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Spanish punctuation: 8 simples rules for writing better

Spanish punctuation may seem difficult if you are just learning the language. However, if you keep in mind the following rules, you will definitely improve you writing and the use of punctuation in Spanish.

 

1. Learn the names of the basic punctuation signs in Spanish

 

  1. Punto (Period)
  2. Coma (Comma)
  3. Punto y coma (Semicolon)
  4. Dos puntos (Colon)
  5. Comillas (Quotation marks)
  6. Signo de interrogación (Question mark)
  7. Signo de exclamación (Exclamation point)
  8. Paréntesis (Parentheses)
  9. Corchetes (Square brackets)

 

2. Remember that question marks and exclamation points are always double-sided

In Spanish, you always need to use opening and closing punctuation. Keep this in mind especially for question marks and exclamation points.

 

a. Question marks ¿?

¿Qué más cosas hay en el sueño?

What other things are there in the dream?

Caption 15, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: Hay y estar

 Play Caption

 

b. Exclamation points ¡!

¡Todo el mundo paga para que lo escuchen!

Everyone pays for them to listen to you!

Caption 45, Yago 14 La peruana - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

c. Parentheses () 

d. Square brackets []

D.A.S. [Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad].

A.D.S [Administrative Department of Security].

Caption 28, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capitulo 4 - Part 10

 Play Caption

 

e. Quotation marks " "

 

3. Never put a period after a question mark or an exclamation point

After a question mark or exclamation point, you can put any punctuation mark except a period.

 

4. Use capital letters after a closing punctuation mark that's at the end of a statement

¡Acompáñame! Este recorrido inicia en la Calle Doctor Coss,

Join me! This tour begins at Doctor Coss Street,

Captions 5-6, Paseando con Karen Canal Santa Lucía

 Play Caption

 

5. Avoid punctuation marks before an opening parenthesis

Don't put a comma or semicolon before an opening parenthesis. However, feel free to put those marks after the closing parenthesis.

 

6. Put a period after a closing quotation mark

If you want to put a period at the end of a sentence that is between quotations marks, you need to put the period after the closing quotation mark.

La cita de hoy es de Aldous Huxley y dice así: "Todos los hombres son dioses para su perro".

Today's quote is by Aldous Huxley and goes like this: "To his dog, every man is Napoleon" [literally "To their dog, all men are gods].

Captions 8-10, Los casos de Yabla El perrito malcriado - Part 1

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7. Use lower case after a colon

Unless you are quoting something (as in the example we mentioned for rule 6) or writing a particular document (e.g. a letter), you always need to use lower case after a colon.

Luego tendrá usted que rellenar un formulario con las siguientes cuestiones: país de recogida, ciudad de recogida,

Then you will have to fill out a form with the following questions: country of pickup, city of pickup,

Captions 14-16, Raquel Alquiler de coche

 Play Caption

 

8. Use lower case if there is a comma or semicolon before an opening question mark or exclamation point

Sí, Zárate, ¿qué pasó?

Yes, Zarate, what happened?

Caption 20, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capitulo 4 - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

There are many more rules regarding punctuation in Spanish. However, we invite you to keep in mind the rules we just mentioned here because that way you'll certainly improve your writing in Spanish. And don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.

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Si no vs. Sino

Si no or sino? That is the question of today's lesson. Do you know when to write one or the other? Both expressions seem very similar but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Although even native speakers make mistakes when writing these words, the truth is they are used in specific cases that are easily recognizable. Let's start this lesson with a little quiz: 

 

Which one would you use in the following sentence?:

Amalia no ha llegado al apartamento; ____ ya me hubiera llamado.

Amalia hasn't arrived at the apartment; otherwise she would have called me already.

 

What about in this one?:

no solamente cubre la ciudad de Bogotá, ____ varios municipios alrededor de... de Bogotá,

it doesn't just cover the city of Bogota, but rather several municipalities around... Bogota,

 

We will unveil the answers at the end of this lesson. Now, let's dive into the difference between si no and sino.

 

What is the English equivalent of si no?

Si no is made of two parts. The conditinal conjunction 'si' and the negation 'no'. We use si no to introduce a negative conditional sentence. In particular, we use si no when it works as "otherwise" to imply the idea of "on the contrary". Let's see a couple of examples:

 

porque todos son amantes de los animales, si no, no vendrían a vernos,

because they are all animal lovers, otherwise, they wouldn't come to see us,

Captions 45-46, Santuario para burros Voluntarios

 Play Caption

 

¿Grabó esto sin su permiso? Claro que sí. Si no, no la habría descubierto.

