In Lesson 13 we looked at verb objects in Spanish. In this lesson we will look at verb object pronouns - small words that function as objects, but are shorter than the nouns or names that you might otherwise use.
Verb Object Pronouns. Spanish has an extensive system of verb object pronouns, similar to the the English object pronouns me, him, her, them, us. They substitute for the noun referred to (Pedro, mi hermano, la gata, and so on).
Location of Verb Object Pronouns. In contrast with other sentence elements, the positions of verb object pronouns are rigid. As we will see, this rigidity is necessary to avoid ambiguity in their meaning.
You will find verb object pronouns in two locations:
Potential Ambiguity in Verb Object Pronouns. The Redundant Object Pronoun. Any pronoun requires context to give it meaning. The words "I," "him," "them," by themselves are without fixed meaning. In addition, in Spanish, some of the pronouns serve several functions. For example, le can mean to him, to her, to it (indirect objects), and, in Spain, him and usted (direct objects).
If the context does not make clear the meaning of a pronoun, the pronoun is explained by using an expressed object. That is: in addition to the pronoun, there is a stated object (the person or thing the object pronoun was to replace).
One may well wonder what purpose it serves to use a pronoun at all, if it so ambiguous that it needs to be clarified. In the first example above, the direct object pronoun la adds nothing that is not contained in a mi hermana.
In fact this use of a verb object pronoun serves no purpose related to meaning or efficiency of communication. For this reason it is called the "redundant object pronoun." Spanish speakers and writers simply "like" to use verb object pronouns.
Reflexive Pronouns. The reflexive pronoun is used when the object is the same as the subject. Therefore, it always agrees in person and number with the verb. A reflexive pronoun can be used with any verb whose meaning permits it.
The reflexive pronouns are identical with the direct and indirect verb object pronouns in the first and second person (me, te, nos, os). Also, the third person reflexive pronoun, se, is both singular and plural, and is also the same as the substitute indirect object se just given above.
Tip: se used alone is always a reflexive pronoun. The indirect object usage above is only in combinations of pronouns.
Second tip: if the object pronoun matches the subject in person and number, it is a reflexive pronoun.
Types of reflexives.
crecer v. irr. to grow; to increase, -se to swell (as a river); to become or feel important.
Colorful uses of the reflexive pronoun.
Unexpected negative events. With unexpected negative events, it is common to make the inanimate article an autonomous agent performing a reflexive action in itself, with the person as the indirect recipient of the action:
Multiple Verb Object Pronouns. When there is more than one object pronoun, their sequence is fixed: reflexive, indirect, direct. (Thus the order used in the Table of Pronouns.) This is true whether they precede the verb as separate words, or are written at the end of the verb as endings. The rigid order allows the type of pronoun to be identified.
Location of verb object pronouns in formal writing. In formal writing or oratory, object pronouns can be found on the end of almost any verb forms. Formal writing is much more common in Spanish than in English, and can be found in many political writings, speeches, opinion pieces like a column in a newspaper, and so on. Only rarely would object pronouns be used in this way in a research article, or in conversation. (The presentation of this fairly common feature is another unique characteristic of this book.)
Exercise. Determine the meaning of each of the following:
Click here to go to the translations of the sentences above.
In this reading, the author paints a picture of a moment of Spain's history, at a time of religious reform in the sixteenth century. He accentuates the difficulties Santa Teresa, faced and the harshness of Castile. Santa Teresa was a religious reformer, founding convents on her own initiative. She was also arguably a feminist (though she would have never said so).
This is the first reading that is taken from a published source, rather than written by the author of this text. The author, Francisco Martínez Ruiz, used the pseudonym Azorín (little hawk). It is taken from his Una hora de España, Chapter 16. It was written in 1924. (There is a student edition of this book published in 1993 by Editorial Castalia, Madrid. The ISBN is 8470396765; a bookseller can find it from this number. There is an English translation, An Hour of Spain, but it was last published in 1933. It could be obtained through interlibrary loan.)
