This is called "the personal a."
In Spanish, when the direct object is a person, it is preceded by the preposition "a." This word has no English translation, but it is required. For example "Yo veo Luis" is incorrect -- the correct translation of "I see Luis" is "Yo veo a Luis." However, you would say "Yo veo una silla" ("I see a chair") and not "Yo veo a una silla."
In case you're like me (who didn't know much about grammar before I started learning languages), the direct object "is the noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb." For example, "cheese" is the direct object in the sentence "I eat cheese".
So, here are some more examples of the personal a in Spanish:
- Ella ama a Pedro (she loves Pedro)
- Ella ama los árboles (she loves trees)
- Yo muevo una silla (I move a chair)
- Yo muevo a Juan (I move Juan)
In answer to 'gogobera' and 'joshstudyspanish' (I can't reply to your posts) - I think that 'look at' would use the verb 'mirar' rather than 'ver', from what I understand 'ver' basically means 'see' whereas 'mirar' means 'look at' (they are similar meanings, but different), so I think that "I look at a man" would be "(Yo) miro a un hombre" (but the 'a' is the 'personal a', not the 'at a') and "I look at a chair" would be "(Yo) miro una silla" (without the 'personal a').
I am not 100% certain on this, but I am fairly sure that I am right. It would be nice it someone could clarify or correct my answer as appropriate :)
To reply to 'clawedinvader' (whom I also cannot reply to): we hear from Luis that when the direct object is a person, we use the Spanish 'a,' which makes some sense -- arbitrary, but it makes sense, just like most linguistic rules. The question is that 'a' pulls double duty as both meaning "the object is a person" and the preposition "at."
What if a sentence needs to communicate that the action is at a person!? We need 'a' for it being a person and 'a' for it being "at" them.
Of course, I imagine that the answer is that we use 'a' to indicate a person is the object, we use 'a' to indicate the preposition "at," and, finally, we can use 'a' to provide a preposition for "at a person," without any additional effort or linguistic hurdles.
so for my understanding it shld be.
a will appears after verb and before noun which is alive. ex. animal. peoples.
a wont appear after verb and before noun* which is not alive like furniture, food. (plants shld b consider as alive object but it is exceptional which is without a?)
it is correct?
I see you == Te veo [a ti]
This is the full chart, when using the "direct complement" (direct object):
Me veo [a mí]
Te veo [a ti]
Lo veo [a él / a ello]
La veo [a ella]
Nos veo [a nosotros]
Os veo [a vosotros]
Los veo [a ellos / a ustedes]
Las veo [a ellas]
Typical mistake even in Spaniards: confusing direct and indirect complements
Le veo [a él / a usted], Les veo [a ellos / a ustedes]
The mistake is so spread that it has been tolerated, but not considered right, the example above. Le & les have their own grammatical function different to lo & los.
if you want to learn more about de COD (complemento objeto directo) and COI (complemto objeto indirecto) there's a good explanation in this link: http://www.practicaespanol.com/es/objeto-directo-e-indirecto/art/208/
You need the "a" when referring to a person (in any way) as the direct object. This also applies to pets and occasionally other things you're personifying or expressing a personal relationship with.
You don't use it with forms of tener in the sense of having/possessing something (e.g. tengo hijos). But you do still use it in other senses such as (tengo a mis hijos en el coche).