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Expressing "Wonder" in Spanish

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/5/2012

There are a number of ways in which English speakers use the word "wonder" -- and each has a different solution in Spanish. This lesson shows how to rethink the problem, so that when the word "wonder" comes to mind, you will be better prepared to render it's proper meaning into Spanish.

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    How to say "I Wonder" in Spanish

    It happens to every English-speaking student of Spanish, particularly when they have reached a degree of proficiency that allows them to engage native speakers of their age group with some ease: The word wonder comes to mind and they get stuck. After the party, so to speak, they run to their dictionary and usually come away unsatisfied with what they find, because it only skims across this English word. Its complexity is baffling to Spanish-speakers as well, as they find that they have a number of expressions in their language that wonder seems to answer to. There are five basic uses of wonder in English -- each carrying its own solution in Spanish.

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    1st Use

    One use of wonder is to express a polite request, e.g., I was wondering if you would like to go to the movies with me. This situation can be rendered by using the conditional plus the imperfect subjunctive (because there is a change in subject): Me gustaría que me acompañaras al cine. Another type of polite request might be simpler: We wonder whether we can go to the beach with you. Since there is no change in subject, this would be rendered by the conditional plus an infinitive: Nos gustaría ir con Uds. a la playa.

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    2nd Use

    A second use of wonder in English involves mere curiosity. One might wonder if something has happened yet, e.g., I wonder if she has called me yet. This situation has a simple solution in Spanish: A ver si ella me ha llamado ya. Another solution is to use the future of probability: I wonder if John is in the library becomes ¿Estará Juan en la biblioteca?

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    3rd Use

    A third use of wonder implies a sort of weighing things mentally, e.g., He wondered about that matter for some time. This would be rendered as Le dio muchas vueltas a ese asunto durante mucho tiempo.

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    4th Use

    Fourth, one may use wonder because one is unsure about something. Thus, in order to say He wondered whether he should ask her out, one would say in Spanish Él no sabía si debería llamarle.

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    5th Use

    Finally, wonder may be used to express surprise or lack of surprise, e.g., No wonder she hasn't come; it's raining. No me sorprende que no haya venido -- está lloviendo.

    Armed with these model sentences in English and their Spanish solutions, English-speaking students of Spanish can reduce the number of awkward moments of silence as they seek a solution to this colorful and versatile English word.

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