The below sentence in italic confuses me. Could you please help me analyze it?

Ayer comenzó el verano (al menos en España) y somos muchos los que con él somos arrastrados cual imán a la orilla del mar.

I understand the gist:

"Summer started yesterday (at least in Spain) and with it, we are pulled like magnet to the seashore."

But I don't understand why it is so complicated (literally "We are many who with it are dragged whose magnet to the seashore"). What is the role of "cual imán"?

Thank you.

  • 1
    I don't understand clearly your question, sorry, but keep in mind that "cual" is a polysemic word. Here it means same as "como" or "tal como", and can be translated as "like", as you say. It's a poetic way of saying Somos arrastrados como un imán hacia la orilla. – Rodrigo Sep 1 '16 at 17:22

This is an expression that should not be taken literally. It means that in summer, lot of people in Spain like to go to the beach like him (not sure who's him aside of a person or entity).

To understand what this means: the author uses a reference: "somos arrastrados cual imán a la orilla del mar", which means that their instinct or nature make them to desire to go to the beach.

The magnet ("imán") is used as a reference that the beach attracts the people like a magnet pulls a group of nails. "cual" is a term similar to "like" or "as a", used to highlight a reference or to compare things.

  • I understand the figure of speech. I just don't understand the grammatical role of the phrase "cual iman". – cody Sep 1 '16 at 17:17
  • It means "like a magnet". It's to highlight the reference. – Luiggi Mendoza Sep 1 '16 at 17:20

First of all, is important to notice that the word "cual" is not the same as "cuál". The last one is used much more, and means "which".

However, the word "cual" in the sentence above is a cult synonym of "como", and thus it is making a comparison between the subject (We) and the magnet. If you change one word for the other the meaning will remain the same.

Moreover, if any other person was introduced before this sentence, "él" is probably referring to the summer, in a figurative way.


Dictionary (DPD) definition:

1.5. La forma invariable cual es un adverbio relativo que se emplea con valor modal equivalente a como (→ como, 1a): «Las fuentes se animan cual doncellas vivas» (Aridjis Comedia [Méx. 1989]). Es uso arcaico que solo pervive en la lengua literaria.

As you can read (if you want, I can translate), it's an archaic use of the term only used in literature. It means "como".


The sentence:

  • Somos muchos los que con él somos arrastrados cual imán a la orilla del mar.

can be parsed as follows:

Los que con él somos arrastrados cual imán a la orilla del mar is the subject.

somos is the copulative verb.

muchos is the subject complement.

(The subject is in final position because of its length.)

Within the subject, which is a free relative or nominal relative clause, we have:

Los que is the subject of the clause.

somos arrastrados is the verb (in the passive).

con él is an adverbial adjunct (probably of time, or reason: when summer comes, because of summer).

cual imán is an adverbial adjunct of manner, or comparison.

a la orilla del mar is an adverbial adjunct of place.

The phrase "cual imán" is introduced by the conjunction "cual", similar to but more poetic than "como".

Literally, the sentence could be translated as: Many are those of us that/who along with it (and) like a magnet are drawn to the seashore.

  • 1
    Very impressive +1. – DGaleano Jul 8 '20 at 18:16

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