Spanish Lessons


3 Ways to Use the Preposition ante in Spanish

Although the preposition ante is not as "popular" as some others, such as the preposition a or the preposition en, it is still very useful. In fact, this lesson will explain 3 different ideas that the preposition ante can express. Let's get started!


1. "Before" or "In Front of"

One of the most common uses of the preposition ante is to mean "before" or "in front of." This includes physical position or location. Let's see a couple of examples from our library:


Hoy la luna pálida aparece ante mis ojos

Today the pale moon appears before my eyes

Caption 1, Festivaliando Mono Núñez - Part 17

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y ya a la edad de cinco años tocaba piano ante el público y daba conciertos.

and at the age of five was already playing piano in front of an audience and putting on concerts.

Captions 26-27, Hispanoamericanos en Berlín Mauricio y el maestro Arrau

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In addition to describing literal location, the preposition ante can also figuratively mean "before," particularly when used with nouns, verbs, and adjectives that entail a particular stance on something, or call to or withdrawal from action. In these cases, it is often translated with the less formal "to." Let's take a look:


Lo que usted tiene que hacer es quejarse ante una asociación protectora de animales. 

What you have to do is complain to an animal protective association.

Captions 26-27, Kikirikí Animales - Part 5

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Sus llamativos trajes y su manera de bailar reflejan la resistencia ante la conquista española.

Their striking costumes and their manner of dancing reflect the resistance to the Spanish conquest.

Captions 17-18, Música andina Ritmos andinos con violín

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De ceder ante tu llanto No pienso abrir las heridas de haberte querido tanto

Of giving in to your crying I do not plan to open the wounds of having loved you so much

Captions 21-22, No te va a gustar Chau

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2. "In the Face of"

The preposition ante can also be used as the equivalent of English expressions like "in the face of," "in the presence of," or "faced with." Let's take a look at two examples, including one from our popular series Confidencial: Asesino al Volante:


Sabias palabras del padre Sarmiento ante la inmisericorde caza de brujas que se ha desatado en contra del Señor Jorge Castellanos. 

Wise words from Father Sarmiento in the face of the merciless witch hunt that has been unleashed against Mister Jorge Castellanos.

Captions 60-62, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 4 - Part 1

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y, ante el temor de la mujer por un viaje tan largo a un lugar tan desconocido, la consoló con la promesa de regresar lo antes posible

and, faced with the wife's fear of such a long trip to such an unknown place, he consoled her with the promise of returning as soon as possible

Captions 11-13, Cleer El espejo de Matsuyama

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3. "As Compared to"

The preposition ante can also be used like the English "(as) compared to" or "next to," as in the following examples:


Ante la belleza de su hermana mayor, la chica se creía muy ordinaria. 

Compared to her older sister's beauty, the girl believed she was very ordinary. 


Ante la personalidad exigente de su jefe previo, su jefe nuevo parecía muy tranquilo. 

Next to her former boss' demanding personality, her new boss seemed very mellow. 


Idiomatic Uses of the Preposition ante

 You might also hear the Spanish preposition ante in idiomatic expressions, such as ante ello ("in light of that" or "considering that"), ante la duda ("in case of doubt" or "when in doubt"), ante todo ("above all" or "first of all"), and many more. Let's hear two of these in action:


Y ante todo sos una chica que tenés derecho a soñar con todo lo que quieras.

And above all you're a girl who has the right to dream about everything you want.

Caption 13, Muñeca Brava 44 El encuentro - Part 7

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Ante la duda... -Ninguna. -que no se coma.

In case of doubt... -None. -don't eat it.

Captions 85-86, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 11

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That's all for this lesson. As you can see, there are many ways to use the preposition ante, and we encourage you to try to write some additional sentences with each one of these uses. And, of course, don't forget to send us your questions and comments


Spanish Vocabulary for the Autumn Season

Today's lesson will take us through some Spanish vocabulary that might come in handy to talk about el otoño (the autumn/fall) and some of the phenomena associated with esta estación (this season). 


