This is lesson 14 in Crashed Culture’s Spanish grammar series.
Possessive adjectives & the personal ‘a’
Let’s talk about possession. Possession is what belongs to who; your book, his horse, etc. Half the time when we talk about possessive adjectives in Spanish, it’s exactly the same as in English. The other half of the time…it can be a little bit of a tongue twister, if I’m honest.
Then, once we get comfortable with that, we’ll talk about the personal ‘a’. This is a concept that straight-up does not exist in English. Not only that, but forgetting to use it is a big no-no to Spanish speakers. No pressure!
(You’ve got this!)
Possessive adjectives Spanish
First things first, the easy stuff. Like I said, possessive adjectives in Spanish are exactly like our English ones. It’s just a simple translation.
|Your (informal)||Tu (look ma, no accent!)|
Here are some examples for ya. Notice that if the thing that whoever is possessing is plural, we stick an ‘s’ at the end of the possessive adjective.
Mi cámara (My camera)
Tu pelota (Your ball)
Sus gatos (Their cats)
Nuestros coches (Our cars)
Vuestro juego (Your game)
Article + noun + de + owner
Now, remember how I said there are cases of possession that are completely different from that of English? Let’s talk about them now.
In English, we also use a handly little apostrophe to talk about ownership. For example:
Unfortunately for us, the Spanish language doesn’t use apostrophes. Instead, they use ‘de’:
La hija de Sarah
La guitarra de Robert
El hueso de Spot
And yes, the article is always necessary.
The personal ‘a’ in Spanish
Last but definitely not least is the personal ‘a’. As I said before, this concept does not exist in English, so it’ll be real easy to forget for a while. All it takes is some time!
Chris calls María.
Susy sees Andrea.
Joey finds his girlfriend.
El chico walks his dog.
In all of these examples, we need an ‘a’ before the direct object (the noun or pronoun that receives the action happening in the sentence) and after the verb. As you practice, you’ll get a hang of it, even if it doesn’t make any sense right now. So, in Spanish:
Chris llama a María.
Susy ve a Andrea.
Joey encuentra a su novia.
El chico pasea a su perro.
Yup, the personal ‘a’ is also used to talk about pets!
When not to use the personal ‘a’
Since we use the personal ‘a’ before people and animals that we have some sort of emotions towards, we don’t use it for…anything else, really.
Yo como pasta (I eat pasta)
Ella mira el mono (She looks at the monkey)
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s not used when the verb is haber, buscar, necesitar, or tener.
Hay dos padres (There are two fathers)
Busco una cerveza (I look for a beer)
Necesitamos unas vacaciones (We need a vacation)
Tengo tres perros (I have three dogs)
Finally, when the direct object isn’t a specific person/thing…well, it’s not personal, is it?
Necesitamos un arquitecto (We need an architect)
‘Cause any ol’ architect will do.
Possessive adjectives & the personal ‘a’ in Spanish
So, to review:
- Possessive adjectives themselves behave just like possessive adjectives in English
- Spanish does not use apostrophes; instead, flip the words and add ‘de’
- The personal ‘a’ in Spanish is for when the subject has emotion for the object
- The ‘a’ goes between the verb and the direct object
- Don’t use it for impersonal objects, haber, tener, buscar, necesitar, or nonspecific objects.
Ready to move on?
Check out the next lesson: telling time