Spanish Lessons


Expressing Progression With the Verb ir

The verb ir (to go) is used in many idiomatic expressions in Spanish. One of the most interesting uses of this verb is when expressing the starting and progression of an action, for example:

¡Excelente! Voy planeando el evento.
Excellent! I start planning the event (right now).

It's not easy to translate the expression voy planeando el evento with precision. In the same situation, an English speaker would rather use the future tense, "I will start planning the event," which has an exact equivalent in Spanish: comenzaré a planear el evento. But voy planeando (literally, "I go planning") is in the present tense, and the expression means that I'm starting the action of planning at a certain point (the present in this case) and that it will continue for some time in the future until its completion. It also implies that I will be planning while other actions will be taking place simultaneously. This may be something obvious that could be inferred by context or mere logic in English, but there is no special verbal form to express it.

Now, this expression has many variations and, since the verb ir (to go) is an important irregular verb, it's worth it to study different examples. The basic structure of the expression is as follows: a conjugated form of the verb ir (to go) + a verb in gerundio (-ando, -iendo endings in Spanish). In the previous example we used voy, the conjugated form of the verb ir in the present, and planeando, the gerundio of the verb planear (to plan). Let's see variations with different persons and tenses:

Iré planeando el evento.
I will start planning the event.

Lucía irá planeando el evento.
Lucia will start planning the event.

The verb ir in this expression can also be conjugated in the past tense. For example:

Fuimos planeando el evento.
We went about planning the event.

Did you notice that we adjusted our translation to better express the meaning of the sentence? The same happens when we use other verbs different from planear (to plan):

Voy cancelando el evento.
I start by cancelling the event.
(Though Spanish also has an exact equivalent for this translation: empiezo por cancelar el evento.)

But let's see some examples in real context. In the following examples, try to analyze the construction and meaning of the sentence in Spanish but also the translation we used for each. Maybe you can come up with a better one!

Te pones de rodillas o vas cambiando de postura.
You get on your knees or you go around changing postures.
Caption 75, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5

Y ahora, una vez que tenemos el aceite, lo vamos clasificando por cualidades.
And now, once we have the oil, we're going to classify it by traits.
Caption 66, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14

they have a very developed sense of smell, enseguida te huelen el trocito de manzana, galleta, lo que sea, y te van siguiendo.
they have a very developed sense of smell, right away they smell the little piece of apple, cookie, whatever, and they start following you.
Caption 54-56, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Coatís

Poco a poco la iremos consiguiendo.
Little by little, we are going to achieve it.
Caption16, ¡Tierra, Sí! - Atenco - Part 4

que poco a poco los irás descubriendo todos.
as little by little you'll go along discovering all of them.
Caption 40, Fundamentos del Español - 9 - Verbos Reflexivos 

Hasta después fui aprendiendo conforme se fue haciendo el cómic.
Until later I started learning as the comic was being made.
Caption 40-41, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ilustración - Part 1

Finally, here's an interesting example that uses the verb ir (to go) not only as the auxiliary conjugated verb but also as the gerundio, which is yendo (going). The expression is then voy yendo (literally "I go going").  

Bueno, voy yendo que... -Sí, sí. -...deben de estar por llegar.
Well, I'm going since... -Yes, yes. -...they are bound to arrive soon.
Caption 18, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 5

That's it. Mejor nos vamos despidiendo (we better start saying goodbye). 

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Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - Part 3

In our two previous lessons we have studied the interesting topic of the use of sinalefas and the role they play in the way Spanish is spoken. In this third and last part of this series we will analyze cases where it's not possible to form sinalefas. Please click away if you want to take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

In part 2 of this lesson we talked about certain conditions that must occur so speakers can form sinalefas and thus be able to pronounce two contiguous words as a single one. It follows that when those conditions aren't met, the sinalefas aren't possible and the two words in question must be pronounced clearly apart from each other. So, for example, sinalefas aren't supposed to be formed by combining one less open vowel surrounded by two open ones, that is, combinations such as aoaaiaaieeieeiooio, etc. Since the Spanish conjunctions y(and), o (or), and u (or) are less open vowels, it follows that these combinations where sinalefas are not formed usually occur with phrases such as espero y obedezco (I wait and I obey), blanca y amarilla (white and yellow), sedienta y hambrienta (thirsty and hungry), esta o aquella (this one or that one), cinco u ocho (five or eight), etc. These combinations may also happen with words that start with a silent h, for example: ya he hablado (I've already spoken), hecho de hielo (made out of ice), no usa hiato (doesn't use a hiatus), está hueco (it's hollowed), etc. All of these cases are supposed to be pronounced as separate words.

At this point, it's important to note that when we say that a sinalefa can or can't occur we are talking from a normative point of view, because we know that in real life speakers may and do break the rules. Let's see some examples. We said that a sinalefa should not be formed with the vocalic sounds oia because the i is less open than a and o, thus Yago is not pronouncing frío y hambre as a single word here:

y yo nada más tengo frío y hambre y no sé qué hacer.
and I'm just cold and I'm hungry and I don't know what to do.
Caption 23, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 1

Or is he? Actually, he is not. Even though he's speaking quite fast, he's pronouncing each word separately. It's still difficult to tell, isn't it? But you can train your ear and immersion is perfect for that purpose.

Here's another example:

Ahí tienen un pequeño huerto ecológico.
There you have a small ecological orchard.
Caption 33, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 3

Is the person speaking pronouncing pequeñohuerto as a single word? In theory, he shouldn't be because sinalefas aren't supposed to be formed by combining one less open vowel (u) surrounded by two open ones (o,e). If he does, as it seems, he is engaging in what some experts call a sinalefa violenta (violent synalepha), which is phonetically possible but not "proper."

In fact, the proper use also prohibits the use of sinalefas that are phonetically possible since they involve the gradual combination of vowels that goes from open to less open vowels such as aeioei, and eei (we learned about this in Part 2 of this lesson) when the middle ecorresponds to the conjunction e (used when the following word starts with the sound i). For example, it's not correct to pronounce phrases such as España e Inglaterra (Spain and England), ansioso e inquieto (anxious and unquiet), anda e investiga (go and investigate), etc. altogether as single words. You can make the sinalefa and pronounce the words altogether only if the middle e is not a conjunction, for example, aei in ella trae higos (she brings figs), oei in héroe insigne (illustrious hero), eei in cree Ifigenia (Ifigenia believes), etc.

