Spanish Lessons


Tope: A Word to Bump Into

In general terms, the Spanish word tope means “top,” and it is used to name the highest part of something:
Miguel subió al tope del árbol
Miguel climbed to the top of the tree
It can also mean a “top” as in a cap, something that serves to hold in, protect, or conceal. That’s why Alexis, in our video on making the traditional Venezuelan instrument known as an ocarina, tells us that un tope (a top) is necessary to cover the air channel:

El canal de aire debe tener un tope.

The air channel should have a cap.

Caption 27, Instrumentos musicales - Ocarinas

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When explaining the use of a typical (though rather vulgar) Spanish expression, our friend Carlos, from Burgos, Spain, also uses the expression a tope (or hasta el tope) to express that something has reached a limit:

...quiere decir que está a tope, lleno.

...means that it's to the top, full.

Caption 27, Burgos - Chistes y un dicho chistoso

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(You'll have to watch the video to see what vulgar expression he's talking about!)
However, topar, the verb, is a different story. While in English “to top” means to reach a limit in the sense of being superlative, in Spanish the verb topar means to reach a limit but without going any further, something that we would rather translate as “to bump” or even as “to stop.”
Aquí te topas, amigo.
You stop here, pal.
And that’s why the verb topar is used in the expression toparse con alguien (to bump into someone), as Molotov sings in their song Hit Me:

Toparás con un par de secretarias pendejas

You'll bump into a couple of stupid secretaries

Caption 30, Molotov - Hit Me

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Topar also appears in the expression toparse con algo (to bump into something), as we see here used by our buddies in Mexico City discussing pedestrian etiquette:


Aquí les va un ejemplo de lo que pueden hacer si se topan con ciertas circunstancias.

Here goes an example of what you can do if you bumped into certain circumstances.

Captions 10-11, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle

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Please let us know at si se topan con más ejemplos (if you bump into more examples) while browsing our catalog of authentic Spanish videos.



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Ahora / Ya: Learning "Now"

Amelia: ¡Entonces vamos!

Amelia: Then let's go!

Gala: ¿Ahora?

Gala: Now?

Amelia: Sí, sí, sí.

Amelia: Yes, yes, yes.

Caption 33, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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A viewer wrote to ask if we could look at ahora and ya.

If we take the example above, which comes from the latest installment of the La Extraña Dama episode of Disputas, Gala could have replaced ¿Ahora? with ¿Ya? and the meaning would have been the same: "Now?"

In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Gala might have used the colloquial diminutive ahorita, especially to emphasize immediacy, "right now." Another way to stress immediacy is to place the word mismo after either ahora or ya. Ya mismo might be considered slightly stronger, but it also largely depends on the speaker's intonation and the context in which it is said.

Venga para acá ahora mismo.
Come here right now.

Venga para acá ya mismo.
Come here right now.


Cuando era chico quería ser como Superman

When I was little, I wanted to be like Superman

pero ahora ya quiero ser diputado del PAN

but now I want to be a representative of the PAN

Captions 1-2, Molotov - Hit Me

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In the music video Hit Me, Molotov combines both ahora and ya, most likely for emphasis, to indicate "now" in the sense of "these days" or "currently." In the same vein, it's not at all unusual to find ahora (without ya) where we might have expected to see hoy día (hoy en día), "nowadays."

En los años '20, las comunicaciones eran precarias. Ahora todo es diferente, la telefonia e internet se han vuelto de uso comun en casi todos los hogares.
In the twenties, communication was precarious. Now (nowadays) it's different, the telephone and internet have come into common use in almost all homes.

The combination of ya and ahora together in Hit Me comes across to some native speakers as very colloquial and a bit unusual, though of course popular music is always fertile ground for innovative, regional and less common usage. There are instances when the combination ahora and ya does sound natural to most native speakers; one is the case when ya is used to indicate "already."

Ahora, ya nos conocemos mejor.
Now, we already know each other better. (action completed)


Marisol: Tendrías que preguntarle a los peones.

Marisol: You should ask the farmhands.

Pedro: Uy, ya lo hice.

Pedro: Uy, I already did so.

Captions 12-13, Provócame - Piloto

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We find ya used to indicate action completed in this Provócome example. Pedro has "already" done what Marisol suggests.

In the case of a negative statement, where in English we would expect to see "yet," we do not use ya but rather todavía. This is a convention, like many "rules," that non-natives quite often pick up subconciously, through exposure.

¿Ya llamaste al médico?

Did you already call the doctor?

No, todavía no he llamado.

No, I haven't yet.

Sometimes ya can take on a meaning that encompasses both "now" and "already" ("finally"). This and some other important ya concepts que todavía no discutimos ("that we didn't discuss yet") can be found here:

A few more examples of interest:

Entonces ganaba más que ahora.
I was earning more then than (I am) now.

¡Ahora me lo dices!
Now you tell me!

Ahora que lo pienso...
Now that I come to think of it...


Another suggested quick read:


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