Did you record this without her permission? Of course. Otherwise, I wouldn't have discovered it.

Captions 52-54, Los casos de Yabla El perrito malcriado - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

 

What does the word sino mean in English?

In Spanish, the word sino is a conjunction that usually works as the English equivalent "but" or "but rather". Generally speaking, we use it to create a contrast between and affirmative statement that is placed right after a negative one. Let's see a couple of examples:

 

Que no es una chica, sino un chico. -Oh...

That's it's not a girl, but rather a boy. -Oh...

Caption 40, Extr@: Extra en español Ep 01 La llegada de Sam - Part 2

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Por esta razón, no decimos "uno libro", sino "un libro".

For this reason, we don't say "uno libro," but rather "un libro" ["a book"].

Caption 39, Carlos explica Los Números: Números Cardinales

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Sometimes, we also use sino when we want to state an exception:

Nadie lo sabe sino tu padre.

Nobody except your father knows it.

 

And finally, we use sino when we want to add more elements to a single statement, usually with the formula 'no solo... sino también' (not only... but also): 

unas de las bandas más importantes de Latinoamérica, este... no sólo por su trabajo musical, sino también por su trabajo social y activismo ambiental.

one the most important bands in Latin America, um... not only because of their musical work, but also because of their social work and environmental activism.

Captions 10-12, Doctor Krápula Entrevista

 Play Caption

 

Let's solve the questions

Considering all of the above, it is time to solve the questions we posed at the beginning of this lesson. Let's unveil the answers:

 

Amalia no ha llegado al apartamento; si no ya me hubiera llamado.

Amalia hasn't arrived at the apartment; otherwise she would have called me already.

Caption 19, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capitulo 4 - Part 11

 Play Caption

 

no solamente cubre la ciudad de Bogotá, sino varios municipios alrededor de... de Bogotá,

it doesn't just cover the city of Bogota, but rather several municipalities around... Bogota,

Captions 57-58, Bogotá Chorro de Quevedo

 Play Caption

 

That's it for today. We hope this lesson helped you to understand when to write sino and si no. And don't forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 

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How to write and use the prefix super in Spanish

Let's start this lesson with a little quiz. Do you know how to write superhero in Spanish? Choose one of the following:

 

a. Super héroe

b. Superhéroe

c. Súper héroe

d. Súperheroe

 

If you don't know the answer, this lesson will help you to find out which one is the proper spelling.

 

The meaning of the prefix super in Spanish

 

When it works as a prefix, the word super has different meanings. Sometimes, it means 'above' like in the word superestructura (superstructure). It can also mean 'excellence' or 'superiority':

 

¿Con el superagente, Jaime Suárez?

With the super-agent, Jaime Suarez?

Caption 53, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 13

 Play Caption

 

In some words, the prefix super expresses the 'highest degree' of something: 

 

Eh... La iglesia es superhermosa.

Um... The church is super beautiful.

Caption 14, Bogotá Una visita a la ciudad

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And finally, the prefix super can also indicate the 'excess' of something:

 

Ehm... Tenemos la... la... la... la... la superpoblación,

Um... We have (the... the... the... the... the) overpopulation,

Caption 50, Los médicos explican Entrevista con el Doctor Suarez

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The meaning of the word súper (with an accent)

 

Have you ever seen the word súper with an accent? If you think that súper is the same as super (with no accent), you are wrong. The word súper needs the accent only in the following situations:

 

1. When it is used as a noun for the short form of the word supermercado (supermarket) or the type of gasoline:

 

Roberto fue al súper a comprar naranjas.

Roberto went to the supermarket to buy oranges. 

 

2. When it works as an adjective or adverb to express that someone or something is/was great:

 

Súper, y ¿qué le dijeron de Gastón Almanza?

Super, and what did they tell you about Gaston Almanza?

Caption 20, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 1 - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

The simplest thing to remember here is that the prefix super doesn't have a graphic accent.

