Do you know how to read una receta (a recipe) in Spanish and/or talk about the various actions one must perform to prepare una comida (a meal)? In order to help you do so, we've taken fifty of the most popular cooking verbs in English, then given you the equivalent Spanish term(s) for each, along with lots of examples from our Yabla Spanish library. Let's get started!
When talking about "adding" in an ingredient, there are various choices! While the first two mean "to add," the second two literally mean "to put" or "place" but are frequently seen in recipes to describe the same action:
Una vez sudado los ingredientes, le colocamos: salsa inglesa,
Once the ingredients are stewed, we add in: Worcestershire sauce,
Captions 50-51, Recetas de cocina Pabellón criolloPlay Caption
El siguiente paso es batir ocho o nueve huevos.
The next step is to beat eight or nine eggs.
Captions 37-38, Clara cocina Una tortilla españolaPlay Caption
And speaking of eggs, you have "to break" or "crack" them, which is described with the Spanish verb romper (to break):
Rompe los huevos contra una superficie plana.
Break the eggs on a flat surface.
Ahora llena una cazuela de agua y luego ponla a hervir.
Now, fill a pot with water, and then, bring it to a boil.
Captions 37-38, El Aula Azul Receta de garbanzosPlay Caption
There are many ways to describe the action of "blending" in Spanish. While the first four options we have listed are more likely to refer to simply "mixing thoroughly," batir and licuar tend to describe more vigorous actions and perhaps even some instrument like a una/a batidor/a (whisk) or licuadora (blender).
Todo esto vamos a llevar a licuar, a dar vueltas
All of this, we're going to blend, to spin around,
Caption 29, Mónica BatidoPlay Caption
y se hornea
and you bake it
Caption 78, Viajando con Fermín Restaurante La Viña - Part 2Play Caption
y vamos a asar dos tiempos la parte de la grasa
and we're going to barbecue the part with the fat two times
Caption 49, Osos en la cocina Carne asadaPlay Caption
Vamos a cortar en pedazos pequeños también la lechuga,
Let's also cut the lettuce into small pieces,
Caption 16, Ana Carolina Receta para una picadaPlay Caption
The verb cubrir might refer to covering something with una tapa (a cover/lid) or something else, like water:
Vamos a cubrirlo y vamos a subirle el fuego.
We're going to cover it, and we're going to increase the heat.
Caption 37, Cocinando con Miguelito Pollo sudado - Part 2Play Caption
La papa es fácil de cocinar,
Potatoes are easy to cook,
Caption 14, Cocinando con Miguelito Pollo sudado - Part 3Play Caption
Luego, pones el papel encerado por encima y dejas que enfríe.
Then, you put the wax paper on top and you let it cool.
Captions 26-27, Manos a la obra Postres de MinecraftPlay Caption
Picamos todo; todo se tiene que picar muy, muy pequeño.
We chop everything; everything has to be chopped very, very small.
Caption 13, Cleer y Lida AjíPlay Caption
The Spanish word dados literally means "dice," as in the dice you play games with. Cortar en dados (literally "to cut in dice") is thus one of the ways to talk about the "dicing" action in Spanish:
Cortarlo en dados y freírlos hasta dorar.
Dice it, and fry them until browned.
Caption 50, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 5Play Caption
Although the verbs escurrir and colar can both mean "to drain," as in simply getting rid of excess liquid, they can also mean "to strain," as in running something through a colador (colander, sieve, etc.) to separate the solid from the liquid:
Ahora cuela los garbanzos con un colador. Escúrrelos bien.
Now, strain the chickpeas with a strainer. Drain them well.
Captions 40-41, El Aula Azul Receta de garbanzosPlay Caption
En la sartén, un poco de aceite y fríes la mezcla.
In the frying pan, a little bit of oil, and you fry the mixture.
Caption 35, El Aula Azul Adivinanzas de comidas - Part 1Play Caption
la volteamos y hacemos lo mismo y podemos ir volteándola hasta que esté totalmente cocinada.
we flip it, and we do the same thing, and we can keep flipping it until it's totally cooked.
