Tienen la cara pintada de morado y amarillo

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Spanishn00b, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. Spanishn00b Member

    Virginia, USA
    English-United States
    I am doing Rosetta Stone and I came across this sentence:

    Since I am still learning, I translated as: They have the face painted in purple and yellow. However, I came across another site with this same sentence, and their translation was: Their faces are painted purple and yellow.

    If the translation comes out as plural, then why are word la cara in singular form?
  2. kayokid

    kayokid Senior Member/Moderator

    English, USA
    Hello and welcome to the forum!

    This is one of those things that you see when you study a foreign language. In English we focus on the totality/plurality of 'faces'. In Spanish each person has only one face and the Spanish speaker's mindset is focused on the singular. That is just how it is said in each language.
  3. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Welcome to the forums.

    The second translation is the more likely one.

    The reason why "la cara" is singular, is that people only have one face. It would be different with "hands" for example:

    Tienen las manos pintadas de morado y amarillo.

    The mechanics of English are diferent from the Spanish.
  4. Spanishn00b Member

    Virginia, USA
    English-United States
    Thanks for welcoming me, you all!

    I see. Well I guess my next question would be why is it "their faces" instead of "the faces"? I thought la/las/el/los were translated as "the"?
  5. kayokid

    kayokid Senior Member/Moderator

    English, USA
    In general, with parts of the body the definite article is used (in Spanish) and we translate it with the possessive in English.
  6. KirkandRafer

    KirkandRafer Senior Member

    Español (Murcia, España)
    I'd also say "tienen las caras pintadas de morado y amarillo" conveying the same sense. None of those sounds stilted to me.
  7. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Wel, this is actually a question you should ask in a different thread, but since it is about the same sentence, I hope the moderators will allow me to answer.

    In Spanish, when talking about body parts, it is very rare (although not impossible) to use possesive pronouns.

    Well, my posting crossed others. Like KirkandRafer says, also the plural is possible.
  8. chileno

    chileno Senior Member

    Las Vegas, Nv. USA
    Castellano - Chile
    Tienen la cara pintada = They have the face painted

    Their faces are painted = Sus caras están pintadas.

    Tienen sus caras pintadas = they have their faces painted.

  9. Spanishn00b Member

    Virginia, USA
    English-United States
    Ok, thank you all! I thought since I was dealing with the same sentence, I could ask another question. I won't do it again but thanks for the help everyone! :)
  10. ebulerdo Member

    Madrid, Spain
    Spain - Spanish
    Hi Spanishnoob

    The original sentence may be translated both ways, but unless there is a reason to think otherwise, everybody will understand it's talking about people's faces. Your (very logical) confusion is due to different usage in English and Spanish when talking about body parts.

    In English a possessive is always required with body parts: my face, your lips, their heads. But in Spanish that sounds awkward and unnecessary. You say «Tengo las manos frías» o «Me duele la cabeza» and everybody understands you're talking about your own hands and head, not someone else's. ;)

    When talking about the faces of several people, as in this example, in English you would say «their faces», since «their face» would imply a single face is being talked about (maybe they have a picture or a sculpture of a face). In Spanish though we tend to use the singular form, although the sentence is also correct in plural «Tienen las caras pintadas...».

    I understand it's confusing, but that's the way it is. :)
  11. Spanishn00b Member

    Virginia, USA
    English-United States
    It had a picture of 3 people's painted faces.
  12. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Well, it doesn't matter if it's 3 or a zillion:).

    After reading Chileno's comment, I realize I should refine my comment about possesive pronouns and body parts. If you use the definite article with body parts, it is generally understood that the body part belongs to the person(s) that is (are) the subject of the main verb.

    When you use a pronominal verb (e.g. lavarse las manos), the use of the possesive pronoun would definitely be considered unidiomatic.

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