 

How to write words that use the prefix super in Spanish

 

Believe it or not, there are many native Spanish speakers who don't know how to properly write words that are formed with the prefix super. The main rule, however, is quite simple: When writing, the prefix super should be connected to the word that follows. With that simple rule, we can answer the question we posed at the beggining of this lesson:

 

Y tengo de superhéroe lo que Juanes de vallenato

And I've got from a superhero what Juanes [has] from vallenato

Caption 30, Juanes La Plata

 Play Caption

 

However, every rule has its exception and this rule has the following one:

 

Super followed by a hyphen

 

When the word that follows super starts with a capital letter or when this prefix is followed by a number, you need to add a hyphen:

 

super-Obama or super-10

 

Super separated by the word that follows it

 

You need to leave a space after super when it goes before a series of words that have their own meaning:

 

Yo siempre me he sentido super a gusto cantando al lado de ese grandísimo músico...

I have always felt pretty at home singing along this great musician...

Caption 50, David Bisbal Haciendo Premonición Live - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

That's it for today. We invite you to write 10 words with the prefix super. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

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6 rules for forming the plural of nouns in Spanish

Today, we will talk about the plural in Spanish. In particular, we will talk about the plural when referred to nouns. Let's start this lesson with a little quiz. Do you know what is the plural form of the following nouns?:

 

1. Casa (house)

2. Perro (dog)

3. Universidad (university)

4. Lápiz (pencil)

5. Jabalí (wild boar)

6. Análisis (analysis)

 

If you are not sure about how to make a singular noun plural in Spanish, we invite you to take a look at the following simple rules. While going through these rules, we will be unveiling the plural form of the 6 nouns we included in our quiz. Let's take a look.

 

Rule 1: Add an 'S' to form the plural of nouns ending in unstressed vowels

 

- Casa (house) - Casas (houses)

- Estudiante (student) - Estudiantes (students)

- Perro (perro) - Perros (dogs)

 

Se escucha un perro.

You can hear a dog.

Caption 43, Conversaciones en el parque Cap. 2: Cafe y bocadillos

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Tus perros también son muy bonitos.

Your dogs are very beautiful too.

Caption 58, Conversaciones en el parque Cap. 2: Cafe y bocadillos

 Play Caption

 

 

Rule 2: Add an 'S' to form the plural of nouns ending in stressed 'a,' 'e' and 'o'

 

- Papá (dad) - Papás (dads)

- Dominó (domino) - Dominós (dominoes)

- Café (coffee) - Cafés (coffees)

 

y les voy a mostrar el proceso de control de calidad de café de Colombia.

and I'm going to show you the quality-control process for coffee from Colombia.

Caption 5, Una Historia de Café La Bodega

 Play Caption

 

Cada uno de estos cafés tiene distintas cualidades tanto físicas como sensoriales

Each one of these coffees has different qualities both physically and sensorially.

Caption 14, Una Historia de Café La Bodega

 Play Caption

 

 

Rule 3: Add 'ES' or 'S' to form the plural of nouns ending in stressed 'i' and 'u'

 

- Bisturí (scalpel) - Bisturíes or bisturís (scalpels)

- Jabalí (wild boar) - Jabalíes or jabalís (wild boars)

- Tabú (taboo) - Tabúes or tabús (taboos)

 

Generally speaking, however, it is preferred to use the plural formed with 'ES'.

Also, this rule is very common when you are dealing with adjectives of nationality:

 

- Iraní (Iranian) - Iraníes or iranís (Iranians)

 

Rule 4: Add 'ES' to form the plural of nouns ending in consonant

 

- Árbol (tree) - Árboles (trees)

- Profesor (teacher) - Profesores (teachers)

- Universidad (university) - Universidades (universities)

- Rey (king) - Reyes (kings)

 

La rata esta es el rey de la estafa por allá en Europa.

This rat is the king con artist over there in Europe.

Caption 45, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 1 - Part 1

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Actualmente es la residencia oficial de los reyes de España,

Currently, it's the official residence of the King and Queen of Spain,

Caption 23, Madrid Un recorrido por la capital de España

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Notice that the singular noun árbol has a graphic accent in the second-to-last syllable (palabra grave). However, when you form the plural, the graphic accent moves to the third-to-last-syllable becoming a proparoxytone word (palabra esdrújula). Similarly, singular nouns like profesor and universidad that are stressed in the last syllable (palabras agudas) become paroxytone words (palabras graves) in the plural form. 