Captions 34-35, Dany Arepas - Part 2Play Caption
Note that these words can also be used as equivalents of the English "to crush."
y después de eso procederemos a molerla.
and after that we will proceed to grind it.
Caption 51, Una Historia de Café La TostiónPlay Caption
¿Qué, sos un queso pa' que te ralle?
What, are you some cheese for me to grate?
Caption 70, Muñeca Brava 39 Verdades - Part 10Play Caption
You might have noticed that the terms for "to grill" and "to barbecue" in Spanish are similar, and people often confuse these actions ("barbecuing" tends to describe cooking something for longer over a lower heat, and perhaps on an actual "barbecue"). Most of the time, context should let you know which meaning is intended.
Ahora vamos a asar las arepas.
Now we are going to grill the arepas.
Caption 31, Recetas de cocina Arepas colombianasPlay Caption
Lo ponemos en la estufa... y lo vamos a calentar a un fuego medio o bajo.
We put it on the stove... and we're going to heat it over medium or low heat.
Caption 18, Cocinando con Miguelito Pollo sudado - Part 1Play Caption
Entonces, tenemos que amasarla bien.
Then, we have to knead it well.
Caption 66, Recetas de cocina CarimañolasPlay Caption
es que, si cada persona en el cuarto enciende un fósforo al mismo tiempo,
is that, if every person in the room lights a match at the same time,
Captions 52-53, Eljuri Hablamos Con La Artista Sobre Su Nuevo ÁlbumPlay Caption
Similarly, the verb encender can also mean "to turn on."
¿Y medís la grasa que tiene,
And you measure the fat that it has,
Caption 17, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 14Play Caption
eh, que sea grande y espacioso para poder mezclar.
um, which is large and spacious to be able to mix.
Caption 25, Dany Arepas - Part 1Play Caption
Ahora voy a cocinar en microondas las palomitas.
Now, I'm going to microwave the popcorn.
"Haz puré con un aplastador de papas" means "Mash with a potato masher." Now, let's look at a clip that describes the result of this action!
Ella va a hacer un puré de papa y yo voy a hacer la pechuga.
She is going to make some mashed potatoes, and I am going to make the chicken breast.
Caption 27, Misión Chef 2 - Pruebas - Part 7Play Caption
Derrítalo en agua caliente. Eh... derretirlo... eh...
Melt it in hot water. Um... melt it... um...
Captions 29-30, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 5: Ha nacido una estrella - Part 7Play Caption
Lo vamos a picar como en una crema.
We're going to mince it like in a cream.
Caption 77, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 2Play Caption
Lo dejamos marinar una hora en el refrigerador
We let it marinate for one hour in the refrigerator
Caption 9, Osos en la cocina Pollo asiáticoPlay Caption
El primer paso es pelar las patatas,
The first step is to peel the potatoes,
Caption 23, Clara cocina Una tortilla españolaPlay Caption
y vierte un poco de aceite.
and pour in a bit of oil.
Caption 55, El Aula Azul Receta de garbanzosPlay Caption
Take note that in addition to "grill" and "barbecue," the Spanish verb asar can also mean "to roast," or "cook in an oven or open fire." When talking about "roasting" coffee beans, nuts, or seeds, however, the verb tostar (literally "to toast") is commonly employed to describe the "roasting" action:
El café se tuesta entre doscientos y doscientos cincuenta grados centígrados.
Coffee is roasted at between two hundred and two hundred fifty degrees centigrade.
Caption 7, Una Historia de Café La TostiónPlay Caption
Refrigera la torta por dos horas antes de servir.
Refrigerate cake for two hours prior to serving.
