Spanish Lessons

Topics

Lessons for topic Adjectives

The meaning of bravo in Spanish

Bravo/brava is an adjective with various meanings in Spanish. We use it when we want to say someone is brave or courageous. In some Spanish-speaking countries, however, bravo/brava is also used as a synonym for angry, mad or upset. This adjective can also help us describe the world around us by meaning rough or fierce. Finally, we also use bravo when we want to acknowledge someone's work in a positive way

 

Using bravo/brava to describe someone

 

As mentioned above, bravo is synonym for brave or courageous. Let's take a look at the following sentence:

 

Siendo el más bravo de todos, Miguel fue el primero que saltó del trampolín.

Being the bravest of all, Miguel was the first to jump off the diving board.

 

In some countries such as, for example, Colombia, bravo/brava is used when we want to say that someone is angry or upset:

 

Kevin, su novia está muy brava. Deb'... En este contexto, "brava" es sinónimo de enojada o enfadada.

Kevin, your girlfriend is very mad. You nee'... In this context, "brava," is a synonym of mad or angry.

Captions 17-18, Carlos comenta Los Años Maravillosos - Forma de hablar

 Play Caption

 

Bravo for describing the world around us

 

Bravo is also a very useful word for describing nature. For instance, bravo is a very common adjective when talking about a rough or choppy sea or river. Similarly, when talking about animals, bravo/brava can describe an animal that is fierce

 

El agua estaba muy brava, y soplaba un viento muy fuerte.

The water was very choppy, and a very strong wind was blowing.

Captions 30-31, Guillermina y Candelario Capitan Candelario

 Play Caption

 

 

¡Bravo! Well done!

 

Have you ever been in a theater where people shout "bravo" at the end of a play? Well, in Spanish we also use bravo the same way. However, we also say bravo/brava when we want to tell to someone they did something good, or did a good job. In other words, we use bravo/brava to say "well done" or "good for you."

 

Apart from that, we also use bravo/brava in various specific situations. For example, when you have to do something you don't want to do, you can say you did it "a la brava" (by force). We also use brava/bravo to express a very strong desire:

 

¡Oiga, que sed tan brava!

Hey, what a strong thirst!

Caption 52, Kikirikí Agua - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Bravo/brava is also used in the context of sports:

- Barra brava or barrabrava (a group of hooligans in football/soccer)

- "Hacer barra" (to cheer up someone or a team)

 

 

That's all for today. We hope this lesson helped you to expand your vocabulary. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

Continue Reading

Spanish adverbs with mente

Let’s talk about adverbs. Adverbs are very important in Spanish grammar and many of them are closely connected to adjectives. In fact, there are a good number of adverbs that can be easily formed if we are familiar with adjectives. In this lesson, we will see how to use adjectives in order to form Spanish adverbs with the suffix mente.

 

Some examples of Spanish adverbs with mente

Let’s take a look at these very used adverbs in Spanish.

 

...pero principalmente cubanos que llegaron a este país hace cuarenta años.

...but mainly Cubans who arrived to this country forty years ago.

Caption 6, La Calle 8 - Un recorrido fascinante

 Play Caption

 

Además, este año hay una zona dedicada especialmente a la gastronomía.

Additionally, this year there is an area dedicated especially to gastronomy.

Caption 28, Fuengirola - Feria Internacional de los Pueblos

 Play Caption

 

nos criamos completamente ciegos, sordos, mudos con respecto al dinero

we grew up completely blind, deaf, dumb with respect to money

Caption 70, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

As you can see, the suffix mente corresponds to the English suffix ‘ly’. But how do you form Spanish adverbs with mente? Let’s take a look.

 

How to form Spanish adverbs with mente

In order to build Spanish adverbs with mente, you just have to follow this very simple formula:

 

Feminine form of the adjective + mente

 

For example, if we want to form an adverb with the adjective último (last), we just need to take the feminine form of that adjective (última) and add the suffix mente, like this:

 

última  + mente = últimamente (lastly).

