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Useful Vocabulary for Election Times

As the U.S. elections are right around the corner, we think now is the perfect time to learn some useful election vocabulary. 

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In presidential elections, the citizens of a country votan por (vote for) the candidate of their choice. In a referendum, however, voters will votar a favor de / en contra de (for or against) a particular decision. 

 

No sé si voy a votar por Manuel u Oscar

I don't know if I am going to vote for Manuel or Oscar

en las elecciones presidenciales.

in the presidential elections.

Caption 33, Lecciones con Carolina - Conjunciones disyuntivas

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As we all know, political parties run campaigns to persuade citizens to vote for them. We also know about the promises that politicians make when están en campaña (they are campaigning). 

 

"La mejor campaña" dijo, "es la del pueblo."

"The best campaign" he said, "is that of the people."

Caption 24, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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Interestingly, there is an expression with the word campaña that is not related to presidential or marketing campaigns. Ponerse en campaña means "to start working on something" or "become active."

 

Está todo claro. -Nos ponemos hoy mismo en campaña.

Everything is clear. -We'll start working on that today.

Caption 69, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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We can find some compelling examples of electoral promises in Felipe Calderon's Campaign cuando se postulaba como presidente de México (when he was running for president of Mexico) back in 2006.

 

Igualdad de oportunidades para todos,

Equal opportunity for everyone,

una democracia efectiva, que le dé sentido a nuestra vida cotidiana

an effective democracy that gives meaning to our everyday lives,

y finalmente desarrollo sustentable.

and finally, sustainable development.

Captions 59-61, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad

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Unsurprisingly, these promises are pretty much the same in each contienda electoral  (presidential race) and are often expressed at debates televisados (televised debates) before the veda electoral (election silence), the period in some countries prior to the election in which it is forbidden to show any sort of political propaganda.

 

Pero no sólo a los PANistas,

But not only the PANistas,

como espero que sea el candidato de Acción Nacional

since I hope he'll be the candidate for Acción Nacional

en la próxima contienda presidencial de dos mil seis.

in the next presidential race in two thousand six.

Captions 71-73, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad

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While in some countries, voting is mandatory (sufragio obligatorio), and a fine is imposed if one does not ejercer el derecho al voto (exercise one's right to vote), in countries like the U.S. or Mexico, it is optional (sufragio voluntario), and campaigns are thus conducted to encourage people to vote. Tu Rock es votar was a commercial created to persuade young people to participate in los comicios (the elections) in Mexico's 2006 presidential race. A similar campaign, as Armando explains, also enjoyed success in the U.S.:

 

Y lo habían hecho funcionar muy bien, y habían inscrito a

And they had made it work very well, and they had registered

más de millón y medio de jóvenes

more than one and a half million young people

para votar en el proceso electoral norteamericano.

to vote in the American election process.

Y ayudaron a, entre muchos otros esfuerzos,

And they helped to, among many other efforts,

Captions 20-23, Tu Rock es Votar - Armando

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The ways in which we cast our votes may also differ. Particularly in these times of COVID-19, some countries may opt for an electronic vote (voto electrónico) or mail-in voting over the traditional ballot box (urna), which brings us to the saying that el futuro del país se decidirá en las urnas (the future of the country will be decided at the ballot box). And, you may be surprised to hear Argentinians and Uruguayans speak about el cuarto oscuro (literally "the dark room"). Mind you, there is no connotation of darkness or dishonesty in this expression, which is simply the name of the voting booth in those nations.

 

Voting is a right and a responsibility, so we should always stay informed and carefully think it through before weighing in on who will be in charge, or, as Armando puts it:

 

Y es elegir a quien va a tomar las riendas de este país.

And that is to choose who is going to take the reins of this country.

Caption 84, Tu Rock es Votar - Armando

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We hope you've enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to vote! Oh, and leave us your comments and suggestions.

