Lezioni spagnolo


Tras: After

Y tras la pausa, vamos a ver si se anima Sebastián Estebanez...

And after the break, we'll see if Sebastian Estebanez dares...

Caption 56, Factor Fobia - Cucarachas

 Play Caption




Tras la guerra con Napoleón, el Rey Fernando Séptimo inició su reconstrucción.

After the war with Napoleon, King Ferdinand the Seventh began his reconstruction.

Captions 64-65, Marisa en Madrid - Parque de El Retiro

 Play Caption


The word tras can be used to mean "after" in terms of the timing of a sequence of events.

Tras hablar con su padre, Ana dijo que no volvería a la casa.
After speaking with her father, Ana said she would never return home.

Note that tras can also operate as a preposition used to indicate "behind."


La azafata acabó de salir del hotel y Zárate va tras ella.

The flight attendant has just left the hotel and Zarate is behind her.

Caption 21, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 4

 Play Caption

Tu hermano está tras la puerta.
Your brother is behind the door.

Continua a leggere

Atrás: Ago, Backwards

In the program Factor Fobia, Marley uses two words that are very similar sounding, atrás and tras.


Tuve un... hace unos meses atrás, me he ido a China.

I had a... some months ago, I've been to China.

Captions 28-29, Factor Fobia - Cucarachas

 Play Caption


As is evident, atrás can be used to indicate "ago," as in time past.


Yo empecé hace tres años atrás en el grupo Guamanique,

I started three years ago in the Guamanique group,

se llama Ballet Folklórico Guamanique, que es de Puerto Rico.

it's called the Guamanique Folk Ballet, which is from Puerto Rico.

Captions 3-4, Baile Folklórico de Puerto Rico - Los Bailarines

 Play Caption

Muchos años atrás, él fue general.
Many years ago, he was a general.

La última vez que nos vimos habrá sido unos seis años atrás.
Last time we met may have been some six years ago.


Of course, atrás is also commonly used to indicate "backwards" or "towards the back."


Si eso era un primer paso, había sido un paso atrás.

If that was a first move, it had been a move backwards.

Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2

 Play Caption

Ella fue atrás.
She went backwards.

Vaya hacia atrás, por favor.
Go backwards, please.

Continua a leggere

Llevar y Pasar: Spending Time and Time Spent


Llevo ocho años en Estados Unidos.

I've spent eight years in the United States.

Caption 18, Maestra en Madrid - Nuria y amigo

 Play Caption



As we've mentioned, the verb llevar is used not only for "to carry," but also to speak about a duration of time.

Llevar is often used to imply that an action continues (or will continue in the future). In this case, Nuria tells us that she has spent eight years living in the USA (and she will continue to do so).

We might be tempted to translate the present tense conjugation llevo by also using the present tense in English -- "I spend" or "I am spending" -- but, to retain the same meaning as the Spanish, we use the present perfect, "I have spent..."


Llevo cinco horas viendo la televisión.
I've spent five hours watching television.
(I've been watching television for five hours.)

Ana lleva cinco días estudiando español para su próximo examen.
Ana has spent five days studying spanish for her next exam (and she continues studying).


Shortly thereafter Nuria informs us:


Pero pasé casi diez años en Madrid haciendo mis estudios...

But I spent nearly ten years in Madrid doing my studies...

Caption 22, Maestra en Madrid - Nuria y amigo

 Play Caption



The verb pasar, like llevar, can take on the meaning "to spend (time)", but pasar gives us the impression that the action is completed and does not continue. Nuria spent nearly ten years in Madrid, but she is no longer living there full time.


Ana pasó cinco días estudiando español.

Ana spent five days studying spanish (and then she stopped).

Continua a leggere

Trucos: Useful Tricks

Strolling down the historic streets of Burgos, Carlos and María Angeles (who goes by Angeles) tell us about their local nightspots. Pubs, they say, manage to circumvent local laws and keep customers through the night -- until about 8 AM -- by briefly closing and then opening again. Angeles explains:


Sí, son trucos, pequeños truquitos de la picaresca española.

Yes, they're tricks, little tricks of Spanish wiliness.

Captions 78-79, Burgos - Caminando

 Play Caption


Trucos are "tricks." And, as we've explained before, the ending -ito is diminutive, so truquitos are "little tricks." Saying pequeños truquitos is merely repetitive, for effect. It emphasizes that we're talking about "little, harmless tricks." Also: note that truquitos is spelled here with a 'qu' to preserve the hard 'c' sound in Spanish (like 'k' in English).


Hace todo... es muy inteligente, hace todo lo que le pides, se sabe un montón de trucos.

