Spanish Lessons


Dios Santo: "Holy God" and Other Ways to Talk to the Man Upstairs

Dios Santo qué bello abril

Holy God what a beautiful April

Caption 19, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Fotografía must have slipped away from proper procedure in our rush to get it up, as we have a coterie of bilingual native speakers checking and tweaking the captions before they "go live" (and sometimes continuing to do so after). For example, we'd at first translated Dios Santo as "Dear God," as it seemed a good fit in the context of the song, but then decided to go with the more literal "Holy God." Querido Dios is "Dear God," but not so much as used in prayer, but rather if you were writing the big guy a letter. Addressing God as if in a prayer it is common to find simply Dios alone, Señor, or sometimes, Padre.

This tune, "Bello Abril" is dedicated, in the liner notes of the album Naturaleza Sangre, to none other than Dolores Fonzi. We know her better as Gala, and she's featured prominently in this video (dancing on the bed).


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Siento: I Feel or I Sit

Y de nuevo siento enfermo este corazón

And once again I feel a heartache

Caption 19, Juanes - Fotografía

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Cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver

When your photos... I sit down to see.

Caption 22, Juanes - Fotografía

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We thought we were smart to ask the moderator of Delphi's Beyond Basic Spanish forum if we could give a quick mention to Yabla Spanish. Forum users showed us who was smart when they pointed out a mistake in our translation of the Juanes song Fotografía, which is found in our "Free Demo" section, as well as in the "Music Videos" channel under "Videos." Can we say huevo en nuestra cara? (No, probably not!) Let's take a look at what they found:

In caption 19 Nelly Furtado sings siento enfermo este corazón. In this case we had it right, siento here signifies "I feel," it is derived from the verb sentir, and she is referring to feeling an ache in her heart. The usage, by the way, is a bit poetic; a less embellished, more common, way to express the same thing is me duele el corazón.

In caption 22, and throughout the song, Nelly Furtado and Juanes sing the refrain cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver. The translation we had here was "when your photos... I feel like seeing." Siento, as you may know, is also the yo form of sentar, and so can alternately mean "I sit." That is indeed the proper meaning in this case: "when your photos... I sit down to see." Sentir is not used in the sense of "feeling like doing something," for that they would have perhaps sung cuando tengo ganas de ver tus fotos, "when I feel like seeing your photos."

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Ahora / Ya: Learning "Now"

Amelia: ¡Entonces vamos!

Amelia: Then let's go!

Gala: ¿Ahora?

Gala: Now?

Amelia: Sí, sí, sí.

Amelia: Yes, yes, yes.

Caption 33, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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A viewer wrote to ask if we could look at ahora and ya.

If we take the example above, which comes from the latest installment of the La Extraña Dama episode of Disputas, Gala could have replaced ¿Ahora? with ¿Ya? and the meaning would have been the same: "Now?"

In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Gala might have used the colloquial diminutive ahorita, especially to emphasize immediacy, "right now." Another way to stress immediacy is to place the word mismo after either ahora or ya. Ya mismo might be considered slightly stronger, but it also largely depends on the speaker's intonation and the context in which it is said.

Venga para acá ahora mismo.
Come here right now.

Venga para acá ya mismo.
Come here right now.


Cuando era chico quería ser como Superman

When I was little, I wanted to be like Superman

pero ahora ya quiero ser diputado del PAN

but now I want to be a representative of the PAN

Captions 1-2, Molotov - Hit Me

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In the music video Hit Me, Molotov combines both ahora and ya, most likely for emphasis, to indicate "now" in the sense of "these days" or "currently." In the same vein, it's not at all unusual to find ahora (without ya) where we might have expected to see hoy día (hoy en día), "nowadays."

En los años '20, las comunicaciones eran precarias. Ahora todo es diferente, la telefonia e internet se han vuelto de uso comun en casi todos los hogares.
In the twenties, communication was precarious. Now (nowadays) it's different, the telephone and internet have come into common use in almost all homes.

The combination of ya and ahora together in Hit Me comes across to some native speakers as very colloquial and a bit unusual, though of course popular music is always fertile ground for innovative, regional and less common usage. There are instances when the combination ahora and ya does sound natural to most native speakers; one is the case when ya is used to indicate "already."

Ahora, ya nos conocemos mejor.
Now, we already know each other better. (action completed)


Marisol: Tendrías que preguntarle a los peones.

