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How to tell what the Spanish adjective modifies?
Thread poster: patyjs

patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 21, 2007

Is there any sure way to tell how much of a sentence is modified by the adjective in Spanish?

Here's an example sentence which I have just come across:

...debido a la problemática del uso de maíz para fabricación de bio-combustibles, **oferta de productos e ingredientes lácteos limitada**, e incremento en la demanda...

In this example, how do I know whether "limitada" refers to "ingredientes lácteos" or "oferta de productos e ingredientes lácteos"?

Thanks!


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Agua  Identity Verified
Spain
English to Spanish
+ ...
A la «oferta» Aug 21, 2007

Hello,

«limitada» is feminine singular, it goes with «oferta», which is feminine singular too. To go with «ingredientes» it would have to be «limitados»,

Best of luck,

Mar


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
OK, so... Aug 21, 2007

does that mean that it modifies both parts of the subject, but only has to agree with the first?? Can I translate this to:
"limited product offer and dairy ingredients"?

Thanks, Mar, for your patience.


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Ramon Inglada  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:15
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Go back to basics Aug 21, 2007

Hi there,

In cases like this, when I'm confused, I just try to break down the sentence into smaller parts so I can understand what's going on.

In this case, "la oferta de productos es limitada" and "la oferta de ingredientes es limitada". As Mar already mentioned, "limitada" applies to "oferta", so therefore this means, basically, that there aren't many products or dairy ingredients available.

I'm not a native speaker, but I would translate this as something like "limited products and diary ingredients offer", as what's limited is both the offer for products and the offer for dairy ingredients.

I agree that sometimes this can be confusing, and it also happens from English into Spanish. In these cases, context is everything. Sometimes, the sentence just before the problematic part will be of great help, but even more often the sentence right after it will shed enough light to resolve the mystery. If that's not enough, you can always ask for a second opinion (like you did in this case in the forum), or you can always ask the client or the author of the text for clarification, if the ambiguity can not be resolved.

I hope this helps!

Best regards,

Ramon


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
As a last resort, turn it around Aug 22, 2007

As a simplified example, if there are no grammatical or contextual clues to tell you whether "gatos y perros negros" is "{cats} and {black dogs}" or "black {cats and dogs}," one solution is to translate it to "black dogs and cats."

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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You got it, Goodwords. Aug 22, 2007

My example wasn't a good one...but yours is perfect and illustrates my point perfectly.

Everyone,
I'll take all your advice in the future and simplify, break down and turn around, looking at the previous and subsequent sentences and just, basically, do my best!

Thanks, all.


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Alan R King
Local time: 19:15
Basque to English
+ ...
Oferta = supply Aug 22, 2007

One always needs to work with the broadest context available to be sure how to translate correctly, but in your example oferta probably needs to be translated as "supply" rather than as "offer". So, to start with (breaking it down into parts, but starting from a different initial point), since limitada still has to go with oferta because of the number and gender agreement, we're talking here about a LIMITED SUPPLY.

Now, next question: a limited supply of what (of = de...). Productos e ingredientes lácteos.

That can either mean "products and dairy ingredients" or "dairy products and ingredients". Which one? Well, which makes more sense? Once again, if we had more context, we should consider that first (because sometimes something out of context seems to be saying one thing, but in a particular context turns out to mean something different...), but, lacking more context, I can make a good guess that it's the second one. So here is the translation: LIMITED SUPPLY OF DAIRY PRODUCTS AND INGREDIENTS.

By the way, Spanish is by no means the only language that doesn't always make it 100% clear what an adjective is referring to. Another language that does the same thing is... English!!! And there's an example right here, in this phrase: "dairy products and ingredients". Is that "dairy products and dairy ingredients" or just "dairy products and (just) ingredients". If you know English well enough, you can probably figure out for yourself which is most likely and also realise that in cases of doubt, you need to look at the context for more clues (which aren't ALWAYS there, but often are). Same thing in Spanish!

So you see, this is not really a problem about Spanish at all (except that you need to know the agreement rules of Spanish to work with Spanish). It's about understanding texts generally. However, our native speaker intuitions often work more efficiently when we know the language better...

Cheers,
Alan


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Rosina Peixoto  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 14:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
You can refer to Jun 2, 2008

Emilio Alarcos Llorach in his book "Gramática de la Lengua Española"- RAE. Colección Nebrija y Bello. It´s well worth studying.
Have a nice working week!

Rosina


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