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I have always thought of the expression of "por cierto" as meaning "certainly" or "surely." It certainly "looks" that way (for certainly). And even Google Translate gives it that meaning, as well as "by the by" (which is similar to "by the way").

Yet when I used this as an answer on another question (since deleted), a native speaker said that it is NEVER used as "surely" or "certainly" in Spain. And the answer was down voted.

I'm confused. What's going on? Is "Por cierto" somehow a "false friend" word? Or is this an acceptable translation in Mexico and/or some South American countries, even though this might not be the case in Spain?

I am an American who has learned "New World" Spanish.

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Great question. –  CesarGon Apr 30 '12 at 2:03
    
@CesarGon: Suppose I "undelete" my answer to the other question, and edit it to indicate that "por cierto" is used this way only OUTSIDE of Spain. Will you remove your downvote? (Or did you not downvote it in the first place?" –  Tom Au Apr 30 '12 at 16:53
    
Yes, it was me who downvoted your answer ;-) To be honest, I am not certain that "por cierto" is used as "certainly" anywhere at all, despite what the DRAE says. Definitely it's not used like that in Spain, and I'm looking forward to seeing answers to your question here that may clarify whether it is used like that anywhere. I'd be happy to remove my downvote if somehow we could make it clear that "por cierto" is far from being accepted as a fair translation for "certainly", to say the least. Maybe a pointer to this question would help. What do you think? –  CesarGon Apr 30 '12 at 19:14
    
@CesarGon: My plan was to establish where (if anywhere) it was acceptable. Then point out that it was acceptable only in those places, and NOT Spain. –  Tom Au May 1 '12 at 0:09
    
@CesarGon: I've also asked about this question on meta: meta.spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/213/… –  Tom Au May 1 '12 at 0:24

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As you can see at the RAE, "por cierto" has both meanings of "certainly" and "by the way".

I didn't know this until had a look at is, here in Spain we only use it as "by the way". So it seems that it also has the meaning of "certainly" in other Spanish speaking countries in America, but not in Spain.

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I am not sure that "por cierto" is used as "certainly" anywhere at all, including America. Can anyone from Spanish-speaking American countries confirm or rebut this? –  CesarGon May 1 '12 at 11:58
    
Yes, it would be great that someone could confirm my answer. –  JoulSauron May 1 '12 at 21:32
    
At least in El Salvador, "by the way" is most accurate. "Certainly" will fit to "ciertamente", which, if I remember well, it's an adverb. –  Guillermo Gutiérrez Nov 7 '13 at 20:31
    
by the way is how I use por cierto –  Emilio Gort Nov 18 '13 at 18:20
    
In Spain it has also the "certainly" meaning in contructions like "dar por cierto", "tomar por cierto", but not when it is alone. –  Envite Nov 25 '13 at 21:49

"Por cierto" normally means "by the way" but it's not always true, like in "cuando algo es tomado por cierto..." or "por cierto objeto", if "por cierto" is used just "por cierto" and "por cierto," means "by the way"

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"Por cierto" is not always "by the way", and it is wrong to down vote any answer that involves a word/s that are not used in Spain.

The term "false friend word" is only used when two words or phrases in two languages or dialects (or letters in two alphabets) look or sound similar, but differ in meaning.

for sure, by the way, certainly and surely will be correct translations of "Por cierto" depending on the place (geographically differences in the use of) and on the phrase/context.

From sports these days you can see for example on F1 drivers (from non English speaking countries) using "for sure"

Q: Do you have all in place to win the race today?
A: For sure, the team and the car are in optimal conditions today.
A: Por cierto, el equipo y el auto estan en optimas condiciones hoy.

But note that the same could easyly translated to other forms of affirmations like "De seguro", "por supuesto", "Claro / claro que si"

Commonly used in politics speeches the use of "De por cierto, | delo de por cierto"

Q: If you win the elections, will you get us all of this hole ?
A: For sure, I will put this country on the right path.
A: Delo de por cierto, Yo pondre ente pais en el camino correcto.

Expressions and common uses these days

 Por cierto, antes de que me olvide => By the way, before I forget
More commonly: (ah, oh) Antes de que me olvide


 De por cierto que vamos a ganar => Take for sure that we will win.
More commonly: Seguro que vamos a ganar


 Por cierto que voy => For sure I go
More commonly: Claro que voy


 Por cierto que parezca no the creo => Fore true that it looks I don't
   believe you
Remain the same


 Voy por cierto camino => I go true some way/path
Remain the same


 Por camino cierto => true the right path
Remain the same
  • cierto = true
  • por = for
  • for true = wrong but the close thing is for sure

You can consider "por cierto" as an expression or phrase that had been replaced by other words and no longer is widely used, despite that, in some places still used in its original form and meaning. It is a word that you can easily avoid and or replace with quite a few others. For sure, if your are not sure about it's true meaning, surely you can avoid it, certainly you will find other words :)

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I cannot say for sure this is a fact in each and every Spanish speaking country, but I am pretty that the most common use of "por cierto" is "by the way"

The link that JoulSauron added from the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, will certainly include each and every correct use of a word or phrase but in a lot of cases a lot of those uses and even a lot of the words are not used any more now days, it does not mean it is incorrect, only that is not common anymore.

I find that there will be quite a few "unfair downvotes" in this site since most of us Spanish speaking people do not know each an every word, present or past, nor each and every use of each of the words we commonly use.

This I find kind of sad since Spanish is such a rich language, but is a fact of most languages in the world.

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