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Leyendo el libro "El Fuego y La Palabra: Una Historia del Movimiento Zapatista" uno de los artículos contiene este texto:

El compañero insurgente llegó con un folleto que tenía una explicación política de la situación nacional, ahí decía cómo es la explotación y todo eso. Nosotros de por sí entendimos más o menos rápido, porque de por sí ya está la idea de otros movimientos en los que hemos participado, pero no en el sentido revolucionario, sino en luchas donde se llega a negociar con el gobierno por la tierra, por el café, por la brecha lacondona ahí en Los Montes Azules. Como de por sí existían esas represiones de las que nos hablaban los compañeros, cuando llega el mensaje del EZLN pues rápido nos alegramos, y nos pusimos contentos de que hay otra lucha que va a defender la seguridad de los campesinos y de los pobres.

¿Qué significa la frase "de por sí" en cada de estos contextos? ¿Cómo y cuándo la uso?

  • Inglés es mi primer lengua, y esta bien si quieres responder en inglés o español. – J. Taylor Oct 11 '16 at 23:08
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    Releyendo el texto y después de ver las respuestas que te han dado, me parece que el artículo no está muy bien redactado. Yo diría que los "de por sí" en este caso son "muletillas" (tags) sin mucho significado. – Rodrigo Oct 12 '16 at 12:50
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    I agree with @Rodrigo the text is poorly written. There are several better ways to replace "de por si". The first and second ones could be omitted completely and the last one could be replaced but a simple "ya" – DGaleano Oct 12 '16 at 13:09
  • Sí, muchos de los autores en este libro son indígenas y campesinos, sin educación formal y quien hablan español como un lengua segunda. Así que no es una sorpresa que su español no es perfecto, sin embargo estoy interesado porque yo quiero comprender como se usa la frase en habla coloquial tambien. Yo comparté este pasaje porque es el primero lugar que he encontrado este frase. Pero, otros ejemplos estan muy bienvenidos, tambien. – J. Taylor Oct 13 '16 at 1:11
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    @J.Taylor nótese que decimos muchos de los autores (...), sin educación formal y *que* hablan, en lugar de quien hablan. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 14 '16 at 15:44
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I'm Mexican, native Spanish speaker and certified British English speaker and I've been seriously thinking for a while on how is it that I can explain that expression. The best I can do is show you a couple of examples that might lead to an answer.

In my region - Jalisco - this is the most common use for this expression:

De por sí, los examenes de certificación son difíciles... ¡ahora imagínate lo difícil que será el último nivel de la certificación!

Translated into English:

Knowing that those certification exams are hard...now imagine how tough it could get when you reach the last certification level...!

In this example, I'd say that "de por sí" is used to let others know that there is some kind of "previous" understanding or familiarity with specific background facts, so that it is easier and faster to comprehend an idea based or related on those background facts...

I think "de por sí" can be very similar to the following expressions: "Knowing that", "Given that", "It is clear that", "Everybody knows that" or "One can tell"...

Given your example above:

Como de por sí existían esas represiones de las que nos hablaban los compañeros, cuando llega el mensaje del EZLN pues rápido nos alegramos,...

I'd translate that intto English as:

Since we were already aware of the existence of these repressions our friends were talking about, when the message from EZLN arrives, we cheered up quickly...

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  • Thank you. Your description re: "previous understanding of and familiarity with background facts" was very helpful for intuitively understanding this phrase and when it is used. I'm still slightly confused about how to use it in a grammatically correct way, but I think I can pick that up by seeking out more examples. – J. Taylor Oct 14 '16 at 15:06
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    It's like "given that (the forthcoming statement) is true", with "de" being the command form of "dar" and "sí" to assert affirmation. – Paul Oct 14 '16 at 20:09
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    @Paul De is not the command/imperative form of dar (that would be ). It's just a preposition meaning of as in the expression in and of itself: el chocolate de por sí es muy sano, pero los añadidos que suele llevar lo hacen excesivamente calórico = chocolate in and of itself/per se/as such/a priori is very healthy, but the added ingredients it usually has make it excessively caloric. – Yay Oct 15 '16 at 11:30
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Already

"De por sí [whatever]" means "already [whatever]" or sometimes "[whatever] enough already".

From your examples

Nosotros de por sí entendimos más o menos rápido

This one means "We understood relatively quickly already"

porque de por sí ya está la idea de otros movimientos en los que hemos participado

"because the idea was there already from other movements in which we participated"

Como de por sí existían esas represiones

"Given that those repressions existed already"

Then the part that makes all those "already"s make sense is:

nos pusimos contentos de que hay otra lucha que va a defender la seguridad de los campesinos y de los pobres.

"We were glad that that there was another fight to defend the safety of the peasants and the poor"

I bolded "another" because it's important that they knew about the fight to defend poor people already, and got extra-happy when they found out that there were others.

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    I like this answer but I'd like to add something that you don't say explicitly but is in one of your examples. In many cases I'd translate "De por si" as given, given that, knowing or since so your example could be written with or without the already like this: Given/knowing/since those repressions they talk about existed [already]... – DGaleano Oct 12 '16 at 12:49
  • I thought the "already" word was the crucial one. Can "given" really be used without "already" in that example? I want to say "given that those repressions already existed" or "given that those repressions existed already". Switching the position of the "already" works, but completely removing the "already" sounds weird to me. – Santiago Tórtora Oct 12 '16 at 12:54
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    Well I'm not a native English speaker but it sounds fine to me with or without it. I agree with @rodrigo that the original text is poorly written and let me give you the Spanish example. Como ya existían esas represiones de las que nos hablaban los compañeros, cuando llega... or Dado que existían esas represiones de las que nos hablaban los compañeros, cuando llega.. In the first "de por si" is replaced by "ya" and could be translated with "already" but the second option I use "dado que" and the translation to that is "given/given that" and I don't see the need to use "already" – DGaleano Oct 12 '16 at 13:04
  • Gracias a ustedes. Sus traducciones y sugerencias me ayudan mucho. Pero, usar "already" me confunde, porque la palabra "ya" significa "already". Así que en el ejemplo "porque de por sí ya está la idea de otros movimientos", usar "already" traducir a "Already already the idea was there from other movements". Este es porque la traduccion "Given that the idea was already there from other movements " tiene mas sentido para mi. – J. Taylor Oct 14 '16 at 15:38
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    This could be another question but let me clarify what Santiago and I are talking about. I said there are two ways: "Ya existían ???" = "??? existed already". "Dado que existían estas ???" = "Given that these ??? existed [already]". In the second example I think [already] is optional and could be omitted but @SantiagoTórtora has doubts and he thinks is compulsory. Perhaps you as native english speaker could clarify. Anyway I'd recommend you never to use "de por sí" and use any of this replacements instead (obviously it is useful to understand its meaning). – DGaleano Oct 14 '16 at 16:38
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De por

An off the top of my head translation would be something like, "of course". But to explain in a way more relevant to the phrase, it literally just means "Yes".

Yes, the presidential nominee is an idiot, but imagine if he were to win!

It's like agreeing with a statement before you say it.

Yes, maggots are disgusting, but they could save your life.

Yeah, we might lose.

Yes, I do have wooden teeth, but I can chomp maggots like no other.

Español.

De por sí, tengo dientes de madera pero puedo morder gusanos como nadie

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I would translate this phrase "as it is."

De por si, la casa es chiquita, y ahora van a venir a vivir dos mas.

The house is small as it is, and now two more people are going to live here.

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