Marisol: You should ask the farmhands.

Pedro: Uy, ya lo hice.

Pedro: Uy, I already did so.

Captions 12-13, Provócame - Piloto

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We find ya used to indicate action completed in this Provócome example. Pedro has "already" done what Marisol suggests.

In the case of a negative statement, where in English we would expect to see "yet," we do not use ya but rather todavía. This is a convention, like many "rules," that non-natives quite often pick up subconciously, through exposure.

¿Ya llamaste al médico?

Did you already call the doctor?

No, todavía no he llamado.

No, I haven't yet.

Sometimes ya can take on a meaning that encompasses both "now" and "already" ("finally"). This and some other important ya concepts que todavía no discutimos ("that we didn't discuss yet") can be found here:

A few more examples of interest:

Entonces ganaba más que ahora.
I was earning more then than (I am) now.

¡Ahora me lo dices!
Now you tell me!

Ahora que lo pienso...
Now that I come to think of it...


Another suggested quick read:

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Alcanzar: To Reach and More

El problema es que no están a su alcance.

The problem is that they are out of her reach.

Caption 38, Provócame - Piloto

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You may remember in Disputas, La Extraña Dama, part 5, when Santiago asks ¿Alcanza con esto? ("Is this enough?") and Amelia replies Alcanza y nunca sobra ("Enough and never more than enough"). When talking about money or time, alcanzar refers to "having enough," but alcanzar is also "to achieve" or "to reach" and the related noun is alcance. So when Marisol says El problema es que no están a su alcance she is saying "The problem is that they (horses) are out of her reach."

Telenovelas no alcanzaron los altos ratings de los partidos de fútbol.
Soap operas didn't reach the high ratings of soccer matches.


Desafortunadamente, dos no alcanzaron a llegar.

Unfortunately, two did not manage to make it.

Caption 23, Misión Chef - 2 - Pruebas

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Ponemos el potencial tecnológico a tu alcance.
We put technological potential within your reach.


El interior presenta una decoración de estilo francés

The interior has French-style decor

y la cúpula alcanza los cuarenta metros.

and the dome reaches forty meters.

Captions 24-25, Viajando con Carlos - Popayán - Colombia

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El tiempo nunca nos alcanza.
We never have enough time.


El dinero de La Yuca sólo nos alcanza para comprar comida y nada más.

Money from La Yuca is only enough to buy food and nothing else.

Caption 3, La Cocaleros - Personas y políticas

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A mí me alcanza y sobra con que la flor se abra.
For me it is more than enough if the flower unclose.
(D. H. Lawrence, Rose of All the World, last line)

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Estar por + Infinitive Verb (About to)

In this lesson, we would like to talk about a very simple formula that native Spanish speakers use when they wish to express their intention or inclination to do something. Let's take a look at it:


The verb estar (to be) + the preposition por + infinitive verb


Now, let's take a look at the following clip to see how that formula works:


Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre.

Your daughter's about to get married to a good man.

Caption 17, Provócame - Piloto

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When Patricia says to Ignacio, "Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre," she is saying: "Your daughter is about to get married to a good man." That said, the meaning of estar por hacer algo is: "to be about to do something," or have the intention to carry out the action of the infinitive verb. Note that the reflexive pronoun se in Patricia's sentence is part of the reflexive verb casarse (rather than having any association with estar). That said, she could have just as well have said: "Tu hija está por casarse."




Let's look at another example:


Ya estoy por pensar que Urrutia sí es quien dice ser.

I'm about to think that Urrutia really is who he says he is.

Caption 24, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 4

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In this example, we can see that Rubio is "about to think" something.  In this context, our formula expresses that Rubio "feels tempted" or "is inclined" to think that what Urrutia says is true. 


Note that in some Spanish-speaking areas, estar por + infinitive would more likely be used to indicate that one is in the mood to do something or has the intention to, while in other regions, estar para + infinitive is the more common way to say that some action will soon take place.


Finally, keep in mind that in some parts of Latin America, people might use estar por + infinitive as an alternative way of saying estar a punto de (hacer algo). Let's look at an example of how this same idea of being "about to" do something can be expressed with different words:  


Está por llover (It's about to rain).

Está a punto de llover (It's about to rain).


That's all for this lesson. We hope you've learned something new today, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments. ¡Hasta la próxima!




