Impersonal Expressions with Infinitives

Family members and friends often live in close quarters and interact on a regular basis. What are some of the things that it's important to do or not do to avoid driving each other crazy? For example, it's important to respect others, it's a good idea to talk about problems you may have, and it's best to communicate clearly. All of these are examples of impersonal expressions followed by an infinitive. They are nice, indirect ways of telling someone what to do without being pushy or using a command form. Spanish uses exactly the same formula.

Impersonal Expressions

TRACK 30

Listen to each example and repeat.

Es importante respetar a los demás.

(It's important to respect others.)

Es una buena idea hablar sobre los problemas que hay.

(It's a good idea to talk about problems that exist.)

Es mejor comunicarse claramente.

(It's best to communicate clearly.)

Impersonal Expressions

There are lots of impersonal expressions you can use to give advice to someone. Many of them are very similar in English. Look at the following list for some good examples:

  • Es importante (It's important)

  • Es una buena/mala idea (It's a good/bad idea)

  • Es mejor (It's better/best)

  • Es recomendable (It's advisable)

  • Es necesario (It's necessary)

  • Es bueno/malo (It's good/bad)

  • Es imprescindible (It's imperative)

  • Es fundamental (It's essential)

  • It's easy to turn these impersonal expressions into negatives to give the opposite advice. You might make the expression negative, or you might make the infinitive that follows negative. For example, Es mejor compar-tir las cosas (It's better to share things) can be changed to: No es mejor compartir todas las cosas (It's not best to share everything) or Es mejor no compartir todas las cosas (It's better not to share everything). Each sentence has a slightly different meaning, but they are all equally subtle in the way they give advice.

    Some Good Advice

    So what is it that you want your family and friends to do or not do? Here are a few useful infinitives for you to build on:

  • compartir (to share)

  • conversar (to talk over)

  • discutir (to argue)

  • respetar (to respect)

  • permitir (to allow)

  • ayudar (to help)

  • escuchar (to listen to)

  • pensar (to think)

  • considerar (to consider)

  • aconsejar (to advise)

  • convencer (to convince)

  • comprender (to understand)

  • Practice: Impersonal Expressions with Infinitives

    Let's put the pieces together and write out some good advice for getting along with family and friends. Use the cues to get started and then complete each sentence with your own ideas. Check the sample answers in Appendix D when you're done.

    • Es importante / compartir / hermanos y hermanas

    • Es una buena idea / ayudar / los suegros

    • Es imprescindible / escuchar / todos

    • Es necesario / conversar / los problemas

    • Es mejor / pensar

    • Es fundamental / respetar

    • No es bueno / discutir

    • Es recomendable / comprender Good Advice

    It's important to keep what you're learning fresh by practicing. Of course, it's best to get a friend to collaborate so you can practice together. Describe each other and each other's neighborhood; write e-mails to each other in which you talk about your family and friends; compare yourselves; compare your families and friends; give each other subtle advice. It's ideal to practice orally and in written form every day. And, of course, it's a good idea to use the dictionary or another resource to supplement your vocabulary so your descriptions and comparisons are precise and more interesting. The most important thing, though, is to have fun!

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