Saturday, 7 July 2012

Tell Me, How Did They Grab You?

Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. You have recently had an accident. You were at the edge of a gully when you lost your footing. You were only prevented from falling down the ravine by passers by, who grabbed you. The other person wants to know more about how they held you and says to you something like: "tell me, how did they grab you?".

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿por dónde te agarraron?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿por donde le agarraron (a usted)?

The question is an invitation for you to say what part of your body you were grabbed by. When you say where you were grabbed, you DO NOT need to be concerned about the level of formality in the other person's question. Your main concern should be about saying where you were held by. Perhaps you want say that you were grabbed by your:
  • Arm/ arms;
  • Leg/ legs;
  • Foot/ feet;
  • Hair;

Here are some examples of what you could say, whilst practising the use of “por”:
  • Me agarraron por* un brazo (they grabbed me by an arm);
  • Me agarraron por* los brazos (they grabbed me by the arms);
  • Me agarraron por* una pierna (they grabbed me by a leg);
  • Me agarraron por* las piernas (they grabbed me by the legs);
  • Me agarraron por* un pie (they grabbed me by a foot);
  • Me agarraron por* los pies (they grabbed me by the feet);
  • Me agarraron por* los pelos (they grabbed me by the hair);

Now you should practice using “por” in replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿por dónde te agarraron?

*Please see grammar below

The use of “por” and “para” often causes some confusion amongst learners of Spanish. This post deals with the uses of “por”. A separate series of blog posts is dedicated to the uses of “para”.

In this post we look at a number of situations in which “por” is commonly used. “Por” is commonly used in the following cases:

    1. Passive Voice Constructions
Passive voice constructions, although perhaps less common in Spanish than they are in English, are nonetheless very similar in both languages.

In Spanish, “por” is used in passive voice constructions very much as “by” is used in the English counterparts. That is, “por” is placed before the agent in Spanish passive voice constructions.

Some examples of the use of “por” in passive voice constructions are shown below:
  • Fui multado por la policía de tráfico (I was fined by the traffic police);
  • ¿Fuiste despachado por esa dependienta? (were you attended by that sales assistant?);
  • El Quijote fue escrito por Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes);
  • ¿Fuisteis llamados por la empresa? (were you called by your employer?);
  • Esos libros fueron comprados por mi padre (those books were bought by my father);

2. Motives
In Spanish “por” is be used to express the motive or justification for some actions or events. Typical expressions of motive or justification could be:
  • <someone does something> due to <something/ some action>;
  • <something happens> due to <something/ some action>;

Examples of the use of “por” in this type of expression are shown below:
  • No puedo viajar por falta de dinero (I cannot travel due to the lack of money);
  • Perdiste el tren por haber llegado tarde (you missed the train because you arrived late);
  • Pedro no nos escribió por falta de tiempo (Pedro didn't write to us because he didn't have time);
  • Fuimos al gimnasio por necesidad (we went to the gym because we needed to do it);
  • Por una estupidez perdisteis un buen amigo (because of something stupid you lost a good friend);
  • Por el calor que hacía se desencadenó una enorme tormenta (because of the hot weather a huge storm developed);

    3. Places
In Spanish “por” is often used with the names of places or objects with the following typical meanings:
  • With verbs such as “ir”/ “venir”/ “volver”/ “pasar” and other similar verbs, “por” is placed before the name of a place or an object to mean “through”. For example:
    • Este tren pasa por Madrid (this train passes through Madrid);
    • Ese vuelo va por Barcelona (that flight goes via Barcelona);
    • Pasamos por el puente (we went over the bridge);
    • Volvimos a casa por el parque (we returned home through/ via the park);
    • El agua pasa por la tubería (water flows through the pipe);
  • With verbs such as “atravesar”/ “cruzar” and similar verbs, “por” is placed before a name of a place or an object to mean “through”. For example:
    • Cruzamos la calle por el paso de peatones (we crossed the road by the pedestrian crossing);
    • Atravesamos Londres por el centro (we crossed London through the centre);

4. Places - Whereabaouts
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such asestar”/ “encontrarse” and similar verbs, to indicate the location of something without giving specific details.

For example:
  • ¿Tu casa está por aquí? (is your house around here?);
  • Mis libros están por ahí (my books are in/ around there);
  • Las mejores tiendas se encuentran por el centro (the best shops are around he centre);
  • Andamos por Londres (we are in/ around London);
  • Paseamos por el parque (we had a walk in/ around the park);

5. Holding/ Grabbing
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such asagarrar”/ “sujetar”/ “tener” and similar verbs, to indicate the specific part “by” which something or someone is grabbed/ held/ handled/ etc..

For example:
  • Tengo la raqueta por el cuello (I have the racket by the neck – of the racket!);
  • Pedro me agarró por el brazo (Pedro grabbed me by the arm);
  • Sujetar la olla por las asas (hold the pot by the handles);

6. Favour
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such ashacer”/ “votar” and many similar verbs, to express what is done “for the sake of”/ “in favour of” someone or something.

