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I am studying Spanish with the Michel Thomas Method. It says that in Spanish, the gender is often not specified.

For example:

no lo compra - he/she is not buying

puede mandárselo - can you send it to him

It then says you can specify gender and gives the following example:

él no lo compra - He is not buying it

puede mandárselo a él? - can you send it to him?

¿Por qué no se lo dijo a él? - Why didn’t you tell it to him?

Él quiere que se lo mande. - He wants me to send it to him.

I am bit confused? Sometimes the gender is specified at the start, other times at the end.

How do you know where to position it?

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    Note that in the questions you mention, "él" acts as a indirect complement, whereas in the rest it is the subject. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Aug 9 '15 at 11:39
  • @fedorqui I don't quite understand, For example, ¿Por qué no se lo dijo a él? him is the subject so it goes at the end. But then in Él quiere que se lo mande. he is the subject, but it's at the start? Thanks for your help! – big_smile Aug 9 '15 at 15:11
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    No, in ¿Por qué no se lo dijo a él? the subject is the person who "dijo", a él mentions the person to whom this is applied (indirect complement). So you could say ¿Por qué Juan no se lo dijo a él? and Juan would be the subject, not "él". – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Aug 10 '15 at 12:47
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First of all, your examples are not grammatically identical. Questions and non-question sentences will have a diferent order because that's how it works in every language.

Second, you're being confused by the gender AND the subject.

In spanish it is possible to omit the subject of the sentences just as you point out in

No lo compra

This is correct and it doesn't matter if He/She (in this case it coud also be You). The subject is missing and we don't know who's buying it. These are "Oraciones unimembres" (one-member sentences).

In the other examples, you use questions that also have indirect object built in them.

¿Por qué no se lo dijo a él? - Why didn’t you tell it to him?

If you read carefully you will notice that it's an indirect object (just as in english) and the question sentence does not have a subject. Who didn't tell? In the spanish clause it's not given and it doesn't matter or you have to get it from context. In the english version you assumed that it was "you" who didn't but it's not a really accurate translation. The "a él" in the question is working as indirect object because the action was done "to him".

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  • So if you want to specify the gender and the gender is the subject, you put it at the start (e.g. él no lo compra ). If you want to specify the gender and the gender is an indirect object, you put it at the end (e.g. ¿Por qué no se lo dijo a él? ). If you don't want to specify the gender, you don't put it anywhere (no lo compra). Is that correct? Thanks! Also, Who didn't tell? In the spanish clause it's not given and it doesn't matter or you have to get it from context. Doesn't dijo tell us that you didn't tell? Is that correct? – big_smile Aug 10 '15 at 10:25
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    I'll answer in order. First sentence is correct. If you want to specify the gender, it cannot be an indirect object (e.g. ¿Por qué ella no se lo dijo a él?). The subject is "ella" not "a él". The fact that there's "él" in that sentence is coincidence (for example "¿Por qué ella no se lo dijo al hombre?) has almost the same meaning and the same grammatic. No lo compra is correct and it is not always mandatory to say who did what. Dijo does not tell you anything. For example, Usted/Él/Ella/ dijo una mentira. There are some cases where you can't escape (dije is only for Yo). – Matias Andina Aug 10 '15 at 18:24
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I think you are mistaking "gender" for "subject", or I did not get your questions. The subject isn't normally specified because you can know the person/number from the verb endings; you only specify it when you need to emphasize the subject, or there is a contrast with the previous subject.

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  • Not just "subject", the second example omits (and afterwards specifies) the I.O. So I guess @big_smile mistakes "gender" for "pronoun". – guillem Aug 9 '15 at 14:57
  • @Paco I don't quite understand. If you are emphasizing the gender (as in the examples I posted), then why does it go at the start in some of the examples and at the end of the others? Thanks! – big_smile Aug 9 '15 at 15:06

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