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Va a haber: Related Forms of "Hay"

Pero cómo no va a haber...

Of course there is...

Caption 21, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Most of us catch on quickly that hay means "there is/are" but are less likely to pick up on related forms such as va a haber, which by itself means "there is going to be." But when Amelia suggests to Santiago Ritchie that he can get what he wants si hay dinero suficiente... ("if there is enough money") and he replies Pero cómo no va a haber, the best translation is "Of course there is" (not "Of course there's going to be"). Santiago instinctively uses va a haber instead of hay after cómo no because pero cómo no hay is likely to be misinterpreted as "since there isn't any (money)." Because of the consecutive and adjacent "ah" sounds, non-natives often find va a haber slightly awkward to say and native speakers themselves often barely pronounce the middle a, or don't pronounce it at all.

Here is a similar example:

Novia: ¿Me quieres?
Novio: ¡Cómo no te voy a querer!

Girlfriend: Do you love me?
Boyfriend: Of course I love you!

If the boyfriend had followed cómo no with te quiero, his girlfriend might have understood it to mean "since I don't love you."

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Ando sin plata: Broke, but Not Necessarily Walking


¿En qué anda ahora ella?

What's she up to now?

Caption 22, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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If you recall back to Part 1 of La Extraña Dama, Nacha Guevara (Latin America's answer to Cher) asks in Caption 22 ¿En qué anda ahora ella? We might be tempted to translate this as: "In what does she walk now?" but clearly that won't cut it. Checking any dictionary, we find that andar has more meanings than just "to walk." For example, you are no doubt familar with ¿Cómo andas? (How's it going?). The question Melina wants to convey is What is she up to now?


Ando sin plata...

I don't have any money...

Caption 10, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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This week in Part 4 of the series andar pops up again when our young protagonist states Ando sin plata. He means not so much "I walk without money," but rather, "I've got no money."

Speaking of Nacha, imagine our surprise when we recently noticed her -the distinctive voice, face, and, well, just about everything else- before us en bolas, which is to say totalmente desnuda, playing Mrs. Robinson in El Graduado. Our lovely theater companion, who somewhere along the line lost the wild rebellious streak we once knew her for, was shocked and outraged beyond her tender years by the wanton display of flesh (this despite Ms. Guevera's seemingly supernatural ability to cut a statuesque nude that would do proud any 36-year-old, which is the age Anne Bancroft was when she played the same role in 1967, never mind a 63-year-old, which is what Nacha is today).

The dictionary states that en bolas is itself considered vulgar by some. We don't remember where we first came across the phrase, but for some reason it stuck with us, as colorful phrases often do. Could it be because certain speech operates on a whole other neurological plane that quite literally bridges logic and emotion?


While this week's Disputas video does not offer an absence of apparel, it is rife with some fairly salty language. We don't think it would make a sailor blush, but we've got the Viewer Discretion Advised light on as fair warning to anyone who might find the dialog unsettling.

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Como Si Fuese: Learning to Use the Subjunctive


No hables como si fuese una persona...

Don't speak as if he were a person...

Caption 17, Provócame - Piloto

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If you're a native English speaker, you're likely to translate the phrase above as "Don't speak as if he were a person." Without much thinking about it, most native English speakers choose the subjuntive "were," and not the indicative "was." Ana, similarly, instinctively uses fuese (the subjunctive form) and not era (the indicative) when she tells Mariano "Don't speak as if he were a person". (She is referring to a horse that goes by the name Chocolate.) The subjunctive, as most of us have heard but often fail to fully grasp, is used to express doubt or uncertainty, or to describe situations that are unlikely. Since it is quite "unlikely" that the horse in question is a person, and Ana, sin duda, "doubts" that he is one, she goes with the subjunctive, fuese.


This were/was distinction is one of the few and dwindling instances whereby English speakers retain a subjunctive form (were) that differs from the indicative (was). Other than "to be," most English verbs have melded both the indicative past and the subjunctive past into a single "universal" past tense that encompasses both. For this reason it's often said, somewhat erroneously, that subjunctive tenses "don't exist" anymore in English, and is why English speakers find Spanish's distinct subjunctive tenses difficult to acquire. The more we, as learners, immerse ourselves in authentic spoken Spanish, the faster we too can begin to acquire a native-like "instinct" for the subjunctive and its use.


