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  5. "Le pusimos luces al árbol."

"Le pusimos luces al árbol."

Translation:We put lights on the tree.

December 18, 2013



how does "Le" work in this sentence?


The direct object is what you find in English when there are no prepositions and only one object. "We put the tree" is wrong; you aren't putting trees, you're putting lights. So "luces" is the direct object(This is because poner takes objects the same way English put does.). The tree is an indirect object for both "put" and "poner", so "le" refers to the tree.


Oh my gosh ... now I'm even more confused. lol I though le only referred to humans, not objects. :p


le = to/at/toward him/her/it (a.k.a. indirect object); la = her / it, feminine direct objects; lo = him / it, masculine direct objects;

In parts of Spain they use "Le" as the direct object when referring to a man, which is not correct Spanish according to "the rules" but that's the way it is.

Le (To it) pusimos (we put) luces (lights) al (to the) árbol (tree). That's the literal translation.


Now if only I can remember stuff like then when I'm in the middle of a conversation. ha ha! That's the real challenge, for me anyway.


Why do we need le here? why not just " pusimos luces al árbol". ?


When ever there is an indirect object, in this case the tree, you need an indirect object pronoun, in this case "le," but in other sentences it could be "me," "te," "les," or "nos." That is simply the way Spanish works. If you were previously talking about the tree and it was understood you'd still need "le" but you could leave off the "al árbol" part.


I had the same problem, although I got it right by taking a stab. Thanks for explaining. This one was a bit of a curveball (baseball reference, lol).


Try your best to learn the grammar of a new language using its own rules. Don't sue your native ones' rules.

"To it, we put lights on the tree". Translated literally, this is how it looks. It works well in cases where the indirect object is already mentioned. Such as: "Mi familia compran un arból nuevo. Le pusimos luces. My family bought a new Christmas Tree. To the tree, we put on the lights"

Its almost like indirect, archaic English: "To the world, we shall be known/ St the mall, we shall feast" so its correct, although the usage is uncommon.

As long as you understand the Spanish, and use it properly with relevant verbs you will be fine.


So in this case, would you say "les" because light(s) is plural?


No, "le" is for the indirect object, which is the tree, which is singular.


Why wouldn't it be lo?


Lo is the direct object pronoun. Le is the indirect object pronoun. Although it doesn't make sense quite in English, the tree is the indirect object of the verb poner. The clues are that the Spanish is to the tree not on the tree as in English. Also you would not use the direct object pronoun when the direct object is specified, although the indirect object pronoun is required when there is an indirect object whether it is specified or not.


Is the tree really the indirect object here? I came to this discussion because on my previous sentence I had to translate "We put the lights on the tree" and my "Ponemos luces en el árbol" was marked correct, without the "le".

According to this article http://www.softschools.com/examples/grammar/indirect_object_examples/77/, "on the tree" is a "prepositional phrase", not an indirect object.

Although that article I just mentioned may not be completely correct. This article http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/indirectobject.htm says that indirect objects can appear in prepositional phrases with the prepositions "to" and "for". That article doesn't explicitly say that nouns following any other prepositions aren't indirect objects, but the linked article on prepositional phrases, http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/prepositionalphrase.htm, says that prepositional phrases function either as adjectives or adverbs.

I know that English and Spanish don't necessarily have the same grammar rules but I'm guessing that the general rules for what is and isn't an indirect object are the same.


By analogy with something you are familiar with:

"I give him a gift"

"Yo le doy un regalo a él"

"Gift" is the direct object. "Him" is the indirect object.

In the above example, you are "giving" lights to a tree. "Lights" is the direct object. "Tree" is the indirect object.


Thanks for the explanation. One thing I wonder about, though, is why "arbol" needs the "le" as an indirect object, but "luces" doesn't need something as the direct object. Both "arbol" and "luces" are overt in the sentence, so if one needs it, why not the other?


