What's the difference between the impersonal "se" construction and the passive "se" construction in Spanish? Although they look rather similar (and may be confused with reflexive verbs as well!), they function slightly differently, which we hope to illuminate for you today.
“Impersonal se" constructions, which consist of the pronoun "se" plus a verb conjugated in the third person singular, are called such because they describe people in general rather than any specific person. In other words, no specific agent performs the action of the verb. For this reason, impersonal "se" constructions are used to describe, for example, the manner in which things are done customarily in a particular place or to convey general principles. In English, we tend to express such concepts by using the universal “you,” “they,” “one,” “people," or sometimes omitting the personal pronoun altogether. Let’s take a look at some examples from our Yabla Spanish library.
Bueno, se baila mucho, eh... se come bastante, y se espera hasta las doce para desear la feliz Navidad.
Well, people dance a lot, um... people eat quite a bit, and people wait until twelve to wish [people] Merry Christmas.
Captions 42-44, Cleer y Lida La Navidad en ColombiaPlay Caption
Note that all the verbs in this example are conjugated in the third person singular, and the speaker describes actions that are done customarily (by people in general rather than a specific person) during the Christmas season in Colombia. And, while the translator opted to employ "people" to express this idea, the same sentence could read, "you dance a lot... you eat quite a bit... and you wait..." or, more formally, "one dances... one eats... and one waits." Let's take a look at another example:
Se duerme de noche y se vive de día
One sleeps at night and lives during the day
Caption 38, Calle 13 No hay nadie como túPlay Caption
The lyrics to this catchy tune by Calle 13 refer to the way things are in the world in general, where "one sleeps" (or "you" or "people sleep") at night and live during the day. Let's move on to the next example:
Es mi furgoneta, una camper van, una furgoneta camperizada, que se dice en español.
It's my van, a camper van, a "furgoneta camperizada" [camper van], like you say in Spanish.
Captions 9-10, Amaya "Mi camper van"Play Caption
Alternative translations for se dice in this sentence include "like people say," "as is said," or "like they say" because its intention is to describe what something is customarily called in Spanish. Are you getting the hang of it?
Y juntas vamos a ver algunas de aquellas situaciones que os podéis encontrar en algunos de aquellos países en donde se habla español.
And together, we're going to look at some of those situations that you might encounter in some of those countries where Spanish is spoken.
Captions 4-6, Karla e Isabel Alquilar una habitación - Part 1Play Caption
Se habla español is impersonal because it explains that people in general speak Spanish in certain countries, rather than any specific person. An alternative choice here might have been" "in some of those countries where they speak Spanish." Let's look at one last one:
Ahora se llega a la cima bajando por la sierra
Now you reach the summit by going down the mountain
Caption 23, Calle 13 Ojos Color Sol ft. Silvio RodríguezPlay Caption
Note that directions are another common thing for which the impersonal "se" construction is utilized. This is similar to English, where we ask "How do you get there?" (¿Cómo se llega ahí?" in Spanish) when what we really want to find out is the objectively correct way to go.
In contrast to the impersonal "se" construction in Spanish, in the passive "se," although a specific agent usually does perform the action, said agent is often unknown or unmentioned. Furthermore, the verb in this construction must be a transitive verb, or verb that transmits some action to a direct object. So, this would describe something that "is" or "was" done, for example, to something else, which is most typically inanimate (non-living). Additionally, the verb can be singular or plural depending upon whether the noun/direct object in question is singular or plural, which is not the case with the impersonal "se" construction, where the verb is always singular. Let's look at some examples:
de una habitación que se alquila en un piso compartido.
about a room that is being rented in a shared apartment.
Caption 17, Karla e Isabel Alquilar una habitación - Part 1Play Caption
Here, someone specific is renting out a room in a shared apartment; we just don't know who it is. The verb alquilar is a transitive verb because a direct object (una habitación, or "a room") receives its action. And, since the noun una habitación is singular, the verb has been conjugated in its third person singular form: alquila.
Aquí se venden barcos, ¿no?
Here boats are sold, right?
Caption 78, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 20Play Caption
This example is similar in that the agent who is selling boats is unknown, and the verb vender (to sell) is transitive because it exerts its action onto the noun (los) barcos. However, because the noun los barcos is plural, the verb has been conjugated in the third person plural: venden.
¿Mi confianza? Se perdió desde el día que me dejaste caer del columpio del parque a los dos años.
My trust? It was lost the day that you let me fall off the swings in the park at two years old.
Captions 14-15, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 3Play Caption
The verb perder is transitive because a direct object (la confianza or "the trust") is, or in this case "was" lost (since it is conjugated in the preterite, or simple past tense). And, although the speaker is telling his father that he himself lost his confidence when his father let him fall from the swings, he opts to use the passive "se" construction se perdió, or "was lost," which doesn't specify that anyone actually did the losing. Let's look at another example.
Otra de las hipótesis, de para qué se construyeron estos edificios, era para albergar ritos que se hacía en aquella época
Another one of the hypotheses about why these buildings were built was to house rites that were held during that era
Captions 44-46, Rosa Los Dólmenes de AntequeraPlay Caption
Here, we know who "built" (the transitive verb) "the buildings" (the direct object) in question: the ancient civilizations of Andalusia. But, since the sentence does not mention this agent, it employs the passive "se" construction to convey the idea that the buildings (los edificios) "were built" (se construyeron) in the past, utilizing the third person plural conjugation of construir (to build) in the preterite tense. Let's finish with one last example:
La película más importante que se ha rodado en Guatemala y es cien por ciento guatemalteca es Ixcanul.
The most important movie that has been filmed in Guatemala and is one hundred percent Guatemalan is "Ixcanul."
Captions 17-18, World Travel Market en Londres Maria nos habla de GuatemalaPlay Caption
All of the same conditions have been met for the passive "se" construction: 1. the verb rodar (to film) is transitive: it exerts its action onto la película (the movie). 2. While we know that specific people filmed the movie, the sentence does not reference who they are. 3. The verb has been conjugated in the third person singular (this time in the present progressive tense) because the noun/direct object la película (the movie) is singular.
We hope that this lesson has helped you to learn to distinguish the impersonal "se" construction from the passive "se" construction in Spanish, which can be a bit confusing. Se ha terminado la lección de hoy (Today's lesson has finished), and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
In today's lesson, we're going to look at todos los usos y signficados (all of the uses and meanings) of the word todo in Spanish. Well, maybe not all of them... but a lot!
Primero que todo (first of all), we'd like to say that the Spanish word todo and its feminine and plural equivalents have many meanings including "all," "whole," "every," "each," "everyone," and more, depending upon the context in which they are utilized. Actually, while todo and its alternate forms most commonly function as an adjective or a pronoun, they can also function as an adverb or even a noun. Let's examine how this word works in each of these cases, its various translations into English, and several idiomatic expressions that employ it.
Let's recall that an adjective modifies, or describes, a noun. When the word todo functions as an adjective, it must agree in number and gender with the noun it modifies. We must thus choose between its masculine singular (todo), masculine plural (todos), feminine singular (toda) or feminine plural (todas) forms, placing it either directly in front of either a noun, a noun's direct article, or a possessive adjective. Let's look at some examples:
No, en España, el español se parece mucho en todo el país.
No, in Spain, Spanish is a lot alike in the whole country.
Captions 5-6, Carlos y Xavi Part 4 Tradiciones y comida de BarcelonaPlay Caption
Although the literal translation of todo el país would be "all the country," common ways to say todo el in English include "the whole" or "the entire." Thus, an alternative translation for this sentence might be: "No, in Spain, Spanish is a lot alike in the entire country." Let's look at an additional example:
La asistente le dará una tarjeta con toda la información
The assistant will give you a card with all the information
Caption 42, Cita médica La cita médica de Cleer - Part 2Play Caption
Note that in this example, the feminine singular form toda has the more straightforward translation "all." Let's move on to some plural examples:
Invitamos a todos sus amigos al karaoke
We invite all her friends to karaoke
Caption 44, Blanca y Mariona Planificación de cenaPlay Caption
Note that while, in the sentence above, the plural form is translated to "all," in other cases, it can be translated as "every":
Salimos todas las noches.
We go out every night.
Caption 20, Clara y Cristina Hablan de actividadesPlay Caption
In other cases, either translation could suffice:
Feliz tarde, amigos de Yabla de todos los países del mundo.
Happy afternoon, Yabla friends from every country in the world.
Caption 2, Adícora, Venezuela El tatuaje de RosanaPlay Caption
An alternative translation could, of course, be: "Happy afternoon, Yabla friends from all the countries in the world."
