No había nade que viniera

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Golfmaster65, Feb 22, 2013.

  1. Golfmaster65 Senior Member

    English-United States
    I have been told that the following expression sounds unnatural to the native spanish ear.
    No había nadie que viniera.(there wasnt anyone that was coming) in the following context...... One day me and my family were out to eat. After finishing our meal, we decided to go across the street to the mall. So, we exited the resteraunt and looked both ways. There was nobody coming, so we crossed. ( i know i already put something similar to this on here)

    I'm wanting to know why does this statement sound unatural considering there are so many other sentances that use a similar construct and are not considered unatural?

    For example, the following sentances...

    No había nadie que me pudiera ayudar.

    No hay alguien que sepa la verdad.

    No había nadie que tuviera una casa nueva

    If natives could answer this question it would be appreciated. Thanks
     
  2. steemic

    steemic Senior Member

    Pitman, New Jersey
    English (US)
    I flagged this as a grammar post for you, hopefully one of the moderators will move it to that section.

    My first language is English but I only speak spanish in my household, so hopefully I can help to shed some light for you.

    I think it sounds wierd not because of the fact that you used the subjunctive improperly but because of your choice of words in the translation.

    It would sound more natural as no había nadie que pudiera venir.
     
  3. SydLexia Senior Member

    London
    UK, English
    Permit me to try. It's because the 'nadie' and the 'viniera' are like the 'nobody' and the 'came' in "He hoped nobody came before breakfast." (= 'would come'). This 'nobody' and 'came' are unreal phantoms that torment his fevered imaginings.

    But in this case there is no hypothesis and no alternative universe: it's a simple question of whether there actually was a large lump of metal and energy approaching: yes or no.

    I think you are confusing the English construction "there was no one doing something" with the Latin-style "there was no one that..... +complicated clause stuff....". In fact "there was no one coming" translates much better if you start from the equivalent "no one was coming".

    "No había tráfico. No venía nadie."

    Ultimately we non-natives have to learn to recognise the patterns where subjunctives are used: this one is a pattern you should forget. :)

    syd
     
  4. modulus Senior Member

    ইংরেজি - আমেরিক
    As Syd points out, it is a relative clause with undetermined/non-existent antecedent. These constructs always require the subjunctive mood.
     
  5. jlcgaso

    jlcgaso Senior Member

    Mexico
    Mexican Spanish
    "No venía nadie", as Syd said, is the most commonly used expression.
     
  6. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    I'm sorry that you haven't had a reply from a "native" yet, but I think Syd's hit the nail on the head.
    Even without the negative idea of nadie, which sometimes triggers the subjunctive, the normal translation for "There's a car coming" is "Viene un coche", not "Hay un coche que viene".
     
  7. modulus Senior Member

    ইংরেজি - আমেরিক
    It is the difference between "no lo sabe nadie" and "no hay nadie que lo sepa." As far as I know, it is a choice; nothing more profound than that. :)

    Added: As inib mentions in the prior post (but maybe he doesn't, after reading his post more closely) , both the undetermined and the non-existent antecedent can trigger subjective in a relative clause. With the non-existent, the mood is obligatory. With the undetermined, it is a question of the intended meaning.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  8. Murke New Member

    Alemania
    castellano, España
    Hola, Golfmaster:
    Yo creo sencillamente que es una estructura innecesariamente compleja. Como Sydlexia ya ha propuesto, un nativo diría sencillamente: "No venía ningún coche" o "No venía nadie", ¿para qué vas a complicar esa idea con una oración compuesta con subjuntivo? En inglés es común añadir un "dummy subject" en forma de "there", pero en español no es necesario. Claro que es posible decir: "No había nadie que me pudiera ayudar", pero también puedes decir "Nadie me podía ayudar". La elección de uno u otro depende del contexto: la primera subraya quizá la actitud pesimista del hablante, el hecho de que no había nadie que pudiera ayudarlo, hay una repetición. Sin embargo, en tu ejemplo nadie elegiría "No había nadie que viniera", porque no hay ninguna razón para ello. Sencillamente, no venía ningún coche ;).
     
  9. Golfmaster65 Senior Member

    English-United States
    "I think you are confusing the English construction "there was no one doing something" with the Latin-style "there was no one that..... +complicated clause stuff....". In fact "there was no one coming" translates much better if you start from the equivalent "no one was coming".


    Could someone explain this a little further?

    And one more thing, so basically all the sentances that I put as examples WOULDN'T SOUND NATURAL EITHER???

    And if so, when would it be that the " no hay/había nadie que......" construction is used?
     
  10. Murke New Member

    Alemania
    castellano, España
    Pues las frases que has puesto tampoco son muy naturales, no. Especialmente "No hay alguien que sepa la verdad", esa yo diría que es incorrecta (las demás son correctas, pero no naturales). La forma correcta sería: "No hay nadie que sepa la verdad", con la doble negación.

