I was reading a short story in Spanish. The line below confused me a little though.

Ya os lo he dicho antes

So I believe the translation is,

I have already told you before

It is the os and lo that I am unsure of. So I know os is the second person plural for direct and indirect object pronouns & lo the third person singular for direct objects.

I just don't know how I would get from thinking the english sentence to the spanish one.

I believe I is the subject and have is the verb so you would be the direct object. Clearly though I have this wrong though

  • 1
    The verb is not just "have" (he), but "have told" (he dicho)
    – Gustavson
    Dec 30, 2017 at 23:29

3 Answers 3


Your translation is correct, but not literal (and that's fine). In the Spanish sentence there is a direct object, lo, which is not present in the English translation. This is because the English verb tell works without it, in this case, and moreover it would sound a bit wrong if you said I have already told you it.

English has this particular way of organizing the objects of certain verbs, like tell and give, whereby you can say e. g. you told a story to me or you told me a story. For tell, however, you can also say you told me, meaning "you told me about something, the thing we are talking about right now in context".

Decir is not intransitive in its usual meaning; the thing being said must appear somewhere in the sentence, be it as a pronoun, a noun phrase, or a subordinate phrase (Ya os he dicho que…). You may sometimes omit this thing-being-said if it's clear enough from context, as in English, but it often sounds better if you do mention it.

  • Pablo, where you say: For tell, however, you can also say you told me, meaning "you told me about something, the thing we are talking about right now in context". You cannot in general do this in Spanish; that is, you need the thing being told about appearing as a direct object, actually I think English and Spanish can work pretty much in the same way, with the direct object remaining implicit in the context: "Where did you put it?/I already told you (where I put it)" = "¿Dónde lo pusiste?/Ya te dije (dónde lo puse)".
    – Gustavson
    Dec 31, 2017 at 17:13
  • Yes, I know. I hesitated a bit before that. That's why I said "in general", because I think Spanish normally doesn't do that except in a very specific context (such as after a direct question), but English, in fact, probably does the same... I'll think about that and see if I can get it right before next year. :)
    – pablodf76
    Dec 31, 2017 at 17:19

The translation to English would be

I have already told you this before.


I already told you that.

(or some combination of these options).

To help you have a clear idea of what's a direct object and what's an indirect object, let's consider

I lend her books.

"Books" is the direct object, and "her" is the indirect object. Hopefully that is already clear to you (if not please let me know), so you'll be able to extend that to arrive at

  • direct object is "that" / "this" | "lo"
  • indirect object is "you" | "os"

You also asked how to start from an English sentence and then express the idea in Spanish. In the beginning, before habits are ingrained, you have to build up your sentence step by step. If you're using pronouns, you'll put the indirect object pronoun first, and then squeeze in the direct object pronoun between the indirect object pronoun and the verb. Later on, after you've had more practice, it won't be so laborious.

I hope you are working with a nice textbook that gives you practice drills.


Your translation is correct. I think the best approach to resolving this sort of question is to supply nouns instead of pronouns. So would you say in English "I have already told the story to the listener" or "I have already told to the story the listener"? That makes it clear that "you" and hence "os" is here an indirect object.

  • 1
    I agree that the English rendering is a good translation equivalent. However, please notice that the DO (direct object) is explicit in Spanish (lo) though not in English. For the English sentence to syntactically reflect the Spanish one more accurately, we could say: "I have already told you (about) this/that before."
    – Gustavson
    Dec 30, 2017 at 23:34

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