Posted by: janecronin | June 24, 2018


“Llegar” means “to arrive” and sometimes “to manage”, “to reach” or in certain contexts “to get”.  As usual we will start with the grammar and spelling.   Actually, there is nothing to say about the grammar of “llegar” as it does all the same things as other “-ar” verbs and doesn´t pull any tricks.  There is one issue regarding spelling, with which my regular readers will be familiar, which is what I call a “spelling adjustment”.   This is because the letter “g” falls at the end of the root of the verb. We have to be aware of potential spelling adjustments whenever a “g” or a “c” are found in this position.  They are the only two consonants in the Spanish spelling system that have alternative pronunciations depending on which vowel follows them.  In this case, the “g” has a hard, dry sound, similar to the English in “garden”, and this remains the same throughout most of the conjugations as it is followed by “a” or “o”.  However, when the following letter is “e” we have to put a silent “u” in the way, whose function is to keep the “g” as a hard sound.  Therefore the first person singular of the preterite tense is spelt “llegué” (I arrived) and similarly, the present subjunctive is “llegue, llegues, llegue, lleguemos, lleguéis, lleguen”.

Remember of course that the double “l” at the beginning of this verb is pronounced like a strong letter “y”.  In old-fashioned Spanish this double letter represents a kind of lengthened “l” sound which is quite distinct from the “y” sound, but nowadays “ll” and “y” have exactly the same pronunciation.

“Llegar” appears is quite a lot of everyday expressions.  “Llegar al fin de mes” means to “get to” the end of the month, financially speaking.   If a project or idea is successfully communicated or completed we say “llegar a buen puerto” (to reach a good port).   In a number of contexts we can translate “llegar” as “manage” or even “be able”.  For example: “No llego a entender el problema” (I’m not able to understand the problem).  “¿Cómo llegas a educar a ese niño?”  (How do you manage to bring that child up?)  Similarly, we can “llegar a hablar con alguien” (to manage to speak to someone).  When we can´t reach something, for example on a high shelf, we might say “no llego” (I can´t reach).

A derivative of “llegar” which is familiar to English speakers, who travel to and from Spain, is “llegada” which appears on airport signs.  “Llegada” is the noun “arrival” derived from the verb form.    “Llegar” can also be used when asking directions: “¿Cómo llego al ayuntamiento?” (How can I arrive at – find my way to – the town hall?).  Finally, when in English we talk about “being” late, in Spanish we refer to “arriving late”.  Therefore, “sorry I’m late” would be “siento llegar tarde”.  What the concept of “late” actually is is another matter.

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