In this (simple) sentence:

Se lo dijo la historia. (He told her the story.)

I think this is also right:

Le lo dijo la historia.

But the latter doesn't seem so prevalent or even acceptable. What's the reason for that?

En esta oración simple:

Se lo dijo la historia.

Pienso también esa es correcto:

Le lo dijo la historia.

Sino la última no parece tan frecuente o aún admisible. ¿Por qué es esa cosa? (No pregunto de "cuándo", sino pregunto de "porqué".)

  • 1
    Your example seems incorrect. A proper one would be just "Se lo dijo" ("He/she told him/her about it") instead of "Le lo dijo". But the question itself is a good one.
    – Charlie
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 12:21
  • 1
    @Charlie I know it's wrong but I don't know why. That's the question.
    – iBug
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 12:26
  • To begin with, the proper translation of, "he told her the story", would be: > (Él) Le contó la historia (a ella). So the "Se" would never be used in that specific sentence.
    – Jose Maria
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 14:53
  • Possible duplicate of When does one replace "le/les" with the pronoun "se"? Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 2:45
  • 1
    @dockeryZ Lol for lo lo. Maybe we could say "Dálolo" or even "Dálala", which makes people think I'm a freak :)
    – iBug
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 11:58

5 Answers 5


You were already answered the question when to use se lo but I understand your question is more why using se lo instead of the expected le lo?

Like a lot of people, I wrongly believed this irregularity was due to euphonious reasons, le lo being considered unpleasing to the ear.

Le digo una cosa = I tell something to you

Lo digo = I tell it


Le lo digo


Se lo digo = I tell it to you

Same in the imperative mood:

Dílo = Tell it

Dime = Tell me

melo = Tell it to me

Dile = Tell him

selo = Tell it to him

However, there is no real cacophony in lelo, the first name Lola or the substantive pelele (dummy) do not present any problem in Spanish, not to mention lelo exists in Spanish both as a substantive and an adjective.

One way to understand why Spanish uses selo is to look at the Italian usage:

Dimmelo = Dímelo

Digli = Dile = Tell him

Dillo = Dilo = Tell it

Diglielo = Díselo = Tell it to him

The pronoun starts with an [ʎ] sound. It is coming from the Latin illi.

Similarily, illi gave ge \ʒe\ in ancient Spanish so the old form was


The alternative form selo superseded the former and is now the norm:

Real Academia Española de la lengua, Nueva gramática de la lengua española, Madrid, Espasa Libros, 2009

Téngase en cuenta que una vez que se llega a la forma gelo, con prepalatal sorda, quedaban abiertas dos opciones : la velarización, que seguiría un proceso natural desde el punto de vista fonológico, pero crearía una forma pronominal aislada, y la asimilación analógica a las combinaciones con el reflexivo, que se vio facilitada por la proximidad fonética de la prepalatal con la retrofleja.

Source (if you read French) : De la morphosyntaxe du pronom complément indirect en espagnol : * Le lo, ge lo, se lo

  • And it's confusing to the ear, too. Se lo is so much clearer and easier to understand. Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 2:48
  • 1
    I agree the question is about why, by actually the se lo originates from much older phonetic stuff unrelated to the apparent cacophony of le lo. I don't have time to post an answer right now though Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 4:35
  • @guifa Yes, that's right. After some research I found the actual origin of this se. Answer updated, Thanks !
    – Gavatx
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 21:57
  • +1 for fluid examples
    – dockeryZ
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 1:16
  • Note guifa did get around to posting an answer. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 3:19

The reason you see le transform in front of lo/la/los/las has to do with the history of Spanish. In Old Spanish, the combination le(s) + lo/a/os/as was written gelo/a/os/as (with the g pronounced as [ʒ], as in the first consonant of azure or the second consonant in equation). The palatization came about from the Latin illi illum that progressed to (e)liélo, to llelo and then finally to gelo.

That much is well established. What is less known is exactly what caused the transformation such that the -s in les disappeared. It definitely had a tendency to disappear in some other places (cf. Portuguese nos/vos + o(s) = no-lo(s)/vo-la(s), or Castilian vamos + nos = vámonos) but in this particular case it only happened in front of /l/. Menéndez Pidal felt that that came from Leonese influence (although modern Leonese languages don't do that: Asturianu dio-yoslu = Castilian se(les) lo dio), but that's not settled.

As the [ʒ] sound fell out of use in Spanish around the year 1500, gelo/a/os/as quickly ended up as selo/a/os/as, and then was separated out graphically again in se lo/a/os/as.


Your examples do not mean what you mean to say, but leaving that aside, your issue is with why you must say se lo and not le lo (or lo le). The answer is: because it's just like that.

There are a number of clitic (short, non-emphatic) personal pronouns in Spanish. They can be used in verb phrases as direct objects (accusative), or as indirect objects (dative).

The pronouns for the first and second persons, singular and plural, look the same in the accusative and in the dative: me, te, nos, os (note that os is used only in Spain; it corresponds to the subject pronoun vosotros).

The accusative third person pronouns vary in gender and number: they are lo, la for masculine and feminine singular, respectively, and los, las for the plural. The dative third person pronouns are singular le and plural les (they do not inflect for gender).

Some verbs (called ditransitive) can take both a direct and an indirect object, and if both of the objects are replaced by pronouns, there are some rules about that. The first rule is that the dative pronoun goes first, then the accusative, so it must be

Me lo diste. = "You gave it to me."


*Lo me diste.

The same rule applies even if the pronouns go after the verb, as is the case in imperatives:

Dámelo. = "Give it to me."

The rule that concerns you question is that, in addition to the above, the third person dative pronouns le and les can't be in the same phrase as the third person accusative pronouns lo, la, los, las; if they do appear, they change to se (which does not inflect for gender or number). So, if in my examples above we wished to change the first person into third person, we will have to change le into se:

Se lo diste. = "You gave it to him/her."
Dáselo. = "Give it to him/her."

I gave a few more examples in a related question about the uses of the pronoun se.

  • The dative/indirect doesn't always go first. The order is actually se, te/os, me/nos, le/les/lo/la/los/las, or more compactly se-2nd-1st-3rd. It's not common, but if you get "te me", it's impossible to know which is the dative/indirect and which is the accusative/direct. Likewise, it's possible to end up with "me le", where clearly the second one is the dative/indirect, and the first is the accusative/direct. Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 3:15

I think this is also right:

Le lo dijo la historia.

As some already commented, the second example is wrong. In DPD you can find this explanation:

1. Se pronominal Como pronombre personal, invariable en género y número, tiene distintos valores:

a) Variante formal de le(s).

Cuando el pronombre de dativo le(s) precede a alguno de los pronombres de acusativo de tercera persona lo(s), la(s), adopta la forma se: Les compré caramelos > Se los compré; Le puse los zapatos > Se los puse.

So in this case you have a dative pronoun (le) which is before a accusative pronoun (los). The le adopts the form "se" as the rule explains.


When using direct and indirect objects together, if they both begin with the letter L, the L in the indirect object is changed to an S. For example,

Él se lo dice a Juan.

In this case, le would replace Juan, but since le and lo both begin with an L, it is changed to an S.


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