He does everything... he's very smart, he does everything you ask him, he knows a ton of tricks.

Captions 55-56, Rosa - La perrita Mika

 Play Caption


Deberíamos decirle que nos enseñe unos truquitos.

We should tell him to teach us some little tricks.

Caption 5, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 4

 Play Caption



A related word in the first quote of this lesson is the adjective picaresca, which means "rascally" or "picaresque" in the literary sense. Remember, picaresque literature was founded in Spain, "flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and continues to influence modern literature," according to Wikipedia's entry (in English) on the subject. The genre usually features the adventures of a roguish hero (un pícaro), living by his wits. You might note that Angeles -a Spanish history fan herself- utters the term picaresca with a giggle and a knowing appreciation of the form.

Continua a leggere

Dolobu: Playing "al vesre"

To introduce this popular song, singer Marciano Cantero of Argentina's Los Enanitos Verdes ("The Green Dwarfs") shares the story of an encounter in Denver:


Me acerqué, así como haciéndome el dolobu.

I came closer, pretending to be a fool.

Caption 12, Enanitos Verdes - Luz de día

 Play Caption



Here is another example, this time from the Argentinian telenovela Muñeca Brava.


Y tuvieron un hijo juntos pero después el señor Federico se hizo el dolobu.

And they had a son together but afterwards Mr. Federico played the fool.

Caption 66, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa

 Play Caption


¿DolobuTry to find that word in a formal dictionary. You can't. That's because dolobu is an inverted slang form of the slang word boludo -- which we wrote about some weeks backFor Argentines like Marciano and many of his fans, boludo ("jerk" or "fool") is such a popular taunt that they have little trouble recognizing dolobu as a scrambled version of it.

There's a term for this sort of scrambling slang in Spanish: Al vesre--which is al reves ("in reverse") in al vesre. Got that? Think of it as a form of Pig Latin.

As a general rule, scrambling syllables a la al vesre will shade a word with more negative connotations than its original meaning. For example, while boludo may be a friendly greeting between friends (as we noted in this space previously), dolobu is more often a straight-up insult. Here are some more examples:

Hotel ("hotel") becomes telo (with the silent "h" dropped to preserve its pronunciation) when it's a seedy, rent-by-the-hour, love motel.

A sifón ("siphon") becomes a fonsi to describe the sort of hooked nose reminiscent of a siphon.

The already vulgar verb cagar ("to defecate") becomes garcar (with an "r" added to keep it recognizably a verb in the infinitive), with roughly the same crude meaning.


There are countless other examples. For further discussions of al vesre slang, see these web pages:

Wikipedia > Vesre (in Spanish)
Wikilibros > Diccionario de Vesre
(in Spanish)

Continua a leggere

Se trata: What It's About

This week we also offer the eighth installment of De Consumidor a Persona ("From Consumer to Person"), from Spain, a probing look at tough environmental questions. In this clip, we hear:


Es decir, se trata de vincular la misma actividad que uno tiene pues para...

That is, it is about linking the same activity that one has, well, to...

trabajar por la abolición de la deuda externa.

to work for the abolition of the foreign debt.

Captions 37-38, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 8

 Play Caption


We've discussed the versatile verb tratar ("to treat" or "to attempt to") in this space before. But we didn't yet touch on the common construction tratarse de [algo] ("to be about [something]"), which is seen in the phrase above.

Here's a common question:

¿De que se trata?
What is it about?

And one possible answer:

Yabla Spanish se trata de gente interesante.
Yabla Spanish is about interesting people.


Got that? Have a look at an interesting discussion of the phrase, found here.

Continua a leggere

Farandulera: A Party Girl

When quizzed further on the subject of diversión ("having fun"), the highly educated Patricia uses more colloquial and informal terms, as appropriate. After reventones, another one that caught our eye was farandulera -- as in:


Y yo realmente soy muy poca así... farandulera.

And actually, I am not really that way... a party girl.

Caption 7, Patricia Marti - Diversión y Ejercicio

 Play Caption



According to our Yabla dictionary, a farandulera is formally "a trickster, a person who plays tricks" or "a rogue, crook, swindler or cheat." It comes from the noun farándula, which traditionally means "the theater world." But note that in common usage in Latin America, la farándula is more like a group of people who are always out late at night, dancing and having fun. Latino paparazzi may follow la farándula to supply photos for magazines such as ¡Hola! and Caras (roughly equivalent to the US's People or Us Weekly). Many LatAm newspapers and websites have sections devoted to farándula (such as MSN Latino).

So, Patricia tells our cameras not to bother following her like some paparazzi. She's not una farandulera ("a party girl").