A la caída de la tarde ha llegado el carrito(1) a la ciudad. Han descendido del carro una religiosa(2) y una compañera. Salieron por la mañana(3) de otro pueblo. Han caminado durante todo el día. El viento sopla frío por la llanura. La religiosa va un poco enferma. A media tarde, la religiosa y su compañera han sacado de un zurrón un cantero(4) de pan y un pedacito(5) de queso y han comido. Está un poco enferma la religiosa; el viento frío del otoño le hace daño en la(6) garganta. No cesa de caminar por toda España la buena religiosa(7); va de pueblecito(8) en pueblecito y de ciudad en ciudad; habla con frailes, monjas y prelados. Para todos tiene palabras afectuosas. Sus ojos son negros y redondos. "Ojos--dice el padre Ribera(9)--vivos y graciosos, que en riéndose(10) se reían todos(11) y mostraban alegría; y por otra parte, muy graves cuando ella quería mostrar en el rostro gravedad." La complexión(12) de la religiosa es fuerte. "No soy nada tierna--dice ella hablando de sí(13)--; antes(14) tengo un corazón tan recio, que algunas veces me da pena." Recio, no para los humanos, sino para las adversidades. Pero hoy es el día en que la esforzada religiosa va a sentirse un tantico(15) desazonada. No le han hecho(16) perder la serenidad los trabajos y la hostilidad de los hombres, y hoy por una cosita(17) de nada va a estar a pique de perderla.
El carro ha llegado a la ciudad. La religiosa y su compañera no conocen en ella(18) a nadie. En el pueblo de donde vienen les han dado(19) vagas indicaciones sobre lo que desean.(20) El carro va dando vueltas por las calles; a veces se detiene, y el carretero(21) interroga a las gentes. Y otra vez comienza a caminar. La hermana que va con la religiosa es sorda; a la monja, su mal de garganta le ha quitado la voz. No pueden entenderse(22) una y otra cuando hablan.
El carro se ha detenido ante una casa. ¿Será ésta(23) la casa donde van a fundar un pequeño convento? La puerta está abierta; al zaguán se sube por dos escalones; está encalado.(24) Las paredes son de un blanco puro. A la derecha se abre una puertecilla;(25) da paso a una camarilla(26) en que hay una tinaja y dos cántaros.(27) A la izquierda, por otros dos escalones, se sube a un breve corredor. Al cabo del pasillo se encuentra un patio rodeado(28) de alta galería.(29) El techo del zaguán está formado por viguetas(30) cuadradas que sostienen anchas tablas. La galería del patio es de madera. La madera del techo y la madera de la galería, en contraste con la nítida cal,(31) aparecen negruzcas(32) y ahumadas.(33)
Muchas generaciones, desde la Edad Media, han pasado por esta pobre morada. Las catedrales y los palacios son grandes y ostentosos; los nombres de quienes han levantado las catedrales y de quienes han morado en los palacios, tal vez han pasado a la Historia.(34) Pero en estas casas humildes, a lo largo de los siglos, han vivido generaciones de gentes que han trabajado y sufrido en silencio. Y estas paredes blancas y estas maderas ahumadas, anodinas,(35) sin primores artísticos, vulgares, llegan acaso a producir una emoción más honda, más inefable que(36) los maravillosos monumentos.
Click here for the translation of this reading.
1. -ito is a diminutive ending, to be discussed shortly. It makes the word carro smaller.
2. This is a adjective (religioso) that has been turned into a noun through the addition of an article: "a religious person." (There is no noun for religiosa to modify.) Note that religiosa and compañera are the subjects of "han descendido." In English, religious is sometimes a noun (member of a religious order), especially used by religious writers.
3. Por tells the way something is done: "in the morning." Mañana by itself is "tomorrow," but when it is modified, as in la mañana, esta mañana, una mañana, it means "morning."
