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I am trying to translate the following sentence

They love traveling to Spain

My first thought was

Se encanta viajar a Espana

But it seems like the correct translation is

Les encanta viajar a Espana

I am confused on why we are using indirect object pronoun instead of reflexive pronoun.

Can someone point me in a good direction?

  • Yes, that is right. The correct sentense is a short version of "A ellos les encanta viajar a España". If it was singular it would be " a el/ella le encanta..." meaning "he/she loves traveling to Spain". An example with "se" would be something like "Se divierte viajando a España" but the verb will change from viajar to viajando – DGaleano Sep 3 '18 at 19:34
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    I am curious as to why you thought a reflexive pronoun was needed there. If you could answer to this, we could help you avoid similar confusions later. – pablodf76 Sep 3 '18 at 21:25
  • @J L An indirect object is used because ‘they’ are not the subject of ‘encantar’, and a reflexive pronoun is not correct because the subject and object are not the same. Translated literally the sentence would be something like ‘travelling to Spain pleases them’ studyspanish.com/grammar/lessons/gustar – Traveller Sep 4 '18 at 13:47
  • @pablodf76 - I think OP was initially aiming for a reflexive pronoun because they didn't yet realize that the main verb didn't belong to the main characters ("they" -- whoever they are). I think the basic confusion underlying this question is the classic confusion beginners often experience with gustar expressions. – aparente001 Sep 4 '18 at 21:39
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    @aris - very cute term -- I never heard it before, but it seems like it could be useful at times. – aparente001 Oct 3 '19 at 0:55
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Encantar works like gustar. It's not a pronominal verb (i.e. a verb that takes a "reflexive" pronoun even though it's not truly reflexive). You see encantar almost always with a pronoun, as with gustar, because of the quirky way these verbs work.

For the Spanish verb amar and the English equivalent "to love", the usual sentence structure is the familiar one, subject + verb + direct object, for example:

Ellos aman viajar a España.

where the whole phrase «viajar a España» is the direct object. The verb adorar ("to adore") also works in this familiar way. But things are different with gustar and encantar. The sentence structure with them is more commonly indirect object + verb + subject:

(A ellos) les encanta viajar a España.
(A nosotros) nos gusta mucho hacer turismo.

where the pronouns les and nos are the indirect objects, and the phrases in parentheses are also indirect objects (this duplication is sometimes compulsory; here it's just for emphasis). With these verbs, the thing that is liked/adored/loved is the subject, and the people that like/adore/love that thing are the indirect object. Gustar means "to please", encantar means "to charm, to please very much".

There's no exact parallel to this in English, but the verb to seem + adjective works in a similar way when you say for example:

To me it seems better to stay here.

where "To me" is the indirect object and "to stay here" is the subject, which due to English grammatical rules must be mirrored by a dummy "it" before the verb. This is also how parecer works in Spanish:

Me parece mejor quedarme aquí.

  • Could you please clarify what defines the form of the article before encantar? The logical object who actually loves smth? – mavzolej Jun 23 '19 at 15:21
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Indeed, "Les encanta viajar a España" is correct.

You might find it helpful to map your sentence to this slightly artificial English version:

It charms/enchants them to travel to Spain.

You'll come across something similar when you get to the verb gustar. For example

Esta versión me gusta más. | This version pleases me more.

Of course, a more functionally accurate translation of this example sentence would be

I like this version better.

If you want an easy way to type accents and special characters like ñ, here's one way:

  • choose US international keyboard

  • for ñ, type ~ (to the left of the number 1, requires the shift key), and then type a normal n

  • note that if you want to type an apostrophe or quotation mark, you'll need to type a space after the character

If you want to edit your question and put the ñ into España, click where it says "edit" below your question.