The rule is followed by the speaker in the following example, he pronounces febrero e incluso separately:

Sobre todo en los meses de diciembre, enero, febrero e incluso en mayo.
Especially in the months of December, January, February and even in May.
Caption 27, Mercado de San Miguel - Misael - Part 1

But the reporter in this example not so much. He pronounces tangibleeintangible as a single word:

y con elementos de un patrimonio tangible e intangible
and with elements of a tangible and intangible legacy
Caption 20, Ciudades - Coro Colonial

If speakers break the rules all the time, is there a point in learning about when a sinalefa can and can't be formed? The answer is yes, because these rules were actually modeled to reflect phonetic facts that occur in speech itself, so most of the time the way people speak do conform to rules (it's just easier to notice when they don't). For example, the reason why there's a rule against sinalefas that join two open vowels surrounding a less open one (like oia) is because articulating such sounds together is actually not easy for a Spanish speaker given the articulatory settings of the Spanish language. In other words, the phonetic rules reflect how the speech is actually performed by speakers most of the time and not vice versa. If you see the big picture, historically it's been speech modeling grammar and not the other way around.

We leave you with an interesting example of a speaker making what it seems a weird ayhie(basically aiie or even aiesinalefa by pronounce naranjayhielo as a single word.

Naranja y hielo solamente.
Orange and ice alone.
Caption 23, Fruteria "Los Mangos" - Vendiendo Frutas - Part 2

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Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - Part 2

Let's continue studying examples of sinalefas. If you missed part 1 of this lesson you can read it here

Sinalefas are an important aspect to consider when learning Spanish because they play a fundamental role in the fast-paced speech we hear so frequently in many native speakers and which makes listening comprehension so challenging. We've seen that sinalefas can merge up to five vowels from different contiguous words, like in the infamous example Envidio a Eusebio (I envy Eusebio), but sinalefas that merge two and three vowels are much more common and thus the more frequent culprits of word merges. Since we already covered sinalefas that merge two vowels, let's now focus on the ones that merge three or more. 

For a sinalefa of more than three vowels to occur at least one of the following conditions must be met:
Condition 1. The vowels are combined in a gradual scale from more open to less open, for example aeu, as in La europea (the European), or from less open to more open, for example uea, as in abue Antonia (Granny Antonia).

Here's an example with an oi and an aae sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce no iba a entrar as a single word:

decidimos que en nuestras tiendas no iba a entrar un chocolate
we decided that in our stores no chocolate was going to enter
Caption 46, Horno San Onofre - El Chocolate

Here's an iea sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce nadie apoyaba as a single word:

nadie apoyaba el movimiento
No one was supporting the movement
Caption 57, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

Condition 2. The combination consists in one open vowel surrounded by two less open ones. For example iae, as in limpia estancia (clean place), eau as in muerte auspicia (auspicious death), uoi as in mutuo interés (mutual interest), etc.
Here's an oae sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce salto a Europa as a single word:

Ahora preparan su salto a Europa, a Francia y a Alemania.
Now they're preparing their jump into Europe, France and Germany.
Caption 49, Europa abierta - Carne ecológica y segura

Here's an iae sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce nadie iba as a single word (also an ahu sinalefa that merges nunca hubo):

Nunca hubo nadie igual a ti
There was never anyone like you
Caption 40, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14

Here's an example with an iao and an ee sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce de aire en as a single word:

y además, controlan el flujo de aire en el interior.
and additionally, it controls the flow of air inside.
Caption 53, Tecnópolis - El Coronil - Part 1

When none of these two conditions are met, merging contiguous vowels from different words to form a sinalefa is theoretically impossible. We will study some interesting cases in the third and last part of our lesson on this topic. In the meantime, we invite you to find more examples of sinalefas that merge two or more vowels by browsing our catalog of videos. We recommend you use the search tool located in the upper right corner of the site to find them.  

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Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - I

We commonly receive feedback from our readers about the challenges of learning Spanish. Spanish can indeed be challenging for English speakers; after all, we are talking about a Romance language with a very different grammatical structure. However, grammar doesn’t seem to be the area that people find most challenging about Spanish. Instead, most learners at Yabla Spanish complain about how fast Spanish is spoken! And they seem to be justified: according to recent research, Spanish is the second fastest spoken language at a syllable-per-second velocity of 7.82, just slightly trailing behind Japanese, at 7.84, but way ahead of English, which, according to the same study, is spoken at an average rate of 6.19 syllables per second. There you have it. You should be proud that you are learning one of the fastest spoken languages in the world.

Learners seem to find Spanish particularly fast paced due the fact that in Spanish contiguous vowels are pronounced as if they were part of a single syllable. We are not talking about diphthongs or mere contractions such as de+el = del or a+el = al. We are talking about sinalefas: the merging of vowels that are part of different contiguous words.

Sinalefas makes Spanish challenging because they result in the merging of several words that are pronounced as one, without interruptions. Since sinalefas can merge up to five vowels, even a simple sentence such as Envidio a Eusebio (I envy Eusebio), becomes hard to understand when it is actually pronounced as envidioaeusebio. If you can’t tell where a word ends and another begins, how can you know for sure what a speaker is saying? The answer is listening practice.

There are many different types of sinalefas or “monosyllabic groups of vowels” in Spanish, as modern grammar specialists also call them. Let’s try to find examples of the most frequent ones in our catalog of authentic Spanish videos. In this lesson we will cover examples of sinalefas that merge two vowels only.

Sinalefas with two identical vocales átonas (unstressed or atonic vowels) are very common: casa alegre (happy home), le escucho (I listen to you), Lucy intenta (Lucy tries), etc. These sinalefas are pronounced with a long sound, just as if the two vowels where inside a single word, like acreedor (creditor), zoológico (zoo), contraataque (counterattack).

no olvides que los envoltorios de cartón, papel y envases de vidrio
don't forget that cardboard and paper covers and glass bottles
Caption 46, 3R – Campaña de reciclaje - Part 2

Sinalefas with two identical vowels, one of which is a vocal tónica (stressed vowel), are pronounced as a single stressed vowel (remember that a stressed vowel may or may not have a written accent). The following example contains two contiguous sinalefas of this kind, and you may hear some speakers merging both of them:

¿Qué está haciendo?
What are you doing?
Caption 40, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14

Sinalefas with different vocales átonas (unstressed vowels) are very common and perhaps some of the most used. They are pronounced as a single unstressed syllable. The first sinalefain the following example is of one of this kind. But the second sinalefa (dejóalgo) merges two vocales tónicas (stressed vowels) and in this case, if the sinalefa is actually produced, both vowels get merged but lean on the more open vowel (the a in algo).

porque todo aquel que vino dejó algo.
because everybody who came left something.
Caption 65, Horno San Onofre - La Historia de la Pastelería

Can you identify the sinalefas in the following example?

ya nada sería igual en la vida de ambos.
nothing would be the same in their lives.
Caption 65, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 6

Be aware that Spanish speakers don't pronounce sinalefas every single time. Weather sinalefas are used or not depends on many factors: personal preference, regional variants (for example some learners find that Mexican Spanish is way faster than, let’s say, Ecuadorian or Venezuelan Spanish), or even context (for example when a speaker is trying to speak clearly or very emphatically he or she may not merge that many words). Here’s an example in which the speaker is clearly not pronouncing two possible sinalefas (súnico and equipajera) but he does pronounce a third one: únicoe. Can you guess why?

su único equipaje era la soledad.
and her only baggage was solitude.
Caption 20, Gardi - Leña apagada - Part 1

If you said "because these are the lyrics of a song," you are right! Sinalefas and their opposites, hiatos, are some of the most common poetic tools that are used to ensure proper meter. As a listening exercise for the week, we invite you to find two-vowel sinalefas in our videos and listen carefully to decide whether the speaker is actually merging the vowels or not. We will continue exploring the world of Spanish sinalefas in future lessons.

