Better Call Saul #1
Context: Jimmy is a lawyer and is trying to convince this couple to hire him.
Jimmy: They find themselves in a little room with a detective who acts like he’s their best friend.
Spanish Subtitle: Y se encuentran en un cuartito con un detective que actúa como si fuera su mejor amigo.
TOPIC #1: REFLEXIVE
Reflexive verbs and pronouns are mostly confusing because The Spanish Authority makes them confusing--especially going from Spanish to English.
When we see “se” without “lo” or “la” or “le” (or the plural versions) -- it simply means the subject is doing the action of the verb to themselves.
In this pretty straightforward example, they translated “they find themselves” to “se encuentran”.
Once we know and understand that “me encuentran” means “they find me” and “te encuentran” means “they find you” -- it’s not so hard to make the jump to “se”.
When the subject does the verb to themselves, it’s called REFLEXIVE. And in Spanish, that’s almost always conveyed with the object pronoun “se”.
they find themselves
= se encuentran
I made several videos that go very deep into “se”:
Reflexive Verbs [Spanish Quickie]
SE is a Monster! (Monsters Aren’t Real) [Spanish Quickie]
Going On A SE Hunt [Spanish Quickie]
TOPIC #2: ITO, ITA
In Spanish, you can take pretty much any noun, like “el cuarto” and make it a smaller version of that same noun by adding “ito” (for masculine nouns) or “ita” (for feminine nouns) to the end.
So, “el cuarto” means “room” and “el cuartito” means “little room”.
“Ito” and “ita” don’t always mean the noun is literally smaller though. Like in English when we call a “dog” a “doggie”. That might mean it’s small, but it also might just be a sign of affection.
In Spanish though, they use “ito” and “ita” quite a bit--some places more than others. Some places use it SO much, it gets a little weird (but you get used to it) =)
a little room
= un cuartito
TOPIC #3: ACTUAR
I remember being happy when I learned that “to act” in Spanish is “actuar”. It IS used for “to act” like acting in a play. But more commonly, it’s used for “to act” like “to behave” or “to conduct oneself”.
So anytime we want to say “to act” or “to behave” or “to conduct” -- “actuar” is a good, easy choice. And to me at least, a fun one to say--especially when conjugated. Like in this example!
who ACTS like
= que ACTÚA como
TOPIC #4: THE SUBJUNCTIVE
“...como si fuera...” That’s the subjunctive. “Fuera” is a past tense subjunctive conjugation of “ser”. It’s a weird, irregular conjugation. Don’t worry, most of them are NOT like that -- “ser” is always a troublemaker.
But why did they use the subjunctive?
The subjunctive is used when there are two clauses AND the subject in one clause isn’t 100% certain that the verb in the other clause will actually be completed.
In this example, Jimmy tells the prospective clients that the detective will act AS IF HE WERE their best friend. So Jimmy is talking about some future, hypothetical situation. He’s making it up to scare the prospects to hire him.
Even if Jimmy truly believes in his heart the detective will act like that, he CAN’T be certain. We can use our human logic alone to figure that out. He doesn’t know which detective it will be. And even if he does--even if that detective always acts like their best friend--that’s the past. Jimmy can’t be certain it will happen like that in the future.
And when the subject can’t be certain, or just isn’t certain, that’s when you use the subjunctive.
who acts LIKE HE’S their best friend
= who acts AS IF HE WERE their best friend
= que actúa COMO SI FUERA su mejor amigo
The Subjunctive: An Introduction [Topic]
The Subjunctive: Como si fuera [Case Study]
ALL TOGETHER NOW
Y se encuentran en un cuartito con un detective que actúa como si fuera su mejor amigo
= And they find themselves in a little room with a detective that acts as if he were their best friend
= They find themselves in a little room with a detective who acts like he’s their best friend