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The Indirect Object – Part I



Mouse-over Spanish text fragments in red to see English translation
The indirect object refers to the person or thing to which the action of the verb is focused on. The indirect object can only appear in intransitive sentences, sentences that contain intransitive verbs such as dar, pedir, or decir, amongst many more. The indirect object is usually placed right after the intransitive verb, or before or after when it switches to its pronoun form.

Semantic Value

The indirect object has three main semantic values.

- Its main use is to describe the immediate receiver of the action.

José dio un paquete a Jesús.
Jose gave a package to Jesus.

- It expresses the relation between a person and the thing the verb describes.

A mi madre le sienta bien ese vestido.
My mom looks great in that dress.

- Together with a verb of movement, it expresses direction.

Le anda detrás.
He's chasing after him.

There is two ways to identify the indirect object in a sentence.

1. Substitute the indirect object for its pronoun form. Just like we earned in the direct object, this phenomenon is called "pronominalización".

Carlos dio un puñetazo a Juan = Carlos le dio un puñetazo.
Carlos punched Juan = Carlos punched him.

Sandra pidió un favor a María = Sandra le pidió un favor.
Sandra asked Maria a favor = Sandra asked her a favor.

2. Ask the verb the question "¿a quién ((to) whom)?".

Carlos dio un puñetazo a Juan = ¿A quién dio un puñetazo Carlos? (A Juan)
Carlos punched Juan = Whom did Carlos punch? (Juan)

Sandra pidió un favor a María = ¿A quién pidió un favor Carlos? (A María)
Sandra asked Maria a favor = To whom did Sandra ask a favor? (To Maria)