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Jalar and More: Different Ways to Pull

Pero la calle lo siguió jalando

But the streets kept pulling him back

Y de lo bueno ya no va quedando

And nothing good is being left

Captions 21-22, La Secta - Consejo

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The verb jalar means "to pull" and its use is common in many parts of Latin America. Miami-based La Secta, in their music video Consejo (which means "advice"), uses the verb in the phrase above, "But the street kept pulling him back."

If jalar means "to pull," why have we seen the
command hale, with an h, printed on doors in countries like Venezuela and Mexico? Well, it turns out that halar also means "to pull," and when we boil down the evidence it seems that halar is basically the same verb, more or less, as jalar, but spelled with an h up front. Which spelling came first, which is more "correct," etc., seems to be up for debate, and also a matter of regional preference.

In Spain, we are like
ly to see tirar (which can mean "to pull") printed on one side of a door, and in Argentina we are likely to see the indicative form, tire. (By the way, most of these countries tend to agree that empuje or empujar, "to push," goes on the other side of these doors.)

Folks in Spain pretty much never use jalar for "to pull," however they do use it for "to eat," but only in very informal settings -- it can be considered a bit crude.

¿Quién se ha jalado todo el jamón?
Who has wolfed down all the ham?

Vamos a jalar. ¿Vienes con nosotros?
Let's go eat. You coming with us?


In parts of Central America, such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica, jalar can be used to mean "going out" or "dating."

Él y ella estan jalando.
He and she are dating
.

 

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You can read a long discussion on the regional uses of jalar, halar and tirar here.

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Quien calla, otorga: And More About Silence

Cuando callas otorgas...

When you keep silent, you consent...

Caption 10, Circo - Un Accidente

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In the refrain to this catchy punk-pop hit, lead singer Fofé uses the common verb callar, which anyone who has ever annoyed their Spanish teacher knows means "to be quiet," "to keep silent" or, more bluntly, "to shut up." The next verb, otorgar, often means "to grant" [as in, permission] or "to award." There's an expression in Spanish: Quien calla otorga, which basically means "silence is consent" (or, "whoever is silent, consents"). So the refrain can be interpretted as "When you keep silent, you consent."

 

Incluso muchas veces me he tenido que... que callar porque...

Many times I even had to... to be quiet because...

porque no he tenido más remedio que reírme un poco.

because I didn't have any option but to laugh a little.

Captions 22-23, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live

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No te puedo mentir, no me puedo callar

I can't lie to you, I can't shut up

Caption 11, Bloque - Nena

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¿Te podés callar la boca? Mire, patrona, yo le voy a explicar.

Can you shut your mouth? Look, boss, I'm going to explain [it] to you.

Caption 51, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro

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¡Cállese!
Shut up! (singular)

¡Cállense!
Shut up! (plural)

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Ánimo de lucro: Intent to Profit

Pero yo no me lo creo, así que decido hacer este documental. Con ánimo de lucro

But I don't believe it, so I decide to do this documentary. With Intent to Profit

Captions 26-27, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 1

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Lucro means "gain" or "profit." Think "filthy lucre" as a mnemonic device.

 

Nosotros no somos coherentes si ponemos nuestro dinero primero, buscándole un gran lucro.

We're not being logical if we put our money first, looking for a big profit.

Captions 32-34, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 6

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...si predomina la lógica del beneficio y del lucro sin límite.

...if the logic of benefit and unlimited profit predominates.

Caption 67, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 7

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Frankly, it's a little surprising to have a documentary ostensibly about the quest to end poverty and hunger with the title Con ánimo de lucro ("With Intent to Profit" / i.e. "For-profit"). After all, to describe non-profit (or, not-for-profit) ventures in the Spanish-speaking world, the phrase "sin ánimo de lucro" (or, "sin fines de lucro") is commonly used... Well, future installments of this documental promise to explain this cryptic title.

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The Verb Acabar: More Meanings In the End

The short film Con ánimo de lucro starts with a series of commands reminiscent of the John Lennon song "Imagine":

 

Imagina acabar con el hambre y la pobreza.