The definition of a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. Hence, when the word todo is used a pronoun in Spanish, it must match the number/gender of the noun to which it refers. Let's look at a simple example:
¿Cuánta torta comiste? -Me la comí toda.
How much cake did you eat? -I ate it all.
¿Cuántos caramelos comiste? -Todos.
How much candies did you eat? -All of them.
Let's take a look at an example from the Yabla video library where todas replaces a plural feminine noun (las estaciones/the seasons):
Creo que es la mejor estación de todas.
I think that it's the best season of all.
Caption 22, Clara explica El tiempo - Part 1Play Caption
Todo on its own is also the equivalent of the English word "everything":
Sí, Lucio me cuenta todo.
Yes, Lucio tells me everything.
Caption 30, Yago 12 Fianza - Part 2Play Caption
The plural todos, on the other hand, means "everybody" or "everyone":
porque es información nueva para todos.
because it's new information for everyone.Play Caption
In fact, the title of a recent Yabla video, Todo es de todos (Everything Belongs to Everyone) employs both of those terms. However, note the difference in translation for todos in the following example:
¿De ahí saldrá el aguacate que todos conocemos? -Claro.
The avocado that we all know will come from there? -Sure.
Caption 57, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 17Play Caption
Although "The avocado that everyone knows will come from there?" could be a viable translation, the fact that the verb conocer (to know) has been translated in the first person plural (nosotros/"we") form makes "we all" a legitimate (and perhaps more explanatory) translation.
When todo functions as an adverb, it is typically used to make emphatic statements. Possible translations include "really," "completely," "all," or "totally." For example, one might say: El chico se veía todo lindo (The guy looked really good) or Mi habitación está toda desordenada (My room is totally messy). Let's look at an example from the Yabla video library:
¡Yo te vi, yo te vi toda llena de barro!
I saw you! I saw you all covered in mud!
Caption 41, Yago 3 La foto - Part 5Play Caption
As a noun, el todo means "the whole" and can be seen in the translation for Aristotle's famous sentence:
El todo es más que la suma de las partes.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And speaking of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, let's examine some common Spanish idioms that include forms of the word todo with meanings beyond their literal words.
While todo el mundo literally means "all the world" or "the whole/entire world," this phrase is an extremely common way of expressing the idea of "everybody" or "everyone" in Spanish:
Todo el mundo puede tocar el tambor donde, cuando y como quiera- mayores, niños, mujeres,
Everybody can play the drum wherever, whenever, and however they want- older people, children, women,
Captions 47-49, Viernes Santo en Tobarra ¡La Cuna del Tambor! - Part 1Play Caption
Literally "all the day," the notion of "all day" is encompassed by the Spanish expression todo el día:
¿Todo el día? El tiempo que quieras.
All day? As long as you want.
Captions 103-104, Alan x el mundo Mi playa favorita de México! - Part 2Play Caption
The plural form todos los días ("all the days"), on the other hand, means "every day":
Además, la vemos todos los días.
Besides, we see it every day.Play Caption
Like it sounds, the Spanish phrase sobre todo can indeed mean "above all" or "above everything." Additional, frequent translations include "mostly," "mainly," and "especially":
Primero, sobre todo si es tu primera tarjeta de crédito, eh... es recomendable que el... que el límite no sea mayor a tus ingresos.
First, especially if it is your first credit card, um... it is recommendable for the... for the limit not to be greater than your income.
Captions 51-52, Cuentas claras Sobreviviendo enero - Part 3Play Caption
En todo caso, espero que a partir de hoy, se sientan más cómodos usando las redes sociales en español.
In any case, I hope that starting from today, you feel more comfortable using social networks in Spanish.
Captions 53-54, Carlos explica Internet y lenguaje digital: Redes socialesPlay Caption
Por todos lados might seem to mean "around all sides," but it really means "everywhere":
Mili, ¿Dónde estabas? Te estuve buscando por todos lados.
Mili, where were you? I was looking for you everywhere.
Caption 16, Muñeca Brava 45 El secreto - Part 10Play Caption
De todas formas in Spanish means not "of all shapes," but is rather a manner of saying "anyway":
Bueno, de todas formas, mire, el tipo se está haciendo pasar por Pierre Bernard.
Well, anyway, look, the guy is posing as Pierre Bernard.Play Caption
The similar Spanish expressions de todas maneras and de todos modos also mean "anyway," "anyhow," or "in any case."
The phrase de todo ("of everything") is another way to say "everything" in Spanish:
Aquí tiene de todo, perro, oveja...
Here, they have everything: [a] dog, sheep...
Caption 1, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 6Play Caption
Del todo ("of the whole"), on the other hand, means "completely" or "entirely"':
Quizás l'... la relación más equilibrada que yo he buscado no ha pasado del todo y ahora me siento un poquito sola
Maybe th'... the more balanced relationship that I've looked for hasn't completely happened, and now I feel a little bit lonely
Captions 19-20, El reencuentro Las amigas hablan del trabajo y el amor.Play Caption
For additional examples of this expression and more, we recommend the lesson En absoluto, de ninguna manera, del todo.
And finally, if you want to tell someone to go "straight ahead," todo recto (literally "all straight") is the way to go in Spanish:
Tiene que ir todo recto. -Sí.
You have to go straight ahead. -Yes.
Caption 17, Curso de español ¿Hay una escuela por aquí?Play Caption
These are just a smattering of the many Spanish expressions that incorporate forms of todo that can be heard in everyday Spanish. ¡Sería imposible nombrarlos todos (It would be imposible to name them all)! That said:
Eso es todo por hoy, amigos.
That's all for today, friends.
Caption 56, Ana Carolina Símbolos de NavidadPlay Caption
For additional information on expressions that include the Spanish word todo, we recommend the additional lesson When Nada (Nothing) is Todo (Everything). In the meantime, gracias por todo (thanks for everything), and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
What are reflexive verbs in Spanish? A reflexive verb is a verb in which the subject (person or thing that completes the action) and object (person or thing that receives the action) are one in the same. In other words, the action "reflects back" onto the subject, or entails something one does to or for him or herself. It is no wonder then, that many of the things we "do to ourselves" in our daily routines (e.g. shaving ourselves, washing ourselves, etc.) fall into the category of reflexive Spanish verbs.
How can we recognize Spanish reflexive verbs? The main way to distinguish reflexive verbs in Spanish is by the fact that they all end in the pronoun se in their infinitive form. To take a very simple example, while the verb hablar means "to talk," hablarse is a reflexive verb meaning "to talk to oneself." However, the translations for reflexive verbs in Spanish aren't always so straight-forward.
As we often say just "I shave" or "I wash" in lieu of "I shave/wash myself," the English translations of Spanish reflexive verbs won't always include pronouns like "myself," "yourself," etc. In other cases, the meanings of verbs like parecer (to seem) completely change in their reflexive forms (parecerse means "to look like"). And so, as there are a lot more reflexive verbs in Spanish than in English, many of which may not "seem" reflexive, with increased exposure to Spanish, we will learn which English concepts are expressed with Spanish reflexive verbs.
To conjugate reflexive verbs in Spanish, we must memorize the reflexive pronouns that correspond to each personal pronoun: yo (I), tú (you), etc.). Reflexive pronouns are most often placed before the verb, which is conjugated "as usual" (in the same way as its non-reflexive form). To demonstrate this, let's take a look at the reflexive pronouns and the simple present conjugation of the regular verb hablar. We will then show you the conjugation of its reflexive form (hablarse).
|Personal Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun||Hablar||Hablarse|
|él, ella, usted||se||habla||se habla|
|ellos/as, ustedes||se||hablar||se hablan|
Now that you know the Spanish reflexive pronouns and how to conjugate reflexive Spanish verbs, let's take a look at some examples of reflexive verbs in Spanish for describing things that many of us do on a daily basis, with lots of instances from our Yabla video library as always! Here is our list of Spanish reflexive verbs for your daily routine:
The Spanish reflexive verb despertarse means "to wake up":
y por la mañana me despierto entre seis y cuarenta y cinco a siete y cuarto.
and in the morning I wake up between six forty-five and seven fifteen.Play Caption
After waking up, the next step might be levantarse ("to get up" or "get out of bed"):
Se levanta muy temprano.
She gets up very early.
Caption 51, El Aula Azul Las Profesiones - Part 1Play Caption
In other contexts, the reflexive Spanish verb levantarse could also mean, among other things, "to stand up" or "get up," as from a seat, or even "to rise up against," as in a rebellion.
The Spanish noun baño means "bath," and the verb bañarse can mean "to take a bath" as well. However, as bañarse can also be the more general "to bathe," a person might even use this verb to express the fact that they are taking a shower! Let's look at an example of this reflexive Spanish verb:
Uno se baña todos los días, mijita.
