"Él no puede matar al pollo."

Translation:He cannot kill the chicken.

May 14, 2013



I thought "pollo" only referred to the meat - shouldn't this be "gallina" as clearly it refers to a (currently) live animal?

April 8, 2014


That's probably why he can't kill it... it's already dead.

September 9, 2014



November 13, 2014


lol thanks for a good laugh

February 2, 2018


I feel this is more of a usage, than a definition. There is nothing in the RAE that refers to the condition of the animal, and it is easy enough to find examples of matar al pollo, such as this chilling example: Cuchillo de grandes dimensiones para matar al pollo. and other usages that indicate that guideline of live/dead is not always accurate. My sense is that it is like how beef and cattle are somewhat interchangeable. Even better think of how poultry and chicken are used in English, the usage is largely contextual.

In a sentence like: Un granjero de pollos ha calculado que una gallina y media pone un huevo y medio en un día y medio., the word pollo refers to the general idea of poultry, while the individuals are gallinas.

Anyway, I think it is Gears of War that gives us the best context for this phrase:


December 2, 2014


The word "pollo" is also referred to the brood, the chicks, of almost any bird, mainly when they are in the nest ("pollos, pollitos"). It was a tradition in some Spanish speaking countries, in small villages, to breed poultry in the houses, and to kill a chicken when it was an important holiday.

  • Pepe, mata al gallo, que mañana es nuestro aniversario.

  • ¡Qué culpa tiene el gallo! Mejor m.............. a tu hermano que es el que nos presentó.

March 8, 2018


Thank you for that. Your response leads me to think that maybe if they were planning to kill it for food then they might already be referring to it as dinner.

December 25, 2016


That's what I learned as well. You can't kill pollo because it's already dead. Same how "carne" does not mean "cow"

May 11, 2014


Carne means meat. Res means beef.

February 19, 2015

[deactivated user]

    And vaca means cow.

    March 25, 2015


    And vacaciones means calves. Lol

    January 21, 2019


    Pollo not only refers to the meat, it can mean:

    1. m. Cría que nace del huevo de un ave y en especial la de la gallina.

    2. m. Gallo o gallina joven.

    3.- Carne de pollo


    April 7, 2017


    Yeah, further evidence on this point is how they translated the same sentence in the Spanish for Russian speakers course. The Russian version translates to "He can't kill the chick," and they explicitly reject using the general Russian word for "chicken."

    July 4, 2018


    Easy to understand references to support statements are always appreciated.

    March 3, 2018


    gallina is a hen

    February 27, 2015


    Sí, y el gallo es rooster

    March 23, 2015


    That's what I thought! BUT... Pollo is "chicken" as in the genus. At dinner you don't say hen or rooster, gallinas are hens and gallos are roosters. Pollo is the neutral reference for gallinas and gallos. ie: Tenían pollos en la granja

    June 20, 2016


    No. Just like cerdo and puerco being interchangeable, so are pollo and gallina

    June 16, 2017


    There was another similar sentence in this exercise about killing "a spider" and I translated "He cannot kill a spider" as "Él no puede matar a una araña". Apparently, it didn't like the "a" after "matar" in there. Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks.

    March 18, 2014


    I believe itsmesd and Semtater are correct. I would just like to add that the personal "a" is used when talking about any person (general or specific), and when referring to a specific animal, or an animal that you are emotionally close to (like a pet).

    Since "una araña" is talking about a spider (not a specific spider), it doesn't require the personal "a." If you were to say he cannot kill the spider (talking about one specific spider), you would use the personal "a", along with the definite article "la" (rather than "una").

    I'm not a native speaker, so I may not be completely correct, but this is what I've been taught. Hope it's somewhat helpful, and not super confusing! :)

    February 26, 2015


    So you would say:
    No me gusta matar a un animal experimental
    No me gusta matar animales experimentales
    Is that correct?

    Looking at this query: http://www.linguee.com/english-spanish/search?source=spanish=matar+un+animal.
    both matar un animal and matar a un animal references are found, but the latter appear more often.

