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Apenas —Hardly, Just Only, and About to Happen

If you are at all familiar with the Spanish word apenas, the meaning that probably first comes to mind is "hardly" or "barely," as we find in the interview with Pablo Echarri:

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Pasó apenas un año o una cosa así, y...

Hardly a year or so passed, and...

Caption 15, Biografía - Pablo Echarri

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Apenas can also mean "just," as in "only." You may have picked this up when watching Shakira's latest tantalizing video, "Loba."
 

La vida me ha dado un hambre voraz y tú apenas me das caramelos

Life has given me a voracious hunger and you just give me candy

Caption 11, Shakira - Loba

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Our recent interview with illustrator Antonio Vargas brings us another use of apenas you might be less familiar with:
 

Este restaurante todavía no existe; apenas se va a hacer.

This restaurant doesn't exist yet; it is about to be built.

Caption 3, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ilustración

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When placed before a future tense phrase, apenas often conveys the message that the action is just about to happen, or is on the verge of happening.


Arturo Vega, the famous Ramones' lighting and logo designer, uses apenas this same way when he predicts the rise in popularity of Latin American rock bands.
 

Yo creo que apenas va a empezar.

I believe it's just about to start.

Caption 17, Arturo Vega - Entrevista

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Keep your eyes and ears open for still more interesting uses of apenas. We will, too, and bring them to you in future lessons.

 

Grammar

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