According to this, a verb can take complements of four different types: attribute, direct complement, indirect complement (IC), and circumstantial complement.

I sometimes have trouble distinguishing between an indirect complement and a circumstantial complement (or maybe not a complement at all). Thanks to SE, I think I am getting more comfortable with this (especially with circumstantial complements of place), but I still don't feel super-confident.

Can anyone give me some examples of cases where it is difficult for a beginner to tell whether something is an indirect complement or a circumstantial complement (or maybe not a complement at all)?

For example, I think the following sentence is correct: "Envié una carta al buzón." I have been told that "al buzón" is a circumstantial complement because it answers the question "to where is the letter being sent?". That makes sense to me, but seems tricky because it could also answer the question "to what is the letter being sent"? Maybe you don't think this is a tricky example; that's fine. I'm looking for your tricky examples.

  • 1
    Perhaps you should take this one step at a time. I think you are biting off more than you can chew. Unless these things are learned step by step, they can be overwhelming.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 13:55
  • Can you recommend any beginner-level lessons or references that place a heavy emphasis on grammar and on "unusual cases"/"exceptions"?
    – capet
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 14:56
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    The Instituto Cervantes is the best place to learn Spanish: nyork.cervantes.es/en/classes_spanish/spanish_classes.htm I don't know where you are located but you can do a course online.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 15:09
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    ucm.es/plataformaele/complemento-circunstancial If you can understand that, good luck. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 15:59
  • 1
    Thanks @Lambie. I'll try to read it in Spanish so I get some "real-world" education along with my "weird question" education. I appreciate your help, both with my questions and your more general wisdom.
    – capet
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


Se denomina complemento circunstancial, a la función sintáctica desempeñada por un sintagma adverbial, por un sintagma nominal o por un sintagma preposicional, que señale alguna circunstancia semántica de tiempo, lugar o modo al verbo del que es complemento. A veces incluso cantidad, causa o finalidad de alguna acción.

The syntactic function performed by an adverbial phrase, a nominal phrase, or a prepositional phrase that indicates some semantic circumstance of time, place, or manner to the verb of which it is a complement is called a circumstantial complement. Sometimes even quantity, cause or purpose of some action.

Sobre los Complementos Circunstanciales (CC) en español

About Complementos Circunstanciales (CC) in Spanish


Estos es un pequeño resumen, ya que cada complemento tiene sus propias circunstancias y explicar esto de forma escrita es largo y laborioso.

This is a short summary, since each plugin has its own circumstances and explaining this in writing is long and laborious.

La frase "Envié una carta al buzón" no es problemática ya que "al buzón" no es un complemento indirecto y por tanto no puede surgir duda. "Al buzón" sería un "complemento de lugar" ¿donde?.

La duda puede surgir por ejemplo entre;

Doubt may arise, for example, between;

  • El ha comprado unas flores para Margarita.

¿Qué es para Margarita? ¿Complemento Indirecto o Complemento de Finalidad?

What is it para Margarita? ¿Complemento Indirecto o Complemento de Finalidad?

Algunos autores dicen que es un Complemento Indirecto ya que se puede decir;

  • El ha comprado unas flores a Margarita.

Sin embargo, la mayoría piensa que es un Complemento de Finalidad.

Some authors say that it is an "Complemento Indirecto" since it can be said;

  • El ha comprado unas flores a Margarita.

However, most think that it is a "Complemento de Finalidad".


Hay que recordar que en una frase puede existir a la vez un complemento indirecto (CI) y otro tipo de complemento circunstancial (CC).

It must be remembered that in a sentence there can be both an "complemento indirecto" (CI) and another type of "complemento circunstancial" (CC).

Imaginemos la siguiente frase;

Let's imagine the following sentence;

  • (Ellos) han comprado una moto a su amiga.

(Ellos) = Sujeto / han comprado = Verbo / una moto = CD / a su amiga = CI

En estos casos de duda con el CC de Finalidad, si el Complemento Indirecto (CI) lo ponemos delante del verbo lo que hace el español es repetirlo de manera pronominal con le / les

In these cases of doubt with the CC Finalidad, if we put the Complemento Indirecto (CI) before the verb, what Spanish does is repeat it pronominally with le / les.

En la frase

  • (Ellos) han comprado una moto a su amiga.

pasamos el CI delante del verbo

we pass the CI before the verb

  • A su amiga le han comprado una moto.

"A su amiga" = CI / "le" = CI - El CI aparece duplicado /

CI appears duplicate.

En el caso de tener un complemento con "para", cuando lo ponemos delante del verbo no existe duplicación, es decir, con "para" no se repite ningún pronombre.

In the case of having a complement with "para", when we put it before the verb there is no duplication, that is, with "para" no pronoun is repeated.

Escribamos una frase con "para".

Let's write a sentence with "para".

  • (Yo) He comprado unas bombillas para su coche.

(Yo) = S. / he comprado = V. / unas bombillas = CD / para su coche = CC Finalidad

Si el CC de Finalidad "para" lo ponemos delante del verbo;

If the CC Finalidad "para" we put it before the verb;

  • Para su coche he comprado unas bombillas.

No hay duplicación. No se repite ningún pronombre. Por tanto no es complemento indirecto y es complemento de finalidad.

There is no duplication. No pronoun is repeated.

Therefore, it is not an CI and is a CC de Finalidad

Así en el primer ejemplo;

So in the first example;

  • Ha comprado unas flores para Margarita

Ponemos "para" delante del verbo para ver si tenemos duplicación y vemos que

We put "para" before the verb to see if we have duplication and we see that

  • Para Margarita ha comprado unas flores.

Tampoco hay duplicación o repetición. Por tanto es complemento de finalidad

There is also no duplication or repetition. Therefore, it is a complemento de finalidad.

Otra manera a tener en cuenta.

Another way to keep in mind.

El Complemento Circunstancial de Finalidad (CCF), introducido por "para" lo podemos sustituir por pronombres "Tónicos" (ayer escribí una respuesta mencionándolos), yo, tú, él, nosotros, vosotros, ellos, mientras que el Complemento Indirecto (CI) siempre va a ser sustituido por pronombres "Átonos", en este caso "le/les".

The Complemento Circunstancial de Finalidad (CCF), introduced by "para" can be replaced by "Tónicos" pronouns (yesterday I wrote an answer mentioning them), yo, tú, él, nosotros, vosotros, ellos, (I, you, he, we, you, they), while the Complemento Indirecto (CI) will always be replaced by "Átonos" pronouns, in this case "le/les".

En el siguiente ejemplo

In the following example

  • He comprado unas flores a Ramón para Margarita.

Al sustituir por los pronombres Átonos y Tónicos, la oración quedaría;

By substituting for the Átonos and Tónicos pronouns, the sentence would remain;

  • Le he comprado unas flores para ella.

Así podemos encontraros con un CI y CCF juntos

Le = CI Pronombre Átono.

para ella = CCF con Pronombre Tónico.

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