The direct object is a noun phrase or thing that is the recipient of the action.
- My dad grilled the steak.
- Tomas calls his brother everyday.
- They eat dinner.
In the first and third example the direct object is a thing, object or idea. In the second, the direct object is a person.
When the direct object is a thing, object or idea it can be replaced by the following pronouns:
|Sentence||Direct object||Pronoun||Replaced direct object||Translation|
|Yo cocino el pollo.||el pollo||lo||Yo lo cocino.||I cook it (the chicken).|
|Yo quiero la carne.||la carne||la||Yo la quiero.||I want it (the meat).|
|Yo como los huevos.||los huevos||los||Yo los como.||I eat them (the eggs).|
|Yo compro las frutas.||las frutas||las||Yo las compro.||I buy them (the fruit).|
When the direct object is a person or an animal that you feel attachment for it can be replaced by the following pronuouns:
|Direct Object||Pronoun||Replaced direct object||Translation|
|yo||me||Yo me quiero (a mí).||I like myself.|
|vos||te||Yo te aprecio (a vos).||I appreciate you.|
|él/ ella||lo/ la||Yo lo/ la respeto (a él/ a ella).||I respect him/ her.|
|nosotros/ nosotras||nos||Yo nos cuido (a nosotros).||I take care of us.|
|ustedes||los/ las||Yo los/ las amo (a ustedes).||I love you guys.|
|ellos/ ellas||los/ las||Yo los/ las odio (a ellos/ ellas).||I hate them.|
Notice that when the direct object is a person it is preceded by the preposition “a.” Interestingly enough, this preposition has no English transition.
- Romina llama a su mamá.
- Romina calls her mom.
As English Speakers, we tend to see the impersonal “a” as unnecessary, but from the perspective of a Spanish speaker it is required.
As we have seen before, the personal “a” is not used when the direct object (receiver of the action in the sentence) is an object, thing or idea.
- Él come la torta. (comer)
- He eats the cake. – Cake is not an animal or a person.
SUBJECT + VERB + DIRECT OBJECT (that is a thing, object or idea)
SUBJECT + VERB + A + DIRECT OBJECT (that is a person or animal)
Seeing as this Spanish grammatical structure has no equivalent in English, it is understandably difficult for students to struggle to use the personal “a”. It is common for them to forget to use it until a pattern has been established and it has been ingrained in their brain.