How to say "I looked back and saw..."? I think it could be:

Miré hacía atrás y veía...

However, I'm not sure whether to use atrás or detrás. Which should I use for when describing the action of someone looking back to see if something is chasing them or when reversing a car, etc?

  • 3
    If your doubt is whether to use atrás or detrás, your choice is quite correct, you can say miré hacia atrás. But note that you should use vi instead of veía.
    – Charlie
    Sep 27, 2018 at 6:09
  • This question is quite interesting, since you're asking about "atrás", but judging from both the question itself and a comment on the current answer, it seems like you have issues choosing between the perfect past and imperfect past tenses. (i dont know how they're actually called in english, i'm refering to Pretérito perfecto simple and Pretérito imperfecto)
    – Brian H.
    Sep 27, 2018 at 11:40
  • This reminds me very much of the (unrelated) phrase Vuélveme a ver! Sep 27, 2018 at 19:44

3 Answers 3


In this case, I think we would use a different construction. Since looked and saw are somewhat redundant, in Spanish we would remove one of them and use a more natural (in Spanish) construction:

Me giré y vi...

The literal translation in English would be:

I turned back and saw...

Which is not too different from the original, as you can see. But I think it sounds more natural in Spanish than your proposal. The verb girarse, used as pronominal, does not necessarily imply turning the whole body; in this case, it means just turning the head.

  • Does this make sense? "Sin embargo, incluso cuando volaba muy rápido, no pude escapar. Me giré y todavía vi el extraterrestre."
    – 10 Replies
    Sep 27, 2018 at 10:47
  • @10Replies I'd say, Giré y todavía veía al extraterrestre.
    – Schwale
    Sep 27, 2018 at 11:55
  • 2
    FWIW, I find it totally OK to say "Miré atrás y vi...". In my usage mirar means "to direct my sight towards". You could conceivably look behind and not seeing anything, so mirar and ver are not equivalent and using them both is not redundant. See e.g. this well-known literary example.
    – pablodf76
    Sep 27, 2018 at 12:32
  • 1
    @pablodf76 I did not write that mirar and ver are equivalent; they are not, same as in English look and see are not equivalent. But, in this case, if you turn back and see what is behind you, it is clear that you have looked back. This is why I say that the use of looked and saw is somewhat redundant here and you can very well do without the looked.
    – Gorpik
    Sep 27, 2018 at 16:16
  • @10Replies Yes, it makes sense. You might also say me giré y el extraterrestre seguía allí; it is clear that you know it because you saw him when you looked back.
    – Gorpik
    Sep 27, 2018 at 16:19

You could also say:

Me volteé y vi [...]

From the verb "voltearse". You could also say:

Volteé y vi

People tends to abuse of pronominal verbs, though, so you'd get a better translation by using pronominal verbs.

  • Bienvenido a Spanish Language. Te recomiendo visitar las secciones de tour y help center para entender un poco mejor la filosofía de este sitio. Échale también un vistazo a otras preguntas y respuestas. Procura responder realmente a la pregunta y recuerda que el formato adecuado puede servir para hacer tu respuesta más fácil de leer y entender. El OP dice "I'm not sure whether to use atrás or detrás". Esa es la auténtica pregunta. No dudes en pedir ayuda si lo necesitas. Bienvenido de nuevo. ¡Espero seguir viendo contribuciones tuyas en el futuro!
    – Diego
    Oct 2, 2018 at 2:21

The other answers are good, but a more "precise" translation would be:

"Regresé a ver, y vi ..."


"Regresé mi mirada y vi...."

Country independent:

"Miré hacía atrás y ví"


"Mire detrás de mi y vi"

  • "I looked back" means "I looked to my back" and not "I came back and looked". Your translation does not seem right to me.
    – Charlie
    Oct 3, 2018 at 6:53
  • Spanish is my native language
    – Fuel
    Oct 3, 2018 at 6:55
  • So this requires interpretation rather than word to word translation
    – Fuel
    Oct 3, 2018 at 6:56
  • Y el mío también, solo estoy diciendo que tu traducción no me parece acertada. no es lo mismo "girarse y ver" que "volver atrás (regresar) y ver". ¿Tal vez el verbo "regresar" en tu país tenga una acepción de "girarse" que yo desconozco?
    – Charlie
    Oct 3, 2018 at 6:57
  • Las traducciones palabra por palabra nunca son buena idea.
    – Charlie
    Oct 3, 2018 at 6:58

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