For example:
  • Esta casa la compramos por mi madre (we bought this house for the sake of my mother);
  • Hice lo que hice por María (I did what I did for the sake of Maria);
  • No sé por quien voy a votar (I am not sure who I am going to vote for);

7. Time Periods
In Spanish “por” is often used with undetermined or general time periods. In such cases, “por” expresses the time period “during” which an action takes place/ something happens.

For example:
  • Estudio español por las tardes (I study Spanish in/ during the afternoons);
  • Por Semana Santa nos gusta ir a España (we like going to Spain at/ during Easter);
  • Por enero casi siempre hace mucho frío (in/ during January it is almost always very cold);

8. Perception
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such astener”/ “tomar”/ “dar” and similar verbs, to express what is considered perception, opinion or reputation.

For example:
  • Mis amigos me tienen por loco (my friends' opinion is that I am crazy);
  • ¿Por quien me tomas? (who do you think I am?/ what do you take me for?);
  • Te dan por muy buen profesor (you have the reputation of a very good teacher/ in other people's opinion you are a very good teacher);
  • Eso lo doy por hecho (for me, that is as good as done);

9. Communications
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such ashablar”/ “enviar”/ “comunicarse” and similar, to indicate the meansby” which communication takes place.

For example:
  • Hablé con Pedro por teléfono (I spoke to Pedro on the phone/ by means of the phone);
  • ¿Me enviste ese documento por correo? (did you put that document in the post for me?/ did you send it to me by means of the posted mail?);
  • Nos comunicamos por señas (we communicate by means of sign language);
  • La carta nos la enviaron por correo aéreo (they sent us the letter by air mail);

10. Prices & Other Mounts
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such as “comprar”/ “cambiar”/ “dar” and similar verbs to express amounts in exchanges/ commercial transactions.

For example:
  • Compré un par de zapatos por quince euros (I bought a pair of shoes for 15 euros);
  • Cambié la moto vieja por una nueva (I exchanged my old motorbike for a new one);
  • ¿Me das tu abrigo por el mío? (will you give me your coat for mine?);

11. Proxies
In Spanish “por” is often used to express an action by proxy , that is an action “on behalf of” someone else.

For example:
  • Esta carta la escribí por mi madre (I wrote this letter on behalf of my mother);
  • Será mejor que hable por ti tu abogado (it would be better if your lawyer spoke on your behalf);

12. Rates/ Frequencies/ Percentages
In Spanish “por” is often used to express all sorts of rates and frequencies.

For example:
  • Íbamos a cien kilómetros por hora (we were travelling at 100 Km/hour);
  • Practico español cinco veces por semana (I practice Spanish 5 times per week);
  • Esa inversión me deja un siete por ciento annual de beneficios (that investment gives me an annual profit of 7%);

13. Future
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such asestar”/ “quedar”and similar verbs, to express actions or events which are expected to occur in the future or actions which are ongoing but still to be completed.

For example:
  • Ese tren todavía está por llegar (that train is still to arrive);
  • Aun nos quedan plazas por cubrir? (we still have some vacancies to fill);
  • Mis deberes aun están por acabar (my homework is still not finished);

14. Errands
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such asir”/ “mandar”and similar verbs, to express the objectives of an errand.

For example:
  • Voy por el periódico (I am going to get the paper);
  • Nos mandaron por pan (they sent us to fetch some bread);
  • Pasamos por ti a las ocho (we'll come to pick you up at 8:00);

15. Pointless Action
In Spanish “por” is often used in between two appearances of the same verb, with the verb which follows it in infinitive. This construction is used in Spanish to express some pointless or futile action. That is something done just “for the sake of it”, with no other intended purpose.

For example:
  • Hablar por hablar (talk for the sake of talking – no other purpose);
  • Si me llamas por llamar no llames (if you are calling me just for the sake of it, don't call);
  • Creo que me escribes por escribir (I believe you are writing to me just for the sake of it);

16. In The Mood
In Spanish “por” is often used with verbs such asestar” and followed by another verb in infinitive to express a mood or inclination to do something.

For example:
  • Estoy por tomarme un café (I feel like a coffee/ in the mood to have a coffee);
  • Estamos por ir al cine (we feel like going to the cinema);

17. Gratitude
In Spanish “por” is often used aftergracias” to express gratitude for something.

For example:
  • Gracias por la ayuda (thank you for your help);
  • Gracias por venir a visitarnos (thank you for coming to visit us);

    18. Idiomatic Expressions
Por” is used in many idiomatic expressions. A sample of them, with relevant examples is shown below:

