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¡Cómo puedes preguntar eso?

Many languages, Spanish and English included, use the same words for both questions and exclamations. Words like qué (what), cómo (how), and cuánto (how many) may primarily be interrogative words, but they are also exclamatory words that are used to simply state an idea or opinion with surprise or amazement. Frequently, phrases containing these words use exclamation marks (don't forget Spanish uses an additional initial upside down exclamation mark), but sometimes that's not even necessary, because the meaning of these expressions can be easily inferred from the context. Let's do a quick review.

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Cómo (how) is used exactly the same way in Spanish and English. In one of our new videos, Sor Angelica expresses how much she missed the bakery goods served at the convent:
 

Mmm... Ay, Padre Manuel, cómo extrañaba este pancito casero.

Mmm... Oh, Father Manuel, how I missed this homemade bread.

Caption 1, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 6

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Qué (what) is also used as an exclamatory word in both languages. One important difference between Spanish and English here is that Spanish never uses an article between the word qué and the noun or adjetive it modifies:
 

Qué grandísimo músico.

What a great musician.

Caption 49, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live - Part 5

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Another difference is that Spanish allows the use of qué in many more cases than English, which must resort to the use of "how" instead, as you can see in the following examples: 
 

¡Pero qué inteligente!

But how smart!

Caption 6, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 5

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Bueno, qué grande la tienda, ¿eh?

Well, how big the store is, huh?

Caption 81, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14

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When used as an exclamatory word, qué can be replaced by a fancy word: cuán (how). This, however, is less common than qué, and it's mostly used in literary works. So, in the previous examples you can also use: cuán grandísimo músico, cuán inteligente,cuán grande, etc. Here is an example of cuán in one of our videos. Speaking of grandísimos músicos, here is an example of cuán in the lyrics of a song interpreted by the famous Chilean singer Chico Trujillo:
 

Para que te cuenten cuán grande es mi dolor

So they tell you how big my pain is

Caption 10, Chico Trujillo - Quémame los ojos

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Cuánto (how much) can be used in front of nouns and verbs to express surprise at an amount of something. To modify a verb, one must always use the singular masculine form: cuánto.
 

¡Ay, señora Angélica, cuánto hacía que no bajaba por aquí!

Ah, Madame Angelica, it's been so long since you last came down here!

Caption 54, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro - Part 2

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To modify a noun, cuánto must match the noun in gender and number:
 

¡Cuántos frijoles hubiéramos hecho!

How many beans we would have produced!

Caption 28, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 3

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¡Cuántas penurias pasamos el año pasado!
How many scarcities we had last year!

¡Cuánto dolor te he causado!
How much pain I've inflicted upon you!

To end this lesson we want to share something that may be new to you. In Spanish you can combine the use of exclamation and interrogation marks when an expression is both a question and an exclamation. According to the Real Academia Española, there are three possible ways to do it correctly. See below. Bet you didn't know the first two were even possible!

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¡Cómo te atreves? 
¿Cómo te atreves!
¿¡Cómo te atreves!?

How dare you!?

¡Cuánto hemos aprendido hoy, verdad? (How much we learned today, right?!) 

Vocabulary

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.

Papel: It's a Role

El papel principal del gobierno es promover el desarrollo... y mejorar el nivel de vida.

The main role of the government is to promote development... and improve the standard of living.

Captions 21-22, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 3

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Most of us know that papel is "paper," not only do they sound alike but if you've ever taken Spanish class no doubt your teacher has often asked you to take out una hoja de papel, "a sheet of paper."

However, papel is also "role" (as in "the role of technology in education"). So, in the phrase above we have:

"The main role of the government is to promote development..."

 

El papel de la ONG ha sido un papel auxiliador.

The role of NGO has been an assisting role.

Caption 29, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 3

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Note: Organización No Gubernamental (ONG), Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)

 

In this final clip we have Carlos explaining some of the functions that the myth of Bachué played in Muisca society.

 

Que además resalta el papel que la mujer tenía en la sociedad muisca

Which also highlights the role that women had in Muisca society

como la encargada de transmitir las tradiciones y valores de la cultura.

as the ones in charge of transmitting traditions and cultural values.

Captions 57-59, Aprendiendo con Carlos - América precolombina - El mito de Bachué

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Vocabulary

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