The verb estirar, which usually means "to stretch," can also refer to "rolling out" dough, for example, with a rolling pin:
el rulero, empezar a estirar la empanada.
the rolling pin, start to roll out the empanada.Play Caption
Although enjuagar is the most common verb meaning "to rinse," sometimes the verb desinfectar can be used when referring to "rinsing" food items.
las frutas, lo... las lavamos, las desinfectamos,
the fruit, we... we wash it, we rinse it,
Caption 15, Otavalo Mali TeaPlay Caption
Have you ever heard of "false friends," or false cognates in Spanish? While remover sounds like "to remove" and revolver resembles "to revolve," both of these verbs mean "to stir" in Spanish (the latter making a bit more sense!). Meanwhile, the false friend estirar, which looks and sounds more like "to stir," means "to stretch" (or "roll out," as we learned earlier).
Recordad: remover bien la mezcla.
Remember: Stir the mixture well.
Caption 65, El Aula Azul Receta de natillasPlay Caption
In addition to "to stir," the Spanish verb revolver can also mean "to scramble."
Revuelve los huevos en una sartén de acero inoxidable.
Scramble the eggs in a stainless steel frying pan.
Espolvorea con azúcar y canela.
Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Exprimimos medio limón por cada trozo de carne.
We squeeze half a lemon for each piece of meat.
Caption 36, Osos en la cocina Carne asadaPlay Caption
con queso y mantequilla que puedes untar sobre el pan.
with cheese and butter that you can spread on the bread.
Captions 40-41, Natalia de Ecuador Alimentos para el desayunoPlay Caption
Al vapor, el brócoli conserva su textura, su sabor y sus propiedades.
Steamed, broccoli keeps its texture, its flavor, and its properties.
Captions 58-59, Soledad Ensaladilla de brócoliPlay Caption
This Spanish verb literally means "to boil at low heat," which is what "simmering" refers to:
Hierve el guiso a fuego lento por tres a cuatro horas.
Simmer the stew for three to four hours.
Picamos en rebanadas.
We slice [them].
Caption 15, Recetas de cocina Ensalada de pepinoPlay Caption
le echo... lo salteo con aceite y le echo una guindilla.
I put it in... I sauté it with oil and I add a chili pepper to it.
Caption 27, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 3Play Caption
De un litro, hay que cogerle y cernirle
From one liter, you have to take it and sift it,
Caption 102, Comunidad Tsáchila Ayahuasca y plantas curativasPlay Caption
Notice that the Spanish words for "tossing" a salad are not the literal translations for the word "toss" as in "throw," but rather mean "to mix" (mezclar) and "to stir" (revolver, remover).
Verter el aderezo en la ensalada y revolver poco antes de servir.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss just before serving.
La uso para tostar el pan del desayuno por las mañanas.
I use it to toast the breakfast bread in the morning.
Caption 29, Aprendiendo con Zulbany Piensa rápidoPlay Caption
Para cada jarra de café debo pesar siempre la misma cantidad
For each mug of coffee I must always weigh out the same amount,
Captions 53-54, Una Historia de Café La TostiónPlay Caption
The previously discussed Spanish verb batir can also be used for the action of "whisking." To be more specific, you might also mention the name of the "whisk" instrument:
Usando una batidora de varillas, bate la mezcla hasta que esté uniforme.
Using a wire whisk, blend mixture until it is uniform.
A much simpler translation with the same meaning would be simply: "Whisk mixture until uniform."
Mientras lavamos el tomate y vamos preparando la ensalada,
While we wash the tomato and we're making the salad,
Caption 28, Fermín Ensalada de tomatePlay Caption
We hope that this lesson on the top Spanish verbs for cooking has brought to light a lot of new cooking vocabulary as well as making you aware of a multitude of Yabla videos you might not have seen with a ton of scrumptious recipes to try! And if you do, we would love for you to write us with your experiences and comments!
How do we talk about an action in progress in Spanish? We use the Spanish present progressive tense, which we'll explore in this lesson.
What is present progressive in Spanish? Simply put, the present progressive tense in Spanish describes actions that are unfolding as we speak, at this moment. Also called the present progressive, its English equivalent includes some form of the verb "to be" in present tense along with the gerund, or -ing form, of a verb. Some examples include: "I'm reading," "You are watching TV," or "We are eating dinner." The Spanish present progressive, which we'll learn to conjugate, takes a very similar form.