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Combining Parts of Speech III - Cual, Cuales

Let's continue studying phrases that combine prepositions, articles and pronouns, since these are always a source of confusion for many Spanish learners. One of the main function of this type of phrase is to connect simple sentences to transform them into complex ones, and thus participate in real conversations. You can take a look at previous lessons in the series at our lessons site.
For this lesson, we will focus on the use of the pronoun cual (plural cuales), which should not be mixed up with the interrogative adjective cuál (plural cuáles) that modifies and accompanies a noun:

¿Pero cuál juego les gusta más?
But which attraction do you like the most?
Caption 36, Guillermina y Candelario - El parque de diversiones - Part 1

or with the interrogative pronoun cuál (plural cuáles) that takes the place of a noun. In the following example, when having a conversation about cars, someone uses it to ask:

¿Cuál te gusta a ti?
Which one do you like?
Caption 13, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 19

On the other hand, the pronoun cual/cuales (without the accent mark) is not used to ask questions. It's rather used in fixed phrases (called locusiones in Spanish) that usually involve the combination of articles, prepositions and other pronouns. In this case, the core is always a definite article + cual:  el cual, la cual, lo cual, for the singular, and los cuales, las cuales, los cuales, for the plural. Other parts of speech can then be added to that: prepositions before, pronouns after. Let's see an example using the preposition en (on, in) and the personal pronoun nos:

y el segundo tiene que ver con el lugar en el cual nos encontramos.
and the second one has to do with the place in which we are located.
Caption 35, Carlos explica - Tuteo, Ustedeo y Voseo - Conceptos básicos

Here's an example with the preposition por (for). These are the words of a Mexican politician. We have decided to transcribe a big chunk of what he says so you can see the phrase in context:

Yo sé que este país que me ha tocado conocer de cerca, palparlo de cerca, sentirlo muy, muy profundamente y por el cual tengo una enorme pasión.
I know that this country that I've had the fortune to know closely, to sense it closely, to feel it very, very deeply and for which I have an enormous passion.
Caption 3, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 1

Here's another long example using the plural feminine form las cuales and the preposition con (with):


Básicamente este era un juguete que era un amplificador, con algunas pistas, con las cuales los niños juegan a cantar, ¿no?
Basically this was a toy which was an amplifier, with some tracks, that kids sing along with, right?
Caption 63, Lo que no sabías - Arte electrónico - Part 3

Now an example using the preposition de (for) and the neutral form lo cual:

Es básicamente lo mismo que hicimos en el laboratorio pero a escala industrial, de lo cual están encargados otros colegas.
It's basically the same thing we did in the laboratory but on an industrial scale, which other colleagues are in charge of.
Caption 62, Una Historia de Café - La Catación - Part 1

There are many other combinations that you can find in our catalog of videos, with other prepositions and pronouns, or without them. Here's just one example with the preposition de (of) and the pronoun me:

De lo cual me siento muy orgulloso.
I'm very proud of that [of which I'm very proud].
Caption 41, Escuela Don Quijote - Jesús Baz - Part 1

Something important to note is that it's possible to substitute the pronoun cual with the pronoun que. This is especially true in colloquial Spanish and considered less correct in formal or written speech. Take the first example above, el lugar en el cual nos encontramos: people also say el lugar en el que nos encontramos. The same substitution can be made with all the other subsequent examples.

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The Verb Poder - Common Expressions

The verb poder (to be able, can) is one of the 10 most common verbs in Spanish. This verb is irregular, which means that it's unique in its conjugations. Let's study some common expressions in which this verb is used.
Most of the time the verb poder functions as an auxiliary verb (just like its English counterparts "can" and "could"), but in Spanish poder is followed by an infinitive. In the present tense you could find it used to express the ability or permission to do something:

Hay mucho que tú puedes hacer.
There is a lot that you can do.
Caption 44, 3R - Campaña de reciclaje - Part 2

¿Yo puedo ir a tú casa?
Can I go to your house?
Caption 65, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 15

Compare this to the use of puedo with reflexive pronouns in the same video:

¿Yo me puedo apuntar a eso? -Claro.
Can I sign up for that? -Sure.
Caption 28, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 15

You can also use the reflexive pronoun as a suffix of the verb in the infinitive. So it's also correct to say puedo apuntarme (can I sign up). In Spanish the idea behind the use of reflexive here is that you write down your own name yourself. If you don't use the reflexive and only say puedo apuntar, then the expression means I can write down. For example: puedo apuntar tu nombre (I can write down your name).
The combination of the reflexive with the verb poder is also used to talk about abilities or possibilities in an impersonal way. For this you will alway use the pronoun se, and the third-person of the verb. For example, se puede nadar (one can swim). Many Spanish speakers use an abbreviation of the impersonal expression ¿se puede pasar? (literally "may one come in?") as a courtesy before entering a house or a room:

¿Se puede? Sí. -Sí. -Soy Toñi. -Encantada.
May I? Yes. -Yes. -I'm Toñi. -Glad to meet you.
Caption 7, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14

Of course, you can also not use the impersonal and say ¿puedo pasar? (May I come in?). The equivalent of the shortened expression "may I" is simply ¿puedo?, which, as in English, can be used to ask for permission to do something, not only entering a room.
Now, the combination of the verb poder with the reflexive se can also indicate the use of a special type of passive voice. In the following example, the doctor is talking about ozone:

Se puede obtener artificialmente a partir de descargas eléctricas.
It can be obtained artificially through electrical discharges.  
Caption 28, Los médicos explican - Beneficios del ozono

FYI: the normal passive voice construction for this would be: puede ser obtenido (it can be obtained).
We will continue studying more expressions that use the verb poder with other tenses and moods in a future lesson. We leave you with a very common expression of disbelief or surprise that uses the verb poderno puede ser (it can’t be). We even have a series titled NPS, an acronym of no puede ser. ¿Puedes creerlo? (can you believe it?)

