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On Shadows, Monks, and Saints

Let's study and learn some Spanish expressions by reviewing the way real Spanish speakers use them in real situations. Our always-growing catalog of Spanish videos contains many examples!

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Ni a sol ni sombra (literally "neither under the sun nor the shade") is a lively expression that means "no matter what" or simply "never." It's very similar to the English expression "rain or shine”:

 

¿Te acordás del chal de La Negra Cardoso?

Do you remember "La Negra" Cardoso's shawl?

-¿La Negra Cardoso? Oh sí.

-"La Negra" Cardoso? Oh, yes.

No se lo sacaba ni a sol ni a sombra.

She didn't take it off rain or shine.

Captions 51-53, Yago - 6 Mentiras

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It's important to note that this Spanish expression may be used in situations in which English wouldn't necessarily use "rain or shine." You can read some examples below. We are using idiomatic translations here:

No soporto a mi jefe, no me deja en paz ni a sol ni sombra/ I can't stand my boss, he's always breathing down my neck.
Su leal perro no le dejaba ni a sol ni a sombra. / His loyal dog never left his side.

In fact, the word sombra (meaning "shadow" or "shade") is used in many other Spanish expressions. Some examples you may be interested in learning are below. We have included a literal translation first, and then an idiomatic translation:

Él no tiene ni sombra de sospecha/ He hasn't a shadow of suspicion. / He is clueless.
Busqué, pero no había ni sombra de ella. / I looked, but there wasn't even a shadow of her. / I looked, but there was no sign of her.
No soy ni la sombra de lo que era. / I'm not even the shadow of what I used to be. / I'm only a shadow of what I used to be.


Let's see another expression. This is an easy one to learn, because it has an exact match in English:

 

¡Bueno, que el hábito no hace al monje!

Well, the thing is that the habit does not make the monk!

Era un chistecito.

It was a little joke.

Captions 17-18, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido

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This recalls yet another expression that exists both in Spanish and English, and probably in many other languages as well:

 

Tu marido es un santo. -¡Ah, por favor!

Your husband is a saint. -Oh, please!

Caption 17, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa

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There are other Spanish expressions that use the word santo (saint) in a much more creative way. For example, the expression no ser santo de mi devoción (literally, "to not be a saint of my devotion") is used to express that you are not particularly fond of someone. This expression is equivalent to the English expression "not my cup of tea." There’s an interesting parallel between England's affection for tea and the devotion to saints in Spanish-speaking countries, don't you think?

Por favor, no invites a Julián. Sabes que él no es santo de mi devoción.
Please, do not invite Julian. You know he's not my cup of tea.


More difficult to translate is the expression a santo de qué, which is used to question the purpose or validity of something. It's a less sophisticated synonym of the expression en virtud de qué, itself the interrogative form of the expression en virtud de que, which also exists in English ("by virtue of"). Of course, using the expression a santo de qué is a very colloquial choice, one that will give people a very good impression of your Spanish skills:

 

¿A santo de qué voy a ir a almorzar con vos?

Why in God's name am I going to go have lunch with you?

Caption 73, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema

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In this context, it wouldn't be uncommon for a Spanish speaker to use en virtud de qué instead. Saying ¿En virtud de qué voy a ir a almorzar con vos? may sound a little posh, but it’s totally acceptable. On the contrary, as you know, using "by virtue of what" in this situation wouldn't really be appropriate in English.

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Finally, let's review another expression related to the word santo (saint) that exists both in English and Spanish, with subtle differences. While in English the expressions "patron saint's day" and "saint's day" do exist, it's more common to simply say "name day" instead. In Spanish, on the contrary, expressions like hoy es día de su santo patrono("today is his patron saint's day") or hoy es el día de su santo (today is his saint's day) are as common as the extremely abbreviated form used in this example taken from the Mexican movie El Ausente:
 

Es santo de Felipe, ¿sabes?

It's Felipe's name day, you know?

Caption 11, El Ausente - Acto 1

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Caption 53, 52, 51
Adv-Intermediate

¡Para nada, nada que ver!

Spanish has some interesting forms of negation. This lesson explores one of them.

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In a new installment of the always-passionate series Yago, Pasión Morena (yes, that's its original title), we hear the expression para nada (at all, literally "for nothing"), which can be added to any given negative expression to add more emphasis to it. The construction is simple: you add the expression para nada to any standard negation formed with the word no and a conjugated verb. Consequently, no es (it's not) becomes no es para nada (it's not at all), no salgo (I don't go out) becomes no salgo para nada (I don't go out at all), and so on. Here's an example:
 

Pienso que no es para nada adecuado el casamiento.

I think that the wedding is not appropriate at all.

Caption 32, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 5

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Pretty straightforward, right? On the other hand, Spanish also allows for a different (but less common) option. You can actually get rid of the word no and place the verb afterpara nada. So, in the previous example, the expression could also be: Pienso que para nada es adecuado el casamiento (I think that the weeding isn't appropriate at all). Here's a similar example from our catalog:
 

Pero para nada es así.

But it isn't that way at all.

Caption 11, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf - Part 2

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In Spanish you can also use this expression as a sort of short negative answer. You can either say no, para nada, or simply para nada:
 

¿Te molesta que lo haya hecho sin consultarte? -¡No, para nada!

Does it bother you that I have done it without consulting you? -No, not at all!

Captions 51-52, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 7

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Now, pay attention to the following example, because no... para nada can also simply mean "not... for anything:"
 

Esto fuera, que no lo usamos para nada.

This one out, as we don't use it for anything.

Caption 67, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 7

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Las ayudas pueden hacer muchas escuelas, pero sin profesores no sirven para nada.

The aid can make many schools, but without teachers they're not good for anything.

Caption 35, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 4

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Conversely, para nada alone (without using the word no) can also mean "for nothing." This usage is not very common in Spanish, but you can find it in expressions such as tú eres un bueno para nada (you are a good-for-nothing).

By the way, you should know that it's possible to combine para nada (whether it means "for nothing" or "at all") with other negative words besides no, for example: nunca or jamas (never), tampoco (either), nadie (nobody), etc. Check out the following examples:

Las segundas partes nunca sirven para nada Second parts are never good for anything.
Este licuado tampoco me gusta para nada / I don't like this smoothie at all either.
Sal de aquí, nadie te necesita aquí para nada / Get out of here, nobody needs you here at all.
(Depending on context, this last one may also be translated as "nobody needs you here for anything"). 

Speaking of nada (nothing), in previous lessons we have discussed the expression nada que ver (to have nothing to do with, literally "nothing to see"). It's generally used as part of a longer statement such as Yo no tengo nada que ver contigo (I have nothing to do with you). However, it's also possible to use nada que ver as a short, emphatic negative answer similar to para nada that is somewhat equivalent to "not at all," "nothing like that," or even "of course not," depending on the tone and context. Strictly speaking, it's really just a shortened version of the expression no, eso no tiene nada que ver (no, that has nothing to do with it). Here is an example:

No, nada que ver... Mejor no me cuentes nada. -Bueno.
No, nothing like that... On second thought, don't tell me anything. -OK.

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So, how would you translate or, even more important, use the expression that makes up the title of this lesson? Can you imagine a context in which you could use it? Here's one:

Entonces estás enamorado de Sofía. -¡Para nada, nada que ver!
So you are in love with Sofia. -Not at allof course not!

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