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Verbs with the Prefix A

One of the most common prefixes used in Spanish is a. This prefix is very interesting because when coming from the Latin prefix ab- or abs-, a- denotes separation or privation, but when coming from the Latin prefix ad-, a- denotes approximation or presence. Another interesting and useful aspect of this prefix is that it can be added to certain nouns and adjectives to form verbs.


Let's compare the different uses of the prefix a-. Take the word ausente (absent). This is a perfect example of the use of the prefix a- to indicate separation. We have a full movie titled El Ausente:  

Ya llegó el que andaba ausente

Now he arrived, the one who was absent

y éste no consiente nada...

and this one does not allow anything...

Captions 9-10, El Ausente - Acto 3

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Strikingly enough, the prefix a- can also mean approximation or presence. A good example is the verb asistir  meaning "to attend":

Siempre hemos de asistir personalmente a la entidad bancaria.

We should always go personally to the banking entity.

Caption 13, Raquel - Abrir una cuenta bancaria

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Much more practically useful is to know that we can add the prefix a- to other words, like nouns and adjectives, to form verbs. Below is an example from a video published this week. The verb acostumbrar (to get used to) is formed with the prefix a and the noun costumbre (custom, use):

Vea, Pepino, hay sitios donde les enseñan a los animales

Look, Pepino [Cucumber], there are places where they teach animals

a que se vuelvan a acostumbrar a su hábitat.

to become used to their habitat again.

Captions 10-11, Kikirikí - Animales

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Now, using the noun tormento (torment) we get the verb atormentar (to torment): 

Eso seguro era algo que podía atormentarlos.

That surely was something that could torment them.

Caption 46, La Sub30 - Familias

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There are so many! From susto (fright) you get asustar (to scare):

¡Ay no, Candelario! No me asustes.

Oh no, Candelario! Don't scare me.

Caption 44, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes

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You can also use adjectives. For example, lejos (far) and cerca (close) give us alejar (to put or to go far away), and acercar (to put or to get close):

Después me alejaré

Then I will go away

Caption 22, Reyli - Qué nos pasó

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Ella trataba de acercarse a mí.

She tried to get close to me.

Caption 9, Biografía - Pablo Echarri

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Here is a list with more examples. Maybe you can find them in our Spanish catalog.

Tonto (fool) - atontar (to fool or become a fool)
Plano (flat) - aplanar (to flatten) 
Grande (big) - agrandar (to make bigger)
Pasión (passion) - apasionar (to become passionate)
Nido (nest) - anidar (to form a nest)
Morado (purple) - amoratar (to get or give bruises)
Francés (French) - afrancesar (to become French-like)
Grieta (crack) - agrietar (to crack)


Llevar and Traer - Part 2

Llevar and Traer - Part 1

Let's continue our lesson on llevar (to take, to carry) and traer (to bring). 


We have said that the verb llevar (to bring) expresses that something or someone has (or contains) something:

¿Quién es el que ha hecho el arroz?

Who is the one who has made the rice?

¿Qué lleva el arroz, Manolo?

What does the rice have in it, Manolo?

Captions 21-22, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 12

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The previous example could have used the verb haber (to have): ¿Qué hay en el arroz, Manolo?, or the verb tener (to have, to be): ¿Qué tiene el arroz, Manolo?

This is not the only way llevar can be used instead of haber or tener. For example, it can replace tener when it's used to express the duration of time:


Yo ya llevo veintitrés años aquí ya.

I have already been here for twenty-three years now.

Caption 65, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 18

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Compare to: Yo ya he estado veintitrés años aquí and yo ya tengo veintitrés años (which mean exactly the same). 

The construction llevar + gerund is also very popular in Spanish. It's used to indicate how much time you are 'carrying' under your belt (so to speak) performing a given action:

¿Cuánto tiempo llevan intentando vender el piso?

How long have you been trying to sell the apartment?

Caption 51, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 12

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Compare to: ¿Cuánto tiempo han estado intentando vender el piso? and ¿Cuánto tiempo tienen intentando vender el piso? (which mean exactly the same). 

El caso es que llevo esperando

The issue is that I have been waiting

un rato en la puerta de embarque B siete.

for a while at the boarding gate B seven.

Caption 37, Raquel - Avisos de Megafonía

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Equivalent expressions are: He estado esperando un rato, and Tengo esperando un rato.

Llevar is also used in the expression para llevar, which means "to go" or "takeout":

¿Y aquí, antes qué había?

And here, what was there before?

Aquí había unas comidas para llevar.

There were some takeout places here.

Captions 7-8, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 10

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The expression llevarse con alguien means to get along with someone, either badly or well:

Mi amiga María se lleva muy bien con mi amigo Alberto.

My friend Maria gets along very well with my friend Alberto.

Caption 10, El Aula Azul - Mis Amigos

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No se lleva muy bien con Aldo, Lucio.

Lucio doesn't get along very well with Aldo.

Caption 7, Yago - 6 Mentiras

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Check out too: Me llevo mal con mi jefe | I get along badly with my boss.

In Mexico, the expression llevarse con alguien, means to treat someone in a overfamiliar, playful, usually disrespectful way. There is even a saying that goes, El que se lleva se aguanta. Literally, it means something like "One who plays the game must endure it," similar to the English expressions "If you play with fire, you will get burned," and "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen."

Curiously, the verb traer (to bring) is used in a similar expression: traerla con alguien, or traerla contra alguien, which means to "hold a grudge," or "to have a certain animosity toward somebody:"

¿Por qué la trae con nosotros?

Why does he hold a grudge against us?

Caption 23, El Ausente - Acto 3

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The expression ¿Qué te traes? (What's up with you?) could be used in different situations with different purposes:

He notado tu tristeza estos días. ¿Qué te traes?
I've noticed your sadness these days. What's up with you?

¿Tú qué te traes? ¿Quieres pelea?
What's up with you? Do you want a fight?

¿Qué se traen ustedes dos? ¿ Qué están tramado?
What are you two up to? What are you planning?