El tiempo (The Weather)

Let's start by taking a look at a quote from our Yabla Spanish library about el tiempo in autumn, which means  "the weather" (rather than "the time") in this context:


Pero en primavera y en otoño, el tiempo es mucho mejor

But in spring and in fall, the weather is much better

Captions 16-17, Clara explica El tiempo - Part 1

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The fall season is typically characterized by more moderate temperaturas (temperatures) as well as viento (wind) and sometimes lluvia (rain) or niebla (fog) (although there might be some sol (sun) as well!). Let's look at these autumn weather words in context:


Pasame las llaves y llamá un taxi ante' que venga la lluvia.

Give me the keys and call a cab before the rain comes. 

Caption 51, Yago 5 La ciudad - Part 9

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Ya está haciendo un poco de viento; ¿no te parece que hace frío? Sí, a pesar de que hace un hermoso sol.

It's a bit windy now; doesn't it seem like it's cold to you? Yes, in spite of the fact that it's beautifully sunny.

Captions 78-79, Sofy y Caro Entrevistar para un trabajo

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Ten cuidado cuando conduzcas hoy porque hay mucha niebla y no se puede ver bien.

Be careful when you drive today because there's a lot of fog, and you can't see well.

Captions 17-18, Clara explica El tiempo - Part 2

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The videos Clara explica el tiempo - Part 1 and Clara explica el tiempo- Part 2  (Clara Explains the Weather- Parts 1 and 2) as well as Aprendiendo con Karen- El tiempo (Learning with Karen- The Weather) can help you learn even more ways to talk about the weather in Spanish



¿Cuándo es el otoño? (When Is Autumn?)

While some Spanish-speaking countries like Colombia and Ecuador have less climatic variation due to their proximity to the equator, others experience the autumn season in different months than North America. For example, fall in countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, etc. takes place from approximately marzo a junio (March to June), while Spain experiences the fall in the same months as in the United States: septiembre a diciembre (September through December), as demonstrated in this video about the months and seasons in Spanish by El Aula Azul:


En septiembre, empieza el otoño. En octubre, caen las hojas.

In September, the fall begins. In October, the leaves fall.

Captions 22-23, El Aula Azul Estaciones y Meses

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And that brings us to las hojas (the leaves), which, along with their tendency to change colors, dry up, and fall off trees in the autumn, are arguably the most frequently-employed symbol of the fall season.


Símbolos del otoño (Symbols of Fall)

What other objects are associated with the fall? Let's take a look at a few: 


¡Soy un espantapájaros!

I'm a scarecrow!

Caption 95, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 15

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¿Cuánto puede costar una cesta así en el mercado?

How much can a basket like this cost at the market?

Caption 121, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 11

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¿Adivináis qué animal come esta paja y este heno?

Can you guess what animal eats this straw and this hay?

Caption 6, Amaya Donkey Dreamland

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Ahora, vamos con nuestro siguiente diseño de calabaza

Now, we go on to our next pumpkin design.

Caption 64, Manos a la obra Papel picado para Día de muertos

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Of course, while the calabaza (pumpkin) is a decorative symbol of the autumn season, it is also a fall food that can be made into delectable desserts, stews, and even espresso beverages... which brings us to our next category!


Comidas de otoño (Fall Food)

What other foods do we associate with the autumn season?


Es época de quinoa, de la cosecha, de las arvejas tiernas, del maíz, que también ya acabamos de cosechar

It's the season for quinoathe harvest, sweet peas, corn, which we also just finished harvesting.

Captions 27-28, Otavalo Proyecto familiar Kawsaymi - Part 2

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Si hay un olor típico en el otoño es el de las castañas asadas.

If there is a typical smell in autumn, it's that of the roasted chestnuts.

Caption 24, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 1

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Las manzanas puedes hacer dulce de manzana, pie de manzana, torta de manzana, 

[With] apples you can make apple jam, apple pie, apple cake,

Caption 19, Otavalo Conozcamos el Mundo de las Frutas con Julia

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And speaking of apples, they can also be used to make sidra (cider) of both the alcoholic and non-alchoholic variety:


y la bebida más típica es la sidra de manzana.

and the most typical drink is hard apple cider.

Caption 57, Viajando con Fermín La Feria de Santo Tomás

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In this video, Fermín tells us in this about the Feria de Santo Tomás (Saint Tomas Fair), which takes place on the last day of autumn, December 21st, and is thought to be the first day of the Christmas season. 



