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Using 'Y'

Conjunction Can Mean More Than "And"

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geese walking

Dos gansos y un hombre. (Two geese and a man.)

Photo by Dennis Jarvis; licensed via Creative Commons.

Although the Spanish conjunction y usually is the equivalent of the English "and," it also can be used in a few ways that are different than "and" in English.

Most of the time, y is used to connect two sentences or words or phrases that are the same part of speech. Some examples:

  • Un perro y una vaca son los protagonistas del libro. A dog and a cow are the book's main characters.
  • Tú y yo sabemos lo que es vivir tan lejos. You and I know what it is to live so far away.
  • Cantábamos y tocábamos mejor que nadie. We sang and we played instruments better than anybody.
  • Es el mejor regalo para él y ella. It's the best gift for him and her.
  • ¿Por qué ese idiota es rico y yo no? Why is that idiot rich and I'm not?
  • El presidente y el vicepresidente tienen un mandato de cuatro años. The president and vice president have a four-year term.
  • Vi la película y la encontré buena. I saw the film and I found it to be good.
  • Me duele mucho y estoy preocupada. I'm in much pain and I am worried.

In questions, y can carry the idea of "what about?" or "how about?" Although the "and" of English can be used the same way, the Spanish usage is much more common.

  • No puedo nadar. ¿Y tú? I can't swim. How about you?
  • No sabía que David estaba enfermo. ¿Y Casandra? I didn't know David was sick. What about Casandra?
  • ¿Y qué? So what?
  • ¿Y si mi hijo no se toma la medicación? What if my son doesn't take the medication?

In some contexts, y can be used to indicate a contrast in a way that the English "and" standing alone doesn't. In these cases it usually can be translated by "and yet" or "and still."

  • Estudiaba mucho y no sabía nada. She studied a lot and still didn't know anything.
  • Juan es asesino y lo amamos. Juan is a murderer, yet we still love him.

As with the English "and," when y connects a word or phrase that is repeated, it suggests a large, indefinite amount:

  • Corrieron y corrieron hasta llegar a casa. The ran and they ran until they arrived at home.
  • Es una ciudad muerta desde hace años y años. It has been a dead city since years and years ago.

Keep in mind that y can change to e when it comes before certain words.

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