Posted by: janecronin | February 10, 2019


I think “nacer” is a really interesting verb, if indeed verbs are ever interesting.  “Nacer” means “to be born”.  Notice that we don´t translate the “to be” part of the verb into Spanish as the whole verbal phrase “to be born” is included in the one word “nacer”.  It has one irregularity in its formation which is the first person singular of the present tense “nazco” (I am born).  Of course, by the very nature of being born, this is not a verb you would use in all its forms very often.  The most common tense used in everyday conversation would be the preterite:  “nací” (I was born) “naciste” (you were born) “nació” (he/she was born) “nacimos” (we were born) “nacisteis” (you – plural – were born) “nacieron” (they were born).  I would say “Nací en Londres” (I was born in London) and would also ask the question “¿Dónde naciste?” (Where were you born?).  From the two forms “nazco” and “nacieron” we can get to the subjunctive forms “nazca” and “naciera” but we won´t worry about those now.

There are several nouns that come from this verb – the most obvious one being “nacimiento” (birth). This word is sometimes used as an alternative to “belén” to describe the traditional Christmas “nativity” (notice the word!) scene.  “Navidad” (Christmas) therefore belongs to the same family of words, as does the girl’s name “Natalia”.  As well as “nativity” in English, we can now also recognise the medical terms “ante-natal”; “neo-natal”; “post-natal” and so on, all coming from the same Latin root as “nacer”.

We can now take this a little further by looking at the word “nativo” (native).  The word “native” in English tends to conjure up a picture of primitive tribes people, but “nativo” in Spanish has no such connotation.  When advertising as an English speaker in Spanish I always had to include the phrase “profesora nativa” which simply meant that I was a native English speaker, not that I danced around in a grass skirt, fortunately.  In other words “nativo” simply means that a person has been born in a particular place, and therefore by implication, into a particular language group.

The next step takes us to the word “nación” (nation).  I must admit I only made this connection recently, but I thought it was a jolly interesting one.  A “nación” basically refers to large group of “nativos”.  People also refer to this concept as a “homeland” or “fatherland” – an idea which means not only a geographical place but also to the language and culture that binds such a group of people together.  I think at the very least it’s an interesting concept to think about.

Going back to our initial verb “nacer”, there is another use of it that one sees around in Spain at Christmas time.  You may have noticed that on the balcony of some houses they have a picture of a baby Jesus with the words “Dios ha nacido” (God has been born).


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