Fiestas de otoño (Fall Holidays)

To continue on the theme of fiestas (holidays), let's talk about the Spanish terms for some fall celebrations in both the United States and Latin America:


Y en el interior le decimos, eh... Día de Muertos. Eh... Quizás tenga un poco de relación en la fecha con el Halloween de Estados Unidos,

And in [places] inside the country we call it, um... Day of the Dead. Um... Perhaps it's a little bit related with the United States's Halloween in respect to date,

Captions 69-70, Yabla en Yucatán Don Salo - Part 2

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And, in addition to Halloween and the Day of the Dead, we have, in November, the important North American holiday of Thanksgiving, which is called el Día de Acción de Gracias in Spanish. 


Autumn Vocabulary in Review

Let's conclude today's lesson with a quick-reference review of the words we have learned:


el otoño (the autumn/fall)

la estación (the season)

el tiempo (the weather)

la temperatura (the temperture)

la lluvia (the rain)

el viento (the wind)

la niebla (the fog)

el sol (the sun)

hacer sol (to be sunny)

hacer viento (to be windy)

hacer frío (to be cold)

marzo (March)

abril (April)

mayo (May)

junio (June)

septiembre (September)

octubre (October)

noviembre (November)

diciembre (December)

las hojas (the leaves)

el espantapájaros (the scarecrow)

la cesta (the basket)

la paja (the straw)

el heno (the hay)

la calabaza (the pumpkin)

la quinoa (the quinoa)

la cosecha (the harvest)

cosechar (to harvest)

el maíz (the corn)

las castañas asadas (the roasted chestnuts)

la manzana (the apple)

la fiesta (the holiday)

el Día de Muertos/el Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead)

el Día de Acción de Gracias (Thanksgiving)


And that brings us to the end of our lesson on useful Spanish vocabulary for the autumn season. We hope you've enjoyed it, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.


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Impersonal "Se" Vs. Passive "Se": What's the Difference?

What's the difference between the impersonal "se" construction and the passive "se" construction in Spanish? Although they look rather similar (and may be confused with reflexive verbs as well!), they function slightly differently, which we hope to illuminate for you today. 




The Impersonal "Se" Construction in Spanish

“Impersonal se" constructions, which consist of the pronoun "se" plus a verb conjugated in the third person singular, are called such because they describe people in general rather than any specific person. In other words, no specific agent performs the action of the verb. For this reason, impersonal "se" constructions are used to describe, for example, the manner in which things are done customarily in a particular place or to convey general principles. In English, we tend to express such concepts by using the universal “you,” “they,” “one,” “people," or sometimes omitting the personal pronoun altogether. Let’s take a look at some examples from our Yabla Spanish library. 



Bueno, se baila mucho,

Well, people dance a lot,

eh... se come bastante,

um... people eat quite a bit,

y se espera hasta las doce para desear la feliz Navidad.

and people wait until twelve to wish [people] Merry Christmas.

Captions 42-44, Cleer y Lida - La Navidad en Colombia

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Note that all the verbs in this example are conjugated in the third person singular, and the speaker describes actions that are done customarily (by people in general rather than a specific person) during the Christmas season in Colombia. And, while the translator opted to employ "people" to express this idea, the same sentence could read, "you dance a lot... you eat quite a bit... and you wait..." or, more formally, "one dances... one eats... and one waits." Let's take a look at another example:



Se duerme de noche y se vive de día

One sleeps at night and lives during the day

Caption 38, Calle 13 - No hay nadie como tú

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The lyrics to this catchy tune by Calle 13 refer to the way things are in the world in general, where "one sleeps" (or "you" or "people sleep") at night and live during the day. Let's move on to the next example:



Es mi furgoneta, una camper van,

It's my van, a camper van,

una furgoneta camperizada, que se dice en español.

a "furgoneta camperizada" [camper van], like you say in Spanish.

Captions 9-10, Amaya - "Mi camper van"

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Alternative translations for se dice in this sentence include "like people say," "as is said," or "like they say" because its intention is to describe what something is customarily called in Spanish. Are you getting the hang of it? 



Y juntas vamos a ver algunas de aquellas situaciones

And together, we're going to look at some of those situations

que os podéis encontrar en algunos de aquellos países

that you might encounter in some of those countries

en donde se habla español.

where Spanish is spoken.