Vocabulary

Tres verbos amigos

The basic meaning of the verbs aplastar and aplanar is "to flatten." You will hear many Spanish speakers using these as synonyms, though aplastar is way more common. There's a subtle difference, however, between these two verbs, since aplastar may imply a more drastic action and is sometimes better translated as "to crush," while aplanar involves a more controlled and careful activity. So, for example, you want to say aplasté a la cucaracha (I crushed the cockroach) rather than aplané a la cucaracha (I flattened the cockroach), right? In a similar (but less icky) way, our friend Meli prefers to use aplanar when giving instructions for her crafty projects:
 

aplanas para que quede uniforme.

And you flatten it so that it's even.

Caption 25, Manos a la obra - Postres de Minecraft

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The following example is enlightening, for it shows how aplastar may be okay for smashed potatoes but not for picatostes (croutons):

 

Cuando le das con el cuchillo se aplasta.

When you stick it with the knife, it flattens out.

Caption 96, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli

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As we mentioned before, aplastar is more frequently used than aplanar, especially when used figuratively, and so you can find several videos using aplastar in our catalog. Here's one example:
 

...y no dejándose aplastar por el poder del día.

...and not letting the power of the day crush you.

Caption 26, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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But there's a third verb that is close to aplastar and aplanar. It's a funny-sounding word (and one with a very polemic etymology by the way: here's a good article about it) that's perfect for crushing gooey, crunchy bugs because its sound is actually reminiscent of squeezing/smashing. We are talking about the verb apachurrar (to smash, to crush). A purist would say that Meli is not being extremely precise with language by using apachurrar in the context of making crafts:
 

Ya que tenemos una esferita como ésta,

Now that we have a little sphere like this one,

la vamos a apachurrar.

we are going to press it down.

Captions 41-42, Manos a la obra - Borradores y marcatextos

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You can see that she actually pressed down the little sphere quite gently, so maybe using aplanar or even aplastar would have been more accurate to describe what she is doing. But hey, who wouldn’t want to say apachurrar when you have mastered rolling your R's as nicely as she has!
 
You may have noticed that all three verbs, aplanaraplastar, and apachurrar, start with the prefix a-. This is because they belong to a group of Spanish verbs (verbos parasintéticos) that are created by adding the prefix a- or en- to nominal or adjectival forms. Some common examples are enamorar ("to fall in love" or "to inspire love"), apasionar (to be passionate about), encarcelar (to incarcerate) and atemorizar (to frighten). One verb in this group is alisar (to make smooth or straight), which has some resemblance in meaning to the verbs aplanar, aplastar, and apachurrar:
 

Además me acabo de... de alisar el cabello.

Besides I just finished... straightening my hair.

Caption 44, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso

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This is the end of this lesson. But ¡no te apachurres, no te aplanes, no te aplastes! ("Don't get depressed," get it?) We have many more lessons on the site!

Very Singular Plurals

Let's study a special type of Spanish plurals along with some idiomatic expressions in which they are used. In Spanish, there are nouns that can be used either in singular or plural to designate a single object that is constituted by symmetrical parts. That's the case of nouns such las tijeras (scissors), pantalones (pants), tenazas (tongs), gafas (glasses), calzones (underwear), etc. As in English, these Spanish nouns are normally used in the plural form. For example:

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Estos pantalones, por ejemplo, son rosas

These pants, for example, are pink

Caption 56, Marta de Madrid - Prendas de ropa

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Se recomienda el uso de guantes y de gafas protectoras.

The use of gloves and protective goggles is recommended.

Caption 56, Raquel - Fiestas de España

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Que estoy viendo ahí unas pinzas muy curiosas.

'Cause I am seeing there some very strange pincers.

Caption 84, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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However, for many of these it's also valid, but much less common, to use the singular form:


Este pantalón, por ejemplo, es rosa
These pants, for example, are pink

Que estoy viendo ahí una pinza muy curiosa.
Cause I am seeing there some very strange pincers.