Imagine putting an end to hunger and poverty.

Caption 1, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje

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So, what's that word after Imagina (the familiar command form of imaginar, or "to imagine")? It's the Spanish verb acabar, which most commonly means "to end" or "finish." Although we could "end" our discussion right there, we won't because, as we see in this example, the verb acabar can mean different things in combination with different words and in different contexts. But before moving on to those, let's take a look at a couple of "classic" examples of this common Spanish verb: 

 

Classic Examples of the Verb Acabar

 

Al final...

In the end...

Nuestro caso no es distinto de otros casos que acabaron mal

Our case is not different from other cases that ended badly

Captions 13-14, Victor & Leo - Recuerdos de amor

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Vale, hemos acabado.

OK, we've finished.

Caption 69, Animales en familia Un día en Bioparc: Cachorro de leopardo - Part 2

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Now, let's move on to some more nuanced uses of the verb acabar. Although all of them entail some kind of "ending," these variations can help us to express a multitude of English idiomatic expressions in Spanish. 

 

Alternative Uses of the Verb Acabar

 

1. Acabar: "to end up"

 

We can use the Spanish verb acabar to talk about the idea of "ending up," or where something or someone ultimately arrives, perhaps unexpectedly:

 

y seguro que iba a acabar en la basura, ¿no? 

and for sure it was going to end up in the trash, right?

Caption 49, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 5

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al final el congelador acaba quemando los alimentos.

in the end, the freezer ends up burning the food.

Caption 4, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 7

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2. Acabar con (algo): "to put an end to" (something)

 

As we saw in the opening quote, acabar con (literally "to finish with") can have the more specific meaning "to put an end to," perhaps some unpleasant phenomenon: 

 

Para nosotros, para el santuario de burros en España, es muy importante acabar con el maltrato animal,

For us, for the donkey sanctuary in Spain, it's very important to put an end to animal abuse,

Captions 38-39, Amaya El Refugio del Burrito

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3.  Acabar con (alguien): "to break up with" (someone)

 

When speaking about a person, however, acabar con can mean "to break up" in the sense of ending a relationship:

 

Pienso acabar con mi novio. 

I'm planning to break up with my boyfriend. 

 

4.  Acabar con (alguien): "to finish off/kill" (someone)

 

Of course, without context, someone could definitely misunderstand our previous example, as acabar con alguien can also mean to kill them!

 

acaben con él y lo entierran por allí en el llano. 

finish him off and bury him somewhere in the plains.

Caption 19, El Ausente Acto 2 - Part 8

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5. Acabar de + infinitive: "to have just" (done something)

 

The very important verb acabar de plus the infinitive form of a verb allows us to express the idea of having "just" completed some action:

 

Isabel Zavala acaba de salir del edificio.

Isabel Zavala just left the building.

Caption 3, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 4 - Part 15

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Acabo de ver a ese chico moreno, alto y de ojos azules,

I just saw that brown-haired, tall guy with blue eyes,

Caption 19, Fundamentos del Español 3 - Le Estructura de las Frases

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6. Acabar por + infinitive: "to finally" (do something)/"end up" (doing something)

 

Acabé por decirle la verdad. 

I finally told him the truth. 

 

Depending upon the context, an alternative translation might be "I ended up telling him the truth. "

 

 7. Acabarse (to run out)

 

The reflexive verb acabarse can also mean "to run out," of something literal or figurative: 

 

Cuando llegan cosas como que se acabó la leche, los pañales,

When things come like, that the milk ran out, the diapers,

Caption 8, La Sub30 Familias - Part 6

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In this context, you will frequently encounter the verb acabarse in the form of a "no fault"/involuntary se construction. You will note that although acabarse is conjugated in the third person singular in accordance with the subject (el tiempo/the time), the indirect object pronoun nos lets us know to whom the action of the sentence is occurring (to us). Let's take a look:

 

Eh... Se nos acabó el tiempo, entonces espero que practiquen en su casa

Um... We ran out of time, so I hope you practice at home

Caption 59, Lecciones de guitarra Con Cristhian - Part 3

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Although this sentence was translated as "We ran out of time," the literal translation would be "Time ran out on us." For more information on the se involuntario, check out this series from El Aula Azul

