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Knowing Your Rights and Lefts: Describing Relative Positions in Spanish

1 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Driving and Getting Around by Car in Spanish-Speaking Countries

If you know the right words, you can use Spanish to describe something or someone’s position in relation to your body. Follow these guidelines to correctly use Spanish to identify the space around your body in distinct and specific ways. And keep in mind that weaving these words into your Spanish vocabulary will make your sentences more descriptive and accurate.

  • Use delante to express in front. To state that an object is in front of you, always use the Spanish word delante (deh-lahn-teh). So the English sentence Paula walks in front of Clara looks like this when translated into Spanish: Paula camina delante de Clara (pahoo-lah kah-mee-nah deh-lahn-teh deh klah-rah).

  • Say detrás to convey behind. The Spanish translation of behind is detrás (deh-trahs). Thus, Clara va detrás de Paula (klah-rah bvah deh-trahs deh pahoo-lah) means that Clara goes behind Paula.

  • Use a la derecha to express to the right. If you need to say that a person or object is to the right of you, be sure to use a la derecha (ah-lah deh-reh-chah). To express the sentence To the right of Paula is Felipe in Spanish, you’d say A la derecha de Paula está Felipe (ah lah deh-reh-chah deh pahoo-lah ehs-tah feh-lee-peh).

In Spanish, two very similar words can have totally different meanings, as is the case with derecho (deh-reh-choh; straight) and derecha (deh-reh-chah; right). What was that, you say? Look again. The only difference between the words is that one ends in -o and the other in -a. As a result, the meanings of the words aren't the same.

  • Say a la izquierda to convey to the left. When you want to say that an object or person is to the left of you, you need to use a la izquierda (ah lah ees-keeehr-dah). So the sentence José gets to the left of Clara (where gets literally means “he puts himself”) looks like this in Spanish: José se pone a la izquierda de Clara (Hoh-seh seh poh-neh ah lah ees-keeehr-dah deh klah-rah).

  • Use debajo to express beneath or under. The Spanish translation of both beneath and under is debajo (deh-bvah-Hoh). Thus, Hay pasto debajo de los pies de José (ahy pahs-toh deh-bvah-Hoh deh lohs peeehs deh Hoh-seh) means that There’s grass under Jose’s feet.

  • Say encima to convey above. To say that something is above you, you need to use encima (ehn-see-mah). Perhaps you want to express that The branch is above Paula’s head. In that case, you’d say La rama está encima de la cabeza de Paula (lah rah-mah ehs-tah ehn-seez-mah deh lah kah-bveh-sah deh pahoo-lah).

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