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Whatever, Whenever, and More! Another Use of the Spanish Subjunctive

How do you translate expressions with words like "whatever," "whenever," and "however" to Spanish? Today, we will explore some simple manners of doing so using the Spanish subjunctive along with certain key words and/or phrases. 

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Whatever

It is fitting that the Spanish subjunctive is employed to express the notion of "whatever" because, in contrast to the more objective indicative, this mood describes things that are subjective, vague, or unknown. That said, the third person singular of the present subjunctive form of the verb ser (to be) appears in the Spanish equivalent of "whatever," lo que sea, which literally means "what it may be." With this in mind, we can use the formula lo que plus a subjunctive verb to convey the idea of "whatever" one may do, think, etc., when what that is not specifically known by the speaker. Let's look at some examples: 

 

Tú puedes hacer lo que tú quieras porque es tu libro,

You can do whatever you want because it's your book,

Caption 2, Escribiendo un libro Algunos consejos sobre cómo comenzar - Part 3

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Had this speaker said "Tú puedes hacer lo que tú quieres" ("You can do what you want"), in the indicative, he would probably be referring to something specific that this author wanted to do. However, the subjunctive form quieras makes it clear that her possibilities are endless. This is particularly interesting because the English equivalents of these Spanish sentences ("you can do what you want" vs. "whatever you want") do not necessarily make this distinction. Let's see another example:

 

haré lo que usted me diga.

I'll do whatever you tell me to.

Caption 83, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 3

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Similarly, had this gentleman said, haré lo que usted me dices, the idea would be "I'll do what you're telling me (specifically) to do" rather than "I'll do absolutely any (perhaps crazy!) thing you might tell me."

 

Whenever

The idea of "whenever" in Spanish is very similar, and the words cuando (when) and siempre que ("as long as" or literally "always that") can be paired with verbs in the Spanish subjunctive to say "whenever" as in the following caption:

 

y con eso ya puedes mudarte cuando quieras.

and with that you can then move in whenever you want.

Caption 43, Ricardo La compañera de casa - Part 2

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Again, had the speaker said to his perspective tenant "puedes mudarte cuando quieres" (you can move in when you want), he would most likely be referring to a specific date, perhaps one that she had previously mentioned. However, the subjunctive form cuando quieras lets her know that whatever date she might choose will work fine. Here is one more example: 

 

Estos ejercicios los puedes realizar en la mañana, tarde o noche, siempre que necesites mover tu cuerpo.

You can do these exercises in the morning, afternoon, or night, whenever you need to move your body.

Captions 7-8, Bienestar con Elizabeth Activar las articulaciones

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Literally meaning "always that you need," siempre que necesites means "whenever you need" or "whenever you might need to move your body," rather than at any specific moment. 

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Wherever

You might have guessed by now that the word donde (where) plus a verb in the Spanish subjunctive can mean "wherever." Let's take a look:

 

Tú dejas las cosas, donde sea, da igual. 

You leave your things, wherever, it's all the same.

Caption 5, Arume Barcelona

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Here, we can see that donde sea is a popular way of saying simply "wherever," although the literal translation would be "wherever it might be." Let's check out an example with a different verb: 

 

en el restaurante, en el punto de información o donde estés.

at the restaurant, at the information point or wherever you are.

Caption 26, Natalia de Ecuador Palabras de uso básico

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Like the other expressions we have examined in this lesson, the speaker's intention in this caption is to explain that she would like to help people with basic expressions they might use, not in any specific place, but anywhere at all.  

 

Whichever

To say "whichever," we can use formulas such as a noun plus que plus a verb in the Spanish subjunctive or a relative pronoun (e.g. el que, la que, los que, or las que, which mean "the one(s)") plus que plus a verb in the Spanish subjunctive. Let's take a look:

 

Podéis utilizar el verbo que queráis.

You can use whichever verb you want.

