Spanish Lessons


Combining Parts of Speech IV

Let's continue studying phrases that combine prepositions, articles, and pronouns since these can be a source of confusion for Spanish learners. Take a look at Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here.
Check out the following quote from one of our most recent videos. In this clip teacher Carolina is discussing common mistakes that her students make, and says:

El primer caso del que les quiero hablar hoy es...
The first case I want to talk to you about today is...
Caption 7, Lecciones con Carolina - Errores comunes - Part 5

The phrase del que les is used frequently in Spanish, and has no direct translation in English. If we break this phrase down, we find that it literally means "of the which to you:" the contraction del (preposition de + article el), plus the relative pronoun que (which), and the personal pronoun les (to you). But in English, we don't really say things like "of the which to you." Instead, English uses a very different structure that requires an additional word: "about."
In fact, a more literal translation of the example would be something like: "The first case about which I want to talk to you today is." In Spanish, by the way, there's a similar construction that uses the phrase acerca de, which literally means "about." So in fact, you can also say the following:
El primer caso acerca del que les quiero hablar hoy es...
The first case about which I want to talk to you today is...
However, these expressions are a bit over complicated, both in Spanish and in English. In Spanish, it's better and more straightforward to simply use the preposition de (of, from) combined with the appropriate articles and pronouns, which must agree with the nouns they refer to in both number and gender. For example:

El tipo del que les hablo nunca más apareció;
The guy about whom I speak to you never again showed up
Caption 5,  ChocQuibTown - Oro

So, if you are talking about a noun that is both singular and masculine, like el caso (the case) or el tipo (the guy), you need to use del, that is de + el (the). Let's now see an example with a plural noun like artistas (artists), that needs de + los (or de + las if we were talking about female artists):

Pintó junto a grandes artistas de los que aprendió casi todo.
He painted alongside great artists from whom he learned almost everything.
Caption 15, Europa Abierta - Alejandro Hermann - El arte de pintar

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Phrases with Lo

The Spanish word lo can be used as a subject pronoun, an object pronoun or a definite article. We have several lessons on the topic, which you can read by clicking hereLo is a very useful word, and there're many common phrases that use this particle. Let's study some examples. 

The phrase por lo tanto means "as a result" or "therefore"

Este puerro, no lo he limpiado previamente, por lo tanto, vamos a limpiarlo.
This leek, I haven't cleaned it previously, therefore, we are going to clean it.
Caption 55, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 2

The phrase por lo pronto means "for now" or "for the time being"

...y yo por lo pronto pienso avisarle a toda la familia.
...and I for the time being plan to let the whole family know.
Caption 18, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 11

The phrase por lo visto means "apparently"

Por lo visto fue en una perfumería.
Apparently it was in a perfume shop.
Caption 42, Yago - 12 Fianza - Part 6

The phrase por lo general is equivalent to the adverb generalmente. It means "generally"

Pero por lo general encontramos sistemas de alarmas
But generally we find alarm systems
Caption 13, Los Reporteros - Crecen los robos en tiendas - Part 3

The phrase a lo largo de means "throughout"

al menos va cambiando a lo largo de las estaciones.
But generally we find alarm systems
Caption 10, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 1

While a lo lejos means "at a distance" or "in the distance"

El cielo está nublado y a lo lejos tú hablando de lo que te ha pasado
The sky is cloudy and in the distance you speaking of what has happened to you
Caption5-6, Christhian canta - Hombres G - Temblando

In fact, you can add the phrase a lo to certain adjetives to talk about the way something is being done or someone is doing something. For example, a lo loco means "like crazy." 


Yo echo un poco de pintura ahí a lo loco
I put a bit of paint there like crazy [spontaneously] 
Caption 92-93, Zoraida en Coro - El pintor Yepez

Another common example is a lo tonto (like a dumb, in a dumb way, for nothing). 

Hazlo bien. No lo hagas a lo tonto.
Do it right. Don't do it foolishly.

¿Para qué esforzarse a lo tonto?
Why go to all that trouble for nothing?

This phrase always uses the neutral singular form of the adjective. Even if you are talking to a girl or a group of people, you will always use the same. For example:

Lucía siempre se enamora a lo tonto del primer hombre que cruza su camino.
Lucia always falls in love inanely with the first man that crosses her path.

In Mexico, you will also hear the expression al ahí se va (literally, "in a there-it-goes way"). It means to do things without care, plan, or thinking. This is pronounced quite fast, by the way, almost as a single word. Translations vary: 

Completé el examen al ahí se va porque no estudié.
I completed the exam with mediocrity because I didn't study.

