Saturday, 1 February 2014

Time to say goodbye

Now, don't panic.
The title doesn't mean I'm winding up the Blog.

Here's a puzzle for you.
I call this picture 'Anna says goodbye to her sister'

So tell me, which of the women is Anna, the one on the train, or the one left behind?
In English, there's no way of knowing.

There's a Spanish verb 'despedir', which means 'to say goodbye'
You may have heard of a 'despedida' or Farewell Party?

We could say 'Ellas se despiden', which simply means 'they say goodbye to each other', but that's no more informative than the English version.

Ah, but Spanish is cleverer than that  ;¬)

Consider 'Anna despide a su hermana'
and 'Anna se despide de su Hermana'

You might have had to look twice to see the difference.

Here's the clever part
'Anna despide A su hermana' means 'Anna says goodbye to her sister' but carries the implicit meaning that her sister is the one who is going away, while Anna remains.

'Anna se despide DE su hermana' has the same literal translation but implies the opposite situation, Anna is gong on the train, while her sister remains behind.

I freely admit, it took me quite a while to get a grip on this one, and I frequently mixed them up, until I came up with a little rhyme to jog my memory

'Yo despido A alguien que se VA' - 'I say goodbye to someone who is leaving' (which means I'm staying)
You only have to remember the meaning of one of the uses, to remember both, after all.

One final word, if you use the verb 'despedir' in its non-reflexive form, the common meaning is to fire, or lay-off someone.
e.g. 'le despidieron por ser constantemente tarde' - 'they sacked him for being constantly late',
rather than
'Le despidieron a él por última vez' - 'they said goodbye to him for the last time'

So, until next time 'tengo que despedirme de ustedes' (me voy)

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