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Consider the following translation:

Hasta que tomé la píldora no se me quitó el dolor.

Until I took the pill, the pain did not go away.

Now, this Wikipedia article on Mexican Spanish says the "no" is often omitted in such constructs as the sentence inherently implies a negation. So, according to that article, a Mexican would just say:

Hasta que tomé la píldora se me quitó el dolor.

My confusion is, won't the sentence also get interpreted as "by the time I took the pill, the pain went away"?

If not, how would a Mexican speaker say a sentence involving the phrase "by the time"? I am also curious to know if this omission of "no" is a common feature throughout Mexico or is it just a regional phenomenon. If regional, which parts is it common in? Is it considered "uneducated" speech in those parts?

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I would not post an answer as I'm not so familiar with Mexican Spanish, but in Spanish (from Spain) Spanish this is low-level speaking, the correct way being not removing the "no" particle. –  Envite May 28 at 8:15

6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

It personally feels very natural to leave the not out. I'd probably use that version most of the time. Had I never read this question, I would've thought it was perfectly standard to do so.

Also, this could be a regional thing, but I would translate by the time as:

Para cuando

Your sentence would end up being

Para cuando me tomé la píldora, ya se me había quitado el dolor

Notice how I changed up the tense, otherwise it would sound weird, at least in my dialect.

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Thanks for the input, clinch. Which part of Mexico are you from? Am asking this question so I know what part of Mexico to associate this practice with. –  Amit Schandillia Oct 19 at 20:38

I DON'T think "Hasta que tomé la píldora se me quitó el dolor." sounds good even in mexican.

this would be correct

"Cuando tome la píldora se me quitó el dolor"

"Al tomar la píldora se me quitó el dolor"

By the time means "in that concrete moment" or "from that moment on", so you can use any expression that means the same as "en ese momento", "justo entonces/cuando", "no antes" , etc.

"en el momento que tome la píldora se me quitó el dolor"

"justo cuando tome la píldora se me quito el dolor"

"cuando tome la píldora y no antes se me quitó el dolor"

I know this can be a bit confussing, we have tons of ways to say the same thing.

Hope it helps.

Edit: I'm not mexican but obviously there are similarities between our dialects that anyone would agree

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"hasta que me tomé la píldora se me quitó el dolor" sounds perfectly fine in my Spanish variant. "By the time" would probably be better translated as "para cuando", so the sentence would end up being "para cuando me tomé la pastilla, ya se me había quitado el dolor". –  clinch Oct 19 at 19:25

Here in Mexico it is normal to hear both versions, from my own point of view both are correct.

However,

Hasta qué tomé la píldora se me quitó el dolor.

Is the one I would use.

Another example:

No lo vi hasta que llegué a casa

Hope this helps.

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I am from central México.

I would translate the sense of the sentences in question as follows:

Hasta que tomé la píldora no se me quitó el dolor.

Until I took the pill, the pain did not go away.

And

Hasta que tomé la píldora se me quitó el dolor.

Only when I took the pill did the pain go away.

I think the English translations I have posted are a good equivalent to what is going on grammatically & in terms of sentence "feeling" in the Spanish sentences.

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"by the time" really means that the first event already happened when the second event took place. Using the OPs example: "by the time we called the police she was driving away" means "cuando llamamos a la policía, ella ya se iba". Unfortunately, my translation does not use any idiomatic flavor, which I think is what the OP is really looking for.

If "Hasta al momento que llegó la policia..." means the same thing, please tell me, because to me it sounds like: "Up until the moment the police arrived" rather than "by the time the police arrived" which are quite different.

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Something idiomatic in my Spanish variant would be "para cuando llamamos a la policía, ella se estaba yendo". And I do agree with your second paragraph. –  clinch Oct 19 at 19:26

Según el DRAE, en la América Central y el Méjico, hasta también tiene el significado de no antes de.

En este contexto, cabe tal acepción porque sería como si dijésemos No antes de que tomé la píldora, se me quitó el dolor (que bueno, así para mi suena mejor en reverso se me quitó el dolor no antes de que tomé la píldora pero no cambia su sentido)


Accrding to the DRAE, in Central American and Mexico, hasta also can mean no antes de (no sooner than).

That definition actually works, since we'd effectively be saying No antes de que tomé la píldora, se me quitó el dolor (No sooner than I had taken the pill, my pain went away).

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