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Top 10 False Cognates in Spanish

In a previous lesson, we focused on the Spanish verb pretender (to hope, expect, try, etc.). Although this word closely resembles the English word "pretend," its meaning is totally different, putting it into the category of false cognates in Spanish. Also known as "faux amis" or "false friends," English-speakers often misuse these types of words for obvious reasons! Let's take a look at some of the most common false cognates in Spanish so we can be on the lookout for them in everyday speech. 

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List of False Cognates in Spanish: Yabla's Top Ten 

 

1. embarazada 

While English speakers might be tempted to say Estoy embarazada when attempting to say "I'm embarrassed," this could lead to a very serious misunderstanding! Let's take a look: 

 

Si estuviera embarazada, me hubiera dado cuenta. ¿No le parece?

If I were pregnant, I would have noticed! Don't you think?

Caption 71, Muñeca Brava 44 El encuentro - Part 2

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While we can see that estar embarazada means "to be pregnant," there are many ways to express the idea of being embarrassed in Spanish, such as tener vergüenza or dar(le) pena (a alguien). Let's look at some examples:

 

Es que me da pena.

It's just that I'm embarrassed.

Caption 42, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 8 - Part 3

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En este momento, duda porque tiene vergüenza de ir a la escuela,

At this moment she hesitates because she's embarrassed to go to school,

Caption 49, Con ánimo de lucro Cortometraje - Part 4

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2. actual

The Spanish adjective actual is very confusing since it is spelled exactly like the English word "actual." However, actual is a false cognate in Spanish that "actually" means "current," as in the following example: 

 

Creo que realmente hay que buscar otra vía, otra solución a... la situación de ahora. -A la situación actual.

I think that you really need to find another road, another solution to... to the situation now. -To the current situation.

Captions 43-44, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 5

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If you do want to speak about the "actual situation" in Spanish, you might say: la situación verdadera or la situación real. Let's check out these two words in action:

 

Pero esta es la verdadera isla

But this one is the actual island

Caption 26, Cholito En la playa con Cholito - Part 2

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Nadie sabe el nombre real de esta ciudad,

Nobody knows the actual name of this city,

Caption 37, Querido México Teotihuacán

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3. éxito

The Spanish noun éxito might look like "exit," but its actual meaning is "success," while the Spanish verb tener éxito means "to be successful": 

 

Bueno, ha sido un éxito, ¿no, Jesús?

Well, it has been a success, right, Jesus?

Caption 88, Animales en familia Un día en Bioparc: Cachorro de leopardo - Part 2

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El brut ha tenido mucho éxito.

The brut has been very successful.

Caption 51, Europa Abierta Champagne en Andalucía

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On the other hand, in order to talk about an actual "exit" in Spanish, la salida is the way to go: 

 

Tiene una salida al patio de atrás para su ventilación.

It has an exit to the back patio for your ventilation.

Caption 12, Ricardo La compañera de casa - Part 2

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4. fábrica

Although it might seem like la fábrica would mean "the fabric," its true translation is "the factory." 

 

un tipo que tenía una fábrica de alcancías ¿no? Y la gente dejaba de ahorrar y el tipo se va a la quiebra.

a guy who had a piggy bank factory, right? And people stopped saving and the guy goes bankrupt.

Captions 32-33, Muñeca Brava 47 Esperanzas - Part 3

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As we see in the following example, the Spanish word for "fabric" is tela:

 

Aquí, tengo un cárdigan liviano. La tela no es muy gruesa,

Here, I have a light knit sweater. The fabric isn't very thick,

Captions 30-31, Natalia de Ecuador Vocabulario de prendas de vestir

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As a side note, although the verb fabricar occasionally means "to fabricate" in the sense of lying or making things up, the more common verbs for describing those actions are mentir and inventar, whereas the most typical translation for fabricar is "to make" or "manufacture":

 

la cuarta generación de una empresa familiar que fabrica diferentes variedades de zumos, sidras, sopas y mermeladas.

the fourth generation of a family business that manufactures different kinds of juices, ciders, soups and jams.

Captions 28-29, Europa Abierta Empuje para Pymes

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That said, let's take a look at some additional verbs that fall into the "false friend" category.

 

5. molestar

The Spanish verb molestar does not mean "to molest" (for which you might say abusar or acosar sexualmente), but rather "to annoy" or "bother":

 

Vine a decirte que te quedes tranquilo, que mi hijo no te va a molestar más.

I came to tell you to not to worry, that my son is not going to bother you anymore.