 

8.  Acabarse (to sell out)

 

Acabarse is also a synonym for agotarse, which can mean "to sell out" in Spanish: 

 

Quería ir al concierto pero las entradas ya se hab​ían acabado

I wanted to go to the concert, but the tickets had already sold out

 

9. Acabarse (to be over)

 

The reflexive form of acabar can also mean "to be over." In fact, you will often see this verb in quite dramatic contexts, most often in the preterite tense:

 

Anda, ¡para! ¡ya! ¡Ya está, se acabó

Come on, stop! Now! That's it, it's over!

Captions 28-29, Carolina - Acentos

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Other colloquial translations for the expression ¡Se acabó! might include "That's it!" or "That's that!"

 

Se acabó, yo no voy a insistir.

That's it, I'm not going to insist.

Caption 1, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 5

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Para Acabar (to Conclude)... 

So, speaking of "being over":

 

Y colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado.

And snip, snap, snout, this tale's told out" [Literally: Red, red-colored, this tale has ended"].

Caption 65, Cleer La princesa y el guisante

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This common expression, the equivalent of the English, "And snip, snout, this tale's told out," often appears at the end of children's stories to say something like, "And that's all, folks!" On that note, we hope you've enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

 

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Porqué: The Reasons

No se tenía porqué poner zapatos.

There was no need to wear shoes.

Caption 30, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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In this space, just two weeks ago, we discussed que ("that") and ¿qué? ("what?"), porque ("because") and ¿por qué? ("why?"). In these instances, the accent over the é turned a conjunction into an interrogation.

This week, the affable archaeologist Federico Kauffman Doig reminds us of another porqué, which is a noun that means the reason, cause or motive for something. Because it's a noun, porqué has a gender – masculine – and is often preceded by a definite (el, los) or indefinite article (un, unos).

Related:

 

Nadie sabe [el] porqué de su abandono.

Nobody knows the reason for its abandonment.

Caption 39, Querido México - Teotihuacán

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Escuchar esta música en la voz de Alejandro nos hace recordar el porqué hacemos esto.

Listening to this music in Alejandro's voice makes us remember why (the reason) we do this.

Captions 12-13, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor

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Los porqués son...
The reasons are...
 
Un porqué
de...

A reason for....

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So, take this hint if you want to ace a Spanish spelling bee (un concurso de deletreo): If porqué is used as a noun, it's always one word and has an accent over its é.

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Pretender: Beware of False Cognates

Lo que pretendemos es sembrar en la gente la actitud de reducir...

What we seek is to instill in the people the attitude of reducing...

Caption 1, De consumidor a persona - Short Film

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It's easy enough to guess the meaning of some Spanish verbs. Take the environmentally helpful trio reducir, reutilizar and reciclar, for example. If you guessed the three verbs mean "to reduce," "to reutilize" and "to recycle," respectively, you're right on. Because Spanish and English share so many Latin language roots, many words sound similar–in other words, they are cognates. But watch out for false cognates, also known as false friends. Two examples are the verbs atender and asistir. In Spanish, atender does not mean "to attend," but "to serve." Meanwhile, asistir does not mean "to assist" but "to attend."

Which brings us back to the quote above. False friend pretender commonly means "to try,"
"to seek" or "to be after." So, the sentence above can be translated as: "What we seek is to instill [literally, "to sow"] in the people the attitude of reducing...."

While pretender and "pretend" have common Latin roots, the use of the word in English to mean "to seek" or "to undertake" fell out of use many moons ago. (Note the archaic definition still stands in some English dictionaries, like
this one.)

El gobierno pretende proteger los derechos de los trabajadores.
The government seeks (or tries) to protect the rights of the workers.

 

Este decreto en el cual el gobierno de España pretende cobrarnos un impuesto injusto, no tiene validez.

This decree, in which the government of Spain is attempting to charge us an unfair tax, is invalid.

Captions 12-13, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 9

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No pretendo ser tu dueño.
I don't want (or aspire) to be your master.