 

Let’s look at some more examples:

 

Claro (clear): clara + mente = claramente (clearly)

Lento (slow): lenta + mente = lentamente (slowly)

Honesto (honest): honesta + mente = honestamente (honestly)

 

However, if an adjective doesn’t end in ‘o’, it means that it has one form that is used for both masculine and feminine. In that case, you just need to add the suffix mente to the adjective in order to get the adverb. Let’s see some examples:

 

Alegre (happy):  alegre + mente = alegremente (happily)

Triste (sad): triste + mente = tristemente (sadly)

Frecuente (frequent): frecuente + mente = frecuentemente (frequently)

Normal (normal): normal + mente = normalmente (normally)

 

It is also important to mention that if you have a sentence with two adverbs in a series, only the last one will have the suffix mente at the end. The first one will keep the feminime form of the adjective:

 

Él camina rápida y alegremente

He walks quickly and happily

 

Ellos hablaron clara y concisamente

They spoke clearly and concisely

 

Finally, something important to keep in mind: If the original adjective has a graphic accent on it (tilde), the adverb will also have that accent. Some examples:

 

Creo que mi mamá comprendió su equivocación rápidamente.

I think that my mom understood her mistake quickly.

Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2 - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

Con un poco de práctica, podremos aprender estas reglas muy fácilmente.

With a bit of practice, we will be able to learn these rules very easily.

Caption 54, Carlos explica - Acentuación Cap. 3: La división en sílabas - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

That's it for this lesson. Now, here is your homework: Take 10 adjectives and try to form the corresponding adverbs using the suffix mente. Can you write some sentences too? Have fun and don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 

Continue Reading

Gentilicios: Adjectives of Nationality in Spanish

Let's talk about gentilicios (demonyms)! Gentilicios are words that we use as adjectives when we want to say the place where someone or something comes from. In other words, they are adjectives of nationality in Spanish! Some examples of demonyms are words like “Brazilian,” “African” or “Chinese.”
 
Unlike English, we don’t capitalize demonyms in Spanish:

 

Mejor dicho, esas que son una mezcla entre peruana y colombiano.

In other words, those that are a mix between a Peruvian girl and a Colombian guy.

Caption 35, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 1

 Play Caption


We form demonyms using suffixes, which most of the time need to be consistent with the gender and the number of the noun they are describing. Let’s take the suffix ano:
 

Roberto es mexicano | Roberto is Mexican (singular masculine)
Claudia es mexicana | Claudia is Mexican (singular feminine)
Roberto y Claudia son mexicanos | Roberto and Claudia are Mexicans (plural masculine)
Claudia y Daniela son mexicanas | Claudia and Daniela are Mexicans (plural feminine)

 

cuando realmente veo otros mexicanos, otros latinos,

when I see other Mexicans, other Latin people,

Caption 13, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 5

 Play Caption


Other suffixes that are very often used to form gentilicios are és (singular masculine) and esa(singular feminine) as well as co (singular masculine) and ca (singular feminine):
 

De padre austriaco y madre francesa, es casi políglota de nacimiento.

From an Austrian father and French mother, he's pretty much multilingual from birth.

Caption 12, Europa Abierta - Alejandro Hermann - El arte de pintar

 Play Caption


We also have the suffix eño (singular masculine) as in limeño (from Lima, the capital of Peru), and the suffix í as in the demonym iraní (from Iran). The latter is used for both masculine and feminine and only changes in its plural form (iraní becomes either iranís or iraníes, both forms are correct):

 

madrileñomadrileña, de Madrid, la capital de España.

or "madrileño," "madrileña," [from Madrid], from Madrid, the capital of Spain.