For gafas it would be even less common, so we are not including an example. But let's see some examples from our catalog. Garments such as pantalones (pants) are also used in singular:

 

¿Cuánto te cuesta un pantalón aquí?

How much does a pair of pants cost you here?

Caption 1, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos

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The noun falda (skirt) is also used both in plural and singular:

 

Esta falda, por ejemplo, tiene una goma elástica.

This skirt, for example, has an elastic rubber band.

Caption 69, Marta de Madrid - Prendas de ropa

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Another example. It would be much more common to say con las tijeras (with the scissors) but the use of the singular form is also correct:

 

¿Los rulos los hacés vos?

Do you do the curls yourself?

-Sí, con la tijera.

Yes, with the scissors.

Captions 68-69, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas

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There are other cases in which Spanish prefers the use of singular and reserves the plural for expressive uses of the words. This is the case for el bigote (the mustache) and la nariz (the nose):
 

También en el caso de los hombres tienen bigote.

Also, in the case of men, they have a mustache.

Caption 77, Marta de Madrid - El cuerpo - La cabeza

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Tiene la nariz roja y normalmente la cara blanca.

Has a red nose and normally (has) a white face.

Caption 52, El Aula Azul - Las Profesiones

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For emphatic purposes we can use the plural forms bigotes and narices:

¡Límpiate las narices y atúsate los bigotes!
Clean your nose and smooth down your mustache!

There are many expressions in Spanish that use these nouns. They are usually expresiones fijas (fixed expressions) or expresiones idiomáticas (idioms) that are used as a standard way of expressing a concept or idea. In these kinds of expressions the use of plural is predominant. Some of them also exist in English; others are easy to interpret. Let's learn a few.

 

Y aunque exista algún respeto,

And even though there exists some respect,

no metamos las narices.

let's not stick our noses [into it].

Caption 3, Molotov - Frijolero

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...o el Valle de Lecrín a las faldas de Sierra Nevada.

...or the Lecrin Valley on the skirts of the Sierra Nevada.

Caption 25, Tecnópolis - Viaje por la red

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Finally, expressions using the plural pantalones (pants) are very common as well:

 

...y que nadie ha tenido los pantalones para hablar.

...and that nobody has had the guts to speak.

Caption 2, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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Porque vos en esa casa no llevás los pantalones.

Because you don't wear the pants in that house.

Caption 64, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta

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Using Subjunctive after Conjunctions of Time

The Spanish subjunctive is used in adverb clauses when the action described in the clause is anticipated or hypothetical (a reservation, a condition not yet met, a mere intention). Adverb clauses are sentences that function as adverbs in compound sentences: 

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Organizaremos una fiesta / cuando mi esposo regrese de su viaje.
We will organize a party / when my husband comes back from his trip.

 

In the previous example, the main clause is organizaremos una fiesta and its verb (organizaremos) is in the indicative mood, future tense. However, the adverb clause that modifies that verb (in this case, establishing a condition of time for the action to happen) must use regrese, the subjunctive form of the verb regresar (to come back). Adverb clauses like this one are usually introduced by conjunctions, which you can use to identify the type of clause that it's being used. The previous sentence, for example, uses the conjunction cuando (when) to introduce the adverb clause. The word cuando is a conjunction of time, just like después (after). These conjunctions are used with the subjunctive to express anticipated circumstances, that is, a future occurrence not yet met. Let's study some examples from our catalog of authentic videos.

 

An example with the conjunction cuando (when):

 

pues no quiere deberle nada a nadie cuando llegue a la presidencia.

because he doesn't want to owe anything to anyone when he reaches the presidency.

Caption 23, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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An example with the conjunction hasta (until), which must be combined with the pronoun que (that):

 

Yo mantendré esa tradición hasta que me muera.

I will keep this tradition until the day I die.