Captions 1-2, Muñeca Brava 46 Recuperación - Part 8

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Once again, substitution of the word this verb sounds like in English could result in a very serious misunderstanding. 

 

6. enviar 

Just because it sounds like "envy," don't mix up the Spanish verb enviar, which means "to send," with envidiar (to envy). Let's take a look at examples of each of these verbs: 

 

Como ya tengo su dirección de correo, le puedo enviar el contrato.

As I already have your e-mail address, I can send you the contract.

Caption 37, Negocios Empezar en un nuevo trabajo - Part 1

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¡Ay, cómo envidio esa sartén! No sabe.

Oh, how I envy that frying pan! You don't know.

Caption 1, Muñeca Brava 7 El poema - Part 7

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7. introducir

The most common translations for the Spanish verb introducir are "to put" or "insert." Let's look: 

 

Ahora lo que tenemos que hacer es introducir todo en la olla.

What we have to do now is put everything in the pot.

Caption 43, La cocina de María Cocido Malagueño

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Ahora introduces la esquina izquierda en este doblez,

Now you insert the left corner into this fold,

Caption 48, Manos a la obra Separadores de libros: Charmander

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It is worth noting that the Spanish verb introducir can occasionally be translated as "to introduce," most often when speaking about the introduction of some item or concept. However, the most frequently employed verb to describe the idea of "introducing," say, people to one another, is presentar

 

Les quiero presentar a Pedro, un experto en la Calle Ocho.

I want to introduce you guys to Pedro, an expert on Calle Ocho.

Caption 21, La Calle 8 Un recorrido fascinante

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8. asistir

Let's examine a typical use of the Spanish verb asistir:

 

y me fascinaba perderme entre sus calles y asistir a la innumerable cantidad de eventos culturales que la ciudad tiene para ofrecerte.

and it fascinated me to get lost in its streets and attend the countless number of cultural events that the city has to offer you.

Captions 11-13, Latinos por el mundo Gio en Barcelona

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Although the Spanish verb asistir can indeed mean "to help" or "assist," this verb and its counterpart asistir a are included in the category of false cognates in Spanish due to their alternative meaning, "to attend."

 

9. recordar

Although the Spanish false cognate recordar certainly seems like it would mean "to record," it actually means "to remember" or "remind," as in the following captions:

 

empiezan a hacer su ritual de movimientos y sonidos, si hace falta, para recordarte que es la hora de su comida.

they start to do their ritual of movements and sounds, if necessary, to remind you that it's their mealtime.

Captions 58-59, Fermín y los gatos Mis gatas vecinas

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¿Recuerdas cuál era la copa para servir vino?

Do you remember which cup was the one for serving wine?

Caption 36, Ana Carolina El comedor

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"To record," in turn, is conveyed with the Spanish verb grabar:

 

Utiliza video o audio para grabarte mientras lees o improvisas un pequeño diálogo,

Use video or audio to record yourself while you read or improvise a little dialogue,

Captions 51-52, Ana Carolina Mejorando la pronunciación

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10. soportar

Rather than "to support," the Spanish verb soportar often means "to tolerate," "endure," or "bear":

 

No lo pude aguantar, no se puede soportar eso.

I couldn't stand it, that can't be tolerated.

Caption 50, Yago 7 Encuentros - Part 2

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Although "soportar" can also mean "support" in the sense of bearing weight, the more common verb for talking about the notion of "supporting" someone or something, especially in figurative senses such as emotionally, economically, etc., is apoyar:

 

La abuela estaba loca si pensaba que la íbamos a apoyar.

Grandma was crazy if she thought that we were going to support her.

Caption 9, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 3 - Part 1

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These are just a few examples of the many false cognates in Spanish. For additional examples of false cognates in Spanish, you might enjoy our lessons on the verbs realizar (to carry out) and falta (shortage, foul, offense, etc.). In the meantime, we hope our list of false cognates in Spanish will help you to identify and understand them when you run across them— and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

 

Vocabulary

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The Word Bajo as a Preposition (and So Much More)!

As a beginner Spanish student, the word bajo may well be among the first words one learns, typically as an adjective meaning “short.” However, like many words in Spanish, this word has a whole plethora of meanings and can additionally function as a preposition, adverb, noun, and even a verb!

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Let’s start by examining the use of the word bajo as a preposition. Although its translation is almost always “under” or “below,” like its English equivalent, this could refer not only to physical location, but also to the state of being subject to some influence. Let’s take a look at the following examples from our Yabla Spanish library.