Captions 4-6, Karla e Isabel - Alquilar una habitación - Part 1

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Se habla español is impersonal because it explains that people in general speak Spanish in certain countries, rather than any specific person. An alternative choice here might have been" "in some of those countries where they speak Spanish." Let's look at one last one: 



Ahora se llega a la cima bajando por la sierra

Now you reach the summit by going down the mountain

Caption 23, Calle 13 - Ojos Color Sol ft. Silvio Rodríguez

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Note that directions are another common thing for which the impersonal "se" construction is utilized. This is similar to English, where we ask "How do you get there?" (¿Cómo se llega ahí?" in Spanish) when what we really want to find out is the objectively correct way to go. 




The Passive "Se" Construction in Spanish 

In contrast to the impersonal "se" construction in Spanish, in the passive "se," although a specific agent usually does perform the action, said agent is often unknown or unmentioned. Furthermore, the verb in this construction must be a transitive verb, or verb that transmits some action to a direct object. So, this would describe something that "is" or "was" done, for example, to something else, which is most typically inanimate (non-living). Additionally, the verb can be singular or plural depending upon whether the noun/direct object in question is singular or plural, which is not the case with the impersonal "se" construction, where the verb is always singular. Let's look at some examples:



de una habitación que se alquila en un piso compartido.

about a room that is being rented in a shared apartment.

Caption 17, Karla e Isabel - Alquilar una habitación - Part 1

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Here, someone specific is renting out a room in a shared apartment; we just don't know who it is. The verb alquilar is a transitive verb because a direct object (una habitación, or "a room") receives its action. And, since the noun una habitación is singular, the verb has been conjugated in its third person singular form: alquila



Aquí se venden barcos, ¿no?

Here boats are sold, right?

Caption 78, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 20

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This example is similar in that the agent who is selling boats is unknown, and the verb vender (to sell) is transitive because it exerts its action onto the noun (los) barcos. However, because the noun los barcos is plural, the verb has been conjugated in the third person plural: venden



¿Mi confianza?

My trust?

Se perdió desde el día que me dejaste caer del columpio del parque

It was lost the day that you let me fall off the swings in the park

a los dos años. 

at two years old.

Captions 14-15, La Familia Cheveroni - Capítulo 1 - Part 3

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The verb perder is transitive because a direct object (la confianza or "the trust") is, or in this case "was" lost (since it is conjugated in the preterite, or simple past tense). And, although the speaker is telling his father that he himself lost his confidence when his father let him fall from the swings, he opts to use the passive "se" construction se perdió, or "was lost," which doesn't specify that anyone actually did the losing. Let's look at another example.



Otra de las hipótesis,

Another one of the hypotheses

de para qué se construyeron estos edificios,

about why these buildings were built

era para albergar ritos que se hacía en aquella época

was to house rites that were held during that era

Captions 44-46, Rosa - Los Dólmenes de Antequera

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Here, we know who "built" (the transitive verb) "the buildings" (the direct object) in question: the ancient civilizations of Andalusia. But, since the sentence does not mention this agent, it employs the passive "se" construction to convey the idea that the buildings (los edificios) "were built" (se construyeron) in the past, utilizing the third person plural conjugation of construir (to build) in the preterite tense. Let's finish with one last example:



La película más importante que se ha rodado en Guatemala

The most important movie that has been filmed in Guatemala

y es cien por ciento guatemalteca es Ixcanul.

and is one hundred percent Guatemalan is "Ixcanul."

Captions 17-18, World Travel Market en Londres - Maria nos habla de Guatemala

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All of the same conditions have been met for the passive "se" construction: 1. the verb rodar (to film) is transitive: it exerts its action onto la película (the movie). 2. While we know that specific people filmed the movie, the sentence does not reference who they are. 3. The verb has been conjugated in the third person singular (this time in the present progressive tense) because the noun/direct object la película (the movie) is singular. 


We hope that this lesson has helped you to learn to distinguish the impersonal "se" construction from the passive "se" construction in Spanish, which can be a bit confusing. Se ha terminado la lección de hoy (Today's lesson has finished), and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments




"Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" in Spanish

The colloquial expression "Woulda, coulda, shoulda" is often used to express regret about something that, in retrospect, one "would have," "could have," or "should have" done differently. As learners of Spanish are often anxious to find manners of expressing these same ideas in Spanish, today, we'll provide some simple formulas for doing so. 



