Spanish Lessons


Radicarse: To Relocate Yourself

Eso fue cuando hicimos Inconquistable Corazón que yo ya tenía que radicarme acá.

That was when we did Unconquerable Heart and I really had to settle here.

Captions 49-50, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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The verb radicar can mean "to be situated/located (in)," and so what Natalia is saying in the quote above is:
"This was when we did 'Inconquistable Corazón' that I had to settle here."


Bueno, yo llegué a... a radicar a Holbox del Estado de Morelos, pero ahora ya me siento Holboxeño.

Well, I came to... to settle down in Holbox from the State of Morelos, but now I feel Holboxian.

Captions 7-8, Yabla en Yucatán - Jorge

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Con la crisis económico, me tuve que radicar en España.
Given the economic crisis, I had to relocate to Spain.


Pero hace diez años sí, ya nos radicamos en Buenos Aires.

But ten years ago we did establish ourselves in Buenos Aires.

Caption 13, Karamelo Santo - Goy

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Radicarse en otro pais es dificil.
To establish yourself in another country is difficult.


La belleza del ámbar mexicano radica en su gama de tonos.

The beauty of Mexican amber lies in its range of tones.

Caption 6, Sergio en Monterrey - El ámbar mexicano

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El problema radica en la falta de presupuesto para este sector.
The problem lies in the lack of budget for this area.


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Quejarse: To Complain

¡Y además te quejas!

And still, you're complaining!

Caption 7, Tu Rock es Votar - Comercial de TV

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Quejarse is a verb meaning "to complain," so we translate the above phrase directed at Mexico's voters as:
"And still you're complaining!"


Así que no puedo quejarme.

So I can't complain.

Caption 33, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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Similarly, the affable Federico Kauffman Doig uses quejarme when he states "So I can't complain."

On a related note, you won't be surprised to learn, if you didn't yet know it;
una queja is "a complaint."


Tengo que pedir el libro de reclamaciones y poner una queja.

I have to ask for the complaint log and make a complaint.

Caption 6, Raquel - El libro de reclamaciones

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Mañana misma pongo la queja.

Tomorrow I'll put in the complaint.

Caption 23, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2

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Cuando hace humedad, podemos escuchar a la gente quejándose por ello.

When it's humid, we can hear people complaining about it.

Captions 27-28, Clara explica - El tiempo

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The preposition following quejarse is often de.

Se queja de un dolor en el abdomen.
She complains of pain in the abdomen.

Se la pasa quejándose de que no tiene dinero.
She is always complaining about having no money.

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A ti: Emphasizing

A ti no te gustaría que te dijeran...

You wouldn't like it if they told you...

con quién tienes que andar.

who you have to hang out with.

Captions 1-2, Tu Rock es Votar - Comercial de TV

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As per our previous discussion of the verb gustar, the phrase above states:

"You wouldn’t like it if they told you who you have to hang out with."

But what does the addition of A ti at the beginning do for the phrase? It simply adds emphasis to the "you," the translation would be same even if it wasn't there.

[Side note: remember we
talked about
andar's various meanings outside of the obvious "to walk"? The phrase above demonstrates yet another, "to hang out / pal around."]


Él le hizo daño a mucha gente.

He did harm to many people.

-¿Qué daño te hizo a ti, mamá?

-What harm did he do to you, Mom?

Caption 11, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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Me gustas.
I like you.

A mi me gustas.
I like you. ("I" emphasized.)


A mí me gusta cambiar las sábanas cada semana.

I like to change the sheets every week. ("I" emphasized.)

Caption 21, Ana Carolina - Arreglando el dormitorio

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Besides adding emphasis, this type of construction can also clarify about whom you are talking.

Le gusta bailar.
He likes to dance.

A Juan le gusta bailar.
Juan likes to dance.

No mires a tu compañero, a ti te estoy preguntando.
Don't look at your buddy, I'm asking you.


