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Using 'Sin'

Preposition Typically Means 'Without'


no fumar

Tengo que aprender a vivir sin fumar. (I need to learn to live without smoking.)

Photo by Juan Francisco Diez; licensed via Creative Commons.

The preposition sin generally means "without" and thus can be thought of as the opposite of con ("with"). For English speakers, its use is generally straightforward, the main difference being that it generally is not followed by an indefinite article (un or una, meaning "a"). Here are some examples of its use:

  • Para el paciente sin esperanza, no existe futuro. (For the patient without hope, a future does not exist.)
  • Nunca conduzco sin gafas. (I never drive without glasses.)
  • Daniela no podrá ir a la escuela sin computadora. (Daniela will not be able to go to the school without a computer.)
  • Cuando la gente vive sin felicidad, no temerán a la muerte. (When people live without happiness, they will not fear death.)
  • Hay muchos hogares sin teléfono. (There are many homes without telephone service.)

If the indefinite article is used after sin, it often is done as a means of emphasis. Also, if the object (the noun after sin) is followed by an adjective or a clause, the indefinite article is often used:

  • Yo estaba en México sin un centavo. (I was in Mexico without a single cent.)
  • Se fue sin un adiós. (He left without even saying goodbye.)
  • No hay democracia sin un orden social liberal. (There is no democracy without a liberal social order.)
  • La clonación de un dinosaurio sería imposible sin un óvulo de dinosaurio intacto. (The cloning of a dinosaur would be impossible without an intact dinosaur egg.)

When sin is followed by a verb, nearly always the infinitive form is used. Note how these sentences are translated to Spanish. In particular, the final two examples use sin in a way that "without" is not used in English:

  • Tengo que aprender a vivir sin fumar. (I need to learn to live without smoking.)
  • Aprender sin pensar es inútil. (Learning without thinking is useless.)
  • Hay muchas lecciones sin aprender. (There are many unlearned lessons.)
  • La lata sin abrir puede durar hasta 12 meses. (An unopened can can last for 12 months.)
Other Prepositions
More Prepositions

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