Caption 66, Estado Falcón - Locos de la Vela

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Here's an example with the conjunction siempre (always), which combined with the pronoun que (that) means "whenever" or "as long as." Pay attention, the word order has been changed, so the main clause appears at the end.

 

Pero siempre que sea posible,

But whenever it is possible,

recurriremos a un fotógrafo profesional.

we'll turn to a professional photographer.

Caption 27, Raquel y Marisa - Español Para Negocios - Introducción

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Now, that doesn't mean that you should always use subjunctive after conjunctions of time. You must use it only when you are talking about actions anticipated to occur in the future. If, for example, the conjunction is used to introduce an adverb clause that refers to actions in the past or in progress, known facts or habits, you must use the indicative. Let's see examples:

 

An example where you don't use subjunctive after the conjunction cuando (when):

 

Lo primero que hago cuando voy de compras

The first thing that I do when I go shopping 

es mirar los escaparates.*

is to look at the display windows.

Captions 3-4, Raquel - Haciendo compras

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*Another common word order could be: Lo primero que hago es mirar los escaparates cuando voy de compras.

 

Now, an example where you don't use subjunctive after hasta que (until):

 

Hay policías desde que salgo de mi casa hasta que entro al Tec.

There are police from when I leave my house until I enter the Tech.

Caption 67, Alumnos extranjeros del - Tec de Monterrey

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And here's and example with the conjunction siempre (always) combined with the pronoun que (that) that doesn't use subjunctive either.

 

Entonces, yo siempre que estaba en Lima no los encontraba.*

So, every time I was in Lima, I didn't meet up with them.

Caption 9, Gonzalo el Pintor - Vida

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 *Again, the main clause appears at the end of the sentence here, but you can easily change the word order: Entonces, yo no los encontraba siempre que estaba en Lima.

 

Summarizing: the subjunctive is used after conjunctions of time (such as cuandohasta quesiempre que, etc.) only when you want to express anticipated circumstances, that is, a future occurrence not yet met (anyway, strictly speaking future is always hypothetical, right?). For your reference, other conjunctions of time that use subjunctive are después de que (after), mientras que (while, as long as), tan pronto que (as soon as), antes de que (before), and en cuanto (as soon as). So remember to always use subjunctive after them if you want to talk about anticipated circumstances. There is only one exception that applies to después de que (after), antes de que (before), and hasta que (until): you can get away with using a verb in infinitive (ending in -ar, -er, -ir) instead of subjunctive if you get rid of the pronoun que (that). Check the following examples:

 

Voy a bañarme después de hacer ejercicio.
I'm going to shower after I exercise.

Escribiré un libro antes de morir.
I will write a book before I die.

No me voy hasta hablar contigo.
I'm not leaving until I speak with you.

 

Of course, you can also use the subjunctive by adding the pronoun que. Here are the equivalent sentences for the examples above:

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Voy a bañarme después de que haga ejercicio.
I'm going to shower after I exercise.

Escribiré un libro antes de que me muera.
I will write a book before I die.

No me voy hasta que hable contigo.
I'm not leaving until I speak with you.

Grammar

Buena Lid: Fair Fight

The votes are in and the official count is over. But the presidential election in Mexico may still be less than finished. The more left-leaning of the top two candidates, López Obrador lost by a hair (according to Mexico's election authority), but he's not admitting defeat and demands a painstaking recount. In this video footage, shot before the ballot counting began, the candidate says confidently:

 

Vamos a ganar de manera limpia, pacífica, en buena lid...

We're going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight...

Captions 27-28, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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Make a vocabulary note that lid in Spanish means "fight" or "combat." Meanwhile, "en buena lid" is a common expression (in some parts) that means "in a fair fight" or, more figuratively, "fair and square." So the phrase above gives us:
"We are going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight..."

The expression does not necessarily mean "a good fight," in the sense of it being close or fun to watch, but the election in Mexico has turned into just that.

 

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Expressions

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