Spanish Lessons

Topics

¡Felices Fiestas (Happy Holidays)!

Let's take a look at some holiday-themed videos to get in a festive mood! We'll also point out some similarities and differences between the ways in which this December//January época de fiestas (holiday season) is celebrated in the United States versus various Spanish-speaking countries.

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La Navidad (Christmas)

As much of Spain and Latin America is Catholic or Protestant, most of the Spanish-speaking world celebrates la Navidad (Christmas):

 

Al fin y al cabo, la Navidad es una época en que los sueños se hacen realidad,

After all, Christmas is a time when dreams come true,

Caption 32, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 10 - Part 2

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That said, different Spanish-speaking countries have different ways of kicking off the Christmas season. In Colombia, it starts quite early: 

 

Pero oficialmente celebramos la Navidad el siete de diciembre que es El día de las velitas o del alumbrado.

But we officially celebrate Christmas on December seventh, which is the Day of the Little Candles or Lighting [Day].

Captions 20-21, Cleer y Lida La Navidad en Colombia

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This clip is from the video La Navidad en Colombia (Christmas in Colombia), which we recommend you tune into to learn more about Colombian Christmas traditions. Las novenas is another festivity celebrated during this season in Colombia and other countries, and it marks the kickoff of Ecuador's Christmas celebrations:

 

Novena significa "nueve", de "nueve días". Por eso se le ora y se le canta del dieciésis de diciembre al veinticuatro.

"Novena" means "nine," from "nine days." That's why it's prayed and sung to on December sixteenth to the twenty-fourth.

Captions 29-31, Cleer y Lida La Navidad en Colombia

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In this clip, Cleer and Lida describe the tradition of praying to a pesebre (Nativity scene), which Ana Carolina explains more in detail in her video Símbolos de Navidad (Symbols of Christmas). Let's now move on to the Basque Country in Spain, where the La Feria de Santo Tomás inaugurates the Christmas season:

 

Esta feria es la que marca el inicio de la Navidad en varias ciudades del País Vasco,

This fair is the one that marks the beginning of Christmas in several cities in the Basque Country,

Captions 8-9, Viajando con Fermín La Feria de Santo Tomás

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La Nochebuena (Christmas Eve)

Although people from the United States tend to celebrate el 25 de diciembre (December 25th), or Christmas, as the season's main day, el 24 de diciembre (December 24th), or la Nochebuena (Christmas Eve), is the most important day in many Latin American countries, and often the day when los regalos se intercambian (presents are exchanged):

 

Solo un día y sería Nochebuena. Y siempre había que hacer una compra de última hora.

Just one more day and it would be Christmas Eve. And there was always a last-minute purchase to make.

Captions 40-41, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 10 - Part 5

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Los regalos (Presents)

On the topic of presents, many people receive presents from their families, of course, but also from other popular characters that differ from country to country. One such character is Papá Noel (Santa Claus), who is also known as Viejito Pasquero in countries like Chile. And speaking of Santa, we invite you to see this video on a jolly Santa from Venezuela:

 

ho ho ho, los quiero muchísimo. 

ho, ho, ho, I love you guys very much.

Caption 42, Víctor en Caracas Santa Claus

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In Colombia, it is El Niño Dios or El Niño Jesús (Baby Jesus) who leaves presents under the tree for children, whereas Spanish children receive most of their gifts after Christmas on a holiday called el Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) on el seis de enero (January sixth). 

 

Y... ¿qué les vas a pedir a los Reyes Magos después de Navidad?

And.... what are you going to ask the Three Wise Men for after Christmas?

Caption 56, El Aula Azul Ester y Paula

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Símbolos y costumbres de navidad (Christmas Customs and Symbols)

Many costumbres navideñas (Christmas traditions) and símbolos (symbols) overlap in the United States and Spanish-speaking countries. These include, of course, los árboles de Navidad (Christmas trees)!

 

Este es mi árbol de Navidad, el símbolo más popular alrededor del mundo de esta festividad.

