An example taken from the RAE's DPD 5.2b (link):

"...el indefinido 'uno' y su referente es la persona que habla":

Si la ven a una vacilar, enseguida se aprovechan

Can someone please translate this example to English and explain what it means?

  • Something like 'If they see you waver, they will take advantage'? But bear in mind I am a native English speaker and we should wait for confirmation.
    – mdewey
    Jul 16, 2016 at 12:57

1 Answer 1


The sentence means something like

If they see one hesitate, they immediately take advantage of one.

Let's see if I can explain it right. The speaker should talk about herself in the first person, and the sentence should be something like this:

Si me ven vacilar, ...

But in this case, the speaker is a third person from the point of view of the subject of the sentence (they). So she assumes herself that third person and thus speaks about herself in that way.

Si la ven...

"If they see her..." Who is her? Oneself. And the word in Spanish to talk about oneself in third person is uno/una. So the sentence is

Si la ven a una vacilar...

The speaker talks about a personal experience, but is probably also advising that it could happen to anyone, so the sentence could also be translated as

If they see you hesitate...

as mdeway says in his comment. He also notes in another comment that speaking about oneself seems old-fashioned in English, but that's not the case in Spanish, at least in this example.

  • 2
    One can, of course, in English speak about oneself if one wishes but one generally does not because one risks appearing old-fashioned. Queen Elizabeth II used to do this but her advisers seem to have stopped her. And to satisfy @Carlos curiosity a Mexican colleague used to jokingly refer to me as Don Miguel.
    – mdewey
    Jul 17, 2016 at 7:48
  • @mdewey thank you, answer edited :) With some usernames one can never be sure...
    – Charlie
    Jul 17, 2016 at 8:03
  • I don't think this is right. See the Chile and Venezuela answers at spanish.stackexchange.com/q/11969/9385. Dec 1, 2019 at 18:37

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