Posted by: janecronin | December 2, 2018


“Sentar” is most often seen in its reflexive form “sentarse” which means “to sit down”.   It is reflexive because it is something we usually do to ourselves, that is, we sit “ourselves” down.  However, if you were ever to “seat” or even to “sit” another person, then you would need the non-reflexive “sentar”.  For example:  Prefiero sentar a los niños delante.  (I prefer to sit the children at the front).  Apart from sitting, “sentar” can also mean to “settle” or “establish” as in “los primeros romanos sentaron las bases de la civilización” (the first Romans established the basis of the civilization).  I know that not exactly something you would say every day, but hopefully you get the point.   A much more common use of “sentar” on its own is to express the feeling when something affects us in a good or bad way.  A meal that you don´t properly digest might “sentar mal” and an unpleasant comment or negative attitude can have the same effect:  “Su actitud me sentó fatal” (his or her attitude affected me really badly, made me feel awful).

Before we move onto the other uses of this verb, we need to do our usual survey of its grammatical properties.  “Sentar” is a root-change “e to ie” verb, so “I sit” is “me siento” with the additional letter “i” in the root.  Apart from this present tense change the verb has no other irregularities.  One of the difficulties that can occur with “sentar” is its possible confusion with “sentir” meaning “to feel”.  There are one or two forms that are identical but usually there are sufficient differences in grammar and context to help us to distinguish clearly between the two verbs.

As already mentioned, we generally see this verb in its reflexive form “sentarse”.  Therefore “I sit down” is “me siento”; you sit down “te sientas”; he or she sits down “se sienta”; we sit down “nos sentamos”; you (plural) sit down “os sentáis” and they sit down “se sientan”.  Notice that if we want to describe someone’s posture as “sitting down” this is expressed by the past participle “sentado” or “sentada” literally meaning “seated”.  The continous form “Me estoy sentando” would only be correct if I was describing the actual action or process of “sitting down”.  “Sentarse” has a commonly heard imperative or command form which is “siéntate” (informal) and “siéntese” (formal) – “sit down”.  However, when the Spanish are training their dogs they often use the English command “sit” oddly enough.

A derivate from “sentarse” is the word “asiento” meaning “seat”.  In a car we talk about the “asientos delanteros” (front seats) and “asientos traseros” (back seats).   “Tomar asiento” (to take a seat) is a more formal way of saying “sentarse”.  A noun from “sentar” is “sentada” which means a “sit-in” and finally the word “sedentario” means “sedentary”, an English word from the same root referring to a job or activity that involves a lot of time spent on one’s rear end.

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