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I'm using Rosetta Stone, which is great, but it started off teaching me “el hombre” then suddenly switched to “al hombre”. I know al is a contraction of a el, but I can't understand when to use el vs al; e.g.:

Al hombre le gusta jugar el fútbol.

vs

El hombre come.

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    Hi and welcome to Spanish SE. Indeed, "el hombre"="the man", and "al hombre" is "to the man", because "al" means "to the". You seem to be asking why sometimes there is that "to" required. Check that you should provide some context, and some examples, because we don't know if the text is wrong, or if is a special situation. Maybe a personal direct object? Please, clarify.
    – FGSUZ
    Feb 3 '19 at 11:05
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    Welcome to the stack Simon. We must have already a lot of previous questions covering this topic. What about questions like Difference between “al” and “a el” or Al vs. El - Uses and differences
    – Diego
    Feb 3 '19 at 18:05
  • OK, thank you. I will read up on intransitive verbs and direct/indirect objects. Examples of context: Al hombre le gusta jugar al futbol. El hombre come. Feb 6 '19 at 8:02
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    In your first example, 'hombre' is the object of the verb 'gustar'. When objects are persons, they are preceded with 'a'. In your second example, 'hombre' is the subject of the verb 'comer', and hence does not need 'a'. This answer gives more examples of this construction.
    – jacobo
    Feb 6 '19 at 12:55