1

Yeseterday I was asked if I spoke enough Spanish to go to the cinema and watch a film in Spanish. What I wanted to say was 'I speak enough to be worth going', so I went for 'Hablo suficiente para valer la pena ir', but this didn't make very much sense to my Colombian friends.

Can anyone explain why it doesn't make sense to do say this, and what I should do instead? I know I could rephrase it quite easily to 'Hablo suficiente, vale la pena ir' or something similar, but I wanted to use it in infinitive

1
  • This sentences are fully functional: Te acompañaría si llegara a valer la pena, No va a valer la pena acompañarte.
    – Rodrigo
    May 17 '15 at 14:54
4

The reason you can't say what you did is because infinitives in the construction you gave usually have an implicit subject1 and for many speakers, you need subordinate it in order for it to make sense.

As aprendedor mentioned, you need to add on lo with suficiente to nominalize it. But then we get:

Yo hablo lo suficiente para valer la pena ir.
       ^ explicit YO          ^ implicit YO

Because after the para there is nothing to clearly indicate a change of subject, the interpretation is that you speak enough in order to be worth the trouble. As in, you are worth the trouble. Then the ir shows up and it seems to float needlessly.2 Theroetically it could be an infinitival subject, but I can't think of a single Spanish speaker who would interpret it as such.

The easiest fix is to go to the subjunctive:

Yo hablo lo suficiente para que valga la pena ir.
       ^explicit YO          ^    ^            ^aha! We have our subject
                             |    |
                             |    still ambiguous (yo/él/ella/ello/Vd)
                             |
                             alerting potential change in subject

I know you want to use the infinitive form of valer, but because of the way that verb works and what you want to say, there's really no way you can use the infinitive and be easily understood unless you wanted to cheat by using periphrasis, but the same issues apply

Hablo lo suficiente para que vaya a valer la pena ir.


1. Contrary to popular belief, infinitives don't have to be impersonal and can take subjects. They are merely invariable in form (cf. Portuguese which in similar circumstances uses the personal infinitive that inflects only for person but not tense). For example, para beberla él, la bebida tiene que llevar alcohol. Note that some speakers may consider this ungrammatical, but it is described in the RAE's Gramática.

2. This is the same in English, though we construct these clauses differently. Compare I speak enough for it to be worthwhile/worth it to I speak enough to be worthwhile/worth it. When you tack on the extra ir, it's like in English saying I speak enough to be worth it to go.

3
  • 1
    That's the way he could've said it. However it's a very weird way to put it.
    – Alejandro
    May 17 '15 at 3:38
  • @Oshnaj I agree absolutely. It's a case of just because you can doesn't mean you should. :-) May 17 '15 at 17:01
  • Thanks very much, after your thorough explanation I'm quite happy to get rid of the infinitive and use the subjunctive here. I don't really understand why I need the 'lo' though, could you explain that?
    – Joe
    May 20 '15 at 21:19
3

It's a bit complicated to treat in infinitive because valer is not used in this case with its infinitive.

Normally, in spanish we say para que valga la pena. So the way you could rephrase it, is:

Hablo suficiente para que valga la pena ir.

Now, you can put lo suficientemente but it's not strongly necessary since you are already talking about the subject, which is spanish language.

Hence saying:

Hablo lo suficiente para que valga la pena ir.

will be perfectly understood by your friends.

1

I would add "como" to the answers given for it to be more commonly used expression.

Hablo lo suficiente como para que valga la pena ir

I find "para que vaya a valer la pena ir" too complicated for normal use, although is perfect grammar.

Moreover, I would short the sentence even more if I were speaking

Hablo lo suficiente como para ir

Finally, just an advice, try to avoid infinitive constructions in subjuntive mode. We have another mode because we use it in such a way that infinitive verbs don't usually fit in there. They produce akward feelings in the receptor.

2
  • I am a native spanish speaker (and I live in the US), this is how I would translate it.
    – luisluix
    May 21 '15 at 20:54
  • Yes, the thing I like about american english is that they tend to do things in a simple way May 22 '15 at 0:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.