This is my Christmas tree, the most popular symbol of this celebration around the world.

Captions 21-22, Ana Carolina Símbolos de Navidad

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These also include la nieve (snow)... even in the tropics (which is probably because Santa lives at el Polo Norte (the North Pole)! 

 

Sin embargo, la nieve y los muñecos de nieve se han convertido en uno de los temas principales con los que festejamos la Navidad,

However, snow and snowmen have become one of the main themes with which we celebrate Christmas,

Captions 38-40, Ana Carolina Símbolos de Navidad

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Charitable activities are also popular during Christmas in both North and Latin America and Spain, as Diana Quintana tells us in her video En Navidad regalamos una sonrisa (At Christmas, We Give the Gift of A Smile).

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Comidas navideñas (Christmas Foods) and Villancicos (Carols) 

Of course, food is part of the Christmas celebration everywhere, although what is eaten varies from country to country. While many North Americans eat a meal very similar to the Thanksgiving feast for Christmas, each country gives la cena de Navidad (Christmas dinner) its own unique twist.

 

The same is true of traditional holiday fare, and to get a few ideas, we invite you to watch Ana Carolina make her version of eggnog, el ponche navideño (Christmas Punch), while Luis is eager to show you Venezuela's traditional Christmas pan de jamón (ham bread). You can also learn to make buñuelos, a popular Colombian holiday dessert, which Lida and Cleer prepare while singing a villancico (Christmas carol). 

 

And, on the topic of Christmas carols, Yabla has quite a few for you, including the Spanish versions of Jingle BellsSilent Night, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town (by none other than Luis Miguel!), as well as A la Nanita Nana and Campana sobre campana (Bell Over Bell). You might also want to check out Christmas pop hits like Estoy buscando a Santa Claus (I'm Looking for Santa Claus) and the classic Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) by La Oreja de Van Gogh.

 

While traditions like food and carols overlap, other traditions are more specific to the Spanish-speaking world, and to learn more about them, we invite you to read this lesson on Christmas Vocabulary in Spanish.

 

Hanukkah

Of course, a significant portion of the Spanish-speaking world is Jewish and thus celebrates Hanukkah rather than Christmas, a holiday that shares the gift-giving tradition as well:

 

Y aunque no es la versión hebrea de la Navidad, los niños reciben regalos, y la comunidad celebra en hermandad. 

And, although it's not the Jewish version of Christmas, the children receive gifts, and the community celebrates in brotherhood.

Captions 5-7, Días festivos Hanukkah

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To learn more about this celebration, Yabla recommends this video on the meaning behind Hanukkah

 

In closing, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or anything else, we'll leave you with the following:

 

¡Feliz Navidad, Felices Fiestas, Feliz Año

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!

Caption 68, Ana Carolina Símbolos de Navidad

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 And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.

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Vocabulary

Yabla's Top 12 Spanish Verbs for Carrying on a Conversation

Today's lesson will examine Yabla's "Top 12" picks for the most useful verbs for having a conversation in Spanish. This time, we'll focus on the meanings of those verbs as well as giving you a lot of simple, conversational examples from Yabla's Spanish video library. Additionally, we'll provide you with conjugation tables for the "Top 3" most useful Spanish tenses: the simple present, the imperfect (which describes ongoing or continuous past actions), and the preterite (which describes completed past actions).

 

In addition to the aforementioned links, you can consult this lesson entitled Spanish Verb Tenses Explained if you need to brush up on those tenses and more! Although memorizing all of these conjugations might seem a bit intimidating, it could really help your ability to converse in Spanish.

 

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1. Ser (to be) 

The fact that there are two verbs that mean "to be" in Spanish, ser and estar, can feel quite confusing for non-native speakers. Generally speaking, the verb ser is employed to describe more permanent characteristics. The acronym DOCTOR (description, occupation, condition, time, origin, relationship) is very useful for helping us to remember some of the many situations in which this verb is used. Let's take a look at how this verb is conjugated as well as some examples: 

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  soy era fui
Tú  eres eras fuiste
Él, ella, usted es era fue
Nosotros, nosotras somos éramos fuimos
Vosotros, vosotras sois erais fuisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes son eran fueron

 

Soy profesor de fotografía.