 

Yo no pretendo tener ninguna relación con ningún hombre después de Tomás.

I don't intend to have any relationship with any man after Tomas.

Caption 31, Yago - 11 Prisión

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¿Y qué pretendes que haga yo? Como si pudiera cambiar algo.
And what do you want me to do? As if I could change a thing.

 

¿Pretendes que vaya hasta allá a buscarla desnuda?

Do you expect me to go over there and get it naked?

Caption 27, Yago - 1 La llegada

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Note: the Spanish equivalent of "to pretend," as it is commonly used in modern English, is commonly fingir.

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Ganas: What We Want to Do

Pensamos que el agua, que el aire, que el suelo es nuestro y podemos hacer lo que nos dé la gana. No es cierto.

We think that the water, the air, the land is all ours and we can make what we feel like. That's not true.

Captions 10-13, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 2

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Gana, meaning "wish" or "will," is a noun that plays a key role to express wishes or desires in Spanish. The expression darle (a alguien) la gana means "to feel like" or "to want to."

lo que me dé la gana
what I feel like

lo que te dé la gana
what you feel like

 

...y te puedes venir aquí cuando te dé la gana, ¿yo te voy a perdonar?

...and you can come here whenever you feel like it, I am going to forgive you?

Caption 22, Yago - 11 Prisión

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lo que le dé la gana
what you feel like / what he-she feels like

 

¡Salte de alegría cuando le dé la gana!

Jump for joy whenever you feel like it!

Caption 4, Kikirikí - Animales

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lo que les dé la gana
what you [pl.] feel like / what they feel like

 

¿Hasta cuándo van a seguir haciendo lo que les dé la gana?

Until when are you guys going to keep doing whatever you [pl.] feel like?

Caption 42, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 3

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Even more common is the pairing of the verb tener ("to have") with the plural ganas, as in:

 

Tenía ganas de hacer algo, con eso y...

I wanted to do something, with it and...

Caption 68, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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Natalia is saying: "I wanted to do something with this." The word-for-word translation might have you thinking she had the will to do it, but common understanding is simply that she felt like it, or wanted to do it.

 

Tengo muchas ganas de aprender español.
I really want to learn Spanish.

 

A mí... yo tengo muchas ganas.

I... I really want to.

Caption 21, Amaya - Teatro romano

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No tengo ganas de parar ahora.
I don't want to stop now.

 

Gracias, Merycita, pero no tengo ganas de jugar.

Thank you, Merycita, but I don't feel like playing.

Caption 58, Club 10 - Capítulo 1

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Ni Papa: It Ain't No Thing

 

Porque a mí me encanta la música francés y árabe, y yo no entiendo ni papa...

Because I love French [more correct: "música francesa"] and Arabic music, and I don't understand a word...

Captions 58-59, Si*Sé - EPK

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When Carol C. of Si*Sé says with a shrug, yo no entiendo ni papa, it's easy enough for us to understand by the context that she doesn't understand a word. She could also have said no entiendo nada, which means "I don't understand anything." [Remember: you use the word nada ("nothing") instead of algo ("anything") after no in negative expressions in Spanish.]

But here singer C.C. chooses a common Spanish phrase for emphasis -ni papa. Ni means "not even" or "nor." That much is straightforward. But papa is one of those words with an almost comic array of meanings -from "Pope," as in
más papista que el papa ("more papist than the Pope"), to "potato," as in papas fritas ("french fries"). Well, one of the many meanings of papa comes from the Latin "pappa" and it means "baby food," "mush," or "pulp." And that's the meaning most commonly associated with the phrase ni papa (literally: "not even mush").

No puedo ver ni papa.
I can't see a thing.

Él no sabe ni papa.
He doesn't know a thing.

 

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Related:

Es una papa.
It's a piece of cake. [It's easily done/easily accomplished.]

No te preocupes por el examen, es una papa.
Don´t worry about the exam, it´s a piece of cake.

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Dar: It's the Land Giving

Y sembrar sus cositas por ahí... lo que da cebolla, tomate, al pimentón, el ají y otras cosas pues, por ahí.

