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TIP #123 - This tip was sent on the week: 28th Jan - 3th Feb, 2007


Expressive Or Appreciative Suffixes In Spanish - Part IV


This tip applies to the following programs:

• ESI Professional

The diminutive form ‘–ito’ applies particularly to nouns and adjectives; it may even apply to proper nouns of persons, as the result of an affectionate attitude (unless done in a sarcastic manner) used to establish a more familiar or intimate contact.


Many adverbs will also accept this diminutive suffix, especially those originating from an adjective, such as: Hablar bajito or durito, Caminar rapidito, Estar mejorcito, etc.


And true adverbs may be made diminutives thus: Cerquita – Lejitos –Encimita –Apenitas –Despacito –Ahorita –Despuesito –Lueguito -Tardecito or tardito, among others.
The gerund (Note: the Spanish gerund) of some verbs will accept the diminutive in informal speech. For example: “corriendito”, “apurandito”, “jugandito”, “vacilandito”, and so forth.


It is generally stressed that the best way to consider all these suffixes is as ‘expressive’ or ‘appreciative’ suffixes, inasmuch as what they often contribute are nuances related to negative or positive appreciation, regardless of any type of associated magnitude (decrease or augmentation). This, to such an extent that, in a considerable percentage of the cases, the nuance introduced by the suffix ‘-ito’ does not even refer to the designated object (the one carrying the suffix), but expresses a pleasant or kind attitude felt by the speaker towards the person spoken to. Observe: “¿Quiere comidita?”, does not have anything to do with the ‘food’ itself, but with the person who is being asked. This is also found in the following examples: “Les mando un saludito”; “Aquí tiene su chequecito”; etcetera.


We must not forget the mitigating nuance it usually confers to concepts considered ‘prickly’ or in some way polemic, thus: “muertito”, “loquito”, “atarantadito”, “borrachito”, among others. Likewise, the suffix is very effective in the attenuation of an order, so as not to make it sound so harsh, or for a request not to sound so bold. For example: “¿Me regala una firmita?” (which also has the resource of the rhetorical question), “Échenos una manita” or “Dénos una ayudita”. “Una monedita” (request made in the speech of beggars), etc.


On the other hand, the diminutive may confer a meaning of contempt, of complaint or of censure, such as in: “¡Qué nochecita la que pasé!” “Me llevaron a  cada lugarcito…” “Me tengo unos vecinitos” (with gestures of disapproval).  In cases such as these, the speech context and facial expressions or gestures are essential to decodify in a clear manner what intention lies behind the diminutive. This is precisely one of the reasons due to which the appreciative suffixes are so frequently found in spoken language but rarely in written language: the latter does not have supporting gestures, nor does it have voice modulations or tone.



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