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Better Call Saul #10

Context: Tuco and his helpers are breaking the legs of the red-headed twins. They are screaming.

Tuco: Shut up! Shut up!

Spanish Subtitle: ¡Cállate! ¡Cállate!


The central, core idea of “callar” is “to be quiet” or “to be still”.

But in practice most of the time, it’s used in the imperative (command) form, and means “Shut up!” Like in this scene: “¡Cállate! ¡Cállate!”

There are two different ways to know Tuco is using the informal “tú” form, as opposed to the formal “usted” form. The “te” in “cállaTE” tells us right away. But even without that, the A before the TE also gives it away.

In this scene, Tuco is COMMANDING them to shut up! This is the imperative tense. The AFFIRMATIVE Imperative. Here are the conjugations for “callar” in the Affirmative Imperative.

--- (no first person, hard to command yourself)

Notice the endings start with E (and this is an AR verb) except in the second person singular and second person plural. And since the “vosotros” form is only used in Spain--thus relatively rarely--that “tú” form (calla) is all we gotta worry about. All the others follow the “normal” imperative structure (opposite land, like The Subjunctive).

So that’s the Affirmative Imperative. We use that to command somebody TO do something. But there’s also the NEGATIVE Imperative, which we use to tell somebody NOT to do something. Here are the Negative Imperative conjugations of “callar”:

--- (no first person, hard to command yourself)
no calles
no calle
no callemos
no calléis
no callen

So there aren’t four conjugation patterns for the imperative, like I was led to believe for way too long. There are only two: Affirmative Imperative and Negative Imperative. So two charts for each verb (with lots of overlap).

Then--as always--there are formal and informal conjugations (spots on the charts) for both.

So 8 out of 10 endings for “callar” begin with E. Only the second person conjugations start with A--for “tú” and “vosotros” -- “you” and “you all”. If you’re not in Spain, and not exposed much to stuff from Spain, that goes up to 8 out of 9.

Now the reflexive. “Shut up!” Why the reflexive? Well, when we tell them to “shut up” we are telling them to “shut themselves up” -- right? We even say that sometimes! “Shut yourself up!” Hahaha. Do we say that?

Regardless, I noticed recently, by default, in every sentence, unless it says otherwise--or we somehow know otherwise, the subject always does the verb to themselves or for themselves--like on their own behalf. By default, the action of every verb goes back to the subject. In English and Spanish! Even if it’s not mentioned in either language!

In fact, I think it’s weirder that we DON’T say it’s reflexive when it is. Like in this example:

calla = you shut up (what we say)

calláte = you shut yourself up (what’s really happening)


¡Cállate! ¡Cállate!
= Shut yourself up! Shut yourself up!
= Shut up! Shut up!