Tienen más hijos al ahí se va y sin planear en el futuro.
They have more kids without thinking and planning for the future.

Finally, there's the expression a la buena [voluntad] de dios (leaving it to God's goodwill). You may find it in phrases involving the idea of entrusting what you do to God, but it's more commonly used to express that something is done rather haphazardly, without care, skill, effort and or plan.

El aeropuerto se construyó a la buena de Dios.
The airport was built haphazardly.

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Vocabulary for the Holidays

Christmas is a very important celebration in all Spanish-speaking countries. Let's review vocabulary related to this Holiday.

One of the most endearing traditions for Christmas in the Hispanic world is the installation of nativity scenes at home or in public places. They are called belenes or nacimientos:

Lo más tradicional además del turrón, el champán y los Reyes Magos, es montar el belén en casa.
The most traditional [thing] besides nougat candy, champagne and the Three Wise Men, is to put up a Nativity scene at home.
Caption 49, Europa Abierta - Joaquín Pérez - Escultor de belenes

Another important tradition are villancicos which are the Spanish equivalent of Christmas carols. Lida and Cleer sing for us one of the most popular villancicos, El burrito de Belén (The Little Donkey from Bethlehem) also known as "El burrito sabanero" (The Little Donkey from the Savannah):

Con mi burrito sabanero voy camino de Belén
With my little savanna donkey I'm heading to Bethlehem
Caption 42, Lida y Cleer - Buñuelos

You may want to learn a few villancicos if you happen to be in a Spanish speaking country around Christmas. Just in case you get invited to a Posada. The word posada means "lodging" or "accommodation." traditionally, posadas are neighborhood celebrations held during the nine days preceding Christmas. They have a religious nature and involve participating in a communal re-enactment of the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem who, according to legend, had to go door-by-door pidiendo posada (asking for a place to stay). These celebrations also involve praying, sharing food, and breaking a piñata in the shape of a Christmas star. By extension, the word posada also means "Christmas party" in many Latin American countries. For example, you can get invited to la posada de la oficina (the office Christmas party) or la posada del club de ajedrez (the chess club Christmas party). 

Another important word for the Holidays is the word aguinaldo ("thirteen salary" or "Christmas bonus"):

¿Y... le han dado todos sus reglamentos de vacaciones, aguinaldo, todo eso?
And... have they given you all your statutory vacations, annual complementary salary, all that?
Caption 19, Doña Coco - La Vida De Una Cocinera

Día de Reyes or día de los Reyes Magos (day of the three Wise Men) is another popular Christmas celebration in many Spanish-speaking countries. Sometimes people just call it Reyes (Kings). In Mexico this day marks the end of the so-called Guadalupe-Reyes marathon of winter festivities.

Y en los Reyes, va a venir aquí con tus niños.
And at Epiphany, she is going to come here with your children.
Caption 49, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 9
Finally, there's an important distinction to make. The Spanish word for Christmas is Navidad, while the equivalent of Christmas eve is called Nochebuena (Literally, "the Good Night").

Ha pasado otra Nochebuena solo, encerrado. -No, no.
You have spent another Christmas Eve alone, locked inside. -No, no.
Caption 17, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 2

Nochebuena is also one of the names given to the poinsettias flowerwhich is indigenous to Mexico and it's widely used in Christmas floral displays all around the world. 

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A note on Día de muertos

In recent years, the Mexican celebration known as Día de muertos (Day of the Dead) has gained considerable popularity. The recent release of Coco, a Pixar animated movie inspired by this tradition that has been heavily marketed for Thanksgiving 2017, will likely consolidate the place of this holiday in the mainstream for many years to come.
Día de muertos is mostly aimed at honoring and remembering friends and family members who have died. In Mexico, Día de Muertos  — largely celebrated Nov. 1 and 2 — is a syncretic holiday that goes back thousands of years to some pre-Hispanic civilizations including the Olmec, Zapotec, and Maya, but that is also intertwined with Catholic traditions brought in during the Conquest. For this reason, the celebration has both religious and cultural tones, and many regional variants only inside the Mexican territory! For example, people from the state of Michoacan call this celebration Animecha Kejtzitaka (the night of the dead) following indigenous Purepecha traditions, while Mayan people in Yucatan call it Janal Pixan (the food of the dead), a communal festival that lasts several days.
Don Salo, an artisan from Yucatan, talks to us about Janal Pixan:

