

  • The conjugation of the verb 
  • The number of verbs that you have in your sentence
  • Presence of direct and indirect objects together in a sentence

So, when it comes to the placement, generally speaking, if the verb is conjugated, the pronouns will go before the verb. 

Sí, se los compré ayer Yes, I bought them for her yesterday

However, if the verb is either in gerund or infinitive form, you may choose to put these pronouns either before the first verb or after the second one. 

María quiere comprártelos María wants to buy them for you

María te los quiere comprar María wants to buy them for you

Notice that if you use both direct and indirect objects together in a sentence, you always need to first place the indirect object and then the direct object. 

María te los quiere comprar María wants to buy them for you

In the following sections, we’ll discuss more in-depth about how to place these pronouns correctly depending on the sentence you’re using them in. 

How to place indirect and direct pronouns in Spanish

Before we learn how and where to place pronouns in a sentence, you should be aware that if your sentence has both objects (direct and indirect), you can decide to replace just one

In order to make this process easier for you, we’ll start by showing what to do if you just want to replace one object. Let’s begin with a base example:

Compraré unas flores y unos chocolates para mi mamá I’ll buy some flowers and chocolates for my mom

As you may notice, the previous sentence has both objects. So if it’s clear that you were about to buy something for your mom, you can replace ‘mom’ with an indirect pronoun.

Le compré flores y unos chocolates I bought her flowers and chocolates

So if you pay attention to the sentence, you’ll start noticing the placement pattern that you need to follow. Here’s how to do it:

[Indirect pronoun] + [conjugated verb] + [direct object]

Les regalé un viaje a Perú I gave them a trip to Peru

Le compré flores y chocolates I bought her flowers and chocolates

You should also apply this rule in negative sentences:

No + [Indirect pronoun] + [conjugated verb] + [direct object]

No le compré flores y chocolates I didn’t buy her flowers and chocolates

If instead of replacing the indirect object you rather work with direct pronouns, you’ll need to follow a very similar structure phrase. Remember that in this example ‘chocolates’ are our direct object. 

[Direct pronoun] + [conjugated verb] + [indirect object]

Los compré para mi mamá I bought them for my mom

No los compre para mi mamá I didn’t buy them for my mom

Indirect and direct pronouns with infinitive verbs and gerunds

In the previous examples, we discussed that the direct and indirect pronouns go before the verb as long as it’s conjugated. However, this order may change if you have more than one verb in your sentence and one of them is in the infinitive or the gerund form. 

Voy a comprar flores y chocolates para mi mamá I’m going to buy flowers and chocolates for my mom

Estoy comprando unos chocolates para mi mamá I’m buying chocolates for my mom

In these examples, we can notice that:

  • Flores is the direct object.
  • Mamá is the indirect object.
  • There are two verbs: the first one is conjugated (voy) and the second is in infinitive form (comprar) and in gerund form in sentence number two.

With these sentences, you have two options to place the pronouns: 

Option 1: 

[Indirect pronoun] + [conjugated verb] + [verb infinitive form] + [direct object]

Le voy a comprar flores y chocolates I’m going to buy her flowers and chocolates

[Direct pronoun] + [conjugated verb] + [verb infinitive form] + [indirect object]

Los voy a comprar para mi mamá I’m going to buy them for my mom

Option 2: 

[Conjugated verb] + [verb infinitive form] + [indirect pronoun] + [direct object]

Voy a comprarle flores y chocolates I’m going to buy her flowers and chocolates

[Conjugated verb] + [verb infinitive form] + [direct pronoun] + [indirect object]

Voy a comprarlos para mi mamá I’m going to buy them for my mom

Notice that if you decide to use option 2 and place the pronoun after the infinitive verb, both the verb and the pronoun become one word: comprarle or comprarlos. You can also use these past rules when the second verb is in gerund form, here are some examples:

Estoy comprándolos I’m buying them

Le estoy comprando flores y chocolates I’m buying her flowers and chocolates

Direct and indirect object pronouns with commands in Spanish

So far we know that when it comes to placing these pronouns in a Spanish sentence, you should put them before the verb if it’s conjugated. And if you have a sentence with two verbs you can either place them after the second verb (which will be in infinitive or gerund form) or before the first verb. 

