Pronouns le / les become se when used with lo, la, los, las (indirect with direct pronouns)

When there is an indirect pronoun in a sentence we use: me, te, le, nos, os, les. However when the indirect pronouns le and les (meaning to him / to her / to them) are accompanied by the direct pronoun lo, la, los or las (meaning it / them) then le and les become se to avoid a clumsy sounding le lo, le la, les los etc, which is tricky to pronounce. Listen to this example:

Laura se lo compró.Laura bought it for her.
Remember that no matter how many different pronouns are used in the sentence, the indirect one comes first and the direct one comes after.

Listen to these examples:

No se lo dije.I didn't say it to her.

selo a ella.Give it to her.

Se la dimos.We gave it to them.

Quiero comprárselos.I want to buy them for them.

María está comprándoselos.María is buying them for him.

No sabemos por qué se los ofrecieron.We don't know why they offered them to them.

Note that se has a different position depending on the verb form.

With a conjugated verb, se is separate to the verb and in front.

Se la dimos.

With an infinitive, imperative or gerund, se comes straight after the verb form as part of the same word.

Quiero comprárselos. (infinitive)

Cómpraselos. (imperative)

Estoy comprándoselos. (gerund)

ATTENTION: When the gerund or infinitive are acompanied by a conjugated verb it is also correct to place the se in front of the conjugated verb, but never between the conjugated verb and the gerund or infinitive. Here are some examples to show the two possibilities:

No se lo puedo apretar.I cannot tighten it for her.

No puedo apretárselo.I cannot tighten it for her.

Estamos decorándosela.We are decorating it for him.

Se la estamos decorando.We are decorating it for him.

Here are some more examples:

Las zapatillas pónselas al lado de la cama.The slippers, put them next to the bed for her.

No se los pagues, él tiene bastante dinero. Don't pay those for him, he has enough money.

¿Por qué no se lo comunicaste antes?Why didn't you let them know about it before?

Se lo daré cuando la vea.I will give it to her when I see her.

El regalo, yo se lo dejé ahí.The present, I left it there for him.

¿Crees que se lo habrá dicho ya?Do you think she will have told him yet?

Pregúntaselo ahora mismo. Ask her about it right now.

Estoy montándoselas en el salón.I am putting them up for him in the living room.


See also:
Using lo, la, los, las = him, her, it, them (direct object pronouns)
Using le and les = [to] it,him, her, them (indirect object pronouns)  

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Quiero comprárselos.I want to buy them for them.
Se la estamos decorando.We are decorating it for him.
No se los pagues, él tiene bastante dinero. Don't pay those for him, he has enough money.
Estamos decorándosela.We are decorating it for him.
No sabemos por qué se los ofrecieron.We don't know why they offered them to them.
¿Crees que se lo habrá dicho ya?Do you think she will have told him yet?
Laura se lo compró.Laura bought it for her.
selo a ella.Give it to her.
No puedo apretárselo.I cannot tighten it for her.
Las zapatillas pónselas al lado de la cama.The slippers, put them next to the bed for her.
Estoy montándoselas en el salón.I am putting them up for him in the living room.
María está comprándoselos.María is buying them for him.
Se la dimos.We gave it to them.
Pregúntaselo ahora mismo. Ask her about it right now.
No se lo dije.I didn't say it to her.
El regalo, yo se lo dejé ahí.The present, I left it there for him.
No se lo puedo apretar.I cannot tighten it for her.
Se lo daré cuando la vea.I will give it to her when I see her.
¿Por qué no se lo comunicaste antes?Why didn't you let them know about it before?

Q&A Forum 5 questions, 9 answers

NicoleB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Question re: Quiz

Hola,

Re: Se la había comprado. 

How can one tell when reading or hearing this sentence, - if it was a standalone sentence -  that the “se” means  the plural “les” .

    For example if this sentence is entered in Reverso:  “Se la abía comprado.”  they translate it as “ I had bought it for              "him”.  So there’s no way to know from the sentence that it was bought for “plural someones”.  

Would this conundrum ever happen in real life, i.e. in converstion or writing, or would it always be clear from the preceding sentence?

Thank you for your patience,

Nicole

 

Asked 4 weeks ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Nicole,

I imagine you might be referring to this sentence from the quiz:

"La había comprado para sus padres. SE la había comprado. (He had bought it for his parents. He had bought it for them.)

I am not sure why you say it as a standalone sentence. In the quiz the whole text should appear, so this way you can see that it is referring to a "plural" "to them/for them". I highlighted the bits of the sentence where you can see the plural.

"Se" is the same in this case for "to him, to her, to them, so in real life the antecedent is always mentioned, otherwise the listener wouldn't know who it is referring to. However, there might be some confusion in a conversation when we are talking about two people and then you use a "se". See this mini dialogue for example:

*Sí, Marcos y Carlos saben que llegas tarde. Escribí una nota y  se la dejé encima de la mesa. 

-¿A quién escribiste la nota? ¿a Marcos, a Carlos, o a los dos?

*Yes, Marcos y Carlos know that you will be late. I wrote a note and left it for him/them on the table.

