The le could refer to her or him. You have to just pick on of then. Normally, it could also refer to Usted (you formal) but since the Tú form is being used in the sentence (which would imply Te, not Le, being used) one can infer it must be 3rd person, i.e. to him or to her and indirect objects.
Direct and indirect object pronouns: one of the banes of my existence. I'll put some links below, but first I'll share why they're hard for me (and I think for others). Feel free to skip ahead to the links. :-)
First, English does not technically use indirect objects nearly as often as Spanish does. We tend to make them objects of the preposition -- which is a good clue that they're an indirect object in Spanish. "I threw her the ball." = "I threw the ball to her." (I = subject, ball = direct object, her = indirect object in the first sentence, object of the preposition in the second.)
Second, in English we use the same pronouns for both direct and indirect objects: me/you/her/him/it/us/them. In Spanish, some of these are different. (and may also be different when they are objects of the preposition).
Third, in English we cannot have an indirect object without a direct object in a sentence. And yet you can in Spanish. Thus, much frustration about which to use sometimes. (It doesn't help that certain dialects swap some of them.) So, a sentence like "I called her" in English requires little thought -- and we use the same pronouns anyway. I think in Spanish, it's Le llamé (indirect object) but I'm still not sure.
Next, in English the objects (at least as much as I can think) always come after the verb. In Spanish, they mostly come before the verb, but there are exceptions when they can be attached to infinitives, the -iendo and -ando forms, and imperatives (commands).
Add in to this the concept of reflexive verbs which use some of the same pronouns. And you can't have le lo or le la, so they turn into se lo and se la. Because it wasn't confusing enough already. :-)
Lastly, Spanish will throw in a "lo" (sort of an "It") where it doesn't translate into English (or translate naturally), but is needed in Spanish. I forget to use those "lo"s a lot. [Example: In English, there's no problem with just saying "I know." In Spanish, it would probably be Lo sé -- "I know (it)".]
OK, here are some links:
Note: this was written with some humor and with the love of learning the language. The frustration is real, but it's at my wanting to improve; I am not "angry at the language". And I share as a fellow learner, not as an expert.
Others had said that it has to be "le" and not "la" because it is an indirect object. What they did not say, is that this is because certain verbs: decir (to day), contar (to tell) preguntar (to ask a question) simply as a rule of grammar DEMAND that you use an indirect object to represent the person being told, asked, etc. Essentially, the logic goes that if someone says something to someone, the something is the direct object and the person who is told is the indirect object.
This is true (the person is an indirect object) whether or not the thing said appears in the sentence or not.
Le dije la noticia ayer.
I told him the news yesterday.
Le dije ayer. I told him yesterday.,
Se lo dije ayer.
I told him it (representing the news) yesterday.
You can't translate it that way because your sentence is a different sentence. Your sentence would read '(yo) deje que, "(tú) le habías llamado". Or, Deje que, "le habías llamado". Notice the position of 'le', which is difference from the Duo sentence, and the use of quotation marks which would be used in a dialogue, when using 'said' as the past tense of decir.
Thus, Your sentence would be:
Dije=I said (past tense of decir) que=that,
"le= to him or to her (or him or her)
habias= you had
In summary, The Duo sentence does not say that you called her. It says I told her that you had called. And it doesn't indicate who you called, but just that you called, period.
Hope that helps. I have found that if I think through all of the words and try to put them in correct order , and then try to process them in my head, putting them altogether, I do better with the translation.
Gracias, jfgordy. I've got to go back and review all of these object pronouns as well as the reflexive and other ones. So far, this is the most difficult grammar for me! I did the exercises on Studyspanish.com a while back, but I need more help. I need to start with very short sentences at first.
jfgordy, I'm also wondering if the object pronoun in a sentence has to be linked to the closest verb and not separated by a phrase transition which in this case is the word "que". Is the way I'm describing this understandable? In my wrong sentence I had the object pronoun at the end of the second part of the sentence: "I said that you had called to him". I wonder if that is a rule? I'm just guessing here.
Hi Susanna, First, I am a learner like you but I will tell you what I know. The object pronouns (except object of the preposition) go in fount of the conjugated verb except when there is an infinitive, a command or the perfect infinitives,where as the pronouns may be tacked on. For example present participles. Then they can be tacked on the end.
The que is there to connect two phases. Also you cannot split the Spanish infinitive . See this reference for more details. Duo doesn't always like the pronoun tacked on and I don't know why.
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