Por Nick Potter

In  this series we look at real-life examples of the most common mistakes in English by native Spanish lawyers. These and lots more invaluable tips are available in a new e-book/paperback, here: 50 English Tips for Spanish Professionals.

avoiding avoid that

Back in English Tips post (xix), one of our false friends was defend; we learned how para defender que means to argue or support that (something is the case), not “to defend that”.

Que after certain verbs does not translate as “that”.

One of the most important to avoid is below.

Question: Which ONE of A – E below is correct?

A A provision compelling the Parties to use best efforts to avoid that any amendment of the State Aid Decision will negatively affect the JVs
B In the long term, those bank rescues will have made banking riskier if managers and creditors conclude that bailout is part of the fabric of the system. To avoid that fate, the “too big to fail” problem must be cured
C In order to avoid that the exploitation of the Rights is affected, it is critical that the Rights are isolated from the group
D A final alternative could be to use a third party to keep possession of the vehicles on the Target’s behalf, thereby avoiding that the purchaser acquires possession of the vehicles
E From an insolvency standpoint, it would seem preferable to avoid that the JV company is a company of the group

Before you read the answer, remember:

Avoid means to keep away from something or somebody (“I’m avoiding the boss”) or to stop or to prevent something from happening (“He managed to avoid getting ill”).

Evitar on its own or followed by an object translates as avoid:

  • Errores a evitar (Mistakes to avoid)
  • La UE busca 300.000 millones para evitar la tercera recesión (EU looks for €300 bn to avoid third recession)
  • Para evitar ese resultado… (To avoid that outcome…)

Evitar followed by a verb can be translated as avoid + the gerund form of that verb:

  • El Acuerdo y la propuesta evitan ser demasiado preceptivos (The Agreement and the proposal avoid being over-prescriptive)

However, it is not correct English to say “to avoid that something happens”.

In these instances, where in Spanish evitar is followed by que, avoid is no longer the right word:

  • Consejos para evitar que te roben la moto (Tips to stop your motorbike from being stolen)
  • Los yihadistas rodearon la ciudad en junio, evitando que la comida y demás suministros llegaran a la población (The jihadists surrounded the city in June, preventing food and other supplies from reaching the population)

Remember, avoid is used to mean “to stop or to prevent something from happening”. When you need to translate evitar que, it is this construction that you need.

Note that prohibir.. a also translates as to prohibit somebody from doing something.

So:

A is wrong because para evitar que needs to be translated as to stop or prevent something from happening.

A A provision compelling the Parties to use best efforts to avoid that prevent any amendment of the State Aid Decision will negatively affect from negatively affecting the JVs

B is the correct sentence. Here, “that” refers to something in particular (i.e. ese, esa or eso, not que), what is grammatically called a “determiner”. In this example, “that fate” is managers and creditors reaching the conclusion described in the previous sentence.

B In the long term, those bank rescues will have made banking riskier if managers and creditors conclude that bailout is part of the fabric of the system. To avoid that fate, the “too big to fail” problem must be cured [CORRECT]

C, D and E all contain the same mistake, translating evitar que as avoid that when the construction to be used is avoid + gerund or to stop or prevent something from happening.

C In order to avoid that prevent the exploitation of the Rights is from being affected, it is critical that the Rights are isolated from the group
D A final alternative could be to use a third party to keep possession of the vehicles on the Target’s behalf, thereby avoiding that stopping the purchaser acquires from acquiring possession of the vehicles
E From an insolvency standpoint, it would seem preferable to avoid that the JV company is being a company of in* the group

*Note: Bonus tip – we say “group company” or “a company in the group”, not of. This is a regular mistake because in Spanish it is “empresa del grupo” and people get into the habit of translating “del” as “of the”. 

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