Lessons for topic Vocabulary

The Skinny Cows of January

Last week we published the last part in the Nicaraguan series Cuentas claras about how to survive the so-called cuesta de enero (Literally, "January's hill") in Spanish, and "hard January" or "post-holiday budget crunch” in English. Let's review some financial vocabulary that you can learn by watching this series.
The expression cuesta de enero is widely used in Spain, Mexico and many other Latin American countries. There are other expressions that are synonyms, for example, resaca de navidad (Christmas hangover) and resaca de Reyes (King's Day hangover). In Part 1 of the series, the guest of Cuentas claras says:

... una dolencia después cuando comienza enero porque estoy endeudado. La resaca financiera.
... an ailment afterwards when January starts because I am in debt. The financial hangover.
Caption 64-65, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

The show also shares different antidotes to cure a financial hangover. Making a budget is a key one:

Entonces, eh... siempre tu arma, tu aliado número uno, va a ser un presupuesto.
So, um... always your weapon, your number one ally, is going to be a budget.
Caption 33, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

Making a budget helps people save money and get out of debt:

y en el lado financiero, quiero salir de deudas, quiero comenzar a ahorrar,
and on the financial side, I want to get out of debt, I want to start to save,
Caption 24, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

The expressions estoy gastado and estoy endeudado are great additions to your vocabulary when trying to avoid excesos financieros (financial excesses):

primero porque terminás bien gastado y bien endeudado de diciembre,
first because you end up quite spent and quite in debt from December,
Caption 30, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

A little bit more dramatic is estar quebrado or estar en la quiebra (to be in bankruptcy):

y encima llevo a la quiebra a la empresa.
and on top of that bankrupt the company.
Caption 42, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 4

If you are planning a visit to Mexico, maybe you can use something more colorful like ando bien bruja (“I'm broke,” I'm spent,” but literally means "to go by like a witch"!). Colombians use estoy vaciado (literally, "I'm empty"), and Argentinians no tengo ni un mango (literally, "I don't have a single mango").

No, tomá, tomá... guardá esto que no quiero que te quedes sin un mango.
No, take it, take it... put this away since I don't want you to end up penniless.
Caption 34, Yago - 5 La ciudad - Part 3

The word for “installment payment” in Spanish is abono. There's also a verb: abonar (to make installment payments). Note that abono is also a synonym of fertilizante (fertilizer).

¿...porque tenés que hacer abonos mensuales a todas las deudas?
... because you have to make monthly payments for all the debts?
Caption 7, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

If you don't pay your debts on time you are una persona morosa (a delinquent payer, a slow payer), which comes from the noun mora (delay). Note that mora is also the name given in Spanish to different types of berries.

...manchás como dice la gente popularmente, tu record crediticio, caes en mora.
you stain as people say popularly, your credit record, you become delinquent.
Caption 24, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

It's not ideal, but if you can't pay your debts maybe it's time for another préstamo (loan):

en el caso de los préstamos personales o lo del extrafinanciamiento,
in the case of personal loans or extra financing,
Caption 7, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

However, it's best to always have some ahorros (savings) to cover for unpredicted expenses:

y básicamente consiste en ahorrar un dólar incremental cada semana del año.
and basically it consists in saving an incremental dollar every week of the year.
Caption 17, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2


Finally, a curious Spanish expression that is not used in the show but you may still want to add to your lexicon. Spanish uses the phrases vacas gordas (fat cows) and vacas flacas (skinny cows) to refer to periods of material wealth and poverty respectively. It's a very common expression inspired by a famous biblical story. English also uses similar phrases that are probably inspired by the same source (“lean times”). Here's an example of how to use the Spanish expression:
Tenemos que ahorrar algo de dinero para tiempos de vacas flacas.
We have to save some money for leaner times.

