Links:

FHUHS French:

FHUHS Spanish:

Benson Pages:

Castleton Pages:

FHGS Pages:

Orwell Pages:

Personal ‘a’

En España, hoy es jueves el 21 de septiembre de 2017.

be161227.gif

2016-12-27 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick

Because word order in Spanish is so much more flexible than in English, Spanish has to have some way of indicating the function of some nouns within the sentence that English conveys by word order.

For example, in English, word order, or syntax, is fairly rigid:

Subject – verb – object.
eg., Juan calls María.

The subject and the object are frequently both nouns, and we know which is which because of the word order. In the example above, it’s clear to an English speaker who is calling (Juan) and who is being called (María), but we only know that because of word order.

In Spanish, word order is much more flexible. The subject is frequently not the first word in a sentence, and the object does not have to come after the verb. Yet some way still needs to exist to indicate which noun is which.

The following sentences are incorrect, or perhaps incomplete sentence in Spanish:

  • Juan María llama.
  • Llama Juan María.
  • María llama Juan.
  • Juan llama María.
  • María Juan llama.

As written there is no way to tell who is calling whom. Just because English syntax says the subject comes before the verb doesn’t mean that that rule can be applied to Spanish and result in anything meaningful. Presented with the above, a native speaker would have absolutely no idea who is calling whom.

Enter the personal ‘a’

So, to help Spanish speakers make sense of the potential ambiguity above, they use an untranslatable particle: the personal ‘a’. Spanish will “mark” the direct object when the direct object is a person by inserting the word ‘a’ before the direct object. For example, we can rewrite the above examples, and now it will be clear who is calling whom:

  • A Juan María llama. (María calls Juan.)
  • Llama Juan a María. (Juan calls María.)
  • María llama a Juan. (María calls Juan.)
  • A Juan llama María. (María calls Juan.)
  • A María Juan llama. (Juan calls María.)

In each of these cases, the personal ‘a’ marks the direct object so that the interlocutor knows who is calling whom. This system may seem foreign to you, it’s actually a wonderful feature of the language. Speakers of Spanish and writers of Spanish poetry don’t have a rigid syntax dictating word order and so rhyme schemes can be achieved much more easily!

And here are some more examples of the use of the personal ‘a’:


Baldo viene de http://ucomics.com

5 hits when searching for: Personal A
be170105.gif
2017-01-05 - © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
be161227.gif
2016-12-27 - © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
be150914.gif
2015-09-14 - © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
02-26-05.gif
2005-02-26 - © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
9-30-04.gif
2004-09-30 - © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick