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  5. "Usted puede buscar al gato."

"Usted puede buscar al gato."

Translation:You can look for the cat.

April 13, 2013



Why 'al gato' here instead of 'el gato'?


My guess it is the personal "a" if the cat is considered a pet. (al = a + el)


The prepositional accusative ‘a’ is used for any definite direct object that's animate, not just for pets. The term “personal ‘a’” is a misnomer, unfortunately widespread and entrenched like many a false rumor.


This is consistent with "buscar al perro" in another lesson, and when I asked mi esposa she said buscar al gato, al perro, and el coche. The object of the search having a personality matters.


So if the cat was not a pet, you would say buscar el gato?


That's what I had always been taught and apparently I was taught wrong. It's been a hot topic around here in the DL comments.

The "personal a" is used almost always when the object of the sentence is animate, especially the higher orders of animals. Flies (moscas) maybe not ...


That's not what all the Spanish grammar books say. I have not seen an example of where any ole animate direct object would require the personal 'a'; Come on, would you really use the personal 'a' with a cockroach? You were not taught wrong! There is one specific user on Duo that insists that one would indeed use the personal 'a' if the direct object were a bug or anything that was animate. IMHO, I totally disagree. I have seven text books and not one of them agree with her.


I don't have the link handy, but AndreasWitnstein has quoted a scholarly study that is quite impressive. As I said, it isn't what I was taught. (I thought only for persons and for pet animals and other "things" that were personified.) DL and Andreas (and the source) say differently.

I did say higher orders of animals. So, no, I don't think insects/bugs/etc. count.

And, I still don't really understand, to be honest.


It's not just a matter of one scholarly article. There's a vast scholarly literature on this subject —under the rubrics of “acusativo preposicional”, “‘a’ de acusativo”, “prepositional accusative”, “accusative ‘a’”, and “differential object marking”— by actual philologists and linguists empirically studying actual Spanish texts and speech.


Yes, the animate ‘a’ is used even with a cockroach. For example, right now here in Spain, Google lists more than 137 times as many hits for ‘atrapar a la cucaracha’ (4,260) as for ‘atrapar la cucaracha’ (31).

It's deplorable that this false information has been propagated through seven textbooks, but textbook authors, like so many authors (Iraq WMDs, anyone?) copy from their peers, especially terminology. In any case, English-language Spanish textbooks, regardless of their number, have no control over how native Spanish speakers use their own language.


Yes, flies too. For example, right now Google lists more than 13 times as many hits for ‘atrapar a la mosca’ (333,000) as for ‘atrapar la mosca’ (24,000).


andreas- But in Google, informations come most of the time from anyone, we see here in Duo often when many persons say I'll report it, they think they're c orrect and often they're wrong. So if many people who are wrong write on google to give their wrong answer, how can we trust that?. I prefer be looking at grammar instead.


Wow. You're blowing my mind ...


isenhatesyou- the rule is complex. For people, you would say he visto A Juan/I saw Juan. Imagine you own a bar. last year you hired a waiter. This year you want to hire him again, you'll say : busco a un camarero/I'm Looking for a waiter. Personal A because you already know the guy. Busco un camarero, it means you need a waiter and no matter who he will be, even though you don't know him yet. The same for animals in the forest for exemple : they're not a pet, you don't know him, you don't know its name, no personal A is needed


Ah yes, that makes sense. Thanks!


It's ‘al gato’ because ‘el gato’ is the direct object, it's definite, and it's animate.


Buscar takes an a after it. You "buscar a una objeta".

This always stands out really starkly to me because usually the spanish 'a' translates to 'to', 'on', or 'at'; all of which significantly differ from the english preposition that goes with "to look" in this case ("for"). However, this is far from the only time I've seen "buscar a"...


No, it's the personal a, this has already been covered in other comments.


"You may look for the cat." should be accepted.


Where does the word "for" come from in the translation? Is buscar = to look or = look for? How do I know?


Cool! Bookmarked that page. Thanks.


Buscar = to look for; mirar = to look.


I think of mirar as "to look (at)".


‘buscar’ = “to seek”.


yes, but it can be helpful to also think of it as "to look for" so that we remember that we don't need to (usually) use a preposition after the word in Spanish. (Some people in English use a preposition after "seek"; I don't, but some do.) Also, because the two words are often translated as "look", thinking of mirar = "to look (at)" and buscar = "to look for" helps me decide which to use.