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Emphatic uses of sí & si

Did you know that the Spanish words  (usually meaning "yes") and si (usually meaning "if") also have special uses that are for emphatic purposes? Let's look at some examples.
The word sí (yes) is used in a similar way to the repetition of the word "do" to express that someone indeed did something. For example, when someone says "you did not do it," one can reply, "I did do it." Well, in Spanish, you use the word  (the orthographic accent is important here) in a similar way: a declaration such as tú no lo hiciste (you did not do it) can be answered with yo  lo hice (I did do it).
Like the repetition of the word "do" in English, this use of sí has a purely emphatic effect. You could easily answer tú no lo hiciste (you did not do it) with a simple yo lo hice (I did it), but using yo sí lo hice (I did do it) is way more common. Let's look at some examples so you can learn how to throw in that emphatic  in conversation:

Ah claro, ahora  lo entiendo hija, ¡qué torpe soy!
Oh, of course, now I do understand it, girl. How clumsy I am!
Caption 57, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 7

The combination sí que is very common and is similar to the English phrase "does indeed”:

La cintura de Shakira, sí que tiene movimiento
Shakira's waist does indeed have movement
Caption 53, Alberto Barros - Cargamento Colombiano

The following is an interesting example. A literal translation of a tí sí te contamos is "you, we do tell," but a more accurate translation in English uses the future tense:

A ti sí te contamos, pero a nadie más.
You we will tell, but nobody else.
Caption 20, Guillermina y Candelario - El mundo de los juguetes perdidos - Part 1

On the other hand, the word si (without the orthographic accent), commonly used in conditional clauses, can also be used to indicate that you are affirming something very emphatically. It's not always easy (or necessary) to translate it into English, but in the following examples we added "indeed”:

Te tengo que pedir un favor. ¡Sí, loco, otro más! Si estás para eso, ¿no?
I have to ask you a favor. Yes, dude, another one! That's [indeed] what you are for, right?
Caption 27, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 4
¿Puedo? -Claro, si te dije que son pa' los dos.
May I? -Of course, I [indeed] told you that they are for both of us.
Caption 58, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 9

In the following example, a more literal translation of si me encanta could be "indeed, I love it" or just "I do love it," but we used "I'd love to" (me encantaría in Spanish), which better suits the context:

Ah, cuando quieras, no, si me encanta. ¿Yo te di mi teléfono, no?
Oh, whenever you want, no, I'd love to. I gave you my phone [number], right?
Caption 27, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 3

The word si as an emphatic affirmation is also commonly used to express a protest or to contradict someone. In this case it's equivalent to the English word "but”:

Si tú estás igualita. -Si yo estoy más fresca que una lechuga.
But you are exactly the same. -But I'm fresher than a [head of] lettuce.
Caption 8-9, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 6
Si yo lo estoy diciendo hace rato ya, hombre.
But I've been saying that for a while already, man.
Caption 71, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 4
No, no, no, si yo ya me voy. No, no, quédese, quédese. -¿Seguro?
No, no, no, but I'm already leaving. No, no, stay, stay. -[Are you] sure?
Caption 4, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 10

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That Fancy Spanish...

If you have spent some time learning and listening Spanish, you have probably noticed that many common Spanish words have cognates in the fancy English vocabulary. This happens because Spanish is a romance language, that is, a language that directly evolved from vulgar Latin (and was even later enriched with classic Latin during the Middle ages when Spanish became a written language), while approximately only 29% of the English vocabulary comes from Latinate sources.

That's the reason why it's very common for a Spanish speaker to use verbs like estrangular (to choke) or canícula(dog days, midsummer heat) in everyday speech. In fact, similar words exist in English (to strangulate and canicule) but they are cultisms that are way too fancy to be used in everyday situations. On the other hand, and quite surprisingly, very often using these words is the only alternative you have to express something in Spanish. That's the case for estrangular (to strangulate, to choke) and canícula (doy days); really, there is no better, more common way to express such ideas in Spanish than using those words.

Words that are used to describe diseases and medical terms in Spanish are also great examples. In Spanish it's common to say (and make the distinction between) el oculista (oculist) and el optometrista (optometrist), while an expression like "el doctor de ojos" (the Eye doctor) may be understood, but sounds very much like toddler talking to Spanish speakers. And there are even weirdest examples, some of which may sound like tongue twisters for you. Take for example the common otorrinolaringólogo (ear nose and throat doctor, otorhinolaryngologist). But let's try to find examples from our catalog.

