Spanish Lessons


Ser vs Estar - Yo estoy

How much you learn about the proper use of ser and estar (both meaning "to be") depends on your exposure to how real Spanish is spoken by real people. This lesson focuses on how a person can use estoy (“I'm” —the first-person singular form of estar in the present tense) to talk about himself or herself.


The present tense of the verb estar (to be) is estoy. You can use it combined with an adjective (or a participiothe -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho endings and their feminine and plural forms, used as an adjective) to express your current state of mind, body, or soul:

...Yo estoy listo ya... ¿Dónde está el perro?

...I'm ready now... Where's the dog?

Caption 108, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5

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It's very common, for example, to use estar to talk about emotions, convictions, and beliefs:

Bueno, pero estoy muy contenta. Pasa.

Well, but I am very happy. Come in.

Caption 12, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 6

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Yo creo que sí. -Estoy convencido que poco a poco vamos a... a buscar alternativas.

I think so. -I am convinced that little by little we are going to... to look for alternatives.

Captions 64-65, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 5

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You can use any other regular adjective as well. Some examples are below:
Estoy limpio - I'm clean.
Estoy enferma - I'm sick.
Estoy sola - I'm lonely.
At this point it's useful to compare the possible meaning of similar phrases using ser instead of estar. Note how, by using ser instead of estar, the adjective becomes an intrinsic characteristic of the subject:
Soy limpio - I'm a clean person.
Soy enferma - Incorrect, it’s better to say soy una persona enferma "I'm a sick person," or even just estoy enferma (I’m sick), because this phrase can also mean “I’m a sick person” given the appropriate context.
Soy sola - Incorrect, it’s better to say soy una persona solitaria (I'm a lonely person).
You can combine estoy with the gerundio (-ando / -endo / -iendo endings) to talk about your actions, about what you are doing. The combination with haciendo, the gerundio of the verb hacer (to do) is very common:

Yo estoy haciendo el control de calidad del producto.

I'm doing the quality control of the product.

Caption 4, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 20

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But you can combine estoy with any other gerundio, for example cogiendo, the gerundio of coger (to grab, to pick):

Hasta que no palme estoy cogiendo castañas.

As long as I don't croak, I'm picking chestnuts.

Caption 6, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5

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You can use estoy with a complement that denotes space to specify your location. The combination with an adverb of place is common:

Por eso estoy aquí, porque me han dicho...

That's why I am here because they have told me...

Caption 85, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 15

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And also with the preposition en (in):

Eh... Ahora mismo estoy en Málaga, estoy de vacaciones.

Um... Right now I'm in Malaga, I'm on vacation.

Caption 2, Arume - Málaga, España - Part 1

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The verb estoy can also be combined with certain prepositions to express a wide array of ideas. For example, you can use it with the preposition de to talk about your role or position in a certain context:

Eh, y... estoy de acuerdo con, con Denisse ahí,

Uh, and... I agree (literally, "I'm in accord") with, with Denisse there.

Caption 24, Belanova - Entrevista - Part 3

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No, luego, cuando acaba la campaña estoy de camarero.

No, after, once the season ends, I work as a waiter.

Caption 61, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 13

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Eh... Ahora mismo estoy en Málaga, estoy de vacaciones.

Um... Right now I'm in Malaga, I'm on vacation.

Caption 2, Arume - Málaga, España - Part 1

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You can combine the verb estoy with the preposition por  and a verb in infinitive (-er, -ar, -irendings) to talk about what you are about to do:
Estoy por ganar el juego de scrabble. 
I'm about to win the Scrabble match.
Estoy por terminar. Espérenme, por favor.
I'm about to finish. Please, wait for me.
You can use estar and the preposition para to talk about purpose, function, etc.
Aquí estoy para servir
I'm here to serve.
Here's an interesting example from our catalog of videos:

o estoy para dirigir cine tal vez.

or maybe, I'm suited to direct a movie.

