I wanted to ask a question about indirect object pronouns.

I have an example sentence here:

Se las he dado

which translates to

I have given them to her

and I can see that "he dado" refers to I have given them and las refers to the object pronoun, them.

I was confused about "Se".

I was reading about indirect object pronouns and felt that "her" was the indirect object pronoun, and from this article I thought we would use "le" i.e.

Le las he dado

What grammatical function does "Se" then serve in this instance? What kind of pronoun is it?


When combined with a pronominal direct object like lo, la, los, las, se is the indirect object and substitutes for le, les (him, her, them).

  • Le he dado las felicitaciones a Juan -> Se las he dado ("se" stands for "a Juan," "las" stands for "las felicitaciones")

  • Le he dado las felicitaciones a María -> Se las he dado ("se" stands for "a María," "las" stands for "las felicitaciones")

  • Les he dado las felicitaciones a Juan y a María -> Se las he dado ("se" stands for "a Juan y a María," "las" stands for "las felicitaciones")

As you can see, "se" is ambiguous, as it can refer to a singular masculine, a singular feminine, or a plural (masculine or feminine) person. Context will decide.

There is a strong tendency among native speakers to pluralize the direct object (that is, to use "los" or "las" instead of the correct "lo" or "la") when the direct object is singular but the indirect object is plural. This way, the speaker feels that the ambiguity of "se" is dispelled:

  • He dado el pésame a Juan y a María: CORRECT: Se lo he dado ("se" stands for "a Juan y a María," "lo" stands for "el pésame") / WRONG BUT USUAL: Se los he dado.

  • He dado la carta a Juan y María: CORRECT: Se la he dado ("se" stands for "a Juan y a María," "la" stands for "la carta") / WRONG BUT USUAL: Se las he dado.

This phenomenon is described under 6) b here:

b) En el español de muchos países de América, es frecuente, especialmente en registros populares o coloquiales, trasladar a la forma singular del pronombre átono de acusativo en función de complemento directo el rasgo de plural correspondiente al complemento indirecto, cuando este va representado por la forma invariable se: «¡No entienden que este es mi espacio, es mi lugar! Cuántas veces quieren que se los diga» (Purroy Desertor [Ven. 1989]), en lugar de «Cuántas veces quieren que se lo diga». Aunque en algunos países esta transferencia indebida se ha extendido incluso entre hablantes cultos, se recomienda evitarla en el habla esmerada.

| improve this answer | |

"He dado" means "I have given", not "I have given them". It is a compound form of the verb "dar".

Here, the word se is acting as a variant of le/les. In Spanish, you cannot say "le" before other object pronoun, you must replace it by "se". In other words, you cannot say "Les las he dado", because it sounds awkward. You must write "Se".

Check that you can write only one pronoun:

"Les he dado... las cosas"   (IO replaced by pronoun)
"Las he dado... a ellas" (DO replaced, although the IO pronoun is neccesary too) 
"Se las he dado" (both DO and IO replaced)

So "Se" is a variant of "les" here.

| improve this answer | |
  • I suggest adding that "he" is a conjugation of haber, and that it's an auxiliary verb that is needed to form the present perfect tense. – aparente001 Dec 8 '19 at 0:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.