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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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.

And it's very funny because Pedro is totally the opposite of Carolina.

Es bajo, es gordo...

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

How to Use Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns - Part 1

How to Use Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns - Part 2

Direct and indirect object pronouns in Spanish are used to substitute indirect and direct objects. This lesson explores the proper way to do these substitutions using examples from our catalog of videos.

 

The direct and indirect object pronouns in Spanish are identical except for the third-person singular and plural (him, her, it, them)  and the second-person formal (you) forms:

 

Subject pronouns       Direct object pronouns      Indirect Object pronouns  

 

yo

 

I

   

  

me me     me me

 

 

you   te you   te you

 

él, ella, usted

 

he,

she,

you (formal)

  lo, la

        him,

her,

it,

you

  le him, her, you

 

nosotros, nosotras

 

we   nos us   nos us

 

vosotros, vosotras

 

you (plural familiar)   os you (plural familiar)   os you (plural familiar)
ellos, ellas, ustedes      they,           you (plural       formal)   los, las them, you (plural formal)   les them, you (plural formal)

 

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So, the pronoun me is used to substitute either the direct object, as in:

 

A Adícora me trajo el viento.

The wind brought me to Adícora.

Caption 7, Adícora, Venezuela - Darío y el Kitesurfing

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Or the indirect object, as in:

 

Mi papá había ido a Nueva York

My father had gone to New York

en un viaje de negocios y me trajo unos discos.

on a business trip and brought me some records.

Caption 1, Carli Muñoz - Niñez

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In the previous example, me is the indirect object, while unos discos (some records) is the direct object, which is a plural masculine noun that according to our table is substituted by los (them). So, to substitute both objects you must say: me los trajo (he brought them to me).

 

Now, the pronoun te is used to substitute either the direct object:

 

Y de este lado sólo te revuelca,

And from this side it only pushes you around,

pero del otro lado te come.

but from the other side it eats you.

Captions 37-38, Antonio Vargas - Artista - Comic

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or the indirect object:

 

Bueno y por eso te traje las aspirinas.

Well, and that's why I brought you the aspirins.

Caption 43, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza

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In the previous example, te is the indirect object, while las aspirinas (the aspirins) is the direct object, which is a plural feminine noun that according to our table is substituted by las (them). So, to substitute both objects you must say: te las traje (I brought them to you).

 

For the third person of singular (him, her, it & formal "you"), though, Spanish uses lola for direct object and le for indirect object. So, for a feminine noun as cicatriz (scar) in the direct object position we use la (in genderless English we use "it"):

 

Porque tiene una pequeña cicatriz en el brazo que sólo yo conozco

Because he has a small scar on his arm that only I know about

porque se la hizo jugando conmigo.

because he got it playing with me.

Captions 41-42, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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For a masculine noun as pollo (chicken) in the direct object position we use lo (again, English uses "it"):

 

Ya tenemos listo aquí nuestro pollo.

We already have our chicken ready here.

Y lo decoramos con un poco de ajonjolí y cebollín.

And we decorate it with a bit of sesame seeds and chives.

Captions 17-18, [Bears in the Kitchen] Osos en la cocina - Pollo asiático

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Take note that lo and la are also used for usted (the formal you) in the direct object position. Lo is used for a noun in the direct object position that designates a male person (Morgan):

 

Morgan, la Señorita Victoria

Morgan, Miss Victoria

está enterada de su regreso y lo espera en el escritorio.

is aware of your return and awaits you in the study.

Caption 29, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta

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Or la for a noun in the direct object position that designates a female person (let's say Ms. Gonzalez):

Señora Gonzalez, el doctor la verá a las diez.
Ms. Gonzalez, the doctor will see you at ten.

 

On the other hand, the indirect object uses a different pronoun le (him, her, it & formal "you"). So, for a masculine noun like muchacho (boy) in the indirect object position we use le:

 

Otro muchacho que nunca escuchó

Another boy that never listened

Los consejos que su madre le dio

To the advice his mother gave him

Captions 40-41, La Secta - Consejo

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And we would also use le if we were talking about una muchacha (a girl):

Otra muchacha que nunca escuchó los consejos que su madre le dio
Another girl that never listened to the words of advice his mother gave her

 

Equally, we use le if we are addressing someone formally:

Usted que nunca escuchó los consejos que su madre le dio
You who never listened to the words of advice your mother gave you

 

Got it? Now a test. How do you substitute not only the indirect object (muchacho, muchacha, usted), but also the direct object los consejos (the words of advise) in the previous examples? This is how:

 

Otro muchacho que nunca escuchó los que su madre le dio
Another boy that never listened to the ones his mother gave him

 

Otra muchacha que nunca escuchó los que su madre le dio
Another boy that never listened to the ones his mother gave her

 

Usted que nunca escuchó los que su madre le dio
You who never listened to the ones your mother gave you

 

It's interesting to note how English can't use "them" to replace "the words of advise" in this particular construction because the wording is odd (it's somehow odd in Spanish as well). So let's simplify the example (the indirect object and indirect pronouns appear in bold):

 

Mamá dio unos consejos al muchacho / Mamá se los dio.
Mom gave the boy some words of advise / Mom gave them to him.

 

Mamá dio unos consejos a la muchacha / Mamá se los dio.
Mom gave the girl some words of advise / Mom gave them to her.

 

Mamá dio unos consejos a usted / Mamá se los dio. 
Mom gave you some words of advise / Mom gave them to you.

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As you can see, it was now possible to use "them" to replace "the words of advise" in English. But did you notice that Spanish used se instead of le to replace the indirect object this time! Why is that? Well, that's because in Spanish there's a special rule for combining pronouns: when le(s) and lo(s)/la(s) would end up next to each other in a sentence you must use se instead. So you can never say Mamá le los dio, you must say Mamá se los dio. We will learn more about this rule and continue with the plural forms of the direct and indirect pronouns in Part II of this lesson.

Grammar

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.

Vocabulary

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