¿Cuándo son necesarios en una frase los pronombres indirectos y cuándo son opcionales? Creo que aprendí en el colegio que se requieren siempre (por ejemplo, "le dije a ella que..." es correcto pero "dije a ella que..." es incorrecto), pero me han dicho que no es tan simple para todos los casos (por ejemplo, "pertenece a mí" es correcto). ¿Cuáles son las normas que determinan si un pronombre es necesario o no?

Una pregunta anterior preguntaba algo similar, pero era para un caso bastante específico y estoy interesado en una regla general.


When are indirect object pronouns necessary in a sentence and when are they optional? I believe I learned in school that they were always required (for example, Le dije a ella que... is correct but Dije a ella que... is wrong), but I've been told it's not that simple for all cases (e.g. pertenece a mí is correct). What rules determine whether the pronoun is necessary or not?

A previous question asked something similar, but it was for a fairly specific case and I'm interested in the rule in general.

  • Possible duplicate of spanish.stackexchange.com/q/2104/12
    – Flimzy
    May 11, 2012 at 1:01
  • 3
    Here is teh link: buscon.rae.es/dpdI/… To DPD by RAE on the topic. If someone has the time (and understanding) to redact an answer please do it. I'm horrible with grammar and worse trying explaining it.
    – Laura
    May 11, 2012 at 6:28
  • @Laura: That link doesn't work for me. Could you point out what particular section(s) in the DPD addresses this?
    – jrdioko
    Jul 18, 2012 at 18:08
  • 1
    @jrdioko I tried it now and it doesn't work for me either, I think they changing some entries and adresses. Inyou type "pronombres personales átonos" in the search box you'll get the results I've tried to shown with the link.
    – Laura
    Jul 19, 2012 at 10:26
  • @Laura I added in an English analysis of the DPD article in my answer. Jun 27, 2014 at 5:49

5 Answers 5


Per Laura's suggestion, here's a summarized version of what the RAE says for when it is required.

  • If the object (indirect or direct) is a person pronoun (mí, ti, etc) and included anywhere in the sentence, you must include the pronoun with the verb (indirect or direct): Me castigaron a mí but not *castigaron a mí
  • If the object (indirect or direct) comes before the verb (OSV or OVS sentences), you must include the pronoun with verb, animate or not: A los problemas del mundo no les doy mucha importancia, but not A los problemas del mundo no doy mucha importancia.
  • The exception to the above is when you are being intentionally emphatic or contrastive, for example A ti lo daré, a él no. Here, saying Te lo daré, a él no would sound very odd.

If the indirect object comes after the verb and isn't a personal pronoun (so a Juan, a los estudiantes or al problema), then it is almost always completely optional, if quite common especially in speech. The handful of exceptions include gustar and similar verbs, which do require it, except when the indirect obejct is nadie/todos/etc, in which case it's once again optional.


I'm going to venture a general rule that may have some exceptions, but I believe to be true in enough cases to lay it out this way.

In constructions involving an indirect object, always use the indirect object pronoun. Now we're talking about actual usage more than formal rules, which you should keep in mind as I discuss this, but generally, even when there's a redundancy of information ("Le dije a ella que me llamara"), the pronoun "le" is the required part, and the "a ella" is used for emphasis, clarification, or quite simply, just to make the sentence longer.

"A quién le tocó manejar?" "Me tocó a mí." -- never "Tocó a mí." The reason both are used in this example are that it's very rare to have emphasis fall on the pronoun like that ("me tocó"); but the emphasis has to fall somewhere, thus the "a mí."

If you stick by always using the object pronoun, you may find some cases where you shouldn't have, but I can guarantee they're going to be few and far between.

  • 1
    That makes sense for the common usage, but I'm still curious about the RAE's rule about if/when it can be omitted.
    – jrdioko
    Sep 1, 2012 at 15:45

Actually, "pertenece a mí" is not correct. You should say "Me pertenece".

Any other example in which you think the I.O. may be optional?

