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Using Qué, Cómo, and Cuánto in exclamatory sentences

The use of the orthographic accent on Spanish words such as qué (what), cómo (how), and cuánto/s (how much/many) usually indicates that those words are part of an interrogative or exclamatory sentence. The following examples review how to use quécómo, and cuánto as exclamatory words.

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Qué can be used right in front of nouns, adverbs, and adjectives.  It means "how" or "what a." In our newest episode of Muñeca Brava, Mili uses qué with an adjective when she talks about the Christmas party:

 

¿Viste todos los regalos? ¡Qué linda! -Sí, estuvo estupenda.

Did you see all the presents? How lovely! -Yes, it was great.

Caption 2, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones

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Qué can also be combined with an adverb to express surprise about the way an action was done:

 

¡Qué bueno he sido pa' ti Y qué mal te estás portando!

How good I've been for you And how badly you're behaving!

Captions 17-18, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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Qué can also be placed in front of a noun:

 

¡Ay, qué espanto! ¡Y pensar que el hombre ese estaba en mi cama!

What a scare! And to think that man was in my bed!

Caption 4, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta

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Cuánto (how much) can be used in front of nouns and verbs. When used with a noun, this exclamatory word must agree in gender and number:

 

¡Cuántos frijoles hubiéramos hecho!

How many beans we would have produced!

Caption 28, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje

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When cuánto is accompanied by a verb, we always use the masculine, singular form. If a direct object pronoun is required, we must place it between the two words:

 

¡Ay, no sabes cuánto lo lamento!

Oh, you don't know how much I regret it!

Caption 17, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema

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Finally, the exclamatory cómo is used in front of verbs. This example requires the use of a reflexive pronoun (me), which is also placed between the two words:

 

¡Guau, cómo me gustan esos hobbies!

Wow, how I like those hobbies!

Caption 38, Karla e Isabel - Nuestros hobbies

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We hope you have enjoyed this brief review on exclamatory words.

The Word Vez... Otra Vez

Notice how singing sensation David Bisbal uses the expression a la vez to express “at the same time”:

 

Es una canción dura pero... pero a la vez gratificante, ¿no?

It is a tough song but... but at the same time rewarding, right?

Caption 32, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live

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Don’t mix up this word with a veces, which means “at times,” “occasionally”, or “sometimes.” Dany, our Venezuelan chef, demonstrates perfectly:

 

Entonces a veces habrá que voltearla un par de veces más antes de terminarla.

So, sometimes it would be necessary to flip it a couple of times more before finishing it.

Caption 44, Dany - Arepas

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In the biography of Muñeca Brava's star Natalia Oreiro, we encounter the phrase de vez en cuando, which means “from time to time” or “once in a while.”
 

Quieras o no, era un sueldito que de vez en cuando venía bien.

Like it or not, it was a little wage that from time to time came in handy.

Captions 55-56, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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Una vez means "once", dos veces means "twice", tres veces means "three times"... etc. You hear an example when Bárbara Muñoz sings Miénteme:
 

Miénteme una vez

Lie to me once

Caption 13, Bárbara Muñoz - Miénteme

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As fans of our popular Telenovela, Muñeca Brava, will know, de una vez means “at once”:
 

¿Por qué no te acostás de una vez y apagás la luz?

Why don't you get in bed at once and turn off the light?

Caption 35, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta

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If you add por todas (or para siempre), the meaning changes to “once and for all.” This becomes evident when you watch our other popular Telenovela, Yago (Pasion Morena):

 

No, uh, no, no, este, quiero a ver si me entendés de una vez por todas.

No, oh, no, no, um, I want to see if you understand me once and for all.

Caption 51, Yago - 2 El puma

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Do you find these lesson useful? We suggest you keep them at hand la próxima vez (the next time) you put your Spanish to use.

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_______________________
 
Further reading from our archives:
Una vez (One more time)
Telling the tale (Once upon a time) 
Ahora/Ya (Learning “now”)

 

Vocabulary

Ojo - Keep an Eye on This Lesson

Tired? No way! In our latest installment of Muñeca Brava, we hear:

 

Ahora tengo los ojos como el dos de oro. No voy a poder pegar un ojo.

Now I'm wide awake. I won't be able to sleep a wink.

Captions 29-30, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta

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Word for word, "el dos de oro" is "the two of gold [coins]." But we didn't subtitle our new video clip with this literal translation, because it makes little sense without an explanation. So here's our explanation: In a Spanish deck of cards ("una baraja española"), the four suits include "Oros," which are depicted with gold coins. The "2" card has two round coins, which rather resemble two wide open eyes. So the image sent us to the English expression, "wide awake."

If you're wide awake while reading this, you might note that Spanish uses a definite article before "eyes" that you wouldn't hear in English. In phrases like this one, describing a part of the body, the definite article is often used when a condition is not permanent (Mili's eyes are not always wide and round like two gold coins), but dropped when the condition is permanent.

Tienes los ojos cansados. [Not permanent.]

"You have tired eyes." (Your eyes look tired.)


Tiene ojos azules. [Permanent]

 "He has blue eyes."

 

Here's another thing you will notice when listening to native Spanish speakers: They usually do not use possessive pronouns to describe parts of the body. In cases where in English we find a possessive pronoun (e.g. my, your, his, her), a definite article is used in the Spanish equivalent.
 

Abre los ojos.

"Open your eyes."


Me corté el dedo.

"I cut my finger."


Le duele la pierna.

"His leg hurts."

 

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Looking back at the dialogue from Muñeca Brava (above), note that there's another colloquial expression that deserves a closer look: pegar [un] ojo. In your dictionaries, you might find the verb pegar translated as "to stick," "to lean against" or "to hit." But no pegar ojo is best translated as "not sleeping a wink" -- i.e., not shutting those peepers at all.

Vocabulary

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