1. "Would have": Conditional form of haber + past participle 


When conjugated in the conditional tense, the auxiliary verb haber means "would have." Let's take a look at this conjugation:


Yo habría (I would have)

Tú habrías (You would have)

Él/Ella/Usted habría (He/She/You would have)

Nosotros/Nosotras habríamos (We would have)

Vosotros/Vosotras habríais (You all would have)

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes habrían (They/You all would have)


Then, to express what one "would have" done under other circumstances, we use the past participle. Although certain verbs have irregular past participle forms, in the majority of cases, the past participle is formed by replacing the -ar of infinitive -ar verbs with -ado or the -er or -ir of -er and -ir verbs with -ido as follows:


Infinitive: comenzar   /   Past participle: comenzado

Infinitive: comer        /    Past participle: comido

Infinitive: subir         /     Past participle: subido


Aside from this simple formula for conjugating the past participle of verbs, irregular past participles must be memorized. Some of the most common irregular past participles include: decir: dicho (said), escribir: escrito (written), hacer: hecho (done), poner: puesto (put), romper: roto (broken), morir: muerto (dead), ver: visto (seen), volver: vuelto (returned), cubrir: cubierto (covered). Although it would be impossible to list all of the irregular past participles here, you will find that many of them follow similar patterns that should become increasingly familiar with additional exposure to Spanish. 


Now that we know the formula for expressing the idea of "would have" in Spanish, let's take a look at some examples: 


Ya habríais ahorrado... -Dos mil euros. 

You would have saved... -Two thousand euros.

Caption 72, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos

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Sólo se trataba de cerrar los ojos y aguantar el dolor,

It was just about closing my eyes and dealing with the pain,

como habría hecho Ricardo Mendoza. 

like Ricardo Mendoza would have done.

Captions 47-48, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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Y si lo hiciera, yo ya me habría dado cuenta. -¿Sí? 

And if he did, I would have realized it by now. -Really?

Caption 33, X6 - 1 - La banda - Part 10

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2. "Could have": Conditional form of poder + haber + past participle


The formula for talking about things we "could have" done, but didn't, involves the conditional conjugation of the verb poder (to be able), plus the infinitive haber, plus the past participle. The conditional of the verb poder is as follows:


Yo podría (I could)

Tú podrías (You could)

Él/Ella/Usted podría (He/She/You could)

Nosotros/Nosotras podríamos (We could)

Vosotros/Vosotras podríais (You all could)

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes podrían (They/You all could)


Note that while the translation of the verb poder in its conditional form is "could," the addition of the infinitive haber creates a structure meaning "could have." For example, while Yo podría ir al circo means "I could go to the circus," Yo podría haber ido al circo (I could have gone to the circus) conveys the idea of an unfulfilled possibility. Let's take a look at some examples of this construction: 


¡Pero qué bien! ¡Lo mismo me podría haber contestado un policía! 

But how great! A policeman could have answered me the same way.

Caption 4, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión

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Te la podrías haber traído más grande. ¿Cuántas has cogido?

You could have brought a bigger one. How many have you picked?

Caption 118, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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Te podrías haber vestido un poco más de...

You could have dressed a little more like...

con... no sé, de señorita, digo.

with... I don't know, like a lady, I mean.

Captions 35-36, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza

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3. "Should have": Conditional form of deber + haber + past participle


As you can see, this formula is extremely similar to the previous one, except that it employs the conditional form of the verb deber. Although the verb deber frequently involves the idea of obligation, with such translations as "to have to" or the idea that one "must" do something, in its conditional form, it takes on the meaning "should." Let's take a look at its conditional conjugation:


Yo debería (I should)

Tú deberías (You should)

Él/Ella/Usted debería (He/She/You should)

Nosotros/Nosotras deberíamos (We should)

Vosotros/Vosotras deberíais (You all should)

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes deberían (They/You all should)


As with our previous formula, the addition of the infinitive haber changes the meaning from "should" to "should have." Using the same example of the circus, while Yo  debería ir al circo means "I should go to the circus," Yo debería haber ido al circo (I should have gone to the circus) expresses regret about not having gone. Let's take a look at some additional examples: 


Le debería haber dado un trompazo en la boca nada más.

I should have punched her in the mouth and that's it.

Caption 16, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones

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Digo, debería haber confiado y...

