LearningPortuguese

Object Pronouns

A pronoun referring to the object on which a verb is performed is, logically enough, an object pronoun. However, a further distinction needs to be made between types of object pronoun. Object pronouns can be direct or indirect, and this has an appreciable effect on the Portuguese language. It can be quite difficult to discern whether a pronoun is direct or indirect, as it depends not only on the verb, but also on how it is being used.

The basic rule is: an indirect object pronoun has something done to or for it. A direct object pronoun has something performed on it. With indirect object pronouns, we often use the word ‘to’ or ‘for’ in English between the verb and the object whereas direct object pronouns usually appear immediately after the verb.

For example: ‘He wrote to me every day’ – the writing was done to or for ‘me’, so ‘me’ is an indirect object pronoun. On the other hand, to say ‘He kicked it’ – involves an action being directly performed on ‘it’, so ‘it’ is a direct object pronoun.

The confusion arises when the word ‘to’ or ‘for’ is omitted even though the object pronoun is indirect. This is done quite often in English. For example, in the sentence ‘He wrote me a letter every day.’ – the writing is still being done to or for ‘me’, so ‘me’ is still an indirect object pronoun. However, there is no word ‘to’ in the sentence like there was in the previous example, so it could be difficult to spot that the object pronoun is indirect. The thing to remember, is that for indirect object pronouns, the word ‘to’ or ‘for’, even if it is omitted, is still implied. Ask yourself if you could restructure the sentence with a ‘to’ or ‘for’ in there (eg. ‘He wrote a letter to me every day’), and if you can, the object pronoun is most likely indirect.

There is some more bad news here though. With some verbs the object pronoun is direct in English, but indirect in Portuguese, and vice-versa (for example, in Portuguese, you ‘ask to’ someone, which is indirect, whereas in English we use a direct object). I’m afraid there's no easy way to learn which ones are which – you just have to be patient, and hopefully with the passage of time, you will learn them.

Direct Object Pronouns

English

Portuguese

Notes

me

me

Remember to pronounce the Portuguese version differently to the English! (Sort of a weak ‘muh’, rather than a ‘mee’).

us

nos

Note that the subject pronoun (we) has an acute accent (‘nós’) whereas the direct object pronoun (us) does not (‘nos’).

you (singular)

te

o

a

lo

la

‘te’ is used informally. ‘o’ and ‘a’ are used formally, for male and female objects respectively. ‘lo’ and ‘la’ are also used formally, but only if the object is placed immediately after the infinitive form of a verb (in which case, the spelling of the verb is altered – see below).

you (plural)

os

los / nos

as

las / nas

 

him/it (masculine)

o

lo / no

 

her/it (feminine)

a

la / na

 

them

os

los / nos

as

las / nas

 

The direct object pronouns ‘lo’, ‘la’, ‘los’, and ‘las’ are used after an infinitve verb form. The addition of the ‘l’ serves to make the articulation easier. When this happens though, the spelling of the verb is affected as shown below:

  • First conjugation verbs: drop the final ‘r’, and put an acute accent on the ‘a’.
  • Second conjugation verbs: drop the final ‘r’, and put a circumflex on the ‘e’.
  • Third conjugation verbs: just drop the final ‘r’.

Having changed the infinitive, the pronoun is attached to it with a hyphen.

For example:

levar + os = levá-los

to take them

fazer + a = fazê-la

to make her

destruir + o = destrui-lo

to destroy it

If the pronoun is put before the verb, this restructuring is not necessary (e.g. ‘os levar’ means the same as ‘levá-los’). If the verb ends with a nasal sound (like it does with the third person plural), the ‘l’ is replaced with an ‘n’ for easier articulation (e.g. ‘levaram-nos’ = ‘they take them’).

Indirect Object Pronouns

English

Portuguese

Notes

[to/for] me

me
para mim

All of these indirect pronouns have an alternative using the word ‘para’ (‘to’). In speech, Brazilians often shorten the word ‘para’ to just ‘pra’. Particularly when writing, the ‘para’ can be replaced with the word ‘a’, which means the same thing.

[to/for] us

nos
para nós

Note the acute accent on ‘nós’ when using the ‘para’ variation.

[to/for] you (singular)

te
para ti
lhe

para você

‘te’ and ‘para ti’ are informal. ‘lhe’ and ‘para você’ are formal.

[to/for] you (plural)

lhes
para vocês

 

[to/for] him/it (masculine)

lhe

para ele

para o senhor

 

[to/for] her/it (feminine)

lhe
para ela
para a senhora

 

[to/for] them

lhes
para eles
para elas

 

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