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The word bajo as a preposition (And so much more)!

As a beginner Spanish student, the word bajo may well be among the first words one learns, typically as an adjective meaning “short.” However, like many words in Spanish, this word has a whole plethora of meanings and can additionally function as a preposition, adverb, noun, and even a verb!

 

Let’s start by examining the use of the word bajo as a preposition. Although its translation is almost always “under” or “below,” like its English equivalent, this could refer not only to physical location, but also to the state of being subject to some influence. Let’s take a look at the following examples from our Yabla Spanish library.

 

One possible meaning of the preposition bajo is "in a position below something else":

 

pero no entiendo qué hace mi amiga un día de semana bajo este árbol tan maravilloso.

but I don't understand what is my friend doing on a weekday under this wonderful tree.

Captions 4-5, Escribiendo un libro Algunos consejos sobre cómo comenzar - Part 1

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Another, similar meaning of “bajo,” which also involves location, suggests that something is beneath the surface or covered by something: 

 

Tengo aquí bajo mi almohada tu fotografía

I have your picture here under my pillow

Caption 20, La Oreja de Van Gogh Inmortal

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Moving on to uses of the preposition bajo not involving location, like “under” in English, bajo could also express the concept of being less than:

 

congelando lo que es la punta de la botella en una solución que está a diez o quince grados bajo cero.

freezing the tip of the bottle in a solution that is ten or fifteen degrees below zero.

Captions 33-34, Europa Abierta Champagne en Andalucía

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The Spanish preposition bajo could additionally mean "in accordance with" or "subject to the terms of," for example, some agreement:

 

Algunos clientes bajo contrato, le pre-maduramos la fruta

[For] some customers under contract, we pre-ripen the fruit

Caption 99, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 18

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And finally, although we have only touched on some of its many nuanced meanings, we’ll take a look at an example in which the preposition bajo entails being managed or governed by something:

 

Para su información, todo el personal de servicio está bajo mi mando, ¿sí?

For your information, all the service staff is under my authority, right?

Caption 49, Muñeca Brava 3 Nueva Casa - Part 8

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Now, let’s look at bajo as an adjective. Its most common translations are “short” or “low,” both in terms of height or level and in reference to intensity or morality. Here are some examples from the Yabla Spanish video library: 

 

Y es muy gracioso porque Pedro es todo lo contrario de Carolina. Es bajo, es gordo,

And it's very funny because Pedro is totally the opposite of Carolina. He's short, he's fat,

Captions 32-33, El Aula Azul Mis Primos

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Desde chiquito el bajo mundo conocía

Since he was a child, he knew the underworld

Caption 4, La Secta Consejo

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Se manifestaban porque el sueldo era muy bajo,

They were on strike because their salary was very low,

Caption 33, Con ánimo de lucro Cortometraje - Part 4

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As an adverb, bajo could also be translated as “low” in some cases (for example, when describing a helicopter flying “low”) or “softly” or “quietly” when referring to one’s speech:

 

¡Que le quede claro! -¡Shhhhh, habla bajo!

Let that be clear to you! -Shhhhh, speak quietly!

Caption 42, Yago 7 Encuentros - Part 2

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Much more straightforwardly, as a noun, the word bajo refers to the musical instrument, the bass: 

 

Entonces yo dije: "Yo... yo puedo tocar... Yo puedo tocar el bajo."

So, I said, "I... I can play... I can play the bass."

Caption 50, Carli Muñoz Niñez - Part 2

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And finally, it is worth noting that bajo is the first person singular, present tense conjugation of the verb “bajar” (to go or come down or get off or out).

 

Ya está, la comida... -Sí, sí, sí, ya, yo ya bajo.

It's ready, the food... -Yes, yes, yes, now, I'm coming down now.

Caption 72, Muñeca Brava 44 El encuentro - Part 6

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We hope that this lesson has shed light on some of the ways the word bajo can function as a preposition - in addition to a noun, verb, adjective or adverb! If you would like to see many additional examples in context, simply enter the word bajo in the search bar at the top of the Videos page to find matches in the transcripts of the Yabla Spanish library. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 

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