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The Personal a in Spanish

Whenever a person is the object of a sentence in Spanish, the word a (which can literally mean "to," "at," etc., depending upon the context) must be included prior to the person. This is called the "personal a" in English and the "a personal" in Spanish.

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What is an Object?

In both English and Spanish, the subject of a sentence is the person or thing that performs an action and the object is the person or thing that receives it. For example, in the English sentence "Edison ate cake," "Edison" is the subject and "cake" is the object. And in the sentence "Gonzalo hugged Eva," "Gonzalo" is the subject while "Eva" is the object. So, while the translation for the first example, Edison comió torta, would not require the personal a, the second one would since Eva is a person: Gonzalo abrazó a Eva​.

 

Examples of the Personal a

Now that we understand a bit how the personal works, let's see a few examples where the same verb in the same tense either has a personal or doesn't, depending upon whether the object of the sentence is a person. You will note that there is no direct translation for the personal a in the English sentences. 

 

Ver:

 

Pero yo vi sombras.

But I saw shadows.

Caption 26, Tu Voz Estéreo Feliz Navidad - Part 4

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Yo vi a Pablo Escobar,

I saw Pablo Escobar

Caption 28, Los Tiempos de Pablo Escobar Capítulo 2 - Part 8

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Entender:

 

me di cuenta que no entendía todos los conceptos

I realized that I didn't understand all the concepts

Caption 73, Guillermo el chamán La tecnología maya

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De verdad, en ese momento no entendía a las niñas.

Really, at that moment, I didn't understand girls.

Caption 53, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 11 - Part 6

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Conocer:

 

Conocí las islas Barú de... de Colombia

I visited the Barú Islands in... in Colombia

Caption 89, Cleer y Lida Juego de preguntas y respuestas - Part 2

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Conocí a María ayer.

I met María yesterday.

Caption 22, Lecciones con Carolina Saber y conocer

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Using the Personal a with Pronouns

When a pronoun like alguien (someone), nadie (no one/anyone), quien, alguno/a(s) (some/someobody/one),  or ninguno/a(s) (none/no one/any) replace a person or people as the direct object in a sentence, the personal is used as well:

 

No queremos alarmar a nadie.

We don't want to alarm anyone.

Caption 52, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 5 - Part 8

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Perdón, eh, ¿busca a alguien?

Excuse me, um, are you looking for someone?

Caption 1, Muñeca Brava 8 Trampas - Part 10

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Todos los años, tengo que reñir a alguno.

Every year, I have to tell someone off.

Caption 46, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 10

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Additional Uses of the Personal a

The personal a is also used with animals or inanimate objects when the person speaking about them "personifies" them or has affection for them. One example is pets:

 

¿Federico te regaló a Zazén? 

Did Federico give you Zazen?

Caption 9, Tu Voz Estéreo Laura - Part 6

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However, if an animal is not a pet, the personal a is not used:
 

Generalmente acá se ven elefantes marinos 

Generally, here you see elephant seals

Caption 37, Perdidos en la Patagonia La Punta Cantor

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Another example could be one's country:
 

Me fascina, quiero ayudar a mi país,

I love it. I want to help my country

Caption 24, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Manuel Orozco Sánchez - Part 1

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And someone might even have a particular affection for some other inanimate object:

 

Yo amo a mi carro. -Se nota. -Único, bello.

I love my car. -You can see that. -Unique, beautiful.

Caption 97, Encuentro Volkswagen en Adícora Escarabajos en la playa - Part 2

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This is definitely the exception to the rule, though. In most cases, the personal a would not be used with such inanimate objects:

 

Vaya a lavar el auto, por favor!

Go to wash the car, please!

Caption 31, Muñeca Brava 30 Revelaciones - Part 5

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When Not to Use the Personal a

The Verb Tener

The personal a is not generally used with the verb tener:

 

¿Tienes hijos? -No.

Do you have children? -No.

Caption 87, Adícora, Venezuela El tatuaje de Rosana

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However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. One is when one has an emotional or close relationship with someone:

 

Tengo a Alejandrita que tiene diez y James que tiene diecinueve.

I have little Alejandra who is ten and James who is nineteen.

Captions 59-60, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 20

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Another is when someone is physically holding someone:

 

Él tenía a mi hija en sus brazos

He had my daughter in his arms.

 

A third is when one "has" someone "somewhere":

 

Teníamos a los gemelos en una clase de baile

We had the twins in a dance class. 