Aquí se le llama Janal Pixan. En maya es "comida para difuntos".
Here it's called Janal Pixan. In Mayan means "food for the deceased.
Caption 68, Yabla en Yucatán - Don Salo - Part 2

He even mentions Xibalba, the name of the underworld in K'iche' Maya mythology:

y sucumbía en esta vida, para pasar al Xibalba, al inframundo,
and succumbed in this life, to go on to the Xibalba, to the underworld,
Caption 28, Yabla en Yucatán - Don Salo - Part 2

Nowadays the Día de muertos celebration in Mexico is still deeply rooted in religious practices, but it has also evolved into an important secular holiday, with distinctive elements and practices that are shared across the whole country and some US southern regions at least since the year 1900. One of these elements is el altar de muertos or la ofrenda de muertos(the offering to the dead), which is set up to honor the memory of a deceased person. Some of the most common elements that you will find in a Mexican altar de muertos are: papel picado (decorative pierced paper), marigolds, sugar skulls, candles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), salt, water, and traditional food.

Our friend Meli shares a very contemporary take on Día de muertos while showing us how to make papel picado:

El papel picado es un producto artesanal, ornamental de papel,
The "papel picado" is an artisan ornamental product made out of paper,
Caption 46, Manos a la obra - Papel picado para Día de muertos
Meli is also aware that different people in Mexico have different Día de muertos traditions, an important thing a language learner interested in this cultural celebration must remember:

En algunos lugares de México las personas pasan parte de la noche en el panteón.
In some places in Mexico people spend part of the night at the cemetery.
Caption 54-55, Manos a la obra - Papel picado para Día de muertos
By the way, the words panteón (from Greek pantheon), cementerio, and camposanto all mean "cemetery" and they are all very common in Mexico. Many other words like tumba (tomb), sepultura (entombment), enterramiento (burial), etc. are also used to talk about the death... and joke about it. One such expression is levantar al muerto (to raise the dead) which literally means "to resuscitate" but it's also commonly used to refer to hangovers:

unos buenos chilaquiles levantan al muerto más muerto.
some good chilaquiles raise the deadest of the dead (cure the worst hangover).
Caption 23, Tatiana y su cocina - Chilaquiles

Keep in mind that, even though the Mexican Día de muertos is the most well-known rendition of this holiday, this celebration is also important in many other Spanish speaking countries, each with its own particularities. Our friend Julia, for example, tells us that in Ecuador people customarily drink colada de mora (blackberry smoothie) for Día de muertos:
y que en Ecuador y en otros países se la toma el dos de noviembre de todos los años, el Día de los Muertos.
and that in Ecuador and in other countries is consumed on November second every year, the Day of the Dead.
Caption 53, Otavalo, Ecuador - Conozcamos el Mundo de las Frutas con Julia
Have you witnessed a Día de muertos celebration while traveling in a Spanish speaking country? Share your stories with us on twitter @yabla and send your topic suggestions to

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Uses of ya Part 2

Let's continue studying examples of the use of the Spanish word ya.

Used emphatically, ya is equivalent to para (stop) and basta (enough):

Ya, ya, ya, para, para, para, para, para, para. -¿Ya?
Enough, enough, enough, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. -Already?
Caption 35, Yago - 7 Encuentros - Part 11

But also to "now," "go," or "start":

A partir de este momento comienza la prueba. Ya. -¡Ya!
From this moment the test begins. Now. -Now!
Caption 39, Misión Chef - 2 - Pruebas - Part 6

Or something similar to "that's it":

Pues, ya.
Well, that's it.
Caption 104, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 9

Ya is also a short answer meaning "yes," "right," "agreed." It may be the case that this use originated from common phrases like ya entiendo (I understand [already]) and  ya veo (I see [now]):

Mira que hasta en la forma de... de ejecutarlo varía mucho. -Ya.
Notice that, even the manner of... of playing it varies a lot. -Yeah.
Caption 1, Festivaliando - Mono Núñez - Part 5

Sí, ya veo.
Yes, I see.
Caption 77, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 11

Ya can also mean "since" when combined with the pronoun que:

ya que es muy pequeña y por... tener dos océanos,
since it is very small and due to... having two oceans,
Caption 39, World Travel Market" en Londres - María nos habla de Guatemala

But also "once" or "now that":

Ya que tenemos todo dentro de la licuadora,
Once we have everything inside of the blender,
Caption 26, Osos en la cocina - Carne asada

Ya mismo  means  "right now" 

¿Está bien? -Esperando, ya mismo vamos a las castañas.
Are you OK? -Waiting, right now we're going to the chestnuts.
Caption 11, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 4

Ya está is a common phrase meaning "it's ready" but it can also be used as "that's it":

se pone en la caja y ya está.
it's put into the box and that's it
Caption 86, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 16


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Uses of ya Part 1

The shortest adverb in Spanish, the word ya derives from the Latin iam, which is also the origin of the Portuguese , French déjà, and Italian giàIam also originated another Spanish adverb: jamás ("never," iam + magis).

