What are some differences between Castilian Spanish from Spain and Latin American Spanish? As with North American and British English, there are many more similarities than differences, and Spanish speakers from all countries can usually understand one another in spite of differences between continents, countries, and even regions. That said, this lesson will point out a few key differences between Castilian and Latin American Spanish that might aid your understanding of and/or communication with different Spanish speakers.
You may have noticed that the letters "c" and "z" are pronounced with a "th" sound in Castilian Spanish in order to distinguish them from the letter "s." Let's take a look:
Thank you very much.
Caption 88, Ana Teresa Canales energéticosPlay Caption
Although it sounds like Ana Teresa from Spain says "grathias," you will note that there is no difference in the pronunciation of the "c" and the "s" in Latin American Spanish. To confirm this, let's hear Ana Carolina from Ecuador pronounce this same word:
Muchas gracias por acompañarnos hoy;
Thank you very much for joining us today;
Caption 37, Ana Carolina El comedorPlay Caption
Yabla's Carlos and Xavi provide a lot more examples of this pronunciation difference in this video about the difference in pronunciation between Spain and Colombia.
Spanish speakers from both Spain and Latin America tend to address a single person formally with the pronoun usted and use tú (or vos in certain Latin American countries and/or regions) in more familiar circumstances. However, Castilian Spanish additionally makes this distinction for the second person plural forms: they formally address more than one person as ustedes and employ vosotros/as, along with its unique verb conjugations, in less formal ones. Let's look at an example with this unique-to-Spain pronoun.
Practicáis un poco vosotros ahora.
You guys practice a bit now.
Caption 105, Clase Aula Azul El verbo gustar - Part 5Play Caption
Most Latin American speakers, on the other hand, do not use vosotros/as and instead use ustedes to address more than one person, regardless of whether the situation is formal or informal.
O sea menos que los... -No, ustedes tienen que hacer dos acompañamientos
I mean less than the... -No, you guys have to make two side dishes
Caption 68, Misión Chef 2 - Pruebas - Part 8Play Caption
Although the teacher in this video, who is from Mexico, refers to his individual students with the informal prounoun tú, as a group, he refers to them as ustedes. For more information about the pronouns vosotros/as and ustedes, we recommend Carlos' video Ustedes y vosotros.
Another difference you might notice when speaking to someone from Spain is the more prevalent use of the present perfect tense (e.g. "I have spoken," "we have gone," etc.) to describe things that happened in the recent past in cases in which both Latin Americans and English speakers would more likely use the simple past/preterite. Let's first take a look at a clip from Spain:
Oye, ¿ya sabes lo que le ha pasado a Anastasia? No, ¿qué le ha pasado?
Hey, do you know what has happened to Anastasia? No, what has happened to her?
Captions 4-5, El Aula Azul Conversación: Un día de mala suertePlay Caption
Now, let's look at one from Argentina:
¿Pero qué le pasó?
But what happened to her?
Caption 92, Muñeca Brava 43 La reunión - Part 5Play Caption
While the speakers in both videos use the same verb, pasar (to happen), to describe events that took place that same day, note that the speaker from Spain chooses the present perfect ha pasado (has happened), which would be less common in both Latin American Spanish and English, while the Argentinean speaker opts for the preterite pasó (happened).
There are many terms that are said one way in Spain and a totally different way in Latin America (with a lot of variation between countries, of course!). Although there are too many to name, Yabla has put together our top ten list of English nouns and verbs whose translations differ in Spain and Latin America.
Spanish speakers from Spain tend to use the word coche for "car":
Hoy vamos a repasar cómo alquilar un coche.
Today we are going to go over how to rent a car.
Caption 2, Raquel Alquiler de cochePlay Caption
Although the word carro would instead refer to a "cart" or "carriage" to Spaniards, this is the word most commonly used to say "car" in many countries in Latin America:
Recójalas allí en la puerta y tenga el carro listo, hermano.
Pick them up there at the door and have the car ready, brother.Play Caption
Auto is another common Latin American word for "car":
El auto amarillo está junto al dinosaurio.
The yellow car is next to the dinosaur.