And planting their little things around here... producing onion, tomato, red pepper, chili and other stuff, around here.

Captions 29-31, José Rodríguez - La Finca

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Have you noticed that the verb dar, which we usually take to mean "to give" seems to be used a lot in reference to the growing of fruits and vegetables. Well it turns out that what is doing the "giving," and sometimes it is implied, sometimes more explicit, is la tierra, "the land." Here we find José Rodríguez talking about people in the area "planting their little things around here... producing onion, tomato, red pepper, chili peppers, and other things, around here."

It's not the first time we find dar used in this way. If we check back with our friend Rafael discussing Guatemala:

 

La tierra... la tierra de las verduras... porque ahí hay'... da buenas... verduras, como repollo, zanahoria, cebolla... tomate...

The land... the land of vegetables... because there are'... it [the land] produces good... vegetables, like cabbage, carrot, onion... tomato...

Captions 14-16, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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Digamos en la costa, también da buenas frutas como la naranja, la sandía, la papaya, el melón... el coco.

Let's say in the coast, it also produces good fruit like oranges, watermelon, papaya, melon... coconut.

Captions 18-20, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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Another example:

Este año, mis tierras no han dado una buena cosecha.
This year, my lands didn't produce a good harvest.

 

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In all of the examples above, dar takes a direct object ("cabbage", "oranges", etc.). However, the reflexive darse can be used as well, with no direct object, and the meaning is "to grow," or "to come up." (This "reflexive" usage, as per the examples below, is somewhat more common in Spain than Latin America.)

He plantado aquí tomates, pero no se dan.
I planted tomatoes here, but they aren't growing (or "aren't coming up").

Las palmeras no se dan en Noruega.
Palm trees don't grow in Norway.

 

Estas papayas no se dan en todo lado.

These papayas don't occur everywhere.

Caption 10, Otavalo - Conozcamos el Mundo de las Frutas con Julia

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Que: It Also Means "Because"

Pero no te quedes ahí dándole vueltas a la cabeza, que tanto pensar no es bueno.

But don't stay there making your head spin, because thinking so much is not good.

Captions 31-32, De consumidor a persona - Short Film

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Que most often means "that." Slap an accent on the final e and we have qué, used to ask the question "what?" -- add por before qué and you have ¿por qué?, which asks the question "why?" ¿Por qué? is two words, but if we push the two together, without the accent on the e, we have porque, which is one word, and it means "because."

You may just know all that. What you might not have known is that que can also mean "because," or "as," and that's the meaning it takes in the line above.

Other examples:


No comas más, que no es bueno antes de ir a la cama.
Don't eat more, as it's not good before going to bed.

Obedéceme, que si no lo haces, te vas a arrepentir.
Obey me, because if you don't, you are going to regret it.

No corras, que el piso está mojado.
Don't run, because the floor is wet.

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En Aquel Entonces: Back Then

Mi papá fue maestro de escuela, director de las escuelas de las compañías petroleras Shell, en aquel entonces.

My dad was a school teacher, head of the schools of the Shell oil companies, in those days.

Captions 6-9, Emiro - La Historia de Emiro

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On the beach in Eastern Venezuela, Pimienta Café proprietor Emiro tells us about his family history. To tell us about life "back then," Emiro uses the phrase en aquel entonces, which might seem to mean "In that then," if taken literally. But this common expression of time is better understood as "in those times" or "in those days." 

 

Note the use of demonstrative adjective aquel here. Remember that in Spanish there are three demonstrative adjectives to say "this" and "that": este, ese AND aquel. The last of this demonstrative trio is sometimes translated as "that...way over there," implying more distance than a simple ese (or, "that"). So you should get a sense that Emiro is talking about what happened "way back when."

In the Columbian television series Los Años Maravillosos we hear the narrator speak of a simpler, more innocent time from his childhood.

 

Esa tarde salí a dar un paseo.

That afternoon I went out to take a walk.

En aquel entonces los niños todavía podían salir solos sin terminar en manos de un atracador.

Back then children could still go out alone without ending up in the hands of a thief.

