The sentence:

Miguel le dio a su novia un anillo.

Translates into:

Miguel gave a ring to his girlfriend.

I would think that there would be no need for the "le", since the direct object (his girlfriend) is in the sentence. My understanding is that "le" is the 2nd person formal direct object pronoun and is used to replace the direct object object.

Could someone explain this?


In this case le is a dative pronoun. You are correct in assuming it is redundant, as it actually is. :) Wikitionary has a very interesting entry on the subject that treats upon it in a usage note. It reads:

Note that when a sentence contains a noun that is an indirect object, a redundant indirect object le (or its plural form les) is also required.

For example:

  • "Yo le daré el libro a Jorge." (literally, "I will give him the book to Jorge")

where him/le corresponds to Jorge. This type of pronoun is obligatory.

In short it's redundant but required. I hope this helps! :)

  • Nice answer. I wonder if some explanation of why it is required is possible (if there is a logical reason). – Flimzy Apr 9 '12 at 5:57
  • 7
    I think that "le" is not mandatory in that sentence. "Yo daré el libro a Jorge" sounds good to me. Indeed RAE says it's optional in the section 5.2.a of this link buscon.rae.es/dpdI/… – Javi Apr 9 '12 at 8:45
  • OI is not required, so the pronoun for OI is neither required. You can say the complete way, the pronoun, or both. Suggested for oral: both. Suggested for academic writing: one, the complete first and then the pronoun in another sentence if you don't lost the meaning of the thing on the context. – MacGyver Jun 3 '12 at 9:27
  • @leandro So to clarify I could say yo daré el libro a Jorge but not yo le daré el libro ? Gracias! – McArthey Jul 13 '12 at 13:21
  • You can say it on both ways. "a jorge" and "le" is the same OI – MacGyver Jul 13 '12 at 13:33

As a native speaker I want to point out that not having 'le' in there sounds broken.

I think the reason it's required is because you can have sentences without specific targets like this: "Yo di mi anillo." "I gave my ring." This has a kind of "broad" flavor, in that not only does the meaning lack a specific target, there is also a suggestion of the target being an abstraction, as in something like "I gave my ring to charity." (This is the flavor I get from it). If you put a 'le' in there, it becomes "Yo le di mi anillo." "I gave to him/her my ring." Which is a completely different meaning.

In your example, leaving out the 'le' starts the meaning off in a different direction than what the rest of the sentence does. So even in the case where it's redundant, you can think of 'le' as a kind of punctuation that keeps the meaning of the sentence from veering off into a targetless one before you've completed it.

So in this case it's not so much a matter of linguistic precision as it is a way of keeping the meaning consistent while the sentence is being read or spoken. That's my take on it anyway.

  • I like this point of view. It hits a bone in me. Parsing a long sentence with a faulty omission at the start of the sentence will really knock you off the wrong path of interpreting that sentence so by anchoring the meaning..... – Mywiki Witwiki Oct 21 '19 at 23:32

After reading about the Indirect Object, I think the answer is that in the sentence

Miguel le dio a su novia un anillo.

Miguel's girlfriend is the indirect object and not the direct object as I had stated in the question. In that case, "le" is the correct indirect object pronoun to be used, to give direction to the action of giving of the ring (like amr said above).

  • 1
    Yes, "el anillo" is the direct object and "su novia" is the indirect one. The easiest way of discovering the direct object is to change the sentence to passive voice. The subject of the passive voice is the direct object of the active voice: "El anillo fue dado a su novia por Miguel" – Javi Apr 10 '12 at 7:50

El "le" es redundante y NO es obligatorio escribirlo. "Miguel dio a su novia un anillo" es 100% correcta. Siendo redundante, cuando lo añadimos, es simplemente por costumbre, o para adelantar que la versión de "dio" que vamos a utilizar es una que admite complemento indirecto (y ese complemento indirecto puede haber aparecido anteriormente, y formar parte del contexto, o puede aparecer en la frase en cuestión --causando que el "le" sea redundante--).

En (por ejemplo) "Juan dio un volantazo" (he turned the steering wheel very abruptly), ese "dio" no admite complemento indirecto.


The Action of Giving explained.

It's easy to say that to give something is "dative" when the definition of a dative case is when something is given, but looking at other dative verbs might help.

  • Gustar / to please
  • Regalar / to gift
  • Decir / to say
  • Apoyar / to aid
  • Ayudar / to help
  • Cuidar / to care

Each of those verbs represents something that can be given to someone else.

When you do give something to someone, a personal a needs to be used.

A mi me gustan los burritos

Veronica me regaló un burrito a mi.

Los madres se cuidan a los niños

Les dije a mis amigos que les acuesten.

El maestro le apoyó al alumno.

Emphasis is the key here.


We just learned this in class. Our teacher explained that for dative case--when someone is being given something--the someone must precede the something in the sentence.

So your sentence works fine without the "le":

Miguel dio a su novia un anillo.

However, if you moved "un anillo" before "a su novia" in that sentence, "le" would be needed to keep the someone before the something:

Miguel le dio un anillo a su novia.

Our teacher said this was a grammar rule. Unfortunately she didn't explain the etymology, which I'd love to hear if someone can explain.

  • Please comment as to what might be improved about this answer. We're all here to learn. – liquidki Jul 16 '15 at 3:25

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