However, if you’re working in the positive imperative, the tense that allows us to give commands, you will always need to place them after the verb.

[Verb in imperative form] + [indirect pronoun] + [direct object]

¡Comprále esos chocolates! Buy her those chocolates!

Regálales este libro Give them this book

[Verb in imperative form] + [direct pronoun] + [indirect object]

¡Cómpralos para mi mamá! Buy them for my mom!

¡Regálalo a mi mamá! Give it to my mom!

This rule does not apply in negative imperative.

No + [indirect pronoun] + [direct object] +  [verb in imperative form] 

¡No le compres esos chocolates! Don’t buy her those chocolates!

¡No los compres! Don’t buy them

Using direct and indirect object pronouns together in Spanish

So far we’ve learned where and how to place either the direct or the indirect pronoun in a sentence. However, in a regular Spanish conversation, it’s more common to try to make the sentences as short as you can by removing elements that are clearly implied. We do this by using indirect and direct object pronouns together.

Let’s start working with some sentences that have the two objects: 

Compraré flores y chocolates para mi mamá I will buy flowers and chocolates for my mom

Compraré una rebanada de pastel y un café para ti y para mí I will buy a piece of cake and coffee for you and I

When working with both direct and indirect object pronouns at the same time, we still need to follow the rules that we already know: 

  • The pronouns go before the conjugated verb. 
  • In sentences with two verbs, the pronouns can go either before the conjugated verb or after the second verb which may be in infinitive or gerund form. 
  • In affirmative commands, the pronouns go after the verb and it becomes one word. 

However, since you have both the direct and indirect pronouns working together, you also need to worry about which one comes first. Here is how you do it: 

[Indirect pronoun] + [direct pronoun] + [conjugated verb]

[Conjugated verb] + [verb infinitive/gerund form] + [indirect pronoun] + [direct pronoun] 

Voy a comprárselas I’m going to buy them for her

No voy a comprárselas I’m going to buy them for her

Estoy comprandóselas I’m buying them for her

[Imperative verb]  + [indirect pronoun] + [direct pronoun] 

So, when having both pronouns in the sentence: 

  1. The indirect pronoun always goes first; then 
  2. You will place the direct pronoun.

Wrapping Up

Since using direct and indirect pronouns in your conversations is necessary in order to improve both your grammar and your Spanish fluency, in this article, we talked about where to place these pronouns in a sentence. We learned that when using both pronouns, we always need to first place the indirect pronoun. Hopefully, now you feel a little more confident about this topic and you’re ready to start replacing direct and indirect pronouns when needed. 

When doing so, remember that the position of the pronouns will vary depending on the conjugation of the verb. Here are some takeaways for you to follow. 

Order to place direct and indirect pronouns based on the conjugation of verbs

Type of sentenceConjugated Verbs (present, past, future…)Verbs in Gerund or Infinitive FormVerbs in Imperative Form
Affirmative
Negative
QuestionsN/A – Questions cannot be commands (i.e. imperative verbs)

Legend

Remember that it’s very likely that you may use Spanish sentences with more than one verb. In this case, it’s inevitable that one of these verbs is conjugated. And the other one may be on gerund or infinitive form. So based on the previous table, with these sentences you have the option of placing the pronoun before the conjugated verb or after the verb in gerund/infinitive form. 

Se las voy a comprar I’m going to buy them for her

Voy a comprárselas I’m going to buy them for her

Finally, when replacing both objects in a sentence, no matter what conjugation you’re using, the indirect pronoun always comes before the direct pronoun

Related Questions

When to use ‘se’ as an indirect object pronoun? If you’re replacing both direct and indirect objects and the indirect is referring to a third person, you’ll need to change ‘le’ or ‘les’ for se. 

Incorrect

Le los voy a comprar I’m going to buy them for her

Correct

Se los voy a comprar I’m going to buy them for her

We make this change to avoid confusions with the words ‘lelo’, ‘lelos’, ‘lela’ and ‘lelas’ which are a way to say ‘dumb’ in Spanish. 

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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