Question 1: echado vs echando

Observo al hombre echado en el suelo.

I think this sentence translates into English as:

He observed the person lying on the ground.

Why does the Spanish sentence uses "echado" instead of "echando"?

In my opinion this sentence should be as:

Observo al hombre echando en el suelo.

Question 2: lo vs la

¿Qué es lo que le toca a usted, la cara y no la ve?

In this sentence we don't know the gender of the thing we are referring to, so we use "lo", but in the last part of the sentence it says "no la ve". I think the whole sentence should be "¿qué es lo que le toca a usted, la cara y no lo ve?"

  • 3
    Wellcome to Spanish SE. I've fixed the spelling of some words, and formatted your question. The sentence in your second question is not correct in Spanish; please, could you provide the source? I've been tempted to remove the second question, because Stack Exchange hasn't been designed to answer multiple questions.
    – Nico
    Jul 22 '14 at 13:01

The Nobel prize Camilo José Cela once said: "No es lo mismo estar dormido que estar durmiendo, como no es lo mismo estar jodido que estar jodiendo.".

The anecdote surrounding this funny quote illustrates well how the usage of gerund ("dormido", "jodido") and past participle ("durmiendo", "dormido") don't always carry the same meaning.

Apparently Cela, as senator at the Spanish upper house, was reprimanded for falling asleep:

Senate President: "Sr Cela, you're asleep!" (asleep = dormido)
Cela: "Not Sir, I'm not asleep; I'm only sleeping" (sleeping = durmiendo)
Senate President: "Isn't it the same?
Cela: "Of course, it isn't the same! Because it isn't the same to fall asleep than to be sleeping; as it isn't the same to be fucked than to be fucking" (fucked = jodido, fucking = jodiendo)

The ~ing form and the past participle of the verb "to lie" are "lying" and "lain". Note that "to lie" doesn't translate into Spanish as the reflexive verb "echarse", but as "estar echado". This is the reason why:

I see a man lying on the ground.

is translated as:

Veo un hombre echado en el suelo.

To understand why "to lie on the ground" translates as "estar echado en el suelo" and not "echarse en el suelo", one needs to understand the difference between a punctual and a durative verb.

"Echarse en el suelo" is a punctual verb, close in meaning to "get on the floor", because it describes an action that takes place at a particular point in time.

"Estar echado en el suelo" and "lie on the ground" are a durative verbs, because they describe an action that lasts a period of time.

To be clear, despite Camilo José Cela's claim and as stated by Emilio Gort in the comments, most Spanish speakers consider that "estar dormido" and "estar durmiendo" are virtually identical in meaning.

  • 1+ For the fantastically amusing way of explaining that
    – Adam Brown
    Jul 22 '14 at 15:57
  • +1 chico yo veo bien la diferencia entre estar jodido y estar jodiendo, pero no entre estar dormido y estar durmiendo...jaja, muy creativo el Sr Cela. Jodió al presidente del senado no? Jul 22 '14 at 17:31
  • conste en Cuba joder es una palabra normal no como en Mexico Jul 22 '14 at 17:33
  • The past participle (estado) in English translates to "laid" which would maybe make things less confusing. I saw the man laid on the ground.
    – BrianA
    Jul 23 '14 at 10:06
  • 1
    En el caso de CJC, la diferencia desde mi punto de vista está en la intencionalidad de la acción. El hecho de estar dormido implicaba que CJC no tenía intención de dormirse y se durmió. La aclaración de CJC implica intencionalidad, se había dormido porque quería y por tanto estaba durmiendo.
    – YoMismo
    Aug 14 '14 at 21:11

I assume the sentence is "Observo al hombre echado en el suelo", right?

For starters, "observo" is really "Yo observo" so it's actually first person (which translates to "I observe")

Notice it's in present tense. "Yo observé" is the correct translation of "I observed"

Now, "echado" is a common word, and a synonym of "acostado", or "tirado".. both of which are translated like you said "lying on the ground". The person in the sentence is not performing the action, it is already lying on the ground, so "echado" is past tense. ("echando" would imply that the person is in the process of laying down)

On the second sentence I think it's just talking figuratively about the "cara". Think of it as if the first part was a question.. "¿Que es lo que le toca a usted?".. and then the answer "la cara, y no la ve". This is really my own interpretation of the sentence, I assume it's literature or something like that, right? The context of the sentence may provide another meaning.

Hope it's helpful and not too messy to undestand haha, sorry if it is.


There are two differences going on here. One is the difference between a present participle, "lying", and a past participle, "echado". You've noticed this.

The other is a subtle difference between the relationship between the man and the verb. A person takes the action of lying down. The action of "echarse" (note the reflexive form) is an action, yes, but it's the consequence of the action that's being observed.

I think that's part of the reason for the difference in the verb form. The rest of the reason is that participles just don't work the same way in English and Spanish.


Estar echado and echar mean different things, first meaning is state and the second one is an action which means i.e. to throw, to toss, etc. It's impossible to confound them.

Estar echado and echarse can be confounded because the first one is a logical consequence of second one, so Yo me echo (action) leads to yo estoy echado (final state of that action).

I hope, you can understand better like this.


Nico explains the first question very well. To anwser your second question, la ve refers to la cara, as part of the supposition we're making about what could it be that is hitting us, and not to the unknown object itself. As cara is feminine, the rest of the sentence has to match it.


I just want to add that ther's a difference between "Observo" and "Observó"

  • Observo is present in the first person form of "To observe" [Yo observo] being "I observe".
  • Observó is preterit in the third person form [Él/Ella observó] being "He observed".

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