Caption 18, Ana Carolina Preposiciones de lugarPlay Caption
And speaking of cars, while the verb conducir is the most typical way to say "to drive" in Spain, Latin Americans are more likely to utter manejar. Let's compare a clip from Spain to one from Colombia:
Ahora os vamos a dar algunos consejos que nos ayudarán a conocer mejor nuestro coche y a conducirlo.
Now we are going to give you some advice that will help us get to better know our car and how to drive it.
Captions 2-4, Raquel y Marisa Aprender a conducir - Part 2Play Caption
Usted sabe que para mí manejar de noche es muy difícil por mi problema de la vista.
You know that for me, driving at night is very difficult because of my vision problem.
Captions 50-51, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 2Play Caption
When listening to someone from Spain speak about "taking" or "grabbing" something, from the bus to an everyday object, you are likely to hear the verb coger:
Puedes coger el autobús.
You can take the bus.
Caption 6, Marta Los Modos de TransportePlay Caption
While you may occasionally hear coger in this context in some Latin American countries, it is less common and, in fact, even considered vulgar in some places. Hence the more common way to say this throughout Latin America is tomar.
Te vas a ir a tomar un taxi
You are going to go take a taxi
Caption 7, Yago 12 Fianza - Part 1Play Caption
Let's check out some captions from Spain to find out the word for "computer" there:
Puede hacer uso del ordenador con el nombre de usuario y la contraseña que he creado para usted.
You can make use of the computer with the username and the password that I have created for you.
Captions 23-24, Negocios Empezar en un nuevo trabajo - Part 2Play Caption
And now, let's see a video from Mexico to hear the most prevalent term for "computer" throughout Latin America:
El uso de las computadoras y el internet forman parte de la educación de los estudiantes
The use of computers and the internet are part of the students' education
Captions 38-39, Aprendiendo con Karen Útiles escolares - Part 2Play Caption
Not only can we hear the Castilian Spanish word for "juice" in this clip, but also the aforementioned "th" pronunciation of the "z":
Sí, un zumo de naranja.
Yes, an orange juice.
Caption 26, Raquel PresentacionesPlay Caption
Latin Americans, in contrast, usually call juice jugo:
Y jugo de naranja y jugo de manzana.
And orange juice and apple juice.
Caption 23, Cleer y Lida El regreso de LidaPlay Caption
Many fruits and vegetables have different names in different countries, and one such example is peaches, which are called melocotones in Spain and duraznos in Latin America. Let's hear these words in action in videos from Spain and Colombia:
Macedonia de frutas. -Sí. Por ejemplo con melocotón.
Fruit salad. -Yes. For example, with peach.
Captions 52-53, Recetas TortillaPlay Caption
Me volvió a gustar la compota de durazno
I started liking peach baby food again,
Caption 4, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 7 - Part 1Play Caption
Another set of words that differ significantly are the words for "apartment": piso in Spain and departamento or apartamento in Latin America, as we can see below in these videos from Spain and Argentina:
Vender un piso se ha puesto muy difícil,
Selling an apartment has become very difficult,
Caption 39, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 1Play Caption
Tienes un lindo departamento, realmente. -Gracias.
You have a nice apartment, really. -Thank you.
Caption 27, Yago 10 Enfrentamientos - Part 3Play Caption
In Spain, you'll hear people talking about their moviles, or cell phones:
mi móvil funciona, normalmente.
my cell phone works, usually.
Caption 22, Clase Aula Azul Se involuntario - Part 1Play Caption
As we can hear in the following clip, Mexicans and other Latin Americans instead say celular:
¡Eh! ¿Tienes tu celular?
Hey! Do you have your cell phone?Play Caption
Many articles of clothing are called different things in different countries, and "glasses" are no exception, as we see via examples from Spain and Mexico:
Tiene el pelo gris y lleva gafas.
He has gray hair and wears glasses.
Caption 30, El Aula Azul Adivina personajes famosos - Part 1Play Caption
También tienes unos lentes.
You also have some glasses.Play Caption
Let's conclude with the words for "socks" in Spain vs. Latin America, with videos from Spain and Venezuela:
Una chaqueta y unos calcetines también... calientes.
