The Personal A in Spanish

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  • 0:07 A Personal
  • 0:25 Direct Objects
  • 2:00 A Personal Usage
  • 3:27 Special Rules
  • 6:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Warren
This video will introduce the grammar concept of the 'a' personal, or personal 'a,' in Spanish. Learn how it is used in sentences and the types of sentences in which it is not used. A brief introduction to direct objects is also included in the video.

A Personal - Why It's Tricky

¡Hola! In this video, we will discuss the a personal, or personal a. What makes this one little word so tricky is that there is no English translation. But, with this video and a little practice, you will be able to use it like a pro!

Direct Objects

Before you can understand how to use the a personal, you need to understand exactly what a direct object is. So, let's start with that. The direct object is the thing that receives the action of the verb. This could be a noun or a pronoun.

For example, in the sentence, 'Juan sees Sara,' the direct object is 'Sara.' Sara is receiving the action of the verb, which is 'seeing.' In the sentence, 'Paula calls Adela,' Adela is the recipient of the verb since she is the one being called. So, she is the direct object. If you changed that sentence to be 'Paula calls her,' then the pronoun 'her' is the direct object.

The direct object need not be a person. In the sentence, 'Víctor throws the ball,' the direct object is the 'ball.' The ball is what is receiving the action.

Let's make sure we've got this. Can you name the direct objects in these sentences?

Rosalía pets her dog.

Ana looks at Antonio.

Lázaro is drinking milk.

In the first sentence, the direct object is 'dog.' In the second sentence, the direct object is 'Antonio.' And, in the final sentence, the direct object is 'milk.' If that all made sense, then you're ready to move on!

A Personal Usage

As I said, the a personal has no translation in English. However, to leave it out in Spanish is a major mistake.

The a personal is simply the letter a. The reason it is called the a personal is that any time the direct object is a person, the a must be used in front of it.

For example, to translate the sentence, 'Mateo sees Adrián,' you would say, Mateo ve a Adrián. To translate the sentence, 'I know Yolanda,' you would say, Conozco a Yolanda. And, to translate the sentence, 'Juan hits Antonio,' you would say, Juan pega a Antonio.

However, if the thing that Juan is hitting is not a person - say, if it were a book - then you no longer need the a personal. The sentence, 'Juan hits the book,' would be translated as Juan pega el libro. And, the sentence, 'Sara listens to a song,' would translate to Sara escucha una canción. The sentence, 'Rosalía drinks milk,' is translated as Rosalía bebe leche.

Special A Personal Rules

Those are the basic rules of the a personal: if the direct object is a person, use a. If not, leave it out. Still, there are a couple more rules to this grammar that make it a little more complicated.

First, no matter who or what the direct object is, the a personal is never used with the verb tener or the verb form hay. To translate the sentence, 'Lázaro has many friends,' you would simply say, Lázaro tiene muchos amigos. This is the same way that the sentence, 'Yolanda has many books', would be translated as Yolanda tiene muchos libros.

Likewise, the sentence, 'There are five men,' would translate to Hay cinco hombres, the same way that the sentence, 'There are five chairs,' would be translated as Hay cinco sillas.

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