The Versatile Verb “Dejar” – part 2 - Translation Skills Training

The Versatile Verb “Dejar” – part 2

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There are a number of verb pairs in Spanish that cause difficulty for English speaking learners of Spanish.  Usually, the confusion is because there is only one verb in English that is used to cover both of the Spanish verbs.  Consider ser vs. estar and saber vs. conocer.  Often, the confusion can be avoided or solved by translating them differently.

Where dejar is concerned, the Spanish verb salir often can cause problems for English speakers.  First, the verb dejar has more uses than salir, because it can be used as an auxiliary verb, and in two different ways, each with two different meanings (dejar + complementary infinitive, meaning to allow to, and dejar + de + complementary infinitive, meaning to stop or to quit doing something.  See part 1 for details).

The principal differences between these two verbs can be revealed by translating their most usual translations into English, starting with how dejar is used as a stand-alone verb; i.e. when it is not an auxiliary, or helping, verb.

When used as a stand-alone verb, dejar means to leave something (or someone) behind. When it is used to mean to leave someone behind, it means to abandon someone or to stand someone up or even to jilt.


Examining dejar as a stand-alone verb shows the fundamental difference between it and salir.  Used with an indirect object pronoun, the verb dejar can be translated as to bequeath or to leave (something) for someone.  That “something” could be good or bad.

Ella va a dejar su bicicleta en el garaje.

She’s going to leave her bicycle in the garage.


Isabel lo dejó por otro hombre.

Elizabeth left him for another man.


Cuando nuestra tía falleció, nos dejó sus diez gatos.  ¡Imagínese!

When our aunt died, she left us her ten cats. Go figure!



This verb almost always means to exit or to talk about how something turned out (e.g., a test score), when it refers to a result.  When used in the preterit, salir is equivalent to the English expression using the verb to go, as in to say “how something went.”  The verb ir used in the preterit can sometimes be used in the same way.  Remember that salir, as a verb of movement, cannot take a direct object; it only means to exit and is followed by the preposition de (thus, it means to exit from).  Salir also is used in many senses corresponding to various English phrasal verbs.  Consider the following examples and their translations:

De repente, Juan salió de la clase.

Suddenly, John left class.


Juan sale para Ciudad Obregón en tres meses.

John is leaving for Veracruz in two days.


Y la prueba, ¿qué tal te fue?

And the quiz, how’d the go for you?


Bueno, me salió bien, gracias a Dios.

Well, it turned out well [for me], thank God.


Siempre salía mal en los exámenes hasta que aprendí a estudiar.

I always did badly on tests until I learned to study.


Finally, used with the preposition con, the verb salir means to go out with someone, which can be a casual outing or it can mean to date:

Ahora, resulta que Esteban está saliendo con Carolina.

Now it turns out that Steve is going out with Carolina.


No se les permite a los Linguistas Analíticos que salgan con los agentes a tomar.

Analytic Linguists are not allowed to go out drinking with the agents.

© 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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