The following explanation is not mine, but it helped me. I copied it into my notes from another duolingo thread (I can't recall which):

Indirect objects, if they exist in the sentence, must appear as the indirect pronoun either before the conjugated verb or at the end of an infinitive, even if there is a clause later on in the sentence that includes the indirect object. Direct object pronouns (which is what "lo" is in this sentence) are optional. You can say "Nunca lo he conocido", "Nunca lo he conocido a él" or "Nunca he conocido a él" and they would all mean the same thing, other than a slight change in emphasis and specificity. You are being more emphatic that you never met HIM! if you include both.


The problem is exactly that English and Spanish do not deal with indirect objects the same. But it is also that by changing the preposition in your sentence you altered the grammatical structure of the sentence. In English we would never say we We put the lights TO the tree, but that is what they say in Spanish. I cannot say whether a native Spanish speaker would interpret your sentence as meaning the same as this one, or whether they would think the en meant in as in into a hole in the tree or on top of the tree. I do know that your sentence has only recently been accepted, but this construction is the common Spanish one. And while it goes against our English sensibilities, there is some sense to the concept of the tree as the indirect object of the action. Indirect objects answer the question to whom/what or for whom/what so those are the prepositions required for the prepositional phrase. But using the preposition a in the form of al and the indirect object pronoun le shows that the Spanish view the tree as the recipient of the action much as someone is the recipient of a thrown ball.



I'd love to know!


So this always gets me as well but here's my crack at an explanation...no guarantees:

Its known as the "indirect object" the indirect object can be identified as where the direct object is going. So if I say, "I am giving her a present" the Present = DO (ie. lo/la etc) and the present is going to HER which is the Indirect Object which can be replaced by LE.

For the sentence above: "Le pusimos luces al arbol" DO = LIGHTS and the lights are going in the direction towards the TREE, therefore the IO = TREE, so we can use "Le" in this case. The last bit "al arbol" is not needed if we were to already know the context, although in this case because its the first time we have heard the sentence we need to clarify what the IO (or LE) actually is.

For a full table and explanation of DO/IO pronouns i've found this website helpful:



Thank you for the link. I still don't really get it, though. All of the examples (that I see) on that web page list people for indirect objects. I had learned (perhaps incorrectly it seems) that indirect object pronouns had to be used for people (or, I suppose, animals). This is a tree. I know it's the "recipient" but we say on the tree, object of the preposition. Maybe literally translated "put to" the tree, but still ...

I'm not arguing with Spanish (or you, or anyone). Spanish is a language that is not my own and it does not have to conform to me. I'm just trying to wrap my head around this to get a sense of what's going on, to feel like I'm learning rather than just spinning around. I have failed lessons in the pronouns section so many times. {{sigh}}


The fact that most examples of indirect objects are people is because they most commonly are. It is not part of any rule. Spanish makes few gramatical distinctions between people and objects and since all objects have gender the same pronouns are used. The only real differences between people and things as objects comes with the personal a. If the Direct object is a person (or pet, etc) you add an a before the name or pronoun. This makes it look like an indirect object to English speakers and confuses us at first.


Things besides people can be direct objects. For example, "Give the dog a bone" or as it is literally translated to Spanish: "Give a bone to the dog."


@Daniel, OK, in this sentence there are 3 nouns, WE, LIGHTS and TREE. Only one of them can be the subject, only one can be the direct object, and only one can be the indirect object. This works in both Spanish and English. The subject is performing the action, in this case, putting. Who put? We put, so we is the subject. In the Spanish sentence we is inferred from the conjugation of "poner." What did we put or what is "we" acting on? Lights, so "lights" is the direct object. Where did we put the lights, or what noun received the lights? The tree received the lights, so "the tree" is the indirect object.

Just remember that phrasing is sometimes different in Spanish and we might switch up the nouns sometimes. Best example is "Me gusta." vs "I like it."


