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I know that the preposition "a" is used after Spanish transitive verbs when the direct object is a person. Example:

  • El chico mató mis flores.
  • El chico mató a mi hermano.

However, I have recently seen the verbs "hundir" and "sumir" used transitively with the preposition "a" when the direct object is a thing (specifically, a company and a country). Examples:

  • El torpedo hundió el barco. (OK)
  • El crac del mercado de valores hundió a la compañía.
  • Las decisiones del presidente acabaron sumiendo al país en un caos

Why is the preposition "a" used in these sentences?

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    "El chico mató mis flores" sounds odd. Perhaps you meant to say: "El chico pisó/cortó/arruinó mis flores". A better sentence would be: "El frío mató mis flores" (I think "a" can also be used before "mis flores" if the owner is particularly fond of them). – Gustavson Nov 26 '19 at 20:27
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    There are a number of questions about "personal a" in this site. Also look here for some more examples, and here (in Spanish) for an exhaustive list of cases where you must use a before a direct object. – pablodf76 Nov 27 '19 at 16:06
  • @pablodf76 I'm not asking about a personal "a". However, your second link also mentions some cases when "a" is required before things and specifically the following rule is related to my question: preposición a + CD - uso forzoso "ante nombres de cosa que designan colectivos formados por personas, del tipo colegio, empresa, comité, consejo, institución, comunidad, etc., cuando el verbo denota una acción que solo puede ejercerse sobre personas, y no sobre cosas: Multaron a la empresa por realizar vertidos tóxicos; Convocaron a la comunidad de vecinos para que tomara la decisión definitiva." – Alan Evangelista Nov 27 '19 at 18:16
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    @AlanEvangelista Yes, I mentioned "personal a" because you wrote that it's used when the DO is a person, which was only partially correct and had to do with the rest of the question. – pablodf76 Nov 27 '19 at 22:32
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    "Alguien mató mis flores" sounds funny for both meanings of "funny". – pablodf76 Nov 27 '19 at 22:33
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The verb "sumir" always takes "a", perhaps because its objects are always personal or can be personified ("país" can be understood as "the people living in the country").

In the case of "hundir", it will take "a" when the object is personal or can be personified, and this will always be the case when the meaning is figurative (with "hundir" not meaning "submerge" or "cause the physical collapse" but "lead to banktruptcy" or "cause the financial collapse").

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    The verb sumir is always followed with "a"? How about the sentence "Sumió el pedal del auto hasta el fondo." – sf_admin Nov 26 '19 at 21:22
  • @sf_admin That sentence is not proper Spanish to my ears. – Gustavson Nov 26 '19 at 21:46
  • That's the sentence given at wordreference.com for the verb sumir: wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=sumir – sf_admin Nov 27 '19 at 1:01
  • @sf_admin It may be some regional usage. – Gustavson Nov 27 '19 at 1:02
  • Sumió el pedal is not OK according to the DLE. It's probably understandable and OK if someone uses it, but it sounds very, very odd. – pablodf76 Nov 27 '19 at 16:08
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As explained in http://lema.rae.es/dpd/srv/search?key=a, "a" is also required before a direct object when it comes :

m) Ante nombres de cosa que designan colectivos formados por personas, del tipo colegio, empresa, comité, consejo, institución, comunidad, etc., cuando el verbo denota una acción que solo puede ejercerse sobre personas, y no sobre cosas: Multaron a la empresa por realizar vertidos tóxicos; Convocaron a la comunidad de vecinos para que tomara la decisión definitiva.

Translation to English:

m) before things that designate collectives made up of people, such as a school, company, committee, council, institution, community, etc., when the verb denotes an action that can only be exercised on people, and not on things: The company was fined for carrying out toxic dumping; the community of neighbors was called upon to make the final decision.

"sumir" and "hundir" take "a" in your examples because "compañía" and "país" are collectives made up of people (for instance, "país" can be understood as "the people living in the country").

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