Captions 1-3, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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Faithful readers might remember that we recently discussed a similar construction of time. You see, Hoy en día means "nowadays" even though it may appear to mean something like "today in day" if taken literally (and awkwardly). Back in Venezuela we have an example of Emiro using the phase while talking about his wife.

 

Luego aquí en Adícora conocí a una muchacha de aquí del pueblo, se llama Lizbeth, mi esposa ahora, hoy en día.

Then here in Adícora I met a girl from here in this town, named Lizbeth, my wife now, these days.

Captions 28-30, Emiro - La Historia de Emiro

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Trivial aside: It was an interview with two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolla that prompted our discussion of hoy en día just a few weeks ago. Well, the seemingly ubiquitous Santaolalla happens to be the producer of La Vela Puerca's album A Contraluz featuring the song (and our featured word) Zafar. We warned you this was trivia, right?

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Zafar: Getting Out and Getting By

¡Ay, pero por Dios, me va a ver! ¡Yo de ésta no puedo zafar!

Ay for God's sake, he's gonna see me! I can't dodge this one!

Caption 76, Provócame - Piloto

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Later, in the same scene, our heroine Ana has another breathless exclamation worthy of a closer look. In it, she uses the verb zafar, which can mean "to escape," "to free" or "to untie," according to the authoritative Spanish dictionary from the La Real Academia Española. Along these lines, a current popular song by the Uruguayan band La Vela Puerca is titled Zafar, in the sense of "To escape." The song discusses the fumes and smells of the city and is punctuated by the refrain: ...estoy zafando del olor ("...I am escaping from the smell").

In neighboring, Argentina, you hear the verb zafar all the time on the city streets, with a more modern, slangy meaning: "to get by." For example, if you ask an Argentine how he's doing, he may answer, estoy zafando, meaning "I'm hanging in there."

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Ver la cara: Taken for a Fool

¡Te vieron la cara! ¡Dame!

They took you for a fool! Give me that!

Caption 65, Provócame - Piloto

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A literal translation of Te vieron la cara would seem to mean "They saw your face." However, there is an expression in many Latin American countries that goes me/te/se/nos vieron la cara de idiota, which translates literally to something like "they saw my/your/his/her/our face as the face of an idiot" but which is best taken as "They took me/you/him/her for a fool." The ending de idiota is often dropped and merely implied, so when Ana declares ¡Te vieron la cara! she means "They took you for a fool!" (By the way, while this expression is found from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, you are not bound to hear it in Spain.)

Depending on the context of the situation, the phrase can also mean they took you for something else besides a fool. For example, if you are charged a hefty sum for a street taco in downtown Tijuana, you might suspect "They took me for a tourist," Me vieron la cara de turista.

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Monte de Piedad: Merciful Pawn Shops

Monte de Piedad

Mount of Mercy

Caption 3, Control Machete - El Apostador

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Monte de Piedad translates literally to "Mount of Mercy," which sounds like a religiously inspired exclamation use to punctuate this tale of gaming overindulgence; it is in fact the name of Mexico's facinating chain of state-run and state-controlled pawn shops. These exist throughout the country and are actively used by a surprisingly large percentage of the Mexican population on a fairly regular basis.

An excellent write-up including a modern account and full history:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nacional_Monte_de_Piedad
Also worth reading:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1280276,00.html

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Che, Boludo: Argentinian 101

Che boluda... ¿qué te pasa? Estás como loca hoy.

Hey silly [potentially insulting, not amongst close friends]... what's up? Today you're like crazy.

Caption 3, Cuatro Amigas - Piloto - Part 3

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Our third installment of Cuatro Amigas – a very Sex and the City-like Argentine drama – opens in the ladies' bathroom, where we get a chihuahua's eye view of Elena and Rita's taste in intimate apparel. They are chatting intimately, addressing each other with che in caption 3 (cited above) and again in caption 14. In Argentina, che means "hey" between friends, or even "yo." Basically, it's a familiar, informal attention getter... che, got that?