But the use of the word ya in Spanish has evolved beyond its function as an adverb of time meaning “already.” Nowadays, ya can be used as a conjunction, an interjection, a different type of adverb, or even as part of idiomatic phrases. It's actually a very popular word! Let's see a few examples.

First, let's see an example where ya simply means "already":

Ya tenemos listo aquí nuestro pollo.
We already have our chicken ready here.
Caption 17, Osos en la cocina - Pollo asiático

One interesting usage of the word ya is as a conjunción distributiva (the equivalent in English are correlative conjunctions)The classic way to do so is by repeating the word ya before each option in a given list of items, for example: Ya con alegría, ya con tristeza (whether with happiness, whether with sorrow). However, this is a little bit too poetic for everyday speech, so you would find that people substitute the second ya with a more common conjunction, the disjunctive o (or). For example:

...ya sea en ayunas o luego de haber comido algo.
...whether fasting or after having eaten something.
Caption 12, Los médicos explican - La diabetes

You may have noticed the use of the verb sea, subjunctive of the verb ser (to be). This combination is very common, so you may want to add ya sea (whether it be) as a single expression in your vocabulary. Take note that sea can be omitted too in Spanish, so you can say: ya en ayunaso luego de haber comido.

Another common use of ya is when it's combined with the conditional si (if). It may translate as "already" in some cases:

Si ya estás instalado en Barcelona...
If you are already settled in Barcelona...
Caption 63, Blanca - Cómo moverse en Barcelona

Or as "now":
Si ya no nos queda nada porque luchar
If now there is nothing left for us to fight for

Or as "anymore":

Si ya no me quieres...
If you don't love me anymore...

Ya meaning "not anymore" is always accompanied by negation, of course. Ya no (“no more,” sometimes also translated as “enough”) is a very common expression too, definitely worth adding to your lexicon.

Los medicamentos caducados o que ya no vayas a necesitar...
Expired medications or [ones] that you are not going to need anymore...
Caption 69, 3R - Campaña de reciclaje - Part 2

Here's another one, with a little extra (the idiom hacer caso means "to pay attention"):

Lo que pasa es que ya no le hago caso.
The thing is that I don't pay attention to him anymore.
Caption 50, Guillermina y Candelario - El parque de diversiones - Part 1

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Toco madera

All cultures and languages have expressions about good and bad luck so it's not surprising to find similar phrases in different languages. Let's take a look at some Spanish expressions used to express good and :( bad wishes and talk about fortune in general.
The best and most common way to wish luck in Spanish is simply that: desear suerte (to wish luck). You can say: te deseo buena suerte (I wish you good luck) or omit the adjective buena(good) and simply say te deseo suerte (I wish you luck). In the following example, the Mother Superior is addressing Father Manuel formally, and that's why she uses the pronoun le instead of te. 

Muy bien, le deseo suerte.
Very well, I wish you luck.
Caption 22, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 11

You can also omit the verb desear:

OK, buena suerte al aprender español.
Okay, good luck learning Spanish.
Caption 29, Cabarete - Escuela de trapecio

Or omit both verb and adjective and emphatically say just ¡suerte!:

Good luck!
Caption 4, Frutería "Los Mangos" - Vendiendo Frutas

Other common expressions are ¡Qué buena suerte! (How lucky!) and ¡Qué mala suerte! (How unlucky!). It's also common to just say ¡Qué suerte! (literally "Such luck!"); whether the person is referring to bad or good luck is left to be inferred from the context.

