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No espero que estén de acuerdo conmigo, pero sí que dejen de tenernos miedo.

Gabriel Boric, Presidente de Chile.

Tenernos miedo: does it mean make us afraid or, quite the opposite, be afraid of us?

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  • In spite of the hispanoamérica tag, this is a common expression used widely in all Spanish varieties.
    – Gorpik
    Jan 25 at 8:57

4 Answers 4

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If you look in the Royal academy's dictionary for tener you will find, amongst other things.

  1. tr. experimentar. Tener vergüenza, miedo, hambre, calor, nervios.

So tener miedo is to experience fear and hence dejen de tenernos miedo means to stop experiencing fear of us. This also fits better with the first part of the sentence, Boric does not expect people to agree with him but he does not want them to be afraid of him.

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  • Thanks for the reply. Of course, in the specific context the meaning is obvious. However, I still lack some formal grammatical justification. I am left with a colloquial expression dependent on its context... Jan 22 at 15:06
  • There are some more details in this Q&A spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/16320/… although it is not a duplicate.
    – mdewey
    Jan 22 at 15:22
  • @mdewey That confuses the issue somewhat in the the verbs are reflexive, while here the verb is transitive. Jan 23 at 1:31
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    @Jean-Pierre Tener + feeling/sensation (tener miedo, tener hambre, etc.) is not a colloquial expression or particularly dependent on its context. It's how such feelings/sensations are normally expressed in Spanish.
    – pablodf76
    Jan 23 at 13:28
  • stop experiencing fear of us=is really: to stop being afraid of us.
    – Lambie
    Jan 23 at 19:00
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dejar de hacer algo = to stop doing something or to no longer do something

dejar de tener miedo = to stop being afraid, to no longer be afraid

The correct parse is. dejar de = to no longer do something or stop doing something. dejar de tener miedo: to no longer be afraid or stop being afraid.

Also, you miscopied the phrase from the original: dejar de tener miedo de algo. So, the sentence says: I don't expect them to agree with me but I do expect them to no longer be afraid.

dejar de is used all the time in Spanish.

Dejé de tomar grassas. I stopped eating fatty foods.

Dejaron de jugar al tenis. Ahora hacen natación.

Dejar de tenernos miedo = dejar de tener miedo de nosotros.

To no longer be afraid of us.

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In this case, it means to be afraid of us.

If it helps with understanding, consider that "tener miedo" can be constructed with "a" in some cases, not only with "de." That is, one could say something like this:

A nosotros nos tienen miedo.

Perhaps this construction makes the nature of «nos» as a sort of indirect object here more clear. Verbs that take "a" typically correspond to direct objects in English, and so when a word is included to indicate the referent of the action, it is "natural" (from a certain perspective) that it would be the indirect object pronoun «nos». Remember that Spanish indirect objects can be more flexible than in some other languages that have similar structures, English included, and so the indirect object need only receive the results of an action in a very general sense. This means that words that would be translated with various prepositions in English (and sometimes in Spanish) take indirect object pronouns in Spanish:

Le guardo rencor (I have a grudge against them/her/him).

Me robaron el coche (They/You stole the car from me)

Me va a comprar una postal (She/he/they will buy me a postcard).

Nos tienen miedo (They/You are afraid (have fear) of us

In any case, one wanted to say "make us afraid," one could instead say «pero sí que dejen de provocarnos miedo».

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In English, when a pronoun is the subject of a verb, but the pronoun and verb appear in the object of a pronoun, the objective nature dominates, and the pronoun takes the objective form. In Spanish, the subjective nature tend to dominate, and the pronoun takes the subjective form. So what in English would be "desist from us having"[1], would in Spanish (I think) be "dejen de tener nosostros". The fact that "nos" was used indicates that it is the object of "tener", not the subject.

[1] Note that if you translate "dejar" as "desist" rather than "stop", it better matches the practice in Spanish of following it with a preposition.

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  • "desist us from having" is not idiomatic in English.
    – Lambie
    Jan 23 at 16:55
  • @LAmbie What is the relevance of your comment? Jan 23 at 20:42
  • The relevance is that you give an example that is not English. desist [pronoun] is not grammatical. dejar de tenernos miedo is: stop being afraid of us. Frankly, I don't understand your answer at all. In desist is simply not in the stars here.
    – Lambie
    Jan 23 at 22:32
  • @Lambie I didn't say "desist [pronoun]", I said "desist [preposition] [pronoun]". "Desist from us having" may not be how English speakers would normally phrase it, but it matches the preposition of Spanish more, and it's not really relevant to the main point of the answer anyway. Jan 24 at 21:58
  • It is still incorrect. And it does not match the Spanish at all. dejar de is: to stop or no longer do something. Translations never are expected to "match prepositions. In fact, the preposition is not translated: Dejaron de hacer errores. They stopped making mistakes.
    – Lambie
    Jan 25 at 14:17

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