Here are four, ahem, slightly more delicate ways to find out where someone or something is. Of course, sometimes it’s best to not mince words. Sometimes people drop off the map, and strong language might be your ally if you really want to know where they’ve been hiding. Although we, I mean they, may still refuse to tell you.
This is a very common way of asking someone where they are, especially over the phone. I’ve unintentionally eavesdropped on countless phone conversations on buses and the metro in Colombia, so believe me. I know what I’m talking about. Of course, it literally means “Where are you walking?”, but as a phrase it’s the same as ¿Dónde estás? To me, it sounds more poetic. And more colloquial, probably.
¡Quiubo! ¿Dónde andas? Yo aquí en el bus, pero ya casi llego.
Hey! Where are you? I’m on the bus, but I’ll be there soon.
¿Por dónde andas? ¿Me haces un fa? Necesito que vayas a donde Jairo y le pidas los libros.
Where are you at? Can you do me a favor? I need you to go see Jairo and ask him for the books.
Quedar can mean estar, but daaaamn if I was ever taught this in, what, eight years of Spanish classes before I moved to Colombia–? Not once! And yet it’s so common and useful it’s almost painful to imagine not knowing it. Quedar is frequently used to indicate where something is–when it is something that does not change. So, the post office, your friend’s house, a city, Hogwarts, check. But you wouldn’t use quedar for something like your keys, the dog, or a person. Use quedar to tell the address of a place or its relation to nearby locations.
¿Dónde queda la pastelería que acaba de abrir? Se me antoja un milhojas. Queda en la carrera 54, al lado de la guardería y enfrente del paradero.
Where’s that cake shop that just opened? I’m in the mood for a milhojas. It’s on 54th street, next to the daycare and across from the bus stop.
Perdón, ¿usted sabe dónde queda el Consumo? Sí. Queda a cinco cuadras de aquí. Sube dos cuadras, cruza por el puente peatonal, voltea a mano izquierda y de ahí hay que subir dos cuadras más. Vas a ver un colegio militar y una floristería. Ahí queda.
Excuse me, do you know where Consumo is? Yes. It’s five blocks from here. Go up two blocks, cross the bridge, turn left and then you’ll have to go up two more blocks. You’ll see a military school and a florist’s shop. It’ll be right there.
Ubicado/a, ubicarse, ubicación
If there’s another location word as useful as ubicar, I’d like to meet it and shake its hand. This word really takes the cake, though, for usefulness. Ubicado/a means located, ubicarse means to be located, and ubicación means location. Yes, it’s an ugly word, but beauty is fleeting anyway. It even has an English cognate, believe it or not. Ubication. Check it out.
1. Obsolete, location or situation.
2. the state or quality of being located or situated; ubeity or whereness.
Ubeity? Whereness? I love it. Anyway, in Spanish these are definitely everyday words. Use them. Please do not say locación for location. Please. Actually, hmm. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how useful ubicar is. I’ll have to dedicate it its own blog post. Know that it does have more meanings and nuances, but for now I’m just focusing on the location of things.
Nos vemos en la iglesia. ¿Sí sabes dónde está ubicada?
See you at church. You know where it is, right?
Me fijé que alguien de Nueva Caledonia visitó mi blog, pero no tengo ni idea dónde se ubica ese país.
I noticed that someone from New Caledonia visited my blog, but I have no idea where that country is located.
Debido a la ubicación del tumor, ya no será posible que le hagamos la cirugía.
Due to the tumor’s location, it will no longer be possible for us to perform the surgery on you.
You’ll see this word a lot in the newspaper, especially related to kidnappings and disappearances. It means whereabouts, and it’s usually used when the whereabouts are unknown.
Por eso hay una recompensa de $150 millones para los que nos den información del paradero de alias ‘Escalante’.
That’s why there’s a reward of 150 million pesos for those who can give us information on the whereabouts of alias Escalante.
Pero se desconoce el paradero de su cuerpo, ya que hombres armados lo sustrajeron de la funeraria la noche del 8 de octubre.
But the location of her body is unknown, seeing as armed men removed it from the funeral home the night of October 8.
And where are you? Y tú, ¿dónde andas? Vos, ¿dónde andás? Did you know these words and phrases? What else do you consider useful for talking about locations? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with?