1

There has recently been some controversy and amusement in the UK about a notice which appeared at a beauty spot asking people not to drop litter. Apparently after the location was used in a Bollywood film they added a Hindi version of the text to the English, Spanish and Polish. The Hindi apparently contained an error. I cannot find a public domain picture of the notice but this item from the Dorset Echo has an image.

My question concerns the Spanish version which reads No deje basura en la playa. For some reason I assumed it would say No dejar basura en la playa which to my non-native ears sounded more natural. I believe they are both right so my question is whether there is a difference in stylistic terms between them so one might be preferred in some circumstances.

  • I thought you were going to ask about recipes and cookbooks? – aparente001 Dec 2 '17 at 2:28
  • I think the beach will stay cleaner with a more positive approach, such as "Depositar basura AQUÍ" or "Llévate la basura -- conserva la belleza de esta playa." Note that I'm also using the informal, which no one has mentioned in an answer yet. I think that personalizes the message and helps the reader connect better. (I'm not writing an answer because my comment doesn't address your question directly.) – aparente001 Dec 2 '17 at 2:31
  • Or "Deposita tu basura AQUÍ." By personalizing it I think the response would be better. And I think the trend is toward the more informal. – aparente001 Dec 2 '17 at 21:15
3

Even if both of the following two negative sentences are correct, the imperative:

No deje basura en la playa.

and the infinitival:

No dejar basura en la playa.

the imperative sounds more natural as well as more personal, as it addresses any potential infringers more directly. With the infinitive, “Prohibido” sounds much better:

Prohibido dejar basura en la playa.

Also, “dejar” would not be the usual verb with "litter" and “arrojar” might be preferred:

  • No arroje basura en la playa.
  • Prohibido arrojar basura en la playa.

I think “No” + infinitive will be more widely accepted with intransitive verbs or with transitive verbs followed by a short object, in notices that need to be kept brief, such as:

  • No fumar. (Also: Prohibido fumar)
  • No pisar el césped. (Also: No pise el césped)
| improve this answer | |
  • Dejar basura sounds natural to me. It may depend on the country where it is used. – Alejandro Dec 1 '17 at 15:58
  • 1
    as the Answer says : "no dejar basura" sounds correct when the sentence ends with "basura" but on a longer and more defined sentence: "no dejar basura en la playa" it sounds better to also define who are we telling this. Infinitive works better on Generic short sentences, while imperatives work better on long defined sentences. – Mike Dec 1 '17 at 17:37
1

The website of the RAE has an interesting article on this, since it is a common point of debate: Infinitivo por imperativo.

It starts by pointing out that imperative must be used.

Cuando se da una orden a una segunda persona (del singular o del plural), deben usarse las formas propias del imperativo, si la oración es afirmativa, o las formas correspondientes del subjuntivo, si la oración es negativa, va introducida por la conjunción que o se dirige a un interlocutor al que se trata de usted

Then it follows by highlighting that things like Poneros el pijama are wrong:

No se considera correcto, en el habla esmerada, el uso del infinitivo en lugar del imperativo para dirigir una orden a una segunda persona del plural, como se hace a menudo en el habla coloquial.

(even though now iros is also accepted for idos)

And it then specifices when it is correct to use the infinitive as an imperative: when it is preceded by the preposition a:

Solo es válido el empleo del infinitivo con valor de imperativo dirigido a una segunda persona del singular o del plural cuando aparece precedido de la preposición a, uso propio de la lengua oral coloquial: ¡Tú, a callar!; Niños, a domir.

The key point, though, is the last, long paragraph:

No debe confundirse el empleo desaconsejable del infinitivo en lugar del imperativo de segunda persona del plural con la aparición del infinitivo con valor exhortativo en indicaciones, advertencias, recomendaciones o avisos dirigidos a un interlocutor colectivo e indeterminado, habituales en las instrucciones de uso de los aparatos, las etiquetas de los productos o los carteles que dan indicaciones, hacen recomendaciones de tipo cívico o prohíben determinadas acciones en lugares públicos: Consumir a temperatura ambiente; Depositar la basura en las papeleras; No fumar; Lavar a mano. Se trata, en estos casos, de estructuras impersonales en las que no se da una orden directa, sino que se pone de manifiesto una recomendación, una obligación o una prohibición de carácter general, en las que hay que sobrentender fórmulas del tipo Se debe consumir... / Es preciso consumirlo... / Hay que consumirlo... / Se recomienda consumirlo...; Debe depositarse la basura en las papeleras / Hay que depositar la basura a las papeleras; No se puede fumar / No se permite fumar; Debe lavarse a mano / Se recomienda lavarlo a mano.

That is, the infinitive is accepted to work as a generic exhortation to an undefined audience, like the one in your example.

Going back to your question:

My question concerns the Spanish version which reads No deje basura en la playa. For some reason I assumed it would say No dejar basura en la playa which to my non-native ears sounded more natural. I believe they are both right so my question is whether there is a difference in stylistic terms between them so one might be preferred in some circumstances.

Both are right. However, also to me No dejar sounds more natural and it is very rare to see No deje.

| improve this answer | |
  • Oh my goodness that was roundabout. I think this answer would be strengthened by omitting the first three quotes. – aparente001 Dec 2 '17 at 2:28
  • @aparente001 haha you are right! In fact my whole answer to the question is quite vague since I do not have sources. I am considering just deleting it. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Dec 2 '17 at 21:01
  • I think it would be fine if you took out the prologue. – aparente001 Dec 2 '17 at 21:14
  • I think the detail answers the more general question behind my specific issue. – mdewey Dec 4 '17 at 13:36
0
  1. No deje basura en la playa.
  2. No dejar basura en la playa.

Both of them work perfectly.

I'd say that the former shows more politeness, whereas the latter sounds a bit rough.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.