In Spanish, the verb aliviar means either "to get better" or "to cure," or "to alleviate" and it's just as common as the verb curar (to cure). In English the verb to alleviate is much more fancy, and it's only used in certain contexts, usually very formal or written speech:

Estoy enfermo, espérense a que me alivie.
I'm sick; wait until I get better.
Caption 19, El Ausente - Acto 1 - Part 2

The nouns cicatriz (scar) and cicatrización (scar healing) as well as the verb cicatrizar (to heal a scar) are common in Spanish, while "cicatrix," "to cicatrize" or "cicatrization" are less common in English:

Tiene la cicatriz, vivió en Misiones y tiene la misma sonrisa de Franco.
He has the scar, he lived in Misiones and he has the same smile as Franco.
Caption 16, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos - Part 4

The adjetives primordial  and esencial are both commonly used in Spanish, usually as synonyms. English, on its part, does have the word "primordial," but the use of "essential" is more common in everyday speech:

Es importante, primordial, muy necesario.
It's important, essential, very necessary.
Caption 85, Bersuit Vergarabat - EPK - Part 2 

Another example is the word subterráneo ("subterranean", but most commonly "underground"):

Contaminación de las aguas superficiales o subterráneas
Pollution of surface and underground waters
Caption 7, 3R - Campaña de reciclaje - Part 2 

In Spanish the word docente is both an adjective meaning "teacher-related" and a noun that is synonymous with maestro (teacher). It's a common word in and it's used in many Spanish expressions. In contrast, the English word docent is far less common and, it has a slightly different meaning

Es más, es que no se entiende la labor docente de otra manera.
Moreover, the thing is that the teaching job should not be understood in any other way.
Caption 13, Club de las ideas - La motivación - Part 1

The list goes on and on. Let's see one more example. In Spanish it's common to use the noun equilibrio (balance) and the verb equilibrar (to balance), both words are just as common as balance (balance) and balancear ("to balance", but also "to swing"). In contrast, English reserves the use of "equilibrium" and "to equilibrate" for scientific or highbrow language.  

Tú eres todo lo que me equilibra.
You're everything that balances me.
Caption 27, Calle 13 - Un Beso De Desayuno

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Animal Words

For all the animal lovers out there, here is a collection of Spanish expressions related to pets and their owners.

The word for pet in Spanish is mascota, yes, similar to the English word "mascot." The only difference is that mascota can be used to talk about an animal kept as a companion (a pet), or to refer to a especial person, animal or thing used to symbolize a sports team, company, organization or other group (a mascot). Of course, the word mascota meaning "pet" can also be applied to a person, as in the following example:


...todos eran mucho más viejos que yo. Eh... y, como que, yo era como la mascota,
they were all much older than me. Uh... and, so like, I was like the pet,
Caption 63, Carli Muñoz - Niñez - Part 2

Now, in English the word "pet" is also a verb that means to stroke an animal affectionately. But in Spanish there is only one verb you can use instead of "to pet," or "to stroke," or even "to pat." That verb is acariciar (to caress). The following example is not about animals, but it's about el alma (the soul), a word that shares with the word animal a common etymological root: the Latin anima.


Acaricia mi alma, vuélvete la luna
Caress my soul, become the moon
Caption 14, Shaila Durcal - Vuélvete Luna - Part 1

Let's talk about the distinction between animales domésticos (domestic animals) andanimales salvajes (wild animals). When you tame an animal it becomes domesticated or tamed, right? Spanish uses the verbs domesticar (to domesticate), domar (to tame), which come from the Latin domus (house). Sometimes, Spanish also uses the verb dominar (to dominate), which comes from the Latin dominus (the latin word for master of owner, "the lord of the house"). Ah, but if you want to talk about taming a horse, there's a specific word for that: desbravar (to brake in, literally "to take out the braveness").

