Posted by: janecronin | September 9, 2018


“Reír” expresses a wonderful human activity which we don´t do enough of, and that is “to laugh”.  As a verb it doesn´t give us a lot to laugh about as it’s one of those nasty “-ir” verbs which some root-changes, so we’d better get those out of the way first.  In the present tense it is a standard “e to i” root-changing verb, which means it goes like this:  “río” (I laugh), “ríes” (you laugh) “ríe” (he or she laughs) “reímos” (we laugh) “reís” (you – plural – laugh) “ríen” (they laugh).  In addition to these changes, notice that we have to put an accent over the letter “i” all the way through to split the sound off from the “e” that falls next to it.  This is all to do with diphthongs which we haven´t got room for here, but just make sure that the emphasis of your voice goes onto the accented “i” in each case.

The other forms which have a root change are the gerund “riendo” (laughing) and the third person preterite “rio” (he or she laughed) “rieron” (they laughed).  “Reír” can also appear in the reflexive form “reírse” and when we combine it with “de” – “reírse de alguien” we mean “to laugh at someone”.  When we want to tell someone to laugh, (as we would say in English “Go on, laugh!”) in Spanish we say “¡Ríete!”  That’s about as complicated as we need to go with “reír” so now let’s see if we can find some derivate words.

First of all we have “risa” which means “laughter”.  If something makes you laugh we say “me da risa” (it gives me laughter) or “es de risa” (it’s hilarious).  This second form is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, that is, something that is ridiculous.  You may not be aware, by the way, that the English word “ridiculous” comes from the same Latin root and originally meant “laughable”.  In Spanish we also have the word “ridículo” which carries the same meaning as in English.  In addition Spanish has the word “irrisorio” which now carries the more negative sense of “laughable” as in “derisory”.

We have a great range of laughter related words in English, such as cackle and guffaw, and this latter word is expressed in Spanish by the word “risotada”.  A modern trend in these days of self-improvement is “risoterapia” (laughter therapy).  I have to say that although I can enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone, (in the words of Monty Python’s sergeant major) the idea of making myself laugh in a group therapy session really does not appeal.  I imagine it would be about as funny as trying to explain a joke: with apologies if you’re a laughter therapist and I’ve got it all wrong.

Finally, if we add the prefix “son” to give us “sonreír” we have the verb “to smile”.  “Sonrisa” therefore is the noun “smile” and “una persona sonriente” is a “smiley” sort of person.


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