Caption 58, Clase Aula Azul Pedir deseos - Part 2

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No pasa nada. Vamos a hacer los que tengamos,

No problem. Let's do whichever ones we have,

Caption 49, Escuela BCNLIP Clase con Javi: el futuro - Part 19

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In the first example, the teacher uses the formula to emphasize the students choice among all of the available verbs, while the second caption communicates that they can practice with any of the possible examples they might have gotten, even if they differ from student to student. 

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However

By "however," we don't mean sin embargo as in the conjunctive adverb, but rather "in whichever way" as in English expressions like "Do it however you see fit." For this purpose, Let's look at some examples in Spanish:

 

El destino hay que aceptarlo como venga. -¿Qué?

One has to accept destiny however it comes. -What?

Caption 56, Club 10 Capítulo 2 - Part 5

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Of course, we never know "how" destiny will unfold, so it is apt to use the subjunctive to talk about it! Another possible translation for this sentence could be "however it may come." Let's see one more example of this formula:

 

lo que tienen que hacer es aguantar como puedan las... los golpes de los de la red,

what they have to do is to withstand however they can, the... the hits from the ones by the net,

Caption 46, Escuela de Pádel Albacete Hablamos con José Luis

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Once again, as the ways they might withstand the hits from the players by the net are innumerable, the Spanish subjunctive comes into play. 

 

Whoever/Whomever

We bet you're getting the hang of this by now, but we'd better show you some examples of how to say "whoever" and "whomever" in Spanish:

 

No sé, pero quien sea la tiene difícil

I don't know, but whoever it is has got it rough

Captions 7-8, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 8 - Part 2

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An alternative translation could be "whoever it may be." 

 

Nosotras les hacemos la sugerencia a las personas que escuchen el programa

We make the suggestion to whomever listens to the program

Caption 19, Protección ambiental Ni una bolsa más

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These examples demonstrate that the formulas quien(es) or la(s) persona(s) plus que plus a subjunctive verb are the Spanish equivalents of expressions with "whoever" and/or "whomever," which are frequently confused in English ("whoever" is a subject pronoun, while "whomever" is an object pronoun). That said, the manner in which those formulas are translated will depend upon which function they fulfill within the grammatical context. 

 

Popular Expressions with "However," etc. in Spanish

Sometimes, repetition of the Spanish subjunctive verb is used to emphasize this idea of non-specificity, which we can see in many popular Spanish expressions. You will note that the repetition is not translated, and that another possible translation for such cases is "no matter":

 

pase lo que pase, yo siempre voy a estar contigo,

no matter what happens, I'm always going to be with you,

Captions 30-31, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 13

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An alternative translation here could be: "Whatever happens, I'm always going to be with you."

 

Haga lo que haga este tipo, este delincuente, aquí en el país es responsabilidad mía...

Whatever this guy might do, this criminal, here in the country it's my responsibility...

Captions 26-27, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 1 - Part 10

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Here, one might also say "No matter what this guy does." Let's conclude today's lesson with an excerpt from a song by our friend Luis Guitarra, which includes a plethora of similar cases: 

 

Vivan como vivan Hagan lo que hagan Sueñen con quien sueñen Sean como sean Vayan donde vayan Cuenten o no cuenten Digan lo que digan Salgan con quien salgan Piensen como piensen

No matter how they live No matter what they do No matter who they dream of No matter how they are No matter where they go No matter whether they tell No matter what they say No matter who they go out with No matter how they think

Captions 63-71, Luis Guitarra Somos transparentes

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We hope you've enjoyed this lesson on how to say things like "whatever," "however," "whichever," etc. in Spanish, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.

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Caption 71, 70, 69, 68, 67, 66, 65, 64, 63, 45, 44, 43, 46
Intermediate

Top 10 False Cognates in Spanish

In a previous lesson, we focused on the Spanish verb pretender (to hope, expect, try, etc.). Although this word closely resembles the English word "pretend," its meaning is totally different, putting it into the category of false cognates in Spanish. Also known as "faux amis" or "false friends," English-speakers often misuse these types of words for obvious reasons! Let's take a look at some of the most common false cognates in Spanish so we can be on the lookout for them in everyday speech. 