 

Rule 5: When a noun ends in 'Z,' the plural form switches the 'Z' for a 'C'

 

- Lápiz (pencil) - Lápices (pencils) 

- Raíz (root) - Raíces (roots)

- Voz (voice) - Voces (voices)

 

Tengo muy buena voz,

I have a very good voice,

Caption 91, Los casos de Yabla Problemas de convivencia - Part 2

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vuelven esas voces a mi cabeza.

those voices come back to my head.

Caption 37, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos - Subjuntivo y condicional

 Play Caption

 

Rule 6: Nouns ending in 'S' or 'X' that are the same in singular and plural in Spanish.

Paroxytone or proparoxytone nouns ending in 's' or 'x' keep the same form in plural. Let's see some examples:

 

- Cactus (cactus) - Cactus (cactuses/cacti)

- Tórax (thorax) - Tórax (thoraxes/thoraces)

Análisis (analysis) - Análisis (analyses/tests)

 

y en un análisis de nuestras debilidades, oportunidades, fortalezas y amenazas.

and an analysis of our weaknesses, opportunities, strengths and threats.

Caption 37, Raquel y Marisa Español Para Negocios - Crear una empresa

 Play Caption

 

para hacerle los análisis de sangre, de heces,

to do the blood tests, stool (tests),

Caption 54, Santuario para burros Santuario - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

 

That's it for now. We hope these rules help you to use the plural in Spanish. If you feel like practicing a little bit more, take 20 nouns and try to form their plural forms. And of course, don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Spanish Alphabet: Letters and pronunciation

How well do you know the Spanish alphabet? Do you know how many letters are in the Spanish alphabet? What about the number of consonants and vowels that are part of it? This lesson answers these questions and provides a series of audio clips that will help you to learn the letters and improve the pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet. Let's take a look.

 

How to say alphabet in Spanish?

Believe it or not, there are actually two words in Spanish that we use to talk about the alphabet. While the most literal translation would be the word alfabeto, you can also use the word abecedario when referring to the Spanish alphabet. In fact, and according to the Real Academia Española (RAE), these two words are synonyms. 

 

How many letters are in the Spanish alphabet?

There are 27 letters in the Spanish alphabet. But do you know how many of those letters are consonants and how many vowels are in the Spanish alphabet? The answer is very simple. In the Spanish alphabet there are 22 consonants and 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u). Let’s go over all the Spanish alphabet letters with the following 27 words:

 

A as in agua (water)

¿También tienes agua?

Do you have water too?

Caption 35, Conversaciones en el parque - Cap. 2: Cafe y bocadillos

 Play Caption

 

B as in burro (donkey)

El burro es un animal ideal para este tipo de actividades

The donkey is an ideal animal for this kind of activity

Caption 71, Rosa - Yoga con burros

 Play Caption

 

C as in coche (car)

Hoy, voy en coche porque hace mucho frío.

Today, I'm going by car because it's very cold.

Caption 16, Ariana - Cena especial

 Play Caption

 

D as in difícil (difficult)

Es muy difícil. -Muy complicado.

It's very difficult. -Very complicated.

Caption 31, Blanca y Mariona - Planificación de cena

 Play Caption

 

E as in ellos (they)

Ellos se llevan muy bien.

They get along very well.

Caption 41, El Aula Azul - Mis Primos

 Play Caption

 

F as in fácil (easy)

Basta, es muy fácil.

Enough, it's very easy.

Caption 72, Español para principiantes - Los números del 1 al 100

 Play Caption

 

G as in gente (people)

Barcelona se llena de gente,

Barcelona fills up with people,

Caption 17, Blanca - Sobre la ciudad de Barcelona

 Play Caption

 

H as in hotel (hotel)

El hotel también cuenta con un bar.

The hotel also has a bar.

Caption 73, Cleer y Lida - Recepción de hotel

 Play Caption

 

I as in iglesia (church)

Esta iglesia fue construida en mil seiscientos ochenta y uno.

This church was built in sixteen eighty one.

Caption 14, Viajando con Carlos - Popayán - Colombia - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

J as in jamón (ham)

Fíjate: jamón, Javier.

Check it out: ham, Javier.

Caption 27, Fundamentos del Español - 10 - La Pronunciación

 Play Caption

 

K as in kilo (kilo)

Reciclando un kilo de vidrio...

[By] recycling a kilo of glass...

Caption 70, 3R - Campaña de reciclaje - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

L as in lago (lake)

Hay un lago.

There is a lake.

Caption 11, Natalia de Ecuador - Los adverbios de orden

 Play Caption

 

M as in mercado (market)

y están presentes en el mercado internacional.

and are present in the international market.