So, when exactly do we use the present progressive tense in Spanish? And, what's the difference between the simple present and the Spanish present progressive? This can be a bit confusing since there is some overlap in terms of their English translations at times. Let's take a look:
¿Qué hacés vos acá?
What are you doing here?
-¿Cómo qué hago? Corro.
-What do you mean, what am I doing? I'm running.
Captions 65-66, Cuatro Amigas - PilotoPlay Caption
Although, much like the present progressive, the simple present tense in Spanish can sometimes be translated into English using the -ing form to say that one "is doing" something in the present, the Spanish simple present tense is also used to describe actions one does on a habitual basis:
¿Y los sábados y domingos, qué haces?
And on Saturdays and Sundays, what do you do?Play Caption
That said, if you really want to emphasize and/or remove any doubt that an action is in progress or happening at this moment, it's necessary to use the Spanish present progressive:
Silvia, ¿qué estás haciendo?
Silvia, what are you doing?
Captions 31-32, El Aula Azul - Actividades diarias: En casa con SilviaPlay Caption
In fact, this last caption is from a video by El Aula Azul that simply and clearly demonstrates the difference between the simple present tense and the present progressive tense in Spanish.
Now that you know when to use the present progressive in Spanish, let's learn how to conjugate present progressive verbs in Spanish. To start, let's review (or learn!) the simple present conjugation of the verb estar (to be), which will convey the idea of "am" or "are":
Yo estoy (I am)
Tú estás (You are)
Él/ella/usted está (He, she is/you are)
Nosotros/nosotras estamos (We are)
Vosotros/vosotras estáis (You are [plural])
Ellos/ellas/ustedes están (They/you [plural] are)
Next, we'll need to break up infinitive Spanish verbs into two categories, verbs that end in -ar and verbs that end in either -er or -ir, in order to form their gerunds (gerundios).
To form the gerund for regular -ar verbs, we'll take the verb's stem (the part before the -ar) and add the suffix -ando. For example, for hablar (to talk), we take the stem habl- and add -ando to get hablando. Let's take a look at a few examples of regular -ar verbs in the present progressive tense in Spanish:
Entonces, en este momento, ¿veis?,
So, right now, you see?
está hablando con su madre por teléfono.
He's talking to his mom on the phone.
Captions 60-61, Clase Aula Azul - Información con subjuntivo e indicativoPlay Caption
Eh... estoy buscando a Milagros.
Um... I am looking for Milagros.
Caption 6, Muñeca Brava - 39 VerdadesPlay Caption
Estamos caminando aquí en Bleeker Street
We are walking here on Bleeker Street
Caption 72, Eljuri - "Fuerte" EPKPlay Caption
Conjugating regular -er and -ir verbs in the present progressive Spanish tense is just as easy! Simply take the stem (remove the -er or -ir) and add the suffix -iendo. Thus, for correr (to run), we have corr- plus -iendo to get corriendo, and for vivir (to live), we take viv- plus -iendo for viviendo. Let's look at a few more examples:
¿Por qué estás comiendo basura?
Why are you eating garbage?
Caption 9, Kikirikí - AguaPlay Caption
Está subiendo, está subiendo la rama.
He's climbing, he's climbing the branch.
Caption 98, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: CoatísPlay Caption
¿Dónde estáis vendiendo aceite?
Where are you selling oil?
Caption 1, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesaPlay Caption
Although the Spanish present progressive tense is arguably one of the easier verbs to learn to conjugate in Spanish, there are some irregular verbs, of course, which fall into a few categories. Let's examine those categories of verbs with irregular conjugations in the Spanish present progressive.
Verbs with the endings -aer, -eer, -oir, and -uir change from -iendo to -yendo in the Spanish present progressive. Here are some examples:
traer: trayendo (to bring/bringing)
caer: cayendo (to fall/falling)
leer: leyendo (to read/reading)
creer: creyendo (to believe/believing)
construir: construyendo (to build/building)
huir: huyendo (to escape/escaping)
oír: oyendo (to hear/hearing)
Interestingly, the present progressive form of the verb ir (to go) is also yendo:
Sí, me venía a despedir porque ya me estoy yendo.