¡Qué suerte encontrar a Gustavo!
How lucky to find Gustavo!
Caption 46, Eljuri - "Fuerte" EPK - Part 1

Now, we wouldn't like to be the ones teaching you how to wish bad luck. Besides, apart from expressions that involve the verb maldecir (to curse), it would basically consist of substituting the adjective buena (good) with mala (bad). For example, te deseo mala suertemeans “I wish you bad luck.” Guess bad-luck-wishers are less creative than good-luck-wishers!
But there's an expression about bad luck that’s very common, and very superstitious in nature: echar la sal (literally, "to throw salt at," to jinx). So you would say ¡No me eches la sal! (Don't jinx me!), or Lucía me echó la sal y por eso me caí (Lucía jinxed me and that's why I fell). We don't have an example yet of this particular expression in our catalog of videos, but we have something even more interesting. The belief that salt is associated with bad luck is a widespread superstition in many cultures, Spanish- and English-speaking cultures included, of course. According to this superstition, spilling salt is bad luck and throwing a pinch over your shoulder reverses that bad luck, right? Have you ever seen a chef doing this? If you haven't, check out our chef Tatiana, who is very much into magic thought, when she is preparing her salsa:

Preparamos una super salsa.
We make a great salsa.
Caption 25, Tatiana y su cocina - Chilaquiles

Finally, if you prefer more linguistic ways of protecting yourself from bad luck, there's the expression tocar madera (knock on wood). You need to conjugate the verb to use it properly. Here's a made-up example, along with several other colorful Spanish expressions all put together, to contribute to your research on the topic of bad luck versus good luck.
¿Y si te resbalas? Sería muy mala pata, ¿no?
And if you slip? That would be really unlucky, no?
¡Cállate, no me salesToco madera.
Shut up, don't jinx meKnock on wood!
¡Qué la boca se te haga chicharrón!
 I hope it won't happen! (Literally, "May your mouth turn into a pork rind!")

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Que Used in Common Phrases - Tener que

The Spanish word que: how can such a tiny word be so complicated? A pronoun that translates as "who," "which," "whom," and "that." A conjunction that translates as "that," "then," "so," "if," or even "of" and has many other uses that simply don't have a direct translation in English. How should we tackle the topic? Maybe let's start with some useful common phrases, the most popular ones that use this tiny word, and take it from there.
The word que is combined with certain verbs very often. For example, with the verb tener (to have). Tener que is used to express a necessity or an imperative, or simply put, that something must be done.

Tienes que trabajar sábado y domingo.
You have to work Saturday and Sunday.
Caption 36, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 19

You have to learn how to conjugate the verb tener, of course. You would find this expression more frequently in the indicative mood, like in the example above, but you can also find it in the subjunctive:

Es posible que tenga que quedarme algún día más en Barcelona.
It's possible that I may have to stay one more day in Barcelona.
Caption 52, Raquel - La Compra de un Billete de Tren - Part 1

But be careful, there's an idiomatic expression that uses the same construction, always combined with the verb ver (to see) and the preposition con (with). Tener que ver con (literally "to have to see with”) is used to establish a relationship or connection. Most of the time this expression is preceded by another que (meaning "that"). We have a lesson on this topic, but let's analyze additional examples:

Espero que por favor practiquen todo lo que tiene que ver con conjunciones disyuntivas y copulativas.
I hope that you please practice everything that has to do with disjunctive and copulative conjunctions.
Caption 45, Lecciones con Carolina - Conjunciones copulativas - Part 1

Keep in mind that it is also possible to use the verb ver (to see, to look) combined with tener que to simply express a necessity (literally "to have to see") and not as an idiom:

y, eh... también tengo que ver el tráfico del sitio.
and, um... I also have to look at the site's traffic.
Caption 53, Carlos Quintana - Guía de musica latina - Part 1

Note that, in this case, you won't use the preposition con (with). If you were to add it, then you would be using the idiom tener que ver con (to have to do with). Tengo que ver con el tráfico del sitio means "I have something to do with the site's traffic."
And there's another idiom that may get in your way here. You can also use tener que ver con meaning "to have to deal with something." The expression is not very common because we also have the verbs enfrentar (to face) and lidiar (to deal), but here's an example:

ahora tengo que... tengo que ver con las consecuencias.
now I have to... I have to deal with the consequences.
Caption 27, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 7

From this idiom comes a threatening expression: te las tendrás que ver con... (you will have to deal with...). For example: Si lastimas a Jenny te las tendrás que ver conmigo (if you hurt Jenny you will have to deal with me). Keep in mind that Spanish allows for a playful use of the relative pronouns, so you can also say: Si lastimas a Jenny tendrás que vértelas conmigo, which is actually more common.
¡Esta lección tuvo que ver solamente con una frase que combina '”que”con el verbo “tener”!
This lesson was only about one phrase that combines “que” with the verb “to have”!
We'll explore more phrases in future lessons. Stay tuned! Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to

