4

English

The verses of Leon Gieco's song, "Sólo le pido a Dios", follow a pattern like this:

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que la guerra no me sea indiferente

The second line is giving me trouble. Does it mean:

  1. Que yo no sea indiferente frente a la guerra
    • That I not be indifferent toward war
  2. Que la guerra no sea indiferente frente a mí
    • That war not be indifferent toward me

Based on context, I'd think that (1) is correct. But logically translating the phrase, it seems like (2) is correct. Specifically, it seems that the subject of "sea" must be guerra, and if that's the case, then "indiferente" must be the feeling of guerra, not my feelings.


Castellano

Las estrofas de la canción "Sólo le pido a Dios", por Leon Gieco, siguen el modelo siguiente:

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que la guerra no me sea indiferente

La segunda línea me está dando problemas. ¿Significa:

  1. Que yo no sea indiferente frente a la guerra
    • That I not be indifferent toward war
  2. Que la guerra no sea indiferente frente a mí
    • That war not be indifferent toward me

Del contexto, pienso que (1) es correcto. Pero traduciendo la frase lógicamente, me parece que (2) es correcto. Especificamente, me parece que el sujeto de la palabra "sea" debe ser guerra, y si eso es correcto, entonces "indiferente" debe ser el sentimiento de guerra, no el de mí.


Another example / Otro ejemplo:

Que mi enemigo no me sea indiferente

Should it be / Debe ser:

  1. That I not be indifferent toward my enemy
    • O sea, quiero que yo le odie a mi enemigo
  2. That my enemy not be indifferent toward me
    • O sea, quiero que mi enemigo me odie a mí

How should I understand "que la guerra no me sea indiferente"?

¿Cómo debo entender "que la guerra no me sea indiferente"?

  • 1
    I pray to God that war experiences not leave me feeling indifferent (apathetic). – aparente001 Nov 18 '17 at 5:09
3

I agree with Mauricio's interpretation, which is the correct one, but also agree with Nathaniel's sense of ambiguity. With "war" being inanimate, we cannot normally expect it to be indifferent toward us, unless it is personified.

In an "X es indiferente a Y" structure, the usual interpretation is "X is indifferent to Y", but I think it is also possible to interpret it as "Y is indifferent to X." This ambiguity will arise when X is animate or personified, for example:

  1. La muerte me es indiferente.

(1) will usually mean "I don't care about death," but it can also mean "Death does not pay attention to me."

With animate subjects, the ambiguity is stronger:

  1. Juana me es indiferente (Juana es indiferente conmigo/hacia mí -- Juana is indifferent to me or Siento indiferencia hacia Juana -- I am indifferent to Juana).

Grammatically, "me" is an indirect object. According to item 35.3.1j of RAE's NGLE:

[...] los complementos argumentales de ciertos adjetivos se manifiestan sintácticamente como pronombres dativos que inciden sobre todo el grupo verbal, a veces en alternancia con otros predicados. Se obtienen así pares como Me es útil = Me sirve; No me es posible ir = No puedo ir.

The structure above also occurs with other verbs like estar, parecer, resultar.

Now, where does the ambiguity stem from? It lies in the meaning of "indiferente". Unfortunately, once again RAE's dictionary is not thorough enough. In the Free Dictionary, we find two possible acceptations for this adjective which are related to the case at issue:

  1. Que no despierta deseo, afecto o interés en otra persona Él y su compañero me son indiferentes.
  2. Que no se emociona, apasiona o conmueve Es indiferente a la miseria.

(3) would apply to the case of Juana not arousing my interest, and (4) to the case of "I" feeling indifference or apathy toward Juana.

3

Look at the meaning and use of indiferente in the DLE:

indiferente 3. adj. Que no despierta interés o afecto. Ese hombre me es indiferente.

As you see, in present "ser indiferente" (not to arouse interest or affection) is commonly used with the structure me/te/le/les/nos... + es + indiferente.

Ese hombre me es indiferente -> I am indifferent to that man

La guerra me es indiferente -> I am indifferent to the war

So with "Que la guerra no me sea indiferente", the author expresses that he does not want to be indifferent to the war.

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