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Expressions That Matter

While watching one of our new videos we came across an interesting and common expression:


¿Y eso qué tiene que ver?

And what does that have to do with anything?

Yo también fui al velorio del obrero.

I also went to the worker's wake.

Caption 26, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido

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As always, our video captions contain a translation that is as literal as possible. We translated tiene que ver as "have to do" because the expression tener que ver (literally "to have to see") actually means "to have to do" or "to relate to" in Spanish. For example:


Creemos que el espíritu de las canciones

We believe that the spirit of the songs

tiene que ver con esos personajes.

has to do with those characters.

Captions 66-67, Bersuit Vergarabat - EPK 

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The expression is also used in the negative form by adding the words no and nada (nothing):


¡No me interesa!

I don't care!

Me voy.

I'm leaving.

Tú y yo no tenemos nada que ver, ¿OK?

You and I don't have anything to do with each other, OK?

Captions 77-79, Yago - 8 Descubrimiento

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This last example is also interesting because it shows how the expression tener que ver doesn't always need a complement such as el uno con el otro (with each other), which is something you absolutely need in English. But in Spanish, leaving the expression as it is implies that tener que ver by itself means "to have to do with each other". However, we could add a different complement to the same expression, changing the meaning of what we are saying. We could say, for example: Tú y yo no tenemos nada que ver con el robo (You and I have nothing to do with the robbery). Here is another example:


Volvemos con la Sub30 y este tema que

We're back with the Sub30 and this topic that

no tiene nada que ver con tribus urbanas.

has nothing to do with urban tribes.

Caption 1, La Sub30 - Familias

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By the way, this also explains why, in the first example of this lesson, we can't translate ¿y eso qué tiene que versimply as "and what does that have to do?" since this is an incomplete phrase in English. 

Now, by extension, no tener que ver also means no importar (to not matter). However, since the use of the expression no importa (it doesn't matter) prevails in Spanish, people don't really use no tener que ver to express the same idea. What people do use is the rhetorical question ¿qué tiene que ver? to express that something doesn't matter. Yes, just as English uses the rhetorical question "what does it matter?" to mean "it doesn't matter," Spanish uses the question ¿Qué tiene que ver? to mean no tiene (nada) que ver (= no importa). 

So, going back to our first example, another valid, shorter, and perhaps more common way to translate the caption is:


¿Y eso qué tiene que ver? Yo también fui al velorio del obrero.

And what does does it matter? I also went to the worker's wake.

Caption 26, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido

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To finish this lesson we want to share two more expressions that are used in Spanish to express that something doesn't matter (or rather, that it's beside the point). The first one is no venir al caso, (literally "it doesn't come to the case"). Here's an example:

¿Por qué crees que el amor justifica tus actos? Eso no viene al caso.
Why do you think love justifies your actions? That is irrelevant.


The other expression is no venir al cuento, which is very similar to no venir al caso but substitutes caso (case) with cuento (story, tale). If it's true that "literature is life, and life is literature" it makes a lot of sense, don't you think? Here is an example:

Ya no viene al cuento recordar el pasado.
It's beside the point to remember the past.

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