May 27, 2012 | Review Period

The Personal “A” in Spanish

I refine some of my Spanish grammar knowledge.

In Spanish you add an a before most direct objects that are people. So, for example, in English where you would say, “I saw Juan,” in Spanish you would say, Vi a Juan. The a is known as the “personal a.” I sometimes forget to include it, but I had pretty good instruction on this issue in high school, so I think usually it makes its way in where it should.

According to Dorothy Richmond in Spanish Verb Tenses, “The personal a is unique to Spanish.”

She added some explanatory notes that I found interesting. And funny. “You do use the personal a when the direct object is a pet, as well as with other animals with whom you have a personal relationship.”

However, she continues, “You do not use the personal a with strays, mongrels, alley cats, squirrels in your backyard, insects, cockroaches, animals you hunt or want to hunt down, or any creature of the animal kingdom you wouldn’t welcome into your lovely home.”

In her subsequent examples, a beloved pet cat named Princess gets an a, but termites do not.

Use the Personal 'A' with This...

Use the Personal ‘A’ with This…

...But Not with This

…But Not with This

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