I got this in an email from a native Spanish speaker:

Como tenedor mayoritario creo debes proponer tu sobre como disponer de esto.

A "literal" English translation would be the (ungrammatical) following:

As the majority holder, I believe you must propose about how to dispose of this.

I am confused regarding "sobre como disponer de esto." In English, it would be a case of "redundant" prepositions, "about how." That is, in English, one would say, "You must propose how to dispose of this. Is it proper Spanish to include "sobre" which would not be included in the English equivalent?


Yes, sobre is ungrammatical. The original sentence has at least four mistakes, in fact:

  • Two missing accent marks
  • A missing comma
  • A superfluous sobre

I would also add the relative que to introduce the subordinate, though it is not strictly necessary.

All in all, the sentence should be:

Como tenedor mayoritario, creo que debes proponer tú cómo disponer de esto.

The preposition sobre is superfluous because the verb proponer is transitive, so it requires a direct object which is never introduced by a preposition (excepting for the preposition a in some cases when the object is a person, but this is not the case). In this sentence, the direct object is the subordinate cómo disponer de esto, so it must not take a preposition.

A different case would arise if we used a periphrasis:

Como tenedor mayoritario, creo que debes hacer una propuesta tú sobre cómo disponer de esto.

Here, the direct object for hacer (which is also transitive) is una propuesta, and the proposal may deal about something (sobre cómo disponer de esto). In this case, the Spanish grammar is not too different from the English one.

  • I have to disagree with you with on the third point. Que is not necessary in the sentence, because you can omit it and the meaning does not change; it's a matter of style. – Rosenthal Sep 5 '14 at 20:15
  • @Neo That's true, que is not strictly necessary. I'll update my answer a bit. – Gorpik Sep 7 '14 at 22:13

Cómo is not a preposition

Como tenedor mayoritario creo debes proponer tu sobre como disponer de esto.

You have two errors here, that may influence the reader: change tu with y como with cómo.

In this case the redundancy is not present because cómo is not a preposition is an adverb, specifically an interrogative adverb of mode.

  • Fair enough. The man was using an email without accents, and I "copy-pasted" his sentence. – Tom Au Sep 4 '14 at 22:49
  • @TomAu I'm glad it helped you. :) – Rosenthal Sep 4 '14 at 22:50
  • 1
    For what is worth, in English, how is an adverb, too, so I don't think that is redundant either. – rodrigo Sep 4 '14 at 23:21
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    Take into account that literal translations not always make sense. Spanish is a language that would allow a double negative such as "No tengo nada", which translated literally ("I don't have nothing") would change meaning completely. – Diego Sep 5 '14 at 2:16
  • @Diego, I don't understand you. – Rosenthal Sep 5 '14 at 2:34

Let's compare the off the cuff, tossed off sentence you received

Como tenedor mayoritario creo debes proponer tu sobre como disponer de esto

with the same sentence with the accent marks, an optional comma and an optional "que" included:

Como tenedor mayoritario, creo que debes proponer tú sobre cómo disponer de esto.

What this person was thinking was basically

Como tenedor mayoritario, creo que tú debes hacer una propuesta sobre cómo disponer de esto.


Como tenedor mayoritario, creo que debes proponer algo tú sobre cómo disponer de esto.

It's common to put the "tú" after the verb for emphasis. Also, we usually use "proponer" as a transitive verb (with an object), but it's also possible to use it without an object in a more conceptual way. These factors might have added to your discomfort with the sentence as written.

I'll confess that when I first looked at the emailed sentence, my first interpretation of "tu sobre" was "your envelope," which is nonsense in this context, of course. But native speakers of Spanish, which I am not, are experienced at intuiting where to mentally place omitted accents. The sloppy leaving out of accents is extremely common and everybody but me seems to deal with this quite well.

What made you most uncomfortable was the use of the word sobre. It's common in the construction "hacer una propuesta sobre cómo hacer tal cosa" (make a proposal about how to do such and so). Technically, your correspondent didn't misuse "sobre." It's equivalent to "acerca de." Maybe this variant would be clearer for you:

Como tenedor mayoritario, creo que debes ofrecer una propuesta tú acerca de cómo disponer de esto.

I think your correspondent was just extrapolating from that. Yes, it's a sloppily written sentence, in that the author wrote it and hit "send" immediately, but technically the original sentence would not be grammatically incorrect if one projects the implied accents. It's best to draft an email and come back to it at least five minutes later before hitting "send," and in this case would probably have resulted in a clearer sentence. For example, it's okay to omit "que" but including it helps the reader parse the sentence. Here's one possible revision:

¿Cómo debemos disponer de esto? Como tenedor mayoritario, creo que te toca a ti proponer algo.

(Functional translation: How should we deal with this? I think you, as majority holder, get to decide how to deal with this.)

It's very common to send one's first draft immediately but in the long run I don't think it's the most efficient way to work.

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