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List of False Cognates in Spanish: Yabla's Top Ten 

 

1. embarazada 

While English speakers might be tempted to say Estoy embarazada when attempting to say "I'm embarrassed," this could lead to a very serious misunderstanding! Let's take a look: 

 

Si estuviera embarazada, me hubiera dado cuenta. ¿No le parece?

If I were pregnant, I would have noticed! Don't you think?

Caption 71, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro

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While we can see that estar embarazada means "to be pregnant," there are many ways to express the idea of being embarrassed in Spanish, such as tener vergüenza or dar(le) pena (a alguien). Let's look at some examples:

 

Es que me da pena.

It's just that I'm embarrassed.

Caption 42, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8

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En este momento, duda porque tiene vergüenza de ir a la escuela,

At this moment she hesitates because she's embarrassed to go to school,

Caption 49, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje

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2. actual

The Spanish adjective actual is very confusing since it is spelled exactly like the English word "actual." However, actual is a false cognate in Spanish that "actually" means "current," as in the following example: 

 

Creo que realmente hay que buscar otra vía, otra solución a...

I think that you really need to find another road, another solution to...

la situación de ahora. -A la situación actual.

to the situation now. -To the current situation.

Captions 43-44, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos

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If you do want to speak about the "actual situation" in Spanish, you might say: la situación verdadera or la situación real. Let's check out these two words in action:

 

Pero esta es la verdadera isla

But this one is the actual island

Caption 26, Cholito - En la playa con Cholito

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Nadie sabe el nombre real de esta ciudad,

Nobody knows the actual name of this city,

Caption 37, Querido México - Teotihuacán

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3. éxito

The Spanish noun éxito might look like "exit," but its actual meaning is "success," while the Spanish verb tener éxito means "to be successful": 

 

Bueno, ha sido un éxito, ¿no, Jesús?

Well, it has been a success, right, Jesus?

Caption 88, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Cachorro de leopardo

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El brut ha tenido mucho éxito.

The brut has been very successful.

Caption 51, Europa Abierta - Champagne en Andalucía

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On the other hand, in order to talk about an actual "exit" in Spanish, la salida is the way to go: 

 

Tiene una salida al patio de atrás para su ventilación.

It has an exit to the back patio for your ventilation.

Caption 12, Ricardo - La compañera de casa

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4. fábrica

Although it might seem like la fábrica would mean "the fabric," its true translation is "the factory." 

 

un tipo que tenía una fábrica de alcancías ¿no?

a guy who had a piggy bank factory, right?

Y la gente dejaba de ahorrar y el tipo se va a la quiebra.

And people stopped saving and the guy goes bankrupt.

Captions 32-33, Muñeca Brava - 47 Esperanzas

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As we see in the following example, the Spanish word for "fabric" is tela:

 

Aquí, tengo un cárdigan liviano.

Here, I have a light knit sweater.

La tela no es muy gruesa,

The fabric isn't very thick,

Captions 30-31, Natalia de Ecuador - Vocabulario de prendas de vestir

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As a side note, although the verb fabricar occasionally means "to fabricate" in the sense of lying or making things up, the more common verbs for describing those actions are mentir and inventar, whereas the most typical translation for fabricar is "to make" or "manufacture":

 

la cuarta generación de una empresa familiar

the fourth generation of a family business

que fabrica diferentes variedades de zumos,

that manufactures different kinds of juices,

sidras, sopas y mermeladas.

ciders, soups and jams.

Captions 28-29, Europa Abierta - Empuje para Pymes

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That said, let's take a look at some additional verbs that fall into the "false friend" category.

 

5. molestar

The Spanish verb molestar does not mean "to molest" (for which you might say abusar or acosar sexualmente), but rather "to annoy" or "bother":

 

Vine a decirte que te quedes tranquilo,

I came to tell you to not to worry,

que mi hijo no te va a molestar más.

that my son is not going to bother you anymore.