¡No puede ser! -¡No puede ser!
It can't be! -It can't be.
Caption 52, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 2

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Expressing Disgust in Spanish

By definition, nobody likes to feel disgusted, and yet disgust it's sadly a very common sentiment. Let's learn a few ways in which Spanish speakers express their disgust.
Let's start with the basic. The expression me da asco (literally "it gives me disgust") has many different translations, depending on the context:

Me da asco, la verdad, mire, señor,
You make me sick, truthfully, look, sir,
Caption 23, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 1
Cuando te duele la cabeza, tenés unas náuseas que te da asco todo.
When your head hurts, you have nausea that makes everything disgusting to you.
Caption 53, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 5

This expression is also very interesting because of the idiomatic use of the verb dar (to give), which is used a lot in Spanish to express a wide variety of feelings, from me da miedo (it frightens me), to me da pena (I feel ashamed) and me da gusto (it pleases me). In order to learn it and remember it, we suggest you recall an expression in English that uses the same verb in the same way: "it gives me the creeps," which in Spanish could translate as me da asco or me da escalofríos (it makes me shrivel), or something else, depending on the context. Our friends from Calle 13 use dar repelo (repelo is a coloquial word for "disgust"):

Oye jibarita si te doy repelillo, Residente te quita el frenillo.
Listen, peasant girl, if I give you the creeps, Residente will take away your stutter.
Caption 43, Calle 13 - Tango del pecado

Other phrases that can also be used in Spanish are "me enferma" (it makes me sick), "me da náuseas" (makes me feel nauseous). Check out this example:

Verla me da náuseas.
Seeing her makes me sick.
Caption 17, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 1

Now let's learn some single words that you can use to express your dislikes. The interjection guácala (sometimes written huácala) is used in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, el Salvador, República Dominicana and many other Latin American countries. By the way, this word has nothing to do with guacamole (from Nahuatl  ahuacatl "avocado" + molli "sauce"), which is delicious. 

¡Ay guácala! No, no se puede. ¡Huele a muerto!
Oh, gross! No, it's not possible. It smells like a corpse!
Caption 4, Kikirikí - Agua - Part 5

A similar word is fúchila, which you could also find shortened as fuchi. This word is also used in many Latin American countries, Venezuela, for example:

¡Fuchi! Mejor no respires, pero cálmate, ¿sí?
Ew! Better you don't breathe, but calm down, OK?
Caption 51, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 5

In Spain people use the interjections puajpuah or aj:
¡Puaj, este pescado está podrido!
Yuck, this fish is rotten!

Now, in Spanish the antonyms of the verb gustar (to like) and the noun gusto (like) are disgustar (dislike) and disgusto (dislike). However, you should pay attention to the context to learn how to use them. Take, for example, the expression estar a disgusto (to be uncomfortable or unhappy):

Yo ya estaba muy a disgusto en México.
 I was already very unhappy in Mexico.
Caption 42, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

If you want to use the verb disgustar to express your dislike about something you have to remember to always use it with a reflexive pronoun:

Me disgustan las achoas.
I dislike anchovies.

However, it's more common to simply say:

No me gustan las achoas.
I don't like anchovies.

Notice that when you use the verb disgustar (to dislike) the verb is conjugated in the third-person plural (in agreement with las anchoas) and not the first-person singular (yo). If you ever were to say something like me disgusto, which is possible buy as common as me enojo (I get angry or upset), that would mean something different:

Me disgusto con Antonio siempre que llega tarde.
I get angry with Antonio whenever he's late.

The noun disgusto, on the other hand, is used as the noun asco (disgust), that is, with the verb dar (to give). The expression dar un disgusto means "to cause displeasure," or "to make someone angry, sad or upset"). 

Mi hijo me dio un disgusto muy grande al abandonar la escuela.
My son made me so upset when he quitted school.

Finally, the expression matar de disgusto (literally, "to kill someone by means of upsetting him or her") is a common expression that overly dramatic people really like to use:

Esta hija mía me va a matar de un disgusto.
 This daughter of mine is going to kill me with disappointment.
Caption 32, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 3

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Las Vacaciones

Summer is a good time to take some time off... or learn how to properly use the Spanish word for vacation: vacaciones.  Let’s do just that.
For starters, even though the Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Royal Spanish Academy or DRAE includes the singular vacación, the plural vacaciones (vacation) is the only form people use:

Sí, se ha ido hasta de vacaciones a Italia con el zoquito.
Yes, she has even gone on vacation to Italy with the zoquito.
Caption 74, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 4

Spanish also has the verb vacacionar (to vacation), but it's much more common to use expressions that involve the use of another verb combined with the word vacaciones, for example: ir de vacaciones (to go on vacation). This expression requires the use of a reflexive pronoun (se, in this case) and the preposition de (on). You must also be careful to conjugate the verb ir (to go) properly. In the example above, for example, you see the perfect tense ha ido de vacaciones (has gone on vacation). But you can also use other tenses. The following example includes the reflexive pronoun me, the preposition de, and the first-person singular form of the verb ir (to go) in present tense, which is voy (I go):

me voy de vacaciones, compro regalos, tengo la cena.
I go on vacation, I buy gifts, I have dinner.
Caption 62, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

But you can use other verbs too. You can use the verb estar (to be), for example, which doesn't need the use of reflexive pronouns:

Como todos sabemos, estamos de vacaciones.
As we all know, we're on vacation.
Caption 6, El bulevar - de Adícora

Or the verb tomar (to take), which doesn't need the preposition de and can be used with or without a reflexive pronoun:

Tomó vacaciones de un mes. Regresó otra vez a Alemania.
She took a one-month vacation. Then she went back to Germany again.
Caption 19, Gonzalo el Pintor - Vida - Part 2

Yes, it's also correct to say: se tomó vacaciones de un mes (she took a one-month vacation).
Also very common is the use of the verb andar (literally "to walk"):
Genaro anda de vacaciones.
Genaro is on vacation.

Or venir (to come), which needs the preposition de and could take a reflexive pronoun:

Qué bien que te has venido aquí de vacaciones.
How nice that you have come here on vacation.
Caption 2, Clara y Cristina - Hablan de actividades

or not:
Qué bien que has venido aquí de vacaciones.
How nice that you have come here on vacation.
Can you think of more verbs that can be combined with the word vacaciones? We can. One example is the verb salir (to go out): salimos de vacaciones (we go out on vacation, we leave on vacation). Try to find some more examples in our catalog!

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Combining Parts of Speech II

Let's continue reviewing examples of phrases that combine prepositions, articles and pronouns. In the previous lesson we talked about combining the preposition con (with) with the indefinite articles (el, la, los, las) and the pronoun que (that, which): con la que, con el que, con los que, con las que (with whom or with which). Let's see the examples, because in real context these phrases can be quite tricky. 

Les preguntaron cómo debería ser la escuela con la que ellos sueñan.
They were asked the question of what the school that they dream of should be like.
Caption 7, Club de las ideas - La escuela que queremos

We can try a more literal translation just to see how Spanish works:  "what the school of/with which they dream should be like." Here's another example:

no me parecía el tipo de gente con el que yo me quería involucrar.
they didn't seem to be the kind of people I wanted to get involved with.
Caption 81, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

Do you want a literal translation? Here it is: "they didn't seem to be the kind of people with which I wanted to get involved."