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Emergency Words

Let's learn some Spanish vocabulary related to emergency situations. We really hope you never find yourself needing to use these words, but it’s not a bad idea to keep them on hand.  
Some of the most well-known emergency words in Spanish are ayuda and auxilio:

¡Uy, auxilio! ¡Callen a ese gallo!
Oh, help! Shut up that rooster!
Caption 12, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 9

The word socorro is less known:

Help! Get me out!
Caption 2, Yago - 2 El puma - Part 7

Remember that being able to cry for help is just as important as remaining calm:

Cálmate, Yas. Para que te tranquilices, te voy a regalar un poquito del agua.
Calm down, Yas. So that you calm down, I am going to give you a little bit of the water.
Caption 19-21, Kikirikí - Agua - Part 2

Lately, the world has seen many natural disasters, especially massive hurricanes and earthquakes. You have to know what to do if you hear the phrase alerta de followed by the word huracán or ciclón (hurricane), or terremoto or sismo (earthquake):

En plena tormenta cuando va a entrar un huracán...
In the middle of the storm when a hurricane is coming...
Caption 17, Antonio Vargas - Artista - Comic - Part 1

El terremoto destruyó muchas casas.
The earthquake destroyed many houses.
Caption 18, Lecciones con Carolina - La voz pasiva

Maybe you'll need to go to an albergue or refugio (shelter):

Los tenemos en el albergue.
We have them at the shelter.
Caption 29, Otavalo, Ecuador - Patrulla Amigo Fiel - Salvemos a los perros callejeros

Mieke y su hija viven en Amsterdam y acaban de llegar al refugio.
Mieke and her daughter live in Amsterdam and they have just arrived to the shelter.
Caption 7, Reporteros - Caza con Galgo

Certain phrases are very helpful in case of an emergency, for example, to call for medical help:

Alguien que llame a una ambulancia, por favor.
Someone should call an ambulance, please.
Caption 54, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 6

Me duele (it hurts) is vital:

Gün, me duele la cabeza mucho.
Gün, my head hurts badly.
Caption 61, Escuela Don Quijote - En el aula

As is the phrase he tenido un accidente (I've had an accident):

Para que no tengamos ningún accidente...
So that we don't have any accident...
Caption 58, Adícora - Venezuela - Darío y el Kitesurfing

Can you think of other emergency words that you would like to learn?

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Tres verbos amigos

The basic meaning of the verbs aplastar and aplanar is "to flatten." You will hear many Spanish speakers using these as synonyms, though aplastar is way more common. There's a subtle difference, however, between these two verbs, since aplastar may imply a more drastic action and is sometimes better translated as "to crush," while aplanar involves a more controlled and careful activity. So, for example, you want to say aplasté a la cucaracha (I crushed the cockroach) rather than aplané a la cucaracha (I flattened the cockroach), right? In a similar (but less icky) way, our friend Meli prefers to use aplanar when giving instructions for her crafty projects:

Y aplanas para que quede uniforme.
And you flatten it so that it's even.
Caption 25, Manos a la obra - Postres de Minecraft

The following example is enlightening, for it shows how aplastar may be okay for smashed potatoes but not for picatostes (croutons):

Cuando le das con el cuchillo se aplasta.
When you stick it with the knife, it flattens out.
Caption 96, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 4

As we mentioned before, aplastar is more frequently used than aplanar, especially when used figuratively, and so you can find several videos using aplastar in our catalog. Here's one example:

...y no dejándose aplastar por el poder del día.
...and not letting the power of the day crush you.
Caption 26, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña - Part 1

But there's a third verb that is close to aplastar and aplanar. It's a funny-sounding word (and one with a very polemic etymology by the way: here's a good article about it) that's perfect for crushing gooey, crunchy bugs because its sound is actually reminiscent of squeezing/smashing. We are talking about the verb apachurrar (to smash, to crush). A purist would say that Meli is not being extremely precise with language by using apachurrar in the context of making crafts:

Ya que tenemos una esferita como ésta, la vamos a apachurrar.
Now that we have a little sphere like this one, we are going to press it down.
Caption 41-42, Manos a la obra - Borradores y marcatextos

