Complete Guide to Spanish Grammar. When to Use ‘A’

blog post 46 Complete Guide to Spanish Grammar. When to Use A

The Spanish prepositions a, por, para, de, en, and others, are not easy to master.

Prepositions are frequently ‘unpredictable’ and difficult to translate. As you may have seen by now, the same preposition is often used in a wide variety of contexts.

Mastering the Spanish prepositions requires a lot of practice, but becoming familiar with their usage rules will greatly speed up your knowledge. Learning common expressions with prepositions will speed it up even further.

This Complete Guide to Spanish Grammar today focuses on the ever-present Spanish preposition a.

We’re going to see when this preposition is used, we’re going to find out which verbs are followed by it, and we’re going to learn some everyday set phrases and expressions with it.

When to use the Spanish preposition a

The Spanish preposition a most often translates as ‘to’ and ‘at’. It can, however, have many other translations, for instance: on, by, in, from; or it may not be translated at all.

Have a look at this example:

No conozco a tu hermano I don’t know your brother

The Spanish preposition a has various uses. It can:

  • Indicate movement to a destination
  • Connect a main verb with an infinitive
  • Indicate a way of doing something
  • Precede a person – this is known as ‘the personal a
  • Indicate a point on a scale (time, temperature, price, speed, etc.)
.

Here are 5 examples that illustrate each of these 5 points in order:

Spanish sentences English translation
Fueron en tren a París The went to Paris by train
Todavía están aprendiendo a leer They’re still learning to read
Esta camisa está hecha a mano This shirt is made by hand
¿Viste a tu prima? Did you see your cousin?
Vinieron a las ocho y veinte They came at twenty past eight
.

Spanish verbs followed by a

The Spanish preposition a often follows a verb.

Let’s see ten common verbs which are often followed by the Spanish preposition a:

  • Asistir a :: To attend
  • Atreverse a :: To dare to
  • Decidirse a :: To decide to
  • Empezar a :: To start to
  • Ir a :: To go to
  • Llegar a :: To arrive at
  • Negarse a :: To refuse to
  • Oler a :: To smell of
  • Parecerse a :: To look like
  • Volver a :: To return to, to redo [something]
.

To practice these ten verbs with the preposition a, here are ten sentences:

Spanish sentences English translation
No asistieron a la reunión del lunes They didn’t attend Monday’s meeting
No se van a atrever a ir They won’t dare to go
Se decidió a dejarla He decided to leave her
A las dos empezaron a recoger At two o’clock they started to tidy up
Fueron al parque con los niños They went to the park with the kids
Llegaremos a la estación muy tarde We’ll arrive at the station very late
Se negaron a ayudarnos The refused to help us
Huele a gas It smells of gas
Carlos se parece a su abuelo Charles looks like his grandfather
Tenemos que volver a hacerlo We have to do it again
.

Spanish expressions with the preposition a

Becoming familiar with common expressions is essential if you want to understand native Spanish speakers.

That’s why we’re going to finish with these ten very common expressions with the Spanish preposition a. Throughout this blog I’ll introduce you to other everyday expressions and proverbs with a.

All of these expressions can be translated in several ways. Here I’ve given you the most frequent translations.

  • A causa de :: Because of
  • A favor de :: In favor of
  • A la derecha :: On the right
  • A la izquierda :: On the left
  • Al lado de :: Next to
  • Al norte (de) :: To the north (of)
  • Al sur (de) :: To the south (of)
  • A pie :: On foot
  • Frente a :: In front of
  • Junto a :: Next to

You can learn grammar fast and easily, including the Spanish preposition a, with this highly recommended Spanish course.

To get dozens of tips on how to learn grammar and enjoy it, have a look at my study guide How to Learn Spanish.

It’s your turn

Can you think of other phrases with the Spanish preposition a? Type them in the comment box below !

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