I'm a photography teacher.

Caption 13, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 5

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Sus cuadros eran muy extraños.

His paintings were very strange.

Caption 25, El Aula Azul - Adivina personajes históricos

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También fuimos parte de todas estas, eh... mega empresas, pero...

We were also part of all these, um... mega companies, but...

Caption 22, Doctor Krápula - Entrevista

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Notably, although ser usually denotes permanence, while the preterite tense denotes that something had a definite ending point, the verb ser is used in the preterite to describe something that "was" in the past, but did come to a conclusive end. 

 

2. Estar (to be)

The verb estar also means "to be" for traits that are variable/less permanent. The acronym PLACE (position, location, action, condition, emotion) might help you to remember some contexts in which the verb estar should be chosen. Let's take a look: 

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  estoy estaba estuve
Tú  estás estabas estuviste
Él, ella, usted está estaba estuvo
Nosotros, nosotras estamos estábamos estuvimos
Vosotros, vosotras estáis estabais estuvisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes están estaban estuverion

 

Sí... Vale, entonces, estamos aquí.

Yes... OK, then, we're here.

Caption 6, Curso de español - Disculpe, ¿hay un cine por aquí?

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Un poquito y ajá, y estaba triste porque

A little bit, and uh-huh, and I was sad because

dejaba mi familia y eso y ya.

I was leaving my family and all that and that's it.

Caption 70, Cleer - Entrevista a Lila

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Los árabes estuvieron en España más de seiscientos años.

The Arabs were in Spain for more than six hundred years.

Caption 23, Rosa - Antequera, Málaga

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Be sure to check out this lesson if you want to learn more about the difference between ser and estar

 

3. Tener (to have)

The verb tener means "to have" in Spanish. Let's take a closer look: 

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  tengo tenía tuve
Tú  tienes tenías tuviste
Él, ella, usted tiene tenía tuvo
Nosotros, nosotras tenemos teníamos tuvimos
Vosotros, vosotras tenéis teníais tuvisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes tienen tenían tuvieron

 

¿Tienes plumones y tijeras?

You have markers and scissors?

Sí, tengo plumones y tijeras,

Yes, I have markers and scissors,

pero no tengo mi teléfono.

but I don't have my phone.

Captions 20-22, Conversaciones en el parque - Cap. 1: No tengo mi teléfono.

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Tenían mi mochila en la Oficina de Objetos Perdidos.

They had my backpack in the Lost and Found.

Caption 44, Raquel - Oficina de objetos perdidos

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La noche anterior a la rumba, tuve otro sueño.

The night before going out on the town, I had another dream.

Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 7

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Additionally, we invite you to explore some of the many idiomatic expressions with the verb tener

 

And, we'll just take a second to mention that if you throw in the word que after the verb tener plus a verb's infinitive ("to" form), you'll have the very useful Spanish construction tener que that means, "to have to" (do something):

 

Hoy tengo que trabajar.

Today I have to work.

Caption 74, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14

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Tuvimos que trasladarnos a esta nueva ciudad.

We had to move to this new city.

Caption 39, Ciudad de Panamá - Denisse introduce la ciudad

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4. Hacer (to make/to do)

The Spanish verb hacer can mean either "to make" or "to do." But, not to fear— typically, the context will let you know quite clearly which meaning is intended.

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  hago hacía hice
Tú  haces hacías hiciste
Él, ella, usted hace hacía hizo
Nosotros, nosotras hacemos hacíamos hicimos
Vosotros, vosotras hacéis hacíais hicisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes hacen hacían hicieron

 

Y ¿tú qué haces?

And what are you doing?

Caption 24, Guillermina y Candelario - Un pez mágico

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Y yo no hacía esto. Yo hago otro acto, que es con las motos.