Caption 73, Europa Abierta - Champagne en Andalucía

 Play Caption

 

N as in nunca (never)

Nadie, nada, nunca,

Nobody, nothing, never,

Caption 21, Fundamentos del Español - 5 - La Negación

 Play Caption

 

Ñ as in the middle of the word niño (boy)

La frase, el niño quiere el juguete,

The sentence, "the boy wants the toy,"

Caption 17, Raquel - Diminutivos y aumentativos

 Play Caption

 

O as in objeto (object)

Y "tendedero" es un objeto para la ropa

And "tendedero" is an object for clothes

Caption 27, Karla e Isabel - Palabras

 Play Caption

 

P as in parque (park)

aquí en Parque Fundidora.

here in Fundidora Park.

Caption 38, Paseando con Karen - Sitios Culturales en Parque Fundidora

 Play Caption

 

Q as in queso (cheese)

un vaso de leche y queso,

a glass of milk and cheese,

Caption 16, Recetas de Clara - Los aborrajados - Part 1

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R as in rápidamente (quickly)

Vamos a ver rápidamente una frase

We are going to look quickly at a phrase

Caption 2, Lecciones con Carolina - Esta noche vs anoche

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S as in sal (salt)

Muchos mercaderes venían a recoger la sal,

Many merchants came to get the salt,

Caption 14, Rosa - Fuente de Piedra

 Play Caption

 

T as in trabajo (job)

¿Qué trabajo es?

What job is it?

Caption 23, Sofy y Caro - Entrevistar para un trabajo

 Play Caption

 

U as in universidad (university)

¿La biblioteca de la universidad?

The university library?

Caption 21, Español para principiantes - Hablando de ubicaciones

 Play Caption

 

V as in viento (wind)

y un viento muy fuerte nos arrastró a mar abierto.

and a very strong wind dragged us out to the open sea.

Caption 21, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

W as in wifi (wifi)

Tenemos también wifi y hay ordenadores disponibles.

We also have wifi and there are computers available.

Caption 20, El Aula Azul - Cursos y actividades de la escuela - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

X as in xilófono (xylophone)

Entonces, había una persona contando un cuento y él tocando un xilófono.

So, there was a person telling a story and he [was] playing a xylophone.

Caption 28, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 4

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Y as in yuca (yucca)

Aquí tenemos la yuca,

Here we have the yucca,

Caption 7, Recetas de cocina - Carimañolas

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Z as in zona (zone)

Es la primera vez que vengo a esta zona de la ciudad

It's the first time I've come to this area of the city

Caption 8, Karla e Isabel - Alquilar una habitación - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Spanish alphabet pronunciation

If you want to improve your pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet, please take a look at the following audio clips where Marta, one of our Spanish teachers, will teach you how to properly pronounce the Spanis alphabet letters:

 

A, B, C, D, E

A, be, ce, de, e,

A, b, c, d, e,

Caption 19, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El Alfabeto

 Play Caption

 

F, G, H, I, J

efe, ge, hache, i, jota,

f, g, h, i, j,

Caption 20, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El Alfabeto

 Play Caption

 

K, L, M, N, Ñ

ka, ele, eme, ene, eñe,

k, l, m, n, ñ,

Caption 21, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El Alfabeto

 Play Caption

 

O, P, Q, R, S

o, pe, cu, erre, ese,

o, p, q, r, s,

Caption 22, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El Alfabeto

 Play Caption

 

T, U, V, W,

te, u, uve, uve doble,

t, u, v, w,

Caption 23, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El Alfabeto

 Play Caption

 

X, Y

equis, i griega

x, y [literally: "Greek i"]

Caption 24, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El Alfabeto

 Play Caption

 

Z

y zeta.

and z.

Caption 25, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El Alfabeto

 Play Caption

 

Keep in mind that you can also refer to the letter W as doble ve (double v) or doble u (double u). Similarly, you can also call the letter Y ye instead of i griega (Greek i).

 

That's it for now. If you feel like practicing a little bit more, try to write one word with each one of the 27 Spanish alphabet letters. And of course, don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 
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Palabras esdrújulas: Accent on the third-to-last syllable

Let’s talk about accentuation and pronunciation. Today, we’ll discuss the so-called palabras esdrújulas (proparoxytone words). That’s a weird name, isn’t? Before we talk about palabras esdrújulas, we need to remember something important.

