Posted by: janecronin | January 20, 2019


I could perhaps be accused of being boring (heaven forbid) about some of these verbs because so many of them are completely regular and have single meanings.  We tend to spend a lot of time worrying about all the odd and difficult ones, whilst the silent majority are ignored.  “Limpiar” is an example of a perfectly normal verb that doesn´t try to be difficult in any way.  All its forms are regular and it simply means “to clean”.  You can say anything you want to say about the action of cleaning using this one verb:  limpiaré (I will clean);  limpiarías (you would clean); limpia (he or she cleans); limpié (I cleaned); limpiábamos (we were cleaning, we used to clean) to name but a few at random.  Notice that in each case the root “limpi-“ is constant and it is only the “-ar” ending which changes for tense and person.  This is what makes “limpiar” a regular verb.

There is basic noun which comes from “limpiar” namely “limpieza” which means “cleanliness”.  Sometimes this is used when we would use the word “cleaning” in English as in “el trabajo de limpieza” (the cleaning work).   Nowadays, you sometimes hear the phrase “limpieza política” which means “political cleanliness”, that is, lack of political corruption.  This is still very much an aspiration rather than a reality in many cases.   The word for cleaner is “limpiador” (male) and “limpiadora” (female), and the adjective “clean” is “limpio” or “limpia” as in “la mesa está limpia” (the table is clean).

There are a lot of compound nouns which begin with “limpia –“, which are the equivalent of “something-cleaner” in Engilsh: for example: “limpiamuebles” is “furniture cleaner” and “limpiapipas” are pipe cleaners.  I haven´t seen those for many years but I used to buy them twice a year for my father´s birthday and Christmas.  Most of them then got used to make little model dogs and horses.   No prizes for guessing “limpiaventanas”, while “limpiapiés” in fact means “shoe scraper” rather than “foot cleaner” which would be a little odd.

One of my all-time favourite words is “limpiaparabrisas”.  You may have to think about this one.  “Parabrisas” which seems to mean “for breezes” is in fact “windscreen” (which if you think about it, is the same thing).  Therefore “limpiaparabrisas” is the thing that cleans the windscreen namely “windscreen wiper”.

You may not think that English has any related word to “limpiar” but in fact we do have the word “limpid” mean “clear” or “transparent” usually referring to water.  This is clearly related to “limpiar” and the Spanish also have the word “límpido” also meaning limpid.

I find students often remember the verb “limpiar” quite easily, and in many cases these seems to be due to their noticing the cleaning product “Don Limpio”.  He is a bald man with a nice white t-shirt and folded, muscular arms who looks a bit like a genie and even more like his English cousin “Mr. Clean”.


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