To those learning Spanish, tal may best be known for being part of the question phrase "¿qué tal?" but tal actually has a wide range of uses and meanings.
Tal is of those words that's best thought of as representing a concept rather than as the equivalent of a particular English word. Functioning as an adverb, adjective, or pronoun, tal generally is used to refer in some way to something that has previously been said or implied, and it also is used in several common idioms.
Here are the most common uses of tal:
Tal As an Adjective
As an adjective, tal often indicates that the accompanying noun refers to something mentioned earlier. When used this way, tal can often be thought of as meaning "of that kind," and it is frequently translated as "such."
- No existe tal lugar. (Such a place doesn't exist.)
- ¡Por qué hay tal diferencia de precio? (Why is there such a price difference?)
- Había muchos tales libros en existencia a la hora de conquista española. (There were many books of that kind in existence at the time of the Spanish conquest.)
- Tal cosa jamás se ha visto. (Such a thing has never been seen.)
- Si una persona afirma tal idea, lo haga por error o por ignorancia. (If a person asserts that kind of idea, he does it out of mistake or ignorance.)
Tal As a Pronoun
As a pronoun, tal refers to something that is vaguely like something else:
- No hay tal como la escuela perfecta. (There's no such thing as the perfect school.)
- Mi hermano come hamburguesas, pizza y tal. (My brother eats hamburgers, pizza and things like that.)
- Dígalo tal como es. (Tell it like it is.)
Tal As an Adverb
As an adverb, tal typically means something like "just as" or "in such a way":
- Tal me habla que no sé que decir. (He speaks to me in such a way that I don't know what to say.)
- La cámara ve el color tal cual es en realidad. (The camera sees the color just as it is in real life.)
- Todo está tal como antes. (Everything is just as it was before.)
In Phrases To Express Purpose
Con tal que usually means "for the purpose of." The phrase is typically followed by an infinitive. The similar phrases "con tal de que" and "con tal que" (followed by a conjugated verb) can have a similar meaning but most often convey the idea of "provided that," "as long as" or "in the case that."
- El exgobernador habla en español con tal de ganar votos. (The former governor is speaking in Spanish in order to win votes.)
- Los senadores están dispuestos a sacrificar la economía con tal de que el presidente no sea reelegido. (The senators are inclined to sacrifice the economy so that the president isn't re-elected.)
- Con tal de que me salga mi casa, soy feliz. (Provided I leave my house, I'm a happy person.)
- Con tal que me quieras, soy tuyo. (As long as you love me, I'm yours.)
- Las personas que sufren de insomnio tratan con casi todo con tal de dormir. (People who suffer from insomnia try almost anything in order to sleep.)
Tal functions as an adverb with qué in questions to ask how people or things are. Literal translations of such sentences generally aren't possible, since such questions are often casual and idiomatic, so context will determine what's meant.
- Hola ¿qué tal? (Hi, how are you?)
- ¿Qué tal tu viaje? (How was your trip?)
- ¿Qué tal tu día? (How's your day going?)
- ¿Qué tal lo estamos haciendo? (How are we doing?)
The phrase tal vez means "maybe" or "perhaps." The phrase, often written as talvez, especially in Latin America, is often followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood.
- Tal vez fuera el eco de una aparición. (Perhaps it was the echo of a ghost.)
- Tal vez compremos otro coche pequeño. (Maybe we'll buy another small car.)
- Because it can be translated in so many ways, it may be best to think of tal as a word that expresses the idea of something being like something else that has been said or implied previously.
- Tal can function as a pronoun, adjective, or adverb. It also functions as part of phrases such as tal vez in which the phrases has a meaning apart from the meanings of the individual words.
- One of the most common translations of tal is "such," and a common phrase using the word is tal vez, meaning "maybe."