Lessons for topic Grammar

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.

Continue Reading

Combining Subjunctive with Indicative

The Spanish subjunctive is one of the most challenging concepts for English speakers to master. Even though English does actually have a subjunctive mood (already challenging by itself), its use is more associated with formal and written speech. By contrast, Spanish uses the subjunctive in everyday situations far more often. And it gets even more challenging if you consider the many ways in which the subjunctive can be combined with other moods in Spanish. So let's try to tackle this prickly subject. But instead of talking about rules and grammar, let's try to take a more practical approach by learning and analyzing model sentences. 

A brief intro. It's very likely that you have already read a lot about the subjunctive. You know that it is not a tense but a mood. That it doesn't refer to the time when an action takes place (past, present, future, etc.), but rather that it reflects how the speaker feels about it. Therefore, that it's radically different from the most commonly used indicative mood, which expresses factual information, certainty, and objectivity. Very much like an evil twin, the subjunctive is used to express the opposite: things like doubt, uncertainty, subjectivity, etc. We have explored the basic use of the subjunctive before in previous lessons, and you are welcome to explore them again. Some are:

Using que [that] + subjunctive to express good wishes
Como si fuese: Learning to use the subjunctive
Haya: For Possibilities and Doubts

 We also have a couple of videos on the subjunctive:
El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos - Subjuntivo y condicional 
Escuela Don Quijote - En el aula - Part 1


In this lesson we will focus on the use of the subjunctive combined with the indicative mood by studying model sentences. Take note: we will always use bold to highlight the subjunctive and underlining for the indicative. Also, we recommend that you use https://conjuguemos.com if you need to check out the Spanish verb conjugation charts.

The Spanish present subjunctive is notoriously used combined with the indicative present in sentences for which English uses only the indicative. There is a memorable sentence you can use as a model to remember this: 
 

Quiero que me quieras.
I want you to want me.
Caption 1, Gael García Bernal - Quiero Que Me Quieras


So never say quiero que me quieres, ok? That makes the same sense in Spanish that "I want that you would want me" makes in English. Get it? Another example: don't say no deseo que sufres, instead say no deseo que sufras ( I don't want you to suffer). 
Present subjunctive can be combined with indicative future:
 

Desearé que tengas buen viaje.
I will wish that you have a nice trip.
Caption 55, Kany Garcia - Hoy Ya Me Voy


Now, you can also combine the past indicative with the past subjunctive. The easiest and most common case is when you combine the pretérito del indicativo (simple past indicative) with pretérito imperfecto subjuntivo (past imperfect subjunctive). Call it the Simple Past Mash-up:
 

Siempre quise que fueras feliz.
I always wanted you to be happy. 
Caption 14, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 6


Then you can also combine the pretérito imperfecto del indicativo (imperfect past indicative) with the same pretérito imperfecto subjuntivo (past imperfect subjunctive). As you may know, the imperfect is used to refer to past habitual actions or to set the scene in the past. So if this is of any help to you, you could call this the Habitual Past Mash-up. Here's a model sentence using the same verb querer (to want):
 

Ella no quería que yo leyera.
She didn't want me to read.
Caption 17, Carli Muñoz - Niñez - Part 1


So, in Spanish you have these two options that translate the same way in English. Feel comfortable using either of them; the difference is quite subtle:

Ella no quizo que yo leyera / Ella no quería que yo leyera.
She didn't want me to read / She (habitually) didn't want me to read.

Note: there are other options to combine the past indicative with the past subjunctive, but we'll skip them since they use compound forms of the verb and are not used that often in common speech. Instead, let's analyze and learn some interesting combinations of present indicative with past subjunctive next.

Spanish speakers use present indicative with past subjunctive and vice versa. This happens with the past perfect tense (either in the subjunctive or in the indicative moods) because of its proximity to the present tense.