 

One possible meaning of the preposition bajo is "in a position below something else":

 

Pero no entiendo qué hace mi amiga un día de semana bajo este árbol tan maravilloso.

But I don't understand what is my friend doing on a weekday under this wonderful tree.

Captions 4-5, Escribiendo un libro - Algunos consejos sobre cómo comenzar

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Another, similar meaning of “bajo,” which also involves location, suggests that something is beneath the surface or covered by something: 

 

Tengo aquí bajo mi almohada tu fotografía

I have your picture here under my pillow

Caption 20, La Oreja de Van Gogh - Inmortal

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Moving on to uses of the preposition bajo not involving location, like “under” in English, bajo could also express the concept of being less than:

 

Congelando lo que es la punta de la botella en una solución que está a diez o quince grados bajo cero.

Freezing the tip of the bottle in a solution that is ten or fifteen degrees below zero.

Captions 33-34, Europa Abierta - Champagne en Andalucía

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The Spanish preposition bajo could additionally mean "in accordance with" or "subject to the terms of," for example, some agreement:

 

Algunos clientes bajo contrato, le pre-maduramos la fruta.

[For] some customers under contract, we pre-ripen the fruit.

Caption 99, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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And finally, although we have only touched on some of its many nuanced meanings, we’ll take a look at an example in which the preposition bajo entails being managed or governed by something:

 

Para su información, todo el personal de servicio está bajo mi mando, ¿sí?

For your information, all the service staff is under my authority, right?

Caption 49, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa

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Now, let’s look at bajo as an adjective. Its most common translations are “short” or “low,” both in terms of height or level and in reference to intensity or morality. Here are some examples from the Yabla Spanish video library: 

 

Y es muy gracioso porque Pedro es todo lo contrario de Carolina.

And it's very funny because Pedro is totally the opposite of Carolina.

Es bajo, es gordo...

He's short, he's fat...

Captions 32-33, El Aula Azul - Mis Primos

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Desde chiquito el bajo mundo conocía

Since he was a child, he knew the underworld

Caption 4, La Secta - Consejo

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Se manifestaban porque el sueldo era muy bajo.

They were on strike because their salary was very low.

Caption 33, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje

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As an adverb, bajo could also be translated as “low” in some cases (for example, when describing a helicopter flying “low”) or “softly” or “quietly” when referring to one’s speech:

 

¡Que le quede claro! -¡Shhhhh, habla bajo!

Let that be clear to you! -Shhhhh, speak quietly!

Caption 42, Yago - 7 Encuentros

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Much more straightforwardly, as a noun, the word bajo refers to the musical instrument, the bass: 

 

Entonces yo dije: "Yo... yo puedo tocar... Yo puedo tocar el bajo."

So, I said, "I... I can play... I can play the bass."

Caption 50, Carli Muñoz - Niñez

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And finally, it is worth noting that bajo is the first person singular, present tense conjugation of the verb “bajar” (to go or come down or get off or out).

 

Ya está, la comida... -Sí, sí, sí, ya, yo ya bajo.

It's ready, the food... -Yes, yes, yes, now, I'm coming down now.

Caption 72, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro

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We hope that this lesson has shed light on some of the ways the word bajo can function as a preposition - in addition to a noun, verb, adjective or adverb! If you would like to see many additional examples in context, simply enter the word bajo in the search bar at the top of the Videos page to find matches in the transcripts of the Yabla Spanish library. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 

Idiomatic Expressions with The Verb Tener

In this lesson, we will review some very useful idioms and expressions with the verb tener (to have).
 

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Very often, we use idiomatic expressions with tener in the present so let’s review the conjugation of this verb in the present tense:
 
Yo tengo | I have
Tú tienes | You have
Él/Ella tiene | He/She has
Nosotros tenemos | We have
Vosotros tenéis | You have
Ellos tienen | They have
 
There are many idiomatic expressions with the verb tener that Spanish speakers use to express physical sensations. These include expressions like tener frío/calor (to be cold/hot), tener hambre (to be hungry) and tener sueño (to be sleepy):

 

Bueno, pero tengo frío.

Well, but I'm cold.

Caption 31, Natalia de Ecuador - Palabras de uso básico

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Y más que tenemos hambre ya a esta hora.

And plus, we're already hungry at this hour.

Caption 106, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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Tenemos sueño.

We are sleepy.

