Posted by: janecronin | August 12, 2018


“Traer” is an interesting verb as it has a lot more associations with the English language that you would necessarily realise at first glance.  “Traer” means “to bring” and as usual we are going to look at any oddities about its formation first.

In common with a number of basic verbs, it has an alternative form in the first person singular of the present tense, namely “traigo” (I bring).  Apart from this the present tense is regular as are most other forms until we get to the preterite (past) tense where it changes to “traje, trajiste, trajo, trajimos, trajisteis, trajeron” that is, I brought, you brought, he/she brought, we brought, you brought (plural) and they brought.

If you know some clothes vocabulary, you may remember that “traje” also means “suit”.  This word derives from the same verb, the connection coming from the related concepts of “to bring – to carry – to wear”.  Although these mean different things to us, they have some overlapping meanings and some common linguistic roots.  The Spanish word comes from the Latin verb “trahere” which means “to draw” or “to drag”.

We have talked before about compound verbs, which are formed when a few letters, called prefixes, are added to the front of the verb to create a new word.  “Traer” has a number of these, for example:  “contraer” (to contract), “sustraer” (to subtract), “atraer” (to attract); “detraer” (to detract); “retraer” (to retract).  All of these verbs conjugate in exactly the same way as “traer”, so for example “I attract” is “atraigo”; “he, she or it subtracts – “sustrae” and so on.  The interesting thing to notice here is that, whereas the basic form “traer” is translated by the English word “bring” (a word incidentally which is of Germanic origin) all the compound verbs are translated by words containing the syllable “tract”.  This is a phenomenon that exists is several other verb families and illustrates that in the English language our basic language is Germanic whilst our more sophisticated vocabulary frequently comes from Latin.

When we look at the noun forms based on “traer” we find an even closer similarity.  Words like “contracción”, “sustracción” and “atracción” are quite understandable as is “tracción” meaning “traction” which takes us right back to the Latin meaning related to motion.  We also have the word “tract” in English meaning a stretch of land, and although I hadn´t thought of it before, I guess that “tractor” comes from the same root.  In Spanish we have “trayectoria” meaning a distance travelled, used in everyday language more than the English word “trajectory” which has more to do with direction of bullets.

As strange as it may seem, all these words belong to the same family, even those that apparently mean unrelated things like a suit or the trajectory of a bullet.   I hope I haven´t got too complicated this week, but I do think that discovering word families is a great way of expanding ones vocabulary and understanding the real meanings of words.

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