    This discussion reminds me of a quote attributed to Stalin:
    A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

    August 18, 2017


    Hola gurveersra: I suspect that you wouldn't combine "a" and "una" together. However, the sentence might be correct if you said "Él no puede matar a la araña." because then you are referring to a specific spider not just any spider and he obviously has enough feelings for it not to be able to kill it. But I am not a native Spanish speaker so I am open to correction.

    June 6, 2014


    your suggestion is all right!

    November 25, 2014


    No, it was "This can kill the spider."

    January 13, 2017


    At the end of the day, what matters is how the language is used. For "matar una araña" there are 130 "real" (i.e. you have to page through them to the end) Google results. For "matar a una araña" there are 143 "real" Google results.

    Seems like both work. Incidentally, there are also near ties for "un mosquito" and "una mosca."

    For "matar arañas" it's 220 results and "matar a arañas" it's 9, so there's a much clearer preference there.

    I found a lengthy discussion of the personal "a" for animals in the Spanish for Russian speakers course. The native Spanish speaker (from Colombia I believe) says he'd use the personal "a" for "un gato," "una araña," "una rata rabiosa" (a rabid rat), and "un erizo de mar" (sea urchin), but not "un coral marino" (sea coral).

    The RAE's take (i.e. biased toward Spain with a certain built-in tendency to be behind the times) is distinct:

    1.2 e) Los nombres comunes de animales se usan con preposición o sin ella en función de la mayor o menor proximidad afectiva existente entre el hablante y el animal: Suelta al caballo para que corra (mayor proximidad afectiva), frente a Suelta el caballo para que corra (menor proximidad afectiva). Por esta razón es muy frecuente el uso de la preposición con los nombres que designan animales domésticos, mientras que los nombres que designan animales no domésticos normalmente no admiten la preposición. http://lema.rae.es/dpd/?key=a

    The common names [NB: a personal name of an animal requires mandatory personal "a"; that's part of point 1.1 a] of animals are used with or without the preposition depending on the greater or lesser degree of closeness existing between the speaker and the animal: Suelta al caballo para que corra (greater closeness), as compared to Suelta el caballo para que corra (lesser closeness). For this reason the use of the preposition with the nouns that designate domestic animals is very frequent, while the nouns that designate non-domestic animals normally do not admit the preposition.

    July 4, 2018


    That is called the personal "a". You only use verb + "a" when doing something to people. "Voy a matar a una persona." and "Voy a pegarle a Juan." as compared to "Maté una araña." "Derrumbamos el edifico."

    December 9, 2014


    gurveersra, "a" (personal) > direct object is a person / animal "with a name" (When I saw this comment, I wrote it in my notes) So, this is why "he" cannot kill (this) chicken! *Now, does "he" know the spider (by name)? Si no: "Él no puede matar una araña."

    August 18, 2017


    Does the 'a' here imply that the chicken in question is like a pet to him?

    May 14, 2013


    Nope, it's just the way the direct object works with matar and such verbs.

    May 15, 2013


    what are the other verbs of this type? this is confusing

    August 26, 2013


    It is slightly confusing, very much so when trying to figure it all out from examples. My recommendation is that you get yourself a good grammar book that covers all the direct/indirect objects.

    August 29, 2013


    Harbourview: The Big Five verbs that need "a" to follow them are ir a (to go to); regresar a (to return to); salir a (to go out to); venir a (to come to); volver a (to return to). There is a boatload of other verbs that need "a," if an infinitive follows them, and another boatload that require "a", if a noun or pronoun follows them. Matar (to kill) is not a word one uses often. It did not even make it to the list in my grammar book. But querer a, jugar a, dar a all did.

    October 13, 2013


    this commentary is very good, the culture i will not kill in my life is good

    March 28, 2014


    habourview: You might also like to try this link: http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/courses/VRBSPREP.HTM

    August 7, 2015


    Thanks, Ramosraul, but do you know why this sentence wants an "a", but the previous sentence ("esto puede matar una araña") did not want one? Is one of those two sentences just incorrect?

