Atinar: Attaining the right meaning

With Germain de la Fuente's old-style crooning in Como Quisiera Decirte, you just know he's gotta be singing about heartache. But what is he saying exactly?

...y así va pasando el tiempo,
sin atinar a decirte,
lo que a diario voy sintiendo...

Caption 16, Los Tetas - Como Quisiera Decirte

You see, the verb atinar is translated as "to be able to" / "being able to." But there's an added dose of longing and frustration attached to atinar, compared to, say, poder or even ser capaz de. Atinar often appears as part of the phrase atinar a decir and suggests the need to speak up to resolve a pressured situation -una situación de presión. One synonym is lograr, in the sense of "to manage to." Dictionaries also suggest: acertar [a], dar [en el blanco], conseguir, hallar and encontrar.

It has been suggested that atinar shares roots with the verb adivinar, "to divine or guess correctly." However, most linguists would agree that there's no easy direct translation into English for this verb, which takes on many meanings and variations that non-natives will tend to absorb naturally as they encounter them in context.

Se fue tan rápido que no atiné a decirle que se olvidó sus maletas.
"He left so fast that I didn't have the chance to tell him he forgot his suitcases."

Esta fue una inversión atinada, ganamos mucho dinero.
"This was a good (smart) investment; we earned a lot of money."

El examen es "multiple choice." Espero poder atinar las respuestas.
"The exam is multiple choice. I hope I can guess the right answers."

An aside: This is not Germain de la Fuente's first brush with rap. The Chilean singer's romantic warbling has also appeared in songs by the Beastie Boys and Jay-Z

Continue Reading

Agradecer: "Thanks" as a verb

Te lo agradezco.
[Caption 17, Muñeca Brava > Pilot > 6]

Little doubt one of the things you say frequently when you have the occasion to speak Spanish is gracias (thanks) and muchas gracias (many thanks), but have you ever tried using the verb agradecer (to thank)? When Federico is explaining to his secretary-cum-sous-chef about how much she brings his groove back, she does not say simply gracias but rather (and somewhat cynically, we might add) te lo agradezco or "I thank you (for it)." It's slighly more formal, but not radically so.

Agradecemos a todos los presentes por asistir a esta reunion.
"We thank all present for attending this meeting."

Les agradezco su ayuda.
"I thank you all for your help."

Continue Reading

Arrancar: An alternative to "empezar"

y así arrancaba...
[caption 13, Los Pericos > Complicado]

If we speak English, it's easy to remember that comenzar means to "to start" because it sounds like "to commence." Empezar (to begin, to start) is so commonly used that most people learn it early on in their studies. But what about arrancar (which also means "to uproot", "to pull up")? Did you realize that this verb can mean "to start" as well? If so, you may have heard it used it in reference to starting the engine of a car, but it also can be found in a variety of contexts related to "starting." In the lyrics of the song Complicado we find the line y así arrancaba, "and this is how it was starting..."

Ya volvimos de las vacaciones pero ahora nos cuesta arrancar.
"We´ve just returned from vacation and now it´s hard for us to start working."

Arrancá, el semáforo ya está en verde.
"Go, the light has now turned green."

Continue Reading

Hacer Pata: To cover for someone

Haceme pata con la amiguita.
[caption 29, Muñeca Brava > Pilot > 6]

Pata can signify "paw" or "leg," but in this case hacer pata is an expression that means "to support someone" or "to cover for someone." So when Facundo Arana says haceme pata con la amiguita, his friend "covers" (diverts) the other girl while he tries to make his move on Natalia Oreiro. Note that the diminutive of amiga is not amigita, but rather amiguita, just as the diminutive of hormigais hormiguita.

Haceme la pata con el jefe, porque hoy no puedo ir a trabajar.
"Cover for me with the boss, because I can't go to work today."

Haceme pata con Juan, ¡él es perfecto para mí!
"Put in a a good word for me with Juan, he is perfect for me!"

Note: Because the video discussed is Argentine, these examples contain the "voseo" form of the affirmative imperative conjugation of the verb hacer.

Continue Reading

Atar y Desatar: Fasten, Unfasten, and Relieve

me lo voy a atar...
[Caption 14, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > 10]

después lo vamos a desatar...
[caption 15, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > 10]

y desaté mi alivio.
[caption 15, Los Pericos > Complicado]

Atar and desatar are two nicely opposing verbs which mean "to fasten" and "to unfasten." They can be very useful, but are often unknown by Spanish learners. This week in part 10 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, when Majo and Gloria's new friend says me lo voy a atar..., he is referring to his pants, "I am going to fasten them." (Note that he uses the singular el pantalón to refer to a single pair of "pants"?) Likewise in the next caption we find después lo vamos a desatar "later we will unfasten them" (still referring to his pants).