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Labor, Trabajo: The Hard Worker's World

Este... Vamos a tratar de explicarles... este... la labor de la artesanía. Este... trabajo que llevamos acabo muchos jóvenes aquí en esta ciudad y...

We're going to try to explain... the... the work of crafts. This... work that many of us, young people carry out in this city and...

Captions 5-6, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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Nouns Labor (fem.) and trabajo (masc.) both mean "work" -- the opposite of retirement or rest. Venezuelan artisan Javier Marin uses the word interchangeably above to describe his subject: The work of local artisans, like himself, in the city of Coro, Venezuela.

Javier also uses the related verb trabajar ("to work") multiple times in his chat to describe how the work was done. Here, he talks about some of the materials they work with, such as glazed ceramic (el gres) and snail shells (los caracoles):


También trabajamos con el gres.

We also work with glazed ceramic.

Caption 26, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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También trabajamos un poco con lo que son este... las piezas del mar, los caracoles.

We also work a little bit with... parts of the sea, seashells.

Captions 54-55, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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When describing the employment history of his father, the verb trabajar pops up yet again. At this point in the video, Javier points to the building where his father worked in the '50s:


Mi padre antiguamente en los años cincuenta este... trabajó acá en este edificio.

Long time ago, in the fifties, my father... worked here in this building.

Captions 73-74, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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One line later, Javier employs the synonymous (though less common) verb laborar to describe what his dad's job was:


Laboró como telegrafista con el... con el código morse.

He worked as a telegrapher with the... with the morse code.

Captions 76-77, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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To buy time while thinking of synonyms for oft-repeated words, you'll note that Javier says este... a lot. It's a verbal tic repeated all over Latin America -- on TV talk shows and radio interviews, for example. Non-native speakers who have the habit of saying "um" over and over might want to replace their um's with "este..." if they hope to be mistaken for a native Spanish speaker. You simply can't say "um" in the middle of a Spanish sentence without someone figuring out that you're not speaking your mother tongue.

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Retirar: To Take Away and Other Uses

...retirándole recursos locales y retirándole autonomía alimentaria y productiva a los agricultores.

...taking away local resources and taking away alimentary and productive autonomy from the farmers.

Captions 5-6, De consumidor a persona - Short Film

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The verb retirar has an array of meanings. Often, it means "to take away" or "to remove." Here, in Part 4 of the stirring documentary De consumidor a persona, we learn how farmers are having both their local resources and autonomy in food production taken away by multinational corporations.

Note that retirar is derived from the verb tirar
("to pull"), mentioned in this space just
last week. As in English, the prefix re- can mean "back" in Spanish.

¿Puedo retirar el plato?," a waitress in a restaurant might ask you at the end of a meal, referring to your empty plate. If you say yes, she'll take your plate back to the kitchen.


Here we have another use of retirar in Yago, a TV series from Argentina:


Señor... Usted no puede estar acá, se tiene que retirar.

Sir... You can't be here, you have to leave.

Caption 9, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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At the same time, retirar can also mean "to retire" -- an English cognate that's easy enough to remember. But note that retirar's synonym jubilar is often used instead to describe the act of retiring from the workplace, as in Venezuelan Javier Marin's description of his dad's retirement:


Laboró como telegrafista con el... con el código morse y actualmente se encuentra jubilado.

He worked as a telegrapher with the... with the morse code and currently he's retired.

Captions 76-78, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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"Se encuentra jubilado," ("He's retired,") Javier explains in Part 1 of his chat with us about jewelry-making.


Coming to us from Spain, Constantino Cuenca tells us a little bit about his family's business:


Es una champiñonera tradicional que estableció mi suegro.

It's a traditional mushroom farm that my father-in-law established.

Y fue familiarmente. Y ya ahora claro pues, mi suegro ya se ha jubilado.

And already now of course well, my father-in-law already has retired.

