a personal - as a label

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by wwv, Nov 16, 2007.

  1. wwv Senior Member

    English - USA
    I'm curious.

    1. Any English speaker who studies Spanish will sooner or later be exposed to a discussion of the "personal a". That discussion will concern direct objects and/or transitive verbs and/or inanimate objects, probably with a sub-discussion about animals and/or pets. My question is, Do native Spanish speakers use the same label -- la a personal -- to discuss this grammatical phenomenon? I've also seen explanations that talk about "la a acusativo" and "la a dativo" -- is that common terminology among native speakers?

    2. If one does not use the "acusativo / dativo" terminology, how does one distinguish the "a" of "Veo a Juan" from the "a" of "Le di el dinero a Juan"? The first one clearly fits the "personal a" category, but is there a comparable label among native speakers for the second one?
  2. duncandhu Senior Member

    Annapolis, MD, USA
    United Kingdom, English
    I would say it's the same thing (correct me if I'm wrong) and that you would use it for all personal objective pronouns (when the object of a verb is a person/animal)

    Le veo a Juan
    A mí me gusta lo que sea
    A ella le quiero
    Tu madre se ha comido a mi perro (The title of the film 'Braindead' in spanish)
    Lee Harvey Oswald le disparó al presidente Kennedy

  3. Jeromed Banned

    USA, English
    Most native speakers don't know that such a thing as personal a or a personal exists. Mention the term to them, and all you'll get is a blank stare.

    Also, native speakers don't need to tell a DO from an IO. They speak and write instinctively.
  4. chicanul Senior Member

    Jeromed is correct in his observation. I would recommend getting a book like A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish, Fourth Edition.
  5. nwon Senior Member

    Northwestern Ontario
    Inglés canadiense
    Me pregunto si la "a personal" (no sé si hay otro nombre, perdona) es considerado como un marcador dativo, o es tan simple como parece y marca solamente personas humanas. Gracias por sus pensamientos y su sabiduría.
  6. Aviador

    Aviador Senior Member

    Santiago de Chile (a veces)
    Castellano de Chile
    Los verbos transitivos exigen que sus complementos directos de persona o cosa personificada sean introducidos por la preposición a. En este caso, evidentemente no se trata de dativo.
  7. Quique Alfaro

    Quique Alfaro Senior Member

    Santa Fe, Argentina

    Lo que suele llamarse "a personal", Invité a María a la fiesta, no tiene nada que ver con el dativo. Es una característica del castellano, cuando el objeto directo (acusativo) es una persona (o varias personas), casi siempre va precedido por la preposición a.
  8. grahamcracker Senior Member


    In English, dative case markers are not labeled as such. In some languages, the dative functions the same as the indirect object. The accusative case functions as the direct object. To ask about the "dative" would ordinarily confuse most English-only speakers and I suspect that it would do the same for most Spanish only speakers. Am I right?

    But, I have no idea how it works in French.
  9. Milton Sand

    Milton Sand Senior Member

    Bucaramanga, Colombia
    Español (Colombia)
    It's called "a personal" indeed, and in general it helps to distinguish the direct object (called here complemento directo preposicional) from the subject when ambiguity is possible due to the license in Spanish to place almost freely the sintactical elements of a sentence. See these 'extreme' examples:

    Mordió un perro el gato (Two animate beings: ambiguous) — Mordió a un perro el gato — Mordió un perro al gato.
    El velero el viento lo dominó (Ambiguity is possible) Al velero el viento lo dominó El velero al viento lo dominó.

    There is a lot of threads dealing with "a personal"¹ . I suggest you read them to get a better idea of this subject.


    ¹ Look it up in the WR dictionary with the quote marks: "a personal". (Rule 1: Do your own search first). Please take a look at the forum rules, tricks & tips.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013
  10. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    You're certainly right about English-only speakers! What is the dative anyway?
  11. grahamcracker Senior Member

    In the Indo-European languages, nouns are inflected (called declensions) by their sentence function: nominative case (subject), accusative, dative, genitive (possessive being the best example) and vocative (directly addressing a person). Nouns also have masculine, feminine and neuter. And also number. The inflection means that whatever case function they have in the sentence, the ending changes. Therefore, you can change sentence order without changing the meaning of the sentence. In ancient Koine Greek, nine different forms for the definite article (the word "the") exist as fifteen different ways. Some of them function in more than one declension.

    Some languages differentiate between dual (two of anything) and plural (three or more). English only has singular and plural but no noun genders at all.

    Accusative is generally the direct object, nominative is the subject, genitive is generally the possessive, dative the indirect object and accusative the direct object. As languages in Europe evolved, the use of case structures diminished. As far as English is concerned, English deteriorated further than Spanish so that we barely have verb inflections anymore and absolutely none in the use of nouns. Spanish retains a strong remnant in the verbs but I am not sure if they are properly called declensions.

    Spanish and English govern most of those by word order. Classic Greek and Latin had cases. Modern Russian has them as well as modern German and some Scandanavian languages, but to what extent I do not know.

    I believe some modern languages only have two or three declensions but that is still more than English and Spanish. Nominative and genitive at least.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013
  12. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    Thanks for the explanation. I will try to remember that the dative is the indirect object. These kinds of terms come up in WR more often than I like. I abandoned German because I declined to study case. :p

    Declension only applies to nouns, prounouns, and adjectives. We have to stick with conjugation for inflection of verbs.
  13. grammarloco Member

    English - Canada
    Spanish indeed has three "a"s. "prepositional", " accusative", and "dative" would be tidy descriptions. But my Spanish teacher says "la a personal" instead of "la a acusativa". So we seem to be stuck with "prepositional", "personal", and "dative" for the three types. It isn't very pretty.

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