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The story "La carta perdida" and the meaning of "lo vende"

In this story we are told, " La señora que lo vende..." and then asked what we "know" about the story. There is a problem here for English speakers, and that is that of the three choices, we do not "know" any of them. We can guess that the protagonist bought the book, and that turns out to be the correct response, but for an English speaker, that someone "sells" something does not necessarily mean that someone else bought something. So my question is, does a native Spanish speaker "know" from present tense 'lo vende' that a transaction has actually taken place? Are the languages that different? Or is this simply poor instruction?

March 10, 2018



It is the same in Spanish. Until that point, we don't know if Isabel bought the book. It would be necessary a "se": "La señora que se lo vende" (The lady who sell her the book). Or a previous explanation about Isabel choosing the book for purchasing.


I appreciate the discussion. I will take my question as answered by the comments that Spanish and English are not that different. So however one thinks about this problem in one language, it is the same in the other. While clearly there are different ways to think about it regardless of which language one uses, the point of my concern was whether the Spanish locution conveys a knowledge that the English expression does not. Clearly that is not the case, so the question posed to the student should be "what can we infer", not "what do we know", from this story.


A day later...but I'll share my opinion about your questions...

1) Does a native Spanish speaker "know" from present tense lo vende that a transaction has actually taken place?
I can imagine only one situation in which it would be understood/known. This is when talking about daily activities...For example one case would be...

Todos los días salgo y vendo empanadas.

In this case. It's understood that transactions do take place "everyday", because I know my business, I know I can sale.

Are the languages that different?
Yes, they tend to be that different in some aspects. Just because this is not the case, don't be confident that you will always be able to apply "English logic" to communicate in Spanish, cause might found more difficulties. It's a good idea, though; asking for validation when you think you got it right...like this time...

Or is this simply poor instruction?
Poor instruction it's a bit rough to describe our friends' work on the stories...They even ask us "how can they improve the story" at the end of each story. I hope they soon correct this mistake you're posting about.

In conclusion, you got it right. It's a mistake that should be corrected.


Thank you for your response. You are right, I do not want to be too critical of people who are providing such a wonderful service freely. All in all, I think they have done a very good job and are using the technology very well. Computer based instruction is difficult in principle, so I can accept some bumps along the way. But it is hard to tell the difference between limitations in the languages and limitations in the technology, so we must ask for clarifications. And they have provided us with these forums for just that purpose, so no complaint there! I am fairly confident that the authors would agree that in this particular instance, it is a poor instruction, and not what they intended. I did not mean that as a blanket condemnation of their efforts. Even so, I will be surprised if they correct the error. I'm sure they have very limited resources.


DuoLingo does make corrections, but not often very quickly. I predict you will find a message in your inbox sometime in the future thanking you for your correction and saying it is now accepted - - I know, it happened to me!

I had to look it up to remember exactly what it was! Have Lingot on me for your question and comment - - aaaH! make it two lingots !


Yes, if someone sells something, someone then buys it; however, that doesn't necessarily tell us who is doing the buying. I will have to read the story. In English, something is for sale before it is sold. I agree you can now say a store sells... to indicate what they sell, but that does assume that the store actually does sell something to someone at some point in time. If the store has never sold anything, then you would say the store has .... for sale.


The question is another one. If something sells something, it doesn't mean someone buys it. "Vendo mi casa, pero nadie está interesado" (I'm trying to sell my house, but nobody is interested).


Not necessarily, you could actually be selling your house, until you add that no one is interested. I was wondering if they did not add another indirect object pronoun "Se lo vende." as "le" would change to "se" when there is already a direct object pronoun "lo". https://www.thoughtco.com/whats-the-object-pronouns-3078137 They may have thought the context was clear, but apparently you did not think so. I have yet to read that story, so I cannot say yet.

Again, common use is not necessarily the most correct way to say something. I would say "My house is for sale." if it is not currently being bought. I am not saying that common use is incorrect, just that we can also be clearer in English. Selling something does imply that someone is buying, just not who is buying or necessarily when.

Here is the thing "A store sells books." tells us what the store sells. "A store sells a book." tells us that a customer buys a book. "lo" is singular and so someone is buying it. Was the story about a house?


Then, you agree with me :) The story is about a letter inside a book and it says "La señora que lo vende", nothing else. Right after that setence, it comes a question about "What do we know about the story" and the right answer is a character already bought the book. That assumption is not possible neither in English nor Spanish, because "to be selling" is not necessarily "to sell".


I have read it now. The context is clear. " Allí encuentra un libro que le gusta. La señora que lo vende le dice que el libro pertenecía a su esposo fallecido." Earlier they say that the woman is selling old books. Then, our main character finds one that she likes. The woman who sells it tells her that it belonged to her dead husband, Yes, from this context, I would definitely assume that the main character buys the book! No other characters are mentioned so she must not have sold it to someone else. She does sell it, because it no longer belongs to her deceased husband. We do find out later that this is correct. The whole story is like that. Always pick the best answer and many answers cannot possibly be true. We, for example, cannot know how long the couple was married (70 years) but the other answers do not include that the couple married.

The verb in Spanish is "sells" and not "to be selling" which would be expressed differently in Spanish. The assumption is possible in both English and Spanish, by the way. The question does not say the book was bought but that she has bought - which would be very recently. .


Problem is we don't know that. We find it out in the next lines, after the question.


Again, it is perfectly logical to me. The stories often ask us to add the next words to sentences and we don't necessarily know what the next words are, but we can figure out which words are most likely. Did you assume that she wouldn't want the book because it belonged to the woman's late husband?

She already expressed an interest in this book. I wouldn't care who it previously belonged to if I were interested in buying it. If I find one I like, and the woman sells it, then I am probably the one who is buying it.

Sure, the person telling the story could have said "....me lo vende..." and then it would have been crystal clear, but most people don't always specify everything. Would you say "The woman who sells me it tells me that it belonged to her late husband."? Here they use third person "The woman who sells it tells her that it belonged to her late husband." It is just redundant to say "The woman who sells her it tells her....." Yes, in Spanish you could say "le dice a ella.." to verify that it is "her" and not "him", but again in the context of the story there are no other people mentioned and so they would not bother to specify. You would know by context.

¿Qué sabemos hasta ahora?

Isabel ha comprado un libro que pertenecía al esposo de la señora mayor.

Isabel no encuentra ningún libro que le guste en la venta de garaje.

A la señora mayor le gusta comprar libros viejos.

The question, I agree, should have been what can we infer rather than what do we know up until now!


"La señora que lo vende" doesn't mean "The lady who already sold it" but "The lady who is selling it". There is no an accomplished sale at that point.

Look at this: "La mujer que los vende hoy no logró vender ninguno".


We are watching her sell the book to her. A moment later, it is an accomplished fact. How long do you thing this sale is taking? By the time you read the question, they are done. It is not a house with tons of escrow paperwork to sign. It is a garage sale.

I mean, I understand, there could be a sudden twist in the plot and the sale doesn't happen. Oh no, I forgot my money at home!

I think the time where we are to pick that the couple was married for 70 years is much harder to swallow. When did we find out how many years were involved? Yet, we know this one is true because the other choices were "recently", "a little while ago", and "yesterday."

Interestingly, at the end of the story they make us practice words from the story and "le vendió" is listed for "sold to her" which as we know is not what they put in the story! Wait, they do put it in later in the story, just not before the question.

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