June 24, 2020 ·

The direct object in Spanish

The direct object or "Objeto Directo in Spanish" is a noun / pronoun that receives the action of the sentence. The "objeto directo" answers “whom?” or “what?” in regards to the verb.

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direct object in spanish

The direct object is a noun phrase or thing that is the recipient of the action.

  • My dad grilled the steak.
  • Tomas calls his brother everyday.
  • They eat dinner.

In the first and third example the direct object is a thing, object or idea. In the second, the direct object is a person.

When the direct object is a thing, object or idea it can be replaced by the following pronouns:

SentenceDirect objectPronounReplaced direct objectTranslation
Yo cocino el pollo.el polloloYo lo cocino.I cook it (the chicken).
Yo quiero la carne.la carnelaYo la quiero.I want it (the meat).
Yo como los huevos.los huevoslosYo los como.I eat them (the eggs).
Yo compro las frutas.las frutaslasYo las compro.I buy them (the fruit).
Notice that the pronoun replacing the direct object goes between the subject of the sentence and the verb.

When the direct object is a person or an animal that you feel attachment for it can be replaced by the following pronuouns:

Direct ObjectPronounReplaced direct objectTranslation
yomeYo me quiero (a mí).I like myself.
vosteYo te aprecio (a vos).I appreciate you.
él/ ellalo/ laYo lo/ la respeto (a él/ a ella).I respect him/ her.
nosotros/ nosotrasnosYo nos cuido (a nosotros).I take care of us.
ustedeslos/ lasYo los/ las amo (a ustedes).I love you guys.
ellos/ ellaslos/ lasYo los/ las odio (a ellos/ ellas).I hate them.
The words you see between parenthesis are the pronouns that are being replaced that can be included or not. That is to say, you can replace the direct object with a pronoun and leave it like that or you can also include the direct object for emphasis.

Notice that when the direct object is a person it is preceded by the preposition “a.” Interestingly enough, this preposition has no English transition.

  • Romina llama a su mamá.
  • Romina calls her mom.

As English Speakers, we tend to see the impersonal “a” as unnecessary, but from the perspective of a Spanish speaker it is required.

As we have seen before, the personal “a” is not used when the direct object (receiver of the action in the sentence) is an object, thing or idea.

  • Él come la torta. (comer)
  • He eats the cake. – Cake is not an animal or a person.

To summarize:

SUBJECT + VERB + DIRECT OBJECT (that is a thing, object or idea)

SUBJECT + VERB + A + DIRECT OBJECT (that is a person or animal)

Seeing as this Spanish grammatical structure has no equivalent in English, it is understandably difficult for students to struggle to use the personal “a”. It is common for them to forget to use it until a pattern has been established and it has been ingrained in their brain.

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