A jacket and some socks, too... warm ones.
Caption 25, Un Viaje a Mallorca Planificando el viajePlay Caption
Además, esos animales huelen peor que mis medias después de una patinata.
Besides, those animals smell worse than my socks after a skating spree.
Captions 10-11, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 11Play Caption
To hear even more examples of vocabulary that differs from Spain to Latin America, we recommend Carlos and Xavi's video on some differences in vocabulary between Spain and Colombia. We hope you've enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
What is the present perfect tense in Spanish? Despite its name in English, the Spanish present perfect tense is actually one of the past tenses in Spanish, which indicates that one "has done" some action within some specific period of time. This lesson will examine how to conjugate this useful Spanish tense as well as providing examples of when to use it.
The present perfect tense in Spanish is relatively easy to conjugate. To do so, we should remember a simple formula: haber in present tense + participle. Let's first take a look at the present conjugation of the verb haber, which corresponds to the English "has" or "have" in the present perfect:
|Personal Pronoun:||Conjugation of Haber:|
Now, let's examine how to conjugate the participle form of verbs in Spanish, which corresponds to English words with endings like -ed or -en, such as "taken," "looked," "baked," etc.
Conjugating the participle with -ar verbs:
Take the infinitive, remove the -ar, and add the suffix -ado:
hablar: hablado (to talk/speak: talked/spoken)
mirar: mirado (to watch: watched)
comenzar: comenzado (to start/begin: started/begun)
bailar: bailado (to dance: danced)
Conjugating the participle with -er and -ir verbs:
Take the infinitive, remove the -er or -ir, and add the suffix -ido:
comer: comido (to eat: eaten)
aprender: aprendido (to learn: learned)
recibir: recibido (to receive: received)
subir: subido (to rise/go up: risen/gone up)
Ahora que hemos aprendido (Now that we've learned) how to conjugate verbs in the present perfect tense in Spanish, we should think about when to use it. Just like the present perfect in English, we use the Spanish present perfect to describe actions that have been completed within a certain period of time. As previously mentioned, because these actions were completed in the past, however recent, the present perfect is considered a past tense in Spanish, in which it is known as el pretérito perfecto (literally the "past" or "preterite perfect"). With this in mind, let's take a look at some examples:
Ya hemos visto que reciclar contribuye de forma importante,
We have already seen that recycling contributes in an important way,
Caption 23, 3R Campaña de reciclaje - Part 3Play Caption
¿Pero se han preguntado alguna vez cómo se cultivan y se comercializan?
But have you ever wondered how they are grown and sold?
Captions 75-76, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 16Play Caption
Hoy ha llovido todo el día.
"Hoy ha llovido todo el día" [Today it has rained the whole day].Play Caption
Sometimes, Spanish speakers from Spain in particular use the present perfect to talk about actions in the recent past in situations in which English speakers would most likely use the past tense and Latin Americans would probably use the Spanish preterite. Let's look at an example:
Hola, soy Ariana Moreno y he dormido fatal. He pasado una mala noche.
Hello, I'm Ariana Moreno, and I've slept horribly. I've had a bad night.
Captions 1-3, Ariana Cita médicaPlay Caption
Pues nada, que ha empezado el día superbién, se ha levantado a las ocho, ha desayunado en la cafetería al lado de la escuela como siempre, ha venido a clase, hemos tenido la clase como todos los lunes.
Well, she's started the day very well, she's gotten up at eight, she's had breakfast in the cafeteria next to the school as always, she's come to class, we've had the class like every Monday.
Captions 6-10, El Aula Azul Conversación: Un día de mala suertePlay Caption
Today, we will embark on a brief journey that encompasses all the Spanish verb tenses. However, rather than focusing on how to conjugate the verb tenses in Spanish, which you may or may not have already learned, we'll take a closer look at when to use each one, using the extremely common verb hablar ("to talk" or "to speak") to illustrate them whenever possible, as well as plenty of examples from the Yabla Spanish video library.
How many different tenses in Spanish are there in total? According to the Real Academia Española, there are sixteen Spanish verb tenses. There are also some "bonus tenses," which aren't officially included in their classification, which we will also cover in this lesson. Let's get started.
