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What's the meaning of "y puede" in the expression "avanza y puede" in the sentence below taken from a poem by Jesús María Villar Pavón:

El pulmón de la natura no respira, falta el verde, se están quemando los bosques, el desierto avanza y puede.

I translated it to both English and Portuguese using Google translater but it seems to make no sense.

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    "y puede" alone makes no sense there. Also, it should be "el pulmón de la naturaleza".
    – Gustavson
    Nov 29 '20 at 18:28
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    @Gustavson I agree with the first part of your statement but natura and naturaleza are synonyms. Your last assertion makes no sense.
    – RubioRic
    Nov 30 '20 at 7:10
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    @RubioRic Nobody would ever say in Spanish: el pulmón de la natura. "natura" means "naturaleza" only in set phrases. Please check the dictionary.
    – Gustavson
    Nov 30 '20 at 9:52
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    Lo que natura non da, Salamanca non presta.
    – Gustavson
    Nov 30 '20 at 10:09
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    Is the fourth definition given in the DLE for poder, _Ser más fuerte que alguien, ser capaz de vencerlo relevant here?
    – mdewey
    Nov 30 '20 at 17:15
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I searched that sentence to understand better the context and I found that is actually from a poem. Usually spanish native speakers, specially in México, use this expression.

el desierto avanza y puede.

'y puede' refers to the last verb in the sentence, 'avanza'. This sentence can be written like this for you to understand it better.

el desierto puede avanzar.

It was wrote to emphasize the lack of interest in this topic. The desert gets bigger because nobody cares to do something to stop it.

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  • Hi. Now I understand it. Thanks a lot for the amazing explanation.
    – Itamar
    Nov 30 '20 at 5:01
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    @Itamar, notice that the author does not seem Mexican. The quote is taken from an online newspaper from Extremadura, Spain. Such expression is not common in Spain. Being a poem, I think that the original author has taken a literary licence omitting the necessary particles. ¿Qué puede? ¿A quien puede? Only the author knows.
    – RubioRic
    Nov 30 '20 at 7:07
  • "el desierto puede avanzar" is not equal to "el desierto avanza y puede". The former is just a possibility that could or could not happen, whereas the latter means that it is happening and strongly
    – user29577
    Jul 24 at 17:33
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If we read the whole poem as linked to in the question we can see that it is an extended plea for action about the climate crisis.

Here is the immediately preceding verse as well as the one under discussion

La luna es roja, no blanca, porque está llorando sangre, el sol no calienta, quema, la tierra se abrasa, arde.
El pulmón de la natura no respira, falta el verde, se están quemando los bosques, el desierto avanza y puede.

It seems unlikely to me that the poet would want to reduce the impact by writing el desierto puede avanzar as there is little doubt in his mind about it. I would suggest that this is some form of the meaning of poder outlined by the DLE

  1. intr. Ser más fuerte que alguien, ser capaz de vencerlo.

Translating poetry is always difficult but if I was translating that phrase I would have used something like The desert advances relentlessly to give some feeling of its inevitable powerful progress.

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  • Hi. Thanks for taking the time to read the poem and providing such valuable considerations. After reading all the answers I've been thinking that the author could also be trying to say something like: "The desert advances and, in face of what we have been doing (to our planet), it has every right to do that". But again, who knows what's in a poet's mind? Once again, thanks for your help.
    – Itamar
    Dec 2 '20 at 22:27
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Cuando escribo el verso "El desierto avanza y puede", quiero decir que el desierto, avanza gracias al cambio climático, y tiene ya tanta fuerza, que, de seguir el mundo por los derroteros actuales, la tierra entera será un desierto dentro de poco tiempo. Os envío el poema completo.

Cambio climático

Hermanos gritad muy fuerte que nos rompen el mañana, que están destrozando el bosque, que el agua, ya no es el agua.

Que el cielo se ha rebelado, y el azul del horizonte ayer tan limpio y profundo, hoy no es azul, luce ocre.

La fuente no es una fuente, el mar un estercolero, los peces no viven, mueren, los ríos son los vertederos.

La luna es roja, no blanca, porque está llorando sangre, el sol no calienta, quema, la tierra se abrasa, arde.

El pulmón de la natura no respira, falta el verde, se están quemando los bosques, el desierto avanza y puede.

El viento trae olor fétido, las nubes presagian muerte, y los casquetes polares se derriten impotentes.

La avaricia hincó sus garras en este mundo, que es nuestro. ¿Qué fue del planeta azul...?

Ahora es un planeta negro.

Jesús María Villar Badajoz, 19 septiembre 2019

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Avanza y puede is two verbs separated by a conjunction.

There is nothing unusual about the construct.

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    Thanks for answering but what I don't understand is that the sentence ends with "y puede" and that doesn't make sense to me, I mean, in Portuguese we always have to say that someone or something "can" (puede) do something. Whatever this "something" is may be explicit or not, but it's always there. So in the phrase "...el desierto avanza y puede" the question is: puede to do what? There's no information about it. Sorry if I couldn't explain myself better and thanks again.
    – Itamar
    Nov 30 '20 at 1:16
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    @Itamar You have explained it perfectly. Usually in Spanish it's the same, "poder" needs another particle, a direct or indirect object. The full sentence does not make sense to me either.
    – RubioRic
    Nov 30 '20 at 7:03
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    OK now I get it. Yes, the semantics are a little odd. "Avanza y retrocede" would make more sense. Nov 30 '20 at 16:15
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    Or maybe the original meaning was "El desierto avanza y puede avanzar". And the ellipsis of "avanzar" was poetic license. Nov 30 '20 at 16:27

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