4. A crust. Note that "zurrón" (pouch ) is part of the prepositional phrase "de un zurrón". The phrase ends with "zurrón"; "un cantero" is the object of the verb "han sacado."
5. Note the diminutive suffix -ito (later in this text -cito and -ecito). The z in pedazo (a piece) has changed to c because the following vowel has changed from o to i.
6. her throat. The indirect object pronoun (le) often indicates the ownership of parts of the body or articles of clothing.
7. Here is your subject (religiosa). It is also the subject of va.
8. The diminutive suffix -ito sometimes replaces a final vowel with e and adds the consonant c. "Little town."
9. The article "el" is not translated. Father Ribera was an early biographer of Saint Teresa.
10. Present participle of reír, with reflexive pronoun on the end. The "e" of the stem changes to "i," but as the ending begins with "i" the two "i"s combine. Double unaccented i or u are not permitted in Spanish. En riéndose: when (her eyes are) laughing.
11. Everyone; the subject.
12. To say her complexion is strong makes no sense, so complexión does not mean complexion. Try to guess before you look it up.
13. Herself; reflexive third person object of a preposition; also can mean himself, itself, themselves, yourself (polite), yourselves (polite).
15. -ico is another, more colloquial diminutive ending: "a tiny bit."
16. The subjects of the plural verb are trabajos and hostilidad. Serenidad is the object of perder.
17. "A little thing," using the diminutive -ito suffix. Una cosita de nada, a little nothing. Por: "because of," "from."
18. Look backwards for the noun the pronoun ella refers to. It must be feminine singular, so it would not be referring to the pair "religiosa" and "compañera." In the previous sentence you will find the feminine singular noun "ciudad," which is what "ella" refers to. Translation is "do not know anyone in it (the city)."
19. Subjectless third person plural; an equivalent to the English passive. "They were given."
20. Lo que = that which. The subject of desean is the two women.
21. The suffix -ero creates an ocupation: zapato shoe, zapatero, shoemaker or shoe repairman; camión truck, camionero truckdriver; casamiento marriage, casamentero, matchmaker. Carreta is a cart, so carretero is the one who drives the cart.
22. Reciprocal reflexive. "They cannot understand each other."
23. Can this be? Ésta is the subject of the verb será (a future form of ser).
24. A past participle used adjectivally: "whitewashed." The verb encalar was created from the root cal, lime or whitewash.
25. -illa is another diminutive suffix. With some words, suffixes are preceded by a c or d.
26. Cámara can be a photographic camera, but here has the archaic meaning of "room." The -illo ending, as in the English "cigarillo," makes it smaller.
27. Tinaja: a large earthenware jug for water. Cántaro: a pitcher.
28. A past participle used as an adjective. Look up the infinitive.
29. An interior hallway. In traditional Spanish buildings such as this, it is a balcony surrounding an interior courtyard.
30. -ete (here in its feminine form -eta), a diminutive attached to viga, beam.
31. Note that in this instance, the adjective comes first, followed by the noun. When this happens, the adjective is less vital than it is than when it follows the noun.
32. The suffix -uzco means having some of the qualities of, like English -ish (bluish, sixish).
33. Past participle used as an adjective. (Only as an adjective, not as a verb form, can a -do past participle form change gender or number.) The verb ahumar is formed on the root of humo, smoke. Presumably the boards are discolored from candle smoke.
34. The capital "H" on "Historia" has the same function as it would in English, if "History" were capitalized: "history with a capital 'H,'" "'real' history."
35. Ordinary, uninteresting.
36. The comparative: more than
Translation of the sentences of Exercise:
Go back to questions.
Source for Francisco Rodríguez Marín quotes. From the article "El archivo general de Indias," first published in Cultura Hispano-americana, 1913. Taken from the reproduction in Artículos periodísticos de D. Francisco Rodríguez Marín (1855-1943) (Madrid, 1957), p. 3.
Se acabó el café.
Translation: The coffee ran out, there was no more. Literally, "the coffee finished itself": no one person caused it to run out, it just happened.