One bathes every day, my girl.
Caption 41, Muñeca Brava 33 El partido - Part 2Play Caption
On the other hand, if a person at the beach expresses their desire to bañarse, rather than wanting to wash the sand off of themselves, they are letting you know they would like to take a dip! The Spanish reflexive verb bañarse can also mean "to go swimming," a translation that often comes as a surprise to English speakers:
No hay muchas olas grandes como en Atacames. Es más tranquilo para bañarse.
There aren't many big waves like in Atacames. It's more peaceful to go swimming.
Captions 62-63, Pipo Un paseo por la playa de AtacamesPlay Caption
In the morning, at night, or after the beach, indeed, one might need to ducharse (to take a shower):
¿Qué está haciendo Silvia? Silvia se está duchando.
What is Silvia doing? Silvia is taking a shower.
Captions 11-12, El Aula Azul Actividades diarias: En casa con SilviaPlay Caption
Note that, in this example, the verb ducharse is conjugated in the present progressive tense. As with the present indicative and all other tenses, verbs are conjugated in the exact same way as they would be were they non-reflexive, with the addition of the appropriate reflexive pronoun.
The reflexive verb in Spanish lavarse generally means "to wash (oneself)." Let's look at an example:
Por ejemplo, "Yo me lavo". La acción recae sobre la persona que realiza la acción. Pero, "Yo lavo los platos".
For example, "Yo me lavo" [I wash myself]. The action falls back upon the person who carries out the action. But, "Yo lavo los platos" [I wash the dishes].
Captions 45-48, Lecciones con Carolina Verbos reflexivosPlay Caption
In this informative video about Spanish reflexive verbs, Yabla fan favorite Carolina explains the difference between reflexive and non-reflexive verbs, in this case the verbs lavar (to wash) and lavarse (to wash oneself). Let's look at an additional example:
Yo me lavo las manos. Tú te lavas las manos.
I wash my hands. You wash your hands.
Captions 19-20, Fundamentos del Español 9 - Verbos ReflexivosPlay Caption
Unlike in English, where we express the idea of washing one's hands or some other body part with a possessive pronoun (my, your, etc.), this is not the case in Spanish. Instead, we use the definite article for the noun in question, manos (hands), in this case, las (the). Because the reflexive pronoun already indicates that the action is something we do to ourselves, it would be redundant in Spanish to say: Yo me lavo mis manos. As the correct way to express this is "Yo me lavo las manos," it might help you to remember the literal but non-sensical translation: "I wash myself the hands."
That said, let's move on to something else that's expressed with the notion of "washing" in Spanish: lavarse los dientes (to brush one's teeth).
Lavarse los dientes (literally "to wash one's teeth") is one of saying "to brush one's teeth" in Spanish:
Después, ehm... suelo lavarme los dientes en el baño,
After that, um... I usually brush my teeth in the bathroom,
Caption 3, El Aula Azul Actividades DiariasPlay Caption
Different countries, regions, or individuals might instead use cepillarse los dientes, which also means "to brush one's teeth." Let's check out an example in the preterite tense:
Se cepilló los dientes,
He brushed his teeth,
Caption 20, Aprendiendo con Carlos El microrrelato - Part 2Play Caption
By extension, the noun el cepillo means "the brush," and we might have a cepillo de dientes (toothbrush) as well as a cepillo de pelo/cabello (hair brush), as in the following caption:
Sí... -¿Qué necesitamos para ir allí? El cepillo de dientes. El cepillo del pelo.
Yes... -What do we need to go there? A toothbrush. A hair brush.
Captions 49-51, Un Viaje a Mallorca Planificando el viajePlay Caption
So, you've probably surmised by now that the verb cepillarse el pelo/cabello means "to brush one's hair."
The verb peinarse can mean "to comb one's hair" with a comb (un peine), "to brush one's hair," or "to do" or "style" one's hair in general:
Por eso paró en la playa para mirarse en el espejo y peinarse.
That's why she stopped on the beach to look at herself in the mirror and comb her hair.
Captions 21-22, Guillermina y Candelario Mi Amiga la SirenaPlay Caption
Afeitarse is the verb for "to shave" (oneself, of course)!
Vos sabés lo que es todas las mañanas... mirarse en el espejo cuando uno se afeita
Do you know what it's like every morning... to look at oneself in the mirror when one's shaving,
Captions 30-31, Muñeca Brava 8 Trampas - Part 13Play Caption
The next step in one's morning routine might be maquillarse (to put on makeup):
Aquí, siempre me maquillo para mis conciertos.
Here, I always put on makeup for my concerts.
Caption 47, Ariana Mi CasaPlay Caption
Alternatively, one might say Aquí, siempre me pinto para mis conciertos, as pintarse (literally "to paint oneself") also means "to put on makeup."
Vestirse is the way to say "to get dressed" in Spanish.
Yo salgo y... y te vistes.
I'll leave and... and you get dressed.Play Caption
Another way to say this might be ponerse la ropa (to put on one's clothes).
Although sacarse la ropa is one manner of saying "to get undressed" or "take off one's clothes," there are many other examples of reflexive verbs in Spanish that mean the same thing, including: quitarse la ropa, desvestirse, and desnudarse. Let's look at a couple of examples:
Si "Libertinaje" te saca... te invita a sacarte la ropa,
If "Libertinaje" takes off your..... invites you to take off your clothes,
Captions 4-5, Bersuit Vergarabat EPK - Part 1Play Caption
Y se desnuda poco a poco y se convierte en tu piel
And she gets naked little by little and she becomes your skin
Caption 6, Reik InolvidablePlay Caption
As you can see, the more literal "to get naked" might be an alternate translation for desnudarse.
We're finally getting to the end of our daily routine, when it's time for us to acostarnos (go to bed):
Tranquilícese, vaya a acostarse y deje de pensar en imposibles.
Calm down, go to bed, and stop thinking about impossible things.
Caption 31, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 5Play Caption
And finally, once in bed, it's time to fall asleep! While the non-reflexive dormir means "to sleep," dormirse means "to fall asleep."
Me dormí pensando en ti; pensando en ti, me desperté
I fell asleep thinking about you; thinking about you, I woke up
Caption 10, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 13Play Caption
Of course, this is just a partial list of reflexive verbs in Spanish that might be applicable to our daily routines. There are a lot more common reflexive verbs in Spanish that describe things one might do on a daily basis, including secarse (to dry oneself off), sentarse (to sit down), sentirse (to feel), emocionarse (to get excited), encontrarse con alguien (to meet with someone), acordarse de (to remember), olvidarse (to forget), sonreírse (to smile), reírse (to laugh), despedirse (to say goodbye), irse (to leave), and many, many more!
Should you use mucho or muy? Do you know how to say the Spanish words muy and mucho in English? What is the difference between muy vs. mucho in Spanish?
Simply put, muy in English would be "very" or "really," while mucho in English means "many," "much," or "a lot." However, as these words can wear muchos sombreros (a lot of hats), muy vs. mucho can be un concepto muy difícil (a very difficult concept) for many English speakers.
When muy is accompanied by an adjective, the adjective that modifies the noun must agree with that noun in terms of gender and number. The "good news," however, is that the word muy itself always stays the same, regardless of whether the noun it modifies is singular or plural or masculine or feminine. Let's take a look:
es un artista plástico español muy reconocido.
is a very famous fine art artist.
Caption 14, Amaya Vínculo: un mural muy especialPlay Caption
¡estos plátanos son muy pequeños!
these bananas are very small!Play Caption
Es una ciudad muy linda que tiene un cri'... clima primaveral.
It's a very beautiful city that has a spri'... spring-like climate.
Caption 47, Cleer Entrevista con JackyPlay Caption
Las ranas son definitivamente las mejores maestras en salto.muhy Pero son muy vanidosas.
Frogs are definitely the best jumping masters. But they're very full of themselves.
Captions 22-23, Guillermina y Candelario Una Amiga muy Presumida - Part 1Play Caption
Just to reiterate, although the adjectives are singular or plural and masculine or feminine, in agreement with their corresponding nouns, the word muy always remains the same.