Caption 34, Carlos explica - Geografía y gentilicios

 Play Caption


Just like iraní, the demonym estadounidense (from the United States) is the same for the masculine and feminine forms. Some people use americano or americana when referring to someone from the US. However, if you are travelling across Latin America try to use estadounidense instead. Most people in Latin America treat the word América as a continent and not a country so using that demonym when referring to the US will certainly leave a nice impression across the Americas.
 
That's all for now. We would like to leave you with the following exercise: Choose 20 countries from the world and try to write the gentilicios for each one. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Continue Reading

Good and Cold and Handsome and Hot

We have a gem in one of our videos and we want to share it with you. It's a little slip of the tongue that Rosie, one of the girls in the NPS series, makes while being introduced to a handsome new sports instructor:
 

Ay, a mí me encanta el deporte y más si el "teacher" está así de bueno.
Oh, I love sports and even more if the teacher is so good-looking.
Caption 30, NPS No puede ser - 3 - La cita - Part 3


Rosie's subconscious betrayed her for a moment there, because that's apparently not what she wanted to say, as she immediately corrects her blunder:
 

Ah, ay, digo, digo si es tan bueno.
Uh, oh, I mean, I mean if he's so good.
Caption 31, NPS No puede ser - 3 - La cita - Part 3


The difference between estar bueno (to be good-looking*) vs ser bueno (to be good) is the classic example used to explain the proper way to combine the verbs estar and ser (both meaning "to be") with adjectives, and to understand the sometimes not-so-subtle difference in meaning that results from it: if you use ser, the adjective is a fundamental characteristic of the person or thing you are describing, whereas if you use estar, it's a description of a mood or appearance, something less intrinsic or something not permanent. Having the chance to learn this rule with a pun is priceless, don't you think?
 
There are many interesting examples of adjectives that change meaning when they are combined with the Spanish verbs ser and estar to describe people. For example, the adjective frío, which means "cold."
 
You can use this adjective with the verb ser to describe a fundamental characteristic of a person or group of persons:
 

Lo siento. Pero acá la gente es fría y distante, es una... -¡Mentira!
Sorry. But here the people are cold and distant, it's a... -Lie!
Caption 73, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos - Part 3

 
But if you say that someone está frío, that can only mean that the person('s body) is actually cold. Here is a grim example:
 

Está en la cama, muerto. Está frío y azul.
He's on the bed, dead. He’s cold and blue.


 That's why, in fact, the combination of the verb estar with the adjective frío is much more commonly used to describe objects, concepts, and beings regarded as inanimate: la noche está fría (the night is cold), la champaña está fría (the champagne is cold), etc. But careful: that doesn't mean that you can't use ser + an adjective to describe such things. You can, especially with concepts and abstract ideas. For example:
 
 

si la temperatura exterior es más fría que la interior
or if the temperature outside is colder than the inside [temperature]
Caption 59, Tecnópolis - El Coronil - Part 1
 
En Buenos Aires las noches son frías.
In Buenos Aires nights are cold.


 
Yet that doesn't mean that you can't say en Buenos Aires las noches están frías. It's just definitely less common and actually incorrect if what you mean is that all nights in Buenos Aires are generally cold. So, if you ever find or hear such an assertion using the verb estar instead of ser, it would probably be accompanied by certain implicit or explicit clues that would tell you that the adjective frías (cold) is being used to describe a temporary situation. For example:
 

En Buenos Aires las noches están frías, por ahora.
In Buenos Aires nights are cold, for now.
 
No salgas, está frío afuera.
Don't go out, it's cold outside.


 So, you may be wondering: how do I say in Spanish that someone is cold, meaning that the person feels cold? Well, you have to use a different verb instead: tener (to have). Have you ever heard a Spanish native speaker say "I have cold" by mistake? That's why.
 

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

 

So, unless you are a zombie or another kind of undead creature, don't ever say estoy frío.

-----------------

*Just so you know, the adjective bueno in estar bueno is actually closer to "yummy" or "hot" than to "good-looking."

