One verb at a time

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Basic Spanish -

Morir ‘Morir’ means ‘to die’ and there is not a great deal more one can say about the mean­ing. It is a root-chang­ing verb, so the let­ter ‘o’ in the root changes to ‘ue’ in cer­tain forms in the present tense.

For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, and when used lit­er­ally, this verb is mostly used on the third per­son, so ‘he or she dies’ is ‘muere’ and ‘they die’ is ‘mueren’.

It has a small vari­a­tion of form in the preterite or past sim­ple tense, also in the third per­son where the ‘o’ changes to ‘u’ so ‘he or she died’ is ‘murió’ and ‘they died’ is ‘murieron’.

This verb has a cou­ple more ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, firstly the present par­tici­ple, or gerund, makes the same ‘o’ to ‘u’ change, so that ‘dy­ing’ is ‘muriendo’ and fi­nally the past par­tici­ple, that is ‘died’ in the con­text of ‘has/have died’ is ‘muerto’.

The one phrase that al­ways jumps into my mind re­gard­ing this last word is the an­nounce­ment made on tele­vi­sion by the then pres­i­dent of the Span­ish gov­ern­ment at the death of Franco "Es­pañoles, Franco ha muerto" (Spaniards, or peo­ple of Spain, Franco has died).

This past par­tici­ple is prob­a­bly very recog­nis­able to you as it has an­other very com­mon us­age, that is as the ad­jec­tive ‘dead’.

With this mean­ing the word is usu­ally ac­com­pa­nied by the verb ‘es­tar’ ‘Mi padre está muerto’

(My fa­ther is dead) and also, be­ing an ad­jec­tive it’s end­ing can have four changes to agree with mas­cu­line, fem­i­nine, sin­gu­lar and plu­ral (muerto, muerta, muer­tos, muer­tas).

As in English, we can also use the verb ‘to die’ in a fig­u­ra­tive sense, for ex­am­ple ‘I died of em­bar­rass­ment’ or ‘I nearly died when he told me that’.

Span­ish deals with this by mak­ing the verb re­flex­ive ‘morirse’.

‘Morirse de vergüenza’ means ‘to die of em­bar­rass­ment’, ‘Cuando vi la foto me morí de vergüenza’

(When I saw the photo I died of em­bar­rass­ment). Some­times when some­one is laugh­ing a lot they might ex­claim ‘¡Me muero!’

(I’m dy­ing!). Re­mem­ber in English we talk about ‘killing our­selves laugh­ing’. We can also say ‘nos mo­ri­mos de ham­bre’ (we’re dy­ing of hunger) or ‘se muere por ir al concierto’ (He’s dy­ing to go to the con­cert).

Other words that are de­riv­a­tive of ‘morir’ are ‘mori­bundo’

(mori­bund, dy­ing or al­most dead) and one of the words for mor­tu­ary is ‘mor­tuo­rio’ although it is more usual in Spain to use the word ‘morgue’ for mor­tu­ary and ‘tana­to­rio’ for what we rather priss­ily call a ‘fu­neral par­lour’.

It is in­ter­est­ing to note once more that for­mal vo­cab­u­lary in English comes from Latin and is there­fore more sim­i­lar to Span­ish, whereas ‘dead’ is a straight­for­ward An­glo-Saxon word of Ger­manic ori­gin.

Fi­nally, on this rather dis­mal sub­ject, some­times peo­ple want a softer word than ‘morir’ to ex­press their loss, and whilst Span­ish is a more di­rect lan­guage in gen­eral,

there is a syn­onym ‘fal­l­e­cer’ which has a slightly gen­tler sound.

‘Mi marido ha fal­l­e­cido’ (My hus­band has passed away).

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