tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor is a Mexican meat dish which is served together with tacos. The meat is usually pork and it is prepared in a way similar to turkish doner (photo on the right hand side shows hot it is prepared).
The word “al” used in the name of this food is actually a + el. Whenever the definite article “el” follows the preposition “a”, this abbreviation is used.
The preposition “a” is used, among others, to indicate a style or a method. Thus, from the term “al pastor” we understand that something is done in pastor-style. (el) pastor means Shepperd. Therefore, al Pastor literally translates as sheppered style.
When the meat is ready, it is served with taco, so the name of the dish is taco al pastor or tacos al pastor.
In fact, in Spanish there are so many food terms which are formed in a similar way. And they all express the way how the food is prepared.
- al forno
(el) forno means oven. Hence, al forno indicates that something is cooked in the oven.
- a la plancha
(la) plancha means grill. Thus, a la plancha refers to a food prepared on grill.
- a la brasa
(la) brasa is hot coal. So, a la brasa is used to refer a food which is grilled.
There are many others. I am sure you’ve got the idea.
This is only one of the many possible uses of the Spanish preposition “A”. The other uses can be grouped as follows
HOW THE PREPOSITION “A” IS USED
The preposition “A” is very common in Spanish and its uses are very diverse.
- Some Spanish verbs are used always together with prepositions. In case of “a”, this is especially true when the verb indicates some kind of a start of an action. Such as to arrive, to begin etc. In these cases, an infinite of a second verb follows “a”.
The following verbs fall into this group
- llegar a + infinitivo
- comenzar a + infinitivo
- venir + infinitivo
2. In some other cases “a” follows again a verb but this time an objects follows it. This is the case with the following verbs for example:
- Conozco a Pedro. (I know Peter.)
- Encontré a Fido. (I found Fido.)
- Veré a María. (I will see Mary.)
Keep in mind that many of the uses of “a” will actually fall into these two categories. So, next time when you learn a new verb be sure to check if it is used with preposition and if that preposition is “a”.
3. As stated in the introductory part; “a” is used also to indicate method or style.
4. Related to the use in point 3, there are many fixed expressions including “a”. Such as
- a pie on foot
- a dieta on a diet
- a tiempo on time
- a mano by hand
5. “a” appears also when you tell the time that something happens
- a las cinco. ( at five.)