    June 6, 2014


    Esto puede matar una araña is incorrect, as the preposition is needed.

    June 7, 2014


    OK, well that's annoying then, but thanks!

    June 8, 2014


    Matar then always requires the a?

    November 21, 2014


    That is a very good question actually, but the answer needs to go a bit further. You will read somewhere in the forum that some verbs are "always followed by the personal a". That is not fully correct.

    There are some verbs which need a direct object whereas other will not accept a direct object, and that is the key really. Transitive verbs, like matar always need a direct object because you need to kill something/someone, that is the direct object and when using a person you shall use a. You can kill other things, like a fire: mata el fuego, mata la bebida (drink it all) and there is no a there, yet there is a direct object.

    There are some verbs that always need the D.O., there are some which can alternate and some which will never take a D.O., like to die (morir)

    November 23, 2014


    "Matar" doesnt always require the preposition "a". It's used in this sentence because it is referring to a specific animal, using the definite article el (a +el - al). It would require "a" if you are talking about people (specific or general)

    Ël mato una mosca vs El mató a la mosca.

    April 7, 2017


    Wouldn't that mean it's an indirect object? Would "he can't kill it" be "el no lo puede matar" or "el no le puede matar"

    December 6, 2013


    Lo in Spanish is a direct object. Le is the indirect object.

    December 7, 2013


    I got two translators to use "al'' before chicken, dog and catas direct objects, but only ''el'' before pig, so it seems to me that it depends on how the translator feels about a given animal. To keep from losing hearts it seems safest to use the personal "a'' with animals, especially owls.

    January 8, 2014


    ... especially owls. Rider, you are a hoot! Melita

    January 8, 2014


    I'm hesitant to get involved in the whole "personal a" controversy, but, at least with DL, it is needed with any specific animate object, pet or no pet, loved or unloved. The user AndreasWitnstein (sp?) has cited scholarly works defending this position. This was a surprise to me, as I had always been taught that it was for people or pets/things personified.

    December 15, 2013


    ah, but it has to be specific? I was wondering why that poor indefinite spider didn't rate a preposition. Thanks!

    January 4, 2014


    Duolingo seems to use the personal "a" for all people and all animals. Whether this is right or wrong can be debated endlessly, but that's the way it is on DL.

    December 19, 2013


    I think yes, the chicken must have been a pet to use "al". DL should accept matar el pollo.

    December 3, 2013


    Possibly not a personal A, Melita. Mater is a verb that needs to use A after it.

    March 28, 2014


    Yes, certain verbs are followed by specific prepositions, but I see no case for this with "matar a" - except when using the personal "a".

    I checked numerous sources, and found that generally when matar was followed by "a" it was the personal "a".

    Moreover, I found numerous examples where no "a" was required. Here are some examples (taken from Corpus del Español)...

    • Entonces mamá mandaba a matar las gallinas.
    • Eso es matar el espíritu de lucha.
    • Tiene que volver a abrirlo para matar el temor.
    • ¿Lo mató la sed?

    Given how similar that first example is to the sentence in question, except that it has no "a" can only lead me to believe that this DL sentence does indeed convey that the chicken is pet-like, and the personal "a" is being used.

    Talca / Ramosraul - do either of you have any reference that would indicate otherwise?

    June 25, 2014


    Hey Talca, replying to your comment below, I have trouble memorizing the days of the week so that list stands no chance with me either. On another note, I look forward to your response to xtempore's recent post. Maybe the dreaded "a" debate is not dead and buried yet. Perhaps we need a native speaker to chip in.

    June 25, 2014


    Hey Talca! You gave a very good response, (above) to Ramosraul, about how this example is not the use of the personal "a", but is a construct of the mandatory "a" following certain infinitive verbs. (By they way, I really enjoy reading all the comments of the persons mentioned here!!)

    April 11, 2014


    Glaze, I have revised my thinking on this and have adjusted my comments. I think the pollo is considered a pet (that is why the subject cannot kill it.) And below xtempore found cases where matar was even used without the following preposition.