Yes, I came to say goodbye because I'm leaving now.
Caption 90, Muñeca Brava - 39 VerdadesPlay Caption
Some verbs that change stems in the Spanish simple present tense also have an irregular form in the Spanish present progressive. Verbs whose stems change from -e to -ie (e.g. sentir becomes yo siento, tú sientes, etc.) or -e to -i (vestir changes to yo visto, tú vistes, etc.) tend to change stems from an -e to an -i in the Spanish present progressive as well, while maintaining the suffix -iendo. Let's take a look at some common examples:
sentir: sintiendo (to feel/feeling)
preferir: prefiriendo (to prefer/preferring)
mentir: mintiendo (to lie/lying)
vestir: vistiendo (to dress/dressing)
seguir: siguiendo (to follow/following)
conseguir: consiguiendo (to get/getting)
On the other hand, verbs that change from an -o to a -ue in the simple present often change from an -o to a -u in the Spanish present progressive while maintaining their regular ending (-iendo). Examples include poder ("to be able," which morphs into yo puedo, tú puedes, etc.), dormir ("to sleep," which becomes yo duermo, tú duermes, etc.), and morir ("to die," which transforms to yo muero, tú mueres, etc.). Let's look:
poder: pudiendo (to be able/being able)
dormir: durmiendo (to sleep/sleeping)
morir: muriendo (to die/dying)
Verbs in this fourth category also change from -e to -i in the simple present (e.g. reír, or "to laugh," becomes yo río, tú ríes, etc.) but also have an -e before the -ir ending. In this case, the -e is dropped, while the ending -iendo is maintained, as follows:
reír: riendo (to laugh/laughing)
sonreír: sonriendo (to smile/smiling)
freír: friendo (to fry/frying)
The aforementioned irregular verbs in the present progressive in Spanish by no means constitute an exhaustive list, and although the rules that dictate which verbs are irregular might seem daunting, with increased exposure to Spanish, conjugating such irregular verbs in the present progressive in Spanish should become intuitive in no time!
Let's conclude today's lesson by looking at an example from each of the aforementioned categories of irregular present progressive verbs in Spanish:
Ellos están construyendo la puerta de entrada al santuario de burros.
They're building the entry gate to the donkey sanctuary.
Caption 25, Amaya - VoluntariosPlay Caption
Esa mujer nos está mintiendo y quiero saber por qué.
That woman is lying to us and I want to know why.
Caption 42, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 4Play Caption
¡Aldo, tu hermano se está muriendo
Aldo, your brother is dying,
y a vos lo único que te interesa es la herencia!
and the only thing that interests you is the inheritance!
Caption 63, Yago - 3 La fotoPlay Caption
Se está riendo de todos nosotros.
He's laughing at all of us.
Caption 28, Los casos de Yabla - Problemas de convivenciaPlay Caption
That's all for today. For more information on the present progressive Spanish tense, check out our latest video from El Aula Azul on that very topic! And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
The verb ir (to go) is used in many idiomatic expressions in Spanish. One of the most interesting uses of this verb is to indicate the beginning and progression of an action, for example:
¡Excelente! Voy planeando el evento.
Excellent! I'm starting to plan the event (right now).
It's not easy to translate the expression voy planeando el evento with precision. In the same situation, an English speaker would often use the future tense, "I will start planning the event," which has an exact equivalent in Spanish: comenzaré a planear el evento. But voy planeando (literally, "I go planning") is in the present tense, and the expression means that I'm starting the action of planning at a certain point (the present in this case) and that it will continue for some time in the future until its completion. It also implies that I will be planning while other actions are taking place simultaneously. This may be something obvious that could be inferred by context or mere logic in English, but there is no special verbal form to express it.