The word muy in Spanish also remains the same when accompanying an adverb, which modifies a verb, as in the following examples:
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.Play Caption
Kristen, por ejemplo, tú has dicho, muy rápidamente,
Kristen, for example, you've said, very quickly,
Caption 11, Clase Aula Azul Pedir deseos - Part 4Play Caption
When constructing or understanding sentences with muy in Spanish, how will you know whether you are contending with an adjective or an adverb? When you see a word that ends with the suffix -mente (equivalent to -ly in English), as in the examples above, you can be sure you have an adverb. However, as not all adverbs take this form and some words can function as either adjectives or adverbs, depending upon the context, it can sometimes be tough to tell the difference. Let's take a look at an example with the word rápido, which may be used as an adverb in lieu of rápidamente:
porque lo hacen muy rápido.
because they do it very quickly.Play Caption
Like the English word "fast," rápido can function as an adjective when describing a noun (e.g. un carro rápido/a fast car) or an adverb when describing an action (el carro va rápido/the car goes fast) to talk about something that happens "fast" or "quickly." The tricky aspect of this is that, while rápido would need to agree in terms of gender and number when employed as an adjective (e.g. unos carros rápidos), as an adverb, it remains the same (in its masculine singular form) regardless of the number of people or objects performing the action. Let's see one more example:
Vamos a trabajar muy fuerte.
We're going to work very hard.Play Caption
Note that as always, the word muy is unchanging, and because fuerte (strong, hard, etc.) works as an adverb here, it remains unchanged, in its singular form, as well. Were it an adjective, on the other hand, gender and number would need to be taken into account, as in the example "Somos muy fuertes" (We are very strong).
Moving on to the word mucho in Spanish, taking into account what we have learned thus far regarding adjectives and adverbs, let's examine how this word can function as either of these parts of speech. To start, when mucho functions as an adjective, it must agree in terms of number and gender with the noun it modifies. Let's look:
¿Sí? No tengo mucho tiempo libre ahora.
Right? I don't have a lot of free time now.
Caption 20, Clase Aula Azul Pedir deseos - Part 2Play Caption
La verdad es que yo he tenido muchos perros,
The truth is that I've had many dogs,
Caption 50, Tu Voz Estéreo Laura - Part 11Play Caption
En Málaga, hay mucha gente con tus mismos síntomas.
In Malaga, there are a lot of people with your same symptoms.
Caption 20, Ariana Cita médicaPlay Caption
A muchas personas les gusta ir de vacaciones allí
A lot of people like to go on vacation there
Caption 22, El Aula Azul Adivina el país - Part 1Play Caption
As you can see in these examples that employ masculine singular/plural and feminine singular/plural nouns, the form mucho takes (mucho, muchos, mucha, or muchas) changes in accordance with the noun it modifies.
In contrast, when mucho functions as an adverb, modifying a verb, it is always mucho in the singular/masculine form, and the gender/quantity of the noun or verb has no effect on it. Let's look at some examples:
¿Se utiliza mucho el ajo en los platos peruanos?
Is garlic used a lot in Peruvian dishes?
Caption 19, Recetas de cocina Papa a la HuancaínaPlay Caption
Estos ejercicios ayudan mucho
These exercises really help
Caption 59, Bienestar con Elizabeth RelajaciónPlay Caption
Me gusta mucho este parque.
I really like this park.Play Caption
Sí, me gustan mucho las uvas.
Yes, I like grapes a lot.Play Caption
To conclude our discussion on muy vs. mucho, note that the word mucho and its corresponding feminine/plural alternatives can be used as pronouns to replace nouns that have been mentioned or implied. Notice that the pronoun forms of mucho must agree in gender and number with the nouns they replace, as follows:
¿Se encuentran aquí buenas cositas o no, buenas gangas? -Sí, sí, sí. -¿Sí? -Muchas.
Can you find good stuff here or not, good bargains? -Yes, yes, yes. -Yes? -Many.
Captions 102-103, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 14Play Caption
Sí. -¿Que mucha más gente viene ahora? Sí, mucha. -Yo tengo un niño pequeño entonces...
Yes. -That a lot more people come now? Yes, a lot. -I have a small child so...
Captions 43-44, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 16Play Caption
Puedes ver que no tenemos muchos porque hemos vendido últimamente bastantes.
You can see that we don't have many because we have sold quite a few lately.
Captions 46-47, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 11Play Caption
While you can clearly see in the first two examples that the word mucho changes forms (to mucha and muchas) to agree with the feminine singular and plural nouns it replaces (cositas/gangas and gente), the third example is notable because the noun being replaced by the masculine plural form muchos is not immediately apparent. However, since the conversation in question, which began several captions earlier, involves cars (the masculine plural noun, los coches), the masculine plural form muchos must be utilized to express the idea of "many" in this context.
We hope that this lesson has helped to clarify the difference between muy vs. mucho in Spanish since sus muchos usos y matices pueden resultar muy difíciles (their many uses and nuances can be very difficult) for English speakers. We welcome any insight you might have on mucho vs. muy in Spanish, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
Let's start today's lesson with a quote from the Argentinean telenovela, Yago:
Pero si no te casás, no tenés nada para aportar a la sociedad. No sos nadie, Melina. No sos nada.
But if you don't get married, you don't have anything to contribute to the company. You're nobody, Melina. You're nothing.
Captions 27-29, Yago 9 Recuperación - Part 9Play Caption
What's going on here (aside from a seemingly very dramatic situation)? Since the speaker is addressing this character as "you," shouldn't these verbs be conjugated as (tú) te casas, tienes, and eres?
What's going on here, grammatically speaking, is that in Argentina, Uruguay, and many other regions (including parts of Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, and Venezuela) vos is used in place of tú as the informal second person singular pronoun ("you"), causing some of the verb conjugations to vary slightly.
"Do I really have to learn another verb tense?!" you might be saying. However, even though el voseo (the use of vos instead of tú) might seem intimidating at first, there is a lot of "good news" regarding vos, particularly if you are already familiar with el tuteo (the use of tú):
1. The verb conjugations for vos only differ from those with tú in two tenses: the present indicative and the informal imperative (command). All of the other verb tenses (preterite, imperfect, etc.) are exactly the same as with tú, as are many of its pronouns (e.g. direct object, indirect object, reflexive, and possessive).
2. The formulas for conjugating verbs with vos in both present indicative and imperative are extremely simple.
3. With the voseo, there are a lot less irregular verbs than with tú. In fact, in the present indicative of vos, there are only three irregular verbs, while in the present indicative of tú, there are over one hundred irregular/stem changing verbs to memorize.
Let's start with how to conjugate -ar, -er, and -ir verbs with vos in the present indicative: Simply take the infinitive, replace the "r" with an "s," and add an accent to the final vowel. Let's look at some examples with the infinitives escuchar (to listen), saber (to know), and subir (to go up).
Qu'... Vos no me escuchás ni cuando yo te estoy contando una cosa que para mí es importante.
Wh'... You don't listen to me, not even when I'm telling you something that is important to me.
Caption 50, Yago 2 El puma - Part 3Play Caption
Si vos sabés muy bien que yo me sé adaptar.
You know very well that I know how to adapt.
Caption 43, Cuatro Amigas Piloto - Part 2Play Caption
En el segundo piso, de ahí subís y ahí es tu salón.
On the second floor, you go up there and there's your classroom.
Caption 49, La Sucursal del Cielo Capítulo 1 - Part 6Play Caption
In the case of these regular -ar and -er verbs, you will note that their conjugations with vos are virtually identical to their tú forms (escuchas and sabes) with the addition of their written (and spoken) accents. Howeber, regular -ir verbs like subir, which are typically conjugated with -es in their tú form (subes), retain their-i vowel plus an accent.
As previously mentioned, verbs that are irregular or stem-changing with tú are regular with vos. To get an idea, let's take the common verbs comenzar (to begin), tener (to have), and decir (to say), all of which have irregular forms when conjugated with tú. With vos, on the other hand, these verbs follow our regular pattern of replacing the "r" with "s" and adding an accent to the final noun:
|Verb in Infinitive:||Present Indicative with Tú:||Present Indicative with Vos:|
Let's look at a couple of these in action:
y decís: "Bueno, pará que mañana tenés que seguir
and you say, "Hey, hold on 'cause tomorrow you have to continue
Caption 66, Biografía Natalia Oreiro - Part 10Play Caption
There are only three irregular verbs in the vos form of the present indicative, one of which we already saw (ser) and two of which share their forms with tú (haber and ir). All three of these appear in the following clip:
Además, vos ni vas al colegio, has perdido un montón de años. Vos no sos nadie.
Besides, you don't even go to school, you have missed a ton of years. You're [a] nobody.
Captions 33-34, La Sucursal del Cielo Capítulo 1 - Part 3Play Caption
Now, let's take a look at these captions again, substituting the verb tú for vos:
Además, tú ni vas al colegio, has perdido un montón de años. Tú no eres nadie.
Besides, you don't even go to school, you have missed a ton of years. You're [a] nobody.
While the vos form of ser, sos, does differ from the tú form (eres), the verb conjugations for ir (vas) and haber (has) are exactly the same for both tú and vos.
Conjugating verbs with vos in the imperative (command) form is even easier: Simply take the infinitive, remove the r, and add an accent over the final vowel. Let's look at some examples of the vos command forms for each type of verb ending, utilizing the verbs tomar (to drink), tener (to have), and venir (to come).
Sabés que no tomo whisky. -¡Pero tomá!
You know that I don't drink whiskey. -But, drink it!
Caption 22, Muñeca Brava 2 Venganza - Part 3Play Caption
Este... tené un poquito de paciencia.
Umm... have a little bit of patience.
Caption 7, Muñeca Brava 45 El secreto - Part 9Play Caption
Vení, vamos a bailar.
Come, let's go dance.
Caption 33, Muñeca Brava 7 El poema - Part 6Play Caption
Once again, verbs like tener and venir that are irregular in the imperative form with tú (ten and ven, respectively) are regular in the imperative form with vos. While ir (to go) is the only irregular verb in this category, its formal conjugations, id or ite, are almost never heard, and the command form of andar (to walk/go), andá, is often used in its place.
Keep in mind that, due to the Spanish accent rules, the addition of a pronoun to a command form with vos may lead to the omission of the written accent:
Olvidate, divertite, hacé algo. -No quiero,
Forget about it, have fun, do something. -I don't want to,
Caption 8, Muñeca Brava 46 Recuperación - Part 7Play Caption
To conclude, remember that in all of the other tenses besides the present indicative and informal imperative, vos is conjugated in exactly the same way as tú. In the following example, we see the preterite form of ser (to be) fuiste as well as the imperfect form of estar (to be), taking into account that the indirect object pronoun te is also identical for both vos and tú:
porque a vos no te hice absolutamente nada. Todo lo contrario. Fuiste la protagonista de la fiesta, estabas maravillosa
because I've done absolutely nothing to you. On the contrary. You were the star of the party, you were looking wonderful
Captions 15-17, Muñeca Brava 41 La Fiesta - Part 7Play Caption
We hope that this lesson has made conjugating verbs with the informal second person pronoun vos seem a bit less daunting. For more information on this topic, we recommend this Yabla series on the Voseo, ustedeo, and tuteo as well as this video on the use of vos in Argentina— and don't hesitate to contact us with your comments and suggestions.
A recent Yabla video entitled La Doctora Consejos: parecer vs. parecerse demonstrated the difference between the verb parecer (to seem) and the reflexive verb parecerse ("to look like" or "be similar"). Although, at first glance, the difference between these two verbs might seem simple, this can be confusing when pronouns are thrown into the mix.
When no pronouns are present, it will be quite obvious that the verb in question is parecer. Let's take a look:
La verdad es que pareces cansado.
To be honest, you seem tired.Play Caption
Las cosas son más fáciles de lo que parecen.
Things are easier than what they seem.Play Caption
On the other hand, when a sentence does involve pronouns, these two verbs become a bit harder to distinguish. One reason for this is that, although parecerse employs reflexive pronouns, while parecer is often accompanied by indirect object pronouns, there is some overlap in terms of the forms of these two pronoun types. Let's take a look:
|Personal Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun||Indirect Object Pronoun|
|él, ella, usted||se||le|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||se||les|
Should we encounter se then, we will know it is reflexive, while we will recognize le or les as indirect object pronouns. However, as you will notice that the reflexive and indirect object pronouns that correspond to four out of the six personal pronouns appear identical (me, te, nos, and os), how can we tell whether an instance of parecer accompanied by one of these pronouns is indeed parecer or its reflexive counterpart?
Let's start with the verb parecerse. Keeping in mind that this is a reflexive verb, note that it is conjugated "as usual" to agree with its subject's corresponding personal pronoun: in other words, just like the verb parecer with the addition of the appropriate reflexive pronoun. With this in mind, let's take a look at the present indicative forms of parecer and parecerse:
|Personal Pronoun:||Present Indicative of Parecer:||Present Indicative of Parecerse|
|él, ella, usted||parece||se parece|
|nosotros, nosotras||parecemos||nos parecemos|
|vosotros, vosotras||parecéis||os parecéis|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||parecen||se parecen|
Now, let's look at some examples of the verb parecerse in action:
En eso me parezco mucho a mi madre.
I'm a lot like my mother in that way.Play Caption
¡Nos gustan las mismas cosas! Nos parecemos.
We like the same things! We are similar.
Captions 40-41, Conversaciones en el parque Cap. 2: Cafe y bocadillosPlay Caption
pero entonces tienes que decir, "Mis ojos se parecen a los ojos de mi madre",
but then you have to say, "My eyes look like my mother's eyes,"
Caption 28, Clase Aula Azul El verbo parecer - Part 7Play Caption
Note that with the verb parecerse, the conjugations agree with the sentence's subjects, or who or what is performing the action of the sentence: in these cases yo (I), nosotros (we), and mis ojos (my eyes). In other words, we conjugate them in accordance with who or what "looks like" or "is similar to" something else.
In contrast, when the verb parecer is accompanied by an indirect object pronoun, this verb falls into a class of verbs that function in a manner similar to the verb gustar. While we use the same conjugations of parecer (present indicative, etc.), the person or thing to whom or which something seems a certain way becomes the object of the sentence (receiver of the verb's action), while what seems that way to that entity is the subject. Let's take a look at some examples:
¿Qué cosas te parecen muy importantes en tu día a día?
What things seem very important to you in your daily life?Play Caption
Here, parecer is conjugated in accordance with las cosas (the things) that seem important rather than the person to whom they are, and the indirect object pronoun te tells us that the person they seem important to is tú (you). In addition, when parecer is accompanied by an indirect object pronoun, it entails an opinion, similar to the idea in English that someone "thinks" something. So, although, in the above example, parecer is translated as "to seem," an additional translation might be: "What things in your daily life do you think are important?" Let's look at another example:
A ti te parece bonita.
You think it's pretty [literally "To you it seems pretty"].
Caption 11, Clase Aula Azul El verbo parecer - Part 2Play Caption
Were this the verb parecerse utilized with the reflexive pronoun te, the conjugation would instead be: te pareces (you look like). However, this is an instance of the verb parecer conjugated in the third person singular (parece) and accompanied by the indirect object pronoun te to indicate that what "seems" pretty to "you'" is "it'" (we know from the previous sentences that the "it" is the city of San Sebastian, Spain). And as with the verb gustar, adding a mí (to me), a ti (to you), a ellos (to them), etc. is optional but not essential for adding emphasis to this construction.
Let's conclude with one last example:
y además podéis aprovechar para dar vuestra opinión sobre qué os parece este espacio y qué os parecen mis recetas.
and you can also take the opportunity to give your opinion about what you think of this space and what you think of my recipes.
Captions 36-37, La cocina de María Tortilla de patatasPlay Caption
Again, remember that although os parece and os parecen have both been translated as "you think" here, which tends to be the more common way to express this idea colloquially, the more literal translations of sentences like this one (in this case, "and you can also take the opportunity to give your opinion about how this space seems to you and how my recipes seem to you") are useful to keep in mind when attempting to decipher or create such structures.
We hope this lesson has helped you to better differentiate the verbs parecer vs. parecerse when pronouns are present, particularly since many of the reflexive and indirect object se parecen (look alike). For an even more in-depth exploration of this topic, check out Clase Aula Azul's series entitled El verb parecer (The Verb Parecer).
That's all for today, and don't forget to send us your questions and comments.
In an interview appearing in the Spanish series, 75 minutos, we can hear a beautiful gypsy voice singing the following:
Me dormí pensando en ti; pensando en ti, me desperté
I fell asleep thinking about you; thinking about you, I woke up
Soñé contigo, estoy sin ti y así llevo to' mi vi'a
I dreamed about you, I am without you, and I carry on like that all my life
Captions 10-11, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesaPlay Caption
Do you see that "ti" in the example above? That's a prepositional pronoun, or pronoun that follows a preposition. As prepositional pronouns may have been outshone in your studies by the complexity of object pronouns (me, te, se, le, etc.), let’s focus on them for a change.
When pronouns follow prepositions, they take on a special form in the first and second person singular, as follows:
Tú sabes que una fiesta sin mí no es una fiesta
You know that a party without me is not a party
porque yo soy el alma de las fiestas.
because I am the soul of parties.
Caption 19, Club 10 - Capítulo 1 - Part 2Play Caption
He sentido un flechazo por ti.
I felt love at first sight with you.
Caption 7, Cortometraje - FlechazosPlay Caption
Note that, unlike the possessive adjective mi (e.g. Mi nombre, or "My name"), the prepositional pronoun mí has a graphic accent (tilde) whereas ti does not.
In contrast to the first and second persons, the other persons utilize the same form as the subject pronoun (él, ella, nosotros, etc.) and do not require any special form:
Es un poco estresante para nosotros.
It's a bit stressful for us.Play Caption
No, estoy hablando de ella.
No, I'm talking about her.
Caption 22, Muñeca Brava - 41 La FiestaPlay Caption
O en los brazos de ella.
Or in her arms.
Caption 21, El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 8Play Caption
The third person is the only grammatical person to employ a specific form exclusively for reflexive use: sí. Although this form does not indicate gender or number, these aspects are apparent (and the agreement with the subject achieved) with the words mismo(s) and misma(s), which often follow the prepositional pronoun sí when expressing the idea of "himself" or "herself."
Agente, Pierre Bernard no habló mucho de sí mismo.
Agent, Pierre Bernard didn't talk much about himself.
Caption 24, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 4Play Caption
Sí can also come after the preposition entre in the third person plural to express the idea of "with each other," as follows:
Entonces, ellas son amigas entre sí, también.
So, they are friends with each other also.Play Caption
However, entre can be also followed by the subject pronouns yo and tú:
Pues lo que está sucediendo
Because what's happening
es entre tú y yo
is between you and me
Captions 26-27, Vivanativa - Si tú me quieresPlay Caption
Soñé contigo, estoy sin ti / I dreamed about you, I am without you
Considering the fact that pronouns do not often merge with the prepositions that preceed them, you may have wondered why conmigo, contigo and consigo are written as a single word. The fact is that the prepositional pronouns mí, ti, and sí have special forms when used with the preposition con.
Stay with mePlay Caption
Bailar contigo y perdernos esta noche
Dancing with you and losing ourselves tonight
Caption 9, Monsieur Periné - Bailar ContigoPlay Caption
Porque si no, muchas personas
Because otherwise, many people
tienen conflictos consigo mismas.
have conflicts with themselves.
Captions 2-3, Natalia de Ecuador - Los tipos de temperamentoPlay Caption
Some years ago, a politician in Latin America gained notoriety after saying conmigo o sinmigo, an egregious error for a native speaker of Spanish, let alone a public figure! Now that you have read this lesson, you can rest assured that contigo no tendremos ese problema (we won’t have that problem with you). We hope you liked this lesson, and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!
Most of the time, we use the word nada in Spanish as an indefinite pronoun that can be translated as either "nothing" or "anything." In this lesson, we will examine how to use this word to mean one vs. the other. Let's take a look.
Before we jump into the "nothing" vs. "anything" uses of nada, it's important to state the following: When an adjective appears next to nada, the adjective must be masculine. Let's look at a few examples:
No es nada malo, es algo natural.
It's nothing bad, it's something natural.
Caption 12, La Cocaleros - Personas y políticasPlay Caption
Tenemos que devolver a la madre y esperamos
We have to return it to the mother and hope
que la madre no encuentre nada raro en su cachorro.
that the mother doesn't find anything strange with her cub.
Captions 90-91, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Cachorro de leopardoPlay Caption
Que haya jóvenes que realicen pequeños hurtos no es nada nuevo.
That there are young people who commit petty thefts is nothing new.
Caption 16, Los Reporteros - Crecen los robos en tiendasPlay Caption
If nada comes after a verb, it must be expressed in a negative form with either no or some other negative element such as jamás/nunca (never) or nadie (nobody). Although such "double negatives" are incorrect in English (for example, you can't say "I don't have nothing"), in such cases in Spanish, nada becomes the positive "anything" in the English translation. Let's look at a couple of examples:
Juan no ha comido nada desde que llegó al aeropuerto.
Juan hasn't eaten anything since he arrived at the airport.Play Caption
No, no como nada frito.
No, I don't eat anything fried.
Caption 40, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurantePlay Caption
In the example above, you can see how the adjective frito is masculine (just to check whether you remember our aforementioned rule!).
Me encanta también cocinar.
I also love to cook.
Nunca me has hecho nada, ni un plato.
You have never made anything for me, not even one dish.
Captions 74-75, Cleer - HobbiesPlay Caption
On the other hand, if nada goes before a verb, the verb does not need to be accompanied by a negative element. In this case, nada functions like the word "nothing" in English. Let's take a look:
Mi primo vive en una casucha en donde nada funciona bien.
My cousin lives in a "casucha" [awful house] where nothing works well.Play Caption
Nada me detendrá
Nothing will stop me
Caption 32, Ednita Nazario - Después De TiPlay Caption
Finally, keep in mind that when nada is used as a noun meaning "the void" or "nothingness," it is a feminine noun:
Era el frío de la nada
It was the cold of nothingnessPlay Caption
Notice how in this case, the word nada is preceded by the definite female article "la."
That's all for this lesson. We invite you to keep these rules in mind, and don't forget to send us your suggestions and comments.
In this lesson, we will talk about Spanish subject pronouns. Let’s first review what subject pronouns are and enumerate the subject pronouns in English.
Since the definition of a subject pronoun is "a word that takes the place of a noun acting as the subject of a clause or sentence," we must first understand what a subject is.
Most simply stated, the subject of a sentence is what it's about, the noun that is being or doing something. Here are some examples of sentences with their subjects indicated beneath them:
Samantha is studying Spanish.
The tango is a beautiful dance.
Marina, Liam and I went to the movies.
Subject: Marina, Liam and I
Edison is from the Dominican Republic.
The chocolates taste amazing.
Subject: The chocolates
In order to avoid, for instance, repeating “the chocolates” over and over in a paragraph where we wish to thoroughly describe them, we could replace the subject, “the chocolates,” with the subject pronoun, “they.” Below, within the structures of the previous sentences, the subjects have been replaced with their equivalent subject pronouns:
She is studying Spanish.
It is a beautiful dance.
We went to the movies.
He is from the Dominican Republic.
They taste amazing.
A complete list of the English subject pronouns is as follows: I, we, you, he, she, it, they.
Now, let’s take a look at how the English subject pronouns correspond to their Spanish counterparts:
- First person (singular / plural): EN: I / we | SP: yo / nosotros, nosotras
- Second person (singular / plural): EN: you / you | SP: tú, usted, vos / vosotros, vosotras, ustedes
- Third person (singular / plural): EN: he, she, it / they | SP: él, ella / ellos, ellas
Looking at them side by side, you may notice that there are far more Spanish subject pronouns than English ones due to the many nuances they express when compared to their less specific English equivalents. Some differences you may notice between the English subject pronouns and the Spanish ones are as follows:
1. The first person plural (“we” in English) in Spanish distinguishes between masculine and feminine in the sense that, if the “we” refers to a group of only males or a mixed group of males and females, nosotros is used, whereas if the group is all female, nosotras is employed. Since English does not make this distinction, nothing can be told about the gender of the group upon simply hearing a sentence beginning with “we.”
2. The second person singular (“you” in English) has three different Spanish translations: tú, usted, and vos. So, what’s the difference between them? Generally speaking, tú and vos are employed similarly to address people with whom one is more familiar — a less formal “you” — whereas usted is a more formal and respectful “you,” typically reserved for people we don’t know as well or, for example, for our elders.
Keep in mind that while tú is more commonly employed as the informal “you” in many Spanish-speaking countries, vos is typically used in other countries or regions. In contrast, the English subject pronoun “you” can be employed regardless of the relationship we have with the person we are addressing, their age, or the formality of the situation.
3. The second person plural also has several distinctions in Spanish not present in English. Whereas “you” is both singular and plural in English, Spanish requires a different subject pronoun to indicate that more than one person is being spoken to. Ustedes, vosotros and vosotras are the three second-person plural subject pronouns in Spanish, which take both gender and formality/familiarity into account.
In most Spanish-speaking countries, ustedes is the only second person plural subject pronoun utilized and can thus be used regardless of the formality of the situation or the gender of the people being addressed. Things are different in Spain, where usted would be used to address a single person in a more formal situation. Ustedes would then be its extension when addressing more than one person.
Speaking familiarly, with tú, the plural used in Spain would be vosotros and vosotras. These second person plural pronouns work the same way as the first person plural pronouns, nosotros and nosotras: Vosotros is used to address more than one male or a mixed group, familiarly, while vosotras will refer to more than one female.
4. The same kind of situation presents itself in the third person plural. The English “they” does not consider gender, but its Spanish equivalents ellos and ellas, do take gender into account, just as nosotros/nosotras and vosotros/vosotras do. Ellos is used for an all-male or mixed group, while ellas is used for more than one female.
The English subject pronoun “it” generally replaces a subject that isn't a person or animal. Since there is no such subject pronoun in Spanish, how is the idea of “it” expressed? Let’s look at an example from a Yabla Spanish video:
¿El favorito mío? Y el dulce de leche bombón. Es mi debilidad.