Continua a leggere

Reventón: A Big Blowout!

Venezuelan Patricia Martí tells us about her home town of Coro, compared to other parts of the world:


Así como en otros países, que hay muchas discotecas y reventones y fiestas...

The way [it is] in other countries, there are a lot of discotheques and big blowouts and parties...

Caption 4, Patricia Marti - Diversión y Ejercicio

 Play Caption



Look up reventones -- plural of reventón -- and you'll see it's "a flat tire" or "a blowout." As you can see, Patricia uses the word in a looser sense to mean a sort of big social event, which, in English, we might also call a blowout.

To further build up your vocab, note that reventón is a noun related to the verb reventar, which means "to burst." The verb form can also be used in formal and informal speech. For example, to be formal:


Reventó un caño.
A pipe burst.

And, in a looser, more figurative sense:

Su padre reventaba de orgullo.
Her father was bursting with pride.


Continua a leggere

—ote, —ota, and Encajar: Too Big to Fit?

We learn many things in the sixth installment of actress Natalia Oreiro's biography. One is that she's not a Tom Cruise- or Winona Ryder-sized wee thing. She's tall -- for an actress. And that was actually a worry at first, her friend Rosa tells us. Here's a snippet of the interview:


E incluso le dijeron que, que para ser acá así de actriz era muy alta...

They even told her that, that to be an actress here she was too tall...

que era como muy grandota y que no encajaba...

that she was like too huge and would not fit...

Captions 13-15, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 6

 Play Caption



Rosa has a colorful way of speaking. The first of the two words we highlight above --grandote-- is formed from the adjective grande ("big, large") and the augmentative suffix -ote, which amplifies the meaning of grande, making our best translation "huge." Adding -ote or -ota "often adds a note of contempt to the idea of bigness," according to The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice (published by Passport Books).

Note that augmentative suffixes can be applied to pretty much any noun or adjective. Some augmented words merit their own dictionary entries, especially if they take on a special meaning, while others don't. For example, consulting a few sources, we found entries for:

ojotes (root word: ojos, "eyes"): "bulging eyes, goggle eyes"

palabrota (root word: palabra, "word"): "swear word, dirty word"

animalote (root word: animal, "animal"): "big animal; gross, ignorant person"

In Spanish, augmentative suffixes are not quite as popular as diminutive ones (-ito, -ita, -cito, -cita), but you will hear them peppering the language for emphasis. (For some more on diminutives, review our previous discussion of poquitito some weeks back. To learn more about suffixes in general, ThoughtCo. has a helpful list.)


Moving on to the second word we highlighted above: It's encajaba, from the verb encajar. It, too, is a compound word, formed from the prefix en- ("in") and root word caja ("box"). The verb encajar means "to fit." It can suggest a physical fit (e.g., pieces of a puzzle fitting together), or a more thematic one (e.g., a transfer student fitting in to his new school). Rosa is using the second sense of the word, when she describes the fears that her friend wouldn't fit in to the acting world in Buenos Aires.

For more on compound words in Spanish, see: ThoughtCo.'s Colorful Combinations.

Continua a leggere

Por, Para: Forever Complications

The title of this week's new music video is the common phrase Para Siempre, meaning "forever." Take a look at how the phrase is used in the lyrics:


Puedo esperar para siempre

I can wait forever

Caption 5, Zurdok - Para Siempre

 Play Caption


Puede durar para siempre

Can last forever

Caption 7, Zurdok - Para Siempre

 Play Caption


Quiero vivir para siempre

I want to live forever

Caption 13, Zurdok - Para Siempre

 Play Caption


Tiene que ser para siempre

It has to be forever

Caption 15, Zurdok - Para Siempre

 Play Caption



Para here means "for." Para + an expression of time will indicate a point in time for which something is intended--or, a deadline. In the examples above, our singer is intending something to go on forever. Here are two less poetic examples of para in action:


Tengo tarea para mañana.
I have homework for tomorrow.

Tengo que terminar este informe para la semana que viene.
I have to finish this report for next week.


But astute listeners will catch that there's another way to say "for" in Spanish, also used in this song. Look at this line of our featured song:


O por toda una eternidad -Si me lo pides

Or for all eternity -If you ask me

Caption 4, Zurdok - Para Siempre

 Play Caption


You see, por + an expression of time usually indicates the duration of something. For example:


Él trabajó por tres horas.

He worked for three hours.


Por la semana que viene, vamos a tener clases en el edificio porque acá hay una reunión.

(Just) for next week, we are having classes in the old building because there is a meeting here.