When it's present indicative with past subjunctive, it's with the pretérito perfecto subjuntivo, a compound tense in the subjunctive mood that uses the verb haber (to have) plus a participio (the -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho ending):
 

No creo que hayas venido nada más que para decirme algo que yo ya sé.
I don't think that you've come just to tell me something that I already know.
Caption 9, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 10


We suggest you to practice this model sentence with other persons and forms of this subjunctive (using different participios as well):
No creo que hayan tomado mucha cerveza / I don't think that they've drunk a lot of beer.
No creo que él haya salido de ahí / I don't think that he has come out of there.
No creo que hayamos  impreso eso / I don't think that we've printed that.
No creo que hayas dicho eso / I don't think that you've said that out.

Note also that here no creo (I don't think) is expressing doubt, and that's why the sentence needs the use of subjunctive. If we were to say the opposite, yo creo (I think), we could also combine it with a past tense but in the indicative mood. For the first example: Creo que han tomado mucha cerveza (I think they have drunk a lot of beer).

Finally, the other way around, Spanish speakers can use past indicative with present subjunctive. When this happens it's with the pretérito perfecto indicativo, a compound tense in the indicative mood that uses the verb haber (to have) plus aparticipio (the -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho ending):
 
Él no ha querido que yo diga nada.
He hasn't wanted me to say anything.

And that's it for now. Who said this lesson wouldn't be loaded with grammar? Anyway, we suggest that you learn the model sentences and try to build new ones making substitutions. We will continue next week analyzing sentences that combine subjunctive with other two moods: the conditional and the imperative.

Continue Reading

¡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

Continue Reading

Using the Spanish Verb Dar

The Spanish verb dar (to give) is very useful, especially to ask and receive good things in life. It can be used in a very literal way to express the idea of giving all sort of things, concrete or abstract, and it's also used in many idiomatic expressions. Let's analyze a few examples:

Let's start with the basic meaning of dar. The imperative mode is a big favorite:

Señorita, la foto es suya. -¡Damedame la foto!
Miss, the picture is yours. -¡Give megive me the photo!
Caption 20, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 8

Remember that the actual conjugated form of the verb here is only da (you give). However, in the imperative form it is very common to attach object pronouns to the verb forms, in effect using them as suffixes. In this case the pronoun me (to me) functions as the indirect object of the verb. It's also very common to also attach more than one pronoun, for example to substitute the direct object as well. In this case the direct object is la foto, a feminine noun. So Morena could have also simply said dámela (give it to me). If there were many fotos it would be dámelas (give them to me), and if we were talking about, let's say, zapatos (shoes), then it would bedámelos (give them to me). You know, it's just an important thing to learn. There is a saying in Spanish that goes, al que no habla, Dios no lo oye (he who doesn't speak, God won't hear).

The verb dar is also used to deal with abstract ideas of giving. For example, just as in English we can say something like "you give me a headache," a Spanish speakers would say me das dolor de cabeza. Spanish extends the use of dar even more, though, to express ideas for which English instead uses verbs such as "to produce," "to yield," or "to bear." 

Mil seiscientos cincuenta da el kilo.
The kilo yields one thousand six hundred fifty.
Caption 8, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 6

Digamos en la costa, también da buenas frutas
Let's say in the coast, it also produces good fruit
Caption 16, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

In fact, the list of uses of dar is quite extensive. You can learn many here and maybe try to find examples in our videos. We'll focus now on the use of dar in idiomatic expressions, where the meaning of dar  (to give) is completely transformed into something very different. For example, dar is used to express that something happens: 

No sé, se dio así. 
I don't know, it happened that way.
Caption 18, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 4 

There is also the expression darse cuenta (to realize): 

Mírala bien y te das cuenta que es una minita.
Look at her closely and you'll realize that it's a chick.
Caption 18, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 6

The expression se me da por is used to express the idea of getting into the habit or liking of doing something. For example:

Papá, mira la casualidad, ahora que se me da por caminar te encuentro siempre.
Dad, look what a coincidence, now that I got into the habit of walking, I always run into you.
Caption 1, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 4


On the other hand, when someone says that something se le da, it means that something comes natural to the person, that it is a natural talent he or she has:

Que se me dan bastante bien los idiomas.
That I'm pretty good at learning languages.
Caption 4, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf

Or not... 

