In Portuguese, when we use a verb that asks for both a direct and indirect object (and the objects are known, i.e. we’re aware of what/who they are), we can create a contraction by combining the third person direct object pronoun with the indirect object pronoun. Sounds complicated, we know.
Let’s see a practical example…
Dei uma prenda à Joana. Play slow audio Play normal audio I gave Joana a gift.
In the sentence above, neither the direct object (uma prenda) nor the indirect object (a Joana) have been replaced by a clitic.
Dei-lhe uma prenda. Play slow audio Play normal audio I gave her a gift.
Now, we’ve replaced the indirect object (a Joana) with the clitic –lhe, while the direct object remains in place.
Dei-lha. Play slow audio Play normal audio I gave it to her.
Finally, both objects have been replaced by clitics. The direct object, a prenda, was replaced by the clitic –a. The indirect object, à Joana, was replaced by the clitic -lhe. Then, the two were merged: -lhe + -a = -lha.
This merger only works when the direct object is in the third person. If the direct object is in the first or second person, it’s not possible to merge the two.
The table below shows how to make these mergers between indirect object pronouns (me, te, lhe, nos, vos) and 3rd person direct object pronouns (o, a, os, as).
Guide to Merging Pronouns
What about -lhes?
These mergers are not usually done with –lhes. When -lhes is replacing your indirect object, you maintain the direct object in place after it.
Nós demos-lhes um computador. Play slow audio Play normal audio We gave them a computer.