Tenía alto el colesterol

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Bill Osler, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    He encontrado esta frase en un libro sobre español para médicos:
    "¿Tenía alto el colesterol?"
    El libro dice que esta quiere decir "Have you had (o: Did you have ...) high cholesterol?" pero no he encontrado una construción parecida en español antes.

    ¿Puede alguien explicarme la construcción de esta frase?
     
  2. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    I don't know if this will help, but let me rephrase the sentence:

    "¿Tenia usted el colesterol alto?"
     
  3. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    I know that word order in Spanish is not always rigid, but this is not a situation in which I expected to find the adjective before the noun, and I'm not sure about the presence of the article.
    Why not:
    ¿Tenía colesterol alto?
     
  4. Agró

    Agró Senior Member

    High Navarre
    Spanish-Navarre
    "¿Tenía alto el colesterol?"
    "¿Tenía alto el azúcar?"
    "¿Tenía alta la bilirrubina?"

    Completamente normales con artículo. Y con el adjetivo detrás, también.
     
  5. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    Gracias. Creo que cuanto más estudio cuanto menos entiendo.
     
  6. Agró

    Agró Senior Member

    High Navarre
    Spanish-Navarre
    :)Ánimo.
     
  7. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    I see two alternatives (not to say that there aren't others, but these are the two that I see):

    1. Nouns that are used to represent all of the things referred to (such as all wine) use the definite article. Thus, me gusta el vino.(I like wine [in general].) This applies even if the noun is modified by an adjective or adjectival phrase: no me gusta el vino tinto. (I don't like red wine.)

    This seems unlikely to me because the question is not referring to cholesterol in general but to someone's specific cholesterol.

    2. This leads me to the other alternative, which is that the definite article is used with parts of the body, and technically speaking, your cholesterol, blood sugar, and bilirubin are parts of your body.

    I would welcome resolution of this mystery by a native speaker or other expert.
     
  8. micafe

    micafe Senior Member

    United States
    Spanish - Colombia
    "Tenía el colesterol alto" = "Tenía alto el colesterol" - They mean exactly the same thing and both are correct and used.
     
  9. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    ¿Solo se usa con el artículo? ¿No puede decir "Tenía alto colesterol" o "Tenía colesterol alto"?

    A veces el uso de los artículos me deja confundido, casi tanto como el subjuntivo.
     
  10. micafe

    micafe Senior Member

    United States
    Spanish - Colombia
    Sí se usa sin artículo: "Pedro tiene colesterol alto". En este caso "alto" es el adjetivo inmeadito que está modificando a "colesterol". Por eso no se dice "Pedro tiene alto colesterol":cross:

    It's like when you say in English: "He had a bench painted" vs. "He had a painted bench". The sentences are not the same. The same thing happens in Spanish.

    EDIT: Sorry I changed languages. I do it inadvertently:eek:
    2nd EDIT: fixing typo
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2012
  11. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    Actually, I think I needed to change back to English. Sometimes my attempts at meta-language (like grammar questions) in Spanish get very muddled very quickly.
    Let me see if I have this straight:
    "Pedro tiene colesterol alto" is OK because "alto" is the adjective in its usual location immediately after the noun.
    "Pedro tiene alto colesterol" is NOT OK because "alto" is not one of the adjectives that is typically used before the noun.
    So far so good?

    That leaves a couple of questions (at least):

    What does "inmedito" mean? I could not find it in my dictionary.

    What is "alto" in "Pedro tiene alto el colesterol"? Is it not an adjective modifying "colesterol"? And if so why is it OK with the intervening article but not without the article?

    Please excuse my obtuseness.
     
  12. micafe

    micafe Senior Member

    United States
    Spanish - Colombia
    I'm not a grammar expert but I believe that "alto" is still an adjective but it's working as a predicative adjective as opposed to an attributive adjective.

    Sorry if this isn't making sense. I understand it myself but it's difficult to explain..:eek:

    I don't know why it uses the article. We usually say it like that: "Juan tiene alta el azúcar" = "Juan tiene el azúcar alta"
     
  13. juan082937 Senior Member

    español
    You can use other alternatives :

    ¿Tenía elevado el colesterol?
    ¿Tenía aumentado elcolesterol?
     
