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I thought "sí" meant "yes" and "itself/himself/herself/yourself" so how does it translate to "does"?

(The following conversation is copied from one of Duolingo's stories)

MAMÁ Gaby era el nombre de tu amiga imaginaria…

MAMÁ … cuando eras pequeño.

MAMÁ Obviamente, ella nunca existió…

DANIEL Pues esta niña existe…

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is the affirmative adverb, just as no is the negative adverb. So where we can say algo *no existe* to deny that it exists, we can also say algo *sí existe* to confirm, somewhat emphatically, that it does indeed exist. That's the same function that does has in English (it is called the emphatic modal).

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  • Yes, except I would say: the auxiliary to emphasize the main verb. – Lambie Apr 8 '19 at 16:33
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Remember never to translate from one language to another word for word. I always say that the best translation is the one that produces in the reader/listener the same mental image as the one the original text produces, even if the translation is not exact word for word.

So, if you analyze the context, you have a mother arguing that Gaby was an imaginary friend and hence never existed, but Daniel states that it is the opposite: the girl exists. And what's more, he is annoyed because of what his mother said; he thinks his mother does not believe him and so he emphasizes existence of the girl.

So what we need to "translate" (I prefer "adapt") is the way to emphatically state the opposite from what the other person said. In Spanish it could have been:

Esta niña sí existe.
Esta niña de verdad que existe.
Pues te digo que esta niña existe.

You have several ways to make that emphasis, and you don't even need to use the adverb, as you can see from my examples. Now, in order to translate, we need to know how to make that emphasis in the other language. For this, a basic option for English could be:

Well, this girl does exist.

But that does not make "does" a translation for "yes." It is the translation of the way emphasis is made in that kind of sentence.

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"Sí" with the accent does indeed mean yes, and "si" without the accent does indeed mean itself, etc. However, "sí" with the accent can be used for something else entirely: to provide emphasis. In English, "does" is sometimes used to provide emphasis as well, but obviously the part of speech is different, and they do not match up perfectly one to one for all sentences. Here is a dictionary entry for this use of "sí" (Collins' second entry):

(uso enfático)

a.(en oposición a una negación)

ellos no van pero nosotros sí: they’re not going but we are

él no quiere pero yo sí: he doesn’t want to but I do

no tiene hermanos, pero sí dos hermanas: he doesn’t have any brothers but he does have two sisters

—¿a que no eres capaz? —¿a que sí?: “I bet you can’t” — “do you want a bet?” (informal)

—yo eso no me lo creo —¡que sí, hombre!: “I can’t believe that” — “I’m telling you, it’s true”

un sábado sí y otro no: every other Saturday

▪ IDIOM: por sí o por no: in any case ⧫ just in case

▪ IDIOM: un sí es no es: somewhat

resulta un sí es no es artificioso: it is somewhat contrived

b.(en oraciones afirmativas)

vimos que sí, que era el mismo hombre: we saw that it was indeed the same man

ahí sí me duele: it definitely hurts there ⧫ that’s where it hurts

apenas tienen para comer, pero eso sí, el tabaco no les falta: they hardly have enough money for food, but they’re certainly never short of cigarettes

ya llevamos aquí una semana, ¿a que sí, Luisa?: we’ve been here a week now, isn’t that right, Luisa?

ella sí vendrá: she’ll certainly come

sí que:

pero nosotros sí que lo oímos: but we certainly heard it

sí que me lo dijo: (yes) he did tell me

¡pues sí que estoy yo para bromas!: (ironic) this is a great time for jokes!

eso sí que no:

me piden que traicione a mis amigos y eso sí que no(informal): they’re asking me to betray my friends and that’s just not on (informal)

—¿puedo hacer unas fotos? —¡ah, no, eso sí que no!: “can I take some photos?” — “no, absolutely not!”

eso sí que no se puede aguantar: that is just unbearable ⧫ I just can’t stand that

▪ IDIOM: porque sí

no se hacen ricos porque sí, sino a base de arriesgar mucho: they don’t get rich just like that, they have to take a lot of risks

no vamos a la huelga porque sí: we’re not going on strike just for the sake of it

—¿por qué yo? —pues porque sí: “why me?” — “(just) because!”

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In speech it would be fairly easy to translate what the boy says since you would stress the word does. If I were translating this in written English I would deviate from the Spanish structure and say something like

No, she really does exist
Yes, she really does exist

Of course these are closer to one of @Charlie's examples

Esta niña de verdad que existe

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