I am trying to learn and include direct and indirect object pronouns. The line below I don't understand why there is a le in the sentence at all. I don't think (and guessing incorrectly) there is an indirect object

yo prefiero que no le digas nada a nadie.

Its possible I have the translation wrong,

I prefer that you don't say anything to anyone

I am also not sure what is the direct object in this sentence. The prefiero and digas are confusing me.

  • 1
    What do you think the roles of "nada" and "nadie" are? Or rather, why do the think they aren't the direct and indirect objects? Mar 14, 2018 at 15:57
  • ah! So as digas is acting on nada, nada is the direct object? And since nadie is the recipient of nada it is the indirect object? Is that correct? Can I ask if the direct object of prefiero is the rest of the sentence beyond que?
    – mHelpMe
    Mar 14, 2018 at 17:06
  • 1
    Your translation is spot on. You could also say, "I prefer that you not say anything to anyone." // The direct object is "nada," and the indirect object is "nadie" and "le." To understand this redundancy, take a look at spanish.stackexchange.com/q/20199/9385 and spanish.stackexchange.com/q/2104/9385 Mar 14, 2018 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


The pronoun le (singular indirect object pronoun) has the same referent as nadie (which is preceded by the preposition a because that's how you mark an indirect object). There's a rule that says that in this kind of sentence the indirect object must be present as an unstressed pronoun, even if it's already there in full form (as a stressed pronoun or a noun phrase preceded by a).

The direct object is nada, as you can see if you try removing the indirect one (prefiero que no digas nada = "I'd rather you said nothing"). As with English say, Spanish decir can act as a transitive or a ditransitive verb.

Note that you can also leave the indirect object implicit if the context is clear, which you can't do with English say (the meaning then changes to that of tell):

Prefiero que no le digas a nadie. = "I'd rather you didn't tell anyone."

  • Thanks @pablodf76! You said that "There's a rule". Is there an easy way to explain this rule?
    – capet
    Nov 16, 2022 at 5:35
  • 1
    It's sort of a rule. If the full IO, the unstressed IO pronoun has to appear too when the IO precedes the verb ("A Pedro no le digas") and/or when it's a stressed pronoun ("No le digas a él"). But according to what I just checked, if the pronoun is nadie, ninguno, alguien, alguno, etc. (these are called indefinite pronouns), then the duplication of the IO pronoun is optional. In every case, though, it's much more common to use the unstressed IO pronoun than not; dropping it can be heard as formal.
    – pablodf76
    Nov 16, 2022 at 21:30
  • Thanks! So I could maybe say "No digas a nadie" instead of "no le digas a nadie" but it would be weird and formal?
    – capet
    Nov 16, 2022 at 21:39
  • 1
    Yes. "No digas a nadie" is really weird, less so (for some reason) "No digas nada a nadie".
    – pablodf76
    Nov 17, 2022 at 13:06

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