To make matters just a bit more complicated, Spanish verb tenses fall into three categories called "moods," which are the indicative, the subjunctive, and the imperative. Generally speaking, the indicative verb tenses in Spanish are the first Spanish verb tenses learned, and, in contrast to the Spanish verb tenses in the other moods (subjunctive and imperative), they tend to deal with facts and objective reality. Let's take a look:
Let's start with the present tense in Spanish, also known as the "simple present." This tense is primarily used in two ways, the first being to talk about a present action that is habitual, repeated, or ongoing. Let's take a look:
Aunque soy extranjero, yo hablo español muy bien.
Although I'm a foreigner, I speak Spanish very well.Play Caption
Since it is an ongoing fact that the speaker speaks Spanish very well, it is appropriate to use the present tense. We can also use this tense to talk about an action that is actually in progress at the moment:
¿Hablo con la Señora Pepa Flores, la manager de Amalia Durango?
Am I speaking with Mrs. Pepa Flores, Amalia Durango's manager?
Captions 37-38, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 1 - Part 5Play Caption
Notice that the second example of the present tense was translated to the English present progressive tense. This is the tense with a form of the word "to be" and the gerund, or -ing form of a verb ("I'm eating," "He's swimming," etc.). The present progressive tense in Spanish, which is similarly formed with a present conjugation of the verb estar (to be) and a verb's gerundio (gerund, which usually ends in -ando or -iendo in Spanish), is always translated in this fashion and really emphasizes that an action is in progress at this very moment. Let's take a look:
OK. Xavi, ahora que estamos hablando de... de comida, de alimentos, quisiera hacerte una pregunta.
OK. Xavi, now that we're talking about... about food, about foods, I'd like to ask you a question.Play Caption
For more information about and examples of the present progressive tense in Spanish, check out this lesson as well as this video that contrasts the use of the simple present with the present progressive. Now that we've seen a couple of the present verb tenses in Spanish, let's check out some of the Spanish past tenses.
The imperfect is one of the Spanish past tenses and talks about an action that was ongoing or habitual in the past or that was in progress and/or interrupted in the moment described. Translations for the imperfect in Spanish for the verb hablar could thus include "used to talk," "would talk," or "was talking." Let's take a look at couple of examples:
Bueno, cuando yo era pequeña hablaba con la ficha de Einstein.
Well, when I was little, I used to talk to the Einstein card.
Caption 36, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 3Play Caption
Ya que estás, contanos a los dos... ¿De qué hablaban?
Now that you're here, tell us both... What were you talking about?
Caption 2, Muñeca Brava 45 El secreto - Part 6Play Caption
To learn more about the imperfect tense in Spanish, check out this lesson entitled: The Imperfect Tense in Spanish: The Past That Just Won't Quit.
The past equivalent of the present progressive tense is the past progressive tense, which emphasizes that an action in the past was in progress. As with the present and present progressive tenses, while the imperfect tense in Spanish can sometimes be translated with the past progressive in English ("I was eating," "You were running," etc.), the past progressive tense in Spanish is always translated in this fashion, with "was" or "were" plus a verb's gerund. It is formed in the same way as the present progressive except that the verb estar is conjugated in the imperfect tense:
Le hemos despistado. -Porque estaba hablando.
We've confused her. -Because she was talking.
Caption 59, Jugando a la Brisca En la callePlay Caption
The preterite is another one of the Spanish past tenses. In contrast to the imperfect tense, the preterite tense in Spanish describes past actions that have been completed. It could be compared with verbs ending in -ed in English (e.g. "He fished," "We traveled," etc.). Let's see an example:
Pero claro, en Televisión Española me hablaron de Gastón Almanza
But of course, at Spanish Television they talked to me about Gaston AlmanzaPlay Caption
The preterite is also used for past actions that interrupted other actions in progress, which would often be conjugated in the imperfect, as in the following example:
Yo hablaba por teléfono cuando mi novio me habló con una voz muy alta.
I was talking on the phone when my boyfriend talked to me in a very loud voice.
To find out more about the preterite tense, we recommend this lesson from our Yabla lesson archives.
