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"Last week I saw my husband's aunt" translated to "La semana pasada vi a la tia de mi esposo". I always miss the little "a" when I see a sentence like this. Could someone help me summarize when it is needed?


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In Spanish when the direct object is a person and is not given by pronoun it always bare the article «a». Always.

La semana pasada vi a la tía de mi esposo.
La semana pasada la vi.

If you repeat the pronoun for emphasis, then you also add «a».

La semana pasada la vi a ella.

Sometimes it is also required when the object is animate, particularly if it is determinate.

Mi gato cazó al ratón.
Mi gato cazó un ratón.

The direct object will never use preposition «a» for innanimated objects.

La semana pasada vi la casa de mis sueños.
La semana pasada la vi.

The indirect object will always use the preposition «a» or the dative form of the pronoun, regardless if it is personal, animate, innanimate, determinate or indeterminate.

Puse una estrella a mi árbol de navidad.
Le puse una estrella.

You can combine the dative pronoun with the explicit indirect object for emphasis.

Le puse una estrella a mi árbol de navidad.

In these example, if you prefere to use a pronoun for the direct object, it will use the accusative pronoun:

Puse la estrella a mi árbol de navidad.
La puse a mi árbol de navidad.

However if there are two third-person pronouns, the indirect object (dative) pronoun will be changed for the reflexive third-person pronoun.

Se la puse.

But back to the topic of the preposition «a». If a verb has both direct and indirect object and the direct object is a person, both objects will have the preposition:

El padre entregó a su hija al novio.


El padre entregó al novio a su hija.

Some times it might become a little ambiguous, as you can see; just in this case the rule of the personal direct object always having the preposition might be dropped:

El padre entregó su hija al novio.
El padre entregó al novio su hija.

However, when using a personal name as direct object, the preposition «a» cannot be dropped:

El padre entregó a Sandra al novio.
El padre entregó al novio a Sandra.

I hope it is clear.

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Do I still use personal a in "sabré quién soy." Putting the "a" before quién? – Doeser Apr 14 '15 at 22:09
It would be incorrect. «quién soy» is a phrase, not a person. In the sentence «Sabré quien soy» (“I will know who I am”), the object is what answers the question «¿Qué sabré?» (“What will I know?”), and the answer «quien soy» (“who I am”) is not a person. – Carlos Eugenio Thompson Pinzón Apr 20 '15 at 11:48

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