Monday, 13 February 2012

Say What Has To Be Done

Imagine you have been asked to write an instructions manual by someone. You are more likely to have been asked to do so by your boss or a work colleague, but it could have been anybody else. You are not sure about how to handle the instructions and you seek guidance. The person asking you to write the manual suggests that you should aim the instructions at no one in particular and says to you something like: "say what has to be done".

 He/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Di lo que hay que hacer

He/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Diga lo que hay que hacer

One advantage of giving instructions which are aimed at no one in particular is that you DON'T have to make a choice between levels of formality to deliver the instructions. Since there is only one level of formality, you can concentrate on the actual instructions themselves.

Assuming you were asked to produce a set of instructions to cook a Spanish omelet, you may want to write:
  • Pélense las patats y la cebolla* (peel the potatoes and onion).
  • Córtense las patatas y la cebolla en rodajas finas* (cut the potatoes and the onion in thin slices).
  • Fríanse las patatas y la cebolla en una sartén hasta que las patatas estén doradas (fry the potatoes and onion in a frying pan until golden).
  • Bátanse los huevos y añádase un poco de sal* (beat the eggs and add a little salt).
  • Cuando las patatas y la cebolla estén listas, sáquense de la sartén, escúrranse y mézclense con el huevo (when the potatoes and onion are ready, remove from the pan, drain the oil and mix with the egg).
  • Échese la mezcla de patata, huevo y cebolla en una sartén con un poco de aceite* (pour the egg, potato and onion mix into a frying pan with a little oil).
  • Cocínese la tortilla a fuego lento* (cook the omelet on a low heat).
  • Dese la vuelta a la tortilla con la ayuda de un plato grande* (turn the omelet using a large plate).
  • Cocínese por el otro lado a fuego lento* (cook the other side on a low heat).

Now you should practice giving instructions to someone who says to you:
Di lo que hay que hacer

*Please see grammar below

Grammar-The Imperative
These are examples of expressions using the imperative to give instructions, make requests or issue orders/ commands aimed at no one in particular. Whilst the infinitive is much more often used in this type of instructions/ requests/ orders/ commands, you may come across examples of the use of the imperative. Some more examples of such use are shown below (negative instructions being perhaps the least common):

1.- Affirmative Instructions.- These are instructions aimed at no one in particular and instructing people to do something. Some examples of this type of instructions are:
  • Cúbrase el pan con un lienzo (cover the bread with a cloth).
  • Cúbranse las barras de pan con un lienzo (cover the loaves of bread with a cloth).

2.- Negative Instructions.- These are instructions aimed at no one in particular and instructing people not to do something. An example of this type of instruction are:
  • No se pise la hierba (no stepping on the grass).

Now you should practise the use of imperative with some examples of instructions of your own.

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