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When to use "a" with "mirar"?

 

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  #1  
Old June 27, 2011, 04:02 AM
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Christoferus Christoferus is offline
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When to use "a" with "mirar"?

I'm a beginner at Spanish, and I'm having trouble with the word "mirar", meaning "to watch" or "to look at" (I presume). I've seen it used both with a the preposition "a" proceeding it and without the preposition "a". My question is when should I use "a" after any form of "mirar"? Here are some examples I've found of "mirar" in use.

Sentences with "a" after "mirar"

They watch their children.
Miran a sus hijos.

He looks left and right.
Él mira a la izquierda y a la derecha.

Sentences without "a" after "mirar"

The cat watches the fish.
El gato mira el pez.

They are watching T.V.
Están mirando televisión.

So is there a rule? Are they interchangeable? Please correct me if any of my information is incorrect. Any further details about the word "mirar" would be much appreciated!

Last edited by Christoferus; June 27, 2011 at 04:11 AM.
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  #2  
Old June 27, 2011, 04:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christoferus View Post
I've seen it used both with the preposition "a" following it and without the preposition "a". My question is when should I use "a" after any form of "mirar"?

Sentences with "a" after "mirar"

They watch their children.
Miran a sus hijos.

He looks left and right.
Él mira a la izquierda y a la derecha.

Sentences without "a" after "mirar"

The cat watches the fish.
El gato mira el pez.

They are watching T.V.
Están mirando televisión.

So is there a rule?
The first example doesn't really have a preposition after the verb mirar. That's actually called a personal 'a', and it's used when the direct object is a person (or a pet that you treat as a person).
The second sentence has a preposition after mirar, but it has nothing to do with the verb. It is there to begin a prepositional phrase - 'a la izquierda'.
Mirar is not followed by a preposition in the other examples you gave because neither of them fits the two cases when mirar can be followed by 'a'.

Hope that helps.
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Old June 27, 2011, 04:43 AM
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Christoferus Christoferus is offline
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Thank you. That helps immensely
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Old June 27, 2011, 04:51 AM
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You're welcome.

This site will help you figure out when a preposition is needed after a verb (and when it's not).
You'll find mirar listed in 'Verbs followed by an object' group, under the 'Verbs with no preposition' link.

Remember, the personal 'a' is not a preposition. So, if the object is a person, the verb will be followed by the personal 'a'.
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Old June 27, 2011, 05:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty View Post
Remember, the personal 'a' is not a preposition.
Can you confirm this? What part of speech is it?
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Old June 27, 2011, 05:40 AM
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It's technically a preposition, but it's only used to denote that the following object is a person. Because it has a special classification, it is called the 'personal a'. It is also known as the 'personal preposition a'.

I just wanted to make sure our newest member recognized it as special.

Perhaps I should reword my statement to 'Remember, the personal 'a' may appear where a preposition is not normally used, and indicates that the following object is a person. In this position, it will appear like an extra word to an English speaker. There is no translation for it.' By the way, there are times when the personal 'a' is not used, even if the object is a person.
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Old June 27, 2011, 06:24 AM
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Thanks, I wasn't trying to be awkward, just that it has been puzzling me for some time why it exists at all. The exact reason appears unknown, but derives from Vulgar Latin and is thought to have been introduced to avoid ambiguity. I see from elsewhere, for example:

Se mató al rey - the king was killed.
Se mató el rey - the king killed himself.

I find it useful to give it the name accusative marker, to bring home to myself that the direct object (accusative) follows (the a probably been derived from ad) This is confusing when the Latin a, ab which takes the ablative case, is still extant in Romance languages, for example French à indicating an indirect object, and even more confusing, Spanish a introducing the indirect object such as in le escribió una carta a su padre.

The above is just me thinking aloud.
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Old June 27, 2011, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty View Post

Remember, the personal 'a' is not a preposition.
Actually "a" is a preposition. It's considered a preposition in Spanish grammar. The term "personal 'a' " was probably coined by some English grammarian. It's a term never used in Spanish. No one mentions " 'a' personal" in any grammar book in Spanish that I know.

I understand that the term helps students and comes very handy when explaining the usage of "a".

Anyway, "a" is a preposition and one of it uses is to precede the Object when it is a person. The DRAE explains it better than me, of course:

a2.
(Del lat. ad).


1. prep. Precede a determinados complementos verbales, como el complemento indirecto y el complemento directo cuando este es de persona determinada o está de algún modo personificado. Legó su fortuna a los pobres. Respeta a los ancianos. El gato persigue a un ratón.


I hope it helped.

Quote:
Perikles = This is confusing when the Latin a, ab which takes the ablative case, is still extant in Romance languages, for example French à indicating an indirect object, and even more confusing, Spanish a introducing the indirect object such as in le escribió una carta a su padre.

The above is just me thinking aloud.
You got it right when talking about the DO.. But.. don't you say "he wrote a letter to his father"?

No matter which way you put it, that "a" has to exist in Spanish.
If you say:
"Le escribió una carta su padre" you're saying that "his father wrote him a letter".
"Una carta le escribió su padre" = same thing.

In English you could say (not used, but you could say it): "To his father he wrote a letter". Same thing in Spanish.

I know, it doesn't work with every verb in English, but I thought this could be a good example to make it a little more understandable..

Spanish word order is so flexible that in its simplicity (what can be simpler than being able to write a sentence with the words almost in any order and still make sense?) it can make life miserable sometimes..
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Last edited by Luna Azul; June 27, 2011 at 09:54 AM.
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Old June 27, 2011, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
and even more confusing, Spanish a introducing the indirect object such as in le escribió una carta a su padre..
Quote:
Originally Posted by Luna Azul View Post
You got it right when talking about the DO.. But.. don't you say "he wrote a letter to his father"? .
Yes, that was my point. In this case, the Spanish a introduces an indirect object (to his father). This is why the "personal a" is confusing, because it looks pretty much the same.
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Old June 27, 2011, 11:52 AM
Luna Azul Luna Azul is offline
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Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
Yes, that was my point. In this case, the Spanish a introduces an indirect object (to his father). This is why the "personal a" is confusing, because it looks pretty much the same.
Well, as I said before, the concept of "personal 'a' " is not real, so to speak. "a" is a preposition that is used with Direct and Indirect objects as long as that object is a person or personalized item.
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