Another very common word is amansar (to make docile, meek). So it's common to hear people saying about a pet that es manso(a) or mansito(a) to indicate that it's gentle, friendly.Un perro que no muerde (a dog that doesn't bite) es mansito


Uy, buena, Pepino. -Es mansito. -Tan bonito el gatito.
Oh, good one, Pepino. -He's tame. -Such a pretty kitty.
Caption 49, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 6

Talking about bites and dogs, there is a famous saying in Spanish, perro que ladra no muerde,which means, literally, "a barking dog never bites." 


pero perro que ladra no muerde, querida.
But, his bark is worse than his bite, dear.
Caption 56, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 8

It may be a little disrespectful, but some people may use the verb amansar to refer to the action of calming down a person, or even appeasing the gods:


Y tener poderes místicos para amansar las "tulucus".
And having mystical powers to tame the "tulucus".
Caption 26, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 7

What if an animal is not mansito? That means it's fiero (fierce), feroz (ferocious), salvaje(wild), or maybe even feral (feral). A famous one is el lobo feroz, (the Big Bad Wolf) yes, the one that tried to eat Caperucita roja (Little Red Riding Hood) and los tres cerditos (the three little pigs). Can you blame him? Have you ever had un hambre feroz?


Si pones la mesa que no sea para dos, porque somos como catorce con un hambre feroz
If you set the table, it shouldn't be for two, because we're like fourteen people with a ferocious hunger
Caption 29, Enanitos Verdes - Cuánto Poder

One last expression before saying goodbye. It's important to walk your dog everyday, right? Agreed, but never ever ever say something like caminar a tu perro. That makes no sense in Spanish. The correct expression is sacar a pasear a tu perro (to take the dog out for a walk).  The Argentinian band Los Pericos (the Parrots) have a song entitled Fácil de engañar (Easy to be fooled) in which a former lover is compared to a pet owner:


Me tenías en la jaula, me sacabas a pasear
You had me in a cage, you took me out for walks
Caption 8, Los Pericos - Fácil de Engañar

By the way, if you are not easily fooled, you probably like the saying that goes:


A otro perro con ese hueso
Don't try that one on me [literally, "to another dog with that bone"].
Caption 28, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 7

That was two last expressions. The thing is, there are so many interesting words about pets and owners! We should revisit the subject again in the future.

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Spring Vocabulary

La Primavera (spring time) is in the air (or at least it should be). So let's learn a few Spanish words related to Persephone's season. 

Flores means "flowers" and florecer means "to flower" or "to bloom." But there are also other words such as the verb aflorar (to bloom), which is also used figuratively meaning "to pop up," "to emerge" or "to appear." You can even use it say something as un-spring-like as: Su instinto asesino afloró de pronto (His killing instinct suddenly emerged).

Spanish also has the poetic adjective florido (full of flowers, flowery):


Luz y sonido, grande y florido
Light and sound, big and flowery
Caption 1, Aterciopelados - Al parque


And the participle adjective florecido, also "full of flowers:"


Por la senda florecida que atraviesa la llanura
Along the flowered path that crosses the plain
Caption 9, Acercándonos a la Literatura - José Asunción Silva - "Nocturno III"


There is also the verb florear (literally, "to adorn with flowers" or "to make look like a flower") with many, many different uses. For example, florear means "to compliment" or "to say beautiful things." From that come the expressions echar floresdecir flores, tirar flores (literally, to throw or say flowers):


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


Enough of flores. The verb aparear (to mate or reproduce, literally "to pair") is a pertinent choice:


Las ballenas vienen a Gorgona a aparearse y tener sus crías
The whales come to Gorgona to mate and to have their offspring.
Caption 42, Instinto de conservación - Gorgona - Part 5


Anidar means "to nest," and by extension "to shelter." You can use it figuratively as in: En su corazón anida la amargura (His heart harbors bitterness). The corresponding noun is nido (nest), a word that you can learn, along with many other palabras primaverales (spring words), by watching the trippy song Jardín (Garden) by Liquits:


De pronto una cigüeña me lleva de paquete bebé al nido
Suddenly a stork takes me as a baby package to the nest
Caption 14-15, Liquits - Jardín


Now, Spanish doesn't have words as short and cute as rainy, sunny, windy, etc. to describe the weather. Instead, Spanish speakers may describe a sunny day as soleadoand a rainy day as lluvioso. These adjectives must be used altogether with the verbsser/estar (to be). To describe the way the weather is in a place, you use ser (because that's the way the weather typically is most of the time):


Es su clima muy... muy húmedo, muy lluvioso también.
Its climate is very... very humid, very rainy too.
Caption 16, Vender Plantas - Juan


To describe the way the weather is at a certain moment, you use estar (because that's the way the weather is at that particular time in that particular context):


¡Qué lindo que está afuera! ¿No? El clima está divino
How nice it is outside! No? The weather is divine.
Caption 16, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto - Part 4


Don't get confused, however, if you hear a Spanish speaker using the verb estar to describe a general condition of the weather. It's correct to use estar if you're also giving and indicator that you are talking in a broad sense. In the following case, for example, Clara indicates so by using the verb soler (to tend to):


Así que llueve un poco, pero los días suelen estar soleados.
So it rains a bit, but the days tend to be sunny.
Caption 14*, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 1

*Compare to caption 22 in the same video.


