Have you ever heard someone use the expression, o sea? Chances are you have because this is a very popular and useful expression in both Spain and Latin America. Let's see how to use it.
The expression, o sea, is generally used to introduce an explanation or consequence of something one has already said. If you think about it, the meaning is quite literal: The phrase is made up of the disjunctive conjunction, o ("or"), and the word, sea ("would be"), the third person present subjunctive form of the verb, ser ("to be"). Let's look at some examples.
Porque Barcelona no aburre nunca.
Because Barcelona is never boring.
O sea, siempre hay actividades,
I mean, there are always activities,
Captions 41-42, Escuela BCNLIP - Presentación de la directoraPlay Caption
Nos lo hemos pasado muy bien,
We had a great time,
muy bien. -Qué bien, o sea que buenísimas vacaciones.
great. -How nice, I mean, an amazing vacation.
Captions 48-49, El Aula Azul - Conversación: Vacaciones recientesPlay Caption
You can also think of o sea as an equivalent of the English expression, "in other words":
O sea que ¿el tipo de hoy era Wilson Ríos?
In other words, the guy from today was Wilson Rios?
Caption 33, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 1Play Caption
Sometimes, the word, que ("that"), is added after o sea without altering its meaning:
Sé surfear, ¿no? O sea que tengo una profesión ahora.
I can surf, right? I mean, I have a profession now.
Caption 43, Costa Azul Surf Shop - Hablando con los Empleados Del SurfPlay Caption
Be careful, however: The combination "o + sea" can sometimes have a totally different meaning, so always pay close attention to the context:
...sea bueno o sea malo.
...whether it's good or whether it's bad.
Caption 34, Club de las ideas - IntuiciónPlay Caption
In Latin America, there is another use of o sea that is very popular among upper/middle-class youngsters, some of whom are considered snobby and superficial. In this case, o sea is used as a sarcastic remark that can be translated as "obviously," "duh," "come on," "give me a break," or "I mean," depending on the context. Let's observe that use in action:
¡Ay pues, obvio que va a querer!
Oh well, [it's] obvious that he is going to want to!
¡Porque nadie le dice que no a una chica popular, o sea!
Because no one says no to a popular girl, duh!
Captions 21-22, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concursoPlay Caption
You may also notice that in colloquial speech, o sea is sometimes used incessantly among certain groups or individuals as a filler word in the same way that certain English-speakers (e.g. Valley girls, etc.) constantly use the word, “like.”
Finally, keep in mind that the expression, o sea, is written as two words, and it is incorrect to write it as a single word (osea means "bony"!). Furthermore, it is sometimes used as an alternative for the expression o séase, which should be also avoided.
That's all for today. We invite you to incorporate this useful expression into your vocabulary, and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.