Captions 6-8, La Champiñonera El cultivo de champiñón - Part 1

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"Retired people" are referred to as jubilados -- doesn't that sound like a happy state to be in? Yes, through shared Latin roots, jubilar is related to "jubilant" in English.


Macho, si sobreviven los jubilados, ¿no va a sobrevivir un pibe?

Dude, if the retirees survive, isn't a kid going to survive?

Caption 47, Yago - 7 Encuentros

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Volcar: Overturn and Other Uses

Hemos volcado nuestra experiencia, nuestros estudios, nuestras investigaciones, nuestros recorridos por selvas, por sitios difíciles a veces...

We have used our experience, our studies, our research, our journeys in the jungles, in difficult places, sometimes...

Captions 9-10, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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The verb volcar literally means "to overturn," "to dump," "to knock over," etc. It is, however, often used figuratively. In the example above, Señor Doig is talking about those things that he and his fellow archeologists have "used," or "drawn upon." "We have used our experience, our studies, our research, our journeys in the jungle..." The mental image that the use of volcar might create here is that they have figuratively "dumped out" all the things they've learned over the years onto a big table -- sorted through and arranged them -- using them to write their books.

Busca un trabajo en el que pueda volcar toda su creatividad.
She is looking for a job where she can exploit all her creativity.

Volcar can also me "to be engrossed in," or "to be devoted to."

Está completamente volcado a su trabajo.
He is completely devoted to.


Iker Casillas, de la mano de la ONG Plan, con la que colabora, se han volcado en conseguir toda la ayuda posible para Haití.

Iker Casillas, hand in hand with the NGO Plan, with which he collaborates, have thrown themselves into obtaining all the help possible for Haiti.

Captions 2-3, Iker Casillas - apoya el trabajo de Plan

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Jalar and More: Different Ways to Pull

Pero la calle lo siguió jalando

But the streets kept pulling him back

Y de lo bueno ya no va quedando

And nothing good is being left

Captions 21-22, La Secta - Consejo

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The verb jalar means "to pull" and its use is common in many parts of Latin America. Miami-based La Secta, in their music video Consejo (which means "advice"), uses the verb in the phrase above, "But the street kept pulling him back."

If jalar means "to pull," why have we seen the
command hale, with an h, printed on doors in countries like Venezuela and Mexico? Well, it turns out that halar also means "to pull," and when we boil down the evidence it seems that halar is basically the same verb, more or less, as jalar, but spelled with an h up front. Which spelling came first, which is more "correct," etc., seems to be up for debate, and also a matter of regional preference.

In Spain, we are like
ly to see tirar (which can mean "to pull") printed on one side of a door, and in Argentina we are likely to see the indicative form, tire. (By the way, most of these countries tend to agree that empuje or empujar, "to push," goes on the other side of these doors.)

Folks in Spain pretty much never use jalar for "to pull," however they do use it for "to eat," but only in very informal settings -- it can be considered a bit crude.

¿Quién se ha jalado todo el jamón?
Who has wolfed down all the ham?

Vamos a jalar. ¿Vienes con nosotros?
Let's go eat. You coming with us?

In parts of Central America, such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica, jalar can be used to mean "going out" or "dating."

Él y ella estan jalando.
He and she are dating



You can read a long discussion on the regional uses of jalar, halar and tirar here.

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Quien calla, otorga: And More About Silence

Cuando callas otorgas...

When you keep silent, you consent...

Caption 10, Circo - Un Accidente

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In the refrain to this catchy punk-pop hit, lead singer Fofé uses the common verb callar, which anyone who has ever annoyed their Spanish teacher knows means "to be quiet," "to keep silent" or, more bluntly, "to shut up." The next verb, otorgar, often means "to grant" [as in, permission] or "to award." There's an expression in Spanish: Quien calla otorga, which basically means "silence is consent" (or, "whoever is silent, consents"). So the refrain can be interpretted as "When you keep silent, you consent."


Incluso muchas veces me he tenido que... que callar porque...