Good point: I was thinking it'd be helpful to think of ‘buscar’ as “to seek” because neither takes a preposition, but some people do say “to seek after”.


Think of "buscar" as "search for".


You can search the cat is not ok? I'm not a native english speaker


"You can search FOR the cat." would be OK. If "you search the cat" you are looking for something on it, that is, basically patting it down for weapons! ... xD


If you've ever owned a cat, you know they always carry concealed weapons! ;D


Chris, Yep, CLAWS!


Makes sense, thanks!


cdntin, June 2017, I typed "search for the cat" and was marked incorrect. Came here to see if I needed to report it, and I WILL.


The word 'cat' was not there.......... I saw 'can'


So in a nutshell a "prepositional accusative" is used for an "animated noun". I am quitting here and going back to English which I obviously haven't sorted yet.


Cat was not an option only can was


"...able to..." got rejected. I thought ”can" and ”able to” are interchangeable.


If your sentence was "You are able to look for the cat" then that should probably be accepted.


How would they phrase it if they wanted to search the cat, for smuggled catnip or suchlike?


Hi this is probably covered elsewhere but why it is not "usted puedes" with these setences? Thanks


‘Usted’ takes the 3rd-person singular instead of the 2nd-person singular because it was originally pronounced ‘Vuestra merced’ = “Your mercy”.


It's Ud. puede or Tú puedes. Ud. is formal and is familiar. They use different forms of the verb.

You can enter poder (or any other verb) here and it will give you the different forms:



"cat" was not given!!!!


Why is there sometimes a 'que' in the sentence, but sometimes not? For example: Tengo que trabajar and Usted puede buscar al gato. Is there a rule that one needs to know for this? Thanks.


‘tener’ without the ‘que’ just means “to have”; ‘tener que’ means “to have to”.


Ah, muchas gracias! I understand now.


Seriously, how can I know when the a is for the cat or when it's the personal a thing?


You can look for the cat. = Puede buscar por el gato.

What the question translates to is "You can look to the cat."


You can frisk the cat.


Why can't I say "hunt for" instead of "look for". In this context, those words are interchangeable in English.


But they're not really.


Would "You can find the cat" be acceptable?


How would I say "you can look at the cat"?


(Tú) puedes mirar al gato.


isn't that the wrong conjugation for poder? "puedes" = you can, "puede" = he/she/it can.

Since it's "you" who can look for the can, it should be "usted puedeS buscar", right? this sentence says "you [he/she/it can] search"


"Puedes" is used for tú (informal you) only. Verbs for the formal "usted" are conjugated the same way as "he/she/it." It's a weird thing for English speakers to get used to, because it makes the sentence look like "you is."


thanks for the clarification.


Can't it be translated as "you can pick up the cat"?


No, buscar means "search for" or "look for". If you want to say "pick up" I think you should use "recogar".


What's the difference between conseguir and buscar? Can I say"Donde puedo buscar al puerta"


My general impression of the so-called "personal a" is that it helps distinguish between the direct object and the subject when the direct object has agency--is capable of acting. In Spanish sentences the subject can be omitted or it can be put at the end of a sentence without changing the meaning. So you could have "Puede buscar al gato" (You/he/she can search for the cat) and "Puede buscar el gato" (The cat can search). The "a" makes it clear which you mean.

English distinguished subject and direct object by word order--"Dog bites man" vs "Man bites dog"--while other languages like Russian do it by declension, changing the form of the noun depending on the role it plays. Spanish does it by including the preposition "a".


to those who also speak Portuguese .. buscar in spanish is different than portuguese ?


Why isn't there an indirect pronoun (lo) in this sentence?


First of all "lo" is a direct object pronoun, not indirect "le" is the indirect form for él, ella and usted. But there's no need for any object pronoun (direct or indirect) in the translation because there's no object pronoun in the original English sentence.


You can search for the cat...but you will never find it...


Kind of new to this. Is there a place to learn what duo lingo had to say about it?


About what, specifically?


alguien sabe por que va el for ? soy nativo del habla española


Why is "You can search for ❤❤❤❤❤" wrong


Is the 'a' in this sentence part of buscar, like "buscar a"? Or is it the "personal a" referring to the cat?


It's the personal a.


I got "You can get the cat." It was wrong, so I reported it.


A, the. Same thing right?

(I know they aren't)


Do you mean "a" in English or "a" in Spanish?


Why "search" doesn't fit?

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