From the mailbox:
I have a grammar question that I'd like to hear your thoughts on. I started attending a Spanish-speaking church a while back and I hear several greetings. Here are some of them:
Dios te bendiga.
Dios le bendiga.
Dios lo bendiga.
Dios me lo bendiga
I believe I understand what is going on grammatically on the first three but the last one I don't have a clue. I understand it to be a little more intimate sounding than the others but I have no idea what is going on grammatically. Can you share a few thoughts on that and if this type of construction is used in other places?
Thanks for the question! Although your question seems pretty simple, it actually touches on quite a few points of grammar. For first-year students who don't understand even your first sentence, I'll explain first what's happening grammatically in your first three examples, starting with the first, which is the simplest.
"Dios te bendiga" is a shorter way of saying "Que Dios te bendiga" (which you'll also sometimes hear). That, in turn, you can think of as a shorter way of saying something like "Quiero que Dios te bendiga" — literally translated, that would be something like "I want that God bless you." As explained in our lessons on translating "may" and indirect commands, the sentence structure of "que + noun + verb in the subjunctive mood" (the noun frequently comes after the verb) is a common way of saying that you'd like someone else to do something or for something to occur. For example, you could say something like "que duerma el bebé" to mean "may the baby sleep" or even "let the baby sleep."
In the example of "(que) Dios te bendiga," Dios (God) is the noun and bendiga is the present subjunctive form of irregularly conjugated bendecir (to bless). Finally, te is direct-object pronoun meaning "you."
The next two sentences — "(que) Dios le bendiga" and "(que) Dios lo bendiga — are grammatically the same. The difference is that they use more formal pronouns — le in an example of leísmo and lo. If you were female, la would be used instead.
Now, we'll finally get to the original question. If "(que) Dios lo bendiga" means "God bless you," what is the me doing in "(que) Dios me lo bendiga"? How does it change the meaning of the sentence?
The me here is an indirect-object pronoun meaning "me." Indirect objects are often used to indicate who is an indirect recipient of an action. In this case, lo is the direct object — it is lo or "you" that is being blessed, while the me (the speaker of the sentence) is an indirect beneficiary. If you were translating the sentence directly, you would say something like "May God bless you for me." Less literally, a translation could be something like "It would please me if God were to bless you." In real life, we don't have to translate that elaborately, so the me doesn't have to be translated. Just think of "Dios me lo bendiga" as another way of saying "May God bless you."
As to times when we would say something grammatically like that, it just isn't that common where we'd be speaking to someone and have occasion to use that person as an indirect object of a third party's action. But here's one example: You could say something like "Que ella me lo contacte a usted" (I've added the "a usted" for clarity) as a way of saying something like "I'll have her contact you for me."