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The song Agua, by Jarabe De Palo, begins with:

¿Cómo quieres ser mi amiga?

The YouTube video of the song says that this translates to:

How come you want to be my friend?

"How come" is synonymous with "Why".

This lyric is the first time I've encountered "cómo" used to express "why".

So for you native Spanish speakers out there, is the following true:

¿Cómo quieres ser ...? = ¿Por qué quieres ser ...?

If yes, is the use of 'cómo' to express "why" something that is frequent in the world of Spanish?

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    Well, obviously cómo is not the same as por qué. However, it's not idiomatic for you to say How you want to be my friend? The question can be rephrased as ¿de qué manera quieres ser mi amiga?, but this fails to be an idiomatic expression. It's more like a forced sentence of what we'd say ¿cómo quieres ser mi amiga? – Alejandro Jul 26 '16 at 2:38
  • Hot dammit, this song hits close to home. A gorgeous woman has befriended me, but mostly seems to keep me in the "friend" zone...but then sometimes seems to suggest more than that. Now that you've explained this lyric, I wanna ask her "in exactly what manner do you want to be my friend, please clarify". Please put your comment as an answer. – Rock Anthony Johnson Jul 26 '16 at 2:44
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Well, obviously cómo is not the same as por qué.

However, it's not idiomatic for you to say

How you want to be my friend?

The question can be rephrased as ¿de qué manera quieres ser mi amiga?, but this fails to be an idiomatic expression. It's more like a forced sentence of what we'd say ¿cómo quieres ser mi amiga?

This is perhaps how you interpret it:

In what manner do you want to be my friend?

  • I disagree. The use of cómo in this song is quite idiomatic and does not mean a neutral cómo. – Gorpik Jul 26 '16 at 6:54
  • I'm with @Gorpik. In this context cómo suggests surprise. Maybe a more idiomatic translation of how come would be cómo es que, but cómo is just as correct. – MikMik Jul 26 '16 at 7:47
  • Just talking in general. I wasn't thinking about the song actually. It was so that Rock didn't have a misconception in general terms. – Alejandro Jul 26 '16 at 8:43
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The word cómo in this sentence is idiomatic and does not mean just how. It expresses surprise or annoyance. The YouTube translation is not correct for this case, but could be in another context. It may translate as how can you want to be my friend or how could you want to be my friend. In some cases, it can also be how you dare..., but this is not the case in this song.

Some examples:

¿Cómo te presentas en mi casa de esta forma? --> How you dare turning up at my home this way?

¿Cómo has pintado el coche de amarillo? --> How come you painted your car in yellow?

¿Cómo quieres que no esté enfadado? --> How could you want me not to be angry? or even How can you expect me not to be angry?

In this song:

Còmo quieres ser mi amiga

Si por ti darìa la vida,

would translate as:

How can you expect to be (just) my friend

If I would give my life for you

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