My favorite? "Dulce de leche bombon." It's my weakness.
Captions 35-36, Buenos Aires - Heladería CumelenPlay Caption
You can see that, although we would say “It’s my weakness” in English when referring to the yummy dulce de leche ice cream, “it’s” being a contraction of “it is,” in Spanish, the “it” is simply omitted, and the verb, “es” (the third person singular conjugation of ser, or “to be”) is sufficient.
Because of this, a common error for Spanish speakers learning English is to try to replicate this structure in English by saying or writing something like, “Is my weakness.” However, this is not grammatically sound and, although it is often acceptable to omit a subject pronoun in Spanish, the same is not so in English, where the “it” is indeed necessary.
Let’s look at one more example:
Pero cuando llueve no hay otro remedio.
But, when it rains, there isn't any other choice.
Caption 86, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesaPlay Caption
Note that in English, since “it” in this example does not actually refer to anything concrete (does not replace a particular word), it is known as a “dummy” (or expletive or pleonastic) pronoun, which is still necessary to express this idea correctly. In contrast, in Spanish, the verb “llueve” (the third person singular conjugation of llover, or “to rain”) can simply be used without a pronoun to express the idea of “it.”
Even in cases which don’t involve “it,” due to the more specific manner in which Spanish verbs are conjugated according to their subject pronouns, it is not always necessary to write out the subject pronoun:
Mientras leo el diario, respondo los correos electrónicos.
While I read the newspaper, I respond to emails.
Caption 9, GoSpanish - La rutina diaria de MaruPlay Caption
Although this could also be written as Mientras yo leo el diario, yo respondo los correos electrónicos, the first-person singular verb conjugations leo and respondo let us know that the subject pronoun is yo, and thus, it's not necessary to include it.
This is not the case in English, as the subject pronoun “I” is indeed necessary in order for the sentence to make sense (“While read the newspaper, respond to e-mails” would definitely not fly). One reason for this is that verb tenses in English tend to be much less specific to their subject pronouns.
To reiterate this idea, let’s contrast the English present and past verb tenses with their Spanish equivalents:
ENGLISH (present / past):
I speak / spoke
You speak / spoke
He speaks / spoke
She speaks / spoke
It speaks / spoke
We speak / spoke
You speak / spoke
They speak / spoke
SPANISH (present / preterite):
Yo hablo / hablé
Tú hablas / hablaste
Vos hablás / hablaste
Él, ella, usted habla / habló
Nosotros/as hablamos / hablamos
Vosotros/as habláis / hablasteis
Ellos/as, ustedes haban / hablaron
You may notice that the English present tense conjugations are limited to just “speak” (for “I,” “you,” “we” and “they”) and “speaks” (for “he,” “she” and “it”), while there is no variation whatsoever for the past tense, which regardless of the subject pronoun, is “spoke.”
In Spanish, on the other hand, we see a total of seven different conjugations in the present tense and six in the preterite, a revelation which may seem daunting to many English-speaking students of Spanish! And those are just two out of the fourteen Spanish verb tenses.
To conclude, let’s look at one last example:
Y, ¿va a pedirle a Lisa Bernal que sea su pareja en la fiesta?
And, are you going to ask Lisa Bernal to be your date at the party?
Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos - Capitulo 6Play Caption
Unlike the previous case in which the verb conjugations leo and respondo were specific to the Spanish subject pronoun, yo, this one is a bit more ambiguous, as the verb conjugation va (of the verb ir, or “to go”) could correspond to the Spanish subject pronouns él, ella, or usted. So, if this sentence were encountered in isolation, the possible translations could be as follows:
- And, is he going to ask Lisa Bernal to be his date at the party?
- And, are you going to ask Lisa Bernal to be your date at the party?
- And, is she going to ask Lisa Bernal to be her date at the party?
- And, is it going to ask Lisa Bernal to be its date at the party?
Although the last option does not seem logically plausible, how do we know which one of the others is correct in the absence of a subject pronoun? Context. Often in print or video media or even in conversation, the subject is introduced in a previous sentence.
However, since this is the first sentence in this video, we are left to infer from the characters’ subsequent dialogue that the correct translation is, “And, are you going to ask Lisa Bernal to be your date at the party?” where Kevin’s friend, Fede, is addressing him as “usted” (as a side note, even close friends and family members often address one another as “usted” in certain parts of Colombia).
Although many beginning Spanish students might feel overwhelmed by the multitude of Spanish subject pronouns and the task of having to conjugate verbs based upon them, we hope that this lesson has shed some light on some of the many fascinating differences between subject pronouns in English and Spanish. And don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.
Let's talk about pronouns. In English, when we talk with someone we use the second person singular pronoun ‘you’. In Spanish, we have three different options for that same pronoun: tú, usted and vos. Which one we use depends on things like the relationship that we have with the person we are talking to or the place where we are. Generally speaking, we use usted when we want to talk in a more respectful way with someone:
¿Usted qué... qué me recomienda, doctor?
What do you... what do you recommend to me, Doctor?Play Caption
However, if you are following the Colombian series Los Años Maravillosos, you have probably noticed that people usually use usted even when talking with family members or close friends. Why? That’s just how people speak in Bogota, Colombia:
¿Y a usted qué le pasa, mi hijito?
And what's going on with you, my little boy?
Caption 35, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1Play Caption
Regardless of its use, there is something quite unique about using usted: we conjugate usted as we would conjugate él (he) or ella (she):
Él trabaja entre las nueve de la mañana
He works between nine in the morning
Caption 48, La casa - De ChusPlay Caption
¿Dónde trabaja usted?
Where do you work?
Caption 9, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricosPlay Caption
As you can see in the captions above, the conjugation of the verb trabajar (to work) with él (he) and usted (you) is exactly the same (trabaja), something that doesn’t occur with tú and vos:
Tú trabajas | You work
Vos trabajás | You work
Él/Ella/Usted Trabaja | He/She/You work
To wrap things up, we use usted as a second person singular pronoun. However, we conjugate it as a third person singular pronoun!
And don’t forget that this also occurs with the plural form ustedes (you all), which we conjugate as the third person plural pronoun ellos/ellas (they). Notice how ustedes and ellos share the same conjugation of the verb saber (to know) in the following captions:
Toda la vida he estado en el PAN, como ustedes saben, y he estado muy contento.
All my life I have been in PAN, as you know, and I have been very happy.
Caption 37, Felipe Calderón - PublicidadPlay Caption
Ellos saben de los sitios que son hábitat de reproducción,
They know about the places that are reproduction habitats,
Caption 31, Instinto de conservación - Parque TayronaPlay Caption
That's it for now. If you want to learn more things about the use of tú, usted, and vos, make sure to check out our series about Tuteo, Ustedeo y Voseo. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.
The Spanish word lo can be used as a subject pronoun, an object pronoun or a definite article. We have several lessons on the topic, which you can read by clicking here. Lo is a very useful word, and there're many common phrases that use this particle. Let's study some examples.
The phrase por lo tanto means "as a result" or "therefore"
Este puerro, no lo he limpiado previamente, por lo tanto, vamos a limpiarlo.
This leek, I haven't cleaned it previously, therefore, we are going to clean it.
Caption 55, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 2Play Caption
The phrase por lo pronto means "for now" or "for the time being"
...y yo por lo pronto pienso avisarle a toda la familia.
...and I for the time being plan to let the whole family know.
Caption 18, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 11Play Caption
The phrase por lo visto means "apparently"
Por lo visto fue en una perfumería.
Apparently it was in a perfume shop.
Caption 42, Yago - 12 Fianza - Part 6Play Caption
The phrase por lo general is equivalent to the adverb generalmente. It means "generally"
Pero por lo general encontramos sistemas de alarmas.
But generally we find alarm systems.Play Caption
The phrase a lo largo de means "throughout"
al menos va cambiando a lo largo de las estaciones.
at least is changing throughout the seasons.
Caption 10, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 1Play Caption
While a lo lejos means "at a distance" or "in the distance"
El cielo está nublado y a lo lejos tú Hablando de lo que te ha pasado.
The sky is cloudy and in the distance you Speaking of what has happened to you.
Captions 5-6, Christhian canta - Hombres G - TemblandoPlay Caption
In fact, you can add the phrase a lo to certain adjetives to talk about the way something is being done or someone is doing something. For example, a lo loco means "like crazy."
Yo echo un poco de pintura ahí a lo loco
I put a bit of paint there like crazy [spontaneously]
Captions 92-93, Zoraida en Coro - El pintor YepezPlay Caption
Another common example is a lo tonto (like a dumb, in a dumb way, for nothing).
