Can anyone please tell me whether the the personal 'a' is kept in line 2? I have a gut feeling that it is.

'los trabajadores' is now a sujeto paciente and one doesn't apply the 'a' to subjects, but perhaps the rules are different for pacientes.

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(the image is something I created because that 'les' in the final sentence was inexplicable to me, seeing as there is no dative in the original sentence. It was really getting on my nerves)

I write like I'm preparing material for a class, but that's just my style.

I'd appreciate any corrections - thanks!

3 Answers 3


There are two ways in which the real subject (el granjero) can be done away with:

  1. Using the passive.

  2. Using the impersonal form.

Within the passive, we have two possible variants in Spanish to say "The six workers were hired":

1.a. The periphrastic passive:

  • Los seis trabajadores fueron contratados por una semana.

1.b. The "se" passive:

  • Los seis trabajadores se contrataron por una semana / Se contrataron los seis trabajadores por una semana. (Notice that the plural verb is used because the passive subject is plural and that the verb can appear before or after the subject.)
  1. Impersonal (in this case, the literal translation would be something like: A hiring was made of the six workers):
  • Se contrató a los seis trabajadores por una semana. (Notice that the verb is in the singular because it is impersonal and that, there being NO subject, "los trabajadores" becomes a direct object, which, being personal, needs to be preceded by "a".)

The verb in (2) appears at the beginning. If you want to place the object at the beginning, you will need a duplicate pronoun ("A ellos se contrató" is wrong unless it is emphatic: "A ellos se contrató, no a ellas").

The pronominal object can be "les" or "los" (I recently tried to explain the vacillation in their use here when the object is personal: the object is direct in meaning, but can be indirect in form).

"Se contrataron a los trabajadores" is therefore wrong. You should say:

A. Los trabajadores se contrataron por una semana / Se contrataron los trabajadores por una semana (passive).


B. Se contrató a los trabajadores por una semana (impersonal).


C. A los trabajadores se les/los contrató por una semana (impersonal with double object).


  • Se contrató por una semana


  1. A passive sentence with a tacit singular subject: "El servicio se contrató por una semana" (The service was hired for a week) => "Se contrató por una semana" (It was hired for a week)

If it is an impersonal sentence with an unspecified singular object, "lo" o "la" will be used: "Se contrató el servicio por una semana" (A hiring was made of the service for a week) => "Se lo contrató por una semana" (A hiring was made of it for a week)

  • Many thanks for your prompt reply (I've been trying elsewhere for a week, and got nothing). I do appreciate it. Comments are restricted to just a few characters, so my follow-up has to be presented as I answering my own question! I'd be grateful if you could take a look.
    – TomC1
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 21:52
  • The se passive sounds terrible to me here, any idea why that is? Se contrataron trabajadores (generic) is fine, but as soon as you make them definite with the article, it becomes weird.
    – pablodf76
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 22:33
  • @pablodf76 An adjectival might fix it: Se contrataron los trabajadores necesarios / Se contrataron los trabajadores que se necesitaban.
    – Gustavson
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 23:40
  • @Gustavson That's it. When you add a specifying modifier, it sounds much better. I'm studying precisely that these days (it happens in English grammar too!).
    – pablodf76
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 19:24
  • So the 'les' is still an direct object, never the dative/indirect object, but takes the form 'les' due to leismo?
    – Cerulean
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 14:43

The answer to my question was already to be found in Gustavson's post. It simply didn't sink in at the time:

“The pronominal object can be "les" or "los" when the object is personal: the object is direct in meaning, but can be indirect in form”.

When I follow the link, it's the same:

“La mayoría de los gramáticos, sin embargo, defienden la posición de que, aunque dativo de forma, le(s) en las construcciones con se es un pronombre acusativo en su función, tanto cuando tiene referente femenino como cuando tiene referente masculino”

So, I have to consider 'les' as a dop when used in 'se' constructions - as if I haven't enough on my plate already!

So a sentence such as:

[...] suficientes maestros, de modo que pedimos a maestros del extranjero que vinieran a ayudarnos, y se les contrató por tres años. unesdoc.unesco.org

is perfectly fine.

Perhaps it is a mechanism to avoid any ambiguity. If you write 'se los contrató' (intending to mean 'one hired them') a native (if context is lacking), on seeing the familiar iop+dop+verb pattern, might interpret it as 'les los contrató' and get:

Se los contrató por una semana ← he hired the tools to the workers for a week.

To force the impersonal se interpretation, if we use 'les' in the slot where one expects a [conventional] dop, then perhaps it works as a trigger? (the iop+iop+verb pattern being grammatically incorrect if we consider them as a pair of pronouns, telling us that now 'se' does not equate to 'le/s')

To me, it looks like a bit of a fudge!

[In fact, it's pretty ugly. I wonder how it sits with orthodox grammarians? If you reject it, then you have the problem of how a dative pronoun suddenly makes an appearance - I know, I'm like a dog with a bone with that dativo de interés!]

Anyway, this is something that has been bothering me, so a big 'thank you' to Gustavson.


So, the 'a' is dropped, presumably because of the farmers being the sujeto paciente.

Looking over your answer, I'll copy your example and put the farmers before the verb (after all, it's where you'd expect a subject to be)

Los 6 trabajadores se contrataron por una semana.

Do the opposite (as I had done):

Se contrataron los 6 trabajadores por una semana

and people might look at it askance, and say 'hey, you missed an 'a', - because at face value it does look like a direct object.

What about my reasoning as to why the dative was introduced?

Is there any flaw in my logic, which goes as follows:

On every reduction the subject is lost: first it's the farmer, and then the workers – but when you remove the workers you've just got gibberish:

Se contrató por una semana – an impersonal which doesn't make sense.

I want to keep things in the passive voice, so with the workers gone, I contend that one is forced to use a dativo de interés (in this case 'A ellos', whose introduction triggers an obligatory duplication):

A ellos se contrató… >>> A ellos se les contrató ….

and because of the redundancy, one can drop the 'A ellos', and just keep the IOP:

Se les contrató por una semana.

I can't think of any other explanation as to why a dative should appear – not when the original hadn't any.

{Edit: I had 'contrataron', but the only subject left is 'one', so verb in singular. At the end of the day, do we end up with an impersonal se construction? or is there ambiguity in Spanish between 'they were hired' and 'one hired them'? I guess to differentiate between the 2, in ambiguous cases the 'a ellos' is kept}

Thanks once more, Tom

  • There are a few mistakes in your self-reply above. I suggest you reread mine. These are the ways in which you can express the idea in question: 1. Los seis trabajadores se contrataron por una semana (passive) / 2. Se contrataron los seis trabajadores por una semana (passive) / 3. Se contrató A los seis trabajadores por una semana (impersonal) / 4. A los seis trabajadores se los contratò por una semana (impersonal)
    – Gustavson
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 22:13
  • Actually, my query was what comes next, when we reduce it even further, by losing the 'los trabajadores' and the passive doesn't get any support. Most examples introduce the iop 'les' and I couldn't understand the reason for the dative. I looked over your post once more and I found the answer – that 'les' is seen as a dop in se constructions!! So, thank you.
    – TomC1
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 15:26

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