Spanish Lessons


Las Vacaciones

Summer is a good time to take some time off... or learn how to properly use the Spanish word for vacation: vacaciones.  Let’s do just that.


For starters, even though the Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Royal Spanish Academy or DRAE includes the singular vacación, the plural vacaciones (vacation) is the only form people use:


Sí, se ha ido hasta de vacaciones a Italia con el zoquito.

Yes, she has even gone on vacation to Italy with the zoquito.

Caption 74, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 4

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Spanish also has the verb vacacionar (to vacation), but it's much more common to use expressions that involve the use of another verb combined with the word vacaciones, for example: ir de vacaciones (to go on vacation). This expression requires the use of a reflexive pronoun (se, in this case) and the preposition de (on). You must also be careful to conjugate the verb ir (to go) properly. In the example above, for example, you see the perfect tense ha ido de vacaciones (has gone on vacation). But you can also use other tenses. The following example includes the reflexive pronoun me, the preposition de, and the first-person singular form of the verb ir (to go) in present tense, which is voy (I go): voy de vacaciones, compro regalos, tengo la cena.

...I go on vacation, I buy gifts, I have dinner.

Caption 62, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

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But you can use other verbs too. You can use the verb estar (to be), for example, which doesn't need the use of reflexive pronouns:

Como todos sabemos, estamos de vacaciones.

As we all know, we're on vacation.

Caption 6, El bulevar - de Adícora

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Or the verb tomar (to take), which doesn't need the preposition de and can be used with or without a reflexive pronoun:

Tomó vacaciones de un mes. Regresó otra vez a Alemania.

She took a one-month vacation. Then she went back to Germany again.

Captions 24-25, Gonzalo el Pintor - Vida - Part 2

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Yes, it's also correct to say: se tomó vacaciones de un mes (she took a one-month vacation).
Also very common is the use of the verb andar (literally "to walk"):
Genaro anda de vacaciones.
Genaro is on vacation.

Or venir (to come), which needs the preposition de and could take a reflexive pronoun:

Qué bien que te has venido aquí de vacaciones.

How nice that you have come here on vacation.

Caption 2, Clara y Cristina - Hablan de actividades

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or not:
Qué bien que has venido aquí de vacaciones.
How nice that you have come here on vacation.
Can you think of more verbs that can be combined with the word vacaciones? We can. One example is the verb salir (to go out): salimos de vacaciones (we go out on vacation, we leave on vacation). Try to find some more examples in our catalog!


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. ailment afterwards when January starts because I am in debt. The financial hangover.

Captions 64-65, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 1

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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

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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

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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

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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 49, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 4

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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

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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

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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. stain as people say popularly, your credit record, you become delinquent.

Caption 24, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

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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. the case of personal loans or extra financing.

Caption 17, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2

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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 of saving an incremental dollar every week of the year.

Captions 6-7, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 4

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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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