Now, this expression has many variations and, since the verb ir (to go) is an important irregular verb, it's worth studying different examples. The basic structure of the expression is as follows: a conjugated form of the verb ir (to go) + a verb in gerundio (-ando, -iendo endings in Spanish). In the previous example we used voy, the conjugated form of the verb ir in the present, and planeando, the gerundio of the verb planear (to plan). Let's see variations with different persons and tenses:
Iré planeando el evento.
I will start planning the event.
Lucía irá planeando el evento.
Lucia will start planning the event.
The verb ir in this expression can also be conjugated in the past tense. For example:
Fuimos planeando el evento.
We went about planning the event.
Did you notice that we adjusted our translation to better express the meaning of the sentence? The same happens when we use other verbs different from planear (to plan):
Voy cancelando el evento.
I start by cancelling the event.
(Though Spanish also has an exact equivalent for this translation: empiezo por cancelar el evento.)
But let's see some examples in real context. In the following examples, try to analyze the construction and meaning of the sentence in Spanish but also the translation we used for each. Maybe you can come up with a better one!
Te pones de rodillas o vas cambiando de postura.
You get on your knees or you go around changing postures.
Caption 75, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5Play Caption
Y ahora, una vez que tenemos el aceite,
And now, once we have the oil,
lo vamos clasificando por calidades.
we're going to classify it by traits.
Caption 66, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14Play Caption
Tienen un olfato muy desarrollado,
They have a very developed sense of smell,
enseguida te huelen el trocito de manzana, galleta, lo que sea,
right away they smell the little piece of apple, cookie, whatever,
y te van siguiendo.
and they start following you.
Captions 54-56, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: CoatísPlay Caption
Poco a poco la iremos consiguiendo.
Step by step, we are going to achieve it.
Caption 16, ¡Tierra, Sí! - AtencoPlay Caption
Poco a poco los irás descubriendo todos.
Little by little you'll go along discovering all of them.
Caption 40, Fundamentos del Español - 9 - Verbos ReflexivosPlay Caption
Hasta después fui aprendiendo
Until later [when] I started learning
conforme se fue haciendo el cómic.
as the comic was being made.
Captions 40-41, Antonio Vargas - Artista ilustraciónPlay Caption
Finally, here's an interesting example that uses the verb ir not only as the auxiliary conjugated verb but also for the gerundio, which is yendo (going). The expression is then voy yendo (literally "I go going").
Bueno, voy yendo que... -Sí, sí. -...deben de estar por llegar.
Well, I'm going since... -Yes, yes. -...they are bound to arrive soon.
Caption 24, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partidoPlay Caption
That's it. Mejor nos vamos despidiendo (We better start saying goodbye)!
Let's continue studying examples of sinalefas. If you missed part 1 of this lesson you can read it here.
Sinalefas are an important aspect to consider when learning Spanish because they play a fundamental role in the fast-paced speech we hear so frequently in many native speakers and which makes listening comprehension so challenging. We've seen that sinalefas can merge up to five vowels from different contiguous words, like in the infamous example Envidio a Eusebio (I envy Eusebio), but sinalefas that merge two and three vowels are much more common and thus the more frequent culprits of word merges. Since we already covered sinalefas that merge two vowels, let's now focus on the ones that merge three or more.
For a sinalefa of more than three vowels to occur, at least one of the following conditions must be met:
Condition 1. The vowels are combined in a gradual scale from more open to less open, for example aeu, as in La europea (the European), or from less open to more open, for example uea, as in abue Antonia (Granny Antonia).
Here's an example with an oi and an aae sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce no iba a entrar as a single word:
Decidimos que en nuestras tiendas no iba a entrar un chocolate...
We decided that in our stores no chocolate was going to enter...
Caption 46, Horno San Onofre - El ChocolatePlay Caption
Here's an iea sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce nadie apoyaba as a single word:
Nadie apoyaba el movimiento...
No one was supporting the movement...