If you want to bend your brain around the topic further, here are some sites where you can do so:



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Sacarse: To Get a Grade and Other Uses

Yo me saqué un nueve.

I got a nine.

Caption 21, Disputas - La Extraña Dama - Part 3

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You'll note that sacarse una nota is a common expression meaning "getting a grade" in school. Hence in part 3 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, we hear Gloria's son proclaim yo me saqué un nueve, "I got a nine." A few other interesting uses of sacarse are:

Sacarse un premio.
To win a prize.

Sacarse un peso de encima.
To get rid of a burden.


Tiene que sacarse a esa chica de la cabeza, señor.

You have to get that girl out of your head, sir.

Caption 30, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones

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Sacarse la garra.
To taunt/insult, To "rag on" someone. [Mexico]

Sacarse la careta.
Literally: To rid yourself of the mask; to stop pretending, to be yourself.


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Al + Infinitive Verb

Every language has its own peculiar nuances. In Spanish, one such nuance is the formula, al + the infinitive of a verb. Let's start reviewing this formula with the following clip:


Nos confundimos al hablar sin escuchar

We get confused by speaking without listening

Caption 26, La Gusana Ciega - Giroscopio

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In "Giroscopio" by La Gusana Ciega, frontman Daniel Gutierrez sings: nos confundimos al hablar sin escuchar, which we have translated as "we get confused by speaking without listening."


This brings our attention to the use of al + infinitive. The English equivalent is often created by using the prepositions, "by," "when," or "upon" + the "ing" (progressive) verb form.


Most native English speakers would find this phrase easier to follow were Daniel to avoid the al + infinitive construction and instead sing: Nos confundimos cuando hablamos sin escuchar or Nos confundimos hablando sin eschuchar, both of which are more parallel to the typical English construction.


Although each of these possibilities is grammatically correct, they convey a slightly different meaning than the choice to employ al hablar in this lyric. While both hablando (speaking) and cuando hablamos (when we speak) would convey the sense that the speaker is referring to some specific instance or instances of "talking without listening," the use of al hablar causes the assertion to sound more like a truism or principle of life, the type of thing you might read at the end of a fable or as the moral of a story.


Let's look at some examples:


Eh... Al venir acá y compartir con tantas culturas, pues.

Um... Upon coming here and sharing with so many cultures, well.

Caption 20, Silvina - Una entrevista con la artista

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Este fue el primer lugar visitado por nuestro Libertador Simón Bolívar,

This was the first place visited by our Liberator, Simon Bolivar,

al llegar a la hacienda San Pedro Alejandrino.

upon arriving at the San Pedro Alejandrino [Saint Peter of Alexandria] hacienda.

Captions 2-3, Viajando en Colombia - La Quinta de Bolívar

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Al + infinitive can alternately be translated to English using "when + simple present." For example, in this case, we could just as well have translated al hablar as "when we speak," which would give us: "we get confused when we speak without listening."


Let's look at some additional examples of al + infinitive:


Nos equivocamos al actuar sin pensar.
We make mistakes by acting without thinking.


Nos ensuciamos al jugar.
We get dirty when we play.


Te lastimas al correr sin estirarte.
You hurt yourself by running without stretching.


Se lastiman al pelear.
They hurt themselves when they fight.


Me mojo al bañarme.
I get wet when I bathe.


Se lastiman al jugar sin zapatos.
They hurt themselves by playing without shoes.



That's it for this lesson. We hope you enjoy it and don't forget to send us your comments and questions.

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Carmín: A Color and a Lipstick

Y te has pintado la sonrisa de carmín

And you've painted on a lipstick smile

Caption 34, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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In the above clip you'll note that José Luis Perales sings "Y te has pintado la sonrisa de carmín". In this case carmín refers to lipstick, so the phrase translates as "And you've painted on a lipstick smile". Carmín can also refer to the color crimson (aka carmine), and sometimes to a type of wild rose. Lipstick, aside from carmín de labios, is also known as lápiz de labios. Bear it in mind next time you find some on the collar, yours or otherwise.

(Did you know that collar, in Spanish, is the same word as for neck: cuello?)

Here is another use of carmín in a song by the Argentine rock band Babsónicos.


Algo en tus labios color carmín

Something in your carmine lips

Sugiere que vayamos al grano

Suggests we get to the point

Captions 16-17, Babasónicos - Risa

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