The future tense in Spanish is pretty straightforward; it talks about something we "will" do in the future. Let's take a look:
Hoy hablaremos de las preposiciones de lugar.
Today, we will talk about prepositions of place.
Caption 9, Ana Carolina Preposiciones de lugarPlay Caption
Interestingly, sometimes the Spanish future tense is used in situations where English speakers would employ "would" to imply disbelief:
¿Y tú me hablarás de esta manera?
And you'd talk to me like that?
So, what about the Spanish conditional tenses? The simple conditional tense is the typical Spanish equivalent of saying one "would" do something in English, often in a hypothetical situation:
Bueno, si yo fuera tú, hablaría con él.
Well, if I were you, I would speak with him.Play Caption
This tense is often, but not always, seen in conjunction with the imperfect subjunctive tense (fuera, or "I were" in the example above), which we will cover in part two of this lesson, to specify that if some hypothetical situation "were" in place, something else "would" happen.
Although this tense is called the present perfect in English, its Spanish name is préterito perfecto ("preterite perfect" or "past perfect"), and it is the Spanish past tense used to say that one "has done" something within a specific time period, which could be anything from that day to one's life. It is formed with the verb haber, which is translated as "has" or "have" in English, along with the participle form of the verb (which will typically have the suffix -ado or -ido in Spanish and -ed or -en in English). Let's take a look:
El día de hoy, hemos hablado de artículos que utilizamos al día a día
Today, we've talked about items we use every day
Caption 41, Ana Carolina Artículos de aseo personalPlay Caption
Interestingly, in Spain, the present perfect is often used to describe things that happened in the recent past in situations in which English speakers would use the simple past and Latin Americans would more likely use the preterite. This usage can be seen quite clearly throughout this video from El Aula Azul. Let's take a look at an excerpt:
Pero cuando ha salido de clase, cuando hemos terminado la clase, ha ido a coger el coche, y resulta que la ventanilla estaba rota.
But when she's left class, when we've finished the class, she's gone to get her car, and it turns out that the window was broken.
Captions 12-14, El Aula Azul Conversación: Un día de mala suertePlay Caption
Although the translators at Yabla chose to translate this tense literally in this video to facilitate the learning of the present perfect tense, this sounds quite awkward in English, where a native speaker would probably say: "But when she left class, when we finished the class, she went to get her car, and it turns out that the window was broken."
In this video, Carlos provides an even more thorough explanation about when to use this tense as part of a useful four-part series on the different past tenses in Spanish.
The pluperfect is the past equivalent of the present perfect tense. It is formed with the imperfect conjugation of the verb haber and the participle form of the infinitive. It is often used to describe things we "had" already done when something else occurred.
que no era tan escandalosa como... como la gente había hab'... había hablado al principio.
That it wasn't as scandalous as... as the people had sa'... had said in the beginning.
Captions 41-42, Los Juegos Olímpicos Pablo HerreraPlay Caption
Also known as the preterite perfect, the past anterior tense is extremely similar to the pluperfect tense but employs the preterite conjugation of the verb haber plus the participle. It is used more commonly in literature and less in everyday speech. While we couldn't find an example of this tense with the verb hablar, we did find one with the verb coger (to grab):
Apenas lo hubo cogido, el niño se despertó.
He'd barely grabbed it, the little boy woke up.
Captions 46-47, Chus recita poemas Antonio MachadoPlay Caption
Just in case you were wondering, an example sentence with the verb hablar might be: Yo ya hube hablado con mi maestra antes del examen (I had already spoken to my teacher before the test), and there would be no difference in translation between this sentence and the same sentence with the verb conjugated in its pluperfect form (Yo ya había hablado con mi maestra antes del examen).
If one said, Yo ya habré hablado con el chico por teléfono antes de conocerlo cara a cara (I will have already spoken to the guy on the phone before meeting him face to face), he or she would be employing the future perfect tense, which includes the future tense conjugation of the verb haber plus the participle. This conveys the English construction "will have." Let's take a look at an example of this tense from the Yabla Spanish library:
Ay, ¿por qué se me habrá ocurrido comer bandeja paisa antes de que me encerraran, ah?
