The Versatile Verb "Dejar" – Part 1 - Translation Skills Training

The Versatile Verb “Dejar” – Part 1

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The Versatile Verb “Dejar” – Part 1

The verb dejar as a stand-alone verb, means to leave something or someone behind. Thus, it can mean to abandon or to jilt, or to stand someone up, using a direct object (noun or pronoun) to show whom has been stood up:

Iba a reunirme con ellos a las cinco, pero me dejaron plantado.

I was going to meet with them at five, but they stood me up.

In addition to the meanings above, dejar also is used when English would use to bequeath.  When used with this meaning, an indirect object pronoun is used to show who the heir is:

Su abuela les dejó la casa cuando se murió.

Their grandmother left them the house when she died.

The verb dejar can also be used as an auxiliary and as such it is quite a useful and high-frequency verb.  Dejar can be used as an auxiliary verb in two ways.

First, it can be followed immediately by a complementary infinitive and the meaning of dejar is then to allow + complementary infinitive or to let + complementary infinitive:

Su padre no la deja salir con ese muchacho.

Her father won’t let her go out with that guy.

Her father won’t allow her to go out with that guy.

Secondly, it can be followed by the preposition de and then the complementary infinitive.  When using dejar + de + complementary infinitive, the phrase means to quit or to stop doing something or, by adding no to negate the verb in usual way in Spanish, it means to not quit or stop doing something (the something is expressed by the complementary infinitive):

Mis primos no dejan de hablar.

My cousins won’t stop talking.

Sometimes, the verb parar (literally to stop, as in to stop a vehicle) is substituted in this same structure:

Pararon de hablar cuando su mamá entró.

They stopped talking when their mom came in.

This last use of dejar as an auxiliary is found often in imperatives, or commands:

¡Deja de fumar!

Stop smoking!

This is a good opportunity to point out that in English, the verb following the verb to stop is in the gerund form.  This brings us to one rule that is completely reliable when translating English and Spanish in either direction.  In English, when verbs follow a preposition they appear in the ing form.  In Spanish, whenever any verb directly follows any preposition, it always remains in the infinitive

The verb dejar can also be used with the preposition en, followed by a noun to indicate some condition in which someone or something was left.  This is not an auxiliary use of dejar because the preposition does not introduce a complementary infinitive.  Consider these examples:

Déjame en paz.

Leave me in peace (i.e., alone).

La guerra dejó la ciudad en ruinas.

The war left the city in ruins.

This last example demonstrates that the preposition en does not always have to immediately follow the verb dejar.

Next week – observations about salir and dejar that can help English-speaking students of Spanish avoid confusing them, since they both can mean to leave, but not in the same situations.

© 2019, Translation Skills Training (TST).

Eric Vogt
Eric Vogt
Eric W. Vogt, Ph.D. is accredited by the American Translators Association and is a Subject Matter Expert Consultant for Translation Skills Training™ (TST). For full bio, see: or

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