Like many other verbs, dejar has a basic meaning — in this case, to leave something somewhere — that has broadened over the centuries to be used under a wide variety of circumstances. Most of its meanings, however, pertain at least in a broad sense to the idea of leaving something (or someone) somewhere, placing something somewhere or abandoning something.
While "to leave" is one of the most common translations of dejar, it should not be confused with "to leave" in the sense of to leave a place, where salir is used. Thus, "she's leaving tomorrow" is "sale mañana," but "I left my keys at home" is "dejé las llaves en casa."
Perhaps more than most verbs that have one basic meaning, dejar can be translated in a wide variety of ways depending on the context. Most of the translations in the examples below are far from the only ones that would work.
As stated already, the most common meaning of dejar is to leave an object or person somewhere:
- Examples: Déjalo aquí. (Leave it here.) ¿Dónde dejé el coche aparcado? (Where did I park the car?) Dejaré el libro en la mesa. (I will leave the book on the table.) Dejé a Pablo en Chicago. (I dropped Pablo off in Chicago.)
When the object of dejar is an activity or person, dejar can mean to leave, abandon or give up:
- Examples: Deja su carrera para irse a la política. (He is leaving his career to go into politics.) Han fallado en sus tentativas de dejar el fumar. (They have failed in their attempts to quit smoking.) Dejó a su esposa por la mujer que deseaba. (He abandoned his wife for the woman he wanted.)
When an object is left with a person, dejar often means to lend. (The verb prestar can also be used with the same meaning.):
- Examples: Como era un buen jefe me dejaba su coche. (Since he was a good boss he would lend me his car.) Me dejó su casa de vacaciones. (He let me use his vacation home.) ¿Me dejas tu teléfono? Could I borrow your phone?
In many contexts, dejar can mean to give or to pass on:
- Examples: Mi madre me dejó su capacidad de esperanza. (My mother passed on to me her capacity to hope.) Me dejó su dirección postal para escribirle. (He gave me his mailing address so I could write to him.) Cuando murió me dejó su panadería en su testamento. (When he died he left me his bakery in his will.) Siempre mi papá le dejaba la tarea mas difícil a mi mama. (My father always passed the most difficult tasks to my mother.)
Sometimes, when the object of dejar is a person, it can mean "to leave alone" or "to not bother":
- Examples: ¡Déjame! Tengo que estudiar. (Leave me alone! I have to study.) No nos dejaba en paz. (He did not leave us in peace.)
Another common meaning of dejar is "to allow" or "to let":
- Examples: No me dejaban comprar nada que no fuese reciclable. (They didn't let me buy anything that wasn't recyclable.) El faraón se asustó y dejó salir al pueblo de Israel. (The pharaoh got scared and let the people of Israel go.)
When followed by an adjective, dejar can mean to put or leave someone or something in a certain state or condition:
- Examples: La ley no dejó satisfecho a nadie. (The law didn't satisfy anybody.) Me dejó feliz, como ver un oasis. (It made me happy, like seeing an oasis.) El partido me dejó rota la rodilla. (My knee got broken during the game.)
Sometimes, dejar means to postpone:
- Example: ¿Por qué no deja el viaje para mañana? (Why not put off your trip until tomorrow?)
- Examples: Hoy dejo de fumar. (Today I give up smoking.) La hepatitis A dejó de ser una cosa de niños. (Hepatitis A is no longer a children's disease.) Nunca dejaré de amarte. (I'll never stop loving you.)
Finally, dejar que usually means to wait until a certain time:
- Examples: Dejo que las cosas se sucedan naturalmente. (I'm waiting until things happen naturally.) La madre no dejaba que los socorristas atendieran a su hija. (The mother didn't wait for the rescuers to help her daughter.)