Caption 57, Arturo Vega - EntrevistaPlay Caption
Condition 2. The combination consists in one open vowel surrounded by two less open ones. For example iae, as in limpia estancia (clean place), eau as in muerte auspicia (auspicious death), uoi as in mutuo interés (mutual interest), etc.
Here's an oae sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce salto a Europa as a single word:
Ahora preparan su salto a Europa, a Francia y a Alemania.
Now they're preparing their jump into Europe, France and Germany.
Caption 49, Europa Abierta - Carne ecológica y seguraPlay Caption
Here's an example with an iao and an ee sinalefa that allows the speaker to pronounce de aire en as a single word:
...y además, controlan [sic] el flujo de aire en el interior.
...and additionally, it controls the flow of air inside.
Caption 53, Tecnópolis - El CoronilPlay Caption
When none of these two conditions are met, merging contiguous vowels from different words to form a sinalefa is theoretically impossible. We will study some interesting cases in the third and last part of our lesson on this topic. In the meantime, we invite you to find more examples of sinalefas that merge two or more vowels by browsing our catalog of videos. We recommend you use the search tool located in the upper right corner of the site to find them.
We commonly receive feedback from our readers about the challenges of learning Spanish. Spanish can indeed be challenging for English speakers; after all, we are talking about a Romance language with a very different grammatical structure. However, grammar doesn’t seem to be the area that people find most challenging about Spanish. Instead, most learners at Yabla Spanish complain about how fast Spanish is spoken! And they seem to be justified: according to recent research, Spanish is the second-fastest spoken language at a syllable-per-second velocity of 7.82, trailing just slightly behind Japanese, at 7.84, but way ahead of English, which, according to the same study, is spoken at an average rate of 6.19 syllables per second. There you have it. You should be proud that you are learning one of the fastest spoken languages in the world.
Learners seem to find Spanish particularly fast paced due to the fact that in Spanish contiguous vowels are pronounced as if they were part of a single syllable. We are not talking about diphthongs or mere contractions such as de+el = del or a+el = al. We are talking about sinalefas: the merging of vowels that are part of different contiguous words.
Sinalefas makes Spanish challenging because they result in the merging of several words that are pronounced as one, without interruptions. Since sinalefas can merge up to five vowels, even a simple sentence such as Envidio a Eusebio (I envy Eusebio) becomes hard to understand when it is actually pronounced as envidioaeusebio. If you can’t tell where a word ends and another begins, how can you know for sure what a speaker is saying? The answer is listening practice.
There are many different types of sinalefas or “monosyllabic groups of vowels” in Spanish, as modern grammar specialists also call them. Let’s try to find examples of the most frequent ones in our catalog of authentic Spanish videos. In this lesson we will cover examples of sinalefas that merge two vowels only.
Sinalefas with two identical vocales átonas (unstressed or atonic vowels) are very common: casa alegre (happy home), le escucho (I listen to you), Lucy intenta (Lucy tries), etc. These sinalefas are pronounced with a long sound, just as if the two vowels were inside a single word, like acreedor (creditor), zoológico (zoo), contraataque (counterattack).
No olvides que los envoltorios de cartón, papel y envases de vidrio...
And don't forget that cardboard and paper covers and glass bottles...
Caption 46, 3R - Campaña de reciclajePlay Caption
Sinalefas with two identical vowels, one of which is a vocal tónica (stressed vowel), are pronounced as a single stressed vowel (remember that a stressed vowel may or may not have a written accent). The following example contains two contiguous sinalefas of this kind, and you may hear some speakers merging both of them:
¿Qué está haciendo?
What are you doing?
Caption 40, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesaPlay Caption
Sinalefas with different vocales átonas (unstressed vowels) are very common and perhaps some of the most used. They are pronounced as a single unstressed syllable. The first sinalefa in the following example is of one of this kind. But the second sinalefa (dejóalgo) merges two vocales tónicas (stressed vowels) and in this case, if the sinalefa is actually produced, both vowels get merged but lean on the more open vowel (the a in algo).
...porque todo aquel que vino dejó algo.
...because everybody who came left something.
