When a verb in Spanish has an indirect object pronoun (the equivalent of to him, to her, to them, etc) introduced by the preposition "a", sometimes that indirect object is repeated by also using the "short" pronouns in the same sentence (me, te, le, nos, os, les).
Let's see how it works:
Indirect object = a + pronoun
In sentences where the indirect object is represented by "a + pronoun", and it is at the beginning of the sentence, for example "a mí, a tí, a ella", it is necessary to repeat the indirect object by using the "short" pronoun (me, te, le, nos, os, les) in the same sentence.
Have a look at the following examples:
It would be incorrect to use the pronoun with "a" on its own without the second short pronoun:
- A mí diste muy poco dinero pero a ella diste mucho.
- ¿A tí regalaron tus padres una moto el año pasado?
However, you can omit the pronoun with "a" and use only the short pronoun and the sentence remains grammatically correct:
Note that although this is correct, it is unclear in the first example who you are referring to with "le", by omitting "a ella" (her) and "a tí" (you) there is no emphasis on "to whom" in either sentence.
Using both types of pronoun in the sentence emphasises and clarifies exactly who you are referring to.
Here are more examples:
Remember the pronouns with "a" reinforce, emphasise and clarify but they are not grammatically essential, whilst pronouns me, te, le, nos, os, les cannot be omitted.
- A mí me lo ha comprado. (correct)
- Me lo ha comprado a mí. (correct)
- A mí lo ha comprado. (incorrect)
- Lo ha comprado a mí. (incorrect)
In the cases where the person is named, e.g "a María..." the rule is slightly different. If the indirect object with "a + [name of person]" is placed:
- in front of the verb, then the other pronoun is needed, for example "A María le devolví los libros ayer."
- after the verb, then the repetition is not compulsary, for example "(Le) devolví los libros a María."
They gave Cristina an injection in the leg.
They sang a goodbye song for Pedro and Pablo.
Unnamed but known person
When we don't name the person but say who we are talking about the same rule as above applies:
They stole his neighbour's bike the other day.
One common mistake is forgetting the "a". For example:
Ella le dieron una medalla. → A ella le dieron una medala.