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I've seen the question Who are you writing to? translated in two ways:

¿A quién escribes?

and

¿Quién le escribes?

The first sentence seems to translate more as To whom do you write?, whereas the second one I have a hard time translating literally. I know that le is an indirect object pronoun that means he/she/formal you, but I'm not sure how that meaning fits into the sentence.

Is one translation more common than the other? Or is one more common in Latin America versus Spain?

Thank you.

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7  
are you sure that the second one isn't "¿A quién le escribes?"? –  Javi Jan 27 '12 at 17:23
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Agree with Javi. –  Alfredo Osorio Jan 27 '12 at 17:52
    
Me too, agree with Javi. It should be ¿A quién le escribes? –  Icarus Jan 27 '12 at 20:05
    
"Who are you writing to?" is bad English. It suffers from two problems: 1) Use of improper pronoun, and 2) a dangling preposition. The proper form would be "To whom are you writing?" :) –  Flimzy Jan 28 '12 at 23:32
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2 Answers 2

The verb "escribir" needs the preposition "a" when you want to include the person that the text is going to be sent. So for that reason the following sentence is not correct:

¿Quién le escribes? (Incorrect, it should be "¿A Quién le escribes?")

The pronoun "le" is optional. You can use it or not so you can hear any of these sentences:

¿A quién le escribes?

¿A quién escribes?

The explanationof RAE about why that "le" is optional can be read in the section 5.2.a of this link:

a) En el caso del complemento indirecto, la coaparición del pronombre átono es normalmente opcional y suele ser lo más frecuente, especialmente en la lengua oral: No (les) da importancia a los problemas; (Les) he contado nuestro secreto a unos amigos; (Le) han denegado la beca a Juan; (Le) he dicho la verdad a mi madre.

E incluso hay verbos, como gustar, encantar y sinónimos, que exigen la presencia del pronombre átono junto con el complemento tónico: ¿Le gustan a tu hermana los bombones? (y no *¿Gustan a tu hermana los bombones?). En general, suele ser necesaria la duplicación en los verbos cuyo complemento indirecto designa, no al destinatario de la acción, sino al que la experimenta, como ocurre con los llamados verbos de «afección» (psíquica o física), como molestar, divertir, interesar, cansar, etc., y con muchos otros, como parecer, resultar, convenir, etc.: Le molestó a tu padre que no vinieras; Le ha cansado a la abuela el paseo; Le pareció bien al jefe nuestro plan; No le conviene al niño comer tantos dulces. No obstante, cuando la función de complemento indirecto es desempeñada por los cuantificadores universales todo, nadie o similares, la presencia del pronombre átono no resulta siempre necesaria: Su decisión no (le) gustó a todo el mundo; Sus palabras no (le) molestaron a nadie; (Les) cansó a todos con su discurso.

So as "escribir" is not a verb with a meaning about emotions "le" is not compulsory when it is an indirect object.

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The second version in the OP is not grammatical. It does not make sense at all without the starting preposition.

¿A quién (le) escribes? is the only way to go.

At most, you could try a different variation such as ¿Con quién te escribes? that again starts with a preposition, but has a slight different meaning, in the sense that there are incoming and outgoing messages (possibly in a chat session), where in the main option that bidirectional component is not present.

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in RAE definition it says " 3. tr. Comunicar a alguien por escrito algo. U. t. c. intr.". "U. t. c. intr" means that it is also used as intransitive. So I think it's correct to say "¿A quién escribes?". Indeed it's quite common to hear that. buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltConsulta?LEMA=escribir –  Javi Jan 28 '12 at 15:16
    
Escribe muy bien is a clear case of an intransitive use of escribir, but I don't think it's the same case. Regarding its use, maybe it's common to hear that (which I think is incorrect) for the same reason it's common to hear Who are you writing to? instead of Whom are you writing to? or To whom are you writing?. Many English speakers have trouble using whom and, knowingly or unknowingly use who instead. So I think the Spanish expression may have its roots on similar reasons. –  Eduardo Jan 28 '12 at 15:55
    
@Eduardo "Estoy escribiendo a mi amigo" is an intransitive use of escribir because there isn't a direct object (something like "a carta"). If you change that sentence to interrogative: "¿a quién estoy escribiendo?". So why wouldn't be correct "¿A quién escribes?"? Another thing is that sometimes we use "escribiéndole a mi amigo" adding "le" to emphasize the person, but both are correct ways. –  Juanillo Jan 28 '12 at 17:59
    
@Eduardo "Con quien te escribes?" wouldn't mean exactly the same. It would mean that the person that you are writing to usually sends letters to you too. But the question in the OP means that you're writing to someone who maybe even doesn't know you even exists. It's not the same to send a letter to each other than sending a letter to someone. –  Juanillo Jan 28 '12 at 18:20
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@Eduardo From RAE: section 5.2.a: En el caso del complemento indirecto, la coaparición del pronombre átono es normalmente opcional y suele ser lo más frecuente, especialmente en la lengua oral: No (les) da importancia a los problemas; (Les) he contado nuestro secreto a unos amigos; (Le) han denegado la beca a Juan; (Le) he dicho la verdad a mi madre.... hay verbos, como gustar, encantar y sinónimos, que exigen la presencia del pronombre átono buscon.rae.es/dpdI/… So you are not right –  Juanillo Jan 28 '12 at 19:17
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