Captions 1-2, Muñeca Brava - 46 Recuperación

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Once again, substitution of the word this verb sounds like in English could result in a very serious misunderstanding. 

 

6. enviar 

Just because it sounds like "envy," don't mix up the Spanish verb enviar, which means "to send," with envidiar (to envy). Let's take a look at examples of each of these verbs: 

 

Como ya tengo su dirección de correo, le puedo enviar el contrato.

As I already have your e-mail address, I can send you the contract.

Caption 37, Negocios - Empezar en un nuevo trabajo

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¡Ay, cómo envidio esa sartén! No sabe.

Oh, how I envy that frying pan! You don't know.

Caption 1, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema

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7. introducir

The most common translations for the Spanish verb introducir are "to put" or "insert." Let's look: 

 

Ahora lo que tenemos que hacer es introducir todo en la olla.

What we have to do now is put everything in the pot.

Caption 43, La cocina de María - Cocido Malagueño

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Ahora introduces la esquina izquierda en este doblez,

Now you insert the left corner into this fold,

Caption 48, Manos a la obra - Separadores de libros: Charmander

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It is worth noting that the Spanish verb introducir can occasionally be translated as "to introduce," most often when speaking about the introduction of some item or concept. However, the most frequently employed verb to describe the idea of "introducing," say, people to one another, is presentar: 

 

Les quiero presentar a Pedro, un experto en la Calle Ocho.

I want to introduce you guys to Pedro, an expert on Calle Ocho.

Caption 21, La Calle 8 - Un recorrido fascinante

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8. asistir

Let's examine a typical use of the Spanish verb asistir:

 

y me fascinaba perderme entre sus calles

and it fascinated me to get lost in its streets

y asistir a la innumerable cantidad de eventos culturales

and attend the countless number of cultural events

que la ciudad tiene para ofrecerte.

that the city has to offer you.

Captions 11-13, Latinos por el mundo - Gio en Barcelona

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Although the Spanish verb asistir can indeed mean "to help" or "assist," this verb and its counterpart asistir a are included in the category of false cognates in Spanish due to their alternative meaning, "to attend."

 

9. recordar

Although the Spanish false cognate recordar certainly seems like it would mean "to record," it actually means "to remember" or "remind," as in the following captions:

 

empiezan a hacer su ritual de movimientos y sonidos, si hace falta,

they start to do their ritual of movements and sounds, if necessary,

para recordarte que es la hora de su comida.

to remind you that it's their mealtime.

Captions 58-59, Fermín y los gatos - Mis gatas vecinas

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¿Recuerdas cuál era la copa para servir vino?

Do you remember which cup was the one for serving wine?

Caption 36, Ana Carolina - El comedor

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"To record," in turn, is conveyed with the Spanish verb grabar:

 

Utiliza video o audio

Use video or audio

para grabarte mientras lees o improvisas un pequeño diálogo,

to record yourself while you read or improvise a little dialogue,

Captions 51-52, Ana Carolina - Mejorando la pronunciación

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10. soportar

Rather than "to support," the Spanish verb soportar often means "to tolerate," "endure," or "bear":

 

No lo pude aguantar, no se puede soportar eso.

I couldn't stand it, that can't be tolerated.

Caption 50, Yago - 7 Encuentros

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Although "soportar" can also mean "support" in the sense of bearing weight, the more common verb for talking about the notion of "supporting" someone or something, especially in figurative senses such as emotionally, economically, etc., is apoyar:

 

La abuela estaba loca si pensaba que la íbamos a apoyar.

Grandma was crazy if she thought that we were going to support her.

Caption 9, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 3

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These are just a few examples of the many false cognates in Spanish. For additional examples of false cognates in Spanish, you might enjoy our lessons on the verbs realizar (to carry out) and falta (shortage, foul, offense, etc.). In the meantime, we hope our list of false cognates in Spanish will help you to identify and understand them when you run across them— and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

 

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