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I recently texted my (Spanish-speaking) girlfriend, saying

Voy a mis padres

She corrected me, telling me instead that I should say

Voy con mis padres

But, that appears to invalidate the meaning. What I wanted to say (in English) was

I'm going to my parents' [house]

("house" was implied but elided). Thus, I re-texted her, saying

Voy a la casa de mis padres

As a native speaker, the use of possessives in English seems natural and automatic, but this feature is lacking in Spanish. My question is:

What is the most efficient way of using possessives like the above in Spanish?

A less-important side-question: How would a native Spanish speaker understand my original message?

For the record, I am aware of, and consider myself fluent with, Spanish grammar involving possessives and body parts (way different than English!), and also I've reviewed this question and this question.

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First things first: to convey the meaning you intended, you should have said:

Voy a lo de mis padres.

And to your side-question: a native Spanish speaker would not understand your original message, though very likely they could make a guess, especially if they knew that your L1 is English (because they'd guess you were trying to mimic the English possessive structure).

Bear in mind this is an idiomatic construction. Lo de alguien is a fixed phrase: it always means "somebody's place". You can stretch the meaning a bit. For example, suppose you have a small store and you paid a guy to print your logo on a batch of fancy paper bags; now you have to go fetch them, so you can say: Voy a lo de las bolsas. This might be slightly weird depending on dialect. Many people would rather say: Voy por las bolsas. Or, closer to the original pattern: Voy al de las bolsas, i. e. literally "I'm going to the bags'", meaning "I'm going to the bags guy's place."

Again, remember lo de (alguien) is an idiom always referring to place of residence (or work). As a general rule, you don't use lo like this.

In a possessive, you can replace the noun (or noun phrase) by an empathic possessive pronoun, as I'm sure you already know:

  • Tu casa es muy grande. La mía es mucho más pequeña.
  • No cabemos en mi auto. Vayamos en el tuyo.

The above usage is different from your original situation because here you're not eliding but replacing, and you can't replace a noun phrase with a pronoun unless you have mentioned it before.

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  • Thanks for the answer - very informative, even for understanding the English way of things. – pr1268 Jan 29 '17 at 13:51
  • Oops, another side question for @pablodf76: Would/should I always use the masculine "lo"? After all, I'm going to the house (la casa); is gender matching prescribed here? – pr1268 Jan 29 '17 at 14:22
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    @pr1268 No gender agreement here; it's a stock phrase. You'd only use Voy a la de mis padres if you were talking about someone else's house before and you needed to emphasize that it's your parents' house, not the other, that you're headed for. Also: lo is neuter, not masculine. Think of it as vaguely meaning business (as in "mind your own business"). Tengo listo lo tuyo = "I have your thing ready". – pablodf76 Jan 29 '17 at 17:19
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Note that a and con are not possessives but prepositions. As in English, prepositions have a main meaning but sometimes it gets complicated to choose the right one.

Directly translated, con is equivalent to the English preposition with; the catch here is that con mis padres means with my parents but also means to my parents' place. The meaning depends on the context.

For example: - Voy con el médico - Voy al médico (is used too) - Voy a lo del médico (not used in México)

However, you cannot say *voy a mis padres. In México, most of the time we use con to say that we are moving towards other people´s whereabouts.


To answer you side question, I believe that you were understood based on the context of you text communication; i.e. perhaps she new that you where going somewhere. Out of context, it would be difficult to tell what you meant.

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