Reflexive + indirect object pronouns?


Hello! I am reading a book which has quite complicated grammar in it. I understand most of this, but sometimes this comes up where there are reflexive and indirect object pronouns together. I can make sense of it, but if I wouldn't know how to figure it out if I had to use it when talking to native speakers.

Here is an example of it: "Lo miró un momento y sintió que el corazón se le aceleraba." I use indirect and direct pronouns together quite often, but can anybody explain this to mean?

updated Dec 10, 2011
posted by Der_Kirby

2 Answers


Lo miró un momento y sintió que el corazón se le aceleraba.

She looked at him for a moment and felt her heart speed up.

A couple of notes on grammar.

The indirect object pronoun "le"

The use of the indirect object pronoun (le) here lets us know that it is her heart (el corazón) that sped up. The usage here is very similar to such constructions as "le duele la cabeza/la espalda/el estómago/etc" where the indirect object pronoun indicates to whom the body part belongs.

The detransitizing "se"

Normally, the verb "acelerar" is a transitive verb which means that we should generally expect it to be accompanied by a direct object indicating "what" was accelerated. In such cases, the verb is conjugated so that the subject indicates "who" or "what" caused the acceleration. For example:

?Luisa aceleré el coche al máximo ? Luisa (subject) accelerated the car (direct object) to the limit—or less literally—Luisa put the pedal to the metal.

When we wish to say that something accelerates of its own accord, we use the pronominal construction, that is to say that we include the pronoun "se" which acts to detransitize the verb so that we no longer need expect a direct object. We might compare the difference between a transitive and detransitized construction in regards to a heartbeat

Transitive: She sped up her heart.

Detransitized: Her heart sped up.

Hopefully, you see that, of the two, it is the latter that makes more sense in our original context.

updated Dec 10, 2011
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1

Well, I'm not really the one to answer, but I'm pretty sure that with

se le aceleraba

you are quite right in identifying the reflexive pronoun (se) and the indirect object (le).

He looked for a minute and then felt that his heart was speeding up/beating faster.

So se aceleraba is acelerarse, used reflexively, and le is the i.o., 'to him'.

So, 'his heart sped itself up to him'. Kind of wierd in English, but that's the idea.

updated Dec 10, 2011
edited by Jeremias
posted by Jeremias
Thank you! now that i think about it, it does make more sense. here is another one that i found in the book, (without a reflexive pronoun): «No voy a darle la espalda -pensó-. A pesar de todo, no puedo dar le la espalda.»
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