Spanish in 12 Verbs: Tener, quedarse, caerse
Spanish speakers use ‘tener’ in many cases where in English we would use ‘to be’. This includes:
Age: ‘Tiene nueve años’ – she is nine years old.
Motive (tener razón): Tenías razón el equipo perdió 0-2. – you were right, the team lost 0-2.
To be sure (tener claro): No tiene clara la fecha’ – she is not sure about the date.
To be in a hurry (tener prisa): ‘No puedo hablar tengo prisa hoy’ – I can’t talk, I’m in a hurry today.
To be scared (tener miedo): ‘Tienen miedo a volar’ – they are scared of flying.
For a person to be hot or cold (Tener calor/frío): Tenemos calor, voy a encender el aire condicionado’ – we are hot, I’ll put on the air conditioning.
Other expressions include
Tener lugar – to take place. ‘la fiesta tendrá lugar en mi casa’ – The party will take place in my house.
Tener en cuenta – to take into account. ‘No has tenido en cuenta el plus que ha recibido este año’ – you haven’t taken into account the bonus (pay) that you have got this year.
Tener sentido – to make sense. ‘Las cifras no tienen sentido’ – the figures don’t make sense.
Tener cuidado – to be careful. ‘Ten cuidado cuando conduzcas’ – Be careful while driving.
Tener las de ganar / las de perder – To have probability on your side that you are going to win / to lose. ‘El equipo tiene las de perder en este partido’ – Looks like the team is going to lose this match.
The other main use of ‘tener’ is ‘to have’:
‘Ella tiene dos hermanos’ – She has two brothers.
‘Tenemos una reunión a las diez’ – We have a meeting at ten.
Quedar has many meanings. In its reflexive form it means ‘to remain’ or ‘to stay’. For example:
‘¿Por qué no te quedas con nosotros?’ – Why don’t you stay with us?
‘Mi abuelo se quedó en su propia casa hasta que murió’ – my grandfather remained in his own house until he died.
Without the reflexive form it means ‘to have left over’. For example ‘¿Queda tortilla?’ – is there any tortilla left?
A permanent and usually unpleasant change in one’s person
‘Quedarse’ expresses the loss of something or a change in physical appearance which is normally permanent and negative. For this reason it is often used for physical defects. Its closest equivalent in English is ‘to go.’
‘Me padre se está quedando calvo’ – my father is going bald.
‘Preferiría quedarme sordo que ciego’ – I would prefer to go deaf than blind.
To meet up
Quedar without reflexive means ‘to meet up’ with someone. For example:
‘Quedaremos para un café la semana siguiente’ – we will meet for a coffee next week.
‘Quedé con Maria en la sala de reuniones’ – I met with Maria in the meeting room.
Without reflexive, ‘quedar’ can also mean ‘to agree’.
‘Quedamos en comprarlo juntos’ – We agreed to buy it together.
‘Quedamos en vernos a las diez’ – We agreed to meet at ten o’clock.
The phrase ‘¿en qué quedamos?’ uses this meaning, and it English it would be ‘what do be decide about this?’
To say something suits you (appearance)
Finally quedarle bien/mal means ‘to suit’ in appearance. For example:
‘Esa chaqueta le queda bien’ – that jacket suits him.
If you want to say a piece of clothing is long, short, tight or loose on you (and so on) it is quedarle + adjective.
‘Los pantalones me quedan anchos’ – the trouses are long on me.
‘El vestido me queda estrecho’ – the dress is too tight on me.
To receive a prize or come first, second, third and so on in something
‘Quedó primero en el concurso’ – he got first place in the competition.
Caerse means to fall off, in, out, down and over –simply add ‘de’ to explain the thing the subject falls from. For example, ‘Una moneda se cayó de mi bolsillo’ (A coin fell out of my pocket) or ‘Ella se ha caido de su bici’ (she has fallen off her bike). It also has several other meanings.
Caersele means to drop something accidentally (or literally ‘it falls me’). Le represents the subject doing the dropping and caerse the object that’s being dropped. For example:
Se me cayó la sopa – I drop the soup.
Se le cayeron las llaves – he dropped the keys.
Se le cayó la tablet – he dropped the tablet.
If you dropped something on purpose then the phrase is ‘dejar caer.’ For example:
No creo que lo dejara caer a propósito – I don’t think he dropped it on purpose.
To like or not like a person
Le cae bien/mal a alguien also means to like or dislike someone (literally, they fall well or badly with me). In this respect it is far more common than using ‘gustar.’ For example:
‘Me caen bien los compañeros de clase’ – I like my classmates.
‘Le cae mal su maestra’ – he doesn’t like his teacher.
Finally a date ‘falls’ just as in English. For example:
‘La fecha cae en sábado así que tenemos que quedar otro día’ – The date falls on a Saturday so we have to arrange another day.
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