Friday, 26 October 2012

Tell Me, Do You Mean A Penniless Or Wretched Man?


SCENARIO
Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe you are talking about a third person. On hearing something you have said, your conversational partner appears to want clarification and says to you something like: "tell me, do you mean a penniless or wretched man?".

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿se trata de un hombre pobre o un pobre hombre?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿se trata de un hombre pobre o un pobre hombre?


OUR TIP
The question is an invitation for you to clarify your description of a person (male). When you give a description of a third person, you DO NOT need to be concerned about the level of formality in the other person's question. Your main concern should be about clarifying what you actually said.

Here are a couple of examples of how you could clarify what you said/ meant to say:
  • Quise decir de un hombre pobre (I meant a poor man in the sense of penniless/ of limited financial/ economic resources);
  • Quise decir de un pobre hombre (I meant a poor man in the sense of pitiful/ wretched);
Now you should practise replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿se trata de un hombre pobre o un pobre hombre?

*Please see grammar below

Grammar-Adjectives/ Position
In English, adjectives are always placed before the noun(s) they describe. In Spanish the positioning of adjectives is less restrictive. This gives way to two possible alternatives:

    1. Usual Order: Noun-Adjective
Usually, adjectives are placed after the nouns they describe. Some examples of this more common noun-adjective order are:
  • Chica alta (tall girl);
  • Chica guapa (pretty girl);
  • Coche amarillo (yellow car);
  • Casa blanca (white house);
  • Árbol grande (big tree);
  • Coche azul (blue car);
  • Bandera roja (red flag);


    2. Alternative Order: Adjective-Noun
In Spanish, in some cases adjectives are placed before the nouns they describe. When doing so, please be aware that:
  • There are some very commonly used adjectives which are usually placed before nouns, for example: ambos (both), llamado (called/ so-called), otro (other/ another), mucho (a lot), muchos (many), poco (a little) or pocos (few). Some examples of the use of these adjectives are:
    • Ambas manos (both hands);
    • El llamado efecto invernadero (the so-called greenhouse effect);
    • El otro día (the other day);
    • Mucha gente (lots of people);
    • Muchos amigos (many friends);
    • Poco dinero (little money);
    • Pocas veces (few times/ seldom);

  • Possesive adjectives (mi, tu, su, nuestro, vuestro, etc.) are usually placed before nouns. Some examples of the use of these adjectives are:
    • Mi casa (my house);
    • Tus padres (your parents);
    • Su hogar (his/ her/ their home);

  • Cardinal numbers (uno*, dos, tres, etc.) are usually placed before nouns. Some examples of the use of these adjectives are:
    • Una casa (one house);
    • Un* día (one day);
    • Dos árboles (two trees);

  • Ordinal numbers primero*, segundo, etc.) are often placed before nouns. Some examples of the use of these adjectives are:
    • El primer* año (the first year);
    • La segunda calle (the second street);

  • Adjectives such as alguno* (some), ninguno* (none/ not one), bueno* (good) or malo* (bad) are usually placed before nouns. Some examples of the use of these adjectives are:
    • Algún* día (some day);
    • Algunas veces (sometimes);
    • Ningún* recurso (not one resource);
    • Ninguna vez (never);
    • Buen* amigo (good friend);
    • Mal* momento (bad time);

  • Adjectives are sometimes placed before nouns to augment/ emphasise the meaning of the adjective. Some examples of the use of this adjective-noun order are:
    • El cortante acero de la espada (the sword's sharp/ cutting steel);
    • La fugaz belleza de aquella tarde (that evening's fleeting beauty);

*NB When placed in front of a masculine/ singular noun, these adjectives loose the ending -o. This is what is normally called apocopation. Please see examples above.

  • There are some noun-adjective combinations the meaning of which depends on whether the adjective is placed before or after the noun. Some examples of the use of adjectives in this way are:
    • Hombre pobre (poor man- person short of money/ financial resources);
    • Pobre hombre (poor man- pitiful/ wretched person);
    • Hombre grande (big man- physically big);
    • Gran** hombre (great man);
    • Casa grande (big house);
    • Gran** casa (great house);

**NB When placed in front of a singular noun, the adjective grande looses the -de ending and becoming simply gran.

Now you should practise using noun-adjective positioning with some examples of your own.


Spanish lessons online
Skype/ Google+ Hangout/ Face Time
Great lessons

Free Spanish:
Follow us on:
Twitter: @LoveSpanish_com
© Copyright 2012 Love-Spanish.com. by Jose M González. All Rights Reserved.
Post a Comment