Last month we were looking at verbs that go “back to front” compared to English, following the pattern of “me gusta” which translates as “I like it, I like him, I like her” but literally means “it, he, she pleases me”. We not only saw that “gustar” itself can appear in all sorts of persons and tenses, but also how a number of other verbs work in the same way.
This month we are going to continue on the same lines and point out yet more of these verbs. One that is extremely popular is the verb “faltar” (to be missing). “Me falta”, which literally means something like “it’s missing to me”, therefore means “I’m missing “or “I have something missing” as in the sentence “me falta un papel” (I have a piece of paper missing) – the permanent condition of anyone who is sorting out paperwork in Spain. Similar to this meaning is the expression “hacer falta” although this has more the idea of need – as in “me hace falta otro papel” ( I need other piece of paper).
Equally common is the verb “importar” (to be important). “Me importe” (it is important to me), and also “no me importa” (it isn’t important to me), are both very useful with the latter being used in situations where we would say “I don’t mind” or even “I don’t care”, depending on the context. Here’s a nice colloquial phrase – “me importa un pepino”. Yes you’re right, “pepino” does mean cucumber, and we are in fact looking at an expression which uses an inoffensive vegetable to say: “I don’t give a damn”. (It’s about as important to me as a cucumber). Another common variation of this is “Me importa un bledo”: “bledo” being some kind of weed-like plant.
“Sobrar” is an interesting word, and another one that is quite difficult to translate directly into English. It basically means to have an excess of something. So, we could say “me sobra mucha comida”. That means, “I have a lot of food left over”. I can use it more figuratively as well, as in “me sobran tus comentarias”. There a number of ways to say this in English “I don’t need your comments” or even “your comments are surplus to requirements”. We can invert this idea using a negative “Ahí no sobra dinero” – there isn’t too much money there, in other words, there’s very little.
Finally here is a very nice expression which we use when we like people. The verbal phrase is “caer bien”, which you will probably realize literally means “to fall well”. “Ese hombre me cae muy bien” (I really like that man). “¿No te gustó esa chica? Pues a mí me cayó bien.” (Didn’t you like that girl? Well I quite took to her, or, I thought she was nice). As you can see, there is no actual “falling” involved, but then we don’t usually end up flat on our faces when we “fall in love” in English.
As you can see some of these phrases are quite idiomatic and therefore do not have an exact equivalent in English. Both languages have their own way of expressing certain ideas, which is what makes learning a foreign language so interesting! See you next month.
Jane Cronin’s ‘Step by Step Spanish’ articles are available as e-books at www. janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s ‘Step by Step’ Internet Spanish Course’.