acabar por + infinitive / acabar + present participle

zeppo

Senior Member
USA
One reference I see to this usage is in The Big Red Book Of Spanish by Gordon and Stillman.

I see where acabar por is used to mean "finally," much in the same way acabar de is used to mean "just."

An example is given here on a spanish lessons website:

Acabé por decirle la verdad. "I finally told him the truth."

In addition to using acabar por +infinitive to mean "to finally do something," the Big Red Book also cites the use of acabar + present participle to do the same, giving this example:

Acabó firmándolo. "He finally signed it."

So if that holds up, then I guess the following would also be true:

Acabó diciendole. "He finally signed it."

Also, given the other meaning given by The Big Red Book for acabar por + infinitive, "to end up (by) doing something" i come up with the following translation as well:

Acabé por decirle la verdad. "I ended up telling him the truth."

Acabó firmándolo. "He ended up signing it"

Do you see problems with any of the above?

How about...

Acabó por pintarlo. He finally painted it.
He ended up painting it.

Acabó pintandolo. He finally painted it.
He ended up painting it.

He finished/stopped painting it. not>> Acabó pintandolo. but instead >> Terminó pintarlo.
 
  • Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre
    He finished/stopped painting it. not>> Acabó pintándolo. but instead >> Terminó de pintarlo.

    Otherwise, perfect.
     

    zeppo

    Senior Member
    USA
    Thanks for your help. I am building flashcards on the usages of acabar, so I have been trying hard to make sure what I am preparing to study and commit to memory is correct. I will post them on the Flashcard Exchange website.
     

    javialacarga

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    Ignoro si es la mejor traducción posible o no, pero la forma en que yo suelo expresar "acabó firmándolo" en inglés es precisamente "he ended up signing it" (más que "he finally signed it").
     

    zeppo

    Senior Member
    USA
    Ignoro si es la mejor traducción posible o no, pero la forma en que yo suelo expresar "acabó firmándolo" en inglés es precisamente "he ended up signing it" (más que "he finally signed it").
    Thank you very much, javialacarga. Of course if when I want to communicate in Spanish "He finally signed it" I cannot remember how to say it that way, so instead say "Acabó firmándolo" as another way of getting my point across, this is fine. But I would prefer to understand that this is what I am doing in that situation. So I very much appreciate your distinction. These are details I want to know. :)

    Far from making things more difficult for me, details like these actually make more sense to me and make things easier to understand.

    I might also add that when a book translates a phrase loosely like that, I find it to be less helpful and can add serious confusion to the learning process. So I now know I must be careful with the type of translations I get from The Big Red Book Of Spanish Verbs. I guess the authors take the approach that it is important just to get the point across more than learn the actual grammar. The odd thing is, I really see no reason for them not to use the precise translation. They would still accomplish the same thing in a pragmatic sense, but have the benefit of being precise. Oh well...

    Is "él finalmente lo firmó" a correct way of saying "he finally signed it?"
     
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    zeppo

    Senior Member
    USA
    ¿Que acabaste por hacer de anoche?

    Will this translate as

    What did you end up doing last night?

    and if so, when asked this way, could the questioner be meaning to ask about how the person spent their entire evening, or simply the last thing they did that night (expressing "how did you end your evening," though not literally.)
    Or will the phrase work naturally for either intent?

    thanks.
     

    javialacarga

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    Sorry, don't get me wrong...I'm not offering any guarantee that my approach is the best...I mean, all I can say is, as far as my knowledge of your language goes, "he ended up signing it" is the way I would translate "acabó firmándolo". I don't even know if there is a difference of nuance...but if there is, it will be just a slight difference...maybe "acabó firmándolo" gives me the idea that there was a previous indecision, whilst "finalmente" emphasizes the final result without necessarily giving that idea...but like I said this could be just the impression I get, so, please, trust the authors of these books :)

    ¿Qué acabaste por hacer de anoche?

    Will this translate as

    What did you end up doing last night?

    and if so, when asked this way, could the questioner be meaning to ask about how the person spent their entire evening, or simply the last thing they did that night (expressing "how did you end your evening," though not literally.)
    Or will the phrase work naturally for either intent?

    thanks.
    "¿Qué acabaste por hacer anoche?" sounds somewhat weird to me. I can't explain the reason why, but I would say "¿Qué acabaste haciendo anoche?" instead. And by this question what I understand is how I spent my evening, assuming that -before the question- you knew for a fact that I had several plans/ideas/possibilities I couldn't choose between, for whatever reason.
     
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    zeppo

    Senior Member
    USA
    "¿Qué acabaste por hacer anoche?" sounds somewhat weird to me. I can't explain the reason why, but I would say "¿Qué acabaste haciendo anoche?" instead. And by this question what I understand is how I spent my evening, assuming that -before the question- you knew for a fact that I had several plans/ideas/possibilities I couldn't choose between, for whatever reason.
    I definitely like the Big Red Book of Spanish Verbs and it's a great resource. Now that I think about it, if somebody wants to ask if "he finally signed it" and also include that nuance you mention that gives the sense of some prior indecision or delay, they are letting the reader know that this is a good choice for expressing it. So in that sense it is very useful, but if it were combined with some explanation of that along with the literal translation, it might help with some confusion. But of course, that would make for a very long book. :) Most people I'm sure are fine without it, and I probably would be too if I had the benefit of being immersed in a Spanish speaking area while learning it. Then I would have the advantage of engaging my time in a much more productive way, and would learn about more nuances that I could keep up with. :) Without that, I figure the best thing I can do is learn grammar as best I can so that I have given myself some advantage for when the time comes that I can spend time in a Spanish speaking country. I would like to take an immersion course in Guatamala, but won't have nearly as much time as I would like once I do.

    That sentence I constructed in an attempt at using acabar por + infinitive to indicate "ended up," and to see if it fits.

    I can see two possibilities for use of "ended up", and thus for "acabar por." :

    One is from instruction books that say it is used it to address a final event or action or condition.

    But I'm not sure about the second possibility that comes to mind, which is, for example, if you are just asking about how someone's day unfolded, without any knowledge of any plans or decisions or indecisions that were in play. "How did you end up spending your weekend? Perhaps "acabar por" is not the right choice in this case, or does it work there as well?
     
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