Many times I even had to... to be quiet because...

porque no he tenido más remedio que reírme un poco.

because I didn't have any option but to laugh a little.

Captions 22-23, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live

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No te puedo mentir, no me puedo callar

I can't lie to you, I can't shut up

Caption 11, Bloque - Nena

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¿Te podés callar la boca? Mire, patrona, yo le voy a explicar.

Can you shut your mouth? Look, boss, I'm going to explain [it] to you.

Caption 51, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro

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Shut up! (singular)

Shut up! (plural)

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Ánimo de lucro: Intent to Profit

Pero yo no me lo creo, así que decido hacer este documental. Con ánimo de lucro

But I don't believe it, so I decide to do this documentary. With Intent to Profit

Captions 26-27, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 1

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Lucro means "gain" or "profit." Think "filthy lucre" as a mnemonic device.


Nosotros no somos coherentes si ponemos nuestro dinero primero, buscándole un gran lucro.

We're not being logical if we put our money first, looking for a big profit.

Captions 32-34, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 6

 Play Caption predomina la lógica del beneficio y del lucro sin límite.

...if the logic of benefit and unlimited profit predominates.

Caption 67, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 7

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Frankly, it's a little surprising to have a documentary ostensibly about the quest to end poverty and hunger with the title Con ánimo de lucro ("With Intent to Profit" / i.e. "For-profit"). After all, to describe non-profit (or, not-for-profit) ventures in the Spanish-speaking world, the phrase "sin ánimo de lucro" (or, "sin fines de lucro") is commonly used... Well, future installments of this documental promise to explain this cryptic title.

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The Verb Acabar: More Meanings In the End

The short film Con ánimo de lucro starts with a series of commands reminiscent of the John Lennon song "Imagine":


Imagina acabar con el hambre y la pobreza.

Imagine putting an end to hunger and poverty.

Caption 1, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje

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So, what's that word after Imagina (the familiar command form of imaginar, or "to imagine")? It's the Spanish verb acabar, which most commonly means "to end" or "finish." Although we could "end" our discussion right there, we won't because, as we see in this example, the verb acabar can mean different things in combination with different words and in different contexts. But before moving on to those, let's take a look at a couple of "classic" examples of this common Spanish verb: 


Classic Examples of the Verb Acabar


Al final...

In the end...

Nuestro caso no es distinto de otros casos que acabaron mal

Our case is not different from other cases that ended badly

Captions 13-14, Victor & Leo - Recuerdos de amor

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Vale, hemos acabado.

OK, we've finished.

Caption 69, Animales en familia Un día en Bioparc: Cachorro de leopardo - Part 2

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Now, let's move on to some more nuanced uses of the verb acabar. Although all of them entail some kind of "ending," these variations can help us to express a multitude of English idiomatic expressions in Spanish. 


Alternative Uses of the Verb Acabar


1. Acabar: "to end up"


We can use the Spanish verb acabar to talk about the idea of "ending up," or where something or someone ultimately arrives, perhaps unexpectedly:


y seguro que iba a acabar en la basura, ¿no? 

and for sure it was going to end up in the trash, right?

Caption 49, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 5

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al final el congelador acaba quemando los alimentos.

in the end, the freezer ends up burning the food.

Caption 4, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 7

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2. Acabar con (algo): "to put an end to" (something)


As we saw in the opening quote, acabar con (literally "to finish with") can have the more specific meaning "to put an end to," perhaps some unpleasant phenomenon: 


Para nosotros, para el santuario de burros en España, es muy importante acabar con el maltrato animal,

For us, for the donkey sanctuary in Spain, it's very important to put an end to animal abuse,

Captions 38-39, Amaya El Refugio del Burrito

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3.  Acabar con (alguien): "to break up with" (someone)


When speaking about a person, however, acabar con can mean "to break up" in the sense of ending a relationship:


Pienso acabar con mi novio. 

I'm planning to break up with my boyfriend. 


