I have come across this sentence in my textbook and I do not understand the choice of using the indirect pronoun. Could you explain it to me?

preparó unos polvos que se les metían a los niños en los ojos y les hacían llorar.

Edit: As far as I understood, the first les is correct and is the only variant we can use (no matter what part of the Spanish speaking world we are in). The first les repeats the a los niños part. As for the second les, there is no a unanimous grammar rule and it is not a mistake to put los here, right?

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    While you get a full answer try reading this about "leismo" rae.es/consultas/….
    – DGaleano
    Apr 9, 2018 at 13:08
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    @DGaleano thank you but it feels like I need to read the explanation in English so that nothing stays unclear.
    – Logan Xav
    Apr 9, 2018 at 13:48
  • i think the sentence is incorrect or incomplete, "les" is the indirect object, to be correct we must add the missing object "les hacian llorar sus ojos" , i think "los" is the grammatically correct word connector.
    – Mike
    Apr 9, 2018 at 19:28
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    @LoganXav I removed your new question, open a new one if you want. But first check if it's not already answered in spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/2104/… or spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/21537/…
    – rsanchez
    Apr 10, 2018 at 13:46

2 Answers 2


Seemingly hacer + infinitive constructions in spanish can be very tricky syntactically speaking. And it is even trickier in this case because llorar is normally intransitive, but can be used as transitive.

Let's isolate the confusing sentence

Unos polvos les hacían llorar

which semantically is the same as

Unos polvos hacían llorar a los niños

I think 4.1 and ahead on the linked document addresses your question. There seems to be no consensus and some linguists accept one option (using les in this case), some accept the other (using los) and some accept both. The document quotes an author that says that if the verb is instransitive (like in this case), the trobulesome construction is direct object

Cuando el verbo hacer se une con un verbo intransitivo, el sujeto de éste aparece en la estructura superficial como objeto directo de la construcción entera: Juan hizo correr a Pedro ---> Juan lo hizo correr, Hizo salir humo de la cocina --- > Lo hizo salir. Unido a un verbo transitivo que lleve su propio complemento directo, el sujeto del infinitivo puede aparecer representado como objeto indirecto del grupo: Juan hizo traer un paquete a Pedro --- > Juan le hizo traer un paquete, Me hizo subir las escaleras, Les hizo abrir las ventanas.

But others seem to think otherwise (from the same document)

... ) está el grave problema del leísmo, laísmo y loísmo, al efectuar tal prueba (la de la conmutación). Y nos parece que S. Gutiérrez, al operar con la conmutación, ha caído en esa trampa. Así, por ejemplo, admite indistintamente la conmutación por lo o le en Dejó hablar al diputado (le/lo dejó hablar), sin percatarse del loísmo en el segundo caso; y da por buena la conmutación de Hizo salir a su mujer --- > La hizo salir, sin anotar el laísmo( ... ).


the first les is correct and is the only variant we can use

Yes. It repeats the indirect object (los niños), so it has to be les (or le if it was singular). By the way, the sentence is pasiva refleja (the direct object is turned into the subject and the verb is always preceded by se)

As for the second les, there is no a unanimous grammar rule and it is not a mistake to put los here, right?

Yes. At least that was what I understood from searching around the Internet ,mainly the linked document.

Regarding podemos dejarle los niños a mi madre si salimos:

Why dejarle? Does it relate to a mi madre?

Yes, it relates to a mi madre, which is indirect object.That is why you use le and not la.

Shouldn't we repeat los niños by adding los to the verb?

It is not necessary. You can say:

  • podemos dejarle los niños a mi madre
  • podemos dejarlos los niños a mi madre (this one sounds weird, but I don't think it is syntactically incorrect)

  • podemos dejar los niños a mi madre (no repeating)

  • podemos dejárselos los niños a mi madre (repeating both, se is used instead of le or les)

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    Thank you for you patience and time. It feels like this part of the grammar is where I will often come back to.
    – Logan Xav
    Apr 10, 2018 at 16:30

Well, there are several complicating factors that might make the sentence more challenging. Let's strip those away temporarily, to focus on the indirect pronoun, that you asked about. Here's a simplified version:

El doctor prepara unos polvos. Se los mete a los niños en los ojos. Los polvos les hacen llorar.

The third sentence says that the medications make them [the children] cry. Why is the indirect pronoun les used instead of the direct pronoun los? Well, actually, either one could be used, and I've learned on this site that there is some regional and personal variation that guides the choice. I don't want to get into what's "correct." I will provide a rationale for the choice of indirect object, so you'll feel more comfortable with this when you see and hear it.

If you squeeze a lemon, juice will come out. You squeeze the lemon, the lemon is the direct object of the squeezing. If you make a child cry, the crying is an indirect result of whatever direct action you did. Maybe you made a taunt, or threatened to cancel a birthday party, or applied a caustic medication to the child's eyes. Directly, you said something or applied something, and those actions would affect a direct object. The people affected by that action can be treated as an indirect object.

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