Continue Reading

Bien vs Bueno/Ser vs Estar/Adjectives vs Adverbs

The proper use of the words bien (well) and bueno (good) seems to be specially challenging for English speakers. From a grammatical point of view the difference between these words is quite simple: bueno (good) is an adjective, and bien (well) an adverb. But that doesn’t help much, doesn't it? Especially if you don't have a clear understanding of the function of adjectives and adverbs themselves. And even if you do, people who are really fluent don't usually go around wondering if a word is an adverb or an adjective in order to use it properly.

Is not that grammar isn't helpful, it's just that very often people try to use it as a rigid template that you can superimpose on any given portion of speech to determine its correctness. But trying to grammatically deconstruct a sentence in Spanish, or any language, can be a tricky and confusing exercise, one more suited to linguists than to language learners. Indeed, from a learner's perspective, grammar is more useful if you learn to see it as a set of very basic structures (think of Legos), that you learn how to combine and then use to build basic structures that may eventually be used to build more complex structures and so on. Imagine a foreign language is some kind of alien technology that you want to replicate and master. Would you prefer if you are given the blue print and some of its basic components, or would you rather try to do reverse engineering on it?

For example, "adjectives modify nouns and only nouns" is a much simpler grammar "Lego piece" than "adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs." Right? So maybe we can start with that. The word bueno(good) is an adjective, like bonito (pretty), flaco (skinny), and malo (bad). Add another basic Lego piece such as "in Spanish, adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify," and you can build:

El perro bonito /The pretty dog and  Los perros bonitos /The pretty dogs
El gato flaco / The skinny cat and Los gatos flacos / The skinny cats
El lobo malo / The bad wolf and Los lobos malos / The bad wolves
La niña buena / The good girl and Las niñas buenas / The good girls

A classic example of the proper use of bueno is the expression buenos días:

¡Hola, buenos días! -Joaquín.
Hi, good morning! -Joaquín.
Caption 7, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 16

Now, what about bien (well)? Bien is an adverb, like rápidamente (fast) or mal (badly). Adverbs in Spanish are invariable, which means they have only one form and do not change according to gender or number. The main function of adverbs is to modify verbs:

Yo corro rápidamente /I ran fast
Ella baila mal / She dances badly
Yo lo hago bien / I do it well

Adverbs also modify other adverbs:

Yo corro bastante rápidamente / I ran quite fast
Ella baila muy mal / She dances very badly
Yo lo hago bien temprano / I do it very early (yes, bien can also mean "very")

Adverbs also modify adjectives:

El perro muy bonito /The very pretty dog 
El gato bastante flaco / The quite skinny cat
El lobo terriblemente malo / The terribly bad wolf
La niña tan buena / The so very good girl

So, if the adjective bueno can only be used to modify a noun, and bien can only be used to modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb, how can Spanish speakers say things like La sopa está buena (the soup is good) or Yo soy bueno (I'm good) all the time? Aren't estar and ser verbs? They are, but here we have to step up our game and remember that these two verbs are very special in Spanish—they are special Lego pieces with special rules. 

You use the verb ser with an adjective to describe something or someone by stating their characteristics as essential qualities that are an intrinsic part of who they are. In a way, you could say that this use of the verb ser +an adjective is redundant because, whether you use ser or not, you are essentially expressing the same thing about the object or person (noun) you are talking about. Another way to put it is that when you use the verb ser (to be) with an adjective you are just talking about a characteristic as if it were an action, in a verbal form. Compare our first set of examples:

El perro bonito / The pretty dog =  El perro es bonito /The dog is pretty
El gato flaco / The skinny cat = El gato es flaco / The cat is skinny
El lobo malo / The bad wolf = El lobo es malo / The wolf is bad
Las niñas buenas / The good girls = Las niñas son buenas / The girls are good

But if you use the verb estar (to be) with an adjective you are not talking about a characteristic as if it were an essential trait, you are talking about a characteristic of someone or something but not seeing it as intrinsically related to that someone or something. It may be a trait only present for the moment, for example. English doesn't usually makes this subtle distinction, so we have added some extra information to the translations so you can better grasp the difference of using estar instead or ser:

El perro es bonito / The dog is pretty ≠ El perro está bonito / The dog is pretty (right now but maybe not tomorrow). 
El gato es flaco / The cat is skinny  ≠ El gato está flaco / The cat is skinny (today, but it could get fat if we feed him). 

Now, since estar is not used to express an intrinsic quality, the following examples using estar can't be referring to moral or spiritual qualities (intrinsic by nature) such as being good or being bad, so malo (bad) and bueno (good) here can only refer to something different: 

El lobo es malo / The wolf is bad ≠ El lobo está malo / The wolf is sick (or tastes badly). 
Las niñas son buenas / The girls are good ≠ Las niñas están buenas / The girls are tasty (Something the Big Bad Wolf could say, for example (think buenas = sabrosas = tasty). As "tasty" in English buenas can also mean "good looking," which is a rather vulgar expression, by the way). 

That covers the use of ser and estar plus an adjective like bueno (good). Let's see what happens if you combine these verbs with an adverb, like bien (well). The first good news is that you never use the verb ser with and adverb. So you can never user bien (well) with the verb ser. Never. The following are all incorrect expressions: 

Yo soy bien
Nosotros somos tan bien
El carro es bien


You must use instead an adjective combined with the verb ser if you want to talk about ethical or intrinsic qualities:

Yo soy bueno / am good
Nosotros somos tan buenos / We are so good 
El carro es bueno / The car is good (maybe it's a good brand, or a good model, or just a good one for some other reason)

If you want to talk about non-essential, non-intrinsic, non-ethical qualities, you need to use an adjective combined with the verb estar:

Yo estoy bueno / am tasty (If a good meal could talk, it could say something like that. The expression can also mean " I'm good looking" by extension, see above).  
Nosotros estamos tan buenos / We are so tasty (or "good looking," see above).  
El carro está bueno / The car is in good condition.

Or, finally, an adverb with the verb estar:

Yo estoy bien / am well
Nosotros estamos tan bien / We are so well
El carro está bien / The car is Ok (is doing well)
 

Continue Reading

Spanish Adjectives

Over the last few weeks you have seen a few video lessons about adjectives as part of our series Lecciones con Carolina. So you probably know by now that one of the most challenging aspects of Spanish adjectives is that they must agree in gender and number with the noun they modify. Having this in mind, we have prepared for you a brief review on how adjectives are built in Spanish.

In Spanish, adjectives that end in -o have four forms. We have singular masculine adjectives ending in -o, and singular feminine ending in -a:

Es un gasto económico muy alto para la fundación.
Is a very high economic expense for the foundation.
Captions 28, Animales en familia - Adopta a Pino

¡Qué casa más bonita tienen tus abuelos!
What a beautiful house your grandparents have!
Captions 33, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 20

The corresponding plural adjectives end in -os, for the masculine:

En el bulevar de los sueños rotos
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Captions 1, Joaquin Sabina - Por El Boulevar De Los Sueños Rotos

and in -as, for the feminine:

Es una tonta ésa, como todas las tontas que se meten con Ivo.
She's a dumb one, that one, like all the dumb ones who get involved with Ivo.
Captions 30, Muñeca Brava - 45 El secreto - Part 4

We also have Spanish adjectives that end in -e. They only have two forms, -e for singular and -es for plural. Here is an example of an adjective ending in -e in the singular form that is used to modify the feminine noun fuerza (strength):

Y tienen fuerza física suficiente.
And they have enough physical strength.
Captions 42, Centro de Recuperación de la Fauna Salvaje - Veterinario Jesús López