4.  Acabar con (alguien): "to finish off/kill" (someone)


Of course, without context, someone could definitely misunderstand our previous example, as acabar con alguien can also mean to kill them!


acaben con él y lo entierran por allí en el llano. 

finish him off and bury him somewhere in the plains.

Caption 19, El Ausente Acto 2 - Part 8

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5. Acabar de + infinitive: "to have just" (done something)


The very important verb acabar de plus the infinitive form of a verb allows us to express the idea of having "just" completed some action:


Isabel Zavala acaba de salir del edificio.

Isabel Zavala just left the building.

Caption 3, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 4 - Part 15

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Acabo de ver a ese chico moreno, alto y de ojos azules,

I just saw that brown-haired, tall guy with blue eyes,

Caption 19, Fundamentos del Español 3 - Le Estructura de las Frases

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6. Acabar por + infinitive: "to finally" (do something)/"end up" (doing something)


Acabé por decirle la verdad. 

I finally told him the truth. 


Depending upon the context, an alternative translation might be "I ended up telling him the truth. "


 7. Acabarse (to run out)


The reflexive verb acabarse can also mean "to run out," of something literal or figurative: 


Cuando llegan cosas como que se acabó la leche, los pañales,

When things come like, that the milk ran out, the diapers,

Caption 8, La Sub30 Familias - Part 6

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In this context, you will frequently encounter the verb acabarse in the form of a "no fault"/involuntary se construction. You will note that although acabarse is conjugated in the third person singular in accordance with the subject (el tiempo/the time), the indirect object pronoun nos lets us know to whom the action of the sentence is occurring (to us). Let's take a look:


Eh... Se nos acabó el tiempo, entonces espero que practiquen en su casa

Um... We ran out of time, so I hope you practice at home

Caption 59, Lecciones de guitarra Con Cristhian - Part 3

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Although this sentence was translated as "We ran out of time," the literal translation would be "Time ran out on us." For more information on the se involuntario, check out this series from El Aula Azul


8.  Acabarse (to sell out)


Acabarse is also a synonym for agotarse, which can mean "to sell out" in Spanish: 


Quería ir al concierto pero las entradas ya se hab​ían acabado

I wanted to go to the concert, but the tickets had already sold out


9. Acabarse (to be over)


The reflexive form of acabar can also mean "to be over." In fact, you will often see this verb in quite dramatic contexts, most often in the preterite tense:


Anda, ¡para! ¡ya! ¡Ya está, se acabó

Come on, stop! Now! That's it, it's over!

Captions 28-29, Carolina - Acentos

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Other colloquial translations for the expression ¡Se acabó! might include "That's it!" or "That's that!"


Se acabó, yo no voy a insistir.

That's it, I'm not going to insist.

Caption 1, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 5

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Para Acabar (to Conclude)... 

So, speaking of "being over":


Y colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado.

And snip, snap, snout, this tale's told out" [Literally: Red, red-colored, this tale has ended"].

Caption 65, Cleer La princesa y el guisante

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This common expression, the equivalent of the English, "And snip, snout, this tale's told out," often appears at the end of children's stories to say something like, "And that's all, folks!" On that note, we hope you've enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments


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Porqué: The Reasons

No se tenía porqué poner zapatos.

There was no need to wear shoes.

Caption 30, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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In this space, just two weeks ago, we discussed que ("that") and ¿qué? ("what?"), porque ("because") and ¿por qué? ("why?"). In these instances, the accent over the é turned a conjunction into an interrogation.

This week, the affable archaeologist Federico Kauffman Doig reminds us of another porqué, which is a noun that means the reason, cause or motive for something. Because it's a noun, porqué has a gender – masculine – and is often preceded by a definite (el, los) or indefinite article (un, unos).



Nadie sabe [el] porqué de su abandono.

Nobody knows the reason for its abandonment.

Caption 39, Querido México - Teotihuacán

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Escuchar esta música en la voz de Alejandro nos hace recordar el porqué hacemos esto.

