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I have heard the following sentence in the Narcos TV series:

No me está entendiendo mi punto.

Context: Two advisors A and B of Pablo Escobar are discussing about the new candidate to Colombia's presidency. Advisor A says that she has already interviewed the candidate in the past and that he was studying for a presentation he'd give to the cabinet soon after. B says that that is a sign that the candidate is a scholar, not a leader. A disagrees and says the sentence above to B.

What is the purpose of the pronoun "me" in the sentence? Does it express an ethical dative? I have already read All about datives, or: What's that funny "le" or "me" doing in there? , but nevertheless I am still unable to identify the meaning of the pronoun here.

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    Yes. I see the "me" functioning in two ways. (1) Note that one can say in English "You're not understanding the point," or "You're not understanding my point." Just as "me" is used for body parts, Advisor A could have said, "No me está entendiendo el punto," and that would show whose point is not being understood: mine. With both the possessive and the indirect object present, there's some added emphasis. (2) The "me" expresses some frustration of not feeling understood. In English there's another way of doing that, e.g. "You're going and distorting everything on me." – aparente001 Dec 16 '19 at 18:57
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    Does this answer your question? All about datives, or: What's that funny "le" or "me" doing in there? – aparente001 Dec 16 '19 at 18:58
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    @aparente001 as I have already answered in several other questions in which this link was given, no. – Alan Evangelista Dec 16 '19 at 19:27
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    I'm quite frustrated to have my questions about pronominal verbs marked as duplicates of the same canonical question which clearly does not answer them. In this specific example, @aparente001 suggested that the purpose of the reflexive pronoun in the verb "entenderme" in the example aforementioned is "to express frustration of not feeling understood". How could I infer that from the linked question? – Alan Evangelista Dec 18 '19 at 6:22
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    Alan - I will post an answer. Hopefully this will encourage others to comment or vote (up or down) or post a different point of view. Also, I will try to explain more carefully. – aparente001 Dec 18 '19 at 7:19
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Here are some ways of thinking about the sentence "No me está entendiendo mi punto":

  1. Note that one can say in English "You're not understanding the point," or "You're not understanding my point." Just as "me" is used for body parts, Advisor A could have said, "No me está entendiendo el punto," and the indirect object would show who is affected by the lack of understanding: me. Having both the possessive and the indirect object present provides some added emphasis.

    Here, punto is what Pablo called an inalienable possession in the sympathetic dative, in his canonical answer.

  2. That optional indirect object is also functioning as an ethical dative. Pablo wrote:

    The ethical dative is a dative that shows a certain interest, concern or involvement on the part of the referent. It sometimes overlaps with the sympathetic dative.

    What type of involvement does the speaker have in this case? How does he feel about the other person not getting the point? He feels frustrated. The feeling that the speaker has, about the utterance, comes out through the use of the indirect pronoun.

    I don't know what your first language is, but in case this helps: in English, a speaker can attach feelings to a statement in an analogous but grammatically somewhat different way, e.g. "You always go and distort things on me," or "She up and died on me."


Let's talk about body parts for a moment. I don't know a rationale for this, but the fact is that body parts and possessive pronouns don't go together in Spanish. We don't say to a small child before crossing the street, "Agarra mi mano." We say, "Agárrame la mano," which means Hold my hand.

There are several well known songs whose main line is Ponme la mano aquí. (For an explanation of the lyrics of what appears to have been the first such song, see http://memoriaflamenca.blogspot.com/2011/09/bulerias-de-la-paquera.html:

[...] un poema del poeta asturiano Alfonso Camín en que el estribillo dice: "ponme la mano aquí Macorina", que es un estribillo muy antiguo cubano de una rumba-son en el que un herido de guerra le pide a Macorina que le ponga la mano ahí donde le duele.

(Macorina was a real person in Cuba, of legendary beauty.)

Songs with the line "Ponme la mano aquí" (Put your hand here) abound, with many different styles and interpreters. If you listen to several recordings I think this will help ingrain in you the instinct to use an impersonal article (lo/la) with a body part.

In addition to the songs, another way of ingraining this might be an indignant loud admonition I once heard a woman make in a crowded medium-distance bus with people crammed in the aisle. The woman's voice rang out suddenly:

¡Quítese la mano de la pierna! [Get your hand off my thigh!]

She successfully embarrassed the groper, who kept his hands to himself after that.

A somewhat similar sentence in English is "That hand better not be on that leg again on this bus."

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  • Thanks for the answer! I understand well how the sympathetic dative is used for possession instead of possessive pronouns and my whole question is about the expression "entenderme mi punto", so your point (2) is the relevant explanation here. I was not familiar with the expression "up and do something", but I found its meaning at forum.wordreference.com/threads/up-and-die.3579479 . It seems to me that the meaning of involvement is, in fact, implied by "on me", not "up". – Alan Evangelista Dec 18 '19 at 15:20
  • @AlanEvangelista - The "up" just adds to the flavor. – aparente001 Dec 18 '19 at 17:36
  • @AlanEvangelista I meant: the "up" adds a slight tone of resentment. // I wrote the last section because of a comment you wrote below Pablo's canonical answer. If you are no longer feeling uncomfortable with the missing possessive pronouns, that is good, and you can ignore that whole part of the post. // Care to upvote and/or accept? // Do you see what the procedure is for figuring out what the added meaning is for a particular ethical dative? It varies quite a bit from one sentence to another. Basically, you have to think about how the person is affected, to be able to translate it. – aparente001 Dec 18 '19 at 22:54
  • My understanding of "up" in this context from the WR discussion linked above is that the related action happened suddenly/unexpectedly. I see no tone of resentment. – Alan Evangelista Dec 18 '19 at 23:08
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    No me está entendiendo mi punto is very funny (in both typical meanings of the word "funny"). It's just wrong, because such redundant possessives are not what the symp/eth datives are about, but it works very well because it's hilariously emphatic. You can feel the impatience there just by reading it. No me está entendiendo el punto would be "right", but not so funny. – pablodf76 Dec 19 '19 at 22:34
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In short:

The indirect object "me" is an ethical dative. As explained in this question:

The ethical dative is a dative that shows a certain interest, concern or involvement on the part of the referent. It sometimes overlaps with the sympathetic dative.

In this sentence, the speaker feels frustration and/or impatience that the other person didn't get her point.

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    Could the downvoter please explain what is wrong in this answer? – Alan Evangelista Dec 23 '19 at 17:03

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