2

So whilst reading some sentences in Spanish I’ve noticed that sometimes there is the indirect object pronoun “le” or “les,” for which I know the basic function; but in sentences such as

A los españoles les llevó años reconquistar la península ibérica

what or who exactly is the “les” referring to? The translation of this is

It took the Spaniards years to reconquer the Iberian peninsula.

I’m having trouble trying to find where or how the “le” or “les” fits into the sentence or translation.

  • llevar a alguien años. When a verb takes a like that, you have give the pronoun and the noun. A los muchachos les gusta mucho la plata. – Lambie Jan 3 at 0:16
4

This is a case of an indirect object that appears twice in the sentence: once as a noun and once as a pronoun. In the example:

  • A los españoles les llevó años reconquistar la península ibérica
  • It took the Spaniards years to reconquer the Iberian peninsula

the phrase a los españoles is the indirect object. As explained in this and this question, if the indirect object appears before the verb, it is necessary to add an additional indirect object pronoun (les in this case).

  • Then it is not redundant, isn't it? – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jan 3 at 16:04
  • @fedorqui mmm I guess technically not, but I cannot come up with a better adjective (the other questions also call it "redundant"). It is not really "repeated" either. Any suggestions? – wimi Jan 3 at 16:10
  • It most definitely isn't redundant. – Lambie Jan 3 at 18:15
  • Not really :) I kept thinking how to describe something reiterative but necessary, since redundant to me means superfluous and this les is not superfluous in the sentence. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jan 3 at 18:34
  • @fedorqui I rephrased the answer to remove the word "redundant", though I still do not like it much... – wimi Jan 3 at 18:45
2

Let's take another example with a verb that takes an indirect object.

Gustar a alguien algo (the a preposition signals the indirect object]:

  • Les gustan mucho los coches. [They like cars a lot. Les is indirect. There is no noun identifying them.]

  • Les gustan mucho a los muchachos los coches. [The boys (the noun) like cars a lot]
    OR

  • A los muchachos les gustan mucho los coches. [The boys (noun) like cars a lot].

BUT NOT:A los muchachos gustan los coches. (BUZZER)

You can leave out the noun (muchachos, but you can't leave out the les.) So, if you want to identify the persons or the noun that the les or le refers to, you have to use the |a| plus the noun.

Now, "A los españoles les llevó años reconquistar la península ibérica." works the same way.

llevar a alguien años hacer algo:

  • A los españoles les llevó años reconquistar la península ibérica. [with the noun]
  • Les llevó años a los españoles reconquistar la península ibérica. [with the noun]
  • Les llevó años reconquistar la península ibérica. [without the noun]
  • Les llevó años reconquistar la península ibérica a los españoles. [with the noun]

BUT NOT: A los españoles llevó años reconquistar la península ibérica. [BUZZER]

Buzzer= not really grammatical.

Thus, if you want the noun plus the indirect object, you have to use both. If you only want the indirect object without identifying the noun or person, you don't need both.

  • Gold star for the lovely formatting. It really does make the post easier to read and understand. – aparente001 Jan 3 at 23:45
1

Short answer: In your case, "les tomó" corresponds to "it took", where "les" refers to the Spaniards.

Long aswer: There is no literal translation of "le/les" in English (as far as I know). Nonetheless, in Spanish we use "le" for third person/object and "les" for more than one object (plural). If your sentence said "Al español le tomó...", then the english translation would be "It took the Spaniard.." (I.e., it would still be "it took").

  • 1
    bad answer, 'A el español' is not correct, 'al español' is correct – Iria Jan 3 at 8:36
0

A more literal translations although it doesn't flow so well in English is:

The Spaniards, it took them years to reconquer the Iberian peninsula.

So les is a third person plural (indirect object) pronoun.

  • This is a little misleading because "they took years to..." is not correct English, and because "les" is always an indirect object, which in English is "them" and not "they". – wimi Jan 3 at 19:03
  • @wimi They took years to etc. is correct English. I think this answer merely allows non-Spanish readers to understand what the Spanish says but I would not translate it like this. But it's true, it could be interpreted as an apposition. – Lambie Jan 3 at 19:59
  • In that case, I'd say: It took them, the Spaniards, years to reconquer the Iberian peninsula. – Gustavson Jan 3 at 21:11
  • @Lambie true, I just checked and "they took years" is also correct in English (though apparently less common than "it took them years"). I still find the "they" instead of "them" misleading for a learner, but that is just me... – wimi Jan 3 at 22:07
  • I like your idea of introducing the topic first, but I would modify your answer slightly so that the subject and object aren't swapped. I will edit your answer so you can see what I mean. If this bothers you, though, please roll it back. Welcome to the site, by the way, Guillermo! – aparente001 Jan 3 at 23:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.