In Spanish when people are the direct objects of verbs, we need to place an "a" in front of them. We refer to this "a" the Personal A since it is used when persons (human being) are direct objects.
Direct objects are nouns or noun phrases that receive the direct action of the verbs. Look at the first sentence in the table below. "Janet" is the direct object because she is what (who) I "see". Janet is who is being seen(by me.)
In the meantime, Direct objects can be things as well as people; but the personal "a" is used only when the direct object is a person. We put an "a" in front of the noun when it refers to a specific person or specific people.
|Veo a Janet los lunes.||I see (human being) Janet on Mondays.|
|Franchesca llama a su esposo cada día.||Franchesca calls (human being) her husband every day.|
|Visitamos a nuestros abuelos.||We visit (human beings) our grandparents.|
|Quiero mucho a Keanu.||I love (human being) Keanu a lot.|
|Besé a Keanu y a Antonio.||I kissed (human beings) Keanu and Antonio.|
|Conozco a Vicki.||I am acquainted with (know) (human being) Vicki.|
Notice that there is no English equivalent for this Spanish grammar object. It does not translate.
Things or Places
We do not use the Personal "a" with things, places or actions.
|Veo la bicicleta.||I see the bicycle.|
|Franchesca llama por teléfono.||Franchesca makes a phone call.|
|Visitamos la universidad.||We visit the university.|
|Quiero mucho Lucky Charms.||I love Lucky Charms a lot.|
|Besé el trofeo.||I kissed the trophy.|
|Conozco Charleston, SC bien.||I am familiar with (know) Charleston, SC well.|
Indefinite nouns and people
The Personal a is not used when a person to whom you are referring is described using an indefinite noun (in other words, when you don't know if
such a person exists or is an unspecific person.)
- ¿Dónde se puede encontrar un
- Where can you (do you) find a policeman?
- Ana quiere un novio inteligente.
- Ana hasn't met this intelligent boyfriend yet; but this is the type of boyfriend she wants.
If Ana actually knows the intelligent boyfriend of Susana, we would say, Ana conoce al novio inteligente de Susana.
- Don't forget that a + el contracts to form al.
|Busco al dependiente.||I'm looking for the sales clerk.|
|Miro al primo de Mauricio.||I'm watching Maurice's cousin.|
Things: No personal "a" needed here!
|Busco el bolígrafo de mi hermana.||I'm looking for my sister's pen.|
|Miro el programa de Animal Planet.||I'm watching the Animal Planet program.|
Don't forget that we don't use the personal "a" with Tener:
- Tengo dos hijos. (I have two kids.)
When asking a question about a person as a direct object, we need to include the "a" before quién or quiénes. It translates as "whom":
|¿A quién llama Sara?||Whom is Sara calling?|
|¿A quiénes visitas?||Whom are you visiting?|
Do not confuse the Personal A (used with people when they are direct objects) with the Directional A (which is used to point to a place in time or location.
Directional A is used with verbs like Ir, Invitar, Ayudar and translates as "to". It is also used with Time to indicate "at what time does the party start?" ¿A qué hora empieza la fiesta?