The verb desatar shows up again in the music video Complicados from the band Los Pericos. Here it takes on a more of a figurative meaning, "to unleash," as in "unleashing an emotion." Caption 15 of the song contains the line desaté mi alivio, which is "I unleashed my relief." It is a bit unusual to speak of "unleashing relief," but we can chalk this up to artistic license. As in English, it is usually anger that one "unleashes."

Desaté mi furia, y, después, tuve alivio.
"I unleashed my anger, and, later, I was relieved."

Continue Reading

Agarrarte: Grab some new Spanish knowledge

The verb coger (to take/ to grab) is commonly used in Spain, but, in Latin America, the same verb often has sexual connotations. To avoid confusion and any possible misunderstanding, Latin Americans tend to use the verb agarrar, not coger, when they wish to express "to take" or "to grab" (likewise elegir, not escoger, for "to choose" and levantar, not recoger, for "to pickup").

Agarrate el vinito que está en la cocina.
[Caption 40, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > 9]

Had her new actor friend told Gloria Cógete el vinito que está en la cocina she would have understood it properly, "Grab the wine that's in the kitchen," but it would have sounded a bit odd to her, as she is South American, not a Spaniard. Note that her host appends the reflexive te to his command agarra, "grab." Had he not done so and said Agarrá el vino... instead of Agarrate el vino, the meaning would have been the same, "Grab the wine...," but it may have come across as rude and bossy as opposed to inviting and playful. He also softens his tone by using the diminutive vinito (little wine) instead of simply vino.

No, en serio te lo digo, Gloria, porque te agarra un psicópata...
[caption 10, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > 9]

Literally, porque te agarra un psicópata... is "because a psychopath grabs you..." but this is not exactly what Majo is expressing. What Majo is saying is more like "because [if] you're stuck with a psychopath" as in "if you had the bad luck of getting a psycho as a client...."

Si te agarra un profesor listo, vas a aprender la lección.
"If you get a clever professor, you are going to learn the lesson."

Me agarré un resfrío.
"I caught a cold."

Si Juan se entera que le fuiste infiel, ¡agarrate!
"If Juan finds out you cheated on him, watch out!"
[colloquial]

Cuando lo agarre, lo mato.
"When I put my hands on him, I'll kill him."
[It is uncertain, hence the use of the subjunctive [yo] agarre.]

Si te agarra sueño, acostate temprano.
"If you get sleepy, go to bed early."

Continue Reading

Dios Santo: "Holy God" and other ways to talk to the man upstairs

Dios Santo que bello abril
[caption 19, Disptuas > La Extraña Dama > Part 8]

Fotografía must have slipped away from proper procedure in our rush to get it up, as we have a coterie of bilingual native speakers checking and tweaking the captions before they "go live" (and sometimes continuing to do so after). For example, we'd at first translated Dios Santo as "Dear God," as it seemed a good fit in the context of the song, but then decided to go with the more literal "Holy God." Querido Dios is "Dear God," but not so much as used in prayer, but rather if you were writing the big guy a letter. Addressing God as if in a prayer it is common to find simply Dios alone, Señor, or sometimes, Padre.

This tune, Bello Abril is dedicated, in the liner notes of the album Naturaleza Sangre, to none other than Dolores Fonzi. We know her better as Gala, and she's featured prominently in this video (dancing on the bed).

Continue Reading

Siento: I Feel or I Sit

Y de nuevo siento enfermo este corazón
[caption 19, Juanes > Fotografía]

cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver
[caption 22, Juanes > Fotografía]

We thought we were smart to ask the moderator of Delphi's Beyond Basic Spanish forum if we could give a quick mention to Yabla Spanish. Forum users showed us who was smart when they pointed out a mistake in our translation of the Juanes song Fotografía, which is found in our "Free Demo" section, as well as in the "Music Videos" channel under "Videos." Can we say huevo en nuestra cara? (No, probably not!) Let's take a look at what they found:

In caption 19 Nelly Furtado sings siento enfermo este corazón. In this case we had it right, siento here signifies "I feel," it is derived from the verb sentir, and she is referring to feeling an ache in her heart. The usage, by the way, is a bit poetic; a less embellished, more common, way to express the same thing is me duele el corazón.