A dog is alive and not considered a thing. Another example would be: He named the boat "The Titanic". also can be said " He named it "The Titanic". or He gave a name to the boat. the boat is the indirect object and the name "The Titanic" is the direct object.


What I'm really looking for (and I'm not being argumentative; I'm trying to understand) are examples of non-animate things as indirect objects. That's why "tree" (needing an indirect object pronoun) in this exercise sentence really threw me. I have never seen a non-animate thing be an indirect object before. And I had been taught (perhaps incorrectly, it seems) that indirect objects had to be animate.

This link (http://www.studyspanish.com/lessons/iopro1.htm) is very helpful, but all of the example listed have people as the indirect objects.


@ allintolearning: I'm really not being argumentative when I say this: In your example, the boat is being personified. Yes, a boat is an inanimate object, but, by giving it a name, we are giving it the properties of a person or pet.

So, I still search for my examples of inanimate (and non-anthropomorphized) things as indirect objects. Again, I ask this not to be a PITA, but rather because I am trying to prove or disprove what I have been taught.


Yep the whole pronouns/object direct/indirect thing about Spanish is tricky - out teacher must have explained the concept to us maybe three or four times and it wasn't until literally the fourth time it started to click - and i'm guessing its going to take another few lessons on the topic before I can confidently use it...unfortunately it is a case of just having to keep banging your head against the wall until it sinks in, unless there is an easier way - I would love to know!


I think you're referring to the personal "a" - which is added to indirect objects when they are close people or animals. (Yo beso a mi hijo - I kiss my son.) But this le business is new to me too.


The personal a is for direct objects not the indirect object. The son is the direct recipient of the action kiss. One issue is that we use indirect objects less in English than Spanish. An object is the object of the preposition in English if it follows a preposition and we only consider it an indirect object if we can replace the prepositional phrase with a noun or pronoun. So I threw the ball to Jose (or him) becomes I threw Jose (or him) the ball and perhaps I threw him it.) In English the first sentence has an indirect object and the second does not. When we learn Spanish we learn that when it is possible to have an indirect object pronoun we must put it there whether or not the prepositional phrase is there. It makes no sense to our English brain but we can generally learn it. But this case is different. It is impossible to construct an English sentence with either "the tree" or "it" representing the tree as an indirect object of the action putting lights on. In English the preposition must be either to or for to be replacable by an indirect object (there may be exceptions to that but I can think of none at the moment) I think for the most part this is the same in Spanish. But I think that the perceived relationship between the action and the tree in Spanish for this sentence is different from most Spanish constructions. I have never learned to say, "le puse el libro en la mesa" in Spanish and to the English speaker that is a direct grammatical match. I am therefore hypothesizing some perceived difference in the actions to a Spanish speaker that makes it somehow more 'to the tree' than 'on the tree' in a way that is not perceived by the English speaker. I would love some native or truly bilingual input here. Because assuming I am correct that a Spanish speaker would not consider the table the indirect object of putting the book but they clearly do see that relationship with the tree and putting the lights, the million dollar question becomes where else might this difference in perception trip me up as an English speaking Spanish learner.


Thanks for that explanation and the link. One thing the link does not clarify. if you use the prepositional phrase, can you leave of the indirect object pronoun?

So in this case, is it valid to say Pusimos luces al álbor. Or is it that anytime there is an indirect object, you must have the matching pronoun whether or not you also specify what it is?


No, the indirect object pronoun is required. Yes, you must have the matching pronoun whether or not you also specify what it is.


that's a very helpful link, thanks


The link helps a lot! Thanks!


Thank you! That is a good explanation!! :D entiendo


Examples (at least in English) of inanimate indirect objects: "Give the house a coat of paint." "Give the bush a trim." "Give the floor a scrub." What interests me is whether there is any other verb besides "to give" that will take an inanimate indirect object.

