Given the following sentences:

Me mandó un mensaje a plenas tres de la mañana.

El olor me delató a plenas dos en la oficina.

I know "pleno" typically means "full" and can be used to emphasize. The best I can think of is "fully", eg "The smell gave me away to fully two people in the office."


Those are two odd examples of an otherwise well-known expression:

Tuve que volver andando a casa a pleno sol y en pleno verano. (I had to come back home walking under the sun at its peak in the hottest of the summer.)

In the previous example you can see that pleno is used to emphasise what's next. Another example:

Nos entraron a robar a plena luz del día. (They robbed our house even it was full daylight.)

In this case the emphasis is used to note that burglars don't usually do that at daylight but at night when nobody is watching. The examples you give just emphasise the time at which the actions are performed, but I must say that using pleno (or plenas in your case) sounds a bit strange to me when accompanying a time of the day, but it's perfectly valid. It's just unusual, that's all.

This expression is present in the DRAE:

pleno, na

Del lat. plenus.

  1. adj. Que ocupa la parte central o más intensa de un tiempo, un lugar, un proceso, etc. La bala le hirió en pleno pecho. Juan está en plenos exámenes. Era pleno verano.
  • Thanks, the note about it emphasizing an "unusual" time for something is helpful. Sep 20 '16 at 3:47

The "plenas" plus number is used to refer to an improper time of the night.

Me mandó un mensaje a plenas tres de la mañana

translates as:

He sent me a message at three o'clock in the morning.

Even if you omit the de la mañana, the meaning is idiomatic:

El olor me delató a plenas dos en la oficina.

would be translated as something like:

The smell gave me away at two o'clock in the office.

It could also mean in the afternoon, of course, if the emphasis is appropriate there.

  • "a plenas dos en la oficina", entiendo que son las dos de la tarde.
    – rsanchez
    Sep 19 '16 at 18:58
  • @rsanchez: Puede ser, supongo que depende del contexto.
    – rodrigo
    Sep 19 '16 at 19:00
  • So while it gives some emphasis on impropriety or unusualness in Spanish, that aspect would simply be omitted in an English sentence? Perhaps because there's no matching term like "broad daylight" (a pleno sol) for specific "improper" times? Sep 20 '16 at 3:38
  • @elpicaro: I didn't translate the emphasis because I didn't know how to say that in English. Broad daylight for pleno sol or plena luz del día is nice, but you cannot say broad two o'clock, I think. All depends on the kind of translation you are doing and the importance of the emphasis in the context. For example you could say: The smell gave me away in the office, and it was two o'clock!...
    – rodrigo
    Sep 20 '16 at 7:18

Plena(s) means full, complete, fulfilled, filled, plenary, etc. In your examples, regarding the time I would translate it as "whole" number, as in the previous answer, "He sent me a message at three o'clock in the morning". On the second half, I would think it is referring to audience rather than time so perhaps "The smell gave me away to all two of them at the office"

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