The difference is subtle when we're talking about the intention "forever" (para siempre) vs. the duration "forever" (por siempre). It's no wonder por and para take a lot of practice to get right for non-native Spanish speakers. But here's a hint to help you along: The phrase 'para siempre' is much more common than 'por siempre' in romantic song lyrics and on Valentine's cards. And even native Spanish speakers debate the por / para divide.


So, if you want to tell someone that "it has to be forever"--and you want to sound like a native Spanish speaker in the process-- remember this catchy tune to remind you to say "tiene que ser para siempre."

(Final note: We've touched on por and para before, specifically looking at what happens when each is paired with the infinitive of a verb.)
Continua a leggere

Nomás: Not Only or No More?

How might a new airport affect the families living off the farming land of Atenco, Mexico? Listen to the interviews in this documentary for some strongly held opinions.

In the introduction, a listener might think they're hearing double:


A no nomás al estado de México.

And not only to the state of Mexico.

Caption 9, ¡Tierra, Sí! - Atenco - Part 1

 Play Caption



No nomás ("not only") is not to be confused with no, no más ("no, no more"). In Mexico and parts of Central America, nomás as a single word can mean solamente or sólo (in English: "only"). It's distinguished from the two words 'no más' by their context.

But note that
'no nomás' probably sounds a little odd to someone from Spain, who would say "No sólo el estado de México," instead. (Loyal readers may recall we
previously discussed why sólo takes an accent mark when it means "only.")

Continua a leggere

Ya: That's It, Enough Already!

Y ahí, bueno, pienso que con eso colaboro para mi país. Con eso... y ya.

And so, well, I think I'm helping my country like this. Like that... and that's it.

Captions 36-38, Patricia Marti - Perspectiva Política

 Play Caption



In Spanish, ya is an adverb that packs a lot of meanings. It most commonly means "already" and "now." In informal, everyday speech, it's best understood in the context. For example, in a busy café, a waiter might ask you and your friend:


¿Ya pidieron?
Did you all order already?

No, no tenemos la carta todavía
No, we don't have the menu yet

Ya se la traigo
I'll bring it to you now


Note that fellow adverb todavía means "yet" or "still". But getting back to ya, here are two phrases you're sure to come across often:


Ya es la hora = "It's time [already/now ]."
Ya está = "It's here [already/now]."

Our interview subject ends the interview with a shrug and a "y ya," which is her way of telling us "enough already," or "that's it."

Continua a leggere

Anoche: Last Night

In the music video A Casa by Javier Garcia, take a look at two lines of the catchy refrain:


Anoche fue muy fuerte...

Last night was very tough...

Caption 7, Javier García - A Casa

 Play Caption


La noche fue muy fuerte...

The night was very tough...

Caption 11, Javier García - A Casa

 Play Caption



Note that anoche means "last night." Some non-native Spanish speakers think they should say 'la noche pasada,' but that would be akin to saying "the day before today" when you mean simply "yesterday" in English. So listen closely to distinguish 'la noche' -meaning, more generically, "the night"- from 'anoche' -meaning "last night"- as in this week's featured song.

Here are some more useful Spanish terms for the past:


Dígame... Eh Padre, ¿se acuerda de esa chica que estábamos hablando ayer?

Tell me... Um, Father, do you remember that girl that we were talking about yesterday?

Caption 12, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 2

 Play Caption


Ayer = "Yesterday"
Anteayer = "The day before yesterday"


You'll note ante means "before," and so anteayer is really just a contraction of "[the day] before yesterday." Following the logic, can you guess what anteanoche means? Yup, "the night before last." (Isn't it convenient to have one Spanish word when in English we require four?)

Moving from days to weeks and years, the rules change a little. You see, there's no single word that means "last week." Instead, you have to say: '
la semana pasada.' And to say "last year," use el año pasado. But there is a word that means "yesteryear": It's antaño. Like "yesteryear" in English, antaño in Spanish refers to "times past"--not necessarily last year.

Continua a leggere

Llevar: Shades of Time

Meanwhile, in New York City, we catch up with Skampida's Gustavo and David on camera. They tell us what they've been up to:


Llevamos cuatro meses en New York City.

We've been in New York City for four months.

Caption 7, Skampida - Gustavo y David

 Play Caption


Bueno la... la banda ha estado... llevamos ocho años tocando y...

Well the... the band has been... we've been playing for eight years and...

Caption 12, Skampida - Gustavo y David

 Play Caption



You probaby know that the verb llevar means "to carry." But it has many other shades of meaning, one of which indicates the passage of time. Here are a couple more examples of llevar in this context:


¿Cuánto tiempo llevas aquí?

How long have you been here? 

Llevo seis horas esperando.

I've been waiting six hours.


