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Using 'Andar'

Verb Quite Flexible in Meaning

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In its normal usage, the verb andar means "to walk." However, it is often used more broadly with a vague meaning that isn't readily translatable — meaning something along the line of "to function," "to do," "to go along" or even simply "to be."

Here are some examples of the verb being used with its common, most literal meaning:

  • Yo andaba con mi amigo Adry. (I walked with my friend Adry.)
  • Cada mañana, Pedro andaba cuatro kilómetros. (Every morning, Pedro walked four kilometers.)
  • Ella anduvo el camino a su casa llorando. (Crying, she walked the road to her house.)
In many cases, andar can mean simply "to travel" or "to go":
  • Todo el mundo andaba a pie pero los de la clase media andábamos en tranvía. (Everybody traveled by foot, but we in the middle class traveled by streetcar.)
  • Más del 70 por ciento de los niños andan en bicicleta. (More than 70 percent of the children bicycle.)
  • Ando tras mi gato, que desapareció. (I'm going after my cat, who disappeared.)
When a thing is the subject of the sentence, andar can be used to mean "to function" (much like the English verb "to run" can sometimes be used in the same way).
  • Si se humedece esa motocicleta no anda. (If it gets wet, that motorcycle doesn't run.)
  • Hay señales que no anda bien la conexión. (There are signs that the connection isn't working well.)
When followed by a gerund (a verb form ending in -ando or -endo), andar can mean something similar "to go about." It can even be less specific in terms of action than that, serving as kind of a substitute for estar, forming a kind of a continuous tense. Translation will depend largely on the context.
  • Andaba hablando consigo mismo. (He went around talking to himself.)
  • Ahora nadie anda comprando esas blusas. (Now nobody is buying those blouses.)
  • Había una gran piara de cerdos, que andaban comiendo en la falda del monte. (There was a large herd of pigs that were going about eating on the mountainside.)
  • Los astrónomos, que siempre andan estudiando el cielo, han llegado a pensar que muchas de las estrellas pueden tener planetas. (Astronomers, who are always studying the sky, have come to believe that many of the stars could have planets.)
In some cases, andar can mean simply "to be."
  • ¿Andas por aquí? (Are you from around here?)
  • Ahora se estima que la inversión andará por los $30 millones. (Now it is estimated that the investment must be about $30 million.)
  • Silvia hoy anda por los 43 años. (Sylvia today is 43 years old.)
  • Muchas veces anda mal de dinero. (He's often short on money.)
  • Mi madre anda muy preocupada. (My mother is very worried.)
Note that andar is irregular in the indicative preterite (anduve, anduviste, anduvo, anduvimos, anduvisteis, anduvieron) and the imperfect subjunctive (anduviera, anduvieras, anduviera, anduviéramos, anduvierais, anduvieran) tenses.

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