Attaching Pronouns to Verbs

Pronoun-Verb Combos Formed With Infinitives, Commands, Gerunds

tomatoes for sale for Spanish grammar lesson
Necesito comprarlos. (I need to buy them.). Nacho/Creative Commons.

Spanish pronouns and verbs are usually written as separate words even when adjacent. But there are three instances where object pronouns can or must be attached to the verbs they accompany, making the written form of verb+pronoun appear as a single word.

Here are some examples of verbs and pronouns being combined, with the pronouns shown in boldface:

  • Quiero comprarlo. (I want to buy it. Comprar and lo are listed as separate words in dictionaries.)
  • ¡Olvídalo! (Forget it! Olvida and lo are usually separate words.)
  • Seguirán comprándolo año tras año. (They will keep on buying it year after year.)
  • ¡Bésame ahora! (Kiss me now!)
  • Me lo llevo a casa para estudiarlo. (I am taking it home to study it.)
  • No puedo verla. (I can't see it.)

As you might be able to infer from these examples, the three types of verb forms that object pronouns can be attached to are these:

  • Infinitives (the form of the verb that ends in -ar, -er or -ir).
  • Gerunds (the form of the verb that ends in -ando or -endo).
  • Affirmative commands (but not negative ones).

In all cases, the pronunciation of the verb with the pronoun attached is the same as if they were separate words. But in writing, an accent is sometimes required, as in some of the above examples, particularly with gerunds and affirmative commands, in order to make certain that the accent remains on the correct syllable.

It also is possible to attach two object pronouns to a single verb: Puedes decírmelo. (You can say it to me.) In such cases the accent is always necessary.

Pronouns Attached to Infinitives

When an infinitive is used with another verb, the pronoun or pronouns can be attached to the infinitive but don't have to be.

In such cases, the pronoun or pronouns can come before or after the verb+infinitive. In the following examples, either form is acceptable:

  • Lo quiero comprar. Quiero comprarlo. (I want to buy it.)
  • Me hizo leerlo. Me lo hizo leer. (She made me read it.)
  • Lo voy a estudiar. Voy a estudiarlo. (I am going to study it.)
  • Lo tengo que comer. Tengo que comerlo. (I have to eat it.)
  • No lo puedo comprender. No puedo comprenderlo. (I can't understand it.)

When an infinitive is used as a noun — such as when it follows a preposition or is used as the subject of a sentence — attachment of the pronoun is required:

  • Conocerte es amarte. (To know you is to love you.)
  • Una manera muy simple de comprenderlo es observarlo. (A very simple way of understanding it is to observe it.)
  • Pulsa sobre la fotografía para verme con mi nueva familia. (Click on the photograph to see me with my new family.)

Pronouns Attached to Gerunds

With gerunds: The rules for gerunds are similar to those for infinitives. When a gerund is used preceded by another verb, the pronoun can be placed before the other verb but not between the other verb and the gerund. When a gerund stands by itself, the pronoun typically is attached. Some examples:

  • Lo estoy buscando. Estoy buscándolo. (I am looking for it.)
  • Seguiré estudiándolo. Lo seguiré estudiando. (I will keep on studying it.)
  • Leyéndolo, tendrás éxito. (By reading it you'll be successful.)

Pronouns Attached to Affirmative Commands

Object pronouns typically are placed attached to affirmative commands (a command in which someone is told to do something), but before negative commands (a command in which an adverb of negation, usually no, is used). Some examples:

  • ¡Cómelo! (Eat it!)
  • ¡No lo comas! (Don't eat it!)
  • Mírenme. (Look at me.)
  • No me miren. (Don't look at me.)
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Attaching Pronouns to Verbs." ThoughtCo, Mar. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/attaching-pronouns-to-verbs-spanish-3079428. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, March 19). Attaching Pronouns to Verbs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/attaching-pronouns-to-verbs-spanish-3079428 Erichsen, Gerald. "Attaching Pronouns to Verbs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/attaching-pronouns-to-verbs-spanish-3079428 (accessed November 25, 2017).