The most ambiguous sentence in the Spanish language

January 31, 2013

“A ver si tomamos algo” is perhaps the most ambiguous sentence in the Spanish language.

Roughly translated as “Maybe we could have a drink together some day,” it is both the beginning and the end of many relationships in Spain.

In certain contexts, it means “I find you passably attractive and wish to see you naked at your earliest convenience.”

In this case, it is followed by an exchange of telephone numbers and a kiss on each cheek, followed by texting, phone calls, actual drinks, and — hopefully — sexual intercourse.

Of course, sometimes it is said between friends.  But sometimes, it’s even said between enemies.

the most ambiguous sentence in the spanish language
Umbrellas in A Coruña, Galicia.

Friends who don’t often see each other might use it to set up a meeting in which to talk about their recent divorce, unemployment or fear of unemployment, government corruption, or football.

Finally, it is sometimes said between people who secretly despise each other or otherwise have no urge to see each other again. In this case, it’s a mere formality… A way to leave the conversation politely, without hurting anyone’s feelings.

If you run into someone you once knew and never liked on the streets of Madrid, your first and best option is to look the other way and hope they do the same.

If this ploy is ineffective (maybe, for some reason, they feel differently about you than you do about them), you must attempt an awkward conversation.

You know… about recent divorce, unemployment or fear thereof, etc — which ends with a quick glance at your watch and a shrug of the shoulders.

“¡A ver si tomamos algo un día de estos!” you say, cheerily. “I think I still have your number somewhere… We’ll be in touch.”

“Me alegro de verte,” the other person lies.

Both of you knows full well you’ll never contact the other, and you’ll both secretly hope that the next time you run into each other, one of you will be able to duck around a corner fast enough to avoid going through the whole awkward farce again.

So it goes — life in Madrid.

P.S. For more, check out 10 obscene Spanish expressions. Or my blockbuster super-hit article, Sex in Spain. Enjoy!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. We do this all the time in English, as well. You run into somebody you knew in high school… “Hey, we should grab a drink some time!” or “Let’s have lunch and catch up one of these days!” and their reply “Yes, good idea. So good to see you!” And then you both go on with your lives 😉

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