A mí no se me da eso de andar en reversa
I'm not good at driving in reverse
Caption 5, Gloria Trevi - Cinco minutos

One last example. From the expression darse por vencido (to give up, literally "to give oneself as defeated") comes the useful question-and-answer pair, ¿Te das? - Me doy. You must learn both if you like adivinanzas (riddles). This is how you use them:

-Oro parece, plata no es. ¿Qué fruta es? / -It looks like gold, it's not silver. What fruit it is?
-No sé. Me doy. / -I don't know. I give up.
-¿Te das? / -Do you give up
Sí, me doy! / -Yes, I give up!
Fácil. Es el pláta-no. / Easy. It's the banana.

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

Different Verbs, Same Idea? Let's Not Get Philosophical

The Spanish verbs tener (to have), haber (especially the impersonal verb formhay), ser and estar (both "to be") can sometimes be interchanged or used in similar ways to express the same idea. Recently, one of our subscribers asked us to tackle the subject. Since these verbs are indeed among the list of the most useful, versatile, and difficult verbs in the Spanish lexicon, we thought... What are we waiting for?! 

 

In Spanish we use hay, the impersonal form of the verb haber (to have) to express a necessity. The formula is always hay que:

Es decir, hay que compartir. 
I mean, it's necessary to share.
Captions 20, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 15

However, it's also possible to use the verbs tener (to have) or ser (to be) to express the same idea. Here's what the phrases would look like:

With tenerEs decir, se tiene que compartir.
With ser (you can't use estar): Es decir, es necesario compartir.

Is there a difference between them? Not really. OK, maybe a very subtle one, practically inexistent: it could be argued that the level of urgency in which the necessity is expressed is different for each sentence. Hay que is more pressing, se tiene is a little less, and es necesario is even lesser. It's really a negligible and debatable difference, so feel free to use them indistinctly.

 

Another case. We  can use hay to express the concept of "there are/there is."

Creo que hay muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending"
I believe there are many people doing circuit bending.
Captions 63, Lo que no sabías - Arte electrónico - Part 5

 

Can we use the other verbs to express the same idea? Well, this is a tricky matter. Of course, the following sentences are all possible in Spanish:

 

With tener

Creo que tenemos muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending" / I believe we have a lot of people doing circuit bending.


With estar: 

Creo que están muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending" / I believe a lot of people are doing circuit bending.

In fact, the usual order would be: Creo que muchas personas están haciendo "circuit bending."


With ser:

Creo que son muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending" / I believe they are many, the people doing circuit bending.

Take note that saying Creo que muchas personas son haciendo circuit bending is totally incorrect.

 

You can see that the first sentence using tener (to have) is very similar to the example using hay even though they are not exactly the same. The second example using estar is, however, the closer to the original one that uses hay. The only difference is they employ different verbs, haber (to have) and estar (to be). The third one is the really tricky one, because the subtle difference between the use of ser and estar (both "to be") gets lost in English. Maybe, in this particular context, you could use son muchas personas instead of hay muchas personas. 

 

Just remember that in Spanish the use of the verb ser (to be) implies a more fundamental situation, while the use of estar implies a more temporal one, one that might change, one that depends on external factors like time and space. Ser is more about the essence of things and situations. Its meaning is broad and less determined by context. Therefore, using ser results in a shift of the sentence's focus from the action of doing circuit bending to the nature or state of being many, which is something we tried to mimic in our translation. In fact, that's the reason why the sentence only works using exactly that word order; so the verb son (ser/to be) modifies muchas personas. But you can't use ser to modify the verb haciendo, that is, to talk about an action that may be happening now, but may or may not happen tomorrow. For that you must use the verb están (estar/to be): están haciendo. Let's put it with apples:

Hay manzanas en la mesa / There are apples on the table.
Tenemos manzanas en la mesa / We have apples on the table.
Las manzanas están en la mesa / The apples are on the table.

Las manzanas son en la mesa /

This last example can't be used instead of any of the previous ones. In fact, it can't really be used at all, unless you are taking part in some kind of philosophical discussion. Saying this in Spanish would mean something like "The apples exists on the table." 

 

Let's now see an example where you can use ser but not estar:

Pero siempre vamos a encontrar que hay una gran similitud.
But we are always going to find that there is a great similarity.
Caption 23, Beatriz Noguera - Exposición de Arte - Part 1

The following sentences are not exactly the same; however, in some contexts they may be used to express the same idea, with subtle differences. Please note that in the following examples we have added possible contexts in parentheses.

