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"Ustedes no encuentran a mi amigo."

Translation:You do not find my friend.

March 6, 2013



This seems like a really awkward sentence in English.


totally. They should teach a past tense before sentences like this. "They did not find my friend" sounds a lot better.


It's not in the past tense though - my best guess is that the closest English translation is 'you can't find my friend', but that implies poder and an inherent restriction or impossibility.

When you say 'I can't find my friends' it implies a lack of success, it's not a statement about the possibility of finding them. But if you say 'you can't find my friends' it suddenly has a different feel, like you're saying they're somewhere the other person will never find them. I think using encontrar in the present tense like this is supposed to carry that first sense - an ongoing lack of success.

You have to strike a balance between natural Spanish and a natural translation to English, so I wouldn't worry too much about changing tenses and aspects and whatever to shoehorn it into a more common English phrasing. So long as you get the idea of what you're saying in natural Spanish, it doesn't matter how awkward it sounds in English!


So if "Ustedes no encuentran a mi amigo." means something along the lines of "You can't find my friend" why aren't we taught to translate it like that? Because from "you do not find my friend" I really do not understand the Spanish phrase or really learn when/how to use it...


Well like I said, 'you can't find my friend' isn't really the same as 'you aren't yet successful in finding my friend' (we'd probably just say 'you haven't found my friend' but then we're into the present perfect). It has a different, more negative connotation and implies a level of impossibility. I don't know enough of the nuances of Spanish to say if that carries through, like no encuentras a mis amigos being less negative than no puedes encontrar a mis amigos, but you can definitely say both. So maybe we're being taught to distinguish them, with and without that explicit can't.

Looking around, it seems to come up in questions (¿no encuentras lo que buscas?) and as elements of a phrase (cuando no encuentras tu casa) - not sure if it comes up much as a statement on its own, directed at another person anyway. It might be best to translate it as 'not finding', as in 'I'm not finding it', which is pretty colloquial English but it fills a semantic gap. Or 'I can't find it' vs 'I am unable to find it', keeping in mind how we use can't to mean 'I haven't managed it yet' in this case. 'Haven't been successful yet' vs 'cannot actually do it'.

I mean I'm speculating a bit here (I might ask around on the Word Reference forums actually) but I just wanted to make the general point about learning to express things in Spanish instead of worrying about the naturalness of the translation. Like using the past tense and saying "they did not find my friend" sounds more natural, but the Spanish sentence is in the present tense, and the past tense version has a different meaning. So even though it's awkward to translate to English using the present simple, it carries the information and meaning over. We're learning to express ourselves in Spanish, not translate Spanish to natural English, so there are compromises between grammatical accuracy and natural style. Not that I'm saying this is perfect or anything!

Sorry, I get typey in here


Hi. I have to admit I don't quite follow everything. But if you're saying what I think you're saying, I don't think I agree.

To me, the point of translation is to go from "natural" expression in the one language to "natural" expression in the target language. Often it's helpful to know the literal translation because it can be a useful tool in remembering the phrase and for learning the structure and patterns of a language.

For example, there are many phrase in Spanish that use "have" when in English we would use "to be": Tengo veinte años. Ella tiene miedo. Los niños tienen hambre. etc. To me, the best translations are "I'm 20 years old." "She is afraid." "The children are hungry."

Yes, it can be helpful to think about the literal translations of these sentences (I have ... She has ... The children have ...) because one can see a pattern. But to use "have" in English is, I think, an incorrect translation because it is not the natural way to express the same idea in the target language.

The difficulty with DL (and many language exercises) is that we often lack the context necessary to know what the best translation is. In some cases, it is best to go with the most often used phrase. In other cases, it's very hard to figure out what could even be a possible context for the sentence or phrase used.

I don't have a problem changing tenses from the one language to the other if it maintains the integrity of the expressed idea. Not only do English and Spanish use words differently, the verb tenses do not always correspond directly. (For example, Spanish uses the simple present many times when English would use the present progressive. ¿Qué buscas? = What are you looking for?)

I also don't have a problem translating the way most everyone says things. In the example above, I have never heard someone say in English, "For what do you search?" or some such. When I'm helping someone with language I just tell them: "Look, this is the way we're "supposed" to say such-and-such, but you will rarely, if ever, hear that. This is what we really say." I have yet to find anyone who did not understand this; I'm sure there are examples in every language.

I guess I get typey too. :-)

Btw, I greatly appreciate the exchange of ideas in these discussions.


This makes a lot of sense actually, thanks for clarifying! I think my "problem" is that I'm coming from a standpoint where all translation and understanding etc has to do with some less (or even non)linguistic thought. So what I'm doing is SPANISH--(what does this mean?)--> THOUGHT --(how would I say it in English?) --> ENGLISH, so I want two natural sounding expressions that both express the same/very similar thought in their respective languages. More direct translations therefore really bother me because they skip the THOUGHT part and you can do them without completely grasping the meaning. So if a proposed translation makes little sense to me, I don't feel like I'm really grasping the meaning of the Spanish sentence. In this particular case, I think I like your way of thinking about it as "You're not finding my friend" because, well, then I get what the thing is saying. Thanks!


