Personal Pronouns: Forms and Functions

Introduction | Subject | Direct Object | Indirect Object | Reflexive | Placement Rules | Prepositional | Redundancy | Personal Pronoun Summary
  • Direct Object, Indirect Object and Reflexive pronouns sometimes need "reinforcement," for two reasons:
    • They are unstressed, ie--they are not emphasized in speech.
    • They can be ambiguous: with 3rd person singular and all plural forms, it is often not clear to what or to whom they refer.
  • To address this, a redundant construction headed by the preposition a is often used, with the same referent as the unstressed pronoun. This device provides emphasis or clarity. These structures vary--see examples below.
  • Direct object pronoun is duplicated by a + pronoun
    • Ella no me entiende a mí, pero te entiende a ti. She doesn't see you, but she sees me.
    • Los veo a ellos en el centro, pero nunca la veo a Ud. I don't see them downtown, but I see you.
  • Indirect object pronoun is duplicated by a + noun or pronoun
    • Mamá nos cuenta las historias a nosotros (a ti y a mí). Mom tells us the stories.
    • Voy a darle la foto a José, y no a Juana (a ella). I'm going to give the photo to José and not to Juana (her).
    • A las chicas (a ellas) les gusta mucho tocar el piano. The girls really like to play the piano.
  • Duplication of reflexive pronoun
    • by a + sí mismo/a(s) for true reflexive
      • Eres un poco excéntrico. A veces te hablas a ti mismo. You're a bit eccentric. Sometimes you talk to yourself.
      • Los alumnos se critican a sí mismas, pero no a otros. The girls criticize themselves, but not others.
    • by el/la uno/a al (a la) otro/a for reciprocal
      • Juana y Marta se critican la una a la otra. Juana and Marta criticize each other.
      • Ellos no se suicidaron. Se mataron el uno al otro. They didn't commit suicide. They killed each other.
      • Después de mirarnos en el espejo, mis amigos y yo nos miramos los unos a los otros.