If you watched 2004's Motorcycle Diaries, chronicling the cross-continent journeys that raised the consciousness of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, you know how Che got his famous nickname. For the rest of you: The Chileans were simply making fun of young Ernesto's Argentine habit of saying che all the time. (For more lore about the Marxist revolutionary, look for the two-part 2008 biopic called Che, with Benicio del Toro as a very convincing Che.)

Back to the quote cited above, which is translated as, "Hey silly, what's going on with you?" But we put a special note next to our translation of "silly" because that's not the whole story. Boludo or boluda is a slang word in Argentina that roughly means something more like "jerk." Use it with caution in the streets of Buenos Aires because it can be quite an insult, depending on the context. But between girlfriends, it's almost another way to say "hey... you."

 

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Bien: Well, OK

Bueno... está bien, Tere.

All right... Tere, OK.

Caption 30, Verano Eterno - Fiesta Grande

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Bien, usually meaning "well" or "OK," has a plethora of uses that can change slightly in meaning depending on the context. Here, Tere's mother tells her that "it's OK" for her to take piano lessons with Juan. "OK" is a fairly typical translation for bien.

 

Es ahora bien buena madre con los hijos adoptivos

Now she is such a good mother with the adopted children

Captions 42-43, José Luís Acacio - Simón Bolívar

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The word bien, when placed before an adjective, tends to emphasize the meaning of that adjective. Here, that emphasis is perhaps best translated as "very" or "such a" to give us "Now, she's a very good mother" (or "such a good mother").

Note that when it's not used to describe your mother, bien buena, on it's own, most often means "really hot" or "really fine," (in the colloquial sense) and is used referring to some sexy thing.


¡Mamacita, estas bien buena!
Girl, you are damn fine!

 

Entonces que nosotros, pues, tenemos una... tenemos un dialecto que es bien bonito.

So it's that we, well, have a... we have a dialect that is quite beautiful.

Captions 47-48, Rafael T. - La Cultura Maya

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Sometimes that emphasis that the word bien gives to the adjective it precedes seems to be best translated as "quite," which in this case gives us: "We have a dialect that is quite beautiful."

Bien is used for emphasis in a variety of sayings that are common among younger speakers often prone to exaggeration:

Cantas bien mal.
You sing really badly.

 

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Keep your eyes open for many more interesting uses of bien!

Yo no me acuerdo pero bien pudo ser.
I don't remember but it well could have been (or, easily may have been).

 

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Amamantar, Mecer y Arrullar: Motherly Words

Y después de amamantarlos tanto a unos como otros

And after nursing them each one like the other

Captions 45-46, José Luís Acacio - Simón Bolívar

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José's patriotic tune personifies Venezuela as a mother and in so doing introduces us to some great words for motherly attention.

Amamantar means "to nurse" or even more literally "to breast feed" (coming from the root for mammary glands, mama), and so here we have "And later to nurse them...". This really reinforces the notion of amor carnal ("bodily love") that Madre Venezuela shows her people.

 

Con ese amor tan carnal meciéndolos en su hamaca

With such a carnal love rocking them in her swing

Captions 47-48, José Luís Acacio - Simón Bolívar

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Mecer means "to cradle," "to swing," or "to sway." So here he sings of Madre Venezuela cradling or swinging her children "in their hammock."

 

Los dormía y arrullaba con nuestro himno nacional

She put them to sleep and lulled them with our national anthem

Captions 49-50, José Luís Acacio - Simón Bolívar

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Arrullar means "to lull" or "to coo" (refering to the noise made by pigeons and that made by mothers to lull their babies). Therefore, "She put them to sleep and lulled them."

 

So a late afternoon routine for a mother might go like this:

 

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En la tarde, la madre amamanta el bebe si tiene hambre. Después para que sea quieto, le arrulla en sus brazos. Entonces, cuando ya está más quieto, ella pone el bebe en la cuna ("cradle") y le mece hasta que entra el sueño.

 

In the afternoon, the mother breastfeeds the baby if he is hungry. Then for him to be still, she cradles him in her arms. So, when he is more still, she puts the baby in her crib ("cradle") and rocks him until he falls asleep.