I mean, I should have trusted and...

y se me ha escapado.

and it has escaped me.

Captions 46-47, Club de las ideas - Intuición

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Of course, just as one might have the feeling that he, she, or someone else should have done something differently in the past, we can also find fault with things that we or others shouldn't have done:


No deberías haber salido de casa.

You shouldn't have left the house.

Caption 45, Muñeca Brava - 46 Recuperación

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We hope that these simple formulas help you to speak about what you "would have," "could have," or "should have" done in Spanish, and don't forget to leave us your questions and comments


Using the Word "Sea" - Subjunctive | Verb Ser (to be)

The present subjunctive of the verb ser (to be) is the same in both the first- and third-person singular: sea. This little word is used profusely in Spanish for the most varied purposes. Let's explore and learn a few.


The first person yo (I) uses sea. You can use it to express other people's wishes or expectations placed on you:
Quieres que [yo] sea cuidadosa
You want me to be cautious
or to deny hypothetic situations or conditions:
No es que yo sea mala...
It's not that I'm bad...
The third person (he, she, it) also uses sea. Here are examples using sea to talk about people (he, she). The tricky part is that Spanish usually gets rid of the pronouns él or ella, so you will only hear or see the verb sea.

No importa que sea morena, blanca, rubia o canela

It doesn't matter if she is dark-skinned, white, blonde or brown

Caption 52, Alberto Barros - Mano a mano

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¿Cómo me voy a andar fijando en él por más simpático...

How am I going to go around thinking about him no matter how nice...

alto, caballero y bello que sea?

tall, gentlemanly and handsome he might be?

Captions 74-75, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso

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It's the same when you use sea to, for example, talk about a poisonous mushroom:

Por tocarlo no pasa nada.

Nothing happens by touching it.

Aunque sea mortal.

Even though it's lethal.

Captions 114-115, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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However, the use of sea extends far beyond that in Spanish. Many idiomatic expressions use it. For example, the expression sea lo que is used to express fatalistic sentiments. Use this model phrase to learn it: sea + lo que dios mande (literally, let it be what God commands). Note that it uses subjunctive plus subjunctive:
Que sea lo que dios mande
Let it be God's will.
Of course, it's possible to get rid of the pronoun que (that) and combine the phrase with a different verb, like querer (to want):

Sea lo que Dios quiera.

Let it be God's will.

Caption 9, Baile Folklórico de Puerto Rico - Los Bailarines

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But there's also the expression sea lo que sea, literally meaning "let it be whatever it might be," or more simply put: "whatever it may be."
Sea lo que sea, quiero saber la verdad.
I want to know the truth, whatever that may be.

The shorter expression lo que sea (whatever) is even more common:

No es solamente utilizar una moneda local o lo que sea.

It's not just to use a local coin or whatever.

Caption 67, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 4

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...sea hombre, mujer, o lo que sea.

...whether it's a man, a woman or whatever.

Caption 60, Arume - Barcelona

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The clause para que sea (for it to be, so that it is) is also a great addition to your Spanish vocabulary:

Entonces, para que sea una sorpresa también.

So, for it to be a surprise also.

Caption 12, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 10

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Para que sea más fácil, le cortáis por la mitad.

So that it is easier, you cut it in half.

Caption 49, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli

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Finally, don't forget the expression o sea (I mean, meaning):



¡O sea, esto es más de lo que cualquier chica popular puede soportar!

I mean, this is more than any popular girl could bear!

Caption 1, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso

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Comer, beber, tomar, tragar...

Our previous lesson focused on the proper use of reflexive pronouns. We discussed when and how to use them and how the meaning of what we say is affected by them. We also mentioned that there are some Spanish verbs that can be used with or without reflexive pronouns, and that the verb comer (to eat) and other "ingestion verbs" are excellent examples.


In theory, verbs like comer (to eat), tragar (to swallow), beber and tomar (to drink), etc., can either be used with or without reflexive pronouns. For example:
Yo como la zanahoria = Yo me como la zanahoria (I eat the carrot)
Nosotros bebimos el tequila = Nosotros nos bebimos el tequila (We drank the tequila)
Tú tomas la leche = Tú te tomas la leche (You drink the milk)
Ella traga la pastilla = Ella se traga la pastilla (She swallows the pill)

However, this equivalence is not 100% accurate. Most Spanish speakers would more likely use the second option with reflexive pronouns than the first one without them. Saying yo como la zanahoria may not be wrong, but it's surely more common to say yo me como la zanahoria.

