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Question about subject/verb order

0
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It seems like sometimes the noun comes before the verb and sometimes it comes after.

I recently looked up the title of a TV show, "Mas Sabe el Diablo," and found that it translates to "The Devil Knows Better." So in that instance, the subject comes after the verb. I thought I'd always seen 'saber' used with the subject before the verb other than that, but I'm not sure. The title made no sense to me until I looked it up.

Is there a rule for when the subject follows the verb? I know it always does with gustar, but I'm not sure what's going on other than that.

5962 views
updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by Jason_Bryant

14 Answers

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El sentido de mis frases es, más o menos, el siguiente:

Ese tipo es demasiado listo = that guy is too smart

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by nila45
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En frases con el verbo "saber" se puede invertir y poner el sujeto detrás del verbo. Por ejemplo, para decir que "tú sabes mucho (o muchísimo)". En el sentido de que "eres un espabilado" (you are a smart alec).

Ejemplos (con el mismo significado)

¡Tú sabes más .....! (En realidad, quieres decir: ¡vaya! ¡Qué listo eres! (Con cierta ironía).

Aquí ya se invierte y se pone primero el sujeto:

¡Sabes más tú...!. La frase es siempre con el sentido de que eres un espabilado o un listo. Igual que: ¡Hay que ver lo que sabes (tú)!.

¡Hay que ver lo que sabe él!. (Hay que ver lo listo que es! ¡vaya!). (Con ironía). He is a smart alec.

Si miro bien, estas frases son algo parecidas al refrán:
-más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo (también se invierte y se pone el sujeto detrás). Seguramente es para enfatizar esa idea de ser alguien demasiado listo. Y también va con el verbo "saber".

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by nila45
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More knows the devil for being old than for being a devil.

Interesting. "More knows the devil" sounds like antiquated English to my ears. Perhaps switching things around used to be more common in English?
Yes, you'll find many more subject/verb inversions in Shakespeare's writings than in modern English writing/speech (though fewer than in Spanish). Such inversions do still exist in English but they're fairly rare e.g. "As Main goes, so goes the nation." or "I speak English, as does he."

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by samdie
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Thanks for the help, guys. This has been very useful.

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by Jason_Bryant
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These sayings do sound very antiquated in Spanish indeed, but not old enough for several hundred years; maybe just two or three centuries. In any case, people do not talk like that nowadays without getting everyone's attention.

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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More knows the devil for being old than for being a devil.

Interesting. "More knows the devil" sounds like antiquated English to my ears. Perhaps switching things around used to be more common in English'

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by Jason_Bryant
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The devil knows more because he is old (and therefore experienced) than because he is a devil.

The sentence makes a reference to the wisdom you gain with age, as opposed to who you are.

The sentence, as it appears in Spanish, is more like:

More knows the devil for being old than for being a devil.

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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That is what I meant by on purpose. As Laz said they arrange words in the senence according to the importance of each part of the sentence on the argument to be presented, and their impact on the listeners. In english its all about whats grammatically corect.

Sidebar: What does "Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo." mean'

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by ravensty
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OK. The problem is that when I first tried to read, "Mas sabe el Diablo," I came up with "More know the Devil." The people I could figure out was that they meant more people know the devil.

Any tips on how to recognize when word order with verb followed by noun? Or is it just something we have to practice'

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by Jason_Bryant
0
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It seems like sometimes the noun comes before the verb and sometimes it comes after.

I recently looked up the title of a TV show, "Mas Sabe el Diablo," and found that it translates to "The Devil Knows Better." So in that instance, the subject comes after the verb. I thought I'd always seen 'saber' used with the subject before the verb other than that, but I'm not sure. The title made no sense to me until I looked it up.

Is there a rule for when the subject follows the verb? I know it always does with gustar, but I'm not sure what's going on other than that.

OK, let me give you a brief (boring) introduction. Some languages like Chinese, strongly depend on word order to make sense out of things. Change some words, and you've altered the whole meaning. Other languages (especially some with declensions) are less sensitive to word order. English is rather on the keep-the-right-order side of things, while Spanish is far more flexible (but not as flexible as other languages). This confuses English speakers sometimes.

These are "a few" of all the possible combinations of this sentence in Spanish:

Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo.
Más sabe por viejo el diablo que por diablo.
El diablo sabe más por diablo que por viejo.
El diablo sabe más por viejo que por diablo.
El diablo por diablo sabe más que por viejo.
Sabe más por diablo el diablo que por viejo.
Sabe más el diablo por viejo que por diablo.
Sabe más por viejo el diablo que por diablo.

There are quite a few more, all of them grammatically correct. The difference between them is that the words that appear at the beginning of the sentence are the ones you should be putting more focus on, and the latter ones, less. Also, it is a question of "nice sounding" to the sentence (e.g. avoiding repetitions or ugly sound combinations), plus a smart impact with the words.

The original ones sounds pretty good, it introduces ideas in a logical sequence, and it pseudo-rhymes. That's why.

Spanish often arranges sentences, not according to a fixed grammatical pattern (like in English), but according to the importance of each part of the sentence on the argument to be presented, and their impact on the listeners. Some of the rather complex grammatical features of the language ensure that word order has little (or no) impact on the final interpretation.

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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I think in spanish they arrange the subject and the verb purposely.

What does that mean'

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by Jason_Bryant
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I think in spanish they arrange the subject and the verb purposely.

Also your example is written in the context of dialogue so it isn't really parallel to the prose statement "The devil knows better". The statement is still "This will work" in both examples so in actuality nothing has been reversed you just moved "Jake said". Knows better the devil doesn't make sense,however, both "Knows better the devil does and "Knows better does the devil" do interestingly. Maybe Spanish simply leaves out the "does". IDK

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by ravensty
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The funny thing is, immediately after writing that message I started reading a news article and realized that it's not clear in English, either. We can write it like

Jake said, "This will work."

or we can write

"This will work," said Jake.

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by Jason_Bryant
0
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I was wondering the same thing. Someone once told me in some instances you have to read the sentence from right to left. But the question still remains (as jason stated above) why do some sentences get written this way

updated JUN 4, 2009
posted by ravensty
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