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The rice lacks salt.

To my understanding I translated the above sentence into

El arroz escaso de sal.

However, it turned out to be incorrect as I was practicing the spanish grammar. The correct answer turned out to be

El arroz está escaso de sal.

I did not get much sense either when I tried to translate this sentence to English as it would be something like

The rice is lack of salt.

So I would like to know what role does 'esta' plays in above sentence? And why the sentence would be incorrect without the use of it?

  • I corrected the accent on está. This case is important because it is confused with the adjective esta (this), whereas that word is the subject of this question. – Rodrigo Apr 21 '15 at 14:02
  • @Rodrigo Would you please tell me how to write the accented words? – Ufomammut Apr 22 '15 at 7:29
  • Right now they are properly written. Ésta is a form of the verb "estar" (to be), the vowel a is prominent. Esta is the singular feminine adjective (this), marked vowel is e. – Rodrigo Apr 22 '15 at 11:42
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Your problem here is that lacks is not an adjective, but a verb. And this verb does not translate directly into another verb in Spanish; you have to use a different construction. This is similar to the verb to like, which does not translate directly into just a single verb in Spanish:

I like the sea --> Me gusta el mar (not Yo gusto el mar)

In your case, the verb to lack can translate into carecer. But this verb is not transitive in Spanish; it needs a complement introduced by the preposition de:

The rice lacks salt --> El arroz carece de sal

In fact, carecer suggests to lack completely; so, if you mean that the rice has some salt, but needs more (and I think this is the meaning here), you can use a few other expressions:

Al arroz le falta sal

El arroz está escaso de sal

El arroz tiene poca sal

As you can see, you cannot do a word-for-word translation. English and Spanish are different languages and use different constructions sometimes.

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  • 2
    To make a connection between escaco and English, you could think of it like, "The rice is lacking in salt." – Eric Apr 21 '15 at 23:03
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El arroz esta escaso de sal.

This sentence is wrong, esta means this in female, the word for the verb to be is está, also I think that a more accurate translate would be :

El arroz carece de sal.

In my country (Perú) we usually say:

Le falta sal al arroz.

You can also say:

El arroz está soso. (The rice is insipid.)

I think the English word insipid does not fit quite well, but soso literally means: "that hasn't salt or has a little salt."

soso, sa.

(Del lat. insulsus).


1. adj. Que no tiene sal, o tiene poca.
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    I'd generally translate soso as bland although that doesn't strictly mean a lack of salt, just a lack of flavor. Le falta sal is also common in Spain – user0721090601 Apr 21 '15 at 14:24
  • I did not know how to write accented esta. – Ufomammut Apr 22 '15 at 7:28
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When you translate the original sentence as

El arroz escaso de sal.

it lacks the verb. The verb is what tells you the action, and is one of the key components of a sentence. Imagine that I said

El niño hacia el columpio

Without a verb you wouldn't know if I mean "mira" or "corre" or "camina", etc. I think your confusion comes with the use of "is" and "lack".

To improve the translation, it could be

The rice lacks salt.

or

The rice is needing some salt. / needs salt

or even

The rice is bland.

I understand that "is lack of salt" makes no sense in English, but "escaso" is no verb, that is why you need a verb in "El arroz escaso de sal". The tricky thing is that you "forced" an "is" in your translation into English, making a redundant "is lack of".

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