Listening to this music in Alejandro's voice makes us remember why (the reason) we do this.

Captions 12-13, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor

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Los porqués son...
The reasons are...
Un porqué

A reason for....


So, take this hint if you want to ace a Spanish spelling bee (un concurso de deletreo): If porqué is used as a noun, it's always one word and has an accent over its é.

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Pretender: Beware of False Cognates

Lo que pretendemos es sembrar en la gente la actitud de reducir...

What we seek is to instill in the people the attitude of reducing...

Caption 1, De consumidor a persona - Short Film

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It's easy enough to guess the meaning of some Spanish verbs. Take the environmentally helpful trio reducir, reutilizar and reciclar, for example. If you guessed the three verbs mean "to reduce," "to reutilize" and "to recycle," respectively, you're right on. Because Spanish and English share so many Latin language roots, many words sound similar–in other words, they are cognates. But watch out for false cognates, also known as false friends. Two examples are the verbs atender and asistir. In Spanish, atender does not mean "to attend," but "to serve." Meanwhile, asistir does not mean "to assist" but "to attend."

Which brings us back to the quote above. False friend pretender commonly means "to try,"
"to seek" or "to be after." So, the sentence above can be translated as: "What we seek is to instill [literally, "to sow"] in the people the attitude of reducing...."

While pretender and "pretend" have common Latin roots, the use of the word in English to mean "to seek" or "to undertake" fell out of use many moons ago. (Note the archaic definition still stands in some English dictionaries, like
this one.)

El gobierno pretende proteger los derechos de los trabajadores.
The government seeks (or tries) to protect the rights of the workers.


Este decreto en el cual el gobierno de España pretende cobrarnos un impuesto injusto, no tiene validez.

This decree, in which the government of Spain is attempting to charge us an unfair tax, is invalid.

Captions 12-13, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 9

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No pretendo ser tu dueño.
I don't want (or aspire) to be your master.


Yo no pretendo tener ninguna relación con ningún hombre después de Tomás.

I don't intend to have any relationship with any man after Tomas.

Caption 31, Yago - 11 Prisión

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¿Y qué pretendes que haga yo? Como si pudiera cambiar algo.
And what do you want me to do? As if I could change a thing.


¿Pretendes que vaya hasta allá a buscarla desnuda?

Do you expect me to go over there and get it naked?

Caption 27, Yago - 1 La llegada

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Note: the Spanish equivalent of "to pretend," as it is commonly used in modern English, is commonly fingir.

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Ganas: What We Want to Do

Pensamos que el agua, que el aire, que el suelo es nuestro y podemos hacer lo que nos dé la gana. No es cierto.

We think that the water, the air, the land is all ours and we can make what we feel like. That's not true.

Captions 10-13, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 2

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Gana, meaning "wish" or "will," is a noun that plays a key role to express wishes or desires in Spanish. The expression darle (a alguien) la gana means "to feel like" or "to want to."

lo que me dé la gana
what I feel like

lo que te dé la gana
what you feel like


...y te puedes venir aquí cuando te dé la gana, ¿yo te voy a perdonar?

...and you can come here whenever you feel like it, I am going to forgive you?

Caption 22, Yago - 11 Prisión

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lo que le dé la gana
what you feel like / what he-she feels like


¡Salte de alegría cuando le dé la gana!

Jump for joy whenever you feel like it!

Caption 4, Kikirikí - Animales

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lo que les dé la gana
what you [pl.] feel like / what they feel like


¿Hasta cuándo van a seguir haciendo lo que les dé la gana?

Until when are you guys going to keep doing whatever you [pl.] feel like?

Caption 42, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 3

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Even more common is the pairing of the verb tener ("to have") with the plural ganas, as in:


Tenía ganas de hacer algo, con eso y...

I wanted to do something, with it and...

Caption 68, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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Natalia is saying: "I wanted to do something with this." The word-for-word translation might have you thinking she had the will to do it, but common understanding is simply that she felt like it, or wanted to do it.


