To understand why there is vacillation and hesitation in usage, it is helpful to understand these often-conflicting linguistic forces. These are: -e or -o for masculine pronouns, -a for feminine pronouns and -o for neuter pronouns. This gives us a set like the above: le, la, lo. Furthermore, le also follows the pattern of me "me" and te "you" which operate as both direct and indirect objects.
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I see him or I see it. I am writing him the letter. I see her or I see it. I am writing her the letter. I see them. I am writing them the letter. In addition, the Academy allows the use of le as a singular direct object when referring to a male person but not a thing.
Thus "I see him" could correctly be translated as either "lo veo" or "le veo. While the use of les as a direct object when referring to multiple persons is less common, it also is frequently used and is listed as a regional variation in some grammar texts despite what the Academy may say. Although less common than either of the above variations, in some regions le also can be used as a direct object instead of la to refer to females.
Thus, "le veo" might be said for either "I see him" or "I see her. In some areas, le may be used to denote respect when used as a direct object, especially when speaking to the person le refers to. Thus, one might say "quiero verle a usted" I want to see you but "quiero verlo a Roberto" I want to see Robert , although -lo would technically be correct in both instances.
In areas where le can substitute for lo or even la , it frequently sounds more "personal" than the alternative. Finally, in some literature and older texts, you may see le used to refer to an object, thus "le veo" for "I see it. However, this usage is frowned on elsewhere and is probably best not imitated by people learning Spanish. Although a full listing of the differences between English and Spanish objects is beyond the scope of this article, it should be noted that some verbs use dative indirect object pronouns where the English would use a direct object.
One common such verb is gustar to please. Thus we correctly say "le gusta el carro" the car pleases him , even though the English translation uses a direct object.
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