Caption 68, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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There are many other ways in which you can use the verb estoy; these are just some of the most common ones. For now, we recommend you practice these expressions, maybe try transforming them into the past or future tenses!  Our next lesson in this series will focus on how soy (the first-person singular form of ser in the present tense) can be used to talk about oneself.

Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - Part 2

Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - Part 1

Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - Part 3


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 Chocolate

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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 - Entrevista - Part 1

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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 segura

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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 Coronil

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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.  

Expressing Disgust in Spanish

By definition, nobody likes to feel disgusted, and yet disgust is sadly a very common sentiment. Let's learn a few ways in which Spanish speakers express their disgust.


Let's start with the most basic. The expression me da asco (literally "it gives me disgust") has many different translations, depending on the context:


Me da asco, la verdad, mire, señor...

You make me sick, truthfully, look, sir...

Caption 23, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 1

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Cuando te duele la cabeza, tenés unas náuseas que te da asco todo.

When your head hurts, you have nausea that makes everything disgusting to you.

Caption 73, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 5

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This expression is also very interesting because of the idiomatic use of the verb dar (to give), which is used a lot in Spanish to express a wide variety of feelings, from me da miedo (it frightens me), to me da pena (I feel ashamed) and me da gusto (it pleases me). In order to learn it and remember it, we suggest you recall an expression in English that uses the same verb in the same way: "it gives me the creeps," which in Spanish could translate as me da asco or me da escalofríos (it makes me shrivel), or something else, depending on the context. Our friends from Calle 13 use dar repelo (repelo is a coloquial word for "disgust"):

Oye jibarita si te doy repelillo, Residente te quita el frenillo

Listen, peasant girl, if I give you the creeps, Residente will take away your stutter

Caption 44, Calle 13 - Tango del pecado

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Other phrases that can also be used in Spanish are me enferma (it makes me sick), and me da náuseas (it makes me feel nauseous). Check out this example:

Verla me da náuseas.

Seeing her makes me sick.

Caption 22, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 1

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Now let's learn some single words that you can use to express your dislikes. The interjection guácala (sometimes written huácala) is used in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, el Salvador, República Dominicana, and many other Latin American countries. By the way, this word has nothing to do with guacamole (from Nahuatl ahuacatl "avocado" + molli "sauce"), which is delicious. 

¡Ay guácala! No, no se puede. ¡Huele a muerto!

Oh, gross! No, it's not possible. It smells like a corpse!

Captions 4-5, Kikirikí - Agua - Part 5

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A similar word is fúchila, which you could also find shortened as fuchi. This word is also used in many Latin American countries, Venezuela, for example:

¡Fuchi! Mejor no respires, pero cálmate, ¿sí?

Ew! Better you don't breathe, but calm down, OK?

Caption 51, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 5

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In Spain people use the interjections puajpuah, or aj:
¡Puaj, este pescado está podrido!
Yuck, this fish is rotten!

Now, in Spanish the antonyms of the verb gustar (to like) and the noun gusto (like) are disgustar (dislike) and disgusto (dislike). However, you should pay attention to the context to learn how to use them. Take, for example, the expression estar a disgusto (to be uncomfortable or unhappy):

Yo ya estaba muy a disgusto en México.

I was already unhappy in Mexico.

Caption 42, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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If you want to use the verb disgustar to express your dislike about something, you have to remember to always use it with a reflexive pronoun:

Me disgustan las achoas.
I dislike anchovies.

However, it's more common to simply say:

No me gustan las achoas.
I don't like anchovies.

Notice that when you use the verb disgustar (to dislike) the verb is conjugated in the third-person plural (in agreement with las anchoas) and not the first-person singular (yo). If you ever were to say something like me disgusto, which is possible but as common as me enojo (I get angry or upset), that would mean something different:

Me disgusto con Antonio siempre que llega tarde.
I get angry with Antonio whenever he's late.

The noun disgusto, on the other hand, is used as the noun asco (disgust), that is, with the verb dar (to give). The expression dar un disgusto means "to cause displeasure," or "to make someone angry, sad, or upset"). 

Mi hijo me dio un disgusto muy grande al abandonar la escuela.
My son made me so upset when he quit school.


