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The preposition sobre in Spanish

Let's talk about prepositions! Today, we will discuss a very useful preposition that also has lots of meanings. Our guest today is the preposition sobre!

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How to use the preposition sobre in Spanish

 

We usually use sobre as the equivalent of the English preposition about (with regard to):

 

Os voy a contar a... cosas sobre uno de los lugares más típicos de Barcelona

I'm going to tell you about... things about one of the most typical places in Barcelona

Caption 24, Blanca - Sobre la ciudad de Barcelona

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Te cité porque quiero escribir un libro sobre meditación,

I called you here because I want to write a book about meditation,

Caption 6, Escribiendo un libro - Algunos consejos sobre cómo comenzar - Part 1

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The preposition sobre can also be used as the equivalent of the English adverb about (approximately) when we want to indicate an approximate time, quantity or number:

 

Perfecto. Y, ¿sobre qué hora te vendría bien?

Perfect. And, about what time would be good for you?

Caption 14, Raquel y Marisa - Español Para Negocios - Nuestro perfil profesional en la red

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Very often, the preposition sobre indicates the position of a particular person or object. In this case, sobre acts as the English prepositions over and on:

 

No quieras caminar sobre el dolor... descalza

Don't wish to walk over the pain... barefoot

Caption 6, Camila - Aléjate de mi

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Vamos a ponerlas sobre un papel aluminio.

We are going to put them on a piece of aluminum foil.

Caption 15, [Bears in the Kitchen] Osos en la cocina - Pollo Violado

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While we usually use sobre as a preposition, this isn’t always the case. For instance, the preposition sobre is often used next to the word todo to form the adverbial phrase sobre todo, which means especially or particularly. You can see how the following sentence uses both sobre (about) and sobre todo (especially):
 

hay varios artículos sobre esto y sobre todo en dependencia a la edad del niño

there are several articles about this and especially depending on the age of the child,

Caption 85, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 4

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Don't get confused with envelope in Spanish

 

And finally, don’t forget that the word sobre can also be a noun, which means envelope in Spanish:

 

y que están en este sobre que se mandan a Claridad,

and which are in this envelope that are sent to Claridad

Caption 56, Seva Vive - 2. La copla

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de recoger todos esos sobres que repartió la Mojiganga...

of collecting all those envelopes that the Mojiganga gave out...

Caption 35, Estado Falcón - Locos de la Vela - Part 3

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That's all for now. Try to write some sentences with all the different uses that we mentioned for the word sobre. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Using Subjunctive After Conjunctions of Provision

Let's continue practicing the use of the subjunctive in adverb clauses that are part of compound sentences (99% of the time subjunctive is used in compound sentences) by identifying the conjunctions typically used to introduce it. In our previous lesson we focused on conjunctions of time, this time let's revise the use of the subjunctive combined with conjunctions of provision, a classic match!

The conjunctions that are used to express provision in Spanish are antes (de) que, con tal (de) que, en caso (de) que, para que, sin que. You will love these conjunctions, which, by the way, are more properly called locuciones conjuntivas (conjunctive phrases). Why? Well, because they will always use subjunctive, always. There's no room for mistakes. They are, therefore, a great addition to your vocabulary, one that will automatically improve your proficiency in the use of the subjunctive. Of course, you also must learn the proper way to conjugate the subjunctive; if you are not there yet, we recommend you to first focus on the present subjunctive

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So let's start with the examples. Always use the subjunctive after the conjunction antes (de) que (before):
 

Aléjate de mí y hazlo pronto antes de que te mienta

Get away from me and do it soon before I lie to you

Caption 1, Camila - Aléjate de mi

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The same happens with con tal (de) que (provided that):

Soy capaz de todo con tal de que te quedes a mi lado.
I'm capable of everything, provided that you stay beside me.

You probably noticed that we put the preposition de (of) between parentheses. This is just so you know that many Spanish speakers don't use it and instead just say antes que (before), con tal que (provided that), sometimes even en caso que (in case that). We recommend you to always use it. Read about dequeísmo and queísmo here.

The conjunctive phrase en caso de que (in case that) will also always be followed by subjunctive: 
 

Porque en caso de que esté muy aguado,

Because, in the case that it is very watery,

Caption 46, Recetas de cocina - Papa a la Huancaína

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The same happens with para que (so that, in order that) and sin que (without):
 

Si quieres puedes voltear acá para que veas en el espejo el reflejo y

If you want you can look here so that you see the reflection in the mirror and

Caption 36, Instinto de conservación - Gorgona - Part 4

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Yo soy el que hago que coman sin que tengan hambre

I am the one who makes them eat without being hungry

Caption 10, Calle 13 Calma Pueblo

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The Complicated World of Reflexive Verbs in Spanish

The use of reflexive verbs in Spanish can be very challenging for English speakers. A verb is used reflexively when the subject of the verb is also its object. In other words, when the subject is acting on itself.

