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La madre le lava la cara a la niña.

In that sentence, why is the word "le" there? The sentence already has a indirect object ("a la niña"), but removing the "le" makes the sentence to sound unnatural.

Edit: Does this sentence sound right? Why/why not?

La madre lava la cara a la niña.

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Maybe the answer by Nexus to What does “lo” in “(no) lo es” refer to? also applies here. – Gonzalo Medina Nov 25 '11 at 17:34
@GonzaloMedina intenté cambiar el orden de las palabras de la oración pero no logré encontrar alguna combinación donde el "le" se pudiera omitir. – dusan Nov 25 '11 at 18:01
up vote 2 down vote accepted

A few observations: you have a direct object and an indirect object in your sentence. Just go to the passive voice:

La cara (de la niña) es lavada por la madre.

So, "la cara" is the direct object. You can now replace the indirect object by "le"

La cara le es lavada por la madre.

If you omit "le", the subject disappears:

La cara es lavada por la madre.

so, "le" means "la niña", and can be omited in the original sentence.


d) Hay verbos que se construyen con complemento directo de cosa e indirecto de persona: El camarero sirvió la cerveza a Pedro; Robaron el bolso a María; El atracador pegó una paliza a la dependienta; El acusado escribió una carta al juez; El médico curó la herida al torero, etc.

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@Aleanno Thanks for the edits! – Dr. belisarius Nov 25 '11 at 19:23
So in the passive-voice sentence "le" can be omitted. What about the original sentence? – dusan Nov 26 '11 at 13:23
@dusan You can omit it in the original sentence, as shown in the examples at the bottom of my answer. If you omit it in the passive voice, there is a slight sense change . Edited for clarity. – Dr. belisarius Nov 26 '11 at 13:44
@belisarius you're welcome. :) – Alenanno Nov 26 '11 at 15:54

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