Personal "a"

Personal "a"

1. Introduction

Other uses of Prepositions

Here we will look at:

2. Example and terminology

3. Person or Person(s)

4. Pronouns About Person(s)

5. Pets as Person(s)

6. Tener a......

7. Conclusion (Including "Verbs Like Gustar")

2. Example and terminology

"Veo a mi madre" ("I see my mother").

In English, “I” is the subject of the sentence. In Spanish, the word “I” or “yo” is implicit in the verb “veo” which means “I see”. “See (veo)” is the verb. “Mother (Madre)” is the direct object.

3. Person or Persons

The personal “a” is used where the direct object of a sentence is a person. In our example, “madre” is an identifiable individual and person.

Consider these examples:

3.1 Veo a mi hermana. I see my sister
3.2 Veo mi libro y mis gafas. I see my book and glasses

In example 3.2, the personal “a” is not used because the direct objects are not persons.

3.3 Veo a tres personas que son mis primos. I see three people who are my cousins.

3.4 Necesito tres personas para hacer un trabajo. I need three people to do a job.

Here in example 3.4 the personal “a” is not used because the direct object persons are not anyone specific.

4. Indefinite Pronouns about Person(s)

The personal “a” will be used as explained above with the following indefinite pronouns:
Alguien (somebody/someone/anyone)..Alguno (some) in reference to people
Nadie (nobody/no-one)........................Ninguno (none) in reference to people
Quién (who/whom)..............................Cualquiera (any) in reference to people


4.1 No veo a nadie con quien trabajo. I do not see anybody I work with

4.2 No veo a nadie que conozca. I do not see anyone who I know.

5. Pets as Person(s)

You also use the personal “a” with your own pets or the pets of other persons.

Do not use the personal “a” where there is no personal relationship as for insects, fish, birds etc.

6. The Verbs "Tener" & "Hay"

Do not use the personal “a” after the verb “tener” or any form of “hay” (from haber).

There is an exception to this rule where the direct object of “tener” means to hold or to have someone physically or emotionally close to you.

6.1 Cuando necesitan consuelo y apoyo, tengo a mis niños en los brazos.
When they need comfort and support I have my young children in my arms.
6.2 Tengo cuatro hijos y solo un marido.
I have four children and only one husband.

7. Conclusion

This page has only referred to those cases where the personal "a" is used together with a direct object. Remember that at 2. above you were asked not to lose sight of those relationships and terms. Other situations where "a" is used are referred to in the Reference Page Prepositions, and, in the Reference Page Verbs Like Gustar.

updated JUL 29, 2012
edited by martha-sd