Glowby, one of the study guides I just downloaded was "to indicate a recipient" one should use para, like this: Este regalo es para ti, so if it is an indirect object, saying they desired something FOR you, why did they not use para to make that clear? The only way I might "think of lo mejor as what's best" is if it had been taught - what a concept! - yeah, I'm whining, and yeah, I still love the tricky little owl.... but what to do with that lo was a total mystery.
There are many more similar expressions with lo that are good to know:
lo importante = the important thing
lo bueno = the good thing
While I know this is not the "official" explanation, I think of Lo (in this type of sentence) as taking an adjective and making it a noun. That is for when it's something that's just in general, that doesn't have gender. Another example: "The most important thing is that she loves you" = Lo más importante es que ella te quiere. (Spanish does not use "thing" (cosa) in this type of sentence.)
However, if you are choosing something concrete -- say, someone asks you which shirt do you want -- ¿Cuál camisa quieres?, you would reply, La negra ("the black one") because it clearly refers to camisa, which is feminine. For ¿Cuál libro quieres?, you would respond, El pequeño ("the small one") because, again, it clearly refers to libro, which is masculine. In the same way, it would be la mejor or el mejor ("the best one"), respectively, for these examples.
rmcgwn, Let me try to clarify. When mejor (or peor) functions as a noun "lo" is used. An example would be "Lo mejor es olvidar." = "The best thing is forgetting." When describing or referring to a noun "el" is used. "Tengo el mejor coche." = "I have the best car." I hope this helps
That's a valid question, I don't see the need to downvote it. The reason, Wonderboy6, is because the verb 'to wish' takes an object: that which is being wished ("the best" in this case, or "much happiness" or whatever it is that you're wishing the other person). If I'm understanding your logic, your understanding was that the subject in the sentence (the "I") was expressing a hypothetical wish or admonishing someone to improve something (e.g. I wish you would improve your Spanish). In that case the grammar changes and it takes an entirely different structure in Spanish. Such a sentence would go something like "desearía [me gustaría] que mejoraras tu Español". If you want to look further into it, in that case the verb to wish (mejorar) is conjugated in the conditional and the verb that is being wished (mejorar in the example) takes the subjunctive imperfect form. Otherwise there's lots of info about this question in the other answers.
i think that you are trying to make word for word translations and that will almost never work. Think of the phrase "hace frio." the word for word translation is "he(she or it) makes cold." But the actual translation is "it's cold." This is just an example of why not to try and make word for word translations.
It's a good question, Wonderboy6, and logical, but your English sentence "I wish you better it" is not good English sentence construction. A person might say "I wish you the best" (sort of idiomatic) or "I wish you would improve it." "Better" is used to compare two objects (one is better than the other) and rarely as a noun (the better of the two) - but never as a verb. You cannot "better" something. You can make it better, or improve it.
Terri Lee, I think it's quite common to say in English, "When given opportunity, people better themselves by training, education, and diligence ." Perhaps using "better" as a verb is idiomatic, but trending toward regular use? One can also "better" a situation, meaning "improve," or "better" one's odds of their family's survival in a crisis by being prepared with a known escape and shelter plan, etc. I believe "better" can be a noun , adjective, adverb, or verb. Remember when "Google" was a noun, and now is used commonly as a verb?
Terri Lee, I also want to thank you for the link you provided further up the discussion. At my mid- level of Spanish, I could not reason out a "meaning" that included the lo. And Babella's contribution was very good to try to memorize, with the grammar reason "just because"! HA! :-)
This discussion intrigued me, so I typed the words "Spanish el, la, lo" into the Google search field. Among the first five results I found this one, which answers the question directly and simply: http://spanish.about.com/od/sentencestructure/a/lo.htm. Although the entire article is very helpful, the part that applies here is as follows: "As a neuter definite article: The definite articles in Spanish, typically el and la when singular, are the equivalent of the English "the." Lo can be used as a neuter definite article before an adjective to make an abstract noun. For example, lo importante can be translated as "the important thing," "that which is important" or "what is important."