 

The Verb Haber

The personal a is not used with the verb haber, either:

 

hay muchas personas que se oponen a que haya paz en Colombia.

there are many people who are opposed to there being peace in Colombia.

Caption 32, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 9 - Part 1

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había una mujer que podía ser la protagonista de mi canción.

there was a woman who could be the main character of my song.

Captions 48-49, Luis Guitarra Historia de Lucía - Part 2

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In conclusion, although the personal a in Spanish can be a bit counterintuitive for English speakers since we don't have anything like it, we hope that this lesson has helped you to understand what it is and when it is and isn't used, and... don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments,

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Astronomy 101: The Names of the Planets in Spanish (and More)!

How do you say the names of the planets in Spanish? We'll start off today's lesson by telling you how and then follow up with some simple astronomical vocabulary. 

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The Names of the Planets in Spanish

The names of the planets in Spanish are as follows: 

 

1. Mercurio = Mercury

 

2. Venus = Venus

 

3. La Tierra = (the) Earth

 

4. Marte = Mars

 

5. Júpiter = Jupiter

 

6. Saturno = Saturn

 

7. Urano = Uranus

 

8. Neptuno = Neptune

 

Now that you know what the planets are called in Spanish, let's take a look at a few examples from our Yabla Spanish library where their names are mentioned:

 

El planeta Marte alguna vez tuvo ríos, lagos y mares.

The planet Mars once had rivers, lakes, and seas.

Caption 6, Yabla informa Noticias con Cleer

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The clip you just heard is from a news segment by Yabla's Cleer which delves into the mystery of what happened to the water on Mars. Let's see another clip that mentions the name of a planet, this time from a song:

 

Planeta Mercurio y el año de la serpiente Signo patente tatuado y en mi frente 

Planet Mercury and the year of the snake Obvious sign, tatooed and on my forehead

Captions 10-11, Ana Tijoux 1977

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We shouldn't neglect to mention that, as you may know, what was formerly considered to be the ninth planet, Pluto, was reclassified as a "dwarf planet" in 2006. The name for Pluto in Spanish is Plutón.

 

Gracias por la clase y por aclararme que yo no vivo ni en Plutón ni en la luna, 

Thanks for the class and for clarifying to me that I don't live either on Pluto or on the moon,

Caption 55, Conversaciones con Luis Astrología

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Additional Astronomical Vocabulary in Spanish

And, speaking of the moon, we thought you might be interested in learning how to say "the moon," "the sun," and some other basic vocabulary related to our solar system:

 

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1. la luna = the moon

 

2. el sol = the sun

 

3. la estrella = the star 

 

4. el planeta = the planet

 

5. la galaxia = the galaxy 

 

6. la Vía Láctea = the Milky Way

 

7. el cometa = the comet

 

8. el agujero negro/el hoyo negro = the black hole 

 

9. la nave espacial = the spaceship 

 

10. la constelación = the constellation

 

11. el sistema solar = the solar system

 

12. la teoría del Big Bang = the Big Bang theory

 

13. el eclipse = the eclipse

 

14. la astronomía = astronomy

 

15. el telescopio = the telescope

 

Now, let's take a look at a several of these terms in action:

 

eh... finalmente viene el universo, que es la Vía Láctea.

um... finally comes the universe, which is the Milky Way.

Caption 31, Guillermo el chamán Los rituales

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Las... Se le llama Las Siete Luminarias porque hay siete volcanes que forman la Osa Mayor, que es la constelación de la Osa Mayor.

The... It's called The Seven Luminaries because there are seven volcanoes which make up Ursa Major, which is the Ursa Major constellation.

Captions 13-14, Guillermo el chamán La tecnología maya

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Lo que no sabemos, es de qué planeta son estos niños. Son del planeta Tierra.

What we don't know is from what planet these kids are. They are from planet Earth.

Captions 5-6, Salvando el planeta Palabra Llegada - Part 3

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La nave rusa Soyuz ha despegado desde el centro espacial europeo de Kourou

The Russian spaceship Soyuz has taken off from the European space center in Kourou

Caption 3, Europa Abierta Galileo vs. GPS

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Note that la nave can be used as a shorter way to say "the spaceship" in lieu of la nave espacial. The clip in which this video is found deals with the history of the European space program, in case you are interested in checking it out!

 

That's alll for today. We hope you've enjoyed this lesson on basic astronomical terms in Spanish, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

 

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