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Wile studying grammar, I learned that the object pronoun could go in either of the places when the verb is being used as an infinitive. So, for "I want to buy it," both of these sentences would be grammatically and semantically correct:

 1. Quiero comprarlo
 2. Lo quiero comprar

Another example would be the sentence, "I'm preparing it":

 1. Estoy preparándolo
 2. Lo estoy preparando

But I am sure there must be some kind of preference in regular day-to-day speech. Which one of the two variations is more likely to be heard in which country (particularly keen on Mexican Spanish)?

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    I think that in Spain there is no strong bias for any of the two. If I could explain more or give a rationale for it I would post an answer, but I'm afraid I can't contribute nor elaborate much on this topic. Maybe you should ask specifically for just Mexican dialect, to narrow the scope of the answers and get better and more meaningful answers. – Diego Nov 13 '14 at 21:05
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    Yes, but also that I can't think of an example/reason that would make me choose one over the other consciously, or to say that one sounds weird in a context. But maybe others will, or in other dialects it is so. – Diego Nov 13 '14 at 21:14
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    Consider my answer to a similar question: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/313/… – ArturoTena Nov 14 '14 at 7:21
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    In uncultivated variant of Chilean Spanish is very frequent duplication of the pronoun: "Lo quiero comprarlo". – Rodrigo Nov 14 '14 at 22:45
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    Two rules that you should consider: 1. The imperative conjugation (orders, requests ...) always set the pronoun at the end: "traelo" is correct, "lo trae" is wrong (it is not understood as an order). 2. Pairs of pronouns should always be together, "¿puedes comprármelo?" is right, "¿me lo puedes comprar?" is correct, "me puedes comprarlo" is incorrect. – Rodrigo Nov 14 '14 at 22:55
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I use to say:

Quiero comprarlo.

Estoy preparándolo.

when I want to stress the fact that I am involved. The emphasis is in the implied subject I.

In contrast, when I say:

Lo quiero comprar.

Lo estoy preparando.

I am stressing the "it". The "it" is important.

In both cases, I emphasize the first word (by increasing a little the volume of the voice, slowing down the velocity, etc).

This is very similar to another answer I gave: https://spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/313/how-do-i-know-whether-to-attach-a-direct-object-pronoun-to-the-infinitive/608#608

  • This relates to the pragmalinguistics and theme/comment (tema/rema) concepts. – Rodrigo Nov 17 '14 at 22:07
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This is a matter of emphasis only. The meaning is exactly the same but the emphasis is in a different element:

I, specifically me, want to buy something. -> Quiero comprarlo.

I want to buy that, specifically that. -> Lo quiero comprar.

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This is basically the English equivalent of the difference between

I am preparing it.

and

I'm preparing it.

Well, it's not the literal translation or the literal difference, but it has the same lack of prejudice. I am is used for formal writing or conversation; it makes you sound a bit more educated, while I'm is just a shortcut.

A fallacy with this example is that, your Spanish examples have the same amount of syllables, while my English example loses one.

It is easier to read (and write/type), Lo estoy preparando

 VS

the easier to say phrase, Estoy preparándolo

The fact that you have to add an accent adds to my point.

♫ | It's easier to hear Estoy preparándolo

Every speaker of every language has their slip-ups in speech at one point. Humans aren't perfect, so it's safe to assume that someone could easily be interpreted as saying

Yo estoy preparando rather than Lo estoy preparando

  • Like you said in the context of English one sounds slightly more formal than the other, is there any such distinction in Spanish? – TheLearner Nov 13 '14 at 23:19
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    At the most, I would say that one is more passive than the other; that's about it. Lo quiero comprar is much easier to read. Especially if you cant use accents easily.. Estoy preparándolo Now you need an accent. – dockeryZ Nov 13 '14 at 23:23
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    On the other hand, if you append lo to the verb, then there's a better chance of the listener to hear the lo part. Otherwise, it could be heard very easily and mistankingly as Yo quiero comprar – dockeryZ Nov 13 '14 at 23:25
  • This is an interesting answer but I don't think we Spanish speaker think of any of this when using one form or the other. – Lucas Nov 15 '14 at 12:11
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Back in the day, there was a difference, that is that you couldn't begin utterances with object pronouns. Thus "lo quiero comprar" would have been seen as vastly less formal (even agrammatical). That isn't the case today, and both are interchangeable.

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