One of the most challenging parts of learning a new language is navigating the aspects that don’t exactly translate. Do you remember learning false friends and learning that different languages don’t always follow the same patterns? Just like other grammatical rules that don’t literally translate, it’s important to learn when to use the “personal a” in Spanish so you can sound more native. In addition, you’ll be much more confident while speaking if you have these rules memorized!
What’s the “personal a”?
Just like how it sounds, the “personal a” means that a person or person-like figure should be involved. First, think about what you know regarding direct objects. A direct object is the recipient of an action. Sometimes, a person is the recipient of an action, in which case the little word a goes before the person. That’s why it’s called a “personal a”!
When to use it
As we mentioned earlier, you use the “personal a” when a person it the direct object of a sentence. It would be grammatically incorrect to say Juana recuerda Mateo. Instead, since Mateo is the object of the sentence, you have to say Juana recuerda a Mateo. Since the object is a person, you need to use a “personal a”.
You can also use it for other nouns that you personify, meaning they aren’t a person, but you’re giving them the same recognition as a person. For example, many people use the word a before referring to a pet, an inanimate object that they named or had a special connection with, or even places. It signals that you consider this noun to be an important entity, like a person.
Also, if you ask a question where the answer is a person, your question will also need a “personal a”. It makes sense that you would use a with the question word quién since a person will be the answer. For example, “A quién besaste ayer?”, or “Who did you kiss yesterday?” requires a person as the object of the sentence. This means that you need to have a in the question.
These rules can seem a little overwhelming and complicated at the beginning, but with enough practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Pay attention when others speak and you’ll here this grammatical feature in nearly every conversation.