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 ti, 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:
A mí me diste muy poco dinero pero a ella le diste mucho.You gave me very little money but you gave her a lot.
¿A ti te regalaron tus padres una moto el año pasado?Did your parents buy you a bike last year?
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 ti 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:
Me diste muy poco dinero pero le diste mucho.You gave me very little money but you gave her a lot.
¿Te regalaron tus padres una moto el año pasado?Did your parents buy you a bike last year?
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 ti" (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:
Me lo ha comprado a mí.She bought it for me.
Me lo ha comprado.He bought it for me.
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 compulsory, for example "(Le) devolví los libros a María."
A Cristina le pusieron una inyección en la pierna.
(Le) pusieron una inyección en la pierna a Cristina.
They gave Cristina an injection in the leg.
A Pedro y a Pablo les cantaron una canción por su despedida.
(Les) cantaron una canción a Pedro y Pablo por su despedida.
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:
A mis padres les ofrecieron un descuento del 50 por ciento.
(Les) ofrecieron un descuento del 50 por ciento a mis padres.
They offered my parents a 50 percent discount.
A su vecino le robaron la moto el otro día.
(Le) robaron la moto el otro día a su vecino.
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.
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