Hazlo bien. No lo hagas a lo tonto.
Do it right. Don't do it foolishly.
¿Para qué esforzarse a lo tonto?
Why go to all that trouble for nothing?
This phrase always uses the neutral singular form of the adjective. Even if you are talking to a girl or a group of people, you will always use the same. For example:
Lucía siempre se enamora a lo tonto del primer hombre que cruza su camino.
Lucia always falls in love inanely with the first man that crosses her path.
In Mexico, you will also hear the expression al ahí se va (literally, "in a there-it-goes way"). It means to do things without care, plan, or thinking. This is pronounced quite fast, by the way, almost as a single word. Translations vary:
Completé el examen al ahí se va porque no estudié.
I completed the exam with mediocrity because I didn't study.
Tienen más hijos al ahí se va y sin planear en el futuro.
They have more kids without thinking and planning for the future.
Finally, there's the expression a la buena [voluntad] de dios (leaving it to God's goodwill). You may find it in phrases involving the idea of entrusting what you do to God, but it's more commonly used to express that something is done rather haphazardly, without care, skill, effort and or plan.
El aeropuerto se construyó a la buena de Dios.
The airport was built haphazardly.
Is there a topic you'd like covered in our lessons? You can send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you remember reflexive verbs? A verb is reflexive when the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself, in other words, when the subject and the object are the same. In Spanish reflexive verbs use reflexive pronouns (me, te,se, nos, etc.), which play the role of direct object in the sentence:
Yo me veo en el espejo.
I look at myself in the mirror.
Since they involve a direct object, reflexive verbs are also transitive verbs (verbs that take a direct object). Many transitive verbs can be transformed into reflexive verbs. Peinar (to comb), for example, is a classic example of a transitive verb:
Yo peino a mi bebé
I comb my baby's hair
Caption 21, Lecciones con Carolina - Verbos reflexivosPlay Caption
that can also be transformed into a reflexive verb, peinarse:
Yo me peino
I comb my hair [literally, "I comb myself"]
Caption 20, Lecciones con Carolina - Verbos reflexivosPlay Caption
On the other hand, intransitive verbs are action verbs that, unlike transitive verbs, don't take a direct object receiving the action. Examples are llegar (to arrive), estornudar (to sneeze), morir (to die), caer (to fall), etc. Consequently, these verbs can't really be transformed into reflexive verbs. So why do we always hear Spanish speakers using reflexive pronouns with these verbs? For example:
Si me caigo, me vuelvo a parar
If I fall, I stand up again
Caption 8, Sondulo - Que te vaya malPlay Caption
Obviously, me caigo doesn't mean “I fall myself." It just means "I fall," because the verb caer[se] is part of a group of verbs that use reflexive pronouns but are not reflexive verbs. These verbs are called verbos pronominales, verbs that are typically conjugated using a reflexive pronoun that doesn't have any syntactic function. It's just the way these verbs are typically constructed! Another example is the verb morir (to die). Me muero doesn't mean "I die myself"; it just means "I die." The following example uses it as part of an idiomatic expression:
No hablemos más de comida que me muero de hambre.
Let's not talk about food since I'm starving hungry [literally, "I'm dying of hunger"].
Captions 40-41, Salvando el planeta Palabra - LlegadaPlay Caption
Now, while reflexive verbs like peinarse always need to be used with reflexive pronouns, verbs like caer (to fall) and matar (to kill) can be used either as pronominales (caerse and morirse), or as simple intransitive verbs (caer, morir), that is, without the reflexive pronouns. Therefore, the following expressions are also correct (though maybe just a little less common in everyday speech):
Si caigo, me vuelvo a parar.
If I fall, I stand up again.
No hablemos más de comida que muero de hambre.
Let's not talk about food since I'm starving [literally, "I'm dying of hunger"].
The really tricky aspect of reflexive pronouns is how to use them, either with verbos reflexivos like peinarse or verbos pronominales like caerse and morirse. Typically, you will use the pronoun before the verb, for example me caigo (I fall), te peinas (you comb your hair). But how do you use reflexive pronouns in a sentence that uses more than one verb, for example an auxiliary verb such as the verb ir (to go) combined with a verb in the infinitive?
Voy a caer
I'm going to fall
Juan va a morir
Juan is going to die
Well, the rule is simple. You either use the reflexive pronoun right before the auxiliary verb:
Me voy a caer
I'm going to fall
Juan se va a morir
Juan is going to die
Or you use it after the verb in infinitive as a suffix:
Voy a caerme
I'm going to fall
Juan va a morirse
Juan is going to die
And the same rule applies to reflexive verbs like peinarse:
Ella se va a peinar = Ella va a peinarse
She is going to comb her hair
In fact, this rule applies to all pronouns, even pronouns that are not reflexive (that are used to substitute the direct object in any given sentence), like lo, la, los, las, and te:
Como sandía / La como
I eat watermelon / I eat it
Voy a comer sandía
I'm going to eat watermelon
Voy a comerla = La voy a comer
I'm going to eat it
Coincidentally, comer (as well as other "ingestion verbs") is an excellent example of a verb that is transitive in nature but that is also used as a pronominal verb with reflexive pronouns. For example, it’s also correct to say voy a comérmela (I’m going to eat it).
In one of Yabla's videos, Spanish veterinarian, Jesús López, uses two interesting and very similar words:
Cualquiera puede traer cualquier animal.
Anyone can bring any animal.Play Caption
The Spanish words, cualquiera (anyone) and cualquier (any), may look very much alike, but their functions happen to be very different. While cualquiera is an indefinite pronoun, cualquier is an indefinite adjective.
For that reason, whenever the adjective, cualquier, is used, it must be accompanied by a noun, e.g. cualquier animal (any animal). Let's take a look at these examples:
En cualquier caso, los datos de España no son nada alentadores.
In any case, the data from Spain is not encouraging at all.
Captions 27-28, 3R - Campaña de reciclajePlay Caption
Mira los niños, juegan con globos de cualquier color
Look at the kids, they play with balloons of any color
Caption 9, Café Tacuba - MediodíaPlay Caption
¿Puede venir cualquier persona aquí? -Sí.
Can any person come here? -Yes.
Caption 5, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricosPlay Caption
On the other hand, the pronoun, cualquiera (anyone), should not be used to accompany a noun, but rather to substitute it, as cualquiera means "anyone." For example, you can use the pronoun, cualquiera, to substitute the phrase, cualquier persona, in the previous example:
¿Puede venir cualquiera aquí? -Sí.
Can anyone come here? -Yes.
Here is another example containing the pronoun, cualquiera:
No cualquiera podía ser caballero. O sea...
Not just anyone could be a knight. I mean...
Caption 17, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ilustraciónPlay Caption
Now, to further complicate the matter, Spanish has a common plural form for both the adjective, cualquier, and the pronoun, cualquiera, which is cualesquiera. Although the use of this plural form for both the adjective and the pronoun is uncommon in everyday speech, let's go ahead and transform the previous examples into their plural forms as an excercise. You will note that their English translations are identical to their singular equivalents.
For the adjective, cualquier:
¿Pueden venir cualesquiera personas aquí? -Sí.*
Can any person come here? -Yes.
For the pronoun, cualquiera:
No cualesquiera podían ser caballeros.
Not just anyone could be a knight.
* As a side note, a shorter version for the adjective, cualesquier, also exists, but this is even less common and can generally only be found in old literature.
Finally, and very interestingly, there is one instance in which the word, cualquiera (and its plural, cualesquiera), can be used as a qualitative adjective meaning "insignificant" or "irrelevant." When used in this manner, the adjective always comes after the noun rather than before it. This use is equivalent to the English expression "any old" or "just any." Let's see an example.
Sólo espera, que hoy no será un día cualquiera
Just wait, because today won't be any old day
Caption 49, Cuarto poder - Aquí no se está jugandoPlay Caption
This adjective is most commonly used in negative phrases:
Este no es un perro cualquiera; es el perro de mi padre. / This is not just any dog. It's my father's dog.
No era un tipo cualquiera; era el jefe de la tribu. / He wasn't just any guy. He was the tribe's chief.
By extension, however unfairly, the expressions, un cualquiera and una cualquiera, can mean "a nobody" and "a prostitute" (or low class or sexually promiscous woman), respectively. You can find an example in our Argentinian telenovela, Muñeca Brava:
Pero a mí no me va a ofender porque yo no soy una cualquiera.
But you're not going to disrespect me because I am not a floozy.
Captions 83-84, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reuniónPlay Caption
This is the end of the lesson. Thank you for reading, and don't forget to send us you comments and suggestions.