Arrested Development #17
Context: Lindsay was reminiscing with the activist. She and Tobias (her husband) used to be activists.
Original English: But he used to believe in things. We both used to.
Spanish Translation: Pero antes creía en eso. Los dos lo hacíamos.
ISSUE #1: PRETERITE VS. IMPERFECT
They put “creer” (to believe) in the imperfect tense. They did that because Lindsay is saying, back in the day (over many years) Tobias believed in things -- “he used to believe in things”.
It’s how things were. It’s background information. It’s a great set up for whatever happened, like: “creía en eso... pero cambió” -- “he used to believe in things... but he changed”.
So “creía” (he used to believe) is the imperfect tense. It’s background information. It’s how things were when something happened. And what happened was, “cambió” (he changed). That’s the preterite tense. Because it’s what happened.
ISSUE #2: THINGS = ESO?
This is simply an example of expressing the same idea two different ways. They could’ve expressed “believe in things” with “creer en cosas” instead of “creer en eso” which means “believe in that”. They just didn’t -- for stylistic reasons I guess?
Lindsay had just mentioned Tobias was previously an activist. So in this context, “he used to believe in that” and “he used to believe in things” is basically the same thing.
ISSUE #3: LOS DOS
Lindsay said, “we both used to”. And the translation was “los dos lo hacíamos”. A couple things going on here. First, let’s focus on “we both”.
“We both” is weird, because it’s redundant (and maybe other reasons). “We” is always you and me. “We” CAN be more than you and me. But not when it’s “we both”. If it’s more than you and me, it’d be “we all” instead.
And when it’s just you and me, “we both” is the same as “we”. And “we both used to” is the same as “we used to”. And more importantly, in Spanish, they don’t say the equivalent of our weird, redundant phrase, “we both”.
So to emphasize the two people (like Lindsay did here) -- it’s better to say “los dos” instead of just “nosotros” (we). “Los dos” in this context is like “we both” as in “the two of us” (but without the “of us”). “All three of us” would be “los tres”.
But only because of the context! If they were talking about other people, “los dos” would mean “the two of them”. It’s only “both of us” or “we both” in this scene because Lindsay was clearly talking about Tobias and herself.
ISSUE #4: YOU USED TO... WHAT?
In English, if everybody knows what we’re talking about, we can say, “We both used to.” But without context--all alone--that sentence makes no sense. You both used to... what?
So it’s not surprising that in Spanish, you can’t do that. It’d be kinda hard anyway. The main way to say “used to” in Spanish is with conjugation--conjugate the verb in the imperfect tense. Which is why they put “hacer” in the imperfect tense in this scene. “Hacíamos” means “we used to make” or “we used to do”.
But why “hacer” in the first place? There’s no “make” or “do” in the English. Well... there sorta is.
Alone, “we both used to” makes no sense. Only when something’s already been stated or implied does it make sense. So when we say “we both used to” -- it’s implied that they both used to BELIEVE. Because that’s what was previously stated.
So they could’ve gone with “los dos creíamos” and that would’ve conveyed almost exactly the same idea, “WE BOTH used to believe”.
But not EXACTLY. Because the vibe of Lindsay’s sentence was talking about believing, without saying the word “believe again”. In Spanish, to achieve that same effect, you can use “hacer”. So “lo hacíamos” (in this context) means “we both used to do it”. And the “it” now is referring to “believe”. We both used to do it. Do what? BELIEVE.
I think it’ll be clearer when it’s all together.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
Pero antes creía en eso. Los dos lo hacíamos.
= But before he used to believe in that. The two we used to do it.
= But he used to believe in things. We both used to.