When is it right to use 'lo', 'la' and 'le' in Spanish?

These are called object pronouns and they take a little practice.  Though don't worry, object pronouns are basically just words that mean 'it' or 'him or her'. 

The long and short if it is that 'lo' means 'it' for masculine nouns, and is also the word for 'him'.  'La', on the other hand, means 'it' for feminine nouns and is also the word for her.  'Le' is called the indirect object pronoun, and we'll talk more about that later.

Let's take a book.  In Spanish, it's masculine - 'El libro'.  If you want to say that you're reading it, you can simply say 'Lo leo.'  If you're referring to a man, and you want to say that you can see him, you can just say 'Lo veo.'  Put the pronoun just before the verb and you can't go wrong.

Now, 'Le' is trickier.  It refers to what's called indirect objects, which is when you have more than one object in a sentence.  Take the sentence: "I sing him a song.' The song and the man are both objects in the sentence.  The indirect object is the one receiving the action.  And you can always figure out what the indirect object is by putting a 'to' in front of whichever one seems most correct.  So in Spanish, it's "Le canto una canción," or, "I sing a song to him."  That "to" is all important.

Now, here is where it gets a bit confusing.  You can use "Le" as an indirect object pronoun for both genders.  "To him" and "To her" are the same in Spanish.  But "le" can also mean just "him".  So you can say "Le canto una canción" and it's not clear whether you're referring to a man or a woman.  "Le veo" is a sentence that shows you must be talking about a man.  For sentences with only one obect, "Le" and "Lo" can do the same thing.  "La" can only refer to women.

There's one last thing you need to know.  When you have an indirect object - let's take the previous sentence as an example - "Le" often changes to "Se".  You know that "I sing him/her a song" is "Le canto una canción."  But what happens if you want to say "I sing it to him/her"?  Then the "Le" changes to "Se" for phonetic reasons.  "La canto" means "I sing it".  "Se la canto" is "I sing it to him/her."  

This is the trickiest bit to get your head around with object pronouns in Spanish.  Never, ever say "Le lo" together in one sentence.  To a Spaniard, it just sounds wrong.  And to make everything sound that little bit nicer, it always becomes "Se lo."  If you ever see "Le lo/la" in sentence then you know you've made a mistake!

Paul H. IB German tutor, GCSE German tutor, A Level German tutor, IB ...

3 months ago

Answered by Paul, an A Level Spanish tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Amy C. A Level Spanish tutor, A Level French tutor, GCSE Italian tuto...
View profile
£20 /hr

Amy C.

Degree: Combined Honours in International Relations and French (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: Spanish, Italian+ 2 more

Business Studies

“I am half English half Spanish but moved to England two years ago to do a degree in International Relations and French. I have experience teaching and lots of patience, as I understand the stuggle of learning a foreign language. I can...”

Danielle M. GCSE French tutor, A Level French tutor, GCSE Spanish tut...
View profile
£20 /hr

Danielle M.

Degree: Spanish and French Studies (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: Spanish, French


“About me: My name is Danielle and I am about to be a final year student of French and Spanishat Warwick University. I spent the last twelve months on my year abroad, where I was a student at Málaga University in Spain and University ...”

PremiumAdham S. GCSE Spanish tutor, A Level Spanish tutor, 13 plus  Spanish ...
View profile
£26 /hr

Adham S.

Degree: MPhil General Linguistics and Comparative Philology (Masters) - Oxford, St Anne's College University

Subjects offered: Spanish, Portuguese+ 8 more

English Literature
English Language
.MLAT (Modern Languages)
-Personal Statements-

“I am currently pursuing the MPhil in Linguistics and Philology at St Anne's, Oxford, having graduated in 2013 with a first in Linguistics and Georgian from SOAS, University of London.Language and languages have always been my keenest ...”

About the author

Paul H. IB German tutor, GCSE German tutor, A Level German tutor, IB ...
View profile
£20 /hr

Paul H.

Degree: Spanish Literature (Doctorate) - Cambridge University

Subjects offered: Spanish, German+ 2 more

-Personal Statements-
-Oxbridge Preparation-

“Personal Description: I am a 25 year old PhD student in Spanish Literature at the University of Cambridge. I have a first class-degree in Spanish and German language and literature as well as an MPhil in Spanish literature which I com...”

You may also like...

Other A Level Spanish questions

What is an easy way to include the subjunctive?

When do I use the subjunctive?!

Why does Spanish allow the double negative?

In which case would I use the verb SER and in which case would i use the verb ESTAR when talking about someone's profession?

View A Level Spanish tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss