Lessons for topic Expressions

If I Had Known - An Alternative to Si Clauses

Si clauses are typical markers of the Spanish conditional:

Y yo creo que si me hubiese quedado viviendo...
And, I believe that if I had stayed living...
Caption 31, Club de las ideas - Seguridad en internet - Part 1
However, sometimes you could use the conditional phrase de + haber + participio:

Y yo creo que de haberme quedado viviendo...
And, I believe that if I had stayed living...

In fact, the construction de + haber + participio (endings -ado, -ido, -to, -so -cho) is based on what in Spanish is known as the conditional compuesto or condidional perfecto (perfect conditional):

Here's an example of the perfect conditional combined with a si clause:

Tal vez, si yo fuera un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I were a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion
Caption 19, Belanova - Tal vez - Part 1

And this is how you substitute si with de:

Tal vez, de ser un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I were a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Just for practice, instead of present subjunctive (yo fuera) let's use past perfect subjunctive:

Tal vez, si yo hubiera sido un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I had been a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Substitution is as follows:

Tal vez, de haber sido un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I had been a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

This recalls the common phrase de haber sabido (if I had known). It's also common to combine it with direct object pronouns: de haberlo sabido (If I had known of it), de haberlo pensado (if I had thought of it). 

But de + infinitive is not always an option. For example, you can't use it instead of the si clause when the conditional refers to an action in the future. You can't use it in the following example:


Voy a ver si alguna quiere jugar conmigo a Nimanji.
I am going to see if anyone wants to play Nimanji with me.
Caption 26, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 7

This is because the perfect conditional can only be used to refer to actions in the past. Also have in mind that the perfect conditional is not only used with si clauses, because sometimes the condition for something to happen is left unexpressed or it's inferred only by context:

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado
My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined.
Caption 68, Horno San Onofre - La Historia de la Pastelería

But if we artificially add a si clause to the previous example, let's say:

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado [si viviéramos en México]
My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined [if we were living in Mexico]

Then you can make the de + infinitive substitution:

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado [de vivir en México]
My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined [if we were living in Mexico]

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Starting a New Year in Spanish

It's a brand-new year, which means it's the perfect time to vow to change for good! Many of us have New Year's resolutions so we are rushing to the gym, cutting out carbs, filling out agendas with important meetings and to-do lists, etc. This is all very good and all, but learning how to balance things out and slow down once in a while is also an important part of the equation. Let’s learn some Spanish words of wisdom that may inspire you to do just that.

First of all, it's important to remain positive and don't hold on to the past. As Ramón says:

Y como que... Año nuevo, vida nueva.
And [it's] like... A New Year, a new life.
Caption 66, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa - Part 3
Of course it's important to tackle propósitos de año nuevo (New Year's resolutions) head on. So maybe you will need to madrugar (get up early) more often these days:

Yo también porque mañana tengo que madrugar...
Me, too, because tomorrow I have to wake up early and I have to...
Caption 64, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 1
However, a wise grandma will certainly advice you not to push yourself too hard by saying: No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano (No matter how early you get up, you can't make the sun rise any sooner), which in a way is similar to the English expression "the early bird does not always catch the worm." You can hear our friends from Kikiriki making a humorous adaptation of the same phrase:

y no olviden que no por ser mucho animal amanece más temprano.
and don't forget that you don't get up early because you're very much an animal.
Caption 31, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 7

Finally, it's not like you should slack off either. Yes, it's hard to wake up early to go to the gym, but try to encourage yourself with an old saying that goes al mal paso darle prisa (literally "hurry up with a difficult step") which means something along the lines of "let's get it over and done."

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Amar y Querer

Even though there are plenty of websites devoted to explaining the difference between te amo and te quiero (both meaning "I love you" in English), learning how to use these expressions remains a difficult task for many English speakers. Why is that?
For starters, these phrases deal with perhaps one of the most complicated feelings human beings can ever experience. All things considered, you could say that a language that offers only two verbs to express this feeling is, in fact, very limited! And if you believe Spanish is just complicating things by using both amar and querer, consider that there are at least 11 words for love in Arabic! Is it really that surprising, considering the many ways, modes, and interpretations of love that there are out there?
So, generally speaking, the difference between te amo and te quiero is that the first one is more serious in nature, while the second one is more casual. You have also probably heard or read that te amo is romantic in nature and te quiero is not, but this is not really accurate. The phrase te quiero is used all the time to express romantic love, and is even perhaps more common than saying te amo.
What is the difference, then? Well, there is an added solemnity to saying te amo that is somewhat equivalent to the act of kneeling to propose marriage: some people may see it as too theatrical, affected, and old-fashioned, while others may see it as the ultimate proof of how deep and committed the declaration of love is. For many, using te amoas a declaration of romantic love is very telenovela-like, but for others, it's just the right way to do it. Our new series“Los Años Maravillosos” comically illustrates this duality of perspectives:

Te amo. -Yo también te amo-¿Cómo podían amarse? ¡Se habían conocido a la puerta del colegio hacía cinco minutos!
I love you. -I love you too. -How could they love each other? They had met at the school door five minutes ago!
Caption 47, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1 - Part 5

Te amo is also used very often to express romantic love in songs and poetry:

Te amo dormida, te amo en silencio
I love you asleep, I love you in silence
Caption 49, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor - Part 2

On the other hand, te quiero is a more relaxed way to express either romantic love or affection to family, friends, pets, etc.

Confesarte que te quiero, que te adoro, que eres todo para mí
To confess to you that I love you, that I adore you, that you're everything to me
Caption 3, Andy Andy - Maldito Amor - Part 1

Te quiero mucho (I love you so much) is something you can and must say to your kids, your partner, your family, and yourself on a regular basis:

¿Sabes lo que yo quiero hacer? Pasar mis días con mi abuelito. -¡Qué maravilla! -Te quiero mucho.
Do you know what I want to do? To spend my days with my grandpa. -How wonderful! -I love you a lot.
Caption 22, Yago - 4 El secreto - Part 11

But when can't you say te quiero? Well, here's an interesting tidbit. Spanish speakers have long used the distinction between te amo and te quiero* to test the commitment of their lovers. So learn this: If your lover says to you te quiero, you can answer yo también te quiero. (Of course, you also have the option to turn up the tables and solemnly answer yo te amo, if you are up for it.) But if your lover says to you te amo, be careful! She or he probably means serious business. You either answer with a reciprocal te amo, or answer with te quiero (which will likely be interpreted as, "Whoa! I want to go slower").
In Spanish, when someone says te amo to profess romantic lovethere's always this conscious choice of putting more emphasis, adding more commitment, giving more importance to the expression. It could come out of true emotion, of course, but it could also be a calculated move to manipulate someone. If you are familiar with the plot of “Yago Pasión Morena,” you know which is which in the following situation:

Yo también, mi amor. -Te amo. -Yo también te amote reamo
Me too, my love. -I love you. -I also love you, I love you so much.
Caption 2-3, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 2

So you definitely don't want to be saying te amo lightly to declare romantic love. However, different contexts mean different rules. For example, since expressing your love to your dad is definitely not in the context of romantic love, maybe you can use te quiero on a regular basis and use te amo, papá on his 70th birthday.
Moreover, in some situations, using the verb amar is more natural than using querer. This is especially true when you are talking about your love for inanimate or abstract things, like nature, a musical genre, etc. Why? Well, because the verb querer literally means "to want," while amar is exclusively used to express affection. Strictly speaking, you can also use querer, though it would sound a little odd (it would sound a bit as if you are professing romantic love for an object or an abstract thing). Anyway, if you decide to use querer to express your affection to something other than an animate being, make sure to always use the preposition a (for) plus an article (el, la, los, las, etc.) or a possessive adjective (mi, su, tu, etc). Study the difference between the following examples and their translations. The first option is the most natural and common, the second one is possible but uncommon, and the third one means something totally different:
Voy de vacaciones al campo porque amo a la naturaleza / quiero a la naturaleza / quiero la naturaleza.
I'm going on a vacation to the countryside because I love nature / I love nature / I want nature.
Gertrudis realmente ama a la literatura / quiere a la literatura / quiere literatura.
Gertrudis really loves literature / loves literature / wants literature.
Los niños aman a su hogar / quieren a su hogar / quieren su hogar.
The kids love their home / love their home / want their home.
Amo al jamón ibérico / Quiero al jamón ibérico / quiero jamón ibérico.
I love Iberian ham / I love Iberian ham / I want Iberian ham.
Finally, there is another instance is which you must use amar instead of querer: when you want to express love that is strictly spiritual in nature. So you say amar a dios (to love God), amar al prójimo (to love one’s neighbor), amara la creación (to love God's creation), etc. Again, it's possible to use querer in such contexts as well, but it's not customary and it would sound odd. Here's a nice example:

Hermano gato yo te amo no te mato
Brother cat, I love you, I don't kill you
Caption 19-20, Aterciopelados - Hijos del Tigre

*For advanced learners, here’s a very famous song that refers to the difference between amar and querer out of spite for an unrequited love.

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Flores y Monadas

Here's an easy-to-remember expression: sudar la gota (literally, “to sweat the drop”), which means "to worry." Sometimes you may also hear sudar la gota gorda (to sweat the fat drop)! We used a somewhat similar English expression to translate the following example:

Suda la gota cuando ya no la encuentra
He sweats heavily when he doesn't find her anymore
Caption 12, La Vela Puerca - Se le va - Part 1

Another funny Spanish expression that also exists in English and is associated with distress is llorar lágrimas de cocodrilo (to cry crocodile tears). It's a funny, kind of ironic expression that is used to indicate that someone is crying without really feeling sad, maybe just a little theatrically. The phrase derives from an ancient belief that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey!

No le creo nada, Ivo. Son lágrimas de cocodrilo.
I don't believe anything from him, Ivo. They are crocodile tears.
Caption 37-38, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 2

Talking about not believing, have you heard the expression ojos que no ven corazón que no siente (eyes that do not see, a heart that does not feel)? It's very close to the English expression "what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over." It's very common to hear Spanish speakers abbreviating this expression:

Igual, ojos que no ven...
Anyway, eyes that don't see...
Caption 26, Kikirikí - Agua - Part 2

Let's see a few more expressions that involve animals. It's no surprise that there are a large number of expressions involving monos (monkeys) and other types of apes. But Spanish uses a few that are really puzzling. For example, the expression dormir la mona (literally, "to put the female monkey to sleep"), which means "to sleep off a hangover”:

Tiene que hablar con la patrona y decirle que sus empleadas duermen la mona.
You have to talk with the boss and tell her that her employees are sleeping off their hangovers.
Caption 7, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 6

Una monada (a monkey-like thing), on the other hand, is used to describe something as very cute or beautiful:

Mira qué monada.
Look what a beauty.
Caption 5, Reporteros - Caza con Galgo - Part 2

What about expressions that refer to parts of animals? Spanish uses many with the word pata (paw). For example, meter la pata (to stick one's paw into something) means “to make a mistake.” The closest English equivalent is "to put your foot in your mouth," which means to say or do something tactless or embarrassing:

¡No! Pero si eso ocurre en cualquier momento metes la pata.
No! But if that happens, at any moment you'll put your foot in your mouth.
Caption 49, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 5

In Argentina and Chile, hacer la pata (to do the paw) means “to intercede for someone,” usually with sweet-talking:

¿Me hacés la pata con papá? -¿Para qué?
Will you give me a hand with dad? -What for?
Caption 63, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 3

Instead of hacer la pata, Mexicans use either hacer la pala (literally, “to do the shovel”), which means to sweet-talk someone in order to intercede for someone else, or hacer la barba (literally, “to do the beard”), which is used to describe someone who acts pleasantly with a superior in order to obtain his or her favor. English translations vary:
Julia le hace la barba al maestro para sacar buenas calificaciones.
Julia butters the teacher up so she gets good grades.
Hazme la pala con tu amiga para que acepte salir conmigo.
Convince your friend for me so she agrees to go out on a date with me.
Very different is echar flores or tirar flores (to throw flowers at someone), which means “to compliment,” “to say nice things about somebody”:

Gracias, te agradezco mucho las flores que me estás tirando.
Thanks, I thank you very much for your compliments [literally, "the flowers that you are throwing at me"].
Caption 12, Muñeca Brava - 45 El secreto - Part 1

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To Be Honest & Avoid Being a Chump

Let's keep learning interesting Spanish expressions. Our always-growing catalog of Spanish videos contains many examples that will definitely help you boost your conversational skills.
Mili, the main character of the Argentinian telenovela Muñeca Brava, continues to be a never-ending source of colloquial expressions. In the following example, she gives us the Spanish equivalent of the expression "to call a spade a spade," which in Spanish has a very eucharistical nature:

¡Al pan, pan y al vino, vino, doña!
To call a spade a spade, ma'am! [literally: to call bread "bread" and wine "wine"]
Caption 54, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 4

Indeed, Mili siempre llama al pan, pan y al vino, vino (Mili always calls a spade a spade), because Mili es muy directa para hablar (Mili is very direct). Mexican folks would also say that Mili es muy claridosa (Mili is very plain-spoken, or blunt), a word that comes from the adjective claro (clear). Wouldn't you agree with Spanish speakers who would also say that Mili is not the type of person that esquiva el bulto (literally, “goes around the bundle”)? Depending on the context, this expression may be translated  as "to beat around the bush" or even "to dodge the bullet”:

Al contrario, vos estás esquivando acá el bulto para no pagarme a mí...
On the contrary, you are trying to dodge the bullet to avoid paying me...
Caption 35, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 2

Also equivalent are the Spanish expressions sacar la vuelta (to go around, to evade), hacer rodeos or andar con rodeos (to make detours):

Dime la verdad, no le saques la vuelta
Tell me the truth, don't beat around the bush.
Desde entonces, Lucía siempre me saca la vuelta.
Since then, Lucia is always evading me.
Está bien, Sor Cachetes, déjese de rodeos. Dígame, ¿qué, qué es lo que pasa?
All right, Sister Cheeks, stop beating about the bush. Tell me, what, what's going on?
Caption 41, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 7

Quiero andarme sin rodeos, confesarte que una tarde empecé a morir por ti
I want to go without detours [to be straightforward], to confess to you that one afternoon I began to die for you
Caption 16, Amaia Montero - Quiero Ser - Part 1

Going back to Mili's personality, another useful expression to describe the way she speaks would be ir al grano (to get straight to the point). When someone is wasting your time with a long chat, you can say ¡Ve al grano! (Get to the point!) Of course, you can also do as Mili does and omit the verb ir (to go):

Bueno, vamos. Al grano que quiero dormir mi siesta. ¿Qué venías a pedirme?
Well, let's go. Straight to the point that I want to take my nap. What did you want to ask me?
Caption 58, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 7

Another similar expression is ir al meollo del asunto or ir al meollo de la cuestión, which means “to get to the nub of the issue,” “to get straight to the point.” The word meollo is definitely a keeper. It means the central core of something, and comes from the latin medulla (marrow):

Bueno, el meollo de la cuestión.
Well, the point of the matter.
Caption 11, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 9

There are many virtues and benefits associated with being as direct as Mili is. People like her are usually honest and not prone to telling lies or cheating. Speaking of which, you may have heard the expression dar gato por liebre (to try to deceive; literally, “to give a cat instead of a hare”). A somewhat close English expression is “to be sold a pig in a poke,” which is not very common, anyway.

Gato por liebre. -Exactamente.
A cat for a hare [you think you're getting one thing but it's another]. -Exactly.
Caption 11, El Ausente - Acto 1 - Part 7

This expression is very common in Spanish, so you may want a more contextualized example:
No quieras darme gato por liebre / Don't try to deceive me.
Another similar expression is tomar el pelo (to try to trick someone).The expression dar gato por liebre would be more suitable in the context of a real scam someone is trying to pull. On the other hand, tomar el pelo is more likely used in the context of a joke. In that sense it's similar to the English expression "to pull someone's leg." Here are two examples:

¿Ustedes dos me están tomando el pelo a mí?
Are you two pulling my leg [literally: pulling my hair]?
Caption 28, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 7

¿Qué tango, me estás tomando el pelo? Yo no escucho ningún tango.
What tango, are you pulling my leg? I don't hear any tango.
Caption 37, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 3


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There's More to Dar than Giving

The Spanish verb dar means "to give." However, Spanish uses this verb in many more ways than the English verb "to give." A basic dictionary reports more than forty different uses for it. We already have a lesson exploring some of them. But since the list is long, let's explore another use of the verb dar by analyzing examples found in our catalog of authentic Spanish videos. 

Let's focus on the expression estar dandowhich literally means "to be giving" as in El papá le está dando dinero a su hijo (the father is giving money to his son). Since Spanish usesdar in many more ways than English uses "to give," you will find that estar dando is used in a much broader sense too. For example:

...porque le está dando la luz al monumento.
...because it is lighting the monument.
Caption 26, Club de las ideas - De profesión - Part 1

Let's analyze this construction for a moment. It uses dando (giving), which is the gerundio of the verb dar, followed by the noun luz (light) to express a continuous action. It's not that Spanish lacks more orthodox options to express continuous actions. In Spanish, you can also directly use the gerundio of the verb iluminar (to light):  porque está iluminando al monumento (because it is lighting the monument). This is how English usually expresses these continuous actions anyway, by using verbs with the -ing ending, like "lighting." The Spanish use of dando is just an alternative, one that not all verbs would accept. In fact, if you look closely at the last examples in the following list, you'll notice that the alternative using "giving" also exists in English, with certain verbs.

Lucía está dando gritos - Lucía está gritando / Lucia is shouting
Estás brincando - Estás dando brincos / You are jumping
Estamos informando - Estamos dando información / We're informing - We're giving information
Estoy coloreando - Estoy dando color / I'm coloring - I'm giving color
Estoy amando - Estoy dando amor / I'm loving - I'm giving love
Le estamos dando molestias - Le estamos molestando / We are bothering you - We are giving you trouble

Note that you can't always do these substitutions with all verbs. The example with the verbcomer (to eat) is very illustrative: Elvira está comiendo (Elvira is eating) and Elvira está dando comida (Elvira is giving food) don't mean the same thing. But you can get away with it if you use the verb alimentar (to feed): Elvira está alimentando and Elvira está dando alimento mean exactly the same: "Elvira is feeding." 

Here are more examples:

Me tienes dando vueltas como torbellino.
You have me spinning like a whirlwind.
Caption 61, Calle 13 - Cumbia de los Aburridos

Ahí le vamos dando la forma, despacio.
There we go about shaping it, slowly. [There we go about giving it shape, slowly]
Caption 23, Recetas de cocina - Arepas colombianas

Here is another example with a slightly different construction but the same principle:

Otras más polémicas son las de la Virgen María dando el pecho en el portal de Belén.
Other more controversial ones are those of the Virgin Mary breast-feeding in Bethlehem's stable.
Caption 8, Europa Abierta - Joaquín Pérez - escultor de belenes

By the way, in Spanish, there is also a verb for breast-feeding, it's amamantar. So it's also correct to say la Virgen María amamantando en el portal de Belén (the Virgin Mary breast-feeding in Bethlehem's stable).

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Not Exactly The Same

This lesson explores some expressions that exist both in English and Spanish. By comparing their resemblances and differences you can make them leave a distinctive mark on your memory and eventually brag about them with your friends as new acquisitions in your Spanish lexicon.

Talking about leaving a mark on the memory, Spanish also uses the expression dejar una marca en la memoria (to leave a mark in the memory). There are, however, other alternatives. You can use the word recuerdo (remembrance), for example: dejaste una marca en mi recuerdo (you left a mark on my memory).

Spanish makes a clear distinction between the words memoria and recuerdo, even when sometimes it uses them indistinctly. La memoria (the memory) refers to the brain's ability to retain information, while el recuerdo (the remembrance), is used to talk about a more complex type of memory, one that usually involves feelings. The following example is self-explanatory. Our English translation avoids the use of "remembrance," uncommon in everyday speech, and uses the plural form of "memory" instead:


Siempre quedará en mi recuerdo y en mi memoria.
Will always remain in my memories and in my mind.
Caption 20, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live - Part 4


Ten en mente (keep in mind) that it's also very common to use the verbs escribir (to write), grabar (to engrave), tatuar (to tattoo), or even imprimir (to print), instead of marcar(to mark). In Spanish, a common trope in love declarations, poems, and songs is: te llevo grabado en mi recuerdo (I have you engraved in my memory). The verb grabar (to engrave) also combines very well with the words piel (skin), or mente (mind). So you can say te llevo grabado (or tatuado) en la piel, meaning "I have you engraved (or tattooed) on my skin," a phrase that's usually figurative, but that could be made literal... we guess. Otherwise, maybe you'd rather say: llevo tu recuerdo grabado en la piel (I carry the memory of you engraved on my skin) to leave no room for a literal interpretation.

Surely some purists would advise to dejar al corazón para las cosas del corazón (leave the heart for the matters of the heart):

Leería mi nombre marcado para siempre en tu corazón.
She would read my name written over your heart forever.

And since we just bumped into the expression "leaving no room for interpretation," know that no dejar lugar a interpretaciones also exists in Spanish.  No dejar lugar a dudas (leave no room for doubt), however, is much more common.

Another expression. In our new video about Otavalo, a city in Ecuador, Natalia says:

...han logrado llevar sus productos y sus expresiones artísticas a otros rincones del planeta.
...have managed to bring their products and their artistic expressions to other corners of the planet.
Caption 21, Otavalo, Ecuador - El mercado de artesanías de Otavalo - Part 1

Spanish has two words for "corner:" rincón and esquina. The word rincón is used to denote the idea of a remote location, or even a small special place in a given location:


Mi rincón favorito de Madrid es el templo de Debod.
My favorite nook in Madrid is the Debod Temple.
Caption 42, Álvaro - Arquitecto Español en Londres - Part 1

Rincón can also can mean a hideout or a hidden place, even if you speak just figuratively. You can use it in expressions such as en un rincón de mi cabeza (in the back of my mind) oren un rincón de tu corazón (in a corner of your heart). Or you can use the verb arrinconar (to corner) in expressions such as  me siento arrinconado (I feel cornered) or me tienes arrinconado (you have me cornered).

The word esquina, on the other handis more specific. You use it to talk about the intersection of two walls, or,—a classic example—two streets. In the following example, take note of the figurative use of the Spanish verb doblar (to fold):

Me dijo dobla en la esquina, iremos hasta mi casa.
She told me turn at the corner, we'll go to my place.

Nice, don't you think? Of course, you can easily use the verb voltear (to turn) as well: volteaen la esquina (turn at the corner). Or just say da vuelta en la esquina (make a turn at the corner). Going back to esquina, we recommend that you learn the participleesquinado (cornered). It could be used as an adjective to describe the position or direction of something, for example: pon la mesa de forma esquinada (place the table right next to the corner), or even, the RAE tells us, the prickly temperament of a person (someone with many angles or "corners"). Another keeper is the word esquinero (corner shelf), which is used as an adjective too: mesa esquinera (corner table), farol esquinero (corner lamppost), etc. 

To wrap it up... there is an impolite expression that is used exactly the same way in both languages: vete a tu esquina (go to your corner). Try not to use if too often, if possible. There are, anyway, more productive ways to use this word. Take for example the evocative lyrics of the famous Tinta roja (Red Ink) tango song, which Gardel (a character in our series Yago Pasión Morena) quotes when he feels lost upon arriving in his Buenos Aires arrabal:

¿Dónde estará mi arrabal? Con un borrón, pintó la esquina.
Where would my neighborhood be? With a blot, it painted the corner.
Caption 33, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 3

Here you can read the entire lyrics of Tinta roja and a translation.

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Combining Subjunctive With Imperative

As promised, let's continue our lesson on the subjunctive by analyzing model sentences to learn how to combine it with other moods. You can read our previous lesson on subjunctive and indicative here.

You can combine the imperative (which is only conjugated in the present tense) with two different tenses of the subjunctive. The easiest and the most common case is when you use the imperative with the present subjunctive. Here are two examples (remember we're using bold for the subjunctive and underline for the other moods):

Tú haz lo que quieras y yo también.
You do whatever you want and so do I.
Caption 51, Jugando a la Brisca - En la calle - Part 1

Y decile a tu amigo que deje de llamarme Vicky.
And tell your friend to quit calling me Vicky.
Caption 19, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto - Part 4

Keep in mind that deci (tell) is typically Argentinian. In other countries you would hear di (tell): dile a tu amigo (tell your friend).

But going back to the subjunctive, let's analyze the meaning of the expression in the last example. Spanish uses the subjunctive here because what has been said is in the realm of possibilities (in this case, is the expression of a desire) not in the realm of facts. So you can't say dile que me deja de llamarme Vickythis is incorrect because the indicative deja (he quits) is reserved to state facts, as in tu amigo deja de llamarme Vicky (your friend quits calling me Vicky). Another way to phrase the same request could be dile a tu amigo que no me llame Vicky (tell your friend not to call me Vicky). Note that instead of using the verb dejar (to quit) we use a negation plus the verbllamar (to call) in present subjunctive (llame). Again, you could not possibly use the indicative mood here and say dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky. This is incorrect— well, at least if what you want to express is a desire or a request. We say this because you know how context changes everything. For the pure pleasure of curiosity, consider an expression in which this last construction could happen, for example: dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky que venga a mi fiesta (tell your friend who doesn't call me Vicky to come to my party). See? We use the indicative llama (he calls) to express that it's a fact that he doesn't call Victoria "Vicky," and then we use the subjunctive venga (to come) because it states Victoria's desire for him to come to her party. 

But let's not torture ourselves with games and let's see the second case of imperative combined with subjunctive, this time the pretérito perfecto (equivalent to present perfect subjunctive) which is a compound tense that uses the auxiliary verb haber (to have):

Haz lo que te hayan dicho los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors have told you. 
Dame lo que hayas cocinado.
Give me whatever you have cooked.
Dime lo que María te haya contado.
Tell me whatever Maria has told you.

This is not exactly an easy tense, right? Compare these sentences with the following ones that use the imperative with the present subjunctive (reviewed first in this lesson):

Haz lo que te digan los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors tell you. 
Dame algo de lo que cocines mañana.
Give me some of what you cook tomorrow.
Dime lo que María quiera.
Tell me whatever Maria wants.

The good news is that you can find ways to get away without using the pretérito perfecto del subjuntivo. For example, you can just use the simple past indicative. It's much less... let's say sophisticated, because the subtle meaning of indeterminacy that the subjunctive gives to the expression (which in English is expressed using the word "whatever") gets lost. Still, the past indicative gets the job done:

Haz lo que te dijeron los doctores.
Do what the doctors told you. 
Dame lo que cocinaste.
Give me what you cooked.
Dime lo que María te contó.
Tell me what Maria told you.

Part 3 of this series will tackle the use of the conditional paired with subjunctive.

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En absoluto de ninguna manera, del todo...

We have been exploring interesting forms of negation in Spanish. This lesson will be focusing on the use of the expressions en absoluto, de ninguna manera, and del todo.

The Spanish expression en absoluto (not at all) is similar to the English negation "absolutely not" but it's not used the same way. Perhaps the most notable difference is that in Spanish you don't necessarily need the word no (not) for the expression to be considered a negation.  Here's an example:

Aldo, ¿a vos te molesta? -En absoluto.
Aldo, does it bother you? -Not at all.
Captions 4,5 Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 9

If you want to add the negative word no (not) you usually include it before the expression en absoluto followed by a comma:

No, en absoluto. ¿Alguna indicación más para el viaje?
No, absolutely not. Any other instruction for the trip?
Caption 55, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema - Part 8

Of course, if you don't add the preposition en (in) before it, the word absoluto is just an adjective:  

Quiero tener el control absoluto de la empresa.
I want to have absolute control of the company.
Caption 13, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 3

Spanish also uses the adverb absolutamente (absolutely). You need a negative word such as no (not) or nada (nothing) to use it as part of a negation:

Manillas tampoco, absolutamente nada.
No bracelets either, absolutely nothing.
Caption 59, Misión Chef - 2 - Pruebas - Part 1

If you want to use this word in short negative answers, you just need to add a negative word directly after it, or before it followed by a comma. Here are some examples:


¿Te duele algo? -Nada, absolutamente / Absolutamente nada.
 Is anything hurting you? -Nothing, absolutely not / Absolutely nothing.

 ¿Vino alguien a la fiesta? -Nadie, absolutamente / Absolutamente nadie.
 Someone came to the party? -Nobody, absolutely not / Absolutely nobody.

¿Tienes hambre? -No, absolutamente / Absolutamente no.
Are you hungry? -No, absolutely not / Absolutely not.


The expression de ninguna manera means "no way." It can be used as part of long negative statements like de ninguna manera voy a hacer eso (there's no way I will do that). You could also invert the order of the words, but in this case you need to add the negative word no before the verb, for example: no voy a hacer eso de ninguna manera (I won't do that, no way).

You can also use de ninguna manera as a short negative answer, with or without the use of the negative word no:

¿Usted también me va a dar la espalda? -¡De ninguna manera!
You're turning your back on me too? - No way!
Caption 35, Yago - 8 Descubrimiento - Part 7

No, no, no. Node ninguna manera.
No, no, no. Nono way.
Caption 37, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 6

Finally, another Spanish expression that is commonly used in negative phrases is del todo (at all, totally, completely). In fact, to be part of a negation this expression needs to be preceded by a negative word, such as no (not) or nunca (never), and a conjugated verb. Here is an interesting example:

Se titula "Nunca se convence del todo a nadie de nada".
It's entitled "You Never Convince Anyone Completely of Anything."
Caption 8, Bunbury - Entrevista Con Enrique Bunbury - Part 1

You can also use del todo as part of a short negative answer: you have to keep the negative word proceeding it (in this case you should not use a comma) but you can omit the conjugated verb because it's implied in context. For example:


¿Te gustó la película? -No del todo.
Did you like the movie? -Not completely.

¿Fuiste feliz en tu primer matrimonio? -Nunca del todo.
Were you happy in your first marriage? -Never completely.

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¡Para nada, nada que ver!

Spanish has some interesting forms of negation. This lesson explores one of them.

In a new installment of the always-passionate series Yago, Pasión Morena (yes, that's its original title), we hear the expression para nada (at all, literally "for nothing"), which can be added to any given negative expression to add more emphasis to it. The construction is simple: you add the expression para nada to any standard negation formed with the word no and a conjugated verb. Consequently, no es (it's not) becomesno es para nada (it's not at all), no salgo (I don't go out) becomes no salgo para nada (I don't go out at all), and so on. Here's an example:

Pienso que no es para nada adecuado el casamiento.
I think that the wedding is not appropriate at all.
Caption 23, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 5 

Pretty straightforward, right? On the other hand, Spanish also allows for a different (but less common) option. You can actually get rid of the word no and place the verb afterpara nada. So, in the previous example, the expression could also be: Pienso que para nada es adecuado el casamiento (I think that the weeding isn't appropriate at all). Here's a similar example from our catalog:

Pero para nada es así.
But it isn't that way at all.
Caption 11, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf - Part 2

In Spanish you can also use this expression as a sort of short negative answer. You can either say no, para nada, or simply para nada:

¿Te molesta que lo haya hecho sin consultarte? -¡No, para nada!
Does it bother you that I have done it without consulting you? -No, not at all!
Caption 44, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 7

Now, pay attention to the following example, because no... para nada can also simply mean "not... for anything:"

Esto fuera, que no lo usamos para nada.
This one out, as we don't use it for anything.
Caption 67, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 7

Las ayudas pueden hacer muchas escuelas, pero sin profesores no sirven para nada.
The aid can make many schools, but without teachers they're not good for anything.
Caption 32, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 4

Conversely, para nada alone (without using the word no) can also mean "for nothing." This usage is not very common in Spanish, but you can find it in expressions such as tú eres un bueno para nada (you are a good-for-nothing).

By the way, you should know that it's possible to combine para nada (whether it means "for nothing" or "at all") with other negative words besides no, for example: nuncaor jamas (never), tampoco (either), nadie (nobody), etc. Check out the following examples:

Las segundas partes nunca sirven para nada Second parts are never good for anything.
Este licuado tampoco me gusta para nada / I don't like this smoothie at all either.
Sal de aquí, nadie te necesita aquí para nada / Get out of here, nobody needs you here at all.
(Depending on context, this last one may also be translated as "nobody needs you here for anything"). 

Speaking of nada (nothing), in previous lessons we have discussed the expression nada que ver (to have nothing to do with, literally "nothing to see"). It's generally used as part of a longer statement such as Yo no tengo nada que ver contigo (I have nothing to do with you). However, it's also possible to use nada que ver as a short, emphatic negative answer similar to para nada that is somewhat equivalent to "not at all," "nothing like that," or even "of course not," depending on the tone and context. Strictly speaking, it's really just a shortened version of the expression no, eso no tiene nada que ver (no, that has nothing to do with it). Here is an example:

No, nada que ver... Mejor no me cuentes nada. -Bueno.
No, nothing like that... On second thought, don't tell me anything. -OK.

So, how would you translate or, even more important, use the expression that makes up the title of this lesson? Can you imagine a context in which you could use it? Here's one:

Entonces estás enamorado de Sofía. -¡Para nada, nada que ver!
So you are in love with Sofia. -Not at allof course not

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