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When I try to translate this sentence

Juan send his daughter to his mother

I got this

Juan envía a su hija a su madre

Considering the following facts:

  • su hija is a personal direct object (DO)
  • personal DO should have a before it
  • su madre is an IO, hence a comes after it

However, don't think my Spanish translation is right. Moreover, the sentence is ambiguous on which is DO or IO. What is the right translation?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

In this case, the a before the DO is not mandatory, so you can say:

Juan envía su hija a su madre.

RAE's Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, under its entry 1. a + complemento directo. lists a detailed set of rules to establish when a DO must (uso forzoso), may (doble uso), or can't (no se usa) be preceded by a. In this case it says that the a before su hija can be omitted to remove the ambiguity:

d) Cuando el complemento directo de persona precedido de preposición coincide en la oración con otro complemento que también la lleva (por ejemplo, un complemento indirecto), puede omitirse la que antecede al complemento directo, para evitar confusiones: Presentó (A) SU NOVIO a sus padres. Pero si el complemento directo es un nombre propio, es forzoso el uso de la preposición: Presentó A JUAN a sus padres.

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Gracias. So for the last "uso forzoso", the one near to verb is implied to be the direct object, right? – OnesimusUnbound Jun 13 '14 at 17:34

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