Posted by: janecronin | April 21, 2019


The verb “soltar” means “to release” or “to loosen” and has quite a variety of different uses which I will endeavour to explain.  First of all though, as usual, I will mention the formation of the verb, which belongs to that group we call “root-changing”.  Remembering that the “root” of the verb is the part that is left once the –ar, -er or –ir ending is removed; in the case of “soltar” the root therefore is “solt”.  There are three categories of root-changing verbs, and the only one involving the letter “o” is the change “o to ue”.  In other words, “solt” becomes “suelt” in four out of the six forms of the present tense.  “I release” is therefore “suelto”; “you release” “sueltas”; “he or she releases” suelta” and “they release” “sueltan”.  The other two forms in the present tense retain the root in its original form – “we release” “soltamos” and “you – plural – release” “soltáis”.  If you are not familiar with these formations then that might appear as clear as mud, but rest assured that “soltar” follows a very specific pattern shared by many verbs, and when you get on to learning about them you will see that it all makes sense!

Although in English the word “release” probably makes us think first of prisoners, in Spanish possibly the most obvious context is dogs.  If you were to let a dog off its lead or open an enclosure or gate to let a dog run out – they you are “soltando el perro”.  If you wanted to tell someone to “let you go”, again in the physical sense that someone was holding on to you, you would say “suéltame” or to tell someone to let someone or something else go “suéltalo” or “suéltala”.  Another very common context is actually referring to hair.  To let your hair down (in the literal sense) is “soltarse el pelo”.

Another use of the reflexive form “soltarse” is when we talk about someone “loosening up”.  We can use it to refer to speech.  If you have difficulty getting going with your Spanish you could say “no me suelto hablando en español” and it is also something the Spanish will say about their difficulties with English.   There are one or two idiomatic uses as well, for example the expression “soltar prenda” which literally means to take off a garment, but is used to mean to “let on” about something.  If you say that someone “no suelta prenda” you are complaining that they will not give you any information or clues about something you want to know.

The adjective that comes from “soltar” is “suelto”, so to describe someone with long hair that has been untied we say “tiene el pelo suelto”.  “Suelto” can also be used as a noun meaning “loose change”.   “¿Me dejas 20 céntimos para la máquina? es que no llevo suelto” – Will you lend me 20 cents for the machine?  It’s just that I don´t have any loose change.


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