You can see that she actually pressed down the little sphere quite gently, so maybe using aplanar or even aplastar would have been more accurate to describe what she is doing. But hey, who wouldn’t want to say apachurrar when you have mastered rolling your R's as nicely as she has!
You may have noticed that all three verbs, aplanaraplastar, and apachurrar, start with the prefix a-. This is because they belong to a group of Spanish verbs (verbos parasintéticos) that are created by adding the prefix a- or en- to nominal or adjectival forms. Some common examples are enamorar ("to fall in love" or "to inspire love"), apasionar (to be passionate about), encarcelar (to incarcerate) and atemorizar (to frighten). One verb in this group is alisar (to make smooth or straight), which has some resemblance in meaning to the verbs aplanar, aplastar, and apachurrar:

Además me acabo de... de alisar el cabello.
Besides I just finished... straightening my hair.
Caption 44, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 6

This is the end of this lesson. But ¡no te apachurres, no te aplanes, no te aplastes! ("Don't get depressed," get it?) We have many more lessons on the site!

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Back to School Vocabulary

Summer is almost over (well, if you live in the northern hemisphere) and after tanning under the sun, enjoying lazy afternoons, lots of oversleeping and all sorts of binging, it's time to get back to work. For many of us that means going back to school. Time to get up early, grab textbooks, check schedules, study for exams, and learn more Spanish.
So let's explore some school-related vocabulary that may not be that new to you, but that you may need to refresh a little, desempolvar tus conocimientos (literally "to dust off your knowledge") as the Spanish expression goes.
School supplies are first on the list:

Como presidente, López Obrador entregará libros y útiles escolares gratuitos
As president, López Obrador will provide free books and school supplies
Caption 3, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - Útiles

Do you know what the first three levels of education are called in Spanish?

a todos los alumnos de preescolarprimaria y secundaria.
to all pre-school, elementary and high-school students.
Caption 4, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - Útiles

Actually, things are are little bit more confusing than that. In some countries secundaria is called bachillerato, liceo, or educación media. High school, on the other hand, is called preparatoria or bachillerato in Mexico and educación secundaria or colegio in Spain, but in other Latin American countries, it could be secundariabachillerato, preparatoria, or educación media.

Me levanto y me llevo a los niños al colegio.
I get up and take the kids to school.
Caption 60, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 17

Colegio never means "college." In most Spanish-speaking countries colegio simply means "elementary school," and it's sometimes abbreviated as cole. In Mexico, colegio tends to be used for private elementary schools. The word for "college" in Spanish is universidad, a "college student" is a universitario or estudiante de universidad, and a "college degree" is called a título universitario:

El veinte por ciento de los universitarios...
Twenty percent of the college students...
Caption 3, Europa Abierta - Bruselas impulsa estudios en el extranjero

If you want to know how school life is in Latin America, we strongly recommend you start watching our new series Los Años maravillosos. It's full of interesting situations and great vocabulary. Bet you don't know what a pupitre is:

...cuando compartiéramos el pupitre con niñas.
...when we shared the desk with girls.
Caption 12, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1 - Part 4

Pupitre (borrowed from Latin pulpitumis only used for a special type of student's desk. In a school context, escritorios (desks) are usually for the teachers.
Anxieties about el primer día de escuela (the first day of school) seem to be universal:

Soñé que llegaba al colegio y estaba sin ropa.
I dreamed that I arrived to school and I was [there] with no clothes.
Caption 27, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1 - Part 4


You can learn many other school words by watching this series and other videos in our catalog. Some examples are mochila (backpack), cuaderno (notebook), calificaciones (grades), and the super fun sacapuntas (pencil sharpener, but literally "spike maker"). We'll leave you with an interesting example: tiza (chalk). Why is tiza so interesting? Because it comes from a Mexican language, the Nahuatl "tizatl" ("white clay"). Tiza is what everybody calls a piece of chalk in all the Spanish-speaking countries.... except for Mexico, where chalk is known as gis, a word that is closer to "gesso" and "gypsus." The word tiza in Mexico is only used to refer to "billiard chalk"!

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Cuál versus Qué

The use of the interrogative pronouns qué (what) and cuál (which) in Spanish can sometimes be confusing for English speakers. There are certain rules about the proper use of these words, but, as usual, sometimes grammar doesn't quite catch up with how things work in the real world. Our best advice is always to listen more and practice more. So let's see some examples of how questions with qué (what) and cuál (which) are used in real context!