  • Por adelantado (in advance);
    • Example: Te envío el dinero por adelantado (I am sending you the money in advance);
  • Por ahora (for the time being);
    • Example: Por ahora no me hace falta nada (I don't need anything for the time being);
  • Por allí (around there/ that way);
    • Example: Por allí se va a la estación (that is the way to the station);
  • Por aquí (around here/ this way);
    • Example: Pasen por aquí, por favor (this way, please);
  • Por casualidad (by chance);
    • Example: nos vimos por casualidad (we saw each other by chance);
  • Por cien (percent);
    • Example: A mi me correspodió el veinte por cien (20% was my share);
  • Por ciento (percent);
    • Example: A mi me correspodió el veinte por ciento (20% was my share);
  • Por cierto (as a certainty/ by the way);
    • Example: Eso lo damos por cierto (we take that as a certainty);
    • Exampe: Por cierto, ¿cuándo empieza la película? (by the way, when does the film begin?);
  • Por completo (completely);
    • Example: Eso lo desconozco por completo (I am completely in the dark about that/ I have no knowledge of it);
  • Por dentro (in the inside)
    • Example: El barril hay que limpiarlo por dentro (the barrel needs to be cleaned in the inside);
  • Por desgracia (unfortunately);
    • Example: Por desgracia llegamos tarde (unfortunately we arrived late);
  • Por ejemplo (for example);
    • Example: Por ejemplo, así es como se hace (for example, you should do it this way);
  • Por el amor de Dios (for the love of God);
    • Example: Por el amor de Dios, no lo hagas (for the love of God don't do it);
  • Por eso (for that reason);
    • Example: Hay muchos accidentes en carretera. Por eso no me gusta ir en coche (there are lots of traffic accidents. It is for that reason that I don't like travelling by car);
  • Por favor (please);
    • Example: Por favor, no molestar (please do not disturb);
  • Por fin (at last);
    • Example: Por fin hemos llegado (we have arrived at last);
  • Por fuera (on the outside);
    • Example: La casa hay que limpiarla por fuera (the house needs to be cleaned on the outside);
  • Por fuerza (by force/ unavoidably);
    • Example: Derribaron la puerta y entraron por fuerza (they knocked down the door and got in by force);
    • Example: Por fuerza tuvimos que bajar del tren (we had no option but to get off the train);
  • Por las buenas (voluntarily/ avoiding confrontation/ with good will));
    • Example: Por las buenas hago cualquier cosa (voluntarily/ avoiding confrontation I could be amenable to do anything);
  • Por las malas (by force);
    • Example: Por las malas no hay quien consiga nada de él (by force it is impossible to get him to do anything);
  • Por lo general (generally);
    • Example: Por lo general, los domingos no se trabaja (generally, we don't work on Sundays);
  • Por lo menos (at least);
    • Example: Por lo menos no tenemos que madrugar (at least we don't have to get up early);
  • Por lo tanto (consequently);
    • Example: Estamos de vacaciones, por lo tanto no trabajamos (we are on holiday, consequently, we don't work);
  • Por lo visto (apparently)
    • Example: Por lo visto no han llegado todavía (apparently they haven't arrived yet);
  • Por medio de (by means of):
    • Example: El río se cruza por medio de una barca (the river is crossed by means of a boat);
  • Por mi parte (as for me/ as far as I am concerned);
    • Example: Por mi parte, lo dejamos así (as far as I am concerned, we can leave it like so);
  • Por ningún lado (nowhere/ anywhere)
    • Example: No encuentro a tu hermano por ningún lado (I cannot find your brother anywhere);
    • Example: Tu hermano no parece estar por ningún lado (your brother is nowhere to be seen);
  • Por ninguna parte (nowhere/ anywhere)
    • Example: No encuentro a tu hermano por ninguna parte (I cannot find your brother anywhere);
    • Example: Tu hermano no parece estar por ninguna parte (your brother is nowhere to be seen);
  • Por otra parte (on the other hand);
    • Example: Por otra parte, lo que me dicen no tiene sentido (on the other hand, what they tell me makes no sense);
  • Por primera vez (for the first time);
    • Example: Visitamos Madrid por primera vez (we visited Madrid for the first time);
  • ¿Por qué? (why?);
    • Example: ¿Por qué estudias español? (why are you studying Spanish?);
  • Por que (so that);
    • Example: Haré todo lo posible por que no tengas que salir (I will do all I can so that you don't have to go out);
  • Porque (because);
    • Example: No lo hago porque no puedo (I am not doing it because I can't);
  • Por separado (separately);
    • Example: Lavar por separado la ropa de color (wash coloured clothes separately);
  • Por si acaso (just in case);
    • Example: Voy a llevar el paraguas por si acaso (I am taking the umbrella just in case);
  • Por suerte (fortunately);
    • Example: Por suerte llegamos a tiempo (fortunately, we arrived on time);
  • Por supuesto (of course);
    • Example: Por supuesto que lo haré (of course I will do it);
  • Por todas partes (everywhere);
    • Example: Buscamos a tu hermano por todas partes (we looked for your brother everywhere);
  • Por todo lo alto (no expense spared);
    • Example: Celebré mi cumpleaños por todo lo alto (I spared no expense to celebrate my birthday);
  • Por todos lados (everywhere);
    • Example: Buscamos a tu hermano por todos lados (we looked for your brother everywhere);
  • Por último (finally);
    • Example: Por último nos despedimos (finally, we said goodbye);

Now you should practice the uses of “por” with some examples of your own.

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