Cuando te comes una seta venenosa...

When you eat a poisonous mushroom...

Caption 23, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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Nos bebemos la Coca Cola

We drink the Coca-Cola

Caption 85, Zoraida en Coro - Artesanos

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On the other hand, sometimes you cannot use a reflexive pronoun at all—for example, when you don't use an article before the direct object. There's a difference between saying yo como la zanahoria (I eat the carrot) and yo como zanahoria ("I do eat carrot" or "I'm eating carrot"), right? But you can never say yo me como zanahoria.
So, you can say yo bebo el alcohol (I drink the alcohol), but it's more normal to say yo me bebo el alcohol (I drink the alcohol). You can also say yo bebo alcohol ("I do drink alcohol" or "I'm drinking alcohol"), but you can never say yo me bebo alcohol. Got it?
What about if we use indefinite articles (un, una, unos, unas)? Well, it's the same. You can't use reflexive pronouns when you don't use an article before the direct object. For starters, and by definition, you cannot use indefinite articles before nouns that describe an undetermined amount of something, like leche (milk). You don't say tomé una leche (I drank a milk)—you say tomé leche (I drank milk). But with countable nouns like pastilla (pill), you can say una pastilla (a pill) and la pastilla (the pill). So in Spanish you could say ella traga una pastilla , but it's even better to say ella se traga una pastilla (both meaning "she swallows a pill"). What you can never say is ella se traga pastilla. Here's a challenging example that combines the use of tragar (to swallow) with a reflexive pronoun, the reflexive verb pudrirse (to rot), and a pronoun (lo) playing the role of direct object:


Lo que uno se traga se pudre.

What one swallows rots [Keeping things in is bad for you].

Caption 16, Yago - 8 Descubrimiento

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To make it simpler, you can substitute the pronoun lo with a proper direct object. Since this is a figure of speech, let's say we are talking about miedo (fear). The expression could be: el miedo que se traga se pudre (the fear one swallows rots). So it's two sentences combined: uno se traga el miedo (one swallows fear) / el miedo se pudre (fear rots).  
Now, a tricky question for you. Is it correct to say ella traga pastilla, since we just said that yo como zanahoria (translated either as "I do eat carrots" or "I'm eating carrot”) is correct? The answer is no, it's not correct to say ella traga pastilla. This is because nouns like zanahoria (carrot) can be used either as a countable noun (if you use an article) or an uncountable noun (if you don't use an article). But the singular pastilla (pill) is always a countable noun in Spanish: it's always one pill. The only way to refer to an indeterminate amount of pills in Spanish is by using the plural pastillas (pills). So in Spanish you could say ella traga unas pastillas, but it's even better to say ella se traga unas pastillas (both meaning "she swallows some pills"). But you don't say ella se traga pastillas. 
If you want to express that a certain girl does swallows pills regularly, you could say ella traga pastillas. That's correct, but you must know that, just like in English, Spanish prefers the use of the verb tomar (to take) for this particular expression: ella toma pastillas (she takes pills). But you can correctly say yo trago miedo ("I swallow fear" or "I'm swallowing fear") because miedo (fear) is an uncountable noun.
You also can't use a reflexive pronoun if you don't use a direct object at all with these verbs—for example, when you just use an adverb with the verb instead of a direct object. You can say yo bebo hoy (I drink today) but you can't say yo me bebo hoy (that would mean something that doesn't make sense, unless you are writing poetry: "I drink myself today").

Los españoles comen a las dos de la tarde.

Spaniards eat at two in the afternoon.

Caption 6, La rutina diaria - La tarde

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Another example: you can say nosotros comemos despacio (we eat slowly), but you can't say nosotros nos comemos despacio (unless you mean "we eat each other slowly"!). You can use reflexive pronouns again if you add a direct object. The second option in the following examples is the more common:


Yo bebo rápidamente el tequila = Yo me bebo rápidamente el tequila  (I drink the tequila quickly).
Nosotros comemos despacio el atún = Nosotros nos comemos despacio el atún (We eat the tuna slowly).