-Who did you write the note to? to Marcos, to Carlos, or to both of them?

You can see how the second person may want to clarify who her friend left the note for, as "se" could mean him/them. 

Un saludo

Inma

 

JamesB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I believe I have the same question as Nicole. The highlighted portion of the English text corresponds to the use of the indirect and direct object pronouns in the examples, correct? How can one tell the gender and number of the indirect object pronouns in the examples above? I can only guess that it depends on the context of whatever text precedes which, in these examples, is not shown. Without such context wouldn't it be impossible to determine?

Question re: Quiz

Hola,

Re: Se la había comprado. 

How can one tell when reading or hearing this sentence, - if it was a standalone sentence -  that the “se” means  the plural “les” .

    For example if this sentence is entered in Reverso:  “Se la abía comprado.”  they translate it as “ I had bought it for              "him”.  So there’s no way to know from the sentence that it was bought for “plural someones”.  

Would this conundrum ever happen in real life, i.e. in converstion or writing, or would it always be clear from the preceding sentence?

Thank you for your patience,

Nicole

 

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SylvieA1Kwiziq community member

La versus Lo

Hello

I do not understand why you use « la » in this sentence?

Se la estamos decorando.
We are decorating it for him.

InmaKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hola Sylvie

In these two sentences from the lesson, (meaning the same):

Estamos decorándosela.

We are decorating it for him.

Se la estamos decorando.

We are decorating it for him.

"la" is referring to something, a noun,  that is feminine singular, say for example the referent is "la habitación" (the bedroom):

Estamos decorando la habitación de Lucas.

Se la estamos decorando.

Estamos decoránsosela.

If the referent were a masculine singular noun, for example, "el dormitorio" which is also another word for "bedroom" but masculine, we would use the masculine pronoun "lo" instead:

Estamos decorando el dormitorio de Lucas.

Se lo estamos decorando.

Estamos decorándoselo.

I hope this clarifies it for you.

Un saludo

Inma

La versus Lo

Hello

I do not understand why you use « la » in this sentence?

Se la estamos decorando.
We are decorating it for him.

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DougC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Verb and pronoun placement

Hi- I thought pronouns had to come before conjugated verbs. For example, I would think "Explain it to him well" would be translated either "Se lo explica bien" or, if a command,  "Explicáselo bien".  However, in the quiz for this section, the correct answer is verb se lo bien. Can the pronouns be placed after but seperate from the verb?

Thanks

Asked 4 months ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Doug

Commands as you rightly said before should have the pronouns attached to them at the end, so for the command "explain it to him well" we need "explícaselo bien". We can not place them in front and separete to the verb. If they show up as three separate words, then we need to change it in the system as this would be incorrect. I am checking this and will get back to you.

Saludos

Inma

InmaKwiziq team member

Hi again Doug

I checked and it may be that the sentence shows a verb separated from the pronouns like this:

"explíca se lo". But I've changed the question in a way that everything is seen as one word "explícaselo". The latter is the correct way as it is in the form of a command and all pronouns should be attached a the end of the verb. Sorry about the confusion and thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Saludos

Inma

Verb and pronoun placement

Hi- I thought pronouns had to come before conjugated verbs. For example, I would think "Explain it to him well" would be translated either "Se lo explica bien" or, if a command,  "Explicáselo bien".  However, in the quiz for this section, the correct answer is verb se lo bien. Can the pronouns be placed after but seperate from the verb?

Thanks

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EmanuelB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

How do I know that se lo compró does not mean

Asked 7 months ago
EmanuelB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

"she bought it for herself"?

InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Emanuel

That sentence could actually mean both:

"Laura se lo compró" (Laura bought it for herself) [comprarse algo = to buy something for oneself]

or 

"Laura se lo compró (Laura bought it for her/him/them) [comprar algo a alguien = to buy something for someone]

Saludos 

Inma

How do I know that se lo compró does not mean

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TomA1Kwiziq community member

to or for

The confusing part is not se vs le for me but "to" vs "for." Your explanation was that an indirect object means to him/it, etc., but the example is "for him", which is very different in English. I think this needs to be explained. When I speak I usually try to clarify with "para mi" for "for me", but it may not be right.

Tom

Asked 9 months ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Tom

The translation for these indirect object pronouns are normally "to him/her/them" as we state in the lesson. However, with verb "comprar" it is not possible to translate them as "to him/her/them", but their function in the sentence won't change. They will still be indirect object pronouns. In English you wouldn't say "I want to buy them to them", but "for them" for "Quiero comprárselos."

We could also use "para ellos" instead, so you are right when you say you normally use "para" for "for", so we could say the same sentence like this: 

"Quiero comprarlos para ellos", but if we decide to use an indirect object pronoun for "para ellos" then we need "se".

I hope this clarified your doubt.

Saludos

Inma

TomA1Kwiziq community member

Thanks for the clarification, very thoroughly explained!

to or for

The confusing part is not se vs le for me but "to" vs "for." Your explanation was that an indirect object means to him/it, etc., but the example is "for him", which is very different in English. I think this needs to be explained. When I speak I usually try to clarify with "para mi" for "for me", but it may not be right.

Tom

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