I just started learning the subjunctive and have a lot of questions. One thing that I can't seem to figure out is this issue..........

If I were to say......" I want you to buy something." In Spanish it would be said as....." Quiero que compres algo."

But if I said......." He tells them to study." I would have to say..."les dice que estudien."

I don't understand why you would have to put the " les " in there. It seems like there shouldn't be any pronoun at all.

To me it seems like it should be said as..." Dice que estudien."

  • Posted Dec 7, 2012
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  • Hello, welcome to the forum! - rac1 Dec 7, 2012
  • Buena pregunta. Te recomiendo que hagas las lecciones que econtrarás haciendo click en el enlace que te he mandado. - QFour Dec 7, 2012
  • Esta pregunta no es del subjunctivo. Es de los pronumbros indirectos. - HackerKing Dec 7, 2012

6 Answers



When you tell something TO someone, that someone is the indirect object (they are receiving what it is that is being told) ...the words/information is the the object. You always use an indirect object pronoun when there is an indirect object. That doesn't exactly have anything to do with why you used the subjunctive there. Every time you tell something to someone, you will use an indirect object pronoun. Aside from this example, all you have to figure out is how to identify an indirect object.

Dice que estudien = no

The indirect object pronoun basically announces (to etc)

Les dice que estudien (to them, he tells them to study)

That's just how you'll have to think about it until getting used to it.

You are always going to be using an indirect object pronoun when there is an indirect object. It will be much quicker and easier on you if you stop trying to rationalize it, and accept it.

Les dice que estudien

Why is "les" there?

Because there is an indirect object. What is the direct object of "to tell" something "to someone"? The direct object is WHAT you are telling, and the indirect object is who is receiving what is being told. You will always need to use an indirect object pronoun there.

Why is the subjunctive used?

Because he's imposing his will on their actions, and he can't really control them... so it's the same as a desire. I can tell you to study, but that doesn't mean you'll do it, it just means I want you to do it. For that reason, it takes the subjunctive.... because what he's saying is just a desire..... it's not based in what's actually happening/going to happen.

Les dice (a ellos) [que] estudien,

I don't really know how to fully explain this, but the link will help.

Here, you can study that here.

  • Dec 7, 2012
  • | Edited by QFour Dec 7, 2012
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  • There are many helpful students of both languages here who could perhaps help you further if my attempts don't cut it, haha. - QFour Dec 7, 2012


I think I understand what your saying but it is just a bit difficult to rationalize it in my head.... I guess that I just see that the two example sentences I gave are so closely related in English. The way I look at it is that the " you to buy" in the first verb turns into "compres." And the "them to study" turns to "estudien" .......so if that is what is happening, there really isn't any need for a pronoun because it is already in the verb. Where am I going wrong here?

  • Dec 7, 2012
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  • You're going to fast. You should learn about the indirect object pronoun and when it's used, befor focusing on the subjuntive. Check out the link I sent you. This is something you need to learn that is seperate from the subjunctive. - QFour Dec 7, 2012
  • I'll write a bit more in my post... but the link I left for you will help. - QFour Dec 7, 2012
  • Hi, TheGreatStone. Both Q4 and Francobollo explained this very well this, now it's your turn to study deeply their explanations and accept the fact. You really should use the pronouns. Otherwise nobody would know who receives the action. - -cae- Dec 7, 2012
  • ... and Rogspax as well, whose answer appeared after my comment. - -cae- Dec 7, 2012


The indirect object in Spanish is identified by asking the subject of the sentence "¿A quién? or ¿para quién?" is the verb in question referring to.

Conversely, the direct object is identified by asking the subject of the sentence "¿Qué? or ¿Qué cosa? is the verb in question referring to.


María te dio la pelota.

Verb: dio

Direct object: la pelota (¿Qué o qué cosa dio María?)

Indirect object: te (¿A quién o para quién dio María?)

If you wanted to replace the actual direct object with a direct object pronoun, then your sentence would be rewritten as follows:

María te la dio.

te -- to you

la -- the ball.

I hope this helps!

  • Buena respuesta. - QFour Dec 7, 2012


I also think if you understood why your two sentences are not really that similar, it would maybe help.

" I want you to buy something." . This sentence contains two subjects, I and you. I is wanting, and you is buying (maybe)

" He tells them to study." . This sentence contains a subject (He) and an indirect object (to them). The subject acts, and the indirect object receives.

So your two sentences are quite different, if you scratch a tick deeper.

A third case would be if you had a sentence like

He tells them a story. Here, you have the Subject, (he), the thing being transmitted which is the direct object, (Story), and you have the receiver (them) of the object.

Clear as mud?

  • Dec 7, 2012
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I'm still not sure i fully understand the concept yet......but appreciate the help......so would these sentences be correct?

Te recomiendo que corras por el parque. Les mando que compren un libro.

  • Dec 7, 2012
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  • I recommend (to you) - I order (to you all) ....you must also note that you use the indirect object pronoun even when you aren't using the subjuntive.... - QFour Dec 7, 2012
  • Yeah! - QFour Dec 7, 2012
  • Yes! - rogspax Dec 7, 2012


Your question isn't about the subjunctive so much as it's about indirect pronouns. The indirect pronouns are le and les (on top of me, te, and nos) and if the sentence includes an indirect object, you always include it (except, I think when the indirect object is a person that is explicitly named).

For example:

Le lancé la pelota. = I threw the ball to her (or him or Usted).

Le lancé la pelota a ella. = I threw the ball to her.

Note how in the second example, it is clarified that "le" means "her" (and not him or you), but we still include "le".

  • Dec 7, 2012
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