Daniel-in-BC, I also am having trouble with the indirect object pronoun. One concept that I think is part of it is that the indirect object can be put into the genitive case. For example, in "Give (it) the house a coat of paint," the indirect object "the house" can be moved to the end of the sentence: Give a coat of paint to (it) the house." Likewise, "Give a trim to (it) the bush" or "Give a scrub to (it) the floor." Maybe the idea is that the indeterminate object pronoun "it" can be substituted for the indirect object or for the object of the preposition.

Also, your statement that indirect object pronouns are required in Spanish (btw, thanks!) leads me to think that the Spanish indirect object pronoun is a syntactic place holder that is used just as English speakers use the word "there" at the beginning of a sentence. In terms of additional information it adds nothing, but in terms of sentence structure, no one who grew up with the language would do without it. I may be mistaken. Anyone?


Linda, I think you have made a mistake: genitive case means "of". " to/for" is dative I think. When you say probs with indirect obj, do you mean when it is written in the "I gave him (IO) a book(DO)" manner. I automatically think of this as an odd little foible of English (deliberately to confuse non-native learners?!!!) for the more natural "I gave the book (DO, thing being given) TO him (obvious indirect object). Do you only use the term IO when it is the former case (i.e. no " to")? Re your inanimate IOs, how about: "I drove the girl(DO) home (IO)" ? This still uses "give" but is a nice example with an abstract noun: "Give peace a chance" = "give a chance to peace" form more naturally than your housework examples I think! I agree, I too struggle to use a verb other than give.


Why is "al" translated "on" instead of "to"??


It is not translated word for word the expression regarding "putting Christmas lights" in English we say "on the tree". In Spanish the tree is receiving the action of lights being put on it so it is considered the indirect object. They put the indirect object pronoun "le" before the verb and al arbol later to specify what the pronoun was referring to.


Thanks to everyone for the explanation on why "le" is in this sentence. Unfortunately that's really hard to remember seeing as I (and I'm sure many others) don't think in terms of whether or not there is an indirect object. It's hard to remember to add a word at the beginning of the sentence for something that comes at the end.

While I hope to one day be able to converse competently in Spanish, I don't see how I will ever become fluent. However, the fact that it's so confusing for me really helps me understand why people have trouble with English. It's not as simple as switching an English word for a Spanish one, or vice versa...there's different rules to remember are just so unnatural feeling.


Would using "nosotros" in place of "le" also be correct? So it's "Nosotros pusimos luces al arbol."


Nosotros (in this example) is a subject pronoun meaning "we". Le is an indirect object pronoun, in this case referring to "tree", which, as you can read above, confuses me.

Indirect object pronouns are required, whether they are specified later in the sentence or not. Subject pronouns are optional.


Dang I thought I could make it easier for myself. Thanks!


Can this also be "Nosotros le posimos luces al arbol"? or in any other forms where "le" or "al arbol" can be put in the front or the end of the sentence to make it easier to understand?


I'm not sure I understand your question. You have a small spelling error; there is no conjugation of poner that is posimos, but I don't think that's the issue you want addressed.

(Poner is a strange one, btw. I like to use http://www.conjugation.org/ for help.)

In your sentence (which is the current translation listed above by DL), the nosotros (subject pronoun) is OK, but optional. Also, the al árbol is optional (though needed, of course, if we don't have context). The le is not optional because it is an indirect object pronoun.

I'm not sure we have much wiggle room for word order. I believe the le must come right before the verb. I also believe that the al árbol could come at the beginning of the sentence, although it would sound a little strange (in this example).

I welcome corrections from native speakers or those more knowledgeable.


It is imperative, isn't it? "We put lights on the tree" was accepted, with the English article "the" as a mandatory addition.


It wasn't an addition, they said "the" in the Spanish sentence when they said "al".


it is not imperative


So why does the hint say tree and shaft but the only correct answer is tree, how can the sentence be formulated to use the word shaft, is it not the same as a tree?