Finally, the expression matar de disgusto (literally, "to kill someone by means of upsetting him or her") is a common expression that overly dramatic people really like to use:


This daughter of mine is going to kill me with disappointment.

Caption 42, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 3

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When Nada (Nothing) is Todo (Everything)

In one of our videos we hear a chef using the Spanish expression ante todo

Yo espero que el estudiante que pretenda ser un chef profesional, ante todo que sea un buen cocinero.

I hope that the student who is trying to be a professional chef, first and foremost is a good cook.

Captions 55-56, Misión Chef - 2 - Pruebas - Part 2

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A close translation of ante todo is "above all." As you can see in the previous example, this expression is also commonly translated as "first and foremost." Similar expressions in Spanish are: en primer lugar (in the first place), ante todas las cosas (above all things), primero (first), primeramente (primarily), principalmente (mainly), etc. Let's see another example:

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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More interesting than these phrases are other Spanish expressions that are also synonyms of ante todo, and yet make use of the word nada (nothing, anything), which means exactly the opposite of todo (everything). These expressions are primero que nada and antes que nada or antes de nada, and they can be translated as "first and foremost." You can use them to replace ante todo in the previous examples:

Yo espero que el estudiante que pretenda ser un chef profesional, primero que nada que sea un buen cocinero.
I hope that the student who is trying to be a professional chef, first and foremost is a good cook.

antes que nada 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.

Just be careful, because these expressions containing the word nada (nothing) can also have a different use, which is not really equivalent to ante todo (above all)Depending on the context, both phrases antes de nada (or antes que nada) and primero que nada are adverbs of time that can mean "before anything":

Pero antes, antes de nada, [vamos a] conocer nuestro destino de hoy.

But before, before anything, [let's] get to know our destination for today.

Captions 18-19, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 1

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Primero que nada also means "before anything," although a more literal translation is "first of anything else," which is a rather uncommon phrase in English. We used that literal translation in the following example:

Entonces este... primero que nada queremos saber ... de dónde eres.

Well then... first of anything else [before we do anything] we want to know ... where you're from.

Captions 6-8, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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Spanish also uses primero que todo (first of all) and antes de todo (before all), as equivalents of primero que nada (first of anything else / before anything else) and antes de nada (before anything else). Of course, in English you can alternate between the use of "before all" and "before anything," as well. The interesting thing here is that Spanish makes use of the antonyms todo (everything) and nada (nothing, anything) for phrases that are equivalent.


And now you know why in Spanish sometimes nada (nothing, anything) is todo (everything). Thank you for reading! 

Aunque, A Pesar: Although, In Spite Of

Meanwhile, over in new music, we're featuring Shaila Dúrcal's wistful song, Vuélvete la luna. This opening line is setting up conditions to contrast what comes later in the song:


Aunque estas lágrimas me digan lo contrario...

Although these tears may tell me otherwise...

Caption 1, Shaila Dúrcal - Vuélvete la luna

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Aunque, a combination of the words aun and que, is a common conjuction meaning "although" or "even though." (Do you remember we discussed that "aun" means "even"?) After a couple lines that begin this way, she switches to another contrast:


A pesar de todo lo que estoy pasando a diario...

Despite everything I'm going through on a daily basis...

Caption 5, Shaila Dúrcal - Vuélvete la luna

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The phrase a pesar de means "despite" or "in spite of." Does that surprise you? Perhaps you're thrown because pesar can mean "to weigh." Well, note that pesar is not only a verb but also a noun that means "regret." But we can't get too mired in the word-by-word translation here because a pesar de is an idiomatic phrase that defies a literal, word-by-word translation. Kind of like "in spite of," come to think of it.



"Habemus" toma, a pesar de nuestro tour.

"Habemus" [We have] the shot, in spite of our tour.

Caption 46, Alan x el mundo - Mi playa favorita de México! - Part 2

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A pesar de ser tan trabajador, no logró el ascenso que quería.
In spite of being such a hardworking man, he couldn't get the promotion he wanted.


Entonces sí