And I didn't do this. I do another act, which is with motorcycles.

Caption 35, Rueda de la muerte - Parte 1

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También hizo alguna película.

He also made a movie.

Caption 28, El Aula Azul - Adivina personajes históricos

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5. Ir (to go)

The Spanish verb ir means "to go." Let's check out some of its conjugations and uses:

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  voy iba fui
Tú  vas ibas fuiste
Él, ella, usted va iba fue
Nosotros, nosotras vamos íbamos fuimos
Vosotros, vosotras vais ibais fuisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes van iban fueron

 

Voy a la piscina los lunes y los miércoles.

I go to the pool on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Caption 7, Ariana - Mi Semana

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Iba mucho con mi padre al campo.

I used to go with my father to the countryside a lot.

Caption 56, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 10

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¿Por qué fuiste al cine?

Why did you go to the movies?

Caption 48, Carlos explica - Las preposiciones 'por' y 'para'

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You might have noticed that the preterite form of the verb ir is conjugated in the exact same way as the verb ser. However, in most cases, context should help you to easily identify which verb is in use. 

 

Another great "trick" to be aware of is that adding an a plus a verb's infinitive to the verb ir is a very simple way of expressing what we are "going to" do and is, thus, an alternative to the future tense. Let's take a look: 

 

Vamos a hablar de mi familia, ¿sí?

We are going to talk about my family, OK?

Caption 2, Curso de español - Vamos a hablar de la familia

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Porque las chicas iban a salir, para no dejarte sola.

Because the girls were going to go out, so you wouldn't be alone.

Caption 11, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta

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6. Venir (to come)

If we're going to talk about ir (to go), we'd better mention venir (to come)! Let's look:

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  vengo venía vine
Tú  vienes venías viniste
Él, ella, usted viene venía vino
Nosotros, nosotras venimos veníamos vinimos
Vosotros, vosotras venís veníais vinisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes vienen venían vinieron

 

Yo vengo del sur de España

I come from the South of Spain

Caption 10, Carolina - Acentos

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¿Qué venía después?

What came next?

Caption 23, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8

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Los otros cisnes vinieron hacia él.

The other swans came toward him.

Caption 50, Cleer - El patito feo

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7. Decir (to say)

The Spanish verb decir means "to say" or "to tell."

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  digo decía dije
Tú  dices decías dijiste
Él, ella, usted dice decía dijo
Nosotros, nosotras decimos decíamos dijimos
Vosotros, vosotras decís decíais dijisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes dicen decían dijeron

 

Yo digo que Playa Balandra es el paraíso oficial.

I say that Balandra Beach is the official paradise.

Caption 67, Alan x el mundo - Mi playa favorita de México!

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Pero siempre me decía: ¡Mira! Mira eso allá.

But he always used to tell me: Look! Look at that over there.

Caption 42, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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Y la señorita me dijo algo completamente diferente.

And the lady told me something totally different.

Caption 45, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 5

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Since we often say or tell things "to" others, you will notice that the verb decir is quite typically accompanied by indirect object pronouns like me (to me), te (to you), etc. to indicate the person to whom something is said or told. You can learn more about this and other aspects of this verb in our lesson entitled The Spanish Verb Decir.

 

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8. Poder (to be able)

The verb poder means "to be able." It can be used alone to say simply "I can," "you could," etc. but is often used in conjunction with an infinitive verb to express what it is one "is able" to do. Let see it in action:

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  puedo podía pude
Tú  puedes podías pudiste
Él, ella, usted puede podía pudo
Nosotros, nosotras podemos podíamos pudimos
Vosotros, vosotras podéis podíais pudisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes pueden podían pudieron

 

¿Puedo ver el menú por favor?

Can I see the menu please?

Caption 12, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurante

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¿Por qué las cosas no podían ser sencillas?

Why couldn't things be easy?

Caption 31, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 10

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Gracias a su cola, pudieron volar.