And here is an example of an adjective ending in -e in the plural form that is used to modify the masculine nouns vinos (nouns) and paisajes (landscapes), but also the feminine noun cervezas (beers):

En España tenemos de todos. Grandes vinos, grandes cervezas y grandes paisajes.
In Spain, we have them all. Great wines, great beers, and great landscapes.
Captions 25, Casa Pancho - vinos y pinchos - Part 2

On the other hand, some Spanish adjectives end in a consonant, like popular (popular),voraz (voracious),  and fácil (easy). These are similar to the ones ending in -e: they only have two forms. The singular form is invariable for feminine and masculine nouns:

La tarea fácil / The easy homework.
El curso fácil  / The easy course.
El actor popular The popular actor.
La actriz popular The popular actress.
El lobo voraz / The voracious (male) wolf.
La loba voraz / The voracious (female) wolf.

And the plural form uses -es for both feminine and masculine nouns. Notice how you may learn to substitute z for c in some cases:

Las tareas fáciles / The easy homeworks.
Los curso fáciles  / The easy courses.
Los actores populares The popular actors.
Las actrices populares The popular actresses.
Los lobos voraces The voracious (male) wolves.
Las lobas voraces / The voracious (female) wolves.

Finally, there is a group of adjectives in Spanish that end in a consonant but don't follow the previous rule exactly. These are adjectives ending in -án-ón, and -or. For these, the feminine adds -a for the singular, and -as for the plural. The masculine uses -es for the plural form. The good news is there are not many adjectives in this group. Some examples are:

El hombre haragán / The lazy man.
La mujer haragana  The lazy woman.
El maestro fanfarrón The boastful (male) teacher.
La maestra fanfarrona The boastful (female) teacher.
El policía abusador The abusive policeman.
La policía abusadora The abusive policewoman.

Can you figure out the corresponding plural forms? They are as follows:

Los hombres haraganes / The lazy men.
Las mujeres haraganas  The lazy women.
Los maestros fanfarrones The braggart (male) teachers.
La maestra fanfarrona The braggart (female) teachers.
Los policías abusadores The abusive policemen.
Las policías abusadoras The abusive policewomen. 

Continue Reading

Verbs with the prefix a

One of the most common prefixes used in Spanish is a. This prefix is very interesting because when coming from the Latin prefix ab- or abs-, a- denotes separation or privation, but when coming from the Latin prefix ad-, a- denotes approximation or presence. Another interesting and useful aspect of this prefix is that it can be added to certain nouns and adjectives to form verbs.

Let's compare the different uses of the prefix a-. Take the word ausente (absent). This is a perfect example of the use of the prefix a- to indicate separation. We have a full movie titled El Ausente:  

Ya llegó el que andaba ausente y éste no consiente nada...
Now he arrived, the one who was absent and this one does not allow anything...
Caption 6, El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 5

Strikingly enough, the prefix a- can also mean approximation or presence. A good example is the verb asistir  meaning "to attend":

Siempre hemos de asistir personalmente a la entidad bancaria.
We should always go personally to the banking entity.
Caption 13, Raquel - Abrir una cuenta bancaria

Much more practically useful is to know that we can add the prefix a- to other words, like nouns and adjectives, to form verbs. Below is an example from a video published this week. The verb acostumbrar (to get used to) is formed with the prefix a and the noun costumbre (custom, use):

Vea, Pepino, hay sitios donde les enseñan a los animales a que se vuelvan acostumbrar a su hábitat.
Look, Pepino [Cucumber], there are places where they teach animals to get used to their habitat again.
Caption 9, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 7

Now, using the noun tormento (torment) we get the verb atormentar (to torment): 

Eso seguro era algo que podía atormentarlos.
That surely was something that could torment them.
Caption 43, Sub30 - Familias - Part 10

There are so many! From susto (fright) you get asustar (to scare):

¡Ay no, Candelario! No me asustes.
Oh no, Candelario! Don't scare me.
Caption 38, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes - Part 1

You can also use adjectives. For example, lejos (far) and cerca (close) give us alejar (to put or to go far away), and acercar (to put or to get close):

Después me alejaré
Then I will go away
Caption 21, Reyli - Qué nos pasó

Ella trataba de acercarse a mí.
She tried to get close to me.
Caption 9, Biografía - Pablo Echarri - Part 3

Here is a list with more examples. Maybe you can find them in our Spanish catalog.