  • 1
    Alberto means that you need "me" in "pertenece", being "a mí" optional depending on the context. So it's "me pertenece" or "me pertenece a mí".
    – JoulSauron
    May 13, 2012 at 15:18
  • Hmm, the WordReference entry for pertenecer lists este libro pertenece a tu biblioteca (without the le). Is that incorrect?
    – jrdioko
    May 13, 2012 at 23:56
  • JoulSauron -> Yep, exactly. May 14, 2012 at 2:25
  • 1
    jrdioko -> No; that's correct. Because is a different scenario: There you are using a subject ("tu biblioteca"), whilst in the question, we are talking about using it with pronouns ("mi,ti, etc."). You could even say "Pertenece a mi persona", since "mi persona" would be the subject. That's correct, because there you are using "mi" (as opposite to "mí") as determinative possessive. Notice the difference between "MI" and "MÍ" May 14, 2012 at 2:31
  • Roughly, "pertencer" needs an indirect object, so if you don't say to what/who it belongs to, you need to use the pronoun. More or less like "talk" in English.
    – JoulSauron
    May 14, 2012 at 12:00

First of all, sorry for my very poor, poor english.

References to read this answer: Indirect Object: (OI) (Complemento Indirecto) Direct Object: (OD) (Complemento Directo)

I've a little bad news for you. For a brief resume I will tell you that OI are never expected. And for the same reason, I will told you that you are in a very common mistake.

I'll do a very little explanation of some points and then I will tell you why.

  1. An OI always requires an OD. But an OD doesn't require an OI. If you have some syntagma that you think is an OI but is required, is an OD or something like (Complemento de Interés). Maybe this is the rule that you remember and you are on a confusion. You can find examples where OI doesn't require an OD, but is a lie, because you must say it con the context :D It's a trick, a common trick to proof a student by the way, lol.
  2. OI are always optional. You can don't use it. Of course, you are saying the half of your idea, or less information, but is not grammar-required syntagma.
  3. If you use it, you can replace it by the pronoun.
  4. By logic, if OI is not required by any grammar syntagma, the pronoun of an OI, neither.
  5. In oral language is very common repeat something and it's correct. For example, the "le" is "ella".
  6. There can't be two differentes OI attached to the same verb. (Of course, if you don't want use an multiple nucleous OI or two different OI for two different OD. This rule is relative to: you can't put an OI without an OD)

So I'll explain you all the above points:

Let's do it with your example, but change the verb to one that not requires an OD for clarification (it's more easy to explain, but the rule also works for a "verbo transitivo":

Le compré algo.

(I buy her something). It's ok.

Compré algo.

(I buy something). Yeah, I know, you are not saying to who, but... is a wrong sentence? No.


(I buy) Sure, fine. You speak like Tarzan, but it's ok, you can say it. "buy" in spanish is not a real-real verb that requires an OD like "tener" (have). (There are some discussions about this but is not respective to your doubt so... if you don't like the verb "compré" you can use anyone you want.)

Is OD and OI required? No.

But let's try with the last combination:

Compré a ella.

(you will check soon what it's wrong with this, but please follow the line)

If you don't say the OD, the OI automatically converts itself to a OD. Because all OI needs an OD. You can replace the sentence by:

La compré.

But saying "Compré a ella". "La" is "ella" and -oh my god-, "la" is not "le", is an OD case pronoun! That's the reason that you never say:

"Le compré" or "Compré a ella". It's sound bad.

The real sentence for this is:

"Compré para ella"

but it's sound bad again. And is not a correct sentence.

This happens because the verb needs an OD? No. This happens because the OI NEEDS an OD.

This is the rule. Check it with any verb. People say it? Sure, people can say anything. But is not correct.

In any case, if you say "La compré" I must tell you that you 're in favor of slavery lol. You can't (or you don't must) buy people. You change radically by grammar the complete meaning of the sentence. This method is very funny and practical for kids.

Let's try it with passive voice:

Algo fue comprado por mí para ella.

"Por mí" is the old subject, "algo" is the new subject, the old OD. OI, is OI. As usual. THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO PROOF AN OD and an OI

Only for oral reasons, we always repeat the OI but and if you don't repeat it, it's sound bad, but is fine. You can write it. But is has a more academic way to say it.

Compré algo a/para ella muy hermoso.