 

As we previously mentioned, all words in Spanish are stressed on one syllable. Depending on where that stress falls, words are divided into the following groups:

 

Palabras agudas (oxytone words) | accent on the last syllable

Palabras graves (paroxytone words) | accent on the second-to-last syllable

Palabras esdrújulas (proparoxytone words) | accent on the third-to-last syllable

Palabras sobresdrújulas (over-proparoxytone words) | accent on any syllable before the third-to-last syllable

 

Let’s get into palabras esdrújulas with the following example:

 

Palabras como micrófono, pirámide

Words like "micrófono," [microphone], "pirámide" [pyramid]

Caption 44, Carlos explica Acentuación Cap. 4: Clasificación de las palabras según el acento

 Play Caption

 

The word micrófono has four syllables (mi | cró | fo | no) and the stress goes on the third-to-last syllable “cró.” Similarly, the word pirámide has four syllables (pi | | mi |de) and the stress also goes on the third-to-last syllable “.”

 

If you noticed it, the two proparoxytone words that we just mentioned bear a graphic accent (tilde) on their stressed syllables. And that’s exactly the beauty of the palabras esdrújulas. Unlike palabras agudas and palabras graves, which follow complex rules regarding the use of the graphic accent, the esdrújulas ALWAYS need to have a graphic accent. Let’s see more examples:

 

También nos dedicamos a música clásica.

Also, we do classical music.

Caption 13, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Paty

 Play Caption

 

ya construimos la cámara para grabar la película.

we already built the camera to film the movie.

Caption 16, Guillermina y Candelario Una película de terror - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Yo realmente prefiero no dar mi número de mi tarjeta de crédito por teléfono.

I really prefer not to give my credit card number on the phone.

Caption 50, Cleer y Lida Reservando una habitación

 Play Caption

 

As you can see from the examples above, there are lots of palabras esdrújulas in the Spanish language and some of them are quite common. Before we go, one last curious thing to remember: 

 

The word esdrújula is also a esdrújula word!

 

That's it for now. If you feel like practicing a little bit more, take one of our videos and try to find all the proparoxytone words in it. And of course, don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

 
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Entorno vs. en torno

As with any other language, Spanish can be tricky sometimes. Do you know how to use the word entorno? What about the expression en torno? Which one would you use in the following sentence:

 

Fuengirola es un importante punto turístico. Su economía gira ________ a este sector.

Fuengirola is an important touristic spot. Its economy revolves around this sector.

Captions 12-13, Fuengirola - Mercado

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What about this sentence:

 

encontró en su _________ un atractivo natural para los amantes del ecoturismo

found in its environment a natural beauty for the lovers of ecotourism

Caption 94, Tecnópolis - El Coronil

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Let’s find out what the answer is.

 

What is the English meaning of entorno?

To begin with, entorno is a noun and the meaning of this word is environment or surroundings. However, it is important to say that entorno encompasses the same broad meaning of the English word “environment,” meaning “the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded.” Let’s take a look at some examples:

 

... las calles, la gente... lo que es el entorno urbano.

... the streets, the people... what the urban environment is.

Captions 39-40, Leif - El Arquitecto Español y su Arte - Part 1

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para modificar el entorno, desarrolló herramientas, ¿no?

in order to modify the environment, he developed tools, right?

Caption 50, Lo que no sabías - Arte electrónico - Part 2

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Regarding the last example, the word entorno is very common in information and computer science, especially when talking about the features that define the execution and placement of a particular application.

 

The meaning of the expression en torno

As far as the expression en torno goes, we can use it to mean about, around or approximately. Let’s take a look:

 

que hay en torno a cincuenta millones, eh, hispanohablantes en Estados Unidos.

that there there are about fifty million, um, Spanish speakers in the United States.

Captions 42-43, El Instituto Cervantes - Director del Instituto

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Puede andar en torno a los dos mil seiscientos...

It could be around two thousand six hundred...

Caption 50, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 13

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Finally, keep in mind that en torno is either followed by the preposition a or the preposition de:

 

  • Ella llegó en torno a la medianoche.
  • She arrived around midnight.

 

  • Las esculturas en torno de la iglesia.
  • The sculptures around the church.