  14. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    I am going to make a guess here as to the meaning with the article (el) omitted:

    "Pedro tiene colesterol alto" = Pedro has high cholesterol.

    "Tenía el colesterol alto" OR "Tenía alto el colesterol" = Pedro's cholesterol is high.

    [Edit: "is high" should be "was high"]

    Right? Wrong?
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2012
  15. micafe

    micafe Senior Member

    United States
    Spanish - Colombia
    Wrong. "Pedro's cholesterol is high" = "El colesterol de Pedro está alto"

    Of course all of those sentences have the same meaning: Poor Pedro is about to have a heart attack... :D
     
  16. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    Maybe not. Maybe Pedro just has a Lipitor deficiency.

    OK, I'm going to go WAY out on a limb here. I'm NOT a grammarian, so I'm in over my head. That said:
    I don't think that "alto" in "Pedro tiene alto el colesterol" is a predicate adjective. From what I understand that would require a copulative use of "tener" and I have not seen such a use in my dictionary. In any event, predicate adjectives generally refer to the subject, not an object noun. Correct? "Alto" could be a predicate adjective in something like: "Está alto el colesterol de Pedro." but that's a different sentence.

    So, as best I can tell, "Pedro tiene alto el colesterol", "Pedro tiene el colesterol alto" and "Pedro tiene colesterol alto" seem to mean basically the same thing, and in each case "alto" is an adjective modifying "colesterol". Correct?

    juan082937 and micafe are both native Spanish speakers, and they think the tener más adjetivo más articulo más nombre works perfectly well. I defer to their knowledge; however, since this construction is completely new to me, it makes me wonder:
    Would one say "Raul construyó roja la casa?" instead of "Raul construyó la casa roja"? My guess is that the first form is wrong and the second is correct.

    In other words: Is this construction (verbo más adjetivo más articulo más nombre) unique to "tener" or perhaps other specific verbs?
     
  17. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    When an adjective (alto) comes before the noun (colesterol), the adjective acquires greater importance; this way, we focus attention on the "status" of the cholesterol, that it is high. Before the noun, the adjective is subjective; it has descriptive force; tiene un valor más expresivo. Orally, we tend to stress the adjective when it comes before the noun: tiene alto el colesterol. Following the noun, the adjective is objective, with less expressiveness: Tiene el colesterol alto. Something similar happens in English, in a more formidable opponent, "formidable" carries more descriptive force when placed before the noun; after the noun, it is rather objective (an opponent more formidable).

    Not all adjectives can behave this way. "Roja" is rather objective; something either is or isn't red, which is why it sounds odd before the noun. It makes more sense after the noun, to depict something that is objective: Raúl construyó la casa roja. A different, more subjective adjective would work: Raúl construyó una gran casa de madera. Subjective, because "gran" is in the eye of the beholder.
    Cheers
     
  18. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    Thanks for that reminder. I do understand that non-restrictive adjectives sometimes can precede the noun, and that some of them have different meanings depending on their location.
    What still puzzles me here is the insertion of the article between the adjective and the noun.
    "Pedro tiene alto el colesterol" instead of "Pedro tiene alto colesterol" or perhaps "Pedro tiene el alto colesterol" is what I find most puzzling here. When I read about adjective/noun order/placement in Butt & Benjamin (Section 4.11) ALL of the examples that place the adjective first (Section 4.11.3) follow the order article+adjective(s)+noun. I don't recall seeing the adjective+article+noun sequence elsewhere, which is why I am trying to sort this out.
    Unless I missed something, all of the examples of the adjective+article+noun sequence that I have seen in this thread involve the verb "tener". That makes me wonder whether this construction is only applicable to specific verbs and/or specific adjectives.
    I appreciate all the various suggestions/comments.
     
  19. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    De la NGLEec
    About the use of the article: what is your reason not to use an article? Because you don't in English, isn't it? Well, Spanish is different. Why do you need an article in "I have read the red book" ? ("*I have read red book" doesn't really work). I don't know the reason either, but still, I know it needs an article.
     
  20. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    Thanks. I had not found that information about tener, llevar and traer in NGLE (I have trouble finding things there on my best days) OR in Butts & Benjamin, but it DOES explain the construction, and it matches my suspicion that the construction is used only with certain verbs. Also, now that I've seen those examples I realize that I HAVE seen this construction before - but I had forgotten. "Tengo listo ..." actually comes very close to an occasional usage in English so it probably did not register as something "different" when I heard it in Spanish.