Oh, why would it have occurred to me to eat "bandeja paisa" [a Colombian dish] before they locked me up, huh?
Captions 27-28, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 3Play Caption
In this example, we see that, similarly to the future tense, the future perfect tense can also be used to express disbelief, and it is translated with the English word "would" (rather than "will") in such cases.
The conditional perfect tense in Spanish is the equivalent of saying "would have" in English. It utilizes the conditional form of the verb haber plus the participle to talk about what one "would have" done or what "would have" happened in a hypothetical situation:
Seguro que a él sí le habrían aceptado las invitaciones.
Surely they would have accepted his invitations.
Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 6 - Part 5Play Caption
An example with the verb hablar would be: Si lo pudiera hacer otra vez, habría hablado con el chico que me gustaba (If I could do it again, I'd have spoken to the guy I liked). Yabla's lesson, "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda," expands upon the conditional perfect tense and more.
Once you know all Spanish tenses in the indicative mood, you could also conjugate the verb estar in its many tenses to come up with additional progressive tenses, as follows:
Preterite Progressive (Pretérito continuo): Yo estuve hablando (I was talking)
Conditional Progressive (Condicional continuo): Yo estaría hablando (I would be talking)
Future Progressive (Futuro continuo): Yo estaré hablando (I will be talking)
We could even apply this to the compound tenses we learned:
Present Perfect Progressive (Pretérito perfecto continuo): Yo he estado hablando (I have been talking)
Pluperfect Progressive (Pretérito pluscuamperfecto continuo): Yo había estado hablando (I had been talking)
Conditional Perfect Progressive (Condicional compuesto continuo): Yo habría estado hablando (I would have been talking)
Future Perfect Progressive (Futuro compuesto continuo): Yo habré estado hablando (I will have been talking)
That was a lot of Spanish verb tenses!!! And that was just the first ten verb tenses in Spanish! Part two of this lesson will deal with the verb tenses in Spanish in the other two "moods," subjunctive and imperative. In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed part one of this lesson on Spanish verb tenses... and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
Do you know how to write prefixes in Spanish? In this lesson, we will share three very useful rules that you should always keep in mind when using Spanish prefixes. Let's take a look.
A prefix should always be connected to the word that follows. Let's look at an example:
¿Han visto algunos actores que tienen la piel supertersa?
Have you seen some actors who have super smooth skin?
Caption 39, María Fernanda - Mascarilla de aguacatePlay Caption
In this example, you can see that the prefix super- is connected to the word tersa (smooth). For that reason, it would be incorrect to write this word with a space (super tersa) or hyphen (super-tersa).
This rule also applies when you have several prefixes before a word:
In this example, you have the word modernismo preceded by two prefixes (anti- and pos-).
If a prefix goes before a word that starts with a capital letter, a hyphen should be used between the prefix and the word. Let's take a look:
y que dentro tiene dos mini-DVDs,
and which inside has two miniDVDs,
Caption 6, Fiesta en Miami - This Is Not a GalleryPlay Caption
Since the word "DVD" starts with a capital letter, a hyphen is necessary. Let's look at some additional examples:
A hyphen must also be employed if the prefix is followed by a number instead of a word:
Campeonato Sudamericano Sub-20 (South American U-20* Championship)
* Keep in mind that "under" is the English equivalent of the Spanish prefix sub-.
A multi-word lexical unit is a term made of two or more words. Examples include terms like pena de muerte (death penalty) and derechos humanos (human rights). If a prefix precedes a multi-word lexical unit, there must be a space between the prefix and said unit as follows:
anti pena de muerta (anti-death penalty)
pro derechos humanos (pro-human rights)
Finally, keep in mind that, sometimes, with the addition of a prefix, a word's accentuation changes. For example, by itself, the word bien (well) doesn't require a graphic accent. However, when the prefix super- is added, it automatically becomes a three-syllable word with the stress on the last syllable. And, since the word ends in "n," you will need to indicate such with a graphic accent (see lesson on palabras agudas).
Pues nada, que ha empezado el día superbién.
Well, she's started the day very well.Play Caption
That's all for now. We invite you to keep these three rules in mind when using prefixes in Spanish. And, don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.