Lecciones de Español

Temas

Infinitives

Dieciocho motivos pa' dejarte

Catorce consejos pa' olvidar

Quinientas razones para odiarte

Saco la cuenta, y a sumar...

Captions 1-4, Ricardo Arjona - Quien

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Dejar(te), olvidar, odiar(te), sumar...
Songs sung in Spanish seem to contain a lot of verbs in the infinitive. Maybe that's because infinitives are so easy to rhyme -- since all end in either -ar, -er or -ir. But we digress. Among the new content on
Yabla Spanish, there's a song by Guatemalan Ricardo Arjona. In it, we heard so many infinitives that we pored over the grammar rules to make sure we struck the right note in our translations. Below we'll highlight some of what we found along the way.

First, let's look at the translation of the first four lines of Arjona's song:

 

Dieciocho motivos pa' dejarte

Catorce consejos pa' olvidar

Quinientas razones para odiarte

Saco la cuenta, y a sumar...

Eighteen reasons to leave you

Fourteen tips to forget

Five hundred reasons to hate you

I do the math and I add...

Captions 1-4, Ricardo Arjona - Quien

 Play Caption

 

What do all the infinitives in bold have in common? OK, they are all -ar verbs. But what else? They are all preceded by a preposition -- specifically, para ("for, in order to") in the first three lines, and then "a" ("to"), above. As a rule, only the infinitive may follow prepositions in Spanish.

We've discussed the use of prepositions para and por (both meaning "for") before infinitives in
a past newsletter, if you'd like to review. (Loyal readers: Remember Chayenne's song "Por amor, por amar"?). With that concept already covered, let's move to the fourth line of our excerpt above.

"Saco la cuenta, y a sumar...?" What does a + infinitive mean? A ver ("Let's see") is the most famous example. You hear it all the time -- sometimes just to buy time in spoken Spanish. You also might h
ear ¡A bailar! ("Let's dance!") to get people going on the dance floor, or ¡A volar! ("Let's fly!") at a graduation ceremony. It's one of the many ways to express a command in Spanish.

The a + infinitive construction in our new song by Arjona gave us a little pause, because translating
a sumar as "let's add" sounded a little funny in English... But if you realize the singer is, in a sense, urging himself to crunch the numbers, the meaning falls into place.

Later in the song, we hear this line, twice:

 

Saco la cuenta y a restar...

I do the math and I subtract...

Caption 28, Ricardo Arjona - Quien

 Play Caption

 

As you've probably noted, for the English captions in these lines, we ended up choosing to keep the subject -- "I" -- throughout the sentence. But students who understand that a sumar and a restar are commands issued by the singer to urge himself on will have a better understanding of what the lyrics intend to communicate.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Can you find some more lyrics by Ricardo Arjona that use the preposition + infinitive construction? Here are a couple lines we were humming:

 

Dejaste minas en la casa

con objetivos de matar

You left mines in the house

with the objective of killing

Captions 33-34, Ricardo Arjona - Quien

 Play Caption

 

[Want a refresher on the other uses of the infinitives?

ThoughtCo has some nice explanations of infinitives in Spanish here]

Grammar

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Subtítulo 34, 33, 28, 4, 3, 2, 1
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