Problems using la, le, lo (laísmo, leísmo, loísmo)

Posted on 15. Sep, 2011 by in Spanish Grammar

When you are learning a language, you have to deal with correct grammar and vocabulary, but you also have to bear in mind its common usage. One main problem not only for Spanish learners but also for native speakers is the linguistic phenomenon known as “leísmo”, closely related to “loísmo, and laísmo”: they are variations from standard Spanish involving the third person object pronouns.

In order to avoid them, we have to bear in mind the form and function of these pronouns in Spanish; take a look at this chart:

Number and gender

Direct object

Indirect oject

singular masculine (“him” or “it”)

lo (Lo veo. I see him or I see it.)

le (Le escribo la carta. I am writing him the letter.)

singular feminine (“her” or “it”)

la (La veo. I see her or I see it.)

le (Le escribo la carta. I am writing her the letter.)

plural masculine (“them”)

los (Los veo. I see them.)

les (Les escribo la carta. I am writing them the letter.)

plural feminine (“them”)

las (Las veo. I see them.)

les (Les escribo la carta. I am writing them the letter.)

Leísmo

Le” and “les” function both as masculine and feminine indirect object in a sentence. In “Le di un regalo.” (I gave her a present.), the pronoun can refer either to a man or a woman in Spanish and it is grammatically correct.

But in some cases you can find sentences such as:

 – Vi a Juan. Le vi.  (I saw Juan. I saw him)

 – A esa chica no le he visto nunca. (I have never seen this girl before.)

This is what we call “leísmo”: when we use “le/les” as a direct object. Although it is grammatically incorrect in all cases, the RAE accepts “le” as direct object if the pronoun is referred only to a male person, but never to female or things.  This variation is much extended in the north and the centre of Spain, but not in Latin America.

The courtesy “leísmo” is also accepted by the RAE: it is the same exchange between object pronouns, in this case associated to the courtesy second person pronoun “usted/ustedes”,especially when speaking to the person le refers to. We will find it both in singular and plural when addressing with respect either male or female: “No le había reconocido.” (I hadn’t recognised you).

Laísmo

La” and “Las” are the feminine direct object pronouns: “Quiero a María. La quiero.” (I love Maria. I love her.) But in some areas they are uses as indirect object pronouns (yes, exactly the opposite linguistic phenomenon of “leísmo”).  So you can hear a Spanish native speaker saying “Las dije unas palabras” (I told them some words), which sounds terrible! It is used regionally in the centre of Spain and some parts of Central America.

Loísmo

Lo/los” are the masculine direct object pronouns, which can also be found being incorrectly used instead of “le/les”. A sentence such as “Lo di una bofetada” (I gave him a slap) is a good example of it. Both laísmo and loísmo are considered as vulgarisms.

Don´t worry if you have problems deciding which pronoun to use, because this is a hard task even for native speakers. There are some problematic verbs you´ll have to ckeck to avoid  these linguistic deviations: avisar, ayudar, curar, disparar, escribir, llamar, molestar, obedecer, pegar, saludar… and some more..

How about doing some practice now? Here you have some sentences  to fill in with le, les, lo, los, la, las:

  • ____sugirieron algunos cambios a sus jefas.
  • A Laura __he visto muy contenta.
  • No __diremos nada a tus compañeras.
  • A mi hermana no __gusta que _____trates así.
  • Compró el libro y _____  leyó en solo dos días.
  • No ____  han hecho ningún regalo.
  • A mis amigas ____  he dejado en la esquina.
  • A él no _____  han aceptado en la academia.
  • El examen _____  entregué enseguida.
  • A Javier _____  regalé un disco.
  • Preferí no contar____  toda la verdad.
  • ____  presté un lápiz y no me ____ ha devuelto.

 

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About Magda

Hi all! I’m Magda, a Spanish native speaker writing the culture posts in the Transparent Language Spanish blog. I have a Bachelor’s in English Philology and a Master’s in Linguistics and Literature from the University of Granada, in Spain. I have also completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, and then worked as an English teacher in several schools and academies for several years. Last year was my first at university level. In addition, I work as a private tutor, teaching English and Spanish as a foreign language to students and adults. In my free time, I’m an avid reader and writer, editing and collaborating in several literary blogs. I have published my first poetry book recently. And last but not least, I love photography!

One Response to “Problems using la, le, lo (laísmo, leísmo, loísmo)”

  1. Margaret Nahmias 15 September 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    I guess leismo is so widespread that for many years I thought Le/les was both the direct objects pronoun for people lo la and los and los were neuters.


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