On the other hand, Spanish also combines verbs and nouns to describe the weather.  Some expressions use the verb hacer (to make), as in hace sol/frío/calor/viento (literally, "it's making sun/cold/heat/wind"):


Hace mucho fríohace mucho viento.
It's very coldit's very windy.
Caption 4, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 1


Some others use hay, the impersonal form of the verb haber (to have), as in hay sol/nieve/viento/lluvia
(there's sun/snow/wind/rain). And, of course, you can use the verb caer (to fall) forlluvia (rain), nieve (snow), granizo (hail) as in: ayer cayó granizo (yesterday hail fell). Or you can use the verbs llover (to rain), nevar (to snow), and granizar (to hail), which are conjugated in the third person only:


En invierno, nieva algunas veces, aunque en España, no nieva mucho.
In winter, it sometimes snows, although in Spain, it doesn't snow much.
Caption 1, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 2


To finish this lesson, let's learn a figurative use of the word primavera (spring). Reyli gives us an example in his song Qué nos pasó (What happened to us), where the wordprimavera, as "springtime" in English, is used to denote the earliest, usually the most attractive, period of the existence of something. In Spanish, by extension, the word is used as a common synonym of "youth," or even "years" in expressions such as hoy ella cumple sus veinte primaveras (she is celebrating her twentieth anniversary). Here's the example from Reyli's song:


¿Quién te llenó de primaveras esos ojos que no me saben mentir?
Who filled with springtimes those eyes of yours which don't know how to lie to me?
Caption 12, Reyli - Qué nos pasó

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On Fault vs Falta

Let's see a few examples to learn the proper use of the Spanish word falta, false friend of the English word fault.

First of all, falta does mean "fault" in the context of sports:

El árbitro no vio la falta
The umpire didn't see the fault

The word falta in Spanish is also used in legal contexts. Una falta means "an offense" (the word ofensa also exists):

que una misma persona cometiera distintas faltas de hurto
that one person committed different robbery offenses
Caption 49, Reporteros - Crecen los robos en tiendas - Part 4

Also, in academic or laboral contexts, una falta means "an absence." If you don't go to schooltu maestro te pone falta (your teacher marks you absent). Generally speaking una falta means "a lack" or "a shortage" and the verb faltar means "to lack," "to need" or "to be absent." Study the following examples:

Me falta un aguacate, que voy a hacer una ensalada.
I need one avocado, since I'll make a salad.
Caption 43, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 16

Hoy estamos protestando por la falta de agua,
Today we are protesting because of the water shortage,
Caption 44, Kikirikí - Agua - Part 2

It's interesting the way Spanish uses the word falta in expressions of time:

¿Qué será? Que falta un mes para la boda, ¿eh?
What would it be? That there is a month until the wedding, huh?
Caption 25, Yago - 8 Descubrimiento - Part 6

You can also use the word falta with a pinch of sarcasm:

lo único que me falta es que a los diez meses empiece a caminar...
the only thing I need now is that at ten months old she starts walking...
Caption 44, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 1

In fact, the expression lo único que me falta (or lo único que me faltaba) alone, also exists, and it's commonly used sarcastically:

¡Lo único que me falta!
Just what I needed!
Caption 5, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 4

Check out the following use of falta combined with the verb hacer and negation. It's a very common way to express that something is not needed or necessary:

¡No hace falta un abogado!
A lawyer is not necessary!
Caption 81, Adícora - Venezuela - Darío y el Kitesurfing - Part 1

And, of course, you can use falta + hacer without negation:

Eres lo que a mi vida le hace falta si no vienes
You are what my life lacks if you don't come
Caption 7, Café Tacuba - Eres - Part 1

Finally, a useful tip. How do you say in Spanish "It's your fault?" Unless you are playing soccer with your friends, you shouldn't say "es tu falta." For that, Spanish uses the word culpa (guilt, blame). It may sound really extreme an weird to say "it's your guilt" in English, but es tu culpa is common in Spanish: 

Soy el hombre al que iban a enterrar vivo por tu culpa.
I am the man who they were going to bury alive because of you.
Caption 35, El Ausente - Acto 4 - Part 3

You can use es tu culpa in the most trivial situations:

Por tu culpa perdimos el avión, querido.
It's your fault we missed the plane, dear.
Caption 16, Yago - 4 El secreto - Part 4

Finally, another use of the word falta is in the expression faltas de ortografía (orthographic mistakes). You can combine it with the verb tener (to have) as in el ensayo tiene muchas faltas de ortografía (the essay has many orthographic mistakes), or with the verb cometer (to commit, to make) as in tú cometes muchas faltas de ortografía (you make a lot of ortographic mistakes). Thank you for reading!

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¡Cómo puedes preguntar eso?

Many languages, Spanish and English included, use the same words for both questions and exclamations. Words like qué (what), cómo (how), and cuánto (how many) may primarily be interrogative words, but they are also exclamatory words that are used to simply state an idea or opinion with surprise or amazement. Frequently, phrases containing these words use exclamation marks (don't forget Spanish uses an additional initial upside down exclamation mark), but sometimes that's not even necessary, because the meaning of these expressions can be easily inferred from the context. Let's do a quick review.

Cómo (how) is used exactly the same way in Spanish and English. In one of our new videos, Sor Angelica expresses how much she missed the bakery goods served at the convent:

Mmm... Ay, Padre Manuel, cómo extrañaba este pancito[sic] casero.
Mmm... Oh, Father Manuel, how I missed this homemade bread.
Captions 1, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 6

Qué (what) is also used as an exclamatory word in both languages. One important difference between Spanish and English here is that Spanish never uses an article between the word qué and the noun or adjetive it modifies:

Qué grandísimo músico. 
What a great musician.
Captions 37, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live - Part 5

Another difference is that Spanish allows the use of qué in many more cases than English, which must resort to the use of "how" instead, as you can see in the following examples: 

¡Pero qué inteligente!
But how smart!
Caption 5, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 5

Bueno, qué grande la tienda, ¿eh?
Well, how big the store is, huh?
Caption 81, 775 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14

When used as an exclamatory word, qué can be replaced by a fancy word: cuán (how). This, however, is less common than qué, and it's mostly used in literary works. So, in the previous examples you can also use: cuán grandísimo músico, cuán inteligente,cuán grande, etc. Here is an example of cuán in one of our videos. Speaking of grandísimos músicos, here is an example of cuán in the lyrics of a song interpreted by the famous Chilean singer Chico Trujillo:

Para que te cuenten cuán grande es mi dolor
So they tell you how big my pain is
Caption 10, Chico Trujillo - Quémame los ojos

Cuánto (how much) can be used in front of nouns and verbs to express surprise at an amount of something. To modify a verb, one must always use the singular masculine form: cuánto.

¡Ay, señora Angélica, cuánto hacía que no bajaba por aquí!
Ah, Madame Angelica, it's been so long since you last came down here!
Caption 14, Guillermina y Candelario - Una película de terror - Part 2

To modify a noun, cuánto must match the noun in gender and number:

¡Cuántos frijoles hubiéramos hecho!
 ¡How many beans we would have produced!
Caption 43, Kikirikí - Agua - Part 3

¡Cuántas penurias pasamos el año pasado!
How many scarcities we had last year!

¡Cuánto dolor te he causado!
How much pain I've inflicted upon you!

To end this lesson we want to share something that may be new to you. In Spanish you can combine the use of exclamation and interrogation marks when an expression is both a question and an exclamation. According to the Real Academia Española, there are three possible ways to do it correctly. See below. Bet you didn't know the first two were even possible!

¡Cómo te atreves? 
¿Cómo te atreves!
¿¡Cómo te atreves!?

How dare you!?

¡Cuánto hemos aprendido hoy, verdad? (How much we learned today, right?!) 

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A Useful Verb: Hacer

The Spanish verb hacer primarily means "to do" or "to make." This verb is used in a wide range of expressions, which makes it one of the most versatile verbs in Spanish. However, and maybe for the same reason, the meanings and uses of hacerare not always easy to grasp. The fact that this is an irregular verb doesn't make it any easier either. So, to successfully master the verb hacer, the first step would be to memorize its conjugation (the past tense is especially challenging). After that, we recommend that you study it using a case-by-case approach. Luckily, the use of hacer is extremely common, so our catalog of videos offers you plenty of examples. 

Let's quickly review the two basic meanings of the word hacer. The first meaning is "to make":

Vamos a hacer un arroz.
We're going to make rice.
Captions 74, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 6

The second basic meaning of hacer is "to do":

¿Y ahora qué hacemos?
And now what do we do?
Captions 11, Guillermina y Candelario - Una película de terror - Part 3

Keep in mind that these meanings of the verb hacer as "to do" or "to make" can be used in many different situations that don't necessarily correspond to the uses of "to make" and "to do" in English. For example, in Spanish you can use the verb hacer to say quiero hacer una llamada (I want to make a call), and hazme un favor (do me a favor). But you can also use it in expressions like me haces daño (you hurt me), andella hizo una pregunta (she asked a question). Here's another example:

Tú me hiciste brujería.
You put a spell on me.
Caption 38, Calle 13 - Un Beso De Desayuno - Part 1

Hacer is also extensively used in Spanish to express time or duration. It can be used to express for how long you have been doing something:

Tengo veinte años y estoy hace dos años acá en Buenos Aires.
I'm twenty years old and I've been here in Buenos Aires for two years.
Caption 40, Buenos Aires - Heladería Cumelen - Part 1

Or to express the concept of "ago":

Hace unos días me olvidé la mochila en el tren.
A few days ago I forgot my backpack on the train.
Caption 22, Raquel - Oficina de objetos perdidos - Part 1

Hacer is also used in weather expressions:

Hoy hace tanto viento que casi me deja caer.
Today it is so windy that it almost makes me fall [over].
Caption 14, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 2

And other impersonal expressions, such as hacer falta (to need/be lacking):

Se puede poner entero, no hace falta quitar corteza.
It can be put in whole; it's not necessary to remove the crust.
Caption 62, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 4

To indicate taking on a role:

Siempre quieres que haga el papel de villana.
You always want me to play the role of the villain.

Or to indicate that someone is pretending to be something: 

Digo, si pasa algo con mi hijo, no te hagas la ingenua.
I'm saying if something is happening with my son, don't play dumb.
Caption 9, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro - Part 5

The reflexive form hacerse is commonly used in this way in many expressions such ashacerse el loco (to pretend to be crazy), hacerse la mosquita muerta (to look as if butter wouldn't melt in one's mouth, literally "to pretend to be a dead fly"), hacerse el muerto (to play dead), etc. Here is another example:

Mira, no te hagas la viva.
Look, don't play smart.
Caption 3, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 4

Hacer can also express the idea of getting used to something:

No hacerme a la idea de que esto está bien
Not to get used to the idea that this is OK
Caption 32, Xóchitl - Vida en Monterrey - Part 1

Hacer is also used to express that something doesn't matter in expressions such as no le hace (it doesn't matter), or no hace al caso (it doesn't pertain to the matter). Or it can mean "to refer to": Por lo que hace al dinero, tú no te preocupes (Concerning money, you don't worry). The list of its possible uses goes on and on! Let's see one last use of hacer, which was sent to us by one of our subscribers:

The expression hacer caso means "to pay attention," "to obey," or "to believe":

Nada, hay que hacerle caso al médico.​
No way, you have to pay attention to the doctor.
Caption 57, Yago - 8 Descubrimiento - Part 6

Hazme caso que tú eres perfecta.
Believe me that you are perfect.
Caption 56, Biografía - Enrique Iglesias

Pero yo siempre, siempre, siempre le hago caso a Sor Cachete.
But I always, always, always, do as Sister Cachete says.
Caption 27, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro - Part 2

Thank you for reading and sending your suggestions. 

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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)

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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


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