Calluna V. (callunav) wrote in linguaphiles,
Calluna V.

There's nothing like "hay" when you're feeling faint.

My Spanish textbook hasn't arrived in the mail yet, so I'm pestering you all.

Stupid though it is, I use Alta Vista Babelfish at times, mainly to check spellings and accents, when I know what the words I need sound like, but not how to write them. But, of course, there are also translations, which are a sometimes stimulating problem. I should just give up and get a proper dictionary, but I'm perversely fascinated by the things machine translations do.

So, between one thing and the next, I have generated the following questions, which I think are pretty basic Spanish. If it makes a difference to any of these, I seem to be learning Mexican Spanish at the moment.

1. When I translate "because," I get "porque." When I translate "why," I get "porqué." But when I translate a a question containing the word "why," I get "por qué" - the words are separated. Is that accurate? If that's accurate, does anyone have any information, context, or general wisdom to pass on about this seeming anomaly?

2. When I translate "There is," I get "hay." Pretty sure that's right. When I translate, "There is a book," I get "Hay un libro," which again seems right to me. When I translate, "Why is there a book?" I get "¿Por qué hay un libro?" I don't know if that's correct or not. Does 'hay' carry over into questions directly like that, or is there a different construction? (Obviously, one would rarely be so existential as to ask, "Why is there a book?" but one could consider that to be a way of isolating the problematic part of much more common and plausible questions like, "Why is there a book in my breakfast?" or "Why is there a book in the fish tank?")

3. If I try to translate "Il y a" into English, I get "There is" and in Spanish, I get "Hay," so that's good. But if I try to translate "Pourquoi y a-t-il..." Oh, nevermind. "Pourquoi y a-t-il un livre dans le résevoir de poissons?" is now translating - presumably properly - into "¿Por qué hay un libro en el tanque de pescados?" Before, something about the "y a-t-il" construction was breaking Babelfish and it was unable to answer. I must have been typing it wrong or something. Nevermind. There is no question three. Circule, circule, il n'y a rien a voir.

4. Is there (does anyone know?) a link between the verb "hacer" and the apparently monolithic "hay"? For that matter, is "hay" considered a verb? A particle? A unique and special snowflake? Does it ever get conjugated, declined, or otherwise transmuted? Are there any other words considered to be similar? Does anyone know its etymology?

5. Can "hay" ever be used about a person? "Mama, hay un hombre con un sombrero aqui!"

(Edited to remove an unruly apostrophe in question three, which doesn't exist anyhow.)

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