Using ‘Le’ With Certain Spanish Verbs

‘Gustar’ among verbs used with indirect object pronoun

Ruins at Tulum, Mexico.
No le interesa ir a las ruinas de Tulum, México. (Going to the ruins at Tulum, Mexico, doesn't interest her.).

B K / Creative Commons.

Although le is typically used as an indirect object pronoun in Spanish, it doesn't always seem that way to English speakers: The two languages don't always treat pronouns alike, so there are some situations where an English verb takes a direct object but the Spanish equivalent uses an indirect object.

In many cases, it doesn't make a difference whether an object is direct or indirect, because in the first and second persons the two types of pronouns are identical. Me, meaning "me," for example, can be either a direct or indirect object. But the difference matters in the third person, where in standard Spanish le (meaning him, her, you, or less commonly it) is used as the indirect object but lo or la is the direct object. (Be aware that there are regional variations in this usage.)

Verbs of Pleasing and Displeasing

Verbs used to indicate that a thing or action pleases someone frequently take le. The most common such verb is gustar, which is often used in translating sentences where we use a different word order to indicate liking:

  • A ella le gusta la comida china. (Chinese food pleases her. This is a literal translation. In real life, the translation "she likes Chinese food" would usually be used.)
  • La verdad es que no les gusta la verdad. (The truth is that the truth doesn't please them. The truth is they don't like the truth.)
  • Descubrieron que les gustaban las mismas cosas. (They discovered that the same things pleased them. They discovered they liked the same things.)

In addition, various verbs similar in usage and meaning to gustar or the opposite are used with le or les. Some examples:

  • agradar: En su niñez, una de las cosas que más le agradaban era disfrazarse. (In your childhood, one of the things you liked the most was dressing up in costumes.)
  • apasionar: Le apasionaba ser actriz. (She loved being an actress.)
  • complacer: Le complacerá ayudarte. (She will like helping you.)
  • desagradar: Le desagradaba irse a su cuarto. (He hated going to his room.)
  • disgustar: Le disgustó mucho la película y se retiró a los 10 minutos. (He hated the film and left after 10 minutes.)
  • encantar: A mi hija le encanta la música reggae. (My daughter adores reggae music.)
  • placer: Sé que mis comentarios no le placen a mucha gente. (I know my comments don't please many people.)

Verbs Using Le When the Object is a Person

A few verbs commonly use le when its object is a person but not when the object is a thing or concept. For example, with creer, "No lo creo" means "I don't believe it," but "No le creo" can mean "I don't believe him" or "I don't believe her."

In this cases, you can think of what a person believes (or not) as being the direct object, but the person being affected by that belief (or lack) being the indirect object. But in a simple sentence such as "No le creo" the direct object isn't stated.

The same goes for entender (to understand): Lo entiendo. (I understand it.) Le entiendo. (I understand him/her.)

Enseñar (to teach) works in a similar way. The subject being taught is represented by a direct object: Lo enseñé en la escuela católica. (I taught it in the Catholic school.) But the person taught is the indirect object: Le enseñé en la escuela católica. (I taught him/her in the Catholic school.)

Similarly for obedecer (to obey): ¿La ley? La obedezco. (The law? I obey it.) But: Le obedezco a mi madre. (I obey my mother.)

Other Verbs

A few other verbs use le for reasons that aren't immediately apparent:

Importar (to matter, to be important): A los internautas les importa la seguridad. (Security is important to Internet users.)

Interesar (to interest): No les interesaba acumular ni tener propiedades. (They weren't interested in accumulating nor having property.)

Preocupar (to worry a person): La futura le preocupa. (The future worries him/her.)

Recordar (when it means "to remind," but not when it means "to remember"): Voy a recordarla. (I am going to remember her.) Voy a recordarlo. (I am going to remember him.) Voy a recordarle. (I am going to remind him/her.)

Key Takeaways

  • Le and les are the indirect object pronouns of Spanish, but they are sometimes used in situations where English uses direct objects.
  • Verbs used to indicate that something gives pleasure or displeasure often use le.
  • Several verbs use le when the object of a verb is a person but lo or la when the object is a thing.