Posted by: janecronin | September 10, 2017


This week’s verb “andar” is usually translated as “to walk” and indeed, that is what it usually means.  However, it has a slightly wider application in Spanish than “walk” has in English.  We definitely think of walking as the act of putting one foot in front of the other, whereas in Spanish we can also “andar en bici” or “andar en moto”.  The translation of these expressions is clearly not “to walk by bike” or “to walk by motorbike” so perhaps the best translation in this case would be “to go along”.

“Andar” is also used in the general sense of “getting along”, especially in South American Spanish.  Sometimes people ask ¿Qué tal andas? which is a bit like saying “How are you doing?”, an equally unlikely question if you think about it.  A particularly odd command using “andar” is “ándale” which means something like “get a move on”.  However, I have never heard this used by a Spaniard and I think it comes from Mexico and has reached us via cartoons and B movies, so I don´t recommend its use!

As far as the grammar of “andar” is concerned, it is a perfectly well behaved verb, doing all the regular thing one would expect in all tenses except in the preterite, where it suddenly becomes irregular.  So, instead of “I walked” being “andé” as one might expect, it is actually “anduve”.  The full conjugation is “anduve, anduviste, anduvo, anduvimos, anduvistéis, anduvieron”.  I can see very little justification for this (not that irregular verbs are generally obliged to justify themselves) and in fact the Spanish themselves can sometimes be caught out regularising this verb.  I have definitely read “andamos” meaning “we walked” when it should have been “anduvimos”.    It’s always especially satisfying to notice a mistake by a Spanish speaker in their own language!

I first came across the preterite tense of “andar” in a conversation of young mothers (of which I was one at the time) discussing when their babies had started walking.  The phrase I remember was “Alvaro anduvo con 13 meses”, or as we would say “Alvaro started walking at 13 months.”  It’s amazing how these little snippets of conversation stick in one’s mind.  As you can see I’ve always been much more interested in language than comparing the details of my children’s development.

Finally, as we have seen before with the exclamations “vaya” from “ir” and “venga” from “venir” so there is a similar exclamation based on “andar” which is simply “¡anda!”  This means something like “My goodness!” and expresses surprise.  It’s rather similar to “vaya” in fact, although less negative.  “¡Vaya!” could be an unpleasant surprise whereas “¡anda!” sounds as though you’ve just discovered something rather juicy and interesting.

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