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Spanish Expression of the Day: A ver

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Spanish Expression of the Day: A ver
'A ver' means more than just 'let's see' in Spanish. Photo: mostafa meraji/Unsplash

Most conversations in Spain are likely to include ‘a ver’ at some point. So what meanings does this handy expression have?

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A ver, literally meaning ‘to see’, serves two main purposes in Spanish. 

Firstly, it can express expectation or interest in knowing or seeing something, like ‘let’s see’ in English. 

So you might say ¿a ver? in an interrogative manner in anticipation while opening a letter or birthday present, before looking through some binoculars or as you peer over a wall to see what’s happening.

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Secondly, a ver can also be used to get the attention of another person before saying something to them, asking them a question or giving them an order, such as saying ‘right then’, ‘now’, ‘I mean’, 'the thing is' or ‘OK’ in English.

It’s an extremely common interjection in Spanish, spliced into conversation as often as es que, o sea or en plan when Spaniards try to express themselves.

A ver used in the two above senses goes at the start of the sentence, and in the case of a ver as in ‘let’s see’ it can stand on its own without having to add any extra information.

A ver isn’t colloquial but you usually only encounter its use in spoken Spanish and not written down.

That may explain why many Spaniards wrongly assume that a ver is written haber, the infinitive ‘to have’ form in Spanish. They’re pronounced exactly the same, so it’s somewhat understandable.

A ver can also be used in different Spanish sentence constructions, as in vamos a ver la película, ‘we’re going to see the film’ or a ver si hay suerte, ‘let’s see if we get lucky’ or ‘let’s hope we get lucky’.

All in all, adding a ver to your spoken Spanish is likely to make you sound more native, and getting its usage right isn't too difficult overall.

Examples:

- ¡Mira! Esta noche hay luna llena.

- ¿A ver?

- Look! There’s a full moon tonight!

- Let’s see?

 

¡A ver si España gana la Eurocopa!

¡Let’s hope Spain wins the Euro!

 

¡A ver! ¡Basta ya de tonterías!

Right! Enough of this nonsense!

 

¡A ver, niños! ¿Cuántas patas tiene una araña?

Now, children! How many legs does a spider have?

 

A ver, es una persona muy complicada.

The thing is, he’s a very complicated person.

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