It's just fine. Because you say the OD.

BUT... (and HERE is the answer for your question)

Try replace the OI:

Le compré algo muy hermoso. (OK!)

Try replace the OD:

Lo compré para ella. (OK!)

Try replacing the both:

Le lo compré para ella. (BAD!)

Because in spanish you can't replace both without using the reflexive. The correct replacement for this is:

Se lo compré para ella (OK!)

"Se" is the "le".

This happens with pronouns. Because IN ORAL it's sound bad too many pronouns that you really don't know the real meaning ("ella", "algo").

And for you, it's sound bad "dije a ella que.." because...

(music for expectative) :D

"ella" is a pronoun!

Try with:

Dije a María que... (it's sound great!!!)

Maybe it's sound bad, but it's ok.

For finish this answer (I hope I could clarify it and don't mess you more with the topic), this happens because any non-tonic pronouns is the replacement of declination case on latin. In latin this never can happens because you say what function (OI or OD) is working on the sentence with the word itself. But... here is the joke.. in latin (common latin, not academic latin) for A LOT of declinations, OD and OI are the same, and a latin speaker must trying to "read" what is the sense of the sentence... by the context :D

So... what?

The answer is:

OI are never expected. You can say the pronoun, the OI complete, or both. But if you say the OI, you must say the OD.

By the way, take care of "Complemento de Interés". It's sounds like an OI, can be processed as an OI, but is not an OI.

  • "But if you say the OI, you must say the OD." Huh? So is the sentence "Le gusta" wrong? Or "le" is not OI here? Please explain.
    – dainichi
    Jul 27, 2012 at 4:04
  • Of course, if I told you from the nothing "Le gusta" you wont know what think he likes. It's a non grammatical phrase. If not, the OD is on another place of the text. In any case, that LE can be a "Complemento de Interés" like some authors like to think. Another famous spanish grammar author think that pronouns doesn't require OD but this is not true. Jul 27, 2012 at 12:57
  • That makes no sense. How about "Le gusta ella"? Now you know what he likes, but there's still no OD. OK, so complemento de interés, sure enough. But "You can say the pronoun, the OI complete, or both" is still wrong. You cannot say "A ella compro un libro", it has to be "A ella le compro un libro". It has to be the pronoun or both. And OP didn't even ask about OD.
    – dainichi
    Aug 5, 2012 at 6:38

Using an indirect object pronoun is simply used to emphasize who or what is receiving the action of the verb. It is required in your context because "le" could be anyone or anything.

Le dije a ella que ...

Without the "a ella" part, the person hearing the sentence will have no idea whether you meant to say

I told him 
I told her
I told it

What rules determine whether the pronoun is necessary or not?

It depends on the person/number flexion. Anytime you use a third person as the indirect object, you MUST specify who. Unless, of course, the pronoun is already known. For instance, if the conversation has been centered around a certain person/place/thing, then it is most likely ok to leave out the indirect object pronoun. Otherwise you would be repeating the same pronoun ad nauseum.

Le dije
Dijiste a quien y qué le dijiste?
Le dije a Maria que no más hable
Oh, Maria! Le dije lo mismo

The last sentence does not use Maria or her, because said person is already in context. Otherwise, every sentence following would sound like this

I told it/her/him
You told who or what?
I told Maria not to talk
Oh Maria! I told Maria the same.
What else did you say to Maria?
I also told Maria that I was serious.
What did Maria say when you told Maria that?

As you can see, if the pattern continues, it gets ambiguous and you'll eventually believe there are two separate Marias.

  • Thanks for your answer, but this is actually answering the opposite of my question (when is the phrase specifying the indirect object needed, as opposed to when is the pronoun me, le, etc. needed).
    – jrdioko
    May 16, 2012 at 17:22
  • This question has plenty of grammatical errors and the example on english can't be translated to spanish for explain the reason of the answer. I'm totally disagree with the reason of "Anytime you use a third person as the indirect object". Also it's work because there's the "the same" syntagma, so does not answer the question. In any case, "I told it" can't be used as "I told her/him" as an example on english because there's no dative to express that on english. Maybe you must found another example. Jun 3, 2012 at 9:22

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