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I have the following sentence in English

Do your children like to read?

Which translates to Spanish:

¿ A vuestros hijos les gusta leer?

To me it is unclear, why I have to use "A vuestros" in this case. Which grammatical rule is active here and are there other cases this rule applies as well?

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I found another example which might fall into the same category: "Todos los padres quieren a sus hijos." – Besi Nov 15 '11 at 22:30
In that example, it's just a personal 'a', and has no English translation. – Flimzy Nov 15 '11 at 22:42
In my opinion the answer you are looking for is this personal a mentioned by Flimzy and Arthaey. – hippietrail Nov 15 '11 at 23:09
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Remember that "gustar" means "to please" unlike the English "like" which essentially means "to be pleased by." So what you're saying is:

Is reading pleasing to your children?

When you state it this way, the obvious translation becomes:

¿Leer les gusta a vuestros hijos?

And then the necesity of the 'a' becomes more clear, as in this case it is a translation of the English "to."

An alternative way of translating this would be:

¿Vuestros hijos gustan de leer?


¿Vuestros hijos gustan de la lectura?

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Thanks for the quick answer! – Besi Nov 15 '11 at 22:44
@DiegoMijelshon: Is your update that proper grammar, or a slang/regional usage? It looks completely wrong to me :) (But you probably know better than I do.) – Flimzy Nov 15 '11 at 22:54
It is proper grammar. "gustar de" is an idiom that can be used in the same way as "like" in English. – Diego Mijelshon Nov 15 '11 at 22:58
@Flimzy: exactly. "Cuando era adolescente, gustaba de la musica punk" or "Cuando era adolescente, me gustaba la musica punk" or "Cuando era adolescente, la musica punk me gustaba [a mi]", they all translate to "When I was a teeenager, I liked [or used to like] punk music" – Diego Mijelshon Nov 15 '11 at 23:07
@Flimzy keep in mind the alternative form is more used in writing – Diego Mijelshon Nov 15 '11 at 23:19

Your two examples are actually different phenomena.

Ex. 1) ¿A vuestros hijos les gusta leer?

Consider the following statements:

  • Me gusta leer.
  • Me gusta leer a mí.
  • A mí, me gusta leer.

You can always add the a mí for emphasis. Similarly, you can add an "a [person]" to clarify who the pronoun refers to, in the more ambiguous case of les.

Ex. 2) Todos los padres quieren a sus hijos.

This is a different case: the personal a, which requires the word a before a direct object that is a person.

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