Take this sentence:

You saw her knit a scarf.

Possible translations:

La viste tejer una bufanda.
Le viste tejer una bufanda.

I'd say that both are correct, since the direct object of "saw" can be understood to be either "her" or "the action of knitting a scarf". However "la" sounds better.

Now put that into a subordinate clause:

Grab the scarf that you saw her knit.

Possible translations:

Agarra la bufanda que la viste tejer.
Agarra la bufanda que le viste tejer.

Now I'd say that "le" is the way to go, to the point that using "la" feels wrong. Even when technically the role of each element in the sentence is the same.

Why is that? Are both correct? Am I guilty of laísmo in the first example? Am I not identifying the direct and indirect objects correctly?


So far I've got 2 answers (one deleted) saying that it is laísmo and "le" should be used, and another two answers stating that it is not and "la" is correct. So which is it?

I'd like to expand in the above examples, in a quest to get more complete answers.

Fact 1: we can take "her" out of the sentence and the meaning would be more or less the same:

Viste tejer una bufanda. Agarra la bufanda que viste tejer.

Here, it is pretty clear that "tejer una bufanda" is the DO in the first sentence. So the question would be if introducing "la" shifts the DO to "her", whoever she is.

Fact 2: a common way of telling the DO from the IO is by switching to passive mode. And then we have that:

Viste tejer una bufanda
-> Tejer una bufanda fue visto por ti.


La viste tejer una bufanda
-> ?? Ella tejer una bufanda fue visto por ti (DO = ella) ??
-> ?? Tejer una bufanda por ella fue visto por ti (DO = tejer) ??

I'm not really sure how that should be transformed.

Fact 3: if we switch to passive mode only the "tejer" part, then "she" can no longer be the DO, not even the IO:

La viste una bufanda ser tejida
Le viste una bufanda ser tejida
Viste a ella una bufanda ser tejida
Viste una bufanda ser tejida por ella

So far the only thing I'm getting out of this, is that ella cannot be the indirect object. She must be either the direct object, or some kind of "authorship complement", if such a thing exists.
Would that mean that it is the use of "le" that is wrong?

  • Just my two cents here. I'm not going to say which is correct but in Colombia (¿dare I say hispanoamerica?) almost nobody uses "le" in this kind of sentences. I personally would say both sentences using "la". – DGaleano Sep 22 '17 at 16:06

In my opinion "la" is the way to go in both examples, even though in the second case might sound weird. I mean: in both cases, "la" stands for "her" and is the direct object, therefore, we have to use "la".


"Laísmo" only happens for indirect object pronouns. For example:

Pepe envió un paquete a María --> Pepe la* envío un paquete.

This is wrong, this is "laísmo". It should be:

Pepe le envió un paquete.


Pepe envió una carta a María --> Pepe (se) la envió a María.

Accepted leísmo

The problem with the direct objects pronouns is that we usually change "lo" and "la" for "le". For the masculine "lo", this is a RAE accepted form of "leísmo". However, in theory, for the feminine "la", we have to respect this pronoun and it is not accepted to use "le" instead. Still, it is not rare that someone does this!

Masculine example:

Lo vi por la calle. Le vi por la calle.

Feminine example:

La vi por la calle. Le* vi por la calle.

To sum up

So, going back to your question, in both your examples the pronouns are the direct object, but in the second example that you give, it is very possible that some people would tend to replace it with "le" because of the "leísmo" thing that I explained. For me, "la" would imply a woman knitting, while "le" is more ambiguous although in theory it could only be a man.

P.S: The RAE article on this issue. Pay attention to the table at the beginning --> http://www.rae.es/consultas/uso-de-los-pronombres-los-las-les-leismo-laismo-loismo

| improve this answer | |

For me, it is laísmo, and it sounds too bad to me.

I've checked the list of (verbal) periphrasis and "ver + verb" does not appear as one of them. Consequently, it is wrong unless you can consider "ver tejer" as a "Fixed expression" (Locución verbal). I wouldn't take that option since "ver" can be used with ANY verb, and not neccesarily "tejer", so "ver tejer" has not any special meaning not given by their own forming units.

As a result, I'd conclude that "tejer una bufanda" is the DO, and so "a ella" is the IO, so you should use "le vi tejer una bufanda". Similarly, also "le" in the 2nd example.

| improve this answer | |
  • Where can we see that list you mention? Could you provide the reference? I'd like to learn abut that since we in Colombia would never say "le vi tejer...". We always use "la vi tejer..." without considering it might be wrong (if it is). – DGaleano Sep 22 '17 at 16:11
  • Well, I looked at a chart on my high-school notes, but it can be found in many places, such as here: delenguayliteratura.com/clases_de_perifrasis_verbales.html I hope it's useful. – FGSUZ Sep 22 '17 at 16:54

The first one is not laísmo, in my opinion.

"Tejer una bufanda" is not the object of the action. The object of the action (to see/ver) is always her, and "tejer una bufanda", I think it's what, in Spanish, we call "complemento circunstancial de modo" (don't know how to say that in English). It more or less answers the question "How did you see her?".

You could answer me saying that, in this case, it should be "You saw her knitting a scarf", but in Spanish, there's not such difference. As far as I remember, in English, "You saw her knit a scarf" implies that you saw the whole process of knitting the scarf, while "You saw her knitting a scarf" means you saw just part of the process. In Spanish both sentences are synonyms, so that's why I think "la" is the correct choice.

In the same way, I'd use "la" again on the second example, for the same reason, but I agree, the second one is more common, although that doesn't make it more correct. In Spanish, everyday people use expressions that are not correct, but widely used.

| improve this answer | |

On the first one, I'd use

La viste tejer una bufanda.

I don't know how to explain why but probably because the La refers to her.

On the second one, I'd use

Agarra la bufanda que la viste tejer.

(I'm a native speaker)

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    "I don't know how to explain why". Bueno, el punto es explicar por qué para que el usuario pueda aprender a decirlo bien en cada situación. Si respondiésemos a todo con "Se dice así" solucionamos el problema una sola vez. Como dice el proverbio, hay que enseñar a pescar, no dar pescado. – Diego Sep 24 '17 at 1:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy