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Chapter 4: Declensions and Pronouns

  4.7 le and lo

In the third person singular and plural (he, she, it = singular; they = plural) things can get a bit confusing at the start.

  le and les is the pronoun of the indirect object - in principle:
I give him the book. = Le regalo el libro.
I give her the book. = Le regalo el libro.
I give them the book. = Les regalo el libro.

The problem you will find is that sometimes le and les (the pronouns of the direct object) are used instead of lo and los. There is again a rule to this exception: Only if the object is a male person the pronoun of the direct object can be le or les. This substitution is not made in all of the Spanish speaking countries but it is generally considered correct.
If the object is a female person, a thing or an animal this substitution is not permitted.

The following summary should give you a good overview:

  le and lo, les and los
I see Pedro
I see him
  I see Maria
I see her
  I see the boys
I see them
  I see the girls
I see them
  I give Pedro a book
I give him a book
 

I give Maria a book
I give her a book

  I give the boys a book
I give them a book
  I give the girls a book
I give them a book
 Le veo
  correct
Lo veo
correct
 Le veo
  not correct
La veo
correct
 Les veo
  correct
Los veo
correct
 Les veo
  not correct
Las veo
correct
 Le regalo un libro
  correct
Lo regalo un libro
not correct
 Le regalo un libro
  correct
Lo regalo un libro
not correct
 Les regalo un libro
  correct
Los regalo un libro
not correct
 Les regalo un libro
   correct
Los regalo un libro
not correct
actually direct object (acusativo)
rule of exception: Pedro = male
  direct object pronoun (acusativo)
no exception: Maria = female
  direct object pronoun (acusativo)
rule of exception: boys = male
  direct object (acusativo)
no exception: girls = female
  indirect object (dativo)
no substitution at all
  indirect object (dativo)
no substitution at all
 

indirect object (dativo)
no substitution at all

  indirect object (dativo)
no substitution at all


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