More and more I am believing that ' árbol' is not anything more than the object of the preposition and not an indirect object and 'le' is wrong here.


interesting ... I would love for that to be true, since it's blowing my mind and is contrary to what I've been taught in the past ...

Actually, I'm going to be seeing some native speakers tomorrow (from a variety of countries) and I will try to remember to ask them what their opinions are and report back.


Interesting I finished the Spanish tree and have no memory of "a" being used like this in the tree. I may have forgot but it can't be very many examples of it. There must not be many sentences with indirect objects that are not people (or nouns that imply people) or pets with clarification on the end. They must all (mostly anyway) be it's. Le pusimos luces = We put lights on it.


Maybe someone covered this already, but I didn't see it.. why is "al arbol" used in this sentence but when you say El Nino pone la estrella en el arbol it is correct? what is the different between using "el" and "al" when it comes to "arbol"? Is there a rule I missed?


a + el (the article "the", not él the subject pronoun "he") = al, a mandatory contraction, as is de + el = del

a is needed because it's before an indirect object (about which there is a great deal of discussion in this thread; it's quite confusing to many of us)


Yorma, I believe you have raised a good point. Duo is not without fallacy. It seems to me there are sentences that we occasionally have here, on Duo, that raise a lot of discussion but never resolved. I put this sentence on 5 translates and not one uses the indirect object 'le', nor the 'al'.

Of course, I only have limited knowledge of Spanish, but I do have to question something that I just don't get. I suspect this sentence is one of those regional uses, and is also just one of those instances I have to accept and go on.

Thanks for your post. BTW I believe that the correct sentence would read :Pusimos luces en el arbol, where 'en el arbol is a prepositional phase used as an adverb because it tells 'where'.

Oh well. life goes on :].


jfGor, I imagine there are always regional differences. But, so far, I have been told by a native speaker from Peru and another from Mexico that this is a perfectly natural and correct sentence in Spanish.

Some things to consider:

  • Indirect objects receive the results of an action; they can be anything, animate or inanimate. With inanimate things, poner and dar are frequently used verbs in these situations, although we are not limited to those. [This whole idea is still freaking me out, but I'm getting used to it.]

  • a is not just the "personal a" or the preposition "to" (as translated into English), but is used after verbs of "motion" (for lack of a better term). Also, the "personal a" is for animate direct objects, but a is also used to indicate "recipients" -- indirect objects -- animate or inanimate. Because word order is more flexible in Spanish than in English, the a can help us determine who/what is the subject and who/what are the objects.

  • Spanish uses indirect objects a lot more than English does. We Anglophones like our prepositional phrases.

  • Spanish and English don't always use the same prepositions in a given situation. Learners of both languages just have to acclimate to which prepositions go with which verbs or expressions.


Thank you Daniel in BC, great explanation.


Hey Daniel-in- BC, I have finally put this baby to rest. I went to the World Ref with the Question, and thanks to you, Mavry and other posters, and world reference this sentence has finally, after two years, has been cleared up. I am tempted to unfollow it. JAJA!

You can read it if you want to. http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/le-pusimos-we-put-the-lights-on-the-tree.3116198/#post-15759125


I do understand 'le' at the beginning of the sentence, but I do not get "pusimos" as a verb. Is it like a phrase that I must accept as it is? I do not find it as a conjugation in any tense. Thank you


The translation 'pusimos' is the past tense (pretérito) of the verb 'poner', meaning to put.



thank you for the answer. I was using http://www.conjugation.org/cgi-bin/conj.php where the past tense is given differently and I just realised I was checking ponar and not 'poner'. Thank you for clarifying and the link.


"We set the tree alight" is not correct. too bad ;-)


Unless you're burning the tree.


Exactly! That pretty much describes how I felt when I was trying to translate based on the hints appearing upon mousing over the words. ;-)


After three years, studying with Duolingo, I have realized that it isn't about memorizing phrases I have found it to be about trial and error, research and asking questions about the presented sentence . It is about translating while learning sentence structure and learning the meanings of the words, no matter what language we are studying. I do not see it as a phrase book. To me, your sentence is phase book. You are not translating the sentence as it is presented.

BTW, I am so grateful to those who participate in these sentence discussions. Many questions lead me to my own research. There are many who never even read the discussions, let alone give to others who could use the help.


what exactly do you mean by phase book? (it sounds like a great name for a social network about physics - though ;-) )


Opps! HaHa. I meant 'phrase book', like when there is a sentence in another language and there is an interpretation into English, not a translation of the words. But thanks for the post. I see now you were trying to translate.


Que la alegría de la Navidad brille en sus corazones y los ojos de sus hijos tan brilliantamente como luces de su árbol. Feliz Navidad.


The indicative form is "ponemos" and subjunctive form is "pongemos". What form is "pusimos" ?


It is the preterite. It is interesting because I was just realizing yesterday that there is no difference between the present tense and the past tense form of our verb to put, although it is most often used in the present progressive like most verbs that indocate overt activity.


darkrai007, it is what is known in English, past Indicative, in Spanish preterite Indicative. In English we use 'put' for both present Indicative and past Indicative.


Here is what I read about indirect objects for those who don't understand like I didn't. :)



One of the big problems is not 'knowing what an indirect object/pronoun is in Spanish', but rather recognizing the Spanish indirect object. Because we English speakers use prepositional phrases a lot of the time as adverbs or adjectives, it can confuse us. I have hated this sentence for two years because I could not wrap it around my English brain. I have finally come to terms with it. The fact is, that Spanish sometimes treats an inanimate object as an indirect object where us English speakers would just use prepositional phrases, as adverbially or adjectivally.

Our indirect objects are almost without fail, people or something that has been personalized. It is important to be able to recognize the Spanish indirect object because we have to add the redundant indirect object pronoun before the verb. For me personally, it is going to take time. I need to read a whole lot more in Spanish to get the Spanish sentence structure .

Thanks for the link.


Nit pick much? I got this wrong because I translated it with the definite article 'the' in front of 'lights'. Yes, literal translation does not include it, however, it is essential in translation to impart correct meaning.

In English it is more likely to hear someone translate "Le pusimos luces al árbol." as "We put THE lights on the tree." because it is a specific task in Christmas tree decorating. A person speaking in English would be more likely to say, "We have to put THE lights on the tree, now." rather than "We put lights on the tree now." It just sounds awkward.


"We put THE lights on the tree" is also how I would say it, but I do not think "We put lights on the tree" sounds awkward. Either should be accepted.


How do you know which is the direct object and which is the indirect object?


In this sentence it is a little difficult because the tree IS NOT the indirect object in the English sentence. But you can see that it is in Spanish. If you take the simple sentence "I threw him the ball" Yo le tiré la pelota. The subject is I, the verb is to throw (past tense). The direct object is what was acted upon (what was thrown in this case) which is the ball. The indirect object is who or what the action is directed towards. In English it is always the answer to the question to whom or for whom. In our simple sentence it is him. Now I can change the English sentence so that a prepositional phrase replaces the indirect object in English. I threw the ball to him. But the indirect object pronoun still remains there in Spanish. Yo le tiré la pelota a él. If I change "the ball" to "it" we get I throw it to him. In Spanish you must include the indirect object pronoun, but when used with the direct object pronoun the le becomes se. Yo se lo tiré a él.

As I said this sentence is a little different in English, but the fact that the Spanish sentence puts the lights TO the tree (al árbol) indicates that it is considered an indirect object. The lights are of course the direct object as they are the thing that is put. So in neither Spanish or English does the sentence I put the book on the table (Yo puse el libro en la mesa) have an indirect object. The book is of course the direct object but there is no to or for which received the direct object. I put the lights on the tree has the same structure as I put the book on the table in English, but the Spanish sentence changes the on to to and creates an indirect object.

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