No están mal, son bonitas

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This is a sentence in a book Lazarus had mentioned:

No están mal, son bonitas, pero me parecen un poco caras.

I would like to know why there is a switch from están to son. It probably has something to do with our previous discussion of whether mal is an adjective or an adverb, but I'm a little fuzzy on this so some clarification would be helpful. Could you say No son mal, or No son malas?

2313 views
updated FEB 25, 2009
posted by Natasha

3 Answers

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This is one of the uses of "estar" that is a bit problematic for many foreigners. On one hand, "mal" cannot be used to modify the verb "ser": "Son mal" is an incorrect sentence, since "ser" is identifying the subject as something else, but there is nothing to make it equal to, and to make things worse, we are saying that this equality is being badly. What''?

Forget about "ser" with modal adverbs "bien" and "mal".

Anyway, we can say both of this:

La película fue interesante.
La película estuvo interesante.

The first one is a plain absolute classification of the movie, according to your criteria, of course. The second one, focuses on how did the experience felt at that time and in that particular place. The difference, however, in practice, is very subtle even for many natives.

"Estar" is sometimes used to describe the way things are perceived or experienced in a particular space-time frame, e.g. Estás muy guapo. Las manzanas están carísimas.

P.S. That book uses only "natural" common daily sentences, even if they are idiomatic, instead of artificially constructed sentences intended to be simple for foreigners.

updated FEB 25, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Thank you, I was thinking something like that but couldn't quite get it to come together.

James Santiago said:

Alert! Shooting from hip...

Estar mal, in addition to its usual meaning of "to feel ill," also is a set phrase meaning to look bad or to be lacking in some desirable quality.

Estoy muy mal en esa foto = I look horrible in that photo

Estoy mal de dinero = I'm short of money

Therefore, saying "No están mal" means "They don't seem too bad," whereas "No son malas" would be an explicit comment on the nature of the things.

>

updated FEB 25, 2009
posted by Natasha
0
votes

Alert! Shooting from hip...

Estar mal, in addition to its usual meaning of "to feel ill," also is a set phrase meaning to look bad or to be lacking in some desirable quality.

Estoy muy mal en esa foto = I look horrible in that photo
Estoy mal de dinero = I'm short of money

Therefore, saying "No están mal" means "They don't seem too bad," whereas "No son malas" would be an explicit comment on the nature of the things.

updated FEB 25, 2009
posted by 00bacfba