Incorrect use of pronouns: leísmo, laísmo, loísmo

It's not just language learners that use Spanish direct and indirect pronouns incorrectly, but before discussing that, let's look at how we should be using them.

Correct use of direct object pronouns: lo, la, los, las

Lo, la, los, las are the correct direct object pronouns in Spanish in sentences with transitive verbs where we are using these pronouns referring to a masculine singular noun: lo, a masculine plural noun: los, a feminine singular noun: la, and a feminine plural noun: las.

Here are some examples:

¿Terminan el trabajo hoy? - Sí, lo terminan hoy.Are they finishing the job today? - Yes, they are finishing it today.

¿Está viendo la última película de Almodóvar? Sí, la está viendo.Is he watching the last Almodóvar movie? -Yes, he's watching it.

¿Puedes comprar plátanos? Sí, los compro ahora.Can you buy bananas? Yes, I'm buying them now.

¿Sabes dónde están mis gafas? Las dejo en la mesa todos los días.Do you know where my glasses are? I leave them on the table every day.

Correct use of indirect object pronouns: le, les

Le, les are the correct indirect object pronouns in Spanish in sentences where we are using these pronouns referring to a masculine or feminine singular noun: le or a masculine or feminine plural noun: les.

For example:

¿Luna escribe a sus amigas? Sí, les escribe.Does Luna write to her friends? Yes, she writes to them.

Nosotros les preparamos la cena a nuestros invitados.We are cooking dinner for our guests.

Añadí sal a la comida. Le añadí sal.I added salt to the food. I added salt to it.

¿Ella envía un regalo a Miguel? Sí, ella le envía un regalo.Is she sending a present to Miguel? Yes, she is sending him a present.

Test yourself by studying these lessons: 

 

However, there are certain parts of Spain and Latin America where this rule isn't followed fully, creating linguistic phenomenons called: leísmo, laísmo and loísmo, which involve the incorrect use (in most cases) of these pronouns.

Let's see each of them in turn.

Leísmo

Sometimes in Spanish you will hear people 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 one of the direct pronouns lo/la/los/las, not either of the indirect object pronouns 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), or when it refers to inanimate objects, 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, i.e. verbs that affect the mood or provoke some reaction, both types of pronouns (le/les and lo/los) are accepted. Examples of these verbs are molestar (to bother), fastidiar (to bother), entretener (to entertain), amenazar (to threat), aterrorizar (to terrify)...

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

Esas películas lo aterrorizan.Those movies terrify him.

No le molestes, 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.

 

Laísmo

Sometimes in Spanish you will hear people use the Spanish la/las instead of the correct indirect object pronouns le/les for her. This is called laísmo. For example:

laísmo:

La di un abrazo.
I gave her a hug

correct use: 

Le di un abrazo.I gave her a hug.

laísmo:

La dije que la quería.
I told her I loved her.

correct use:

Le dije que la quería.I told her I loved her.

laísmo:

Las ofrecí un café.
I offered them a coffee.

correct use: 

Les ofrecí un café.I offered them a coffee.

laísmo:

Las pregunté cómo estaban.

I asked them how they were.

correct use: 

Les pregunté cómo estaban.I asked them how they were.

These sentences are using la/las as indirect object pronouns referring to her or them (feminine). As indirect object pronouns these should only be le or les (for masculine and feminine).

Laísmo is not as extended as leísmo. It's common to hear this use of la/las in certain parts of Spain, for example in Madrid and in general in the central and central northern part of Spain. Laísmo hardly occurs in Latin America.

Unlike in leísmo, where certain cases are accepted and normalized, laísmo is not accepted and is considered incorrect.

 

Loísmo

Sometimes in Spanish you will hear people use the Spanish lo/los instead of the correct indirect object pronouns le/les for him/them. This is called loísmo. For example:

loísmo:

Los dije que era una mala idea. 

I told them it was a bad idea.

correct use:

Les dije que era una mala idea.I told them it was a bad idea.

loísmo:

Lo di unas monedas porque estaba hambriento. 

I gave him some coins because he was starving.

correct use: 

Le di unas monedas porque estaba hambriento.I gave him some coins because he was starving.

 

Loísmo is not very extended in Spain or Latin America; you may hear this incorrect use of lo/los in parts of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, and also in parts of Asturias in northern Spain.

The R.A.E considers this use of lo/los as incorrect. 

 

It's important to note that these variants already existed in medieval Spain. Also, in Latin America, the influence of some languages like Quechua or Aimara, where there is no distinction of gender, has been an important contributing factor to these phenomena. 

Q&A Forum 2 questions, 0 answers

ClaraC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

A much appreciated explanation...

Thank you so much for this detailed explanation Inma. It's greatly appreciated. I hope it's fair to say that I wish that  Leísmo/Loísmo/Laísmo didn't exist 🙄... another thing for my old brain to try to remember. ;))

Asked 3 months ago
Clara asked:View original

A much appreciated explanation...

Thank you so much for this detailed explanation Inma. It's greatly appreciated. I hope it's fair to say that I wish that  Leísmo/Loísmo/Laísmo didn't exist 🙄... another thing for my old brain to try to remember. ;))

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PaulA2Kwiziq community member

Great explanation!

Now I know that when I listen to native speakers or have to read their WhatsApp messages, I shouldn't assume that their lo / le / las usage is correct.

Asked 1 year ago
Paul asked:View original

Great explanation!

Now I know that when I listen to native speakers or have to read their WhatsApp messages, I shouldn't assume that their lo / le / las usage is correct.

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