    April 11, 2014


    he is not able to kill the chicken still not accepted 5-24-15

    May 24, 2015


    The sentence I had immediately before this one was "Esto puede matar una arana" - This can kill a spider. Could the difference between that one not needing a personal "a" and this sentence needing one possibly be because one referred to "a spider" and this one referred to "THE chicken"?

    March 26, 2014


    "He is not able to kill the chicken" should be accepted. Cannot = Not able to.

    September 16, 2015


    He is not able to kill the chicken. Marked wrong July 5, 2016. Reported.

    July 5, 2016


    I wrote "he is not able to kill the chicken" which is the same thing & I got an error message

    July 28, 2017


    JV, I think Duolingo is set up to accept, only, ... "cannot" !!! ... puede (can) / no puede (cannot) !!!

    July 29, 2017


    So unlike pez/pescado and vaca/res, you can use pollo for the live animal as well as the food (instead of gallo or gallina)?

    August 23, 2013


    Well, res may well be used for the live animal. That said, pollo is indeed just chicken or chick, as any youg bird

    August 29, 2013


    "Ave" is used on menus in Chile for chicken.

    October 13, 2013


    Ave may be used as an umbrella term, as "bird"

    December 7, 2013


    Fowl is the umbrella term for birds in English.

    December 7, 2013


    Uh, no. "Birds" is the umbrella term for birds in English. Fowl is a subclass of birds used as food, including chickens. A related word is poultry, used to denote farm-raised fowl.

    December 2, 2014


    Although in modern usage "fowl" more specifically defines game birds or birds bred for eating. Back to Spanish: Thanks for your comments re the dreaded "a" Talca. In every discussion about it there seems to be people confusing matters by steadfastly calling it the "personal a" when in many cases it is instead just a necessary part of Spanish grammar: http://spanish.about.com/od/infinitives/a/verb_a_infiniti.htm Thanks again for your clarification.

    June 24, 2014


    That's an awesomely long list. Impossible for me to memorize that. How about you?

    June 25, 2014


    Thank u soooo much jellonz. Its awesome to have the original list. I always tried to make a small list for myself in order to remember them

    August 20, 2014


    The reference I looked at said that "gallina" is the live hen or female chicken and both "pollo" and "gallo" can refer to the live cock or make chicken.

    May 10, 2014


    ok, i'm confused. is it incorrect to write "èl no puede matar el pollo"?

    October 9, 2013


    DL did not accept that. I think the error is the "el" in lieu of the "al". Or the un-Spanish accent on the first word.

    October 13, 2013


    He can't matar al pollo. Must have been a pet chicken. Isn't that the "A" rule?

    November 20, 2014


    Now I'm confused. Earlier, I translated this sentence from English to Spanish.

    I said "Él no puede matar el pollo." and was marked correct.

    Can anyone clarify if the personal "a", or maybe "matar + a", is needed for this?

    February 26, 2015


    "He's not able to kill the chicken' is not accepted 4-23-16. It makes sense to me, though

    April 23, 2016

    [deactivated user]

      the translation given for the chicken was given as el o al but I was marked wrong when I put el Can't DL make up it's mind ?????

      May 4, 2016


      I think that this sentence is good because it gives people who eat meat a chance to think about what it actually going on in the world to get the things we eat. What did these poor creatures ever do to us?! Why are we killing them when there are plenty of other different types of protein? I hope people think about things like this in the future. How would we like it if we were the sources of eat around the world. Imagine if it was you. Overall, great sentence.

      March 2, 2017


      Using pollo or gallina is not always an issue of alive vs dead. It can be regional to use pollo as a living animal.

      June 4, 2017


      Why is it "al" instead of el

      June 14, 2017


      If you know the name of a person (or animal), you would use "a." [so, a + el = al :) ] ---it seems to be his, sort of, pet chicken ( ! )

      June 14, 2017


      wiktionary: pollo = chicken (young) gallina = hen (mature)

      November 5, 2017


      Why is it "al pollo" and not "el pollo"?

      August 12, 2018
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