With tener

Pero siempre vamos a encontrar que tenemos una gran similitud (entre chabacanos y duraznos) But we are always going to find that we have a great similarity (between apricots and peaches).

The sentence may mean something different in a different context, though. For example: 

Tenemos una gran similitud (entre nosotros) We have a great similarity (between each other).

With ser:

Pero siempre vamos a encontrar que es una gran similitud (la que existe entre chabacanos y duraznos) But we are always going to find that there is a great similarity (that exists between apricots and peaches).

Notice how the verb ser here modifies similitud (the similarity is fundamentally great), and we need to use existe (to exist)—we could also use hay (there are)—in a complicated circunloquio (circumlocution) so we can convey the idea of the first example. You can't ever say something like es una gran similitud entre chabacanos y duraznos.

 

With estar

 

It's not possible to use the verb estar (to be) to express this idea. You can't ever say something like está una gran similitud entre chabacanos y duraznos. This is wrong because you use estar to express non intrinsic situations, and when we talk about the similarity of apricots and peaches we are necessarily comparing their fundamental way of being, their intrinsic nature, what makes them what they are and not, let's say, bananas and apples. 

 

Ok. Keeping all this in mind, let's put you to the test: Are the following sentences possible in Spanish? If they are, do they mean the same thing? 

Los gemelos son igualitos.
Los gemelos están igualitos.

The answer is yes, both sentences are possible in Spanish. What's the difference between them, then? 

 

Well, the first sentence is either talking about the fundamental similarity that exists between twins, any twins in general (Twins are identical), or it's talking about a particular couple of twins, which we refer to as "the twins," and the idea would translate as "The twins are identical." Using ser here stresses the idea that they are identical because they are identical in something that is intrinsic to them, not because they are wearing the same outfit or have the same haircut, for example. On the contrary, the second sentence, using estar, can't be used to talk about any twins in general. It can only be used to refer to a certain couple of twins. The translation is then, "The twins are identical."

 

By the way, fun fact: the diminutive igualito (from igual = same) paradoxically functions as a kind of augmentative: igualito means "very same," "identical."

 

Continue Reading

The Complicated World of Reflexive Verbs

The use of reflexive verbs in Spanish can be very challenging to English speakers. A verb is used reflexively when the subject of the verb is also its object. In other words, when the subject is acting on itself. Of course, English also uses reflexive verbs. However, while English makes use of expressions like "to himself," "to herself," etc., Spanish uses reflexive pronouns. Let's compare the use of reflexive verbs in English and Spanish in the following examples:

Es que con su electricidad se defiende y también puede cazar.
The thing is that with her electricity, she defends herself and also can hunt.
Captions 21, Guillermina y Candelario - Un pez mágico - Part 2

One of the most challenging aspects of the use of reflexive verbs in Spanish is the different ways in which reflexive pronouns and verbs are combined. You can use the pronoun as in the first example: ella se defiende (she defends herself), but adding the reflexive pronoun as a suffix to the verb is also correct (though kind of poetic), ella defiéndese (she defends herself). Here's another example that even combines two reflexive verbs in such a way:

Ella está dedicándose a relajarse pintando.
She's dedicating herself to relaxing [herself] by painting.
Caption 21, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 13

And there is even a different way to express the exact same idea: Ella se está dedicandorelajarse pintando

 

It's also very common to use more than one verb in reflexive expressions in Spanish. Usually one verb is conjugated and the other one is an infinitive. Here is an example that combines the verbs saber (to know) and cuidar (to take care):

No le teme a nada, él se sabe cuidar
He's not afraid of anything, he knows how to take care of himself
Captions 42, Alberto Barros - Mano a mano - Part 1

There is another way to express the same idea. Can you guess it now? Yes, it's él sabe cuidarse.

 

Remember we said that Spanish uses reflexive pronouns while English uses expressions such as "to himself," "to herself," etc.? Well, that doesn't mean that Spanish doesn't have similar expressions. They are: mí mismo (myself), sí misma (herself), sí mismo(himself, itself), sí mismos (themselves), and nosotros mismos (ourselves). It may seem repetitive, but it's correct and very common to use them altogether with reflexive pronouns and verbs:

De crecer, de vivir, de ver, de realizarse a sí mismos.
To grow, to live, to see, to make themselves [to come into their own].
Captions 15, Horno San Onofre - La Historia de la Pastelería - Part 1

Another confusing aspect of reflexive verbs in Spanish is that they are not always used in the same situations in English. A classic example is the use of the reflexive bañarse to describe the action of taking a bath. You wouldn't normally say "I'm bathing myself" in English, but rather "I'm bathing" or "I'm taking a bath." Or take, for example, the verb arrepentir[se]:

Quisiera arrepentirme, ser el mismo, y no decirte eso
I would like to repent, to be the same, and to not tell you that
Captions 19, Camila - Aléjate de mí - Part 1

Sometimes things get even more confusing. Expressions like la sopa se quema or el plato se rompió (literally "the soup burns itself" and "the dish broke itself") don't seem to make much sense, right? How can inanimate objects act on themselves? However, these expressions are correct in Spanish, and they are commonly used as some kind of passive voice. That's how they usually translate to English:

...porque si no, se quema la arepa.
...because if not, the arepa gets burned.
Caption 22, Dany - Arepas - Part 2

To end this lesson we want to share with you a Spanish saying that uses reflexive verbs. It may come in handy if you are thinking reflexive Spanish verbs are way too confusing. It goes like this: No te preocupes, mejor ocúpate (Don't worry yourself, it's better to occupy yourself). 

 

Continue Reading

Verbs With a Prefix

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

Lo as a Direct Object Pronoun

Did you hear the news about the US becoming the second biggest Spanish-speaking country? Guess that means we are on the right track, right? Let's keep learning and polishing our Spanish then. As promised, here is a lesson on the use of lo as a direct pronoun. For your reference, our previous lesson on lo used as a neuter article is already up on our site.

Besides being a neuter article, lo is the Spanish neuter direct object pronoun. It's used to replace an idea, situation, or concept (something non-specific or with no gender) that is the direct object of a transitive verb in any given sentence. For most direct objects, Spanish uses either the masculine pronoun (which is also lo, by the way) or the feminine pronoun (la), and their plural forms los, las:

Masculine, singular (el plátano)
Lulú come un plátano  Lulú lo come | Lulú eats a banana  Lulu eats it
Masculine, plural (los plátanos)
Lulú come plátanos  Lulú los come | Lulú eats bananas Lulu eats them
Feminine, singular (la tortilla)
Lulú hace una tortilla → Lulú la hace  Lulú makes a tortilla  Lulu makes it
Feminine, plural (las tortillas)
Lulú hace tortillas → Lulú las hace  Lulú makes tortillas  Lulu makes them

And this is how you use the neuter direct object pronoun lo:
Lucero dice [que] hoy lloverá  Lucero lo dice
Lucero says today will rain → Lucero says it

Note how in the previous examples lo (usually translated to "it," just as the singular masculine and feminine pronouns) doesn't refer to an object, but to a statement that has been made (about a situation: it will rain). This is by far the most common use of lo as a neuter direct pronoun in Spanish. In the following examples, try to identify the neuter direct object that lo is replacing:
 
Se murió. Cuando se lo dije, se derritió. 
She died. When I told it to her, she melted.

Caption 49, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema - Part 4

Finally, we have said that the neuter pronoun lo is translated as "it," but this is not always the case. Being lo such a useful pronoun (it can be used to substitute anything previously said in a conversation), it has find its way into many common phrases that have a specific way of being expressed in English, for example:

Tú no mataste a Victoria Sirenio. -Eso lo dice usted.
You didn't kill Victoria Sirenio. -That's what you say. 
Caption 15, Yago - 7 Encuentros - Part 14

Sometimes the use of lo is equivalent to the use of "that" as a pronoun:

Mira, Roberto, yo te quise como un hijo. -Sí, lo sé. -Tú lo sabes. -Sí.
Look, Roberto, I loved you like a son. -Yes, I know that. -You know that. -Yes.
Caption 7, Yago - 7 Encuentros - Part 14

Ah, disculpa, no quería incomodarte. -No, no lo hiciste.
Oh, sorry, I didn't want to make you uncomfortable. -No, you didn't do that.
Caption 15, Yago - 7 Encuentros - Part 14

And sometimes translating lo is not even necessary: 

¿Qué vas a hacer? Porque yo no lo sé
What are you going to do? Because I don't know
Caption 18, Jarabe de Palo - Y ahora qué hacemos

Si tú vienes con mentiras, eso sí que no lo aguanto yo
If you come with lies, that's something I can't stand
Caption 19, Alberto Barros - Mano a mano

 

Continue Reading

Lo: the Neuter Article

The word lo can either be used as a neuter article, or as a pronoun. In this lesson we will focus on its use as an article.

Neuter articles are used to express abstract ideas or give extra emphasis to a certain adjective. As a neuter article, lo is the easiest of all the articles as there is only one form: lo. It can be placed in front of just about any adjective that expresses an abstraction or a quality (or extreme degree of quantity), something that's not a concrete object or person.

Here are some phrases that take lo before different types of adjectives:

lo bueno = "the good part, what's good"
lo fácil = "the easy part, what's easy"
lo mío = "(that which is) mine"
lo nuestro = "(that which is) ours"

Lo + adjective can be translated in English as "the" + adjective + the word "thing" or "part":

Y pues, es lo malo de vivir en un país así.
And well, it's the bad thing about living in a country like this.
Caption 45, Amigos D.F. - El secuestrar
 
Eso es lo bonito de la gastronomía.
That's the nice thing about gastronomy.
Caption 23, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 7

In fact, lo + adjective generates the syntactic equivalent of a noun phrase. That's why it's also common to translate it as "what is + adjective." In the previous examples, we would have:

Y pues, es lo malo de vivir en un país así / And well, it's what is bad about living in a country like this.
Eso es lo bonito de la gastronomía / That's what is nice about gastronomy.

The use of lo before a relative clause has a similar effect: 

Hay gente que rectifica lo que dice
There are people who correct what they say
Caption 39, Calle 13 - No hay nadie como tú

Lucio, tengo que contarte que por lo que me adelantó Morena...
Lucio, I have to tell you that from what Morena told me in advance...
Caption 42, Yago - 7 Encuentros - Part 14

In fact, lo can often be taken to mean roughly la cosa or las cosas

Hay gente que rectifica lo que dice →  There are people who correct what they say.
Hay gente que rectifica (las cosas) que dice. → There are people who correct (the things) they say.
...por lo que me adelantó Morena → ...from what Morena told me.
...por (las cosas) que me adelantó Morena → ...from (the things) that Morena told me.

By the way, lo can be used before a series of adjetives too:

Pero encontrar lo bueno, bonito y barato a veces es muy complicado.
But finding the good, [the] nice and [the] cheap is sometimes complicated.
Caption 2, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14

Of course, in order to help our subscribers with their learning process, we have made the translation here as parallel as possible. But you already know what would make a more natural translation, right?

→ But finding what's good, nice, and cheap is sometimes complicated.
→ But finding the good, nice, and cheap things is sometimes complicated.

There is yet one more use of lo as a neuter article and it's rather interesting. Lo is used to express the extreme degree or nature of a given concept or idea. Here it's best to review some examples: 

¿Es que no eres todo lo feliz que desearías?
Is it that you are not as happy as you would like?
Caption 24, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 1

Sometimes this lo equates to using the word “how”:

Si supieras lo mucho que te amo.
If you knew how much I love you.
Caption 35, Ozomatli - Jardinero

Porque ves las gradas llenas, eh, la gente lo bien que se lo pasa con la música,
Because you see the packed bleachers, um, how much fun the people have with the music,
Caption 10, Los Juegos Olímpicos - Adrián Gavira

¿Pero cómo voy a perder mis maletas de vista con lo grandes que son?
But how am I going to lose sight of my suitcases with how big they are?
Caption 23, Raquel - Avisos de Megafonía

Read more about the use of the neuter gender here.

 

Continue Reading

Signup to get Free Spanish Lessons sent by email

123...67