Generally speaking you can say that cuál (which) is used to ask about the identity of a person or a thing in a group. Cuál is a question about choice. The pronoun qué is for questions about identity as well, but it's used in direct questions rather than in ones that involve making a choice. Here's an example where the question cuál (which) is used before a verb:

¿Pero cuál es el peor trabajo?
But which is the worst job?
Caption 40, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 8

It would be really odd to hear someone saying ¿Qué es el mejor trabajo? It's rare, but possible, because making this substitution alters the meaning of the question completely. It's easier to understand the distinction if we compare what kind of answer these two questions would likely get:

¿Pero cuál es el peor trabajo? / But which is the worst job?
El peor trabajo es el de recogedor de basura. / The worst job is that of a garbage hauler.

¿Pero qué es el peor trabajo? / But what is the worst job?
-El peor trabajo es el menos deseable. / The worst job is the least desirable.

Now, let's check the following example. Here cuál is used before 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

This is a great example, because when used before a noun, cuál is equivalent to qué. So the following is also correct:

¿Pero qué juego les gusta más?
But which attraction do you like the most?

We believe it's actually better to see it the other way around: sometimes qué (what) is also used to ask about choices. It happens in English as well, right?

¿Qué color te gustaría?
What color would you like?
Caption 50, Raquel y Marisa - Agente del concesionario

But most of the time it's just not right to use qué to ask about choices. Let's see an interesting phenomenon. In Spanish, you can use the preposition de (of) to introduce a group of things from which to pick a choice. And you can use cuál (which) before this preposition:

¿Cuál de esos países te gustó más?
Which one of those countries did you like most?
Caption 86, Entrevista a Cleer - Hobbies - Part 1

You can also use qué (what) before de (of), but then you wouldn't be asking someone to pick a favorite country from a list of countries (the ones the other person visited), you would be asking something else: 

¿Qué de esos países te gusto más? 
What [aspect] of those countries did you like the most?

It's very useful to imagine possible answers to both questions:

¿Cuál de esos países te gustó más? Which one of those countries did you like most?
Italia y Francia. / Italy and France.

¿Qué de esos países te gustó más? What aspect of those countries did you like most?
Su rica cultura y deliciosa comida. / Their rich culture and delicious food. 

But, if you place the preposition de (of) before and not after qué or cuál, you can again use them as equivalents! Why? Because now they are both right before a noun.

¿De qué sabor quieres? = ¿De cuál sabor quieres?
What flavor do you want? = Which flavor do you want?

We'll continue to explore the use of cuál (which) and qué (what) in future lessons. 

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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 to indicate the beginning and progression of an action, for example:

¡Excelente! Voy planeando el evento.
Excellent! I'm starting to plan 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 often 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 are 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 studying 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

Poco a poco los irás descubriendo todos.
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 not only as the auxiliary conjugated verb but also for 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 role sinalefas play in the way Spanish is spoken. In this third and last part of the series we will analyze cases where it's not possible to form sinalefas. Click if you'd like a refresher on Part 1 or Part 2 of this series.

In Part 2, we talked about certain conditions that must occur for speakers to form sinalefas and thus 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—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. In each of these cases they words are supposed to be pronounced separately.

At this point, it's important to note that when we say 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 speaker pronouncing pequeño huerto 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 go from open to less open vowels such as aeioei, and eei (we learned about this in Part 2 of this lesson) when the middle e corresponds 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), or anda e investiga (go and investigate) altogether as single words. You can make the sinalefa and pronounce the words together 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 observed by the speaker in the following example, who 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 any point to learning about when a sinalefa can and can't be formed? The answer is yes, because these rules were actually modeled to reflect the phonetic composition of speech. Most of the time, the way people speak does conform to rules (it's just easier to notice when it doesn't). For example, the reason 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, phonetic realities reflect how speech is actually performed by speakers most of the time and not vice versa. If you see the big picture, historically speech has modeled textbook rules and not the other way around.

We leave you with an interesting example of a speaker making what seems a weird ayhie (basically aiie or even aiesinalefa by pronouncing 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 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 - Part 1

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, trailing just slightly 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 to 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 were 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 sinalefa in 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 73, 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 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?

Y 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 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 functions of this type of phrase is to connect simple sentences to transform them into more complex utterances, thus allowing a speaker to participate in real conversations. Take a look at Part 1 of the series here and Part 2 here.
Today, we'll 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, as in the following example:

¿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

The focus of our lesson today, the pronoun cual/cuales (without the accent mark) is not used to ask questions. Rather, it's 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've transcribed 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 2-3, 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 that 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

You can find many other combinations 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, though 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 always 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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