Tengo muchas ganas de aprender español.
I really want to learn Spanish.


A mí... yo tengo muchas ganas.

I... I really want to.

Caption 21, Amaya - Teatro romano

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No tengo ganas de parar ahora.
I don't want to stop now.


Gracias, Merycita, pero no tengo ganas de jugar.

Thank you, Merycita, but I don't feel like playing.

Caption 58, Club 10 - Capítulo 1

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Ni Papa: It Ain't No Thing


Porque a mí me encanta la música francés y árabe, y yo no entiendo ni papa...

Because I love French [more correct: "música francesa"] and Arabic music, and I don't understand a word...

Captions 58-59, Si*Sé - EPK

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When Carol C. of Si*Sé says with a shrug, yo no entiendo ni papa, it's easy enough for us to understand by the context that she doesn't understand a word. She could also have said no entiendo nada, which means "I don't understand anything." [Remember: you use the word nada ("nothing") instead of algo ("anything") after no in negative expressions in Spanish.]

But here singer C.C. chooses a common Spanish phrase for emphasis -ni papa. Ni means "not even" or "nor." That much is straightforward. But papa is one of those words with an almost comic array of meanings -from "Pope," as in
más papista que el papa ("more papist than the Pope"), to "potato," as in papas fritas ("french fries"). Well, one of the many meanings of papa comes from the Latin "pappa" and it means "baby food," "mush," or "pulp." And that's the meaning most commonly associated with the phrase ni papa (literally: "not even mush").

No puedo ver ni papa.
I can't see a thing.

Él no sabe ni papa.
He doesn't know a thing.




Es una papa.
It's a piece of cake. [It's easily done/easily accomplished.]

No te preocupes por el examen, es una papa.
Don´t worry about the exam, it´s a piece of cake.

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Dar: It's the Land Giving

Y sembrar sus cositas por ahí... lo que da cebolla, tomate, al pimentón, el ají y otras cosas pues, por ahí.

And planting their little things around here... producing onion, tomato, red pepper, chili and other stuff, around here.

Captions 29-31, José Rodríguez - La Finca

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Have you noticed that the verb dar, which we usually take to mean "to give" seems to be used a lot in reference to the growing of fruits and vegetables. Well it turns out that what is doing the "giving," and sometimes it is implied, sometimes more explicit, is la tierra, "the land." Here we find José Rodríguez talking about people in the area "planting their little things around here... producing onion, tomato, red pepper, chili peppers, and other things, around here."

It's not the first time we find dar used in this way. If we check back with our friend Rafael discussing Guatemala:


La tierra... la tierra de las verduras... porque ahí hay'... da buenas... verduras, como repollo, zanahoria, cebolla... tomate...

The land... the land of vegetables... because there are'... it [the land] produces good... vegetables, like cabbage, carrot, onion... tomato...

Captions 14-16, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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Digamos en la costa, también da buenas frutas como la naranja, la sandía, la papaya, el melón... el coco.

Let's say in the coast, it also produces good fruit like oranges, watermelon, papaya, melon... coconut.

Captions 18-20, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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Another example:

Este año, mis tierras no han dado una buena cosecha.
This year, my lands didn't produce a good harvest.



In all of the examples above, dar takes a direct object ("cabbage", "oranges", etc.). However, the reflexive darse can be used as well, with no direct object, and the meaning is "to grow," or "to come up." (This "reflexive" usage, as per the examples below, is somewhat more common in Spain than Latin America.)

He plantado aquí tomates, pero no se dan.
I planted tomatoes here, but they aren't growing (or "aren't coming up").

Las palmeras no se dan en Noruega.
Palm trees don't grow in Norway.


Estas papayas no se dan en todo lado.

These papayas don't occur everywhere.

Caption 10, Otavalo - Conozcamos el Mundo de las Frutas con Julia

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Que: It Also Means "Because"

Pero no te quedes ahí dándole vueltas a la cabeza, que tanto pensar no es bueno.

