The Spanish verb caer means "to fall." Listen to what our artist friend Francisco tells us about a big coastal flood that took place in Venezuela a few years back:
Mucha madera cayó en el mar.
A lot of wood fell into the sea.
Caption 8, Playa Adícora - Francisco - Part 3
When describing the tumble-down of a person, caer is very commonly used in the reflexive, caerse. Notice it when Venezuelan pop band Sondulo sings this line:
Si me caigo, me vuelvo a parar.
If I fall, I stand up again.
Caption 8, Sondulo - Que te vaya mal
On the other hand, it is also possible to use caer when someone drops something.
¿Y en un momento se te cayó una birome al piso? -Sí.
And at a certain moment you dropped a pen on the floor? -Yes.
Caption 67, Cuatro Amigas - Piloto - Part 2
This is the same sort of “impersonal” (passive voice) construction that we saw in our lesson on olvidar. Literally, what the Spanish phrase is saying is that the pen fell and that this happened to “you.” (Spanish speakers will understand that you unintentionally dropped it.)
The reflexive verb caerse is conjugated in relation to the object dropped, the pen, not to the person who (unintentionally) dropped it. It is only thanks to the indirect object pronoun te that we know that it was “you” (tú) who dropped it. As a consequence, if we remove the pronoun “te” the meaning of the sentence will change:
¿Y en un momento se cayó una birome al piso? -Sí.
And at a certain moment a pen fell on the floor? -Yes.
We find the same construction when Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala talks about her husband, Felipe:
Felipe es un... muy buen papá, pues se le cae la baba por sus hijos, les toma fotos...
Felipe is a…. very good father, he really loves his kids, he takes pictures…
Caption 15, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 2
Caérsele (a uno) la baba is an expression used to express deep fondness for someone or something. Literally, la baba means “the drool.” So the idea is that you like something so much it makes you drool (or “the drool falls”/”you drool”). Of course it’s an expression and native speakers do not think about it in literal terms.
Note that this “impersonal” construction is not used if someone drops something intentionally, in that case we look to the verb tirar:
Cuando vio la pistola, tiró el cuchillo.
When he saw the gun, he dropped the knife.
Keep your eye out for these and other interesting uses of caer when you tune into Yabla Spanish for your daily dose of authentic Spanish.