Caption 73, Horno San Onofre - La Historia de la PasteleríaPlay Caption
Can you identify the sinalefas in the following example?
Ya nada sería igual en la vida de ambos.
Nothing would be the same in their lives.
Caption 65, Biografía - Natalia OreiroPlay Caption
Be aware that Spanish speakers don't pronounce sinalefas every single time. Weather sinalefas are used or not depends on many factors: personal preference, regional variants (for example some learners find that Mexican Spanish is way faster than, let’s say, Ecuadorian or Venezuelan Spanish), or even context (for example when a speaker is trying to speak clearly or very emphatically, he or she may not merge many words). Here’s an example in which the speaker is clearly not pronouncing two possible sinalefas (súnico and equipajera), but he does pronounce a third one: únicoe. Can you guess why?
Y su único equipaje era la soledad
And her only baggage was solitude
Caption 20, Gardi - Leña apagadaPlay Caption
If you said "because these are the lyrics of a song," you are right! Sinalefas and their opposites, hiatos, are some of the most common poetic tools used to ensure proper meter. As a listening exercise for the week, we invite you to find two-vowel sinalefas in our videos and listen carefully to decide whether the speaker is actually merging the vowels or not. We will continue exploring the world of Spanish sinalefas in future lessons.
The verb poder (to be able, can) is one of the 10 most common verbs in Spanish. This verb is irregular, which means that it's unique in its conjugations. Let's study some common expressions in which this verb is used.
Most of the time the verb poder functions as an auxiliary verb (just like its English counterparts "can" and "could"), but in Spanish poder is followed by an infinitive. In the present tense you could find it used to express the ability or permission to do something:
Hay mucho que tú puedes hacer.
There is a lot that you can do.
Caption 44, 3R - Campaña de reciclajePlay Caption
¿Yo puedo ir a tú casa?
Can I go to your house?
Caption 65, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 15Play Caption
Compare this to the use of puedo with reflexive pronouns in the same video:
¿Yo me puedo apuntar a eso? -Claro.
Can I sign up for that? -Sure.
Caption 28, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 15Play Caption
You can also use the reflexive pronoun as a suffix of the verb in the infinitive. So it's also correct to say puedo apuntarme (can I sign up). In Spanish the idea behind the use of reflexive here is that you write down your own name yourself. If you don't use the reflexive and only say puedo apuntar, then the expression means I can write down. For example: puedo apuntar tu nombre (I can write down your name).
The combination of the reflexive with the verb poder is also used to talk about abilities or possibilities in an impersonal way. For this you will always use the pronoun se, and the third-person of the verb. For example, se puede nadar (one can swim). Many Spanish speakers use an abbreviation of the impersonal expression ¿se puede pasar? (literally "may one come in?") as a courtesy before entering a house or a room:
Sí. -Sí. -Soy Toñi. -Encantada.
Yes. -Yes. -I'm Toñi. -Glad to meet you.
Captions 7-8, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14Play Caption
Of course, you can also not use the impersonal and say ¿puedo pasar? (May I come in?). The equivalent of the shortened expression "may I" is simply ¿puedo?, which, as in English, can be used to ask for permission to do something, not only entering a room.
Now, the combination of the verb poder with the reflexive se can also indicate the use of a special type of passive voice. In the following example, the doctor is talking about ozone:
Se puede obtener artificialmente a partir de descargas eléctricas.
It can be obtained artificially through electrical discharges.
Caption 6, Los médicos explican - Beneficios del ozonoPlay Caption
FYI: the normal passive voice construction for this would be: puede ser obtenido (it can be obtained).
We will continue studying more expressions that use the verb poder with other tenses and moods in a future lesson. We leave you with a very common expression of disbelief or surprise that uses the verb poder: no puede ser (it can’t be). We even have a series titled NPS, an acronym of no puede ser. ¿Puedes creerlo? (can you believe it?)
¡No puede ser! -¡No puede ser!
It can't be! -It can't be.
Caption 52, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concursoPlay Caption