It seems that Spanish and English are more parallel when using the plural forms:

Estos espacios recrean un capítulo histórico con los que el coriano convive a diario.
These spaces recreate a historic chapter with which the Corian resident coexists daily.
Caption 34, Ciudades - Coro Colonial - Part 1

y para beneficiar las comunidades con las que trabajamos.
and to benefit those communities with whom we work.
Caption 48, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 5

Now let's see how to combine el que, la que, los que, las que with two similar prepositions: por and para. Understanding the difference between these two is a constant challenge, even for advanced learners, so you can never study them too much!

...aquí están las puertas abiertas para el que quiera trabajar. the doors are open for whomever wants to work.
Caption 38, Circo Infantil de Nicaragua - Learning the Trade - Part 1

por el que transitan trece millones de clientes al año.
through which thirteen million customers pass per year.
Caption 14, Reporteros - Crecen los robos en tiendas - Part 2

Esa es buena para la que fuma el puro,
That one is good for the one who smokes cigars,
Caption 44, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 7
Y ésta es la razón por la que cuando se piensa en un nombre que contribuya a...
And this is the reason why (literally, "because of which") when one thinks of a name that contributes to... 
Caption 22, El Instituto Cervantes - Director del Instituto - Part 1

Existe el metro y el autobús para los que tienes que comprar billetes.
There is the subway and the bus for which you have to buy tickets.
Caption 70, Blanca - Cómo moverse en Barcelona
De las etapas por las que pasan los conjuntos...
Of the stages that groups go through...
Caption 74, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 3

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Combining Parts of Speech

Using Spanish articles and pronouns is not always easy, and learning to combine them is even more complicated. Let's study some interesting examples to learn more about these combinations.
The phrases la que, el que mean "the one that" or "the one who":
que es la que está con el niño atrás.
who is the one who is with the little boy back there.
Caption 14, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 3
Aligerar, hacer ritmo. -Y el que venga conmigo
To hurry up, to make it quick. -And, whoever comes with me,
Caption 81, Europa Abierta - Empuje para Pymes
As you can see, the English translations may be different, but the meaning is still the same in both examples. In the second case, a more literal translation is also possible: el que venga conmigo (the one who comes with me).

It's important to always have in mind the variations of gender and number: los que and las que ("the ones that" or "the ones who"):

los que se pueden coger con la mano desde abajo,
the ones that can be picked by hand from below
Caption 51, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 16

Now, in Spanish it's also possible to combine these expression with prepositions. For example, you can add the preposition and form a los quea las quea la que, and al que (remember that a + el + que al que).
These phrases could mean, literally, "to/for the one(s) that" or "to/for the one(s) who":
Al que llegó sin avisar
To the one who arrived without warning
Caption 21, Calle 13 - Pa'l norte
Depending on the context, the English equivalent of these phrases is different, though. For example, check out the following caption including an extra pronoun (a reflexive one): nos (to us).
Ah, a los que nos gusta surfear,
Ah, for those of us who like surfing,
Caption 9, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ilustración - Part 1

Also, depending on the context, and since the preposition a has many different meanings, the literal meaning of these phrases could also be "to the ones that" or "to the ones who" =  "whom" or "to which."  
Al que llamaban Speedy Gonzales.
whom they called Speedy Gonzales.
Caption 4, A. B. Quintanilla - Speedy Gonzalez
a la que pertenecieron sus primeros moradores.
to which its first inhabitants belonged.
Caption 17, Club de las ideas - Mi entorno - Part 1
Check out this example, also with an extra reflexive pronoun: se (to it, to him, to her, to them)
El principal problema al que se enfrentan la mayoría de las PYMEs europeas
The main problem that most of the European SMEs face
Caption 17, Club de las ideas - Mi entorno - Part 1
Tricky, right? The English translation is simply "that," but you can think of a literal one just to see how Spanish works: "the main problem to the one (to which) most of the European SMEs face."
You can also combine these phrases with a different preposition, for example the preposition con (with). Then you have con la que, con el que, con los que, con las que (with whom or with which). But let's save that for a future lesson. 

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Shortened Expressions in Spanish

let's learn a few shortened expressions and words in Spanish. They are really useful to make your Spanish sound more natural:

Entre nos comes from entre nosotros (between us). It's used to indicate that what you are about to say should not be shared with anyone else, it's between you and your interlocutor:

Aquí entre nos, quien sí me importa es Leo.
Between you and me, the one that does matter to me is Leo.

 Instead of por favor, you can simply say porfa:

Tranquilo, tranquilo. -Tranquilo, pibe, tranquilo. -Gardel, porfa...
Calm down, calm down. -Calm down, boy, calm down. -Gardel, please...
Caption 55, Yago - 11 Prisión - Part 5

Some people prefer to use porfis for a more playful or silly  tone:

Porfis, porfis, reporfis.
Pretty please, pretty please, extra pretty please.
Caption 58, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 10

As in English, there are many words that are usually shortened in Spanish. For example most people say bici instead of bicicleta (bicycle), moto instead of motocicleta (motorcycle), refri instead of refrigerador (fridge), conge instead of congelador (freezer), compa instead of compadre (buddy), depa instead of departamento (apartment), or peli instead of película (movie). 

A mí que ni me busquen, compa
For me, don't even look, buddy
Caption 51, DJ Bitman - El Diablo
y ahí nos mo'... nos movíamos en bici,
and from there we mo'... we would move around by bike,
Caption 4, Blanca y Mariona - Proyectos para el verano

Another classic example of a shortened expression in Spanish is the use of buenas as a greeting instead of buenas tardes, buenas noches, or buenos días:

¡Muy buenas, Mar! -Encantada. -Soy de 75 Minutos.
Very good afternoon, Mar! -Delighted. -I'm from 75 Minutes.
Caption 5, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 6

It's also common to use shorter versions of names and titles. For example you can use abue instead of abuela (grandmother), ma or pa instead of mamá (mother) and papá (father), poli instead of policía (police, cop), profe instead of profesor (teacher), secre instead of secretaria (secretary), dire instead of director (principal), ñor and ñora instead of señor (sir) and señora (madam) [or seño instead of both], peques instead of pequeños (the little ones, kids), etc. 

