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When describing someone helping someone else, does ayudar take a direct or indirect object pronoun? In other words, is it:

¿Lo puedo ayudar? or ¿La puedo ayudar?


¿Le puedo ayudar?

If both are used, what is the difference?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

There is no difference in meaning. The verbs ayudar and obedecer are changing their patterns. Historically (in medieval Spanish) they would take a dative pronoun (le); nowadays they take mostly an accusative one (la/lo).

See: DPD, “Leísmo”, sección 4e

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"Le" can be used instead of "lo" only when it's direct object and for a male person. This "leísmo" is accepted by RAE and is very typical of some regions of Spain (indeed in these regions is more typical nowadays hearing "¿le puedo ayudar?" than with "lo"). – Javi Jan 19 '12 at 8:33
There are a lot of "leísmo" causes that could in theory be applied here. I think you are talking about "leísmo de cortesía" (DPD, "Leísmo", 4g). But in the specific case of "ayudar", it seems that the cause is what I cited: the historical indirect object is changing to a direct object, and some areas retain the original pattern while others have already changed. See also the entry "ayudar" in the DPD. – angus Jan 19 '12 at 8:49
I didn't say the historical reasons you mention were wrong. I'm just speaking about the accepted leismo by RAE in general. The person that is helped is the direct object of the sentence in that case (because it's the subject when you change it to the passice voice).… – Javi Jan 19 '12 at 9:00

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