I listened to a light-hearted discussion on the radio the other day in which people were phoning in the answer to the question “¿Quién te controla?” (Who controls you?) The answers brought home to me the existence of yet another false friend – controlar v. to control.
If you were to ask an English speaker “Who controls you?” you would expect answers like – my boss, my wife or husband, even my mobile phone or my in-box (the latter being the thing that controls me!) – in other words the person or thing that tells you what to do and organises your life.
The Spanish meaning of “controlar” however is subtly different. Its predominant meaning is to monitor, supervise or keep an eye on someone. The people who replied said that their dog controlled them or their small child or their next-door neighbour – people who followed them round or watch them constantly and kept an eye on everything they did. Interesting … so, who controls you? My answer has now changed from my in-box to my cat – when she can be bothered that is.