Looks like I can't reply to Daniel for some reason (this isn't really the best layout for a discussion forum anyway!) but yeah if you're reading this, I don't entirely disagree. I mean my perspective is that we pretty much learn our first language through phrases and patterns, we use them all the time without thinking about exactly what words we're putting together, and linguistics and grammar are just a way of explaining what we're doing and why, and working out some formal rules to help people learn this stuff in another way.

Duolingo seems to be kinda in the middle - we're learning through phrases instead of formal grammar, but at the same time it's trying to push grammatical concepts, by structuring the lessons as they are and introducing certain concepts and focusing on them repeatedly. So when we're working with a certain tense and aspect (I forget what lesson this is from but anyway, let's go with present simple), it's confusing to translate it in English in say the past simple or the present perfect. It might be natural phrasing, but it's inconsistent in the grammatical framework we're using, so there needs to be a compromise.

I think Duolingo's trying to keep things more in that conceptual space, so sometimes the English translations are more awkward and technically descriptive than natural, so you can understand the idea of what's being said. I mean I have a little bit of a language background and I'm used to thinking systematically too, so I can only come from my perspective - for other people it might not be as clear what's going on, and more confusing than helpful. But I think the idea's to avoid context and information being lost in translation, so the learner understands specifically what's being conveyed, in a kind of neutral pure sense - and in real translation, that would be further translated into natural English, or whatever other language (and with all the linguistic twists and turns each might require).

I guess the most important thing is to make sure it accepts natural English answers as well as the grammatically equivalent ones, so people aren't punished for not doing a technical translation, or for not guessing exactly how Duolingo wants things phrased


why there is an "a" after "encuentran" ? I remember that there is a sentence saying " ellos no encuentran el dinero", which suggests encuentran is a vt. not a vi.!


That 'a' is called the personal a, it's actually attached to the front of the object, not the end of the verb.

You're best looking it up on the internet (just search 'spanish "personal a"') but basically when the direct object in a sentence is a person or people, you stick 'a' in front. So in this case, the direct object of the sentence is mi amigo, so you need the personal a. Dinero is the direct object in your other sentence, but that's not people, so you don't add the a.

You've probably seen it in other sentences like "a mi padre le gustan los patos", because the sentence translates to 'ducks(subject) please(verb) my father(object)', so mi padre is still the direct object even though it's at the beginning of the sentence. So it still gets that a stuck on the front.

You really need to understand this because it comes up a lot, I still forget it sometimes and get otherwise perfect answers marked as wrong, it'll just frustrate you if you don't know why that a is or isn't supposed to be there. Unfortunately there isn't a lesson on it yet =/


what is "You bin..."? Encuentran implies plural (ellos/ellas/ustedes) so the translation "They do not find my friend" should also be correct. For "You do not find my friend" should it not be "usted no encuentras a mi amigo"?


Ustedes means "you, plural, formal" so "they" is simply not an option. Ustedes is the subject of the sentence. Your sentence is correct for "usted," which is you, formal, singular. Duo's is correct for "Usted." If the "usted" were not present, "they" would be a reasonable option. "you bin.." is a Duolingo error. :)


Thanks! I always thought that Ustedes for a formal word for "They"!!!! Now I can see where I was going wrong.


"Ustedes" is a formal word for "you guys!" Okey-dokey, easy-peasy, de nada!


Yeah, just remember that you use the third-person forms of the verbs (which was probably what was throwing you). So it's "usted encuentra" (not 'encuentras'), and "ustedes encuentran" (not 'encontráis') if you're being formal.

Basically take the 'he/she/they' form and whack usted/ustedes in front, when you're speaking to people formally ;)


You don't find my friend without a question mark is odd. So I chose to say: You did not find my friend... (Deserves more points than BIN my friend..) There go my 3 hearts....


How about encounter? It is not as goal directed as find and seems closer to running into the friend by accident.


Telemetry,Your comments are interesting, but using this program as a beginner in Spanish one learns very quickly that the sentences are computer generated. That is how you end up with "You do not find my friend" which is a proper English sentences, but not something anyone would ever say--or say rarely. If the programmers had just gotten their hands on a current Spanish textbook and programmed in the sentences found there, DL would be a better learning tool than it already is. Unfortunately, it appears to me that the sentences only get more awkward as you work down the tree.


It absolutely could be improved, for sure, and I'm definitely nothing close to a Spanish expert so I couldn't tell you the best way to translate the meaning this sentence has in Spanish, into English. Plus Duolingo seems to focus on specific tense forms and constructions, and wants you to understand the concepts by being exposed to them in isolation.

So while in English we might say "you can't find my friends", that implies the negative form of verbs carries some sense of can't, which it doesn't. As a general illustration of the negative present simple, this translation works and doesn't contradict the concept you need to learn. As a working translation for no encuentran into English, it's not such a good one. Personally I'd probably recommend Duolingo not use this verb in this form, so the problem never comes up, and the actual phrases could be learned later (there are a lot of rule-breaking verbs and phrases that are best avoided at first).

I can only speculate about the system behind all this, but I'm pretty sure it's sort of automated and uses the same material across languages, so it's not as simple as copying some textbooks (which would be expensive too) and I don't think that's their goal anyway. We're sort of working in an experiment here!


Could not encontrar mean to meet as well? I tried with: "You do not meet my friend." Should that, or something along those lines, be accepted as well?


Encontrar also means meet :(


Why do we need "a" after encuentran?


It's the 'personal a', there are a few explanations if you scroll up a bit


Ustedes is plural you...

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