    As for the article: I fully understand that the use of the article is different in Spanish than it is in English, which is precisely why I have kept pushing for an answer to that specific piece of this puzzle. I have found that I sometimes tend to use articles in Spanish when they are not needed but I also tend to omit them in situations that required them. It has been hard to get that straight in my head. Maybe one day it will make sense.

    Again, thank you to all.
     
  21. micafe

    micafe Senior Member

    United States
    Spanish - Colombia
    I'm thinking. Too much information here..

    Actually, I would say neither. You don't build a house red. You paint a house red. At least that sounds better to my ears in either language. Maybe that's why the construction with the adjective after the verb sounds awkward in Spanish.

    I would say, though, "Pedro construyó grande la casa". This is a less frequently used sentence than "Pedro tiene alto el colesterol" because there are more people having high cholesterol than building high houses.. I say.. :D
     
  22. Milton Sand

    Milton Sand Modómano, 'mano

    Bucaramanga, Colombia
    Español (Colombia)
    Hola:
    Opino como Ricardo. Cuando empleamos el verbo "tener" (y otros como "usar", "llevar", "mantener", "traer", etc.) para indicar el estado de una cosa que pertenece o está muy relacionada con el sujeto, solemos no usar los posesivos:

    Tenía raspadas las manos, un ojo morado y el orgullo aporreado.
    Mi vecina usa las faldas arriba de la rodilla. Y, mira, lleva la blusa al revés y tiene el pelo enmarañado.

    El inglés usaría posesivos en vez de los determinantes que he dejado en negrilla. En los doblajes del canal Disney y otros parecen desconocer este uso y fácilmente traducen: "Su camisa estaba mojada y mantenía sus manos en los bolsillos de su pantalón", en vez de: "Tenía mojada la camisa y mantenía las manos en los bolsillos del pantalón".

    Por eso, lo que propone Ricardo me parece también correcto, aunque en la traducción literal no tenga mucho sentido:
    ¿Tenía alto el colesterol? <—Did he have his cholesterol high? = Was his cholesterol high?

    Hasta me atrevo a hilar más fino:
    Tenía el colesterol alto. <—He had the high cholesterol. = His cholesterol was the high one.
    Tenía alto el colesterol. <—He had high his cholesterol. = His cholesterol was high.

    Saludos,
    ;)
     
  23. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    The idea isn't that the article is inserted between the adjective and the noun, the point (as far as the article is concerned) is that "el" is used because the noun "colesterol" is specific and not abstract. In other words, both the speaker (presumably, a doctor) and the hearer (the patient) know what this "colesterol" refers to (a substance in the body), which is why the article is used. For the purposes of the dialogue between doctor-patient, "colesterol" es determinado y consabido, hence the use of the article (really, a determinant). So, two things are going on in tiene alto el colesterol. (1) the use of the adjective "alto" before the noun "colesterol," which places more emphasis on the adjective; (2) the use of the article/determinant, because "colesterol" is specific and known. This really involves a semantic use of "el."

    There is a broader syntactic issue here. In English, common nouns can be used syntactically without a determinant. That is, English tends to be guided by the abstract default nature of common nouns. The implication is that English common nouns can function in various syntactic categories: subject, high cholesterol is dangerous; direct object, you have high cholesterol; object of preposition, learn about cholesterol. It is only when specification is required that the article/determinant is used: you have the high cholesterol of someone who eats steaks for breakfast every morning; learn about the cholesterol you really need to worry about.

    Spanish starts from an opposite syntactic perspective: common nouns do need a determinant; "el," for example, turns abstract nouns concrete so that they can then assume syntactic functions: subject, el colesterol elevado es peligroso; direct object, tiene alto el colesterol; etc. The use of common nouns without articles/determinants is very restricted, and involves a general rather than specific sense. For example, articles may be omitted with verbos inacusativos, such as tener, llegar, venir, pasar, crecer, sobrar, etc., when the idea is to convey general/generic meaning: pasarán carros alegóricos; vienen tropas del sur; tiene pan para comer. Adding "the" makes the "floats," "troops" and "bread" semantically specific and known.

    It's really a complicated topic, but I hope this helps at least a bit.
    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012

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