    En mi opinión, la construcción "no hay/había nadie que..." se usaría para subrayar el aspecto negativo de la situación, como ya he dicho antes. Por ejemplo, en una situación desesperada puedo preguntar "¿No hay nadie que me pueda ayudar?", en lugar de "¿No me puede ayudar nadie?"

    Espero haberte ayudado, no sé qué opinarán otros nativos, pero yo creo que este problema no tiene más misterio que ese :).
     
  11. steemic

    steemic Senior Member

    Pitman, New Jersey
    English (US)
    As Murke correctly indicated, it boils down to how it's said in everyday life more so than what is grammatically correct.

    The no habia nadie que..... construction just sounds like extra verbiage (although it would be understood).

    Since the way you listed it are statements not questions, I would recommend simply:

    nadie me puede ayudar
    nadie sabe la verdad
    nadie tiene una casa nueva

    Your use of the subjunctive tense (which was your original question) is correct, except for your second example that should be nadie instead of alguien.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  12. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    One of the defining characteristics of the imperfecto de subjuntivo is that it refers to the future with respect to the time of speaking. That's why it feels odd in no había nadie que viniera; in that context, you are talking about a specific moment in the past (when you looked to see if it was safe to cross the street), a time that represents, for the purposes of discourse, the present in the past. For that reason, we use the past indicative "venía" as it co-exists temporally in the past with the action of "looked both ways." Use "viniera," and you garble the message; you are in fact saying something like we looked both ways and, at a future time, there was nobody coming. It just doesn't follow. The other thing is that "there," so natural and common in English, doesn't always naturally translate into Spanish. If you force it here ("no había nadie que venía"), it's going to sound odd too. We simply say no venía nadie.

    Now, when do you use the imperfect viniera, pudiera, tuviera, etc.? Whenever context allows it. Sometimes context involves this future sense; sometimes it involves some of the other characteristics of the subjunctive, such as irreality, possibility, willingness, etc. By the way, in negative constructions, we tend to say "no hay nadie" rather than "no hay alguien."

    Cheers
     
  13. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    The bottom line is that some expressions just don't translate literally from one's native language to another language even though ones that seem similar in the native language do translate literally. The way hispanohablantes express in Spanish the idea of no car coming is to use the construction "no car is coming" (a factual statement that doesn't even hint at the subjunctive) rather than "There is no car coming."
     
  14. Golfmaster65 Senior Member

    English-United States
    Thanks guys for the responses, I think that I understand a bit better about this, but what about if it is put into question form? Something like saying, " is there anyone who can help me?" ( I know this sentance has already been used) but what if you are just simply asking that question? Would it be, "¿ hay alguien que me pueda ayudar?" Or would you say, "¿ me puede alguien?"
     
  15. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Belgium
    Dutch - Belgium
    In your question: "pueda".
     
  16. Golfmaster65 Senior Member

    English-United States
    Yeah........is this wrong?
     
  17. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Belgium
    Dutch - Belgium
    Is what wrong?:confused:
     
  18. Golfmaster65 Senior Member

    English-United States
    You said " In your question: " pueda"

    I just didnt know what you were indicating by that statement
     
  19. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Belgium
    Dutch - Belgium
    That's what you asked: so the answer is: "pueda".
     
  20. Golfmaster65 Senior Member

    English-United States
    So you are saying that it would be preferred to say it with the first sentance? ( ¿ hay alguien que me pueda ayudar?
     
  21. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    ¿Hay alguien que me pueda ayudar? = Is there anyone who can help me? You correctly used the subjunctive form of poder because alguien is what is referred to as an indefinite antecedent. You don't know who he or she is and that person (who can help you) may not exist, which calls for the subjunctive.

    If you said affirmatively "There is someone who can help me" (having a particular person in mind), then you would use the indicative form of poder: Hay alguien que me puede ayudar.

    ¿Me puede ayudar alguien? You omitted the verb ayudar, which I assume was simply an oversight. I would translate this as "Can someone help me?" This does not seem to me to require the subjunctive because there is no subjoined clause. In other words, there is no change of subject from the main clause to the subordinate clause (since there is no subordinate clause).

    But that's simply my thinking out loud. Let's see what the experts say.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013
  22. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    In questions with the indicative, we don't necessarily have a particular person in mind, but we expect, take for granted, assume, think it's possible, etc., that such a person does in fact exist. Then again, keep in mind that we can make a question simply by putting questions marks around a statement without worrying about definite or indefinite antecedents. A question simply expresses a doubt, a doubt which can be brought closer to an assertion, a fact, with the indicative (¿Hay alguien que me puede ayudar? ¿me puede ayudar alguien?), or emphasized with the subjunctive (¿Hay alguien que me pueda ayudar?).

    Cheers

    edit: I just saw your edits, and, yes, in ¿me puede ayudar alguien? you can certainly say the subjunctive doesn't fit because there is no subordinate "que" clause.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013

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