A lot of people seem confused by this. There is a simple rule, but it's buried in the answers elsewhere in the thread.
Whenever you put the direct object ahead of the verb, you must also use a "redundant" clitic.
I assume everyone is comfortable with:
Mi padre usa este coche "My father uses this car."
Mi padre lo usa. "My father uses it."
But Spanish often likes to put the subject after the verb, unless you are emphasizing the subject. (In English we just raise our voice.)
Lo usa mi padre. "My father uses it."
If you really want to emphasize the car, you can put it (the direct object) first, but in that case you must keep lo.
Este coche lo usa mi padre. "My father uses this car."
This isn't really a passive. A real passive would look like this:
Este coche es usado por mi padre. "This car is used by my father."
Spanish doesn't use this sort of passive very much, though (especially not in the present tense); if you're going to state the subject and object anyway, I think most speakers would use the form in the exercise, so Duoligo's translation into the English passive isn't really a bad choice.
A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish: Fifth Edition (Butt and Benjamin, 2011, sections 11.16.1 "Redundancy when object precedes verb" and 28 "The Passive")
Thank you for the very clear explanation! I think it would be good to drill this type of sentence structure with exercises. Do you know if there are any exercises on the Internet that we could use for this? I'm going to try to write out some of my own sentences and practice this. I understand it, but to actually remember and use this grammar won't be easy!
Thank you SOOO much! It really becomes clearer now! I am going to save your reply for the future reference.
OK, this is interesting, but couldn't the sentence be theoretically translated as, "this car uses my father"?
Not exactly. The usage of direct object pronoun "lo" before the verb may indicate that the subject most likely follows the verb.
In your case, albeit it doesn't make much sense, "this car" is the subject and "my father" is the direct object. Since the direct object is a person, the personal 'a' has to be used. Therefore, "this car uses my father" may be translated as: "este coche lo usa a mi padre".
"lo" (masc.) is used because "el coche" is masculine, right? or is it just a default masculine dummy pronoun that doesn't have to agree with the direct object's gender? like if we were talking about a feminine object like "la carta" or "la manzana", would a similar sentence be:
La carta la lee mi padre. ? Una manzana la come mi padre. ?
I hope I'm not being confusing!
A great explanation. I'd give you a bunch of lingots if I were on desktop. Thank you!
Perhaps, but why confuse us and not say: My father uses this car. Especially when Duolingo is usually so literal...
En latinoamérica y probablemente en España se usan en forma indistinta dependiendo del contexto las dos expresiones "mi padre usa este carro" y "este carro (coche en España) lo usa mi padre"
why cant I say "mi padre usa este coche"? Im fairly certain Ive seen other sentences like this. Maybe a diiferent verb or subject, but same sentence structure.
I'm not positive, but I think that would be correct if you added a "lo" to refer to the car: "Mi padre lo usa el coche". Can someone confirm that?
Because "este coche" is a direct object that is a noun, the "lo" isn't used in that kind of construction. It would just be "Mi padre usa este coche." = My father uses this car. But the reason that doesn't work for this sentence is because the English sentence is passive..."is used by." And I'm guessing that is how the "lo usa" functions when you have the object first and the subject last. In other words: [object] lo/la usar [subject] = [object] is used by [subject]
Mi padre usa el coche (el carro ) es lo usual, si le agregas un "lo" además de que no es gramaticalmente correcto, suena extraño.
This is a bit deceptive, IMO. Literally it says "This car, it, my father uses." and Duo translates it passively. It is not a true passive (which is not used nearly as often in Spanish as in English). Only my opinion, but I am pretty sure about it.
Es un punto de vista personal. La forma pasiva en idioma español puede ser correcta pero en la redacción moderna más directa y pragmática orientada a la transmisión efectiva de la idea buscando la comprensión, he visto y he experimentado cada vez más con la voz activa.
The audio did not work at all on this example. Does this keep happening to anyone else? Each time it happens, I lose one of my hearts. Does anyone know why this keep happening? I have reported it, but I just wanted to know if it happens to anyone else.
Suewood - yes occasionally this happens to me and I always get back the standard response. It doesn't help but I think I could have given more details about my operating system, my browser, versions, devices etc. It doesn't happen often & sometimes I just reboot or sign on to another wifi (tablet/laptop) and its okay again. Hope this helps.
It doesn't happen all the time, but often enough that it is irritating. I usually just take losing the heart and keep going. In fact, today, when I finished one segment, I continued on and it worked just fine. I don't usually reboot or do anything else. Thanks for your answer.
Yes it happens to me too and yes I too lose a heart. I have reported it via the support option. It happens infrequently though; perhaps once or twice per day. I am currently using a PC running Google Chrome Version 33.0.1750.29 under Windows 7.
Because that would actually swap the subject with the object, indicating that the car uses my father: "Este coche (lo) usa a mi padre" (the «lo» is optional in this sentence, unlike in the original one without the «a»).
Are you saying that when the direct object is a person the "lo" becomes optional?
I´m having a hard time knowing what the subject, direct object and indirect object is in a sentence, especially because they can come in different orders.
Imagine there is a company called El Motor (stylized el motor) which makes use of old cars to recycle them. Now, how would you say "that old car is used by el motor" in Spanish? Choose between these two sentences the one you think it's correct and then I'll tell you below:
- Ese viejo coche lo usa el motor.
- Ese viejo coche usa el motor.
Can you see the semantic difference between the two? The first one -- the one with the lo -- is what you'll need to say "that old car is used by el motor". The one without the lo means something totally different: "that old car uses the engine".
yes but how do we know that the lo refers to "ese viejo coche" and not "el motor"?
You could start by asking yourself the following questions:
- ¿Quién usa ese viejo coche? / Who uses that old car?
- ¿Quién lo usa? / Who uses it?
Possible answers (el motor here refers to the fictional company):
- El motor usa ese viejo coche.
- Ese viejo coche lo usa el motor.
- Ese viejo coche es usado por el motor. (Passive voice, see below.)
Another way to think about it is, as the last answer suggests, thinking of the structure subject + direct object + transitive verb + object as the passive voice: subject + verb to be + past participle + por + object.
I cannot reply to your other message. I do not understand what you are saying.
Markofsky -reading this page you can see myself and others have struggled. Nekosuki has made an excellent effort. Can you use direct and indirect object pronouns in other sentences? If so, leave this sentence and come back later.
If the entire "object pronouns" is causing you problems I suggest you look on the internet for other perspectives on this issue.
I think that because we were told that the "object pronoun" comes before, I can guess that this "lo" refers the father. Am I right?
No, the "lo" is referring to the object...este coche. If "mi padre" was the object, it would need to have the personal "a" before it, but since it doesn't, we know that "mi padre" has to be the subject. This sentence has a special order where the object comes first and the subject comes after the verb. Carnaedy posted a great link to a place that describes this very thing: http://spanish.about.com/od/sentencestructure/a/word-order-in-spanish.htm Look at the seventh row in the table.
Here is the method I use to break this down. Subject = "padre", verb = "usa", direct object = "coche". My father (it) uses this car. The position that "lo" takes is the direct object position, and can only be a direct object. Therefore, it must represent either the car, or the father. The car receive the passive action, therefore, "lo", must be a direct object pronoun representing the car.
I don't get why duolingo has to put words that was my my list of words that I trouble with, and then decide to throw it out of the window. The words that they put were plural then they put the singular version up. So if anyone can clarify do the plurals mean the same thing as their singular counterparts?