Thanks to its tail, you were able to fly.

Caption 49, Guillermina y Candelario - Una aventura extrema

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To learn more about the verb poder and how it is used, we recommend the following lesson: The Verb Poder - Common Expressions.

 

9. Saber (to know)

This word means "to know," but, in its preterite form, can mean "to find out." 

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  sabía supe
Tú  sabes sabías supiste
Él, ella, usted sabe sabía supo
Nosotros, nosotras sabemos sabíamos supimos
Vosotros, vosotras sabéis sabíais supisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes saben sabían supieron

 

Pero no sé dónde!

But I don't know where!

Caption 28, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso

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No sabía qué decirle.

I didn't know what to say to her.

Caption 12, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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Nunca supe la verdad

I never found out the truth

Caption 2, Aleks Syntek - Intocable

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10.  Querer (to want)

If we're going to converse in Spanish, we had better be able to say what we "want"! The verb querer can stand alone to express our desire for a particular thing or be used with an infinitive verb to say what we "want to do." Let's take a look:

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  quiero quería quise
Tú  quieres querías quisiste
Él, ella, usted quiere quería quiso
Nosotros, nosotras queremos queríamos quisimos
Vosotros, vosotras queréis queríais quisisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes quieren querían quisieron

 

Porque realmente quiero mi propio baño.

Because I really want my own bathroom.

Caption 37, Cleer y Lida - Reservando una habitación

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Y algunos querían volver a su casa.

And some wanted to go back to their home.

Caption 13, Guillermina y Candelario - El mundo de los juguetes perdidos

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No me quiso decir su nombre.

She wouldn't tell me her name.

Caption 8, Yago - 14 La peruana

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Keep in mind that when the verb querer is used with no in the preterite, it can convey the idea that someone "wouldn't" do something or "refused to." 

 

One more important aspect of the Spanish verb querer is that, when speaking about actions that we "want" others to do or that we "want" to happen, the subjunctive form of the verb that follows is required (vuelvas instead of vuelves in the following example):

 

Quiero que... que vuelvas a New York.

I want for... for you to come back to New York.

Caption 23, Yago - 11 Prisión

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11. Dar (to give)

The Spanish verb dar means "to give." Let's look at some of its forms and examples:

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  doy daba di
Tú  das dabas diste
Él, ella, usted da daba dio
Nosotros, nosotras damos dábamos dimos
Vosotros, vosotras dais dabais disteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes dan daban dieron

 

Yo doy agua a mi gato.

I give water to my cat.

Caption 14, Lecciones con Carolina - Verbo - dar

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Adriana Espinel siempre daba unas respuestas tan profundas.

Adriana Espinel always gave such deep answers.

Caption 72, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 4

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Eh... Mi asistente me dio sus datos.

Um... My assistant gave me your information.

Caption 39, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 1

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Like the verb decir, the verb dar is often accompanied by indirect object pronouns to highlight the person to whom something is given. 

 

12. Ver (to see)

And, to conclude our list of the Top 12 Spanish verbs for carrying on a conversation, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a verb to describe the things you observe! 

 

Personal Pronoun Present Imperfect Preterite
Yo  veo veía vi
Tú  ves veías viste
Él, ella, usted ve veía vio
Nosotros, nosotras vemos veíamos vimos
Vosotros, vosotras veis veíais visteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes ven veían vieron

 

Eh... ¿Cómo veo la vida?

Um... How do I see life?

Caption 79, Adícora, Venezuela - El tatuaje de Rosana

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¡Pero veíamos serpientes por todos lados!

But we saw snakes everywhere!

Caption 41, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes

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Vimos una película.

We saw a movie.

Caption 14, Zulbani - Trip to Merida

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Although it was certainly tough to narrow down the top 12 useful verbs in Spanish for carrying on a conversation, we hope you've enjoyed this lesson and that it helps you to hold a lot of stimulating conversations! Let us know with your suggestions and comments if there are any other verbs or topics you'd like to learn more about. 

 

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