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The Preposition en in Spanish

Are you familiar with prepositions in Spanish? In this lesson, we will talk about the preposition en, which is one of the most commonly used prepositions in the Spanish language. In fact, this preposition works like the English prepositions “in,” “on” and “at.” Let's take a look. 

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How to use the preposition en in Spanish

 

We use the preposition en when we want to state that something ocurred in a particular year or when we want to make a reference to a particular season or month of the year. In other words, we use the preposition en when talking about time.

 

Esa institución dejó de existir en mil novecientos noventa y nueve.

That institution ceased to exist in nineteen ninety-nine.

Caption 60, Carlos comenta - Los Años Maravillosos - Costumbres alimenticias y conflicto

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Y en invierno suele hacer mucho frío.

And in winter it tends to be very cold.

Caption 15, Clara explica - El tiempo

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En abril, llueve mucho.

In April, it rains a lot.

Caption 17, El Aula Azul - Estaciones y Meses

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When it comes to time, we also use the preposition en when we want to express a particular amount of time:

 

En veinte minutos se va a servir la cena.

In twenty minutes dinner is going to be served.

Caption 3, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa

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The preposition en in Spanish is also used when we want to indicate the location of a person or object.

 

Estoy en la escuela, El Aula Azul.

I am at the school, The Blue Classroom.

Caption 4, El Aula Azul - Ser y Estar

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El perro de Ana duerme en el horno.

Ana's dog sleeps in the oven.

Caption 5, Extr@: Extra en español - Ep. 1 - La llegada de Sam

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One of the most common uses of the preposition en is when we use it to talk about means of transportation.

 

Me fui a Bélgica con mi novio en avión.

I went to Belgium with my boyfriend on a plane.

Caption 2, Blanca y Mariona - Proyectos para el verano

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The preposition en is also used to express the value of something.

 

Y las cabañas sin baño están en ochenta mil pesos.

And the cabins without a bathroom go for eighty thousand pesos.

Caption 35, Cleer y Lida - Reservando una habitación

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Finally, the preposition en is also used to indicate how something is carried out.

 

En silencio pensaré tan sólo en ti

In silence I will think only of you

Caption 34, La Oreja de Van Gogh - Deseos De Cosas Imposibles

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In this example, notice how we can use the preposition en along with the verb pensar (to think) when we want to express "thinking of" someone or something.

 

Common expressions that use the preposition en in Spanish

Apart from the uses we have mentioned above, the preposition en can be found in various expressions that are quite common in Spanish. Let's look at some of them:

 

¿Es en serio?

Seriously?

Caption 50, Conversaciones en el parque - Cap. 2: Cafe y bocadillos

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Acuérdate que tenemos muchos amigos en común.

Remember that we have a lot of friends in common.

Caption 14, Los casos de Yabla - Problemas de convivencia

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En realidad, sólo con la práctica podemos entender mejor.

Actually, only with practice can we better understand.

Caption 64, Carlos explica - Tuteo, ustedeo y voseo: Conjugación

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To summarize, the following are the most common uses of the preposition en in Spanish:

 

- When talking about time (years, month, seasons or amount of time)

- To indicate the location of a person or an object

- To indicate the means of transportation

- To express the value of something

- To indicate how something is carried out.

- In some very common expressions

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That's it for today. Now that you know how to use the preposition en in Spanish, try to write some sentences with all the different uses we mentioned throughout this lesson. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions.

Very Polite Independent Clauses Using Subjunctive

Let's go back to the subjunctive just a little. Did you know that one characteristic that sets apart the subjunctive mood from the indicative, conditional, and the imperative is the fact that the subjunctive is found primarily in dependent clauses? (Of course, the other moods can occur there as well.) Let's illustrate this with an example from one of our videos:
 

¿Que estás queriendo que se muera más rápido?

What are you wanting for him to die faster?

Caption 12, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 9

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This is a classic example of subjunctive, right? It's being used to talk about a wish, a hypothetical situation. We have highlighted the subjunctive muera in bold and underlined the indicative queriendo to clearly show you the way the subjunctive is used as part of compound sentences: the indicative queriendo plays the main role as the independent clause (the action of wanting), while the subjunctive muera refers to the action that depends on it (the action of dying). This is the way the subjunctive is used most of the time. 

 

But the subjunctive is sometimes used in independent clauses. One of the most interesting cases is when the imperfect subjunctive is used to replace the conditional forms of the verbs poder (to be able), querer (to want), and deber (must) as part of what in Spanish is called el subjuntivo de cortesía (the courtesy subjunctive). As its name indicates, this construction is used to make a request or a suggestion in a more gentle, polite, or deferential way. This type of subjunctive is very, very common, so it's a good idea to memorize the corresponding conjugation for each verb. you can find full conjugations of these verbs on this page.

 

You might also want to explore the following examples. Note that the use of this subjunctive is usually combined with another verb in infinitive:

 

Quisiera saber si los perros tienen cosquillas.

I would like to know if dogs are ticklish.

Caption 102, Animales en familia - Señales de calma y cosquillas en los perros

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¿Pudieras pasarme la leche?

Could you pass me the milk?

Angélica debiera bajar a comer.

Angelica should come down to eat.

Caption 15, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa - Part 5

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All these expressions would still be correct if you used the conditional forms (querría instead of quisierapodrías instead of pudierasdebería instead of debiera); the use of subjunctive just makes them more polite, refined. It's a subtle difference, really. Think of it this way: using the conditional podrías pasarme la leche could mean, in theory, that the speaker is actually doubting whether the other person is able to pass the milk or not, instead of just asking for a favor. The use of the subjunctive leaves no room for doubts that you are making a polite request.

 

We can't stress enough how common this substitution of conditional with subjunctive is. But make no mistake, this is no conditional, and it only uses these three verbs. You may bump into similar constructions that are just incomplete compound sentences, for example incomplete si (if) clauses:

 

Si yo supiera...

If I only knew...

Caption 72, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 4

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The subjunctive is not used as an independent clause here. Grammatically speaking, this expression is just missing its main clause, in this case a conditional. If we add it, for example: si yo supiera te lo diría (if I only knew I would tell you), we have a classic case of conditional plus subjunctive, as seen in one of our previous lessons on the subject.   

 

The same happens with the following example. It's a tricky one, because even though it uses the verb poder (to be able), this is not a case of courtesy subjunctive. To prove it, we have completed the sentence with a conditional in brackets:

 

Si pudiera bajarte una estrella del cielo [me amarías]

If I could lower down to you a star from the sky [you would love me]

Caption 5, Enrique Iglesias - Cuando me enamoro

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Another interesting use of the subjunctive used as an independent sentence happens when it's used with words that mean “perhaps,” like tal vez and quizá

 

Tal vez cure el tiempo las heridas.

Perhaps time may heal the wounds.

Caption 20, Reik - No desaparecerá

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Of course, it's also possible to simply use the indicative here and say: tal vez cura el tiempo las heridas (perhaps time heals the wounds). The use of subjunctive just stresses the idea that the action is improbable or doubtful, it's also more poetic. However—and this is just an exercise of the mind—another way of understanding these type of expressions is to recall that the words tal vez and quizá mean es posible (it's possible) and thus play the role of the main clause in a classic example of indicative plus subjunctive, where the subjunctive que cure... is the subordinate clause. Just saying.

 

Es posible que cure el tiempo las heridas.
It's possible that time will heal the wounds.

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