 

That's it for this lesson. Now that you know the difference between entorno and en torno, you can answer the questions we posed at the beginning, right? And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

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Palabras graves: Accent on the second-to-last syllable

In this lesson we’ll talk about Spanish words that have the accent on the second-to last syllable. We call these words palabras graves. In a previous lesson, we talked about palabras agudas, which are words with the accent on the last syllable. 

 

Before we talk about palabras graves, let’s briefly discuss the meaning of the word “accent” in Spanish.

 

When we pronounce words in Spanish, the accent is the emphasis we give to a particular syllable of a word. We create that emphasis by giving the syllable a greater intensity, a longer duration, or a higher pitch. With that in mind, let’s review the way we categorize words in Spanish, according to their accent:

 

  • Palabras agudas (oxytone words) | accent on the last syllable
  • Palabras graves (paroxytone words) | accent on the second-to-last syllable
  • Palabras esdrújulas (proparoxytone words) | accent on the third-to-last syllable
  • Palabras sobresdrújulas (over-proparoxytone words) | accent on any syllable before the third-to-last syllable

 

Now we can focus on palabras graves, which are also known as palabras llanas. Let’s look at a couple of words:

 

Palabras como "lápiz" o "cereza" son palabras graves.

Words like "lápiz" [pencil] or "cereza" [cherry] are paroxytone words.

Caption 33, Carlos explica - Acentuación Cap. 4: Clasificación de las palabras según el acento

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The word lápiz has two syllables (lá | piz) and the accent goes on the second-to-last syllable “.” Similarly, the word cereza has three syllables (ce | re | za) and the accent also goes on the second-to-last syllable “re.”

 

We note that the word lápiz has a graphic accent (tilde) on the “á,” while the “e” in the second-to-last syllable of cereza doesn’t have that accent.

Why not? It’s because paroxytone words need that graphic accent ONLY if they DO NOT end with “n,” “s,” or a vowel: Cereza ends in a vowel, so we don’t need the tilde.

 

y luego pasa en botella, donde se añade azúcar y eh... levadura.

and then goes into the bottle, where sugar is added and um... yeast.

Caption 26, Feria de Vinos Españoles en Londres - Bodegas Castell D'Age

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The word azúcar has three syllables (a | zú | car) and the accent goes on the second-to-last syllable “”. Since this word doesn’t end in “n,” “s” or a vowel, we need to put a tilde on the vowel of the second-to-last syllable.

 

La vida de músico es muy difícil, Kevin, es muy sacrificada.

The musician's life is very difficult, Kevin, it's very demanding.

Caption 16, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 3 - Part 8

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Likewise, the word difícil (di | fí | cil) has the accent on the second-to-last syllable “” and we need to put the graphic accent on the “í” since this word ends in a consonant (“l”), which is neither an “n,” an “s” nor a vowel.

 

There are, however, many palabras graves in Spanish that don’t need a graphic accent. Let’s take a look:

 

El lunes, por ejemplo, fui a trabajar.

On Monday for example, I went to work.

Caption 6, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos - El pasado

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Both lunes ( lu | nes) and ejemplo (e | jem | plo) have the accent on the second-to-last syllable. However, since lunes ends in “s” and ejemplo ends in a vowel, neither word needs the tilde.

 

One last thing: There are many words that are agudas in the singular and graves in the plural. Take a look at the following list (stressed syllable are in boldface):

 

  • Organización [organization] | organizaciones [organizations]
  • Nación [nation] | naciones [nations]
  • Doctor [doctor] | doctores [doctors]
  • Pared [wall] | paredes [walls]


That's it for now. If you feel like practicing a little bit more, take one of our videos and try to find all the paroxytone words with and without a tilde. And of course, don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions.

 

Explore more lessons:

Palabras agudas: Stress at the end

Some Unique Words and Expressions

Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - Part 1

 

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Había or habían muchos libros?

Let’s start this lesson with a short quiz. Imagine that you want to say the following sentence in Spanish:

“There were many books in that apartment.” You have two options:

a. Había muchos libros en ese apartamento

OR

b. Habían muchos libros en ese apartamento

Which one is the correct form? Había in singular or habían in plural?

 

Using the verb haber in Spanish

To answer our question, we need to say that había and habían belong to the imperfect tense of the Spanish verb haber. Let’s take a look at that conjugation:

 

  • Yo había
  • Tú habías
  • Él/Ella había
  • Nosotros/as habíamos
  • Vosotros/as habíais
  • Ellos/as habían

 

Now, very often, we use the verb haber as the auxiliary verb “to have”:

 

...todas las cosas que había estado buscando, ¿no?

...all the things that I had been looking for, right?

Caption 5, Belanova - Entrevista - Part 2

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However, in the sentence we are discussing here, we are not using haber as the auxiliary verb “to have,” but rather as an element that allows us to make a reference to the existence of many books in a particular place (the apartment). In other words, we are using haber as the equivalent of there is / there are in English.

When we use haber with that intention, we ALWAYS have to use its singular form even if what comes after it is a plural noun! Because of that, the correct answer to our opening question is the following:

a. Había muchos libros en ese apartamento

 

How to use había when talking about existence

Now that we understand that we need to use the singular había and not the plural form habían, let’s look at a couple of examples of how to properly use había when talking about the presence or existence of things or people in a particular place:

 

Aquí había unas comidas para llevar.

There were some takeout places here.

Caption 8, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 10

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porque había diferentes explicaciones de…

because there were different explanations of…

Caption 31, El Aula Azul - Dos historias

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porque había muchos obstáculos para ese encuentro.

because there were many obstacles for that meeting.

Caption 34, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 4

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había muchos seres extraños

and there were many strange beings.

Caption 43, Salvando el planeta Palabra - Llegada - Part 3

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no había máquinas de estas,

there were no machines like these,

Caption 37, Tortillería La Nueva Única - Entrevista con don Alfonso - Part 2

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By the way, it is worth saying that many Spanish speakers make the mistake of using habían instead of había in the context we just discussed. In fact, many people think that what comes after the verb haber is the subject of the sentence, which is not the case.

That’s it for now. We hope this lesson will help you to avoid making this very common mistake in Spanish. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 

Explore more lessons:

Using "haber de" to Express Necessity or Possibility

Haber+De+Infinitive: Something you should learn

Va a haber: Related forms of "Hay"

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Palabras agudas: Stress at the end

Let's talk about stress. In Spanish, all words are stressed on one syllable. Depending on the syllable where that stress falls, words in Spanish are divided into the following four groups:
 
Palabras agudas (Oxytone words) | Last syllable
Palabras graves (Paroxytone words) | Second-to-last syllable
Palabras esdrújulas (Proparoxytone words) | Third-to-last syllable
Palabras sobresdrújulas (Over-proparoxytone words) | Any syllable before the third-to-last syllable
 
Today, we will talk about palabras agudas. Let’s look at a couple of words:
 

Palabras como "corazón" o "tambor" son palabras agudas.

Words like "corazón" [heart] or "tambor" [drum] are oxytone words.

Caption 22, Carlos explica - Acentuación Cap. 4: Clasificación de las palabras según el acento

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The word corazón has three syllables (co | ra | zón) and the stress falls on the last syllable “zón.” Similarly, the word tambor has two syllables (tam | bor) and the stress falls on the last syllable “bor.”
 
However, the word corazón has an accent mark (tilde) on top of the “ó,” while the “o” in the last syllable of tambor doesn’t have that accent. Why? Because oxytone words need that accent ONLY when they end in “n”, in “s” or in a vowel:
 

La manera más simple de llegar a Barcelona es con el autobús

The simplest way to get to Barcelona is by bus

Caption 27, Blanca - Cómo moverse en Barcelona

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El coquí es un sapito que tenemos aquí en Puerto Rico.

The coquí is a little frog that we have here in Puerto Rico.

Caption 31, Carli Muñoz - Niñez - Part 1

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The word autobús has three syllables (au | to | bús) and the stress falls on the last syllable. Since this word ends in “s,” we need to put a tilde on the vowel of the last syllable. Likewise, the word coquí (co | quí) is stressed on the last syllable and we need to put the tilde on the “í” since this word ends in a vowel.
 
Important! In Spanish the accent mark ( ´ ) can only be placed on top of a vowel.
 
There are many oxytone words in Spanish. In fact, all verbs in the infinitive are palabras agudas:
 

¿Quieres tomar algo de beber, Raquel?

Do you want to have something to drink, Raquel?

Caption 22, Raquel - Presentaciones

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Both tomar ( to | mar) and beber (be | ber) have two syllables and the stress falls on the last one. However, since they both end in “r,” the accent mark is not needed.

That's it for now. If you feel like practicing a little bit more, take one of our videos and try to find all the oxytone words without a tilde. And of course, don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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