Archive for the ‘Comic’ Category

Is agreement in number between pronouns and the nouns they represent disappearing from Spanish?

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

I just ran into the oddest thing in Spanish. Apparently you can and should say goodbye to number agreement, in some cases, in Mexican Spanish.

I was talking with a Mexican man today and I heard him say the strangest thing.

Ya váyanse, yo se los pongo.

Now that in and of itself sounds perfectly grammatical, but here’s the context. Two of his friends were walking by and said they were in a big hurry becuase they had to go over to another building to change a lightbulb before leaving for an appointment that they were almost late for. To this, my friend responded “Ya váyanse, yo se los pongo”, telling them to go ahead and leave and he would take care of changing the lightbulb.

Ya váyanse, yo se los pongo

Let’s analyze this.

Yo se los pongo
Subject Indirect object pronoun referring to the two buddies. This would normally be les, but it changes to se when preceeding another pronoun. Direct object pronoun referring to the light bulb verb

Then I responded ¿Qué dijiste?
– Yo se los pongo.
Me to a native speaker ¿Y no debiste haber dicho “yo se lo pongo”?
Blank stare

So I ask for a couple of examples and write them on a paper towel.

Remember that in these examples, the person is always talking to two or more people, and the object/action they are talking about it singular.

  • Un calentador está prendido, y ya deben apagarlo: Yo se los apago.
  • Unos amigos quieren cocinar un pollo: Tráiganme el pollo y se los cocino.
  • A varios niños: Si se mojan con el agua, se las voy a cerrar.
  • Unas personas tienen que irse y cerrar su casa: Si tienen que irse, yo se las cierro.

He also mentioned, in answer to one of my queries, that as far as he knows, that’s standard usage in Spanish. That declaration, along with the elicited examples, came from a 30+ year old Mexican male, who is a native Spanish speaker.

To me, the original utterance should have been Yo se lo pongo. The lo being singular, to represent a singular light bulb. But if this is how a large group of native speakers use the language [confirmation needed], then who am I to get all prescriptivist and tell them it should be different?

I would love it if some native or non-native speakers could confirm the extent of this usage. If you’ve heard anything like this, where did you hear it, and who was speaking?

Happy Fourth

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

July 4th

Hola Julio

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007