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The preposition a

Today, we will discuss a very common and useful preposition. Just like most prepositions, the preposition a in Spanish can be used in various different ways. While we usually think of the preposition a as the English equivalent of to, this preposition can also work as in, on, from, by and at. Let’s take a look.

 

Uses of the preposition a in Spanish

To begin with, we use the preposition a to indicate motion to a particular place:

Por ejemplo, yo quiero viajar a Noruega la próxima semana…

For example, I want to travel to Norway next week…

Caption 10, Escuela Don Quijote - En el aula - Part 1

Llegué a Londres hace tres meses.

I arrived in London three months ago.

Caption 7, Lydia de Barcelona - Lydia y el festival de cine “Women Mujeres”

 

We also use the preposition a when we want to connect a main verb with a verb in the infinitive. For example, when we are referring to the moment a particular action started:

En poco tiempo, la gente comenzó a hacer el mal.

After a short period of time, people began to do evil.

Caption 32, Aprendiendo con Carlos - América precolombina - El mito de Bochica

In this context, however, one of the most common uses of the preposition a is when we want to express a future action using the following formula: ir (to go) + a (to) + infinitive verb:

Entonces el día de hoy, a petición de Chuy, vamos a hacer una carne asada.

So today, at Chuy's request, we're going to make grilled meat.

Caption 9, [Bears in the Kitchen] Osos en la cocina - Carne asada

 

We also use the preposition a in Spanish when we want to indicate the end of a particular period of time:

El horario es de lunes a viernes

The schedule is from Monday to Friday

Caption 69, Negocios - La solicitud de empleo - Part 2

 

Another very common use of this preposition is when we want to indicate a particular point in a scale (time, distance, speed, temperature, etc.):

Estamos situados a cuarenta kilómetros de Barcelona

We are located forty kilometers from Barcelona

Caption 3, Feria de Vinos Españoles en Londres - Bodegas Castell D’Age

Me levanto todas las mañanas a las siete

I get up every morning at seven o'clock

Caption 28, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf - Part 1

 

Finally, we use the preposition a before a direct object when that object is a person. Similarly, we also use this preposition when we want to introduce an indirect object:

A mi hermana le gusta el color rojo.

My sister likes the color red.

Caption 7, Español para principiantes - Los colores

Entonces, nosotros les compramos a las personas para que...

So, we buy from people so that...

Caption 7, Frutería “Los Mangos” - Vendiendo Frutas - Part 2

 

The contraction al  in Spanish

When the preposition a goes before the definite article el, you need to combine the two words using the contraction al (a + el):

No quiero viajar al mundo espacial

I don't want to travel to the space world

Caption 20, La Gusana Ciega - Invasión Estelar

pero sí os recomiendo que vengáis aquí al parque

but I do recommend that you come here to the park

Caption 80, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Lémures

 

Please keep in mind that when you have the preposition a next to the article el, the contraction al is mandatory! For this reason, and considering the examples we just mentioned, it would have been wrong to say the following:

No quiero viajar a el mundo

… que vengáis aquí a el parque

In both cases, you need to use the contraction al.

 

That's all for now. Try writing sentences with all the different uses we have mentioned for the preposition a. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions.

 

Explore more lessons:

The preposition sobre

A que sí / A que no

Ser vs Estar - Yo estoy

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