Object Pronouns Often Used Redundantly

'Extra' Pronouns May Provide Clarity or Emphasis

empty swimming pool
La piscina la encontramos muy sucia. (We found the swimming pool very dirty.). Photo by Ed Vill; licensed via Creative Commons.

Although by definition pronouns are words that stand for nouns, it is common in Spanish to use a pronoun, particularly an object pronoun, in addition to the noun it stands for.

Such use of redundant object pronouns occurs most commonly in the following situations:

When the object of a verb precedes the verb: As explained this lesson on use of object pronouns, placing the object before the verb, while certainly common in Spanish (and possible in English to give a sentence literary flavor), can be at least slightly confusing to the listener.

So placing a redundant object pronoun helps make it clearer which noun is the subject of the verb. The redundant object pronoun in these cases is mandatory or nearly so, even when the form of the verb (such as it being plural) might seem sufficient to indicate what the subject and object of the verb are. For example, in the sentence "El buffet de desayuno lo tenemos de miércoles a domingo" (We have the breakfast buffet from Wednesday to Sunday), buffet de desayuno is the object of the verb tenemos. The lo (which isn't translated but in this case would be the equivalent of "it") is redundant but still required.

Some examples, with the redundant object and pronoun in boldface:

  • Al presidente le vamos a preguntar qué es lo que ha ocurrido. We're going to ask the president what it is that has happened.
  • La piscina la encontramos muy sucia. We found the swimming pool very dirty.
  • Los instrumentos los compraron gracias al apoyo financiero de su madre. They bought the instruments thanks to the financial support of their mother.

    You'll probably come across the redundant object pronoun most often with gustar and verbs similar to gustar, which normally put the object ahead of the verb. Note that when these verbs are used, they are usually translated with the object in Spanish being the subject of the English translation.

    • A Cristal le gusta estar rodeada de gente. Cristal likes to be surrounded by people.
    • A Sakura le encantaba ir al parque a jugar. Sakura loved going to the park to play.

    To provide emphasis: Sometimes, especially in Latin America, the redundant pronoun may be used even when the object appears after the verb in order provide emphasis. For example, in "Gracias a ella lo conocí a él" (thanks to her, I met him), the lo remains even though the speaker added "a él" to call attention to the person the speaker met. We might convey a similar thought in English by placing a strong stress on "him."

    When the object of the verb is todo: Although not required, todo (or its variations) as an object is sometimes accompanied by a redundant pronoun that matches it in number and gender.

    • En sus ojos lo puedo ver todo. In your eyes I can see everything.
    • Tengo mucha fé que los van a rescatar a todos vivos. I have a lot of faith that they are going to rescue everyone alive.

    To repeat the object of a verb in a relative clause: Sometimes people will use a grammatically unnecessary object pronoun in a relative clause (one that follows a subordinate conjunction). For example, in "Hay otros aspectos del gobierno que los aprendemos" (There are other aspects of the government that we learned), the los isn't needed, but it helps link aprendemos to aspectos.

    This usage isn't particularly common and is sometimes considered grammatically incorrect.


    Sources: Sample sentences were adapted from Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (Mexico), FanFiction.net, Nais (Guatemala City restaurant), Soundcloud, es.Wikipedia.org, Fotolog.com, Tumblr and Sin Dioses.