Forum Rocket Spanish Spanish - Grammar Personal "a" before each direct object.

Personal "a" before each direct object.

Tomás71

Tomás71

In Lesson 15.1, the following sentence appears: Solamente que extrañaba a mi familia y mis amigos. Is there a reason that a personal "a" did not also appear before "mis amigos" -- i.e., "a mi familia y a mis amigos"? Is this an exception to the rule? Or is this common in conversation, regardless of the rule?
Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

¡Hola Tomás71!

Thanks for your question! I'll dive right in.

When you're using the personal a (or any other preposition) in a sentence like this where there are two (or more) objects and the preposition applies to both, you can repeat the preposition each time, but you don't have to.

Let's take a shorter sentence that can illustrate this a bit more clearly as an example: 

A Marco y Luis les gusta tu idea.
"Your idea is pleasing to Marco and Luis." (or, less literally: "Marco and Luis like your idea.")

We can say the sentence like this with just the one a in Spanish the same way that we can say the English version with just the one "to" in English: a and "to" apply to both Marco and Luis.

However, if we wanted (maybe we wanted to emphasize a little that both Marco AND Luis were pleased), we could say: 

A Marco y a Luis les gusta tu idea.
"Your idea is pleasing to Marco and to Luis."

So, Solamente que extrañaba a mi familia y a mis amigos would be a perfectly correct sentence, but that second a isn't strictly necessary. The shorter version, Solamente que extrañaba a mi familia y mis amigos, works just as well. You'll likely hear it more often in conversation if the speaker isn't trying to stress both (or all) objects equally, since it's simply faster to say just one a.

I hope that this was helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions!

Saludos,

Liss
Tomás71

Tomás71

Thank you, Liss.

My question was prompted by a couple of references I have that say the personal "a" must be used before each direct object where the preposition applies. But I understand that such "rules" can often be "flexible" in conversation, as with the English example you gave. 

Also, in this situation, I suppose that "my family and my friends" might be considered a single direct object, since "family and friends" (or "friends and family") are often mentioned together, as a singular concept. In English, we'd probably just say "my family and friends," with just one "my." But in Spanish, it seems we have no choice but to use "my" twice, because we have both singular and plural nouns. Or is it sometimes permitted to use just one "my" when singular and plural nouns are combined?
Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

¡Hola Tomás71!

Indeed, I think the wording you'll often find regarding the personal a rule can make things seem stricter than they are: the wording can be read to imply that you have to put in an a directly before each and every direct object, but the rule is really more that there must be an a present that applies to each direct object requiring it. Therefore, if you have a list where an a at the beginning would refer to everything in the list (and if everything in the list requires an a), then you only need that initial a.  

As for the use of "my" in a list where there are singular and plural nouns together, like "my family and friends": To have "my" refer to each item in the list, the proper  and usual thing would be to repeat it and say mi familia y mis amigos, because familia is singular and amigos is plural, and the "my" needs to reflect the number of the nouns. That being said, you may hear phrases with only one "my," like mi familia y amigos "my family and friends"; however, in instances like this, my feeling would be that the mi is only referring to familia - so we have "mi familia" on the one hand and then we have "amigos" on the other. 

I hope that this is helpful. Do let me know if anything is still unclear!

Saludos,

Liss

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here .
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket Spanish trial here .