 

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Gustar vs. "To Like": A Difference in Perception - Part 1

The verb gustar, or Spanish equivalent of "to like," tends to confuse English speakers because, in terms of the relationship between a sentence's subject and object, it functions in exactly the opposite way. To better understand this, let's define these two terms:

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Generally speaking, the subject of a sentence is the person, place, thing, or idea that performs an action.

 

The object of a sentence is the person, place, thing, or idea that receives the action of the sentence's verb. 

 

A very simple example of this concept would be: "I threw the ball," where "I" is the subject, or performer of the action, and "the ball" is the object, or recipient of the action. 

 

That said, with the English verb "to like," it is the subject of the sentence that "does the liking." Let's look at a few simple examples:

 

She likes pizza ("She" is the subject who performs the action of liking onto the object, "pizza").

 

Anna and John like dogs ("Anna and John" is the subject; they perform the action of liking onto the object, "dogs"). 

 

We like you ("We" is the subject that performs the action of liking onto the object, "you"). 

 

In Spanish, on the other hand, the subject, or performer of the action, is the person, place, or thing that, in English, is "being liked." To see this in action, let's take a look at some captions from a Yabla video on this very topic:

 

Me gusta mucho este parqueA ti también te gusta ¿verdad? Sí, me gustan las plantas. Sí, a mí me gustan las plantas y las flores y los árboles

I really like this parkYou like it too, right? Yes, I like the plants. Yes, I like the plants and the flowers and the trees.

Captions 9-13, Conversaciones en el parque - Cap. 5: Me gusta mucho este parque.

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In Spanish, este parque (this park), las plantas (the plants), and las plantas y las flores y los árboles (the plants and the flowers and the trees) are the subjects of these sentences, as they are thought to "cause" the implied objects yo (I) and tú (you) to like them. In their English translations, on the other hand, "I" and "you" are the subjects of the sentences, whereas "this park," "it," "the plants," and "the plants and the flowers and the trees" are the objects that receive the action of liking. 

 

While this difference in perception may confuse English speakers, it is useful to note that the English verb "to please" functions similarly to "gustar" in terms of the subject-object relationship. Therefore, it may be a good exercise to substitute this verb for "to like" when translating Spanish sentences with "gustar" or attempting to formulate new ones. Let's take a look at our previous example, this time translated with the verb "to please": 

 

Me gusta mucho este parque. A ti también te gusta ¿verdad? Sí, me gustan las plantas. Sí, a mí me gustan las plantas y las flores y los árboles. 

This park really pleases me. It also pleases you, right? Yes, the plants please me. Yes, the plants and the flowers and the trees please me. 

 

To reiterate this concept, let's take a look at some additional examples where the verb gustar has been translated as "to like" while providing their alternative translations with "to please":

 

1.

Me gustan mucho las chaquetas de piel.

I really like leather jackets.

Caption 32, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14

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ALTERNATIVE TRANSLATION: 

Me gustan mucho las chaquetas de piel

Leather jackets really please me. 

 

2.

Yo te quiero así y me gustas porque eres diferente

I love you like that, and I like you because you're different

Caption 12, Carlos Vives, Shakira - La Bicicleta

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ALTERNATIVE TRANSLATION:

Yo te quiero así y me gustas porque eres diferente 

I love you like that, and you please me because you're different

 

3. 

¿Te gusta trabajar aquí, te gusta? -No, no me gusta, no.

Do you like working here, do you like it? -No, I don't like it, no.

Caption 77, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 12

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ALTERNATIVE TRANSLATION: 

¿Te gusta trabajar aquí, te gusta? -No, no me gusta, no. 

Does working here please you, does it please you? -No, it doesn't please me, no. 


Note that while the alternative translations are grammatically correct, their primary purpose here is to help us to understand how the Spanish verb "gustar" functions. As in everyday speech, it would be far less common to hear someone say "You please me" than "I like you," the translations with "to like" are preferable in most cases.

 

Now that we are familiar with the different manners in which the English and Spanish languages express the concept of "liking," it's time to learn how to conjugate the verb "gustar," which we'll cover in the next lesson. That's all for today, and don't forget to leave us your comments and suggestions.

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