Felipe López. -Yo lo planché ahorita. -Acá, profe.
Felipe Lopez. -I'll iron it right now. -Here, Teach.
Caption 43, Misión Chef - 2 - Pruebas - Part 2


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More than Three Amigos

If you visited a Spanish speaking country during the last spring break, chances are you were invited to a party. Maybe it was a birthday party, a wedding or, most likely, just a meet-up with friends. No matter the occasion, there are some Spanish words and phrases that always come in handy at a party. Let's see a few examples:
The word salud means a lot of different things in Spanish. The basic meaning is, of course, "health," but this tiny word is also uttered as a courtesy when someone sneezes (the underlying meaning is that the person wishes that you haven't got the flu), and it's also customarily used to make a toast (the underlying meaning is that the person wishes the drink contributes to everybody's health and well-being). There are different ways to use it.
You can simply use salud as English uses the word "cheers":

¡Salud! - ¡Salud!
Cheers! -Cheers!
Caption 92, Casa Pancho - vinos y pinchos - Part 2

If you are the person making the toast, you can also go for something like this:

Muy bien, a la salud del novio. -¡Ahí va!
Great, to the groom's health. -There you go!
Caption 21, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 6

In some countries, like Mexico and Ecuador, it’s very common to use an endearing diminutive:

Caption 27, Otavalo, Ecuador - Leche de chiva - gran alimento

Another word that is also used to make a toast is provecho, which literally means "profit" or "advantage." This word is used before either drinking or eating (salud can only be used with drinks) and it means that the person speaking wishes that you "profit" from the food or beverage you are having. By the way, you can either say buen provecho or only provecho:

Buen provecho.
Enjoy your meal.
Caption 53, Cocinando con Miguelito - Pollo sudado - Part 3

Now, the word for party in Spanish is fiesta, sure. But this is not the only word people use. You should learn some variants, otherwise you'll be missing some great fun:
For example, your friends in many countries of Latin America may invite you to a parranda (party). If you are parrandero (a party animal) you'll probably want to show up:

Es buen amigo, parrandero y bailador
He is a good friend, he likes to party and he's a dancer
Caption 45, Alberto Barros - Mano a mano - Part 1

In other places, notably in Mexico City, people use the word reventón (party, literally a "blow-out"). If the party involves getting drunk then the invitation would be something like vámonos de juerga/farra/parranda (somewhat equivalent to "let's go get crazy drunk")There are, of course, many words to describe the act of drinking: chupar, pistear, libar, mamarembriagarseirse de copas (copas means "cups"), empinar el codo (literally "to raise the elbow"), ponerse hasta atrás (to get really drunk, literally "to get oneself behind") are just a few.

No hay plata pa' comer pero sí pa' chupar
There is no money to eat but there is to drink
Caption 50, Choc Quib Town - De donde vengo yo - Part 1

And what do you call your friends, buddies, pals, mates at a party? Well, that depends on where you are:
In Mexico City, friends are called cuates:

que te presenta a una persona, a un cuate cercano,
that introduces someone, a close buddy,
Caption 13, Amigos D.F. - Te presento... - Part 1

But if you are in the northern part of Mexico, we strongly recommend you avoid the use of cuates. Instead, you can use camaradacompa (short for compadre), or carnal (bro); all of these are more or less common everywhere in the country. Here's a great example of a phrase you can use to start a party anywhere in Mexico:

¡Órale compadreéchese un trago!
Come on, pal, throw down a drink!
Caption 5, El Ausente - Acto 1 - Part 7

What about other places? Well, it's a long list. In Spain, people use tío (uncle)In Argentina, pibe (kid). In Perú, pata. In Venezuela, pana. In Cuba, asere. In Colombia, parsa. In Honduras, mara... The list goes on and on. One thing is for sure: you can use amigo safely anywhere Spanish is spoken. Maybe that's the friendliest thing to do.

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Getting Impersonal

An impersonal statement is one that has no determinate subject. In English you'll hear impersonal expressions like "you shouldn't point your finger at people" or "one would think the airlines would have to close down." 

Spanish has a different way to express the impersonal voice, though. To make general statements Spanish adds the pronoun se in front of verbs. Let's see some examples:

 In the new episode of Yago - Pasión Morena we hear a distressed Yago stating a very basic and general principle indeed:

No se mata lo que se ama.
You don't kill what you love.
Caption 64-65, Yago - 11 Prisión - Part 7

Of course, to express this idea in Spanish you can also do as in English and simply conjugate the verb in the second person:

No matas lo que amas.
You don't kill what you love.

However, in Spanish the use of se is much more common, expressive and emphatic.

Actually, in Spanish it's also possible to use the word uno (one) instead. In this case you must use the third person:

Uno no mata lo que ama.
One shouldn't kill what ones loves.

Here are another two examples from our catalog, both using the verb decir (to say):

Bueno y se dice que la mujer tiene un sexto sentido
Well, and one says that a woman has a sixth sense
Caption 16, Club de las ideas - Intuición - Part 1
Ay, ¿cómo se dice? -Las imperfecciones.
Oh, how do you say it? -The imperfections.
Caption 18, Maquillaje - Con Cata y Cleer - Part 1

And then with the verb hacer (to do, to make):

... se hace como un... té.
... one makes like a... tea.
Caption 12, Recetas - Capirotada - Part 1

Take note, both the Spanish impersonal and singular passive voice use the same construction. You can clearly see it by comparing the above example with the following one using the same verb hacer (to do, to make):

¿Esto se hace en otros puntos de... de Europa?
Is this done in other parts of... of Europe?
Caption 59, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 13

Luckily, being able to make this distinction is really not that relevant because the difference is mostly just grammatical. For example, for practical purposes, you could also interpret this example as a case of the impersonal and translate it as, "Do you do this in other parts of... of Europe?"

Finally, note that Spanish also uses the plural to express impersonal ideas. In this case, however, you don't need to use the pronoun se, you only use the third-person plural ellos (they).

Y el futuro que vendrá, dicen que pende de un hilo
And the future that will come, they say that it hangs by a thread
Caption 79, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 2

The beautiful thing about the Spanish plural impersonal is that it doesn't use the pronoun ellos (they)—just the verb conjugated in the third-person plural dicen (they say). In fact, in Spanish it can't be impersonal at all if you include the pronoun, if you actually say ellos dicen (they say). If the same example were to include the pronoun ellos (them), then it would mean that the subject is actually known from context. Check out the modified version of the previous example to which we added one of many possible contexts in brackets:

[Los dioses llegaron en sus naves blandas.Y el futuro que vendrá, dicen ellos que pende de un hilo.
[The gods arrived in their soft vessels.] And the future that will come, they say that it hangs by a thread.

The plural impersonal is used a lot to spread gossip when combined with the verbs decir (to say), contar (to tell), etc.

