I am drowning in pronouns here. Can someone help me see the grammar behind the use of the "a los" in the sentence below?

Gracias, Juan, pero cuando una mujer llega a los cuarenta, comienza a tener otros deseos.

Is it required to be grammatically correct? Can we not just say "... cuando una mujer llega cuarenta..."?

I suspect it would be required because I think it is a direct object pronoun (of llega?), but I am struggling to find good resources that help explain the concept.

  • in this case, you have an implicit subject. The phrase is "Gracias, Juan, pero cuando una mujer llega a los cuarenta (años), comienza a tener otros deseos". you can't remove the preposition a and the pronoun los. The phrase (...)cuando una mujer llega cuarenta años(...) fails.
    – VeAqui
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 3:40

1 Answer 1


Llegar a is a multi-word verb, sometimes termed a phrasal verb. (See, for example, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/about-verbs/verbs-multi-word-verbs.) Notice that take off doesn't have the same meaning as take. Similarly, llegar a doesn't have the same meaning as llegar.

The exact translation of llegar a depends somewhat on the context. Here's how one dictionary, spanishdict.com, defines it:

to get to Voy a llegar al restaurante un poco atrasado. | I am going to get to the restaurant a little late.

Here, then, is a natural English version of your sentence:

Thank you, Juan, but when a woman gets to her forties, she begins to have other desires.

Note that I'm using a possessive pronoun before "forties" in the English version, even though in Spanish there wasn't one, because of the same principle that leads us to say "Me duele la cabeza" instead of "Me duele mi cabeza."

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