 

Of course, English also uses reflexive verbs. However, while English makes use of expressions like "to himself," "to herself," etc., Spanish uses reflexive pronouns. Let's compare the use of reflexive verbs in Spanish and English in the following examples:

 

Es que con su electricidad se defiende.

The thing is that with her electricity, she defends herself.

Caption 22, Guillermina y Candelario - Un pez mágico

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One of the most challenging aspects of the use of reflexive verbs in Spanish is the different ways in which reflexive pronouns and verbs are combined. You can use the pronoun as in the first example: ella se defiende (she defends herself), but adding the reflexive pronoun as a suffix to the verb is also correct (though kind of poetic), ella defiéndese (she defends herself). 

 

Here's another example that even combines two reflexive verbs in such a way:

 

Ella está dedicándose a relajarse pintando.

She's dedicating herself to relaxing [herself] by painting.

Caption 21, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 13

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And there is even a different way to express the exact same idea: 

Ella se está dedicando relajarse pintando

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It's also very common to use more than one verb in reflexive expressions in Spanish. Usually one verb is conjugated and the other one is an infinitive. Here is an example that combines the verbs saber (to know) and cuidar (to take care):

 

No le teme a nada, él se sabe cuidar

He's not afraid of anything, he knows how to take care of himself

Caption 42, Alberto Barros - Mano a mano

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There is another way to express the same idea. Can you guess it now? Let's take a look:

él sabe cuidarse.

 

Remember we said that Spanish uses reflexive pronouns while English uses expressions such as "to himself," "to herself," etc.? Well, that doesn't mean that Spanish doesn't have similar expressions. Let's see what those expressions are:

 

- mí mismo (myself) 

- sí misma (herself)

- sí mismo (himself, itself)

- sí mismos (themselves), and 

- nosotros mismos (ourselves) 

 

It may seem repetitive, but it's correct and very common to use them altogether with reflexive pronouns and verbs:

 

De crecer, de vivir, de ver, de realizarse a sí mismos.

To grow, to live, to make themselves [to come into their own].

Captions 14-15, Horno San Onofre - La Historia de la Pastelería

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Another confusing aspect of reflexive verbs in Spanish is that they are not always used in the same situations in English. A classic example is the use of the reflexive bañarse to describe the action of taking a bath. You wouldn't normally say "I'm bathing myself" in English, but rather "I'm bathing" or "I'm taking a bath." Or take, for example, the verb arrepentir[se]:

 

Quisiera arrepentirme, ser el mismo, y no decirte eso

I would like to repent, to be the same, and to not tell you that

Caption 19, Camila - Aléjate de mi

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Sometimes things get even more confusing. Expressions like la sopa se quema or el plato se rompió (literally "the soup burns itself" and "the dish broke itself") don't seem to make much sense, right? How can inanimate objects act on themselves? However, these expressions are correct in Spanish, and they are commonly used as some kind of passive voice. That's how they usually translate to English:

 

...pero no muy oscuro porque si no, se quema la arepa.

...but not very dark because if not, the arepa gets burned.

Caption 41, Dany - Arepas - Part 2

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To end this lesson we want to share with you a Spanish saying that uses reflexive verbs. It may come in handy if you are thinking reflexive Spanish verbs are way too confusing. It goes like this: 

 

No te preocupes, mejor ocúpate (Don't worry yourself, it's better to occupy yourself).

 

We hope you enjoyed this lesson about reflexive verbs in Spanish and please send us your comments and suggestions.

 

Merecer la pena

The dictionary tells us that the verb "merecer" means "to deserve." 
 
No merezco algo así.
I don't deserve something like this.
 

Aléjate de mí pues tú ya sabes que no te merezco

Get away from me since you already know that I do not deserve you

Caption 18, Camila - Aléjate de mi

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 But songstress Julieta Venegas does not believe that living "deserves the pain" but rather that living "is worth it."
 

Es contigo, mi vida, con quien puedo sentir... Que merece la pena vivir

It's with you, my honey, with whom I can feel... That life is worth living

Captions 7-8, Julieta Venegas - El Presente

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A few more examples:

 
Merece la pena estudiar.
Studying is worth it.
 
¿Merece la pena leer este libro?
Is it worth reading this book?


Merece la pena is synonymous, though perhaps a bit more formal and poetic, with its extremely common cousin, vale la penaOur amigos in Mexico City demonstrate nicely:
 

Al igual que pues que tiene sus pros y sus contras y... pues aun así vale la pena. ¿OK?

At the same time it has it pros and cons and... well, even so it's still worth it. OK?

Captions 47-49, Amigos D.F. - Te presento...

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The verb valer commonly means "to be worth."
  
Una imagen vale más que mil palabras.
A picture is worth more than a thousand words. 
 
Also of note:

If you've ever been to Spain, you know that ¿Vale? (OK?) or Vale. (OK.) is slang that is thrown around a lot amongst Spaniards. ¿Vale?

Expressions

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