Dicen que nadie puede seguirte el tren
They say nobody can keep up with you
Caption 14, Bahiano - Oyelo - Part 1

Or popular knowledge:

Dicen que si los sueños se cuentan después no se cumplen, loco.
They say that if you tell your dreams, then they won't come true, dude.
Caption 36, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 7

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The Skinny Cows of January

Last week we published the last part in the Nicaraguan series Cuentas claras about how to survive the so-called cuesta de enero (Literally, "January's hill") in Spanish, and "hard January" or "post-holiday budget crunch” in English. Let's review some financial vocabulary that you can learn by watching this series.
The expression cuesta de enero is widely used in Spain, Mexico and many other Latin American countries. There are other expressions that are synonyms, for example, resaca de navidad (Christmas hangover) and resaca de Reyes (King's Day hangover). In Part 1 of the series, the guest of Cuentas claras says:

... una dolencia después cuando comienza enero porque estoy endeudado. La resaca financiera.
... an ailment afterwards when January starts because I am in debt. The financial hangover.
Caption 64-65, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

The show also shares different antidotes to cure a financial hangover. Making a budget is a key one:

Entonces, eh... siempre tu arma, tu aliado número uno, va a ser un presupuesto.
So, um... always your weapon, your number one ally, is going to be a budget.
Caption 33, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

Making a budget helps people save money and get out of debt:

y en el lado financiero, quiero salir de deudas, quiero comenzar a ahorrar,
and on the financial side, I want to get out of debt, I want to start to save,
Caption 24, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

The expressions estoy gastado and estoy endeudado are great additions to your vocabulary when trying to avoid excesos financieros (financial excesses):

primero porque terminás bien gastado y bien endeudado de diciembre,
first because you end up quite spent and quite in debt from December,
Caption 30, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

A little bit more dramatic is estar quebrado or estar en la quiebra (to be in bankruptcy):

y encima llevo a la quiebra a la empresa.
and on top of that bankrupt the company.
Caption 42, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 4

If you are planning a visit to Mexico, maybe you can use something more colorful like ando bien bruja (“I'm broke,” I'm spent,” but literally means "to go by like a witch"!). Colombians use estoy vaciado (literally, "I'm empty"), and Argentinians no tengo ni un mango (literally, "I don't have a single mango").

No, tomá, tomá... guardá esto que no quiero que te quedes sin un mango.
No, take it, take it... put this away since I don't want you to end up penniless.
Caption 34, Yago - 5 La ciudad - Part 3

The word for “installment payment” in Spanish is abono. There's also a verb: abonar (to make installment payments). Note that abono is also a synonym of fertilizante (fertilizer).

¿...porque tenés que hacer abonos mensuales a todas las deudas?
... because you have to make monthly payments for all the debts?
Caption 7, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

If you don't pay your debts on time you are una persona morosa (a delinquent payer, a slow payer), which comes from the noun mora (delay). Note that mora is also the name given in Spanish to different types of berries.

...manchás como dice la gente popularmente, tu record crediticio, caes en mora.
you stain as people say popularly, your credit record, you become delinquent.
Caption 24, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

It's not ideal, but if you can't pay your debts maybe it's time for another préstamo (loan):

en el caso de los préstamos personales o lo del extrafinanciamiento,
in the case of personal loans or extra financing,
Caption 7, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

However, it's best to always have some ahorros (savings) to cover for unpredicted expenses:

y básicamente consiste en ahorrar un dólar incremental cada semana del año.
and basically it consists in saving an incremental dollar every week of the year.
Caption 17, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2


Finally, a curious Spanish expression that is not used in the show but you may still want to add to your lexicon. Spanish uses the phrases vacas gordas (fat cows) and vacas flacas (skinny cows) to refer to periods of material wealth and poverty respectively. It's a very common expression inspired by a famous biblical story. English also uses similar phrases that are probably inspired by the same source (“lean times”). Here's an example of how to use the Spanish expression:
Tenemos que ahorrar algo de dinero para tiempos de vacas flacas.
We have to save some money for leaner times.

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Sina... What?

Do you ever feel frustrated when you can't make out what a Spanish speaker is saying because he or she speaks so fast that an entire sentence seems to sound like a single long word? Well, we won't lie to you: there's no easy solution to that problem, only listening practice and more listening practice. However, we can at least give you something to blame next time you find yourself lost in a conversation due to this problem: blame the synalepha.
A fancy word indeed, synalepha (or sinalefa in Spanish) is the merging of two syllables into one, especially when it causes two words to be pronounced as one. La sinalefa is a phonological phenomenon that is typical of Spanish (and Italian) and it's widely used in all Latin America and Spain. Native speakers use sinalefas unconsciously to add fluidity, speed and concision to what they are saying.
There are basically two types of sinalefas. Let's learn about them using examples from our catalog of videos. Maybe that'll help you catch them next time. And if you have a subscription with us, make sure you click on the link to actually hear how the sinalefas are pronounced!
The first type of sinalefa merges two vowels, the last one and the first one of two contiguous words. A single sentence can contain several of them, for example:
¿Cómo es el departamento comercial de una empresa que trabaja en setenta y dos países?
How is the commercial department of a company that operates in seventy-two countries?
Caption 68, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 21

So, thanks to the sinalefas, this is how the speaker actually pronounces the sentence: ¿Cómoes el departamento comercial deunaempresa que trabajaen setentay dos países?  Yes, the letter "y" counts as a vowel whenever it sounds like the vowel "i."
Here's another example, this time from Colombia:
¿Qué pensaría mi hermano si supiera de este video que estamos filmando?
What would my brother think if he knew about this video that we are filming?
Caption 31, Conjugación - El verbo 'pensar'
Again, thanks to the sinalefas, what the girl speaking actually pronounces is: ¿Qué pensaría mihermano si supiera deeste video queestamos filmando? Yes, the consonant "h" doesn't interfere with the sinalefa, because, as you probably already know, this letter is always silent unless it is next to the letter "c."
Now, the second type of sinalefa merges three vowels of two contiguous words. Here's an example:

¿O a usted le gustaría que lo mantuvieran encerrado?
Or would you like for them to keep you locked up?
Caption 21, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 2

Oausted is what the character pronounces. Can you try to pronounce it the same way?
Here's another example, from Mexico this time:
...cosa que no le corresponde a él.
...something that is not his job.
Caption 6, ¡Tierra, Sí! - Atenco - Part 4

Finally, one more example that is somewhat extreme. Hear the host of the Colombian show Sub30 posing a question that contains four sinalefas (loop button recommended):

¿Será que eso sólo pasa en nuestra época o ha pasado desde siempre?
Could it be that that only happens nowadays or has it always been like this?
Caption 3, Sub30 - Familias - Part 7
That girl surely speaks fast! Notice that she even merged two words that end and begin with the same consonant “n” into a single one, which, together with the sinalefas, results in what sounds like a super long word: pasaennuestrpocaoha.

