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viernes, 17 de abril de 2015

English Tips for Spanish Lawyers (ix)

Por Nick Potter


In this series we look at real-life examples of the most common mistakes in English by native Spanish lawyers. These and lots more invaluable tips are available in a new e-book/paperback, here: 50 English Tips for Spanish Professionals.

Last, latest or recent?


Let’s look at how to translate los últimos.

The words last, latest and recent are used frequently - but often wrongly, when translated to and from Spanish.

For example, “at last” in English means por fin in Spanish, not al final (in/at/to the end, depending on the context).

The most common problem though is where the definite article (the) is used in Spanish (él, la) but not in English e.g. Fui a Francia el año pasado is “I went to France last year” not “I went to France the last year”.

Let’s look at el último/la última and los últimos/las últimas.

Question


Which ONE of A – E below is correct?

A In the recent years the bank has paid dividends to shareholders
B Many criminals were pardoned in the last years of his presidency
C The biggest deals of the last years
D The perception of Spain seems to have improved in the last weeks
E Details have been published in the last Circular from the Bank of Spain

Before you read the answer, remember:


El último/la última and los últimos/las últimas can be translated as the last (after all others or final e.g. el último autobús = the last bus) or the latest (the last or most recent e.g. las últimas noticias; the latest news).

El último año can mean the last year of something that lasts a number of years i.e. the final year (of school, university, a government). It can also mean the recent past i.e. the past year.

Los últimos 10 años can mean the last 10 years of something that lasts many years i.e. the final 10 years (in the life of something or somebody). It can also mean the recent past i.e. the past 10 years or the past decade.

But if you translate los últimos años as the last years, 

in English “the last years” means the final years of something. Not the recent past.


Note that this is only a problem in the plural (los últimos/las últimas) and not the singular (el último/la última), which can be used to describe the recent past.

When you use los últimos años / meses / semanas / días to refer to the recent past in plural, in English you need to say “in recent years / months / weeks / days”, with no definite article (the) before recent, or to add the word few to say “in the last few years / months / weeks / days” (or the past few”).

So:


A is wrong because los últimos años here refers to the recent past:

A In the recent years the bank has paid dividends to shareholders

B is the correct answer. Los últimos años refers to the last (=final) years:

B Many criminals were pardoned in the last years of his presidency [CORRECT]

Again, C and D refer to the recent past:

C The biggest deals of the last years the last few years / the past few years / of recent years
D The perception of Spain seems to have improved in the recent weeks / in the last few weeks / in the past few weeks

Why is E wrong?


Because of the present perfect tense (“have been published”). In the present, we mean the most recent or latest:

E Details have been published in the last latest Circular from the Bank of Spain

If we mean “the last Circular” (i.e. the previous Circular), we need to change to the past tense:

E Details have been were published in the last Circular from the Bank of Spain


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