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¿Qué Pasa? - What Happens with This Verb

Hola. ¿Qué pasa?

Now let's get started by looking at "pasar" -- a verb with many meanings. Here are some examples:

Hola. ¿Qué pasa? ¿Y qué te pasó?
Hi. What's up? [used as a common greeting] And what happened to you?

Pásame la sal.
Pass me the salt.

Vilma pasó veinte minutos buscando las llaves.
Vilma spent twenty minutes looking for the keys.

Él es muy cuidadoso al pasar la calle.
He is very careful crossing the street.


As you can see from our examples, "pasar" can mean "to happen" or "to occur." It can also express the passage of an object (like salt), the passage of time (like 20 minutes) or the passage from one place to another (e.g., across the street).

In the first part of our documentary about singer Alejandro Fernández, we hear a reflexive version of the verb pasar:


Alejandro te pasaste.

Alejandro you've outdone yourself.

Caption 3, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor

 Play Caption


At first glance, a native English speaker might try to translate this as "Alejandro, you've passed yourself," which obviously isn't quite right. However, if we modify this attempt slightly, we get "you've surpassed yourself," which has the same meaning as what we went with,  "you've outdone yourself."

The sentiment here is positive; Alejandandro has done an excellent job on his new album. However, it's interesting to note that pasarse is probably most often used to indicate the negative sentiment of "going too far," either literally:

Nos hemos pasado, el teatro está más arriba.
We've gone too far, the theater isn't this far down.

or figuratively:

Esta vez te has pasado, voy a llamar a tu mamá.
This time you've gone too far, I'm going to call your mother.

In English, another way of expressing "to go too far" is "to cross the line." The same is true 
in Spanish, where we find pasarse (de la raya). The de la raya portion of the phrase can be stated explicitly or omitted, in which case its meaning is implicitly understood. For example:

Me pasé (de la raya) al intentar besarla en los labios.
I went too far (crossed the line) when I tried to kiss her on the lips.

Las gasolineras se pasan (de la raya) con esos precios tan altos.
The gas stations are crossing the line with such high prices.

¡No te pases (de la raya)!
Don't cross the line! (Stay in check; control yourself.)


But all this negativity aside, in our video, "te pasaste" is clearly a compliment. Tone and context clue us in. It's similar in English when you say: "You've outdone yourself this time!," and, depending on your tone of voice and the context, such a statement can be taken as an insult or as praise.  We'll take that as a compliment.


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