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For example, if I wanted to say "It's horrible to hear that" would I say "Es horrible para oír eso" or "Es horrible oír eso"? And why?

2 Answers 2

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The correct answer is Es horrible oír eso.

In English you have always to in infinitive, but in Spanish you just use the verb in its basic form, ending in ar, er or ir (without para or anything else).

When you use para is when you want to say to but not because it is an infinitive, but because there is purpose. For example I come here to see my brother, that means Vengo aquí para ver a mi hermano, the word para specifies why you came here.

Note that this is only a clue for you to understand, you cannot always translate para as to or vice-versa.

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    It might be useful to add that any Es + adjective would work as you explained. "Es bonito oír esto". "Es raro pedir aquello". Put +1 anyway. :)
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 15:51
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    +1. Re: "because there is causality": I'd suggest "purpose" rather than "causality". Also, if you're going to explain when to use para + infinitive, then another case that probably bears mention is "demasiado <adjective/adverb> para <infinitive>", "suficientemente <adjective/adverb> para <infinitive>", etc.
    – ruakh
    Jul 16, 2022 at 0:46
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    Preceding the Spanish verb with "para" is like preceding the English verb with "in order to" instead of using a bare infinitive.
    – chepner
    Jul 16, 2022 at 14:42
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    "In English you have always to in infinitive": this is not entirely true. In English there is also the bare infinitive, without "to", and in Spanish that will also be translated as infinitive, e.g. Let it be: Déjalo ser / I made him come: Lo hice venir / I heard him shout: Lo oí gritar.
    – Gustavson
    Jul 16, 2022 at 16:44
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In English, a "to"-infinitive can be used, among other functions, (1) to introduce the subject of the sentence or (2) to introduce an adverbial of purpose.

In the sentence proposed:

  • It's horrible to hear that.

"to hear that" is the subject of the sentence. Notice that, though less idiomatic, you can say:

  • To hear that is horrible.

If that is the case, the Spanish form will be the infinitive:

(1) Es horrible oír eso (= Oír eso es horrible).

Instead, if the "to"-infinitive can be replaced with "for (the purpose of) V-ing" in English, then it is an adverbial of purpose and "para" + infinitive will be required in Spanish:

  • This radio station is horrible to hear the news (= for the purpose of hearing the news).

(2) Esta radio es horrible PARA oír las noticias.

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