Spanish Placing "a" After A Spanish Verb A Bit Of Confusion On My Part

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Saturday 05th of November 2005 01:58:10 AM
Placing "a" after a Spanish verb: We are just learning this in class now, and I am very lost...

In Spanish, it seems that some verbs need the word "a" after them if there is a direct object noun.

ex. I help my mom with the dishes.
(Yo) ayudo a mi mamá con los platos.

They teach my brother.
(Ellos) enseñan a mi hermano.

I learned that "a" means nothing in English, but it does not help me understand why Spanish speakers use it.

Could someone explain this to me? And, if possible, could you show me more verbs that require "a"?

I just don't want to confuse the other folks in class, so I'd rather ask here.

Saturday 05th of November 2005 02:41:04 AM
Hi there,

I am CERTAINLY not qualified to answer your question, but this is the way that I understand it. This is information I wrote down from another site. Hopefully, I won't get caught in some copyright infringement :o
The Personal "a"

The direct object is the noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb. In the following sentences, the direct objects are underlined.

Mike hit the ball.
George calls Mary.
He calls her.

In Spanish, when the direct object is a person, it is preceded by the preposition "a." This word has no English translation.

Jorge llama a María.
Jorge calls María.

From the perspective of the English speaker, the personal "a" appears to be an extra word. From the perspective of the Spanish speaker, the personal "a" is required, and to not use it is a serious error.

Jorge llama a María.

The personal "a" may also be used if the direct object is a domesticated animal, especially a pet, provided that the speaker attaches some sort of personal feelings towards the animal.

La mujer acaricia a su perro. (acariciar)
The woman pets her dog.

El perro persigue a la gata. (perseguir)
The dog chases the cat.


The personal "a" is not used when the direct object is not a person or is an animal for which no personal feelings are felt.

Bebo la leche. (beber)
I drink the milk. milk is neither a person nor an animal

Miro la jirafa. (mirar)
I look at the giraffe. no personal feelings are felt towards the giraffe

The personal "a" is not used after the verb tener, or the verb form hay. This is true even if the direct object is a person.

Tengo dos hermanos. (tener)
I have two brothers.

Hay cinco chicas.
There are five girls.

If the direct object is an indefinite person, the personal "a" is not used. The result is that the person becomes "depersonalized."

Necesito médico.
I need (any) doctor. (or)
I need medical assistance.

Necesito jardinero.
I need (any) gardener. (or)
I need someone to tend my garden.

Because this Spanish grammatical structure has no equivalent in English, it is normal to expect that the student will forget to use it until a pattern of use has been established. Remember, to not use the personal "a" is a serious error, and the student should try to remember to use it when appropriate.

The "a" may seem like a useless word in an english phrase, but it is used to introduce a person or thing... a car, a dog, etc.

Goran has a thread about prepositions with gives a list of verbs that carry prepositions. This is maybe what you are thinking of... Gorans list of verbs is:
Commun prepositions in Spanish
Here are some verbes that carry A preposition:

acertar a
acostumbrarse a
aprender a
apresurarse a
asomarse a
atreverse a
ayudar a
comenzar a
convidar a
decidirse a
dedicarse a
atender a
dirigirse a
disponerse a
echar a
echarse a
enseñar a
invitar a
ir a
llegar a
negarse a
obligar a
empezar a
ofrecerse a
oponerse a
pararse a
ponerse a
prepararse a
resignarse a
salir a
sentarse a
venir a
volver a

Javi and Goran, please correct me :D

Saturday 05th of November 2005 03:11:05 AM
lol sumarizing: use a when the directo object is a person.
There are several other uses for that preposition (being after a verb), but I think that was not the original question. For now, it seems to be enough material to read :D

Saturday 05th of November 2005 07:25:23 AM
This is perfect! Exactly what I was looking for!

If I knew how to make the upside down exclamation point, I would be able to exclaim "Gracias".

But thank you very much.

I guess I should look at Goran's material, too. Maybe that will help me out.

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