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Invisible Pronouns

From the clarity of the diction and the pacing of the music, you might think Sizu Yantra's tune Bienvenido would be easy to translate. But you'd be wrong. Some lyrics drove us to semantic delirium! Here is the opening:


Y si tú ya estás aquí, yo quisiera preguntarte

And if you're already here, I would like to ask you

si al mundo lo encuentras enfermizo, delirante y brutal

if you find the world sickly, delirious and brutal

Tú ya estás aquí y deseando que tú goces...

You're already here and [I am] desiring that you enjoy [it]...

Captions 1-3, SiZu Yantra - Bienvenido

 Play Caption



The very first line of lyrics is clearly enunciated and seemingly unambiguous -- with personal pronouns and yo included to set the listener off on the right foot. OK: it's sort of trippy, but we have every reason to believe we are hearing what the songwriter wanted us to hear.

But we get to the second sentence (caption 3) and native English speakers may find themselves at a bit of a loss. "Deseando" -- the gerund of the verb desear ("to desire, to wish, to look forward to") -- has no immediately apparent subject. So, how would we know to translate "deseando" as if it were the first person, progressive, "estoy deseando"? There are a few clues to solve this mystery. Let's investigate:

  1. Gerunds -aka -ndo verbs-- are usually used as part of the progressive tense in Spanish. Note that they are not entirely interchangeable with "-ing verbs" in English, which have many more uses. (See: Gerunds and the progressive tenses.)
  2. After "deseando," we encounter the common "que" which is most often used to introduce a subordinate clause in a complex sentence.
  3. After "que" we hear "tú goces" -- i.e., the second-person, present subjunctive of the verb gozar ("to enjoy"). Yes, here's the dreaded subjunctive -- the verb "mood" that means or implies the imposition of will, emotion, doubt, or non-existence. (See: Understanding the Subjuntive Mood in Spanish.) You see, after an expression of desire, Spanish grammar demands the subjunctive in the subordinate clause if the person doing the desiring is different from the object of that wish. And that, in turn, means "you" ("") cannot be the one doing the desiring ("deseando"). Got that?
  4. Let's back up and approach the subordinate clause another way. Spanish grammar rules demand that if the two verbs (desear and gozar) had the same subject, the second verb would take the infinitive.
    Yo quiero irme
    I want to go
    If the subject changes, the second verb takes the subjunctive.
    Yo quiero que te vayas
    I want you to go

If this detective work seems complicated, remember that in English we have a similar situation with "Wish you were here." Taken on its own, this seemingly simple sentiment has an implied subject (Could it be "I wish"? Or: "We wish"?) and then a subordinate clause using the subjunctive. At the end of the day, the subject is left to context -- or the listener's own interpretation.


Back to our slippery song. "Deseando que tú goces" was finally translated as "I am desiring that you enjoy it..." because it matches best with the first line of the song (where "yo" is introduced) -- and doesn't break any grammar rules. Whew. Keep listening, for more constructive confusion!


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