Both the words por
can cause newcomers to Spanish a little difficulty. The word por
is often confused with para,
can function both as a pronoun or a neuter article.
Therefore, today we’re going look at some simple constructions that use both these words in combination, with the aim of growing more accustomed to seeing how these words can function in more idiomatic expressions.
If you have any doubts over the difference between por
, it is worth going back over POST #38 where we explain in some detail these essential prepositions. Equally, whilst most newcomers will be used to seeing lo
functioning as a pronoun meaning he
, it is when it functions as a definite neuter article meaning the
that we will be focussing on today.
So, let’s take a look at six “por lo…” constructions and see how they translate into some rather useful English expressions: Por lo visto | Apparently
Alternative meanings: “clearly”, “it seems”
“Por lo visto” literally translates as “by the seen” whereby visto
is the past participle of the verb ver (to see).
One can think of this literal translation as perhaps a less precise transition of “By the looks of it”, which of course is not a million miles away from “apparently”.
“Por lo visto, esta es su opinión” (Apparently, this is his opinion) Por lo menos | At least Menos
is the Spanish word for less.
However, when accompanied by an article its meaning changes to become the superlative least
“Al menos” is an alternative form of “por lo menos”. Both translate to mean “at least” and are interchangeable.
“Por lo menos estamos aprendiendo” (At least we're learning) Por lo tanto | Therefore
Alternative meanings: “thus”, “hence”, “so”, “that is why” Tanto
means “so much” in Spanish. Therefore, literally this expression means “By the so much” which of course doesn’t really make a lot sense, thus should be treated as a completely idiomatic construction.
It is almost always used at the start of a sentence or after “y” (and),
usually in summary of a situation.
“Por lo tanto, hemos aprendido mucho” (Therefore, we learned a lot)
“No nos gustó y por lo tanto nos fuimos.” (We did not like it and so we left) Por lo demás | Otherwise
Alternative meanings: “apart from that”, “in any case”, “after all”, “nevertheless” Demás
means “other” or “the rest”. So again, as a direct translation it results in somewhat clumsy English and is better treated as a pure idiomatic expression, although it’s not too hard to see how we get to “otherwise”.
“Hubo algunos errores pero por lo demás no está mal” (There were a few errors but otherwise not bad)
“Por lo demás, está bien” (Apart from that, it's fine) Por lo mismo | For that very reason
Alternative meanings: “for the same reason”
The Spanish word mismo
means “same”. When we use the neuter article lo
in combination with words like mismo
they describe abstract things, so “lo mismo” means “the same (thing)”. Thus, again it’s not too hard to see how we get from “By/for the same (thing)” to meaning “For that very reason”.
“Por lo mismo no me gusta” (For that very reason I don't like it) Por lo pronto | For the time being
Alternative meanings: “for now”, "for a start", "for one" (under certain conditions)
Here we have another idiomatic expression which when translated literally makes little or no sense "By/For the soon". Although, when we remember that the use of a neuter article describes an abstract thing, we can begin to understand how we might get from “For the soon (thing)” to meaning “For now”.
“Por lo pronto, vamos a ver” (For now, let’s see)
“Yo, por lo pronto, estoy muy contento” (I, for one, am very happy) Conclusion | En conclusión
The purpose of today is not only to learn some useful idiomatic expressions. Whilst it’s perfectly fine to learn these phrases as vocabulary, it does serve us well to attempt to understand how some of these expressions are derived.
Words like por
for some, can take a while to master. Especially when we learn their meanings in isolation. Seeing how they can be combined together with other words to create new meanings is certainly a big step towards a greater understanding of how real Spanish phrases are constructed.