In caption 22, and throughout the song, Nelly Furtado and Juanes sing the refrain cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver. The translation we had here was "when your photos... I feel like seeing." Siento, as you may know, is also the yo form of sentar, and so can alternately mean "I sit." That is indeed the proper meaning in this case: "when your photos... I sit down to see." Sentir is not used in the sense of "feeling like doing something," for that they would have perhaps sung cuando tengo ganas de ver tus fotos, "when I feel like seeing your photos."

Continue Reading

Ahora / Ya: Learning "Now"

Amelia: ¡Entonces vamos!
Gala: ¿Ahora?
Amelia: Sí, sí, sí.
[Caption 26, Disputas > La Extraña Dama > Part 7]

A viewer wrote to ask if we could look at ahora and ya.

If we take the example above, which comes from the latest installment of the La Extraña Dama episode of Disputas, Gala could have replaced ¿Ahora? with ¿Ya? and the meaning would have been the same: "Now?"

In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Gala might have used the colloquial diminutive ahorita, especially to emphasize immediacy, "right now." Another way to stress immediacy is to place the word mismo after either ahora or ya. Ya mismo might be considered slightly stronger, but it also largely depends on the speaker's intonation and the context in which it is said.

Venga para acá ahora mismo.
"Come here right now."

Venga para acá ya mismo.
"Come here right now."

Cuando era chico quería ser como Superman pero ahora ya quiero ser diputado del PAN.
[captions 1-2, Molotov > Hit Me]

In the music video Hit Me, Molotov combines both ahora and ya, most likely for emphasis, to indicate "now" in the sense of "these days" or "currently." In the same vein, it's not at all unusual to find ahora (without ya) where we might have expected to see hoy día (hoy en día), "nowadays."

En los años '20, las comunicaciones eran precarias. Ahora todo es diferente, la telefonia e internet se han vuelto de uso comun en casi todos los hogares.
"In the twenties, communication was precarious. Now (nowadays) it's different, the telephone and internet have come into common use in almost all homes."

The combination of ya and ahora together in Hit Me comes across to some native speakers as very colloquial and a bit unusual, though of course popular music is always fertile ground for innovative, regional and less common usage. There are instances when the combination ahora and ya does sound natural to most native speakers; one is the case when ya is used to indicate "already."

Ahora, ya nos conocemos mejor .
"Now, we already know each other better." (action completed)

Marisol: Tendrías que preguntarle a los peones.
Pedro: Ya lo hice.
[captions 7-8, Provócame > Pilot > Part 9]

We find ya used to indicate action completed in this Provócome example. Pedro has "already" done what Marisol suggests.

In the case of a negative statement, where in English we would expect to see "yet," we do not use ya but rather todavía. This is a convention, like many "rules," that non-natives quite often pick up subconciously, through exposure.

¿Ya llamaste al médico?
No, todavía no he llamado.
"Did you already call the doctor?
No, I haven´t called yet."

Sometimes ya can take on a meaning that encompasses both "now" and "already" ("finally"). This and some other important ya concepts que todavía no discutimos ("that we didn't discuss yet") can be found here: http://www.thelearninglight.com/ya.htm

A few more examples of interest:

Entonces ganaba más que ahora.
"I was earning more then than (I am) now."

¡Ahora me lo dices!
"Now you tell me!"

Ahora que lo pienso...
"Now that I come to think of it..."

Another suggested quick read:
http://www.wordreference.com/es/translation.asp?tranword=now

Continue Reading

Alcanzar: To Reach and more

El problema es que no están a su alcance.
[caption 38, Provócame > Pilot > 8]

You may remember in Disputas, La Extraña Dama, part 5, when Santiago asks ¿Alcanza con esto? ("Is this enough?") and Amelia replies Alcanza y nunca sobra ("Enough and never more than enough"). When talking about money or time, alcanzar refers to "having enough," but alcanzar is also "to achieve" or "to reach" and the related noun is alcance. So when Marisol says El problema es que no están a su alcance she is saying "The problem is that they (horses) are out of her reach."

Telenovelas no alcanzaron los altos ratings de los partidos de fútbol.
"Soap operas didn't reach the high ratings of soccer matches."

Ponemos el potencial tecnológico a tu alcance.
"We put technological potential within your reach."

El tiempo nunca nos alcanza.
"We never have enough time."

A mí me alcanza y sobra con que la flor se abra.
"For me it is more than enough if the flower unclose."
[D. H. Lawrence, Rose of all the world, last line]

Continue Reading

Signup to get Free Spanish Lessons sent by email