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Leísmo

Using le/les instead of lo, la, los, las

Leísmo

Sometimes in Spanish you will hear people incorrectly use the Spanish le/les instead of the correct direct object pronouns lo/la/los/las for him/her/them. This is called leísmo. For example:

Abracé a mi padre.
I hugged my dad.

leísmo:

Le abracé. I hugged him. 

correct use:

Lo abracé.I hugged him.

Abracé a mi madre. 
I hugged my mother.

leísmo:
Le abracé. I hugged her. 

correct use:

La abracé. I hugged her.

Ayudé a los estudiantes.
I helped the students.

leísmo:
Les ayudé. I helped them.

correct use:

Los ayudé.I helped them. (masculine)

Ayudé a las estudiantes.
I helped the [female] students.

leísmo:
Les ayudé.  I helped them. 

correct use:

Las ayudé.I helped them. (feminine)

Transitive verbs that use a direct object pronoun need a direct pronoun lo/la/los/las, not an indirect object pronoun le/les. 

Leísmo is fairly common in Spain, in some areas more than others. It is often heard and also seen in written Spanish.

This incorrect use of the Spanish le/les is not accepted by the Spanish Royal Academy (R.A.E.) when it refers to her (singular) or them (plural), but it is accepted in the singular form le when referring to him.

Les invité. (I invited them.) → sometimes used but not accepted as correct.

Le invité. (I invited him.) →  sometimes used and accepted as correct by the R.A.E.

Les vi salir del bar. (I saw them leave the bar.) → sometimes used but not accepted as correct.

Le vi salir del bar. (I saw him leave the bar.) →  sometimes used and accepted as correct by the R.A.E.

There is also what is called leísmo de cortesía which is also accepted, when we are using a formal register, for example:

¿Le ayudo señor? (May I help you, sir?)

With verbos de afección psíquica, both types of pronouns (le/les and lo/los) are accepted. Examples of these verbs are molestar, fastidiar, entretener, amenazar, aterrorizar ...

Esas películas le aterrorizan. (Those movies terrify him.)

Esas películas lo aterrorizan.Those movies terrify him.

No le molestes, que está haciendo los deberes. (Don't bother him, he is doing his homework.)

No lo molestes, está haciendo sus deberes.Don't bother him, he is doing his homework.

See also:

 

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