Spanish Lessons


Lessons for topic Vocabulary

Casting: A Word as Spanish as English

Entonces siempre hacía de alguna manera castings, lo que hoy llamamos castings.

So somehow he always used to do castings, what we call today castings.

Captions 25-26, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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In this chapter of the life of actress Natalie Oreiro, the English word "casting" or plural "castings" is heard not once, but four times. (Note that casting's "i" follows its Spanish pronunciation rules and is pronounced like a long "e" in English, kind of like "casteeng.") In our Spanish-to-Spanish dictionary, casting (noun) is defined as "selección de personas para actuar en una película, un anuncio publicitario, etc." In other words, it's similar to its Hollywood meaning.

"Casting" is but one of the many English words creeping into Spanish dictionaries these days. In Natalie's native Uruguay, one may go to el shopping (the shopping center, or, mall) to buy un smoking (a smoking jacket) to wear for el casting (the casting call). In each of these cases, the "-ing" word is considered a masculine noun in Spanish, even if it's English equivalent started as an adjective modifying another noun.


Porque esos terrenos los vamos a conseguir, y vamos a hacer el shopping ahí.

Because those plots of land, we're going to get them and we're going to build the mall there.

Captions 8-9, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza

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Forro: A Word as Useful as a Lifesaver

Bueno dale sí... ¿pero te ponés otro forro?

OK sure... but will you put on another rubber?

Caption 47, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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But can you put on another what?

Many of you would be more familiar with the word condón or preservativo, two synonyms for forro in this context. In a dictionary, you'll find that forro more innocently means "cover, case or interior lining" of a ski jacket or waterproof luggage, say. But in an Argentine bedroom, forro usually refers to a "condom," as it does in this line from the show Disputas.

What's more, graffiti all over Buenos Aires declares: Por amor usá forro -- "For love's sake, use a condom" -- as part of a grassroots campaign promoting safe sex. Another slogan in the fight against AIDS -- No seas forro, usá forro -- points to an alternate meaning of forro in local slang: "idiot."

An aside: X Amor is short for por amor because "x" is familiar to us all as the multiplication sign, and when you multiply in Spanish, you say dos por dos for "2 x 2." In a similar vein, Lo+Tv works for us because "2 + 2" is dos más dos. Keep your eyes open and you may notice lo+ used casually in place of lo más throughout the Spanish speaking world.

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Atinar: Attaining the Right Meaning

With Germaín de la Fuente's old-style crooning in the song "Como Quisiera Decirte," you just know he's gotta be singing about heartache. But what is he saying exactly?


Y así va pasando el tiempo

And thus, time goes by

Sin atinar a decirte

Without my being able to tell you

Lo que a diario voy sintiendo

What I'm feeling daily

Captions 18-20, Los Tetas - Como Quisiera Decirte

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You see, the verb atinar is translated as "being able to" / "to be able to." But there's an added dose of longing and frustration attached to atinar, compared to, say, poder or even ser capaz de. Atinar often appears as part of the phrase atinar a decir and suggests the need to speak up to resolve a pressured situation -una situación de presión. One synonym is lograr, in the sense of "to manage to." Dictionaries also suggest: acertar [a], dar [en el blanco], conseguir, hallar and encontrar.

It has been suggested that atinar shares roots with the verb adivinar, "to divine or guess correctly." However, most linguists would agree that there's no easy direct translation into English for this verb, which takes on many meanings and variations that non-natives will tend to absorb naturally as they encounter them in context.


Se fue tan rápido que no atiné a decirle que se olvidó sus maletas.
He left so fast that I didn't have the chance to tell him he forgot his suitcases.


Esta fue una inversión atinada, ganamos mucho dinero.
This was a good (smart) investment; we earned a lot of money.


El examen es "multiple choice." Espero poder atinar las respuestas.
The exam is multiple choice. I hope I can guess the right answers.



An aside: This is not Germaín de la Fuente's first brush with rap. The Chilean singer's romantic warbling has also appeared in songs by the Beastie Boys and Jay-Z.

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Agradecer: "Thanks" as a Verb

Te lo agradezco.

Thank you.

Caption 16, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Little doubt one of the things you say frequently when you have the occasion to speak Spanish is gracias (thanks) and muchas gracias (many thanks), but have you ever tried using the verb agradecer (to thank)? When Federico is explaining to his secretary-cum-sous-chef about how much she brings his groove back, she does not say simply gracias but rather (and somewhat cynically, we might add) "te lo agradezco" or "I thank you (for it)." It's slightly more formal, but not radically so.


Agradecemos a todos los presentes por asistir a esta reunion.
We thank all present for attending this meeting.


Les agradezco su ayuda.
I thank you all for your help.

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Arrancar: An Alternative to "Empezar"

Y así arrancaba, y ahí la vi

And this is how it was starting, and there I saw it

Caption 13, Los Pericos - Complicado

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If we speak English, it's easy to remember that comenzar means to "to start" because it sounds like "to commence." Empezar (to begin, to start) is so commonly used that most people learn it early on in their studies. But what about arrancar (which also means "to uproot", "to pull up")? Did you realize that this verb can mean "to start" as well? If so, you may have heard it used in reference to starting the engine of a car, but it also can be found in a variety of contexts related to "starting." In the lyrics of the song Complicado we find the line y así arrancaba, "and this is how it was starting..."

Ya volvimos de las vacaciones pero ahora nos cuesta arrancar.
We´ve just returned from vacation and now it´s hard for us to start working.


Vamos, Cata, la rueda ya va a arrancar.

Let's go, Cata, the wheel's going to start now.

Caption 52, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8

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Arrancá, el semáforo ya está en verde.
Go, the light has now turned green.

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Atar y Desatar: Fasten, Unfasten, and Relieve

Primero me lo voy a atar...

First, I'm going to tie them up...

Caption 22, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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...porque después lo vamos a desatar.

...because we'll untie them later.

Caption 23, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Sentí el sudor, y desaté mi alivio

I felt the sweat, and I unleashed my relief

Caption 15, Los Pericos - Complicado

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Atar and desatar are two nicely opposing verbs which mean "to fasten" and "to unfasten." They can be very useful, but are often unknown by Spanish learners. This week in part 10 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, when Majo and Gloria's new friend says me lo voy a atar..., he is referring to his pants, "I am going to fasten them." (Note that he uses the singular el pantalón to refer to a single pair of "pants"?) Likewise in the next caption we find después lo vamos a desatar "later we will unfasten them" (still referring to his pants).

The verb desatar shows up again in the music video Complicados from the band Los Pericos. Here it takes on a more of a figurative meaning, "to unleash," as in "unleashing an emotion." Caption 15 of the song contains the line desaté mi alivio, which is "I unleashed my relief." It is a bit unusual to speak of "unleashing relief," but we can chalk this up to artistic license. As in English, it is usually anger that one "unleashes."


Desaté mi furia, y, después, tuve alivio.
I unleashed my anger, and, later, I was relieved.

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Agarrarte: Grab Some New Spanish Knowledge

The verb coger (to take / to grab) is commonly used in Spain, but, in Latin America, the same verb often has sexual connotations. To avoid confusion and any possible misunderstanding, Latin Americans tend to use the verb agarrar, not coger, when they wish to express "to take" or "to grab" (likewise elegir, not escoger, for "to choose" and levantar, not recoger, for "to pickup").



Agarrate el vinito que está en la cocina.

Grab the wine that's in the kitchen.

Caption 45, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Had her new actor friend told Gloria Cógete el vinito que está en la cocina, she would have understood it properly, "Grab the wine that's in the kitchen," but it would have sounded a bit odd to her, as she is South American, not a Spaniard. Note that her host appends the reflexive te to his command agarra, "grab." Had he not done so and said Agarrá el vino... instead of Agarrate el vino, the meaning would have been the same, "Grab the wine...," but it may have come across as rude and bossy as opposed to inviting and playful. He also softens his tone by using the diminutive vinito (little wine) instead of simply vino.


No, en serio te lo digo, Gloria, porque te agarra un psicópata...

No, seriously, I tell you, Gloria, because [if] you're stuck with a psychopath...

Caption 11, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Literally, porque te agarra un psicópata... is "because a psychopath grabs you..." but this is not exactly what Majo is expressing. What Majo is saying is more like "because [if] you're stuck with a psychopath" as in "if you had the bad luck of getting a psycho as a client...."


Si te agarra un profesor listo, vas a aprender la lección.
If you get a clever professor, you are going to learn the lesson.


Que esa mano si te agarra te puede dejar preñao

Because if that hand grabs you, it can get you pregnant

Captions 39-40, Trabuco Contrapunto - Mano Muerta Feat. Budú

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Me agarré un resfrío.
I caught a cold.


Entonces, agarré el gusanito del rock and roll desde los ocho años, te digo.

So, I've got the rock and roll bug since I was eight, I tell you.

Caption 27, Arturo Vega - Entrevista

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Si Juan se entera que le fuiste infiel, ¡agarrate!
If Juan finds out you cheated on him, watch out!


Cuando lo agarre, lo mato.
When I put my hands on him, I'll kill him.
(It is uncertain, hence the use of the subjunctive [yo] agarre.)


Si te agarra sueño, acostate temprano.
If you get sleepy, go to bed early.


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Dios Santo: "Holy God" and Other Ways to Talk to the Man Upstairs

Dios Santo qué bello abril

Holy God what a beautiful April

Caption 19, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Fotografía must have slipped away from proper procedure in our rush to get it up, as we have a coterie of bilingual native speakers checking and tweaking the captions before they "go live" (and sometimes continuing to do so after). For example, we'd at first translated Dios Santo as "Dear God," as it seemed a good fit in the context of the song, but then decided to go with the more literal "Holy God." Querido Dios is "Dear God," but not so much as used in prayer, but rather if you were writing the big guy a letter. Addressing God as if in a prayer it is common to find simply Dios alone, Señor, or sometimes, Padre.

This tune, "Bello Abril" is dedicated, in the liner notes of the album Naturaleza Sangre, to none other than Dolores Fonzi. We know her better as Gala, and she's featured prominently in this video (dancing on the bed).


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Siento: I Feel or I Sit

Y de nuevo siento enfermo este corazón

And once again I feel a heartache

Caption 19, Juanes - Fotografía

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Cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver

When your photos... I sit down to see.

Caption 22, Juanes - Fotografía

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We thought we were smart to ask the moderator of Delphi's Beyond Basic Spanish forum if we could give a quick mention to Yabla Spanish. Forum users showed us who was smart when they pointed out a mistake in our translation of the Juanes song Fotografía, which is found in our "Free Demo" section, as well as in the "Music Videos" channel under "Videos." Can we say huevo en nuestra cara? (No, probably not!) Let's take a look at what they found:

In caption 19 Nelly Furtado sings siento enfermo este corazón. In this case we had it right, siento here signifies "I feel," it is derived from the verb sentir, and she is referring to feeling an ache in her heart. The usage, by the way, is a bit poetic; a less embellished, more common, way to express the same thing is me duele el corazón.

In caption 22, and throughout the song, Nelly Furtado and Juanes sing the refrain cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver. The translation we had here was "when your photos... I feel like seeing." Siento, as you may know, is also the yo form of sentar, and so can alternately mean "I sit." That is indeed the proper meaning in this case: "when your photos... I sit down to see." Sentir is not used in the sense of "feeling like doing something," for that they would have perhaps sung cuando tengo ganas de ver tus fotos, "when I feel like seeing your photos."

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Ahora / Ya: Learning "Now"

Amelia: ¡Entonces vamos!

Amelia: Then let's go!

Gala: ¿Ahora?

Gala: Now?

Amelia: Sí, sí, sí.

Amelia: Yes, yes, yes.

Caption 33, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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A viewer wrote to ask if we could look at ahora and ya.

If we take the example above, which comes from the latest installment of the La Extraña Dama episode of Disputas, Gala could have replaced ¿Ahora? with ¿Ya? and the meaning would have been the same: "Now?"

In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Gala might have used the colloquial diminutive ahorita, especially to emphasize immediacy, "right now." Another way to stress immediacy is to place the word mismo after either ahora or ya. Ya mismo might be considered slightly stronger, but it also largely depends on the speaker's intonation and the context in which it is said.

Venga para acá ahora mismo.
Come here right now.

Venga para acá ya mismo.
Come here right now.


Cuando era chico quería ser como Superman

When I was little, I wanted to be like Superman

pero ahora ya quiero ser diputado del PAN

but now I want to be a representative of the PAN

Captions 1-2, Molotov - Hit Me

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In the music video Hit Me, Molotov combines both ahora and ya, most likely for emphasis, to indicate "now" in the sense of "these days" or "currently." In the same vein, it's not at all unusual to find ahora (without ya) where we might have expected to see hoy día (hoy en día), "nowadays."

En los años '20, las comunicaciones eran precarias. Ahora todo es diferente, la telefonia e internet se han vuelto de uso comun en casi todos los hogares.
In the twenties, communication was precarious. Now (nowadays) it's different, the telephone and internet have come into common use in almost all homes.

The combination of ya and ahora together in Hit Me comes across to some native speakers as very colloquial and a bit unusual, though of course popular music is always fertile ground for innovative, regional and less common usage. There are instances when the combination ahora and ya does sound natural to most native speakers; one is the case when ya is used to indicate "already."

Ahora, ya nos conocemos mejor.
Now, we already know each other better. (action completed)


Marisol: Tendrías que preguntarle a los peones.

Marisol: You should ask the farmhands.

Pedro: Uy, ya lo hice.

Pedro: Uy, I already did so.

Captions 12-13, Provócame - Piloto

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We find ya used to indicate action completed in this Provócome example. Pedro has "already" done what Marisol suggests.

In the case of a negative statement, where in English we would expect to see "yet," we do not use ya but rather todavía. This is a convention, like many "rules," that non-natives quite often pick up subconciously, through exposure.

¿Ya llamaste al médico?

Did you already call the doctor?

No, todavía no he llamado.

No, I haven't yet.

Sometimes ya can take on a meaning that encompasses both "now" and "already" ("finally"). This and some other important ya concepts que todavía no discutimos ("that we didn't discuss yet") can be found here:

A few more examples of interest:

Entonces ganaba más que ahora.
I was earning more then than (I am) now.

¡Ahora me lo dices!
Now you tell me!

Ahora que lo pienso...
Now that I come to think of it...


Another suggested quick read:

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Alcanzar: To Reach and More

El problema es que no están a su alcance.

The problem is that they are out of her reach.

Caption 38, Provócame - Piloto

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You may remember in Disputas, La Extraña Dama, part 5, when Santiago asks ¿Alcanza con esto? ("Is this enough?") and Amelia replies Alcanza y nunca sobra ("Enough and never more than enough"). When talking about money or time, alcanzar refers to "having enough," but alcanzar is also "to achieve" or "to reach" and the related noun is alcance. So when Marisol says El problema es que no están a su alcance she is saying "The problem is that they (horses) are out of her reach."

Telenovelas no alcanzaron los altos ratings de los partidos de fútbol.
Soap operas didn't reach the high ratings of soccer matches.


Desafortunadamente, dos no alcanzaron a llegar.

Unfortunately, two did not manage to make it.

Caption 23, Misión Chef - 2 - Pruebas

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Ponemos el potencial tecnológico a tu alcance.
We put technological potential within your reach.


El interior presenta una decoración de estilo francés

The interior has French-style decor

y la cúpula alcanza los cuarenta metros.

and the dome reaches forty meters.

Captions 24-25, Viajando con Carlos - Popayán - Colombia

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El tiempo nunca nos alcanza.
We never have enough time.


El dinero de La Yuca sólo nos alcanza para comprar comida y nada más.

Money from La Yuca is only enough to buy food and nothing else.

Caption 3, La Cocaleros - Personas y políticas

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A mí me alcanza y sobra con que la flor se abra.
For me it is more than enough if the flower unclose.
(D. H. Lawrence, Rose of All the World, last line)

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Estar por + Infinitive Verb (About to)

In this lesson, we would like to talk about a very simple formula that native Spanish speakers use when they wish to express their intention or inclination to do something. Let's take a look at it:


The verb estar (to be) + the preposition por + infinitive verb


Now, let's take a look at the following clip to see how that formula works:


Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre.

Your daughter's about to get married to a good man.

Caption 17, Provócame - Piloto

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When Patricia says to Ignacio, "Tu hija se está por casar con un buen hombre," she is saying: "Your daughter is about to get married to a good man." That said, the meaning of estar por hacer algo is: "to be about to do something," or have the intention to carry out the action of the infinitive verb. Note that the reflexive pronoun se in Patricia's sentence is part of the reflexive verb casarse (rather than having any association with estar). That said, she could have just as well have said: "Tu hija está por casarse."




Let's look at another example:


Ya estoy por pensar que Urrutia sí es quien dice ser.

I'm about to think that Urrutia really is who he says he is.

Caption 24, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 4

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In this example, we can see that Rubio is "about to think" something.  In this context, our formula expresses that Rubio "feels tempted" or "is inclined" to think that what Urrutia says is true. 


Note that in some Spanish-speaking areas, estar por + infinitive would more likely be used to indicate that one is in the mood to do something or has the intention to, while in other regions, estar para + infinitive is the more common way to say that some action will soon take place.


Finally, keep in mind that in some parts of Latin America, people might use estar por + infinitive as an alternative way of saying estar a punto de (hacer algo). Let's look at an example of how this same idea of being "about to" do something can be expressed with different words:  


Está por llover (It's about to rain).

Está a punto de llover (It's about to rain).


That's all for this lesson. We hope you've learned something new today, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments. ¡Hasta la próxima!




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Ando sin plata: Broke, but Not Necessarily Walking


¿En qué anda ahora ella?

What's she up to now?

Caption 22, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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If you recall back to Part 1 of La Extraña Dama, Nacha Guevara (Latin America's answer to Cher) asks in Caption 22 ¿En qué anda ahora ella? We might be tempted to translate this as: "In what does she walk now?" but clearly that won't cut it. Checking any dictionary, we find that andar has more meanings than just "to walk." For example, you are no doubt familar with ¿Cómo andas? (How's it going?). The question Melina wants to convey is What is she up to now?


Ando sin plata...

I don't have any money...

Caption 10, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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This week in Part 4 of the series andar pops up again when our young protagonist states Ando sin plata. He means not so much "I walk without money," but rather, "I've got no money."

Speaking of Nacha, imagine our surprise when we recently noticed her -the distinctive voice, face, and, well, just about everything else- before us en bolas, which is to say totalmente desnuda, playing Mrs. Robinson in El Graduado. Our lovely theater companion, who somewhere along the line lost the wild rebellious streak we once knew her for, was shocked and outraged beyond her tender years by the wanton display of flesh (this despite Ms. Guevera's seemingly supernatural ability to cut a statuesque nude that would do proud any 36-year-old, which is the age Anne Bancroft was when she played the same role in 1967, never mind a 63-year-old, which is what Nacha is today).

The dictionary states that en bolas is itself considered vulgar by some. We don't remember where we first came across the phrase, but for some reason it stuck with us, as colorful phrases often do. Could it be because certain speech operates on a whole other neurological plane that quite literally bridges logic and emotion?


While this week's Disputas video does not offer an absence of apparel, it is rife with some fairly salty language. We don't think it would make a sailor blush, but we've got the Viewer Discretion Advised light on as fair warning to anyone who might find the dialog unsettling.

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Carmín: A Color and a Lipstick

Y te has pintado la sonrisa de carmín

And you've painted on a lipstick smile

Caption 34, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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In the above clip you'll note that José Luis Perales sings "Y te has pintado la sonrisa de carmín". In this case carmín refers to lipstick, so the phrase translates as "And you've painted on a lipstick smile". Carmín can also refer to the color crimson (aka carmine), and sometimes to a type of wild rose. Lipstick, aside from carmín de labios, is also known as lápiz de labios. Bear it in mind next time you find some on the collar, yours or otherwise.

(Did you know that collar, in Spanish, is the same word as for neck: cuello?)

Here is another use of carmín in a song by the Argentine rock band Babsónicos.


Algo en tus labios color carmín

Something in your carmine lips

Sugiere que vayamos al grano

Suggests we get to the point

Captions 16-17, Babasónicos - Risa

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