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In the sentence "estamos esperándolas a ellas" (we're waiting for them) why do we use "esperando" followed by "las" when " a ellas" is already there? Isn't "las" superfluous?

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Yes, it is superflous, but it's also necessary. "Esperándolas a ellas" features what is known as duplicación pronominal. When you have a personal pronoun introduced by "a" posponed to the verb, you need to duplicate the pronoun. Some exceptions are:

  • With verbs of direction, such as "se acercó a mí", "se adelantó a ustedes" or "se abrazó a él"
  • With past participles: "la ofensa hecha a nosotros" is correct, but not "la ofensa que hicieron a nosotros"

With other pronouns ("nadie", "todos") or nouns, the pronoun isn't always necessary. You can say "eso no interesa a nadie" or "eso no le interesa a nadie". You can also say "vi a Juana" or "la vi a Juana". Sometimes, some version may sound more natural than another but both are grammatical. This is especially relevant with certain verbs for which the duplication isn't strictly necessary, but heavily favoured:

Le duele la muela al niño. (better than *duele la muela al niño)
Esto le gusta a Cristina. (better than *esto gusta a Cristina)

In your case, you need the pronoun "les" — what is superflous and omissible is "a ellas".

For more, see Duplicación de los pronombres átonos (only in Spanish), and section 5 on Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (also in Spanish, but easier to understand). There's also a really good and thorough article in Hispanoteca (I highly recommend that page), but it is also in Spanish.

  • Great answer and correct. Note: in other romance languages (Italian, at least), you can use either of the two pronouns, but not both... so the duplication is kind of idiomatic to Spanish... As you say, you MUST duplicate in Spanish if you want to use the prepositional phrase (e.g., a él, a ella, a usted) for emphasis. – Dan Rosenstark Jun 23 '16 at 23:59
  • @DanRosenstark Good point. Being speculative, I guess that's partly because in Italian a DO wouldn't be introduced by "a", which makes it harder to tell a DO from a subject. If Italian allowed pronoun duplication, in sentences like "l'ha visto lui" there would be no way to tell who saw who. "Ha visto lui" makes it clear. In Spanish, the same ambiguity doesn't arise because you would say either "lo ha visto a él" or "lo ha visto él", and the meaning is transparent in both cases. – Yay Jun 24 '16 at 5:43
  • "Yes, it is superflous, but it's also necessary". If it's necessary, it's not superfluous. It's a duplication, but it's not superfluous. Otherwise, right answer. As you say, what's superfluous is "a ellas". – MikMik Jun 24 '16 at 7:00
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    @MikMik It is necessary for the sentence to be grammatical, but it is semantically superflous. Language is full of redundancy that helps reduce ambiguity in some cases but not so in others. In this case, "estábamos esperándolas" and "estábamos esperando a ellas" could potentially convey the same information, so arguably both are mutually superflous, so to speak, which doesn't mean they can be omitted. Edited for clarification. – Yay Jun 24 '16 at 7:38
  • @Yay that's a good point. I never thought of that. In fact, I've never thought of ANY positive outcomes of the confusing use of 'a' for indirect and direct "personal" pronouns. Very interesting, thanks! – Dan Rosenstark Jun 24 '16 at 21:58
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Si es una oración con objeto directo. Sujeto. + verbo/s. +objeto directo. (Nosotros)Estamos esperando a María y a Luisa. Sustituimos los objetos directos por pronombres directos. Pronombres directos: Lo/los/la/las Por lo general el objeto directo corresponde a cosas. Pasa con los verbos transitivos. María y Laura. (personas femeninas y plural) por eso usamos el pronombre directo las. Estamos usando una oración progresiva. Podemos decir:-- Las estamos esperando. Estamos esperandolas.

  • Hola Isa y bienvenida a Spanish Language. Intenta editar tu respuesta utilizando formato (mira en editing help si quieres), para que así se entienda mejor. Actualmente cuesta seguirla. ¡Gracias por tu tiempo! – fedorqui Jul 4 '16 at 7:03

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