Caption 38, El Aula Azul - Estados de ánimo

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Apart from physical sensations, we can also use the verb tener to express other more psychological states such as tener miedo (to be afraid), tener ganas (to want/to desire), tener prisa (to be in a hurry) and tener vergüenza (to be ashamed):

 

¡Tengo miedo, tengo miedo, tengo miedo!

I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid!

Caption 42, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión

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Siento que te cansaste y tienes ganas

I feel that you got tired and you want

Caption 4, Circo - Velocidades luz

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La gente parece que siempre tiene prisa...

People seem to always be in a hurry...

Caption 38, Maestra en Madrid - Nuria y amigo

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En este momento duda porque tiene vergüenza de ir a la escuela.

At this moment she hesitates because she's ashamed to go to school.

Caption 49, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje

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And finally, don’t forget that you also need to use an idiomatic expression with the verb tener when you talk about age:
 

Tengo veintiún años y soy estudiante de negocios internacionales.

I'm twenty-one years old and I'm a student of international business.

Caption 2, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle

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That's all for now. We challenge you to try finding more idiomatic expressions with the verb tener in our catalog of videos! And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

¡Para nada, nada que ver!

Spanish has some interesting forms of negation. This lesson explores one of them.

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In a new installment of the always-passionate series Yago, Pasión Morena (yes, that's its original title), we hear the expression para nada (at all, literally "for nothing"), which can be added to any given negative expression to add more emphasis to it. The construction is simple: you add the expression para nada to any standard negation formed with the word no and a conjugated verb. Consequently, no es (it's not) becomes no es para nada (it's not at all), no salgo (I don't go out) becomes no salgo para nada (I don't go out at all), and so on. Here's an example:
 

Pienso que no es para nada adecuado el casamiento.

I think that the wedding is not appropriate at all.

Caption 32, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 5

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Pretty straightforward, right? On the other hand, Spanish also allows for a different (but less common) option. You can actually get rid of the word no and place the verb afterpara nada. So, in the previous example, the expression could also be: Pienso que para nada es adecuado el casamiento (I think that the weeding isn't appropriate at all). Here's a similar example from our catalog:
 

Pero para nada es así.

But it isn't that way at all.

Caption 11, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf - Part 2

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In Spanish you can also use this expression as a sort of short negative answer. You can either say no, para nada, or simply para nada:
 

¿Te molesta que lo haya hecho sin consultarte? -¡No, para nada!

Does it bother you that I have done it without consulting you? -No, not at all!

Captions 51-52, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 7

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Now, pay attention to the following example, because no... para nada can also simply mean "not... for anything:"
 

Esto fuera, que no lo usamos para nada.

This one out, as we don't use it for anything.

Caption 67, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 7

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Las ayudas pueden hacer muchas escuelas, pero sin profesores no sirven para nada.

The aid can make many schools, but without teachers they're not good for anything.

Caption 35, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 4

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Conversely, para nada alone (without using the word no) can also mean "for nothing." This usage is not very common in Spanish, but you can find it in expressions such as tú eres un bueno para nada (you are a good-for-nothing).

By the way, you should know that it's possible to combine para nada (whether it means "for nothing" or "at all") with other negative words besides no, for example: nunca or jamas (never), tampoco (either), nadie (nobody), etc. Check out the following examples:

Las segundas partes nunca sirven para nada Second parts are never good for anything.
Este licuado tampoco me gusta para nada / I don't like this smoothie at all either.
Sal de aquí, nadie te necesita aquí para nada / Get out of here, nobody needs you here at all.
(Depending on context, this last one may also be translated as "nobody needs you here for anything"). 

Speaking of nada (nothing), in previous lessons we have discussed the expression nada que ver (to have nothing to do with, literally "nothing to see"). It's generally used as part of a longer statement such as Yo no tengo nada que ver contigo (I have nothing to do with you). However, it's also possible to use nada que ver as a short, emphatic negative answer similar to para nada that is somewhat equivalent to "not at all," "nothing like that," or even "of course not," depending on the tone and context. Strictly speaking, it's really just a shortened version of the expression no, eso no tiene nada que ver (no, that has nothing to do with it). Here is an example:

No, nada que ver... Mejor no me cuentes nada. -Bueno.
No, nothing like that... On second thought, don't tell me anything. -OK.

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So, how would you translate or, even more important, use the expression that makes up the title of this lesson? Can you imagine a context in which you could use it? Here's one:

Entonces estás enamorado de Sofía. -¡Para nada, nada que ver!
So you are in love with Sofia. -Not at allof course not!

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