  • the correct literal translation would be "ellos aman viajar a españa" , as "les encanta" should be translated as " they love to" instead of "they love", while the meaning is the same the use of the direct object is what makes the difference in the form of: "verb + <<to>>" – Mike Sep 4 '18 at 18:32
  • @Mike - Sorry if I wasn't clear about the following: "I like this version better" is a functionally accurate translation of "Esta versión me gusta más," not "Les encanta viajar a España." – aparente001 Sep 4 '18 at 21:36
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    Anyone using a QWERTY keyboard, can load the International Keyboard and type accents that way: it will give you all of them. – Lambie Oct 21 '18 at 15:58
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It's correct because it also can be "A ellos les encanta viajar a España"

Other exaples:

  • (A ellos) les encanta comer
  • (A ellos) les encanta jugar
  • (A ellos) les gusta bailar

But "se" means something like to himself (él mismo)

  • Él mismo va / se va [he leaves/himself leaves]
  • Él mismo quiere morir / Se quiere morir [he wants to die/himself wants to die]
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An explanation for English speakers:

If you use the verb encantar for loving something or really liking something, it works reflexively.

I just love fried eggs. [Fried eggs are "enchanting" to me: you can see how that works. I only put this here so you can see the literal structure in Spanish.]

Me encantan los huevos fritos.

Why? Because in Spanish, algo encanta a alguien, is "to someone",and this fact, gives you: me encanta [a mi]
te encanta [a ti]
le encanta [ a él, a ella, a usted]
nos encanta [a nosotros]
os encanta [a vosotros]
les encanta [a ellos, a ellas, a ustedes].

The personal pronoun is only used for emphasis or in some cases to clarify who is being referred to.

Now, if the "algo" is a PLURAL word, the verb has to be in the third person plural.

Going back to the eggs: I love fried eggs becomes:

Me encantan los huevos fritos.

Tip: when the direct object of the verb is plural, make the verb third person plural. This works for all strictly reflexive verbs like gustar [algo o alguien a alguien] or verbs that are used reflexively and, which when used that way, have another meaning.

Example: La bruja encantó las chicas.=The witch put a spell on the girls.

compare that to:

Me encantan las brujas. = I (really) love witches.

Advice: write out a few simple sentences with various persons (first person, etc.) and singular or plural things loved and practice them over and over. This will make it easier to internalize these structures.

There's a tricky thing about the third person singular or plural: They don't like it [the house or the houses]. No se les gusta. No se les gustan. You can't have lo or la with les, so se is used instead. That is a special case.

In Spanish, these verbs are called: verbos pseudo-impersonales.

This paper presents a study of Spanish verbs such as

constar, convenir , gustar, sobrar and suceder –called ‘pseudoimpersonal’ verbs by some authors and treated as ‘bivalent intransitives’ by others–, which appear in sentences of the form IO-V-S, where the subject is commonly propositional and the indirect object tends to be expressed by personal pronouns with human reference.

pseudo-impersonal verbs

Please note: I did not call these verbs reflexive. I said they work like reflexives in the third person. And they do:

He likes it: le gusta a él OR se le gusta.

You can't have lele gusta in Spanish. The le becomes se.

In the same manner, for strictly reflexive verbs, like despertarse:

me despierto, I wake up

BUT: to wake up someone's instinct for as in: that awoke his desire to [do whatever]=despertarse a alguien algo

would be: se le despertó el deseo de [hacer etc.]

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    I think calling gustar a reflexive verb is the source of much confusion. It is not a reflexive verb. You will not find a "gustarse" in the dictionary. I think it's better to use the terminology "backwards verb" of which gustar is one of a few dozen I think. – aris Oct 21 '18 at 18:02
  • I did not say it was a reflexive verb. I said it works reflexively for the translation of the verb like. Not the same thing and everything I said in my answer is correct as an explanation for English speakers about Spanish. And a backwards verb doesn't really mean anything at all. – Lambie May 9 '19 at 15:55
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    Here is an article on the backwards verb encantar: thoughtco.com/using-encantar-other-than-third-person-3078317 – aris May 9 '19 at 17:02
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    No problem, Lambie. I am posting it just for the benefit of other people who may be confused by the difference between reflexive verbs and backwards verbs. When I was first learning Spanish, this was a major source of confusion for me, and I think for many other people as well. – aris May 9 '19 at 19:59
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    Here's another good article on backwards verbs along with a list of some of them: spanish411.net/Spanish-Using-Gustar.asp – aris May 9 '19 at 20:00

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