Sí se puede. The other Spanish YES

¡Sí se puede!, Telemundo show.


We have a YES that English doesn’t use. This is used to contrast two opposite ideas, to confirm something, or to eradicate doubts about something.

Spanish English (literal translations, ungrammatical English)
A mí no me gusta cantar, pero sí me gusta escuchar música Singing is not pleasing to me, but YES listening to music is pleasing to me.
A nadie le gusta esa película, pero a mí sí. That movie is not pleasing to anyone, but to me YES.
Arturo dice que sí quiere ir con nosotros. Arthur says that YES he wants to go with us. (Some other people don’t.)
Cristiano sí es un buen jugador de futbol. Cristiano YES is a good soccer player. (some other players aren’t, or some people doubted that he was a good player.)
¡Ahora sí!  ¡ahora sí ……! This is it!  This is the good one!  This is for real now!  This is very hard to translate, but it’s a very emphatic and very important expression to mark that now finally something is happening.
El doctor dice que sí estoy bien. The doctor says that YES I’m fine. (I thought I wasn’t, somebody said I wasn’t.)
El profesor sí me dejó tarea hoy. The teacher YES gave me a homework assignment today. (I didn’t have any homework on previous days.)
Esta vez sí lo voy a hacer. This time YES I will do it. (I refused to do it before, I couldn’t do it before.)
Este jabón sí es efectivo contra la caspa. This soap YES is effective against dandruff. (others don’t work.)
Pablo sí está un poco gordo, pero está tratando de bajar de peso. YES Pablo is a little chubby, but he is trying to lose weight.
Sí se puede YES it’s possible (Some people think it’s not possible, some people are not confident that it’s possible.)

Of course, in English rarely will you say that. You will use some other wording like the doctor DID say that I’m fine, this soap DOES work against dandruff. Notice how we often use this YES as an answer or contrast to a NO, like I don’t like singing but I do like listening to music.


Sí se puede is an impersonal expression. Yes we can is not an impersonal expression. Yes we can means sí nosotros podemos, so it’s not a great translation for sí se puede, but it sounds more appealing than yes, it’s possible. Poder is kin to the words possibility, potential, and power.




Originally published on 20100720. Latest update 20210428 (spanishNY.com) top

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