Tonto (fool) - atontar (to fool or become a fool)
Plano (flat) - aplanar (to flatten) 
Grande (big) - agrandar (to make bigger)
Pasión (passion) - apasionar (to become passionate)
Nido (nest) - anidar (to form a nest)
Morado (purple) - amoratar (to get or give bruises)
Francés (French) - afrancesar (to become French-like)
Grieta (crack) - agrietar (to crack)

Continue Reading

Bruto and Cínico

¿Hombres? Pero mirá que sos cínica, Martita, ¿eh?
"Men? But you're quite shameless Martita, aren't you?"
[caption 12, La muñeca brava - la apuesta - part 12]

Pero no lo hace de mala, eh. De bruta que es, lo hace.
"But she doesn't do it because she's mean. She does it because she's just stupid."
[caption 16, La muñeca brava - la apuesta - part 12]

Mili is having it out with her fellow domestica, Marta, in La Muñeca brava, La apuesta, part 12. Mili calls Marta cínica and bruta. But Marta doesn’t look like a "brute" and we really don’t know her philosophical affiliations. So, what gives?

The words bruto and cínico share Latin roots with their English cousins “brute” and “cynical,” but they don’t mean exactly the same thing. As a matter of fact, they usually mean something else when used in Spanish. If you look at how we translated these words, you will find “stupid” for bruta, and “shameless” for cínica.

Both are adjectives that, when applied to human beings, can also be nouns. No seas bruta or bruto translates into English as “Don’t be stupid” or “[…] dense,” the idea being “as stupid or dense as an animal, a ‘brute.’ ” In Spanish, on the other hand, if you want to call someone a “brute,” you’d say he's an animal (“animal”) or bestia (“beast”): Ese animal quiso propasarse con mi prima. (“That brute tried to go too far with my cousin.”)

In English, “cynical” usually refers to a person who believes in nothing or is generally distrustful of people. “That critic is a real cynic. He never likes anything!” But for this critic to be cínico in Spanish, he would have another quality entirely: Ese critico es un verdadero cínico. Escribió una buena reseña de la obra sólo porque la actriz principal es su amante. “That critic has no shame. He wrote a good review of the play only because the leading lady is his lover.”

There is a Yiddish word, frequently used in English, that nails cínico right on the head: chutzpah. In Spanish it only has the negative sense, though, which according to Leo Rosten is “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery”. That’s the Spanish cínico in a nutshell. “Talk about chutzpah, the nerve of that guy!” ¡Qué cínico!

Notes:
Bruto and "brute" both have a shared root in the Latin "brutus" ("heavy, dull, stupid," later came to mean "associated with lower animals/beasts"). The English "brute" tends to associate more with the physicality aspect (strong yet not graceful) while the Spanish bruto tends to associate more with the mentality aspect (simple minded, ignorant, stupid), but there does exist some crossover in both languages.

Similarly, the Spanish cínico does at times take on a meaning very similar to the meaning we usually ascribe to "cynical" in English, and the reverse is also true. Their shared ancestry goes even deeper than the Latin "cynic," all the way back to the Greek "Kunikas."

For further reading on cínico:
An excellent and very interesting deeper look at cínico and cynical:
http://life-in-translation.blogspot.com/2004/12/cynical-about-dictionaries.html

An expat in Chile discovers the cínico / cynical difference the hard way:
http://cachandochile.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/cynical-or-cinico/

Continue Reading