Ricardo Arjona - Quien

Dieciocho motivos pa' dejarte
Catorce consejos pa' olvidar
Quinientas razones para odiarte
Saco la cuenta, y a sumar...
[Captions 1-4, Ricardo Arjona > Quien]

Dejar(te), olvidar, odiar(te), sumar...
Songs sung in Spanish seem to contain a lot of verbs in the infinitive. Maybe that's because infinitives are so easy to rhyme -- since all end in either -ar, -er or -ir. But we digress. Among the new content on LoMásTV, there's a song by Guatemalan Ricardo Arjona. In it, we heard so many infinitives that we pored over the grammar rules to make sure we struck the right note in our translations. Below we'll highlight some of what we found along the way.

First, let's look at the translation of the first four lines of Arjona's song:

Dieciocho motivos pa' dejarte
Catorce consejos pa' olvidar
Quinientas razones para odiarte
Saco la cuenta, y a sumar...
Eighteen reasons to leave you
Fourteen tips to forget
Five hundred reasons to hate you
I do the math, and I add...
[Captions 1-4, Ricardo Arjona > Quien]

What do all the infinitives in bold have in common? Ok, they are all -ar verbs. But what else? They are all preceded by a preposition -- specifically, para ("for, in order to") in the first three lines, and then "a" ("to"), above. As a rule, only the infinitive may follow prepositions in Spanish.

We've discussed the use of prepositions para and por (both meaning "for") before infinitives in a past newsletter, if you'd like to review. (Loyal readers: Remember Chayenne's song "Por amor, por amar"?). With that concept already covered, let's move to the fourth line of our excerpt above.

Saco la cuenta, y a sumar...?" What does "a + infinitive mean? A ver ("Let's see") is the most famous example. You hear it all the time -- sometimes just to buy time in spoken Spanish. You also might hear ¡A bailar! ("Let's dance!") to get people going on the dance floor, or ¡A volar! ("Let's fly") at a graduation ceremony. It's one of the many ways to express a command in Spanish.

The a + infinitive construction in our new song by Arjona gave us a little pause, because translating a sumar as "let's add" sounded a little funny in English... But if you realize the singer is, in a sense, urging himself to crunch the numbers, the meaning falls into place.

Later in the song, we hear this line, twice:

Saco la cuenta, y a restar...
"I do the math, and I subtract"
[Caption 28, Ricardo Arjona > Quien]

As you've probably noted, for the English captions in these lines, we ended up choosing to keep the subject -- "I" -- throughout the sentence. But students who understand that a sumar and a restar are commands issued by the singer to urge himself on will have a better understanding of what the lyrics intend to communicate.

Can you find some more lyrics by Ricardo Arjona that use the preposition + infinitive construction? Here are a couple lines we were humming:

Dejaste minas en la casa
con objetivos de matar

"You left mines in the house
with the objective of killing"
[Caption 33, Ricardo Arjona > Quien]

[Want a refresher on the other uses of the infinitives?

About.com has some nice explanations of infinitives in Spanish here]

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