A brief note on several uses of Spanish ’de’

Here begins a series of rip-offs from the MLA’s Modern Spanish (1960 – don’t get the later edition). The trigger to get my rear in gear was a series of posts on moretprs about pop-ups. I’ve noticed that a lot of teachers really don’t have ready explanations for grammar features. I choose Spanish because it is more commonly taught than the other languages I could do this for (Latin and Russian). So here, from p. 374, are a few notes on ’de’: de = in, to e.g. la llave de la puerta the key to the door los alumnos de la clase the students in the class (en la clase would be used e.g. for visitors who aren’t normally there, ie. who don’t “belong” to the place – los visitantes que estan en la clase, los visitantes en la clase) English used to have this, e.g. House of the Seven Gables where PDE (Present Day English) would use ’with’, i.e. the house with the seven gables. El hombre de la corbata verde the man with the green tie/ El hombre del coche grande the man with the big car. Used for change through substitution e.g. cambiar de tema. Partitive – after the indefinites que, algo, nada, + de + adjective = ’a little’ as in tiene algo de loco he’s a little nuts. Also un poco de, un millon de. Particularly after bueno, malo, nuevo e.g. Que hay de nuevo Esp after the verbs haber, tener and dar, de todo is used without any indefinite e.g. Hay de todo/ Nos dio de todo = a little bit of everything. Capacity = Here’s one I recall screwing up, using ’como’ for ’as’ when it’s really ’de’ e.g. trabaja de gerente, de maestro, or some official capacity “he works as a manager, as a teacher”. When you say ’como’ = a temporary or substitute “He’s serving as the principal” “He’s acting as the principal” = como el director. This use of de also works for things, e.g. helado de postre = ice creas for dessert. The authors word it like this: a person filling a job and a thing filling a slot are functionally the same. I like the diachronic references to English. With ’de noche’ they mention that ’by night’ is obsolete. That may be why “they ride by night” sounds somehow more sinister than the usual PDE “they ride at night”. LLegaron de noche = they made a nocturnal arrival. Por la noche would refer to a particular night e.g. Llego ayer. Por la noche? = He arrived yesterday. At night? The same contrast is found with de dia and por el dia. Let me know what you think about this, if it helps, if it’s clear, etc.

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