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I hope you could help me to find out if there exists any specific verb in Spanish for the following situations.

  1. Imagine a train station, the train is already there and is about to leave the station. You are hurrying to catch the train before it leaves. In the last moment you manage to hop onto the train just before the door shuts. What a lucky day!
    2. You are crossing the street (not at a crosswalk to make it more dramatic) and out of the blue a car is heading in your direction at a high speed. You manage to step on the sidewalk just before the car passes you. Again, such a luck!

The idea that there is a moment after that everything goes bad and you manage to do something under time pressure.

I'm sure that it is correct to use conseguir or lograr to express the idea, For instance

Esta mañana he conseguido coger el tren. (Antes de que saliera de la estación)

Ayer logré cruzar la calle. (Antes de que el coche me atropellara)

What I'm not sure is that just saying he conseguido coger el tren without the part within the parentheses doesn't mean that I did manage to catch it having little time and yet I did it. he conseguido coger el tren without clarifying could mean, for example, that I had much time to get onto the train, but there were so many people that I literally squeezed in - ¡lo he conseguido!. You see? Without the context both conseguir or lograr could mean anything you could imagine but the real situation. And so I end up saying logré cruzar la calle justo delante del coche.

Out of curiosity, is there a verb to express the idea that I managed to do something having little time to do it? Or should I say "conseguir/lograr do something before something else happen"?

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  • 2
    If you are looking for something suitable for last-second-until-deadline actions, «por los pelos» is a very well know idiom (although a bit colloquial). Cogí el tren por los pelos. Literal meaning, you managed to grab the train by the hair (if it had some); wider meaning, you almost lost the opportunity to do something. Also used in negative when you were very close to something. No me atropelló un coche por los pelos.
    – guillem
    Feb 12 '16 at 8:11
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    En Colombia no usamos "por los pelos" sino "por un pelito". Ej. No me atropelló ese carro por un pelito. Iba tarde pero cogí el tren por un pelito.
    – DGaleano
    Feb 12 '16 at 14:12
  • En España también, @DGaleano, aunque normalmente sin el diminutivo. «De milagro (no)» sería otra opción. También, aunque con mucho más circunloquio, «faltó el canto duro para que (no)...» (siendo un duro el nombre popular de una moneda de cinco pesetas, imagino que no se dice en absoluto en América). Creo que todas esas tienen esa especificidad de tiempo que menciona el usuario spiral más abajo.
    – guillem
    Feb 12 '16 at 19:07
  • Me corrijo a mí mismo aquí arriba: el canto de un duro. No sé cómo hice para comerme dos palabras.
    – guillem
    Feb 15 '16 at 7:31
  • I managed to hop on the train in English also can mean several things. In English, manage is not a verb that means being able to do something within time constraints, either.
    – Lambie
    Oct 5 at 18:35
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The idiomatic expression you're looking for is me las arreglé.
Note that the verb changes depending of the subject:

Te las arreglaste para subir al tren ...
Me las arreglé para subir al tren ...
Se las arregló para subir al tren ...

And yes, this expression is used when something goes bad and you pulled it off anyway.

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  • Though it is not a time-specific idiom, is it? it could be that you managed despite other problems.
    – spiral
    Feb 12 '16 at 10:27
  • @spiral At least in Spain, this expression works in most cases where we would use to manage to in English. In fact, I cannot think of an exception off the top of my head.
    – Gorpik
    Feb 12 '16 at 10:36
  • @spiral I'd say it works in every context. It's widely used.
    – Schwale
    Feb 12 '16 at 12:40
  • if he is going to accept this as the answer, I hope you come back and specify the regions you are sure it is used. Feb 12 '16 at 16:12
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To manage to do something, you can use either of these:

  • conseguir hacer algo.
  • lograr hacer algo.

No cabe duda.

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In Mexican spanish, at least, we use the verb alcanzar.

Esta mañana alcancé a tomar el tren (antes de que saliera de la estación).

Ayer alcancé a cruzar la calle (antes de que el coche me atropellara).

¿Alcanzas a terminar este trabajo antes de salir de vacaciones?

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In Spain for Situation 1 you can also hear the expression:

  • Me las apañé para llegar a tiempo al tren
  • Se las apañó para llegar a tiempo al tren
  • Se las ha apañado (él) para llegar a tiempo al tren

This last way is very colloquial. May be not as common as arreglé, but still used.

Anyaways your first two proposals were right. Everybody would understand it

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The different suggestions made until now (arreglar, apañar and alcanzar) are right in the sense that they convey the meaning of to manage to do something, but they are general, and do not specifically imply a limited time factor.

I am not aware of an equivalence in Spanish. I think being in a hurry is something we just don't do. :)

Now, for the real, I think you will need to use an idiom like the ones suggested in the comments, or you can get creative with "me ha faltado el bigote de una gamba" (since shrimp whiskers are really thin), or "me ha ido más justo que un dedo en el culo" (work yourself the meaning of this one).

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