break out

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I wondered if there's an expression or what fairly precise term might be used for "break out" in the following context: "Under these conditions a terrible storm is likely to break out in the west."

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updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by Judy

11 Answers

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James Santiago said:

Got it. Thanks for the explanation. And I can't wait to use that "¡porque sí!" on my kids! You probably know, but the English equivalent is "Because I said so!" Very useful for people with kids.

Yes, I knew it. I cannot imagine a language without an equivalent expression, hehe.

porque sí.
1. loc. adv. coloq. Sin causa justificada, por simple voluntad o capricho.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados

See? In Spanish it is important enough to include it in the dictionary.

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Got it. Thanks for the explanation. And I can't wait to use that "¡porque sí!" on my kids! You probably know, but the English equivalent is "Because I said so!" Very useful for people with kids.

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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The reason is the same, I think: we start with a noun (e.g. cola=glue), we add a prefix to make it a verb (encolar), and we add a negative prefix to make negative (desencolar).

cola - encolar - desencolar (glue - glue - unglue)
cadena - encadenar - desencadenar. (chain - chain - unchain)
cuaderno - encuadernar - desencuadernar

Simply, no prefix, no verb, so "descolar" would be not to "colar" (to strain), and "descadenar" would sound weird, because we cannot find any verb "cadenar" in our heads. Same thing with "descuadernar".

The only reason -if any- is that Spanish is a much more synthetic language than English, and we are used to rely on morphological clues about the function of a word, whereas in English you rely more on order (analytical) and context. If this is not a good argument to you, then the reason is "¡porque sí!", which is what our parents used to say when they don't want to keep arguing (not that I want to stop this conversation, don't take wrong).

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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I wasn't questioning the formation of en- verbs, but rather the double prefix of desen-. It would be as if we said unenlace or unentangle in English. We usually just use one or the other, en- or un-, not both. But I realize that Spanish is not English, so the answer to my question is probably just "Because that's the way we do it."

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Spanish doesn't form verbs from nouns as readily as English does (e.g. to book, to hand), so normally we add prefixes to achieve this.

One of the most common ones is en-, from Latin in-, used both for verbs and adjectives:

enfocar - (to) focus
empapelar - (to) paper
empuñar - (to) clench (no noun)
encolar - (to) glue (cola=glue)

Others, like enfermo, from Latin in- + firmus (not firm, strong) are much older.

Another very common prefix to form verbs is a-:

atardecer - (to) get dark
aterrizar - (to) land
agrupar - (to) group

This actually produces quite a few verbs which require get + adjective in English.

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Lazarus, why is the "en" left in words such as desencadenar? The basic verb is encadenar, to chain, and I, coming from an English background, would expect the opposite form to be descadenar, to unchain. Two examples of this in English are enlace/unlace and entangle/untangle. Is there a reason why the "en" remains in these verbs?

Just curious, as usual...

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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James Santiago said:

...unchained or, more loosely, unleashed, both of which are only used when there is an explicit agent. That is, we have to know who unleashed something, and since there is no agent with a storm (putting religion aside), we couldn't use those verbs in English.

In Spanish it is the same, actually: if you say "desencadenar", there must be someone or something that unleashes someone or something, in the same way that "hundir" requires someone (or sth) to sink something. Interestingly, in English someone can sink things, and think can just sink, so the verb can be both transitive or intransitive just by using or omitting the object, but apparently "unchain" and "unleash" are exclusively transitive, and cannot be made intransitive by just omitting the object (i.e. the storm unleashed). In Spanish both verbs -and many others- can be turned into intransitive by making them pronominal: "se hunde" and "se desencadena".

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Eddy said:

Can it be used in less violent situations such as "se desencadenaron los aplausos" - applause broke out.

Yes, I think the Spanish verb is used whenever something occurs suddenly. I imagine a hound being let loose.

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Can it be used in less violent situations such as "se desencadenaron los aplausos" - applause broke out.

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by Eddy
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lazarus1907 said:

I'd use "desencadenarse", a verb used to describe the beginning of sudden and violent natural phenomena.

That's an excellent suggestion, and it's interesting because it literally means unchained or, more loosely, unleashed, both of which are only used when there is an explicit agent. That is, we have to know who unleashed something, and since there is no agent with a storm (putting religion aside), we couldn't use those verbs in English.

If the storm is the subject (agent), we can use one of these verbs: The storm unleashed its fury against the Mississippi coast. Similarly, if we slightly change the English here to "These conditions are likely to unleash a terrible storm in the west," then the English is very close to the literal meaning of the Spanish translation.

Again, though, Lazarus' suggestion is spot on here.

updated ENE 26, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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I'd use "desencadenarse", a verb used to describe the beginning of sudden and violent natural phenomena.

updated ENE 25, 2009
posted by lazarus1907