I'm an avid user of Duolingo Spanish and I recently came across this phrase:

Ellas presentan a sus familias.

I translated it as They present to their families but then remembered that the article a is sometimes used in between verbs and nouns when the verb is directed to the noun. So I figured it could also be translated as They present their families.

Though Duolingo accepted the latter translation, the comments section didn't help much with the possible ambiguity. Turning to SpanishDict's multiple translator machine, I received both translations as well as a third: They have their family.

Could the statement actually be translated both ways in English, or are there two different ways of expressing the two actions in Spanish without having to depend on context?

5 Answers 5


They present to their families would be "ellas les presentan a sus familias". Note that you have to introduce "les" to make out of "a sus familias" an indirect object, otherwise it will be a direct object as you already recognized and the translation would be "they present their families [to someone]".

Another example would be to ask (pedir). Imagine I am asking to have a colleague for a certain project:

Yo pedí a Juan [para mi proyecto]

If I am asking Juan to give me something then Juan would be an indirect object:

Yo le pedí a Juan [que me diera algo]

In both cases the "a" and "le" are less important if you specify the complete sentence, everybody would understand what you mean. In the case of "le" it wouldn't even be necessary :

Yo pedí a Juan que me diera algo

I don't think it could.

«Presentar» (introduce) goes with either DO, or both DO and IO, but not IO only.

Translating it as «They present to their families» would leave the Spanish sentence in a cliff: «ellas presentan [a quién] a sus familias», they present whom to their families?

As for the different ways of expressing two actions, I'm not quite sure about what does the IO-only construction mean in English, though. Do you want to say «present» as in giving a present? Then we are speaking about a different verb: «regalar [DO [a IO]]» or «hacer un regalo [a IO]».

  • When I mentioned the sentence, "They present their families" I wrote it with the meaning of "Ellas" presenting their families to someone else not mentioned in the sentence. But as you've already cleared up, that's like an incomplete sentence so it could be "Ellas presentan sus familias a [alguien]. Is the Duolingo prompt just missing the IO as well—the subject that the families are being presented to?
    – aspiringSD
    Jan 2, 2016 at 10:05
  • Not missing the IO, as in «they forgot it», but as in «they are using the DO-only form». That is allowed. You can have a vague IO just dropping it (even an abstract one, e.g «ellas presentan un disco»), but for a vague DO you can't just drop it, you need at least a placeholder; so if you find «presentar» with only one object, it will always be the DO.
    – guillem
    Jan 2, 2016 at 10:56

The difference would be that the phrase "ellas presentan a sus familias" is to explain that they are introducing their family to someone, but if they are introducing themselves to their families would be "ellas se presentan a sus familias". You see I added "se" wich is an indicator for themselves and as first person (me or I="yo"). (sorry if is not clear, i'm just a native spanish speaker)

  • 1
    Ah, okay. So from what I see there is: 1) They present themselves to their families -- "Ellas se presentan a sus familias" 2) They present someone to their families -- "Ellas presentan alguien a sus familias." 3) They present their families to someone -- "Ellas presentan sus familias a alguien." Correct?
    – aspiringSD
    Jan 2, 2016 at 10:16
  • In 1) They present themselves or one another to their families -- "Ellas se presentan a sus familias".
    – Yay
    Jan 2, 2016 at 16:38

The sentence Ellas presentan a sus familias can have two meanings.

The fists would be that

They are presenting/introducing their families to each other.

And the second is

They are presenting/introducing their families to some third person.

Both cases have the common fragment "They are presenting/introducing their families"

The other two translations in the question are incorrect.

First, They have their family has no sense but They have their families presented/introduced is correct and has the same meaning.

The sentence They present to their families sounds incomplete to me. Perhaps they are presented to their families is better but this would mean ellas son presentadas a sus familias which is different to the phrase you want to translate.

So in summary, no, that sentence can not be translated both ways.

  • Introducing sounds more natural to me than presenting as a translation.
    – mdewey
    Apr 24, 2019 at 17:19
  • absolutely @mdewey that's why I used it but I wanted to keep present as it was the word the OP and Duolingo used.
    – DGaleano
    Apr 24, 2019 at 21:38

Presentar in this context would not be translated as to present, but as


Thus, Ellas presentan a sus familias would most likely be

They introduce their families [to whomever the context indicates].

This is a common, culturally authentic expression that comes up often in the singular, past tense, for example:

Quisiera presentar a mi hermana. | I'd like to introduce my sister [to you].

Typically, the context would tell us whom we're introducing her to exactly.

Note, a is used because the object is a person.

See Collins.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.