Combining Verbs in Spanish - Part 1 - Infinitives

In Spanish, many useful expressions are formed by combining two verbs. This type of expression is called a perífrasis verbal (verbal periphrasis) and is formed by combining a conjugated verb with a verb in the infinitive (or a gerund or participle), sometimes with a linking word between the two. A verbal periphrasis helps us to express subtle aspects of a verb's action, for example, its beginning, ending, duration, progression, etc. Let's review some examples:

In one of our videos, Leire, the lead singer of the Spanish pop band, La Oreja de Van Gogh, uses a periphrasis to express the ending of an action with the verb acabar (to finish), the preposition de, and the verb llegar (to arrive):



Acabamos de llegar al hotel.

We just arrived at the hotel.

Caption 3, La Oreja de Van Gogh - Recién llegados a México tras 12 horas de avión...

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Therefore, you can use acabar de + a wide variety of verbs to express the ending of an action. Some examples (for the first person singular) are acabo de comer (I just ate), acabo de salir (I just went out), acabo de decir (I just said), etc.

Similarly, you can combine the verb empezar (to begin), the preposition a, and a verb in the infinitive to express the beginning of an action:

Si nos comemos una seta de éstas,

If we eat one of these mushrooms,

empezamos a ver aquí pitufos de colores

we start to see colorful smurfs here

Captions 47-48, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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To express repetition, you can use the verb volver (to go back), the preposition a, and a verb in the infinitive:

Si no te resulta, vuelve a empezar.

If it doesn't work for you, start over.

Caption 37, Alex Sandunga - Déjala

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Ya después me pasé a otra banda en la que...

Later on, I changed to another band in which...

en la que volvimos a hacer covers.

in which we did covers again.

Captions 49-50, Willy - Entrevista

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To express intention, you can use querer (to want) and a verb in the infinitive:

Pero nosotros al decir en tu casa,

But we, in saying at your house,

nosotros queremos decir en la nuestra.

we mean at ours.

Caption 43, La Banda Chilanguense - El habla de México

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The verb estar (to be), the preposition para, and a verb in the infinitive can be used to express intention as well:

No estoy para perder todo el día, ¿me entendiste?

I'm not up for wasting the whole day, do you get it?

Captions 41-42, Yago - 6 Mentiras

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Pues claro, aquí estamos para ayudarte a encontrar

Well of course, we're here to help you find

lo que tú necesitas.

what you need.

Captions 11-12, Raquel y Marisa - Agente del concesionario

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In previous lessons, we explored the use of verbs like deber (to have to, must), tener (to have), and haber (to have) to express duty, necessity, or obligation. These are additional examples of verbal periphrases that sometimes employ prepositions or pronouns such as de or que as a link and other times stand on their own. Plenty more examples of verbal periphrases can be found in the lessons Deber / Deber De + InfinitiveHaber + De + Infinitive: Something You Should Learn, and Imperative Constructions


To conclude, we'll leave you with one more example that utilizes the verb tener (to have), the preposition que, and the infinitive buscar (to look for):

Tenía que buscarme la vida, ¿sabes?

I had to make a living, you know?

Caption 56, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos

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That's all for today. Thank you for reading this lesson, and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions


Combining Verbs in Spanish - Part 2


Grammar Verbs

Cuestión: It's a Matter. Any Questions?

One final note on our chat with Arturo Vega. While he's talking about his realizations, he says:


Pero a mí... yo me di cuenta que no era nada más... cuestión de que yo estaba absorbiendo o que me gustaba...

But for me... I realized that it was not just... [a] question of me capturing or of me liking...

Captions 19-20, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 2

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Here is an additional example from some mushroom hunters in Aracena, Spain:


Yo afición. Yo soy profesor de cocina, y... y no es sólo cuestión de cocinar alimentos, sino ver origen.

Me, [as a] hobby. I am a cooking teacher, and... and it's not only a question of cooking food, but to see the origin.

Captions 77-78, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 11

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Early in your Spanish careers, you probably learned that a question to your Spanish teacher was "una pregunta." Meanwhile, the related, sound-alike word, "una cuestión," is better defined as "a matter, issue or question to be debated or resolved." So, "a question" or "matter" -- as in "a question/matter of taste" -- is translated as una cuestión when it's referring to an issue at stake. Meanwhile, "a question" that takes a question mark (?) is "una pregunta."


Any other questions? ¿Hay más preguntas?


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