Today I want to examine a very common verb which, like many high frequency verbs, has a plethora of meanings. Its primary English equivalents are to leave or to go out, although, as we’ll see, these translations don’t cover all of its possible uses. The verb is salir and its basic, present-tense conjugation look like this:
yo salgo nosotros salimos
tú sales vosotros salís
él/ella/ud sale ellos/ellas/uds salen
As I’ve insinuated in other posts, verbs which get used a lot tend to be irregular in some way or another. Without diving too deeply into the reasons, suffice it to say the more a verb is used over time, the more “damaged” it can become. This is why rarely used verbs tend to be more regular than frequently used ones. Salir is no exception… you’ll notice that in the “yo” form, it is salgo and not “salo.” There are a few other irregularities associated with this verb, which you can view here.
As I mentioned, its basic dictionary meaning is to leave someplace (note that it does not mean “to leave something behind”- for that we have dejar). Here are a few examples:
- “Quedamos en salir para el cine a las cuatro.” = We agreed to leave for the theater at 4:00.
- “Salimos muy temprano esta mañana para evitar el tráfico.” = We left very early this morning to avoid the traffic.
In the sense that it means to go out, you can say things like:
- “Salimos para dar un paseo.” = We went out to take a walk.
And like in English, it is possible to go out with someone. The connotation can be romantic, depending on the context:
- “Marcos está saliendo con la mejor amiga de su ex-novia.” = Marcos is going out with his ex-girlfriend’s best friend.
- “Salí con mis amigos anoche.” = I went out with my friends last night.
Clearly, the first example indicates that Marcos is in the act of dating, whereas the second sentence simply and literally states that “I went out with my friends.” This distinction is intuitive for an English-speaker, as we use to go out in both ways. Here are a few meanings of salir, however, which are not as self-evident:
“To rise”: Specifically, we are referring to what the sun does every morning. This one isn’t a total stretch to our English-programmed imaginations:
- “En las latitudes bajas, el sol sale a la misma hora todo el año.” = In the lower latitudes, the sun rises at the same time all year long.
- “Mañana el sol sale a las siete.” = Tomorrow the sunrise is at 7:00.
“To take after”/”to turn out like”: Here’s one, however, which can be a bit confounding. What would you think if you heard “El bebé salió a su padre”? It doesn’t mean that the baby went out after his father, but rather that the baby came out like his father. In such a sentence, the implication is that both have a similar appearance, but salir a can also apply to tastes, habits or character:
- “Mi hermano salió a su padre. Tienen los mismos ojos.” = My brother turned out just like his father. They have the same eyes.
- “No sé a quién salió Angel tan rebelde… sus padres no son así.” = I don’t know from whom Angel [learned to be] so rebellious… his parents aren’t like that.
This use of salir makes more sense if you insert the word “igual” after it: “Mi hermano salió igual a su padre.” You’re basically saying, “My brother turned out just like his father”. In colloquial speech, native speakers often omit the word “igual” and the context is key to understanding what’s meant.
“To turn out”: This refers to the results of a situation, event or effort. If your sister’s Christmas party turned out well, you could say “La fiesta salió bien.” If it turned out badly, perhaps because her ex-husband decided to set fire to the house during the event, you could say “La fiesta salió mal.” Here are a few more examples to help your imagination along:
- “No todo salió como queríamos, pero las cosas fueron más o menos bien.” = Not everything turned out like we wanted, but things went more or less well.
- “Yo no sé porque todo lo que hago me sale mal.” = I don’t know why everything I do turns out badly.
It’s also common to use the adjective “caro” with salir: “El evento nos salió bastante caro.” = The event turned out quite expensive for us.
“To look bad”: The construction here is salir mal parado, which basically means to end up looking bad:
- “El presidente ha salido bastante mal parado a raíz de todo este escándalo.” = The president has come out looking pretty bad due to all this scandal.
- “Por tu chiste de mal gusto, salí muy mal parado ante todos tus invitados.” = Because of your tasteless joke, I ended up looking really bad in front of all your guests.
A similar expression is salir perdiendo, which means “to end up losing” or “to lose out”:
- “Gracias a tu mal manejo del negocio, salimos perdiendo.” = Thanks to your poor handling of the deal, we lost out.
- “Todos vamos a salir perdiendo si no logramos restaurar la tranquilidad en esta casa.” = We’re all going to lose out if we can’t restore the peace in this house.
“To leak”/”to burst”: Spanish has the verb gotear which means “to leak,” but this refers more to a drip or a drizzly kind of leak. The reflexive form salirse can also refer to a slow, dripping leak but it also covers the sort of spray you get when you shake a coke bottle: “La coca se está saliendo por todas partes” = The coke is leaking (coming out) all over the place. This meaning relates to the concept of “coming” or “going out,” the original meaning of “salir,” and simply refers to a liquid or a viscous substance when not contained:
- “Con las lluvias de la semana pasada, los ríos se están saliendo de sus cauces.” = With the rains of the past week, the rivers are overflowing their channels.
- “Se está saliendo el agua de la taza… está tapada.” = The water is flowing out of the toilet… it’s clogged.
“To get away with”: I saved the best for last. This is a great expression which you can use whenever you’re annoyed at someone else’s apparent propensity to get away with whatever he or she wants, such as stealing cookies from a jar or dating two women at once. The expression is salirse con la suya (“la suya,” like the reflexive pronoun, changes form depending on the person: “la tuya,” “la vuestra”… why this is always feminine is just a fixture of the language I can’t explain). Here are a few examples:
- “Su mamá nunca lo castiga por sus travesuras. Siempre se sale con la suya.” = His mother never punishes him for his mischief. He always gets away with it.
- “Lograste separar a Adriana de su novio. Ya te saliste con la tuya.” = You managed to separate Adriana from her boyfriend. You got your way.
There are lots of other uses of salir as part of fixed expressions. I invite you to think of any you know and post them in the comments below. Meanwhile, I hope that this article has helped you to salir de dudas with respect to this well-used and extremely versatile verb. Ya tengo que salir pero nos vemos en la próxima…