But don't stay there making your head spin, because thinking so much is not good.

Captions 31-32, De consumidor a persona - Short Film

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Que most often means "that." Slap an accent on the final e and we have qué, used to ask the question "what?" -- add por before qué and you have ¿por qué?, which asks the question "why?" ¿Por qué? is two words, but if we push the two together, without the accent on the e, we have porque, which is one word, and it means "because."

You may just know all that. What you might not have known is that que can also mean "because," or "as," and that's the meaning it takes in the line above.

Other examples:

No comas más, que no es bueno antes de ir a la cama.
Don't eat more, as it's not good before going to bed.

Obedéceme, que si no lo haces, te vas a arrepentir.
Obey me, because if you don't, you are going to regret it.

No corras, que el piso está mojado.
Don't run, because the floor is wet.

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En Aquel Entonces: Back Then

Mi papá fue maestro de escuela, director de las escuelas de las compañías petroleras Shell, en aquel entonces.

My dad was a school teacher, head of the schools of the Shell oil companies, in those days.

Captions 6-9, Emiro - La Historia de Emiro

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On the beach in Eastern Venezuela, Pimienta Café proprietor Emiro tells us about his family history. To tell us about life "back then," Emiro uses the phrase en aquel entonces, which might seem to mean "In that then," if taken literally. But this common expression of time is better understood as "in those times" or "in those days." 


Note the use of demonstrative adjective aquel here. Remember that in Spanish there are three demonstrative adjectives to say "this" and "that": este, ese AND aquel. The last of this demonstrative trio is sometimes translated as "that...way over there," implying more distance than a simple ese (or, "that"). So you should get a sense that Emiro is talking about what happened "way back when."

In the Columbian television series Los Años Maravillosos we hear the narrator speak of a simpler, more innocent time from his childhood.


Esa tarde salí a dar un paseo.

That afternoon I went out to take a walk.

En aquel entonces los niños todavía podían salir solos sin terminar en manos de un atracador.

Back then children could still go out alone without ending up in the hands of a thief.

Captions 1-3, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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Faithful readers might remember that we recently discussed a similar construction of time. You see, Hoy en día means "nowadays" even though it may appear to mean something like "today in day" if taken literally (and awkwardly). Back in Venezuela we have an example of Emiro using the phase while talking about his wife.


Luego aquí en Adícora conocí a una muchacha de aquí del pueblo, se llama Lizbeth, mi esposa ahora, hoy en día.

Then here in Adícora I met a girl from here in this town, named Lizbeth, my wife now, these days.

Captions 28-30, Emiro - La Historia de Emiro

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Trivial aside: It was an interview with two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolla that prompted our discussion of hoy en día just a few weeks ago. Well, the seemingly ubiquitous Santaolalla happens to be the producer of La Vela Puerca's album A Contraluz featuring the song (and our featured word) Zafar. We warned you this was trivia, right?

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Zafar: Getting Out and Getting By

¡Ay, pero por Dios, me va a ver! ¡Yo de ésta no puedo zafar!

Ay for God's sake, he's gonna see me! I can't dodge this one!

Caption 76, Provócame - Piloto

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Later, in the same scene, our heroine Ana has another breathless exclamation worthy of a closer look. In it, she uses the verb zafar, which can mean "to escape," "to free" or "to untie," according to the authoritative Spanish dictionary from the La Real Academia Española. Along these lines, a current popular song by the Uruguayan band La Vela Puerca is titled Zafar, in the sense of "To escape." The song discusses the fumes and smells of the city and is punctuated by the refrain: ...estoy zafando del olor ("...I am escaping from the smell").

In neighboring, Argentina, you hear the verb zafar all the time on the city streets, with a more modern, slangy meaning: "to get by." For example, if you ask an Argentine how he's doing, he may answer, estoy zafando, meaning "I'm hanging in there."

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