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More Spanish Expressions

It's time to learn more Spanish expressions. If you have a subscription, you can click on the link below each example to learn more about the context in which they are used.
Salirse con la suya literally means "to get one's (own) way." See how the verb salir (to go) uses the reflexive pronoun se before the verb when it's conjugated (in this case in the subjunctive mood because it's used to express something that is not a fact, but a determination):

Yo no pienso dejar que esa sifrina se salga con la suya.
I don't plan to let that snob get away with it.
Caption 79, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 10

Talking about determination, the phrase empeñarse en algo means to be set on doing something, to insist, to be determined:

Él está empeñado en venderos algo.
He's determined to sell to you something.
Caption 17, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 19

As you can see, when you are saying that someone is determined to do something, you are stating a fact, so you use the verb estar (to be) in the indicative mood. However, this expression can also be used in a similar way to the expression salirse con la suya, that is, using the reflexive verb empeñarse (to insist on) plus a phrase that expresses a desire or purpose in the subjunctive mood:
María se empeña en que yo aprenda español.
María insists that I learn Spanish.
But if the subjunctive is still difficult for you, you can also use this expression to express your own or other people's determination by combining the reflexive verb empeñarse with a phrase that uses a verb in the indicative:
Mi mamá se empeña en ir al teatro.
My mom insists on going to the theater.
Yo me empeño en estudiar.
I'm determined to study.
When someone is determined to do something, it usually follows that the person will take some action, right? Well, in Spanish there's also an idiomatic expression for that:

Por favor, por favor, Padre Manuel. Usted tiene que tomar cartas en ese asunto
Please, please, Father Manuel. You have to take action in that matter
Caption 9, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 3

Maybe the origin of this phrase goes back to a time when many matters were solved by writing cartas (letters)! Surely, it took a long time to solve problems back then. Which reminds us of another expression that calls for patience and perseverance: a la larga (in the long run):

todo se arreglará a la larga
everything will be OK in the long run
Caption 22, Club de las ideas - La motivación - Part 1

Some people, however, have no patience, and such delays would just drive them crazy. For that, there's a Spanish expression that is quite illustrative: sacar de las casillas (to drive someone crazy). The word casilla is used to designate, among other things, each of the squares found in a chess board or other type of board game. A loosely literal translation of the phrase could then be: "to get someone out of their place."

¡Sí, una que me saca de las casillas!
Yes, one that infuriates me!
Caption 59, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 4

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Using the Word "Sea" - Subjunctive | Verb Ser (to be)

The present subjunctive of the verb ser is the same in the first- and third-person singular: sea. This little word is used profusely in Spanish for the most varied purposes. Let's explore and learn a few.
The first person yo (I) uses sea. You can use it to express other people's wishes or expectations placed on you:
Quieres que [yo] sea cuidadosa
You want me to be cautious
or to deny hypothetic situations or conditions:
No es que yo sea mala...
It's not that I'm bad...
The third person (he, she, it) also uses sea. Here are examples using sea to talk about people (he, she). The tricky part is that Spanish usually gets rid of the pronouns él or ella, so you will only hear or see the verb sea.
No importa que sea morena, blanca, rubia o canela
It doesn't matter if she is dark-skinned, white, blonde or brown
Caption 52, Alberto Barros - Mano a mano - Part 1
¿Cómo me voy a andar fijando en él por más simpático, alto, caballero y bello que sea?
How am I going to go around thinking about him no matter how nice, tall, gentlemanly and handsome he might be?
Caption 75, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 11
It's the same when you use sea to, for example, talk about a poisonous mushroom:
Por tocarlo no pasa nada. Aunque sea mortal.
Nothing happens by touching it. Even though it's lethal.
Caption 115, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 11
However, the use of sea extends far beyond that in Spanish. Many idiomatic expressions use it. For example, the expression sea lo que is used to express fatalistic sentiments. Use this model phrase to learn it: sea + lo que dios mande (literally, let it be what God commands). Note that it uses subjunctive plus subjunctive:
Que sea lo que dios mande
Let it be God's will.
Of course, it's possible to get rid of the pronoun que (that) and combine the phrase with a different verb, like querer (to want):
Sea lo que Dios quiera.
Let it be God's will.
Caption 8, Baile Folklórico de Puerto Rico - Los Bailarines

But there's also the expression sea lo que sea, literally meaning "let it be whatever it might be," or more simply put: "whatever it may be."
Sea lo que sea, quiero saber la verdad.
I want to know the truth, whatever that may be.

The shorter expression lo que sea (whatever) is even more common:
No es solamente utilizar una moneda local o lo que sea
It's not just to use a local coin or whatever
Caption 67, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 4
...sea hombre, mujer, o lo que sea.
...whether it's a man, a woman or whatever.
Caption 60, Arume - Barcelona - Part 1
The clause para que sea (for it to be, so that it is) is also a great addition to your Spanish vocabulary:
Entonces, para que sea una sorpresa también.
So, for it to be a surprise also.
Caption 12, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 10
Para que sea más fácil, le cortáis por la mitad.
So that it is easier, you cut it in half.
Caption 49, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 3

Finally, don't forget the expression o sea (I mean, meaning):
¡O sea, esto es más de lo que cualquier chica popular puede soportar!
I mean, this is more than any popular girl could bear!
Caption 1, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 4

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Uses of "como"

The Spanish word como (and adverb but also a conjunction) has many different meanings. Let's explore a few examples to learn how to properly use it.
Generally speaking, the adverb como has a comparative meaning. You can use it with the verb ser (to be) to compare things, people, actions, etc. There are different ways in which this como can be used, but it usually translates as "as" or "like."

Nadie como tú me llena
No one fulfills me like you
Caption 18, Michael Stuart - Me Siento Vivo - Part 1
Yo tenía cuidado de no pisarlas como tú me enseñaste.
I was careful not to step on them as you taught me.
Caption 33, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes - Part 1

But the adverb como can also mean “about” and be used to make an estimate, or approximation (which in a way is also a comparison).
For example, to estimate an amount of money:

Que esto ya cuesta como veinticinco soles. 
This alone already costs about twenty-five soles
Caption 35, Cocinas Peruanas - Short Film - Part 2

Or to estimate an amount of time:

Estos muslitos se van a tardar como unos quince, veinte minutos.
These little thighs are going to take about fifteen, twenty minutes.
Caption 14, Osos en la cocina - Pollo asiático - Part 1

On the other hand, as a conjunction, the word como has even more uses, equally interesting. For now, let's just study the most common ones: como meaning 'as" or "since" and como meaning "if."
When the conjunction como is used to establish an antecedent condition it means "as" or "since:"

Como ya les dije, el brazo está compuesto de unos espacios que se llaman trastes.
As I already told you, the neck is made up of some spaces which are called frets.
Caption 26, Lecciones de guitarra - Con Cristhian - Part 1
Y también como sos uruguaya,
And also since you are Uruguayan
Caption 62, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 7

The conjunction como can also be used in a conditional clause that translates as an if clause. It's used with subjunctive, it's not very common, and it's typically used to make threats or prevent people from doing or not doing something:

Como no vengas le digo todo a mamá.
If you don't come I'd tell mom everything.

Como no me hagas caso, lo pasarás mal
if you don't listen to me, there will be trouble

As you can see, this como is more commonly used in the negative form. And, by the way, it's just an alternative to using a si clause (which doesn't need the subjunctive):

Si no vienes le digo todo a mamá.
If you don't come I'll tell mom everything.
Si no me haces caso, lo pasarás mal
if you don't listen to me, there will be trouble

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