Note that you could substitute "haber estado," as in "to have been," to arrive at approximately the same meaning as llevar.


El niño se daba cuenta que por haber estado agachado tanto tiempo.

The boy realized that as the result of having been bent over for so long.

Caption 36, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8 - Part 1

 Play Caption


Continua a leggere

Solía: Used To

In the new music video posted this week, the diction is very clear, but the meaning...? Well, Mexican pop band Molotov tends towards the surreal in this song about turning into a Martian (marciano). Once you listen carefully, and realize the lyrics are as goofy as the dance moves on your screen, you'll learn some very useful Spanish vocabulary.


For starters, take a look at the third line of the song:


No es el cuerpo marrano que solía tener...

It's not the fat body I used to have...

Caption 5, Molotov - Marciano

 Play Caption


Solía is from the verb soler, which means, in the present infinitive, "to usually do" or "to be accustomed to." But in the past tense -as in the caption above- it has a simpler English translation: "used to."

Here's the trick: Soler in the present or past tense is always followed by another verb in the infinitive. Compare these two similar sentences:

En verano, suelo ir a la playa.
In summer, I usually go to the beach.
Or: In summer, I tend to go to the beach.

Cuando era niño, solía ir a la playa (tense = past)
When I was a boy, I used to go to the beach.



And what about in the future or in the conditional tenses? Well, soler doesn't have a future or a conditional tense. That puts the word in a category of verbs that are not fully conjugated, known as "defective verbs." Other examples of defective verbs in Spanish include llover--"to rain"--and amanecer--"to dawn." (Click here for more.)

Continua a leggere

Acatar: A Very Obedient Verb

No acato límites.

I don't obey limits.

Caption 33, Babasónicos - Carismático

 Play Caption



The verb acatar means "to respect," "to observe," "to comply with" or "to defer to." For the lyrics quoted above, we translate: "I don't obey limits."

Here are some other examples of the verb in context:

Deben acatar la ley.
They ought to follow the law.

El gobierno acata la decision final.
The government respects the final decision.



Acatar is conjugated the same way as hablar. In other words, it follows the rules (acata las reglas) of a regular -ar verb.

Continua a leggere

Pendejo: A Kid or an Insult

In this week's new videos, Argentine movie and TV star, Pablo Echarri, tells us about when he was a kid:


Y yo me recuerdo que de pendejo en la escuela me llamaban continuamente.

And I remember when I was a kid in school I was called constantly.

Captions 17-18, Biografía - Pablo Echarri - Part 4

 Play Caption



Here is another example. This time from the Argentinian telenovela Verano Eterno.


Mirá pendejo, no me jodas porque estoy de mal humor.

Look jerk, don't piss me off because I'm in a bad mood.

Captions 3-4, Verano Eterno - Fiesta Grande - Part 8

 Play Caption


A word of warning here: In Argentina and Uruguay, the word pendejo is a benign, if slangy, synonym for muchacho meaning "kid, youth or teen." But you couldn't use pendejo in the same way in Mexico or parts of Central America and get away with it. There, pendejo is a crude profanity that you should read about in Wikipedia's write-up under Spanish profanity or this etymology discussion.

Continua a leggere

Otro: Another Common Mistake

Otro is a simple word in Spanish that looks and sounds like its English equivalent, "other" or "another." But with this ease of recognition and use, many non-native speakers misuse otro by adding an article where it doesn't belong.



Here's a tricky question. How do you say "another" in Spanish — as in, "I'll have another (beer)"?

Answer: "Tomaré otra (cerveza)."


Note that it's NOT: una otra or un otro. That's wrong. It would be like saying "an another" in English.


In an episode of the documentary series 75 minutos, we find the following clip:


Yo tengo lo que me pertenece a la de... de la custodia: un fin de semana sí y otro no.

I have what belongs to me to the... from the custody: one weekend yes and the other, no.

Captions 13-14, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 17

 Play Caption


Note once again that otro in Spanish doesn't require the article that "other" does in English.


The time to use a definite article before otro is when we need to distinguish between "another" and "the other" if, indeed, the distinction needs to be made:


Otro día =  "Another day"

El otro día = "The other day"


So, if you add an article before otro(a), make sure it's a definite article (el or la) and not an indefinite one (un or una):


¡Hola! -La otra socia. -Sí. -La otra.

Hello! -The other partner. -Yes. -The other one.

Caption 16, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 8

 Play Caption


And finally, don't forget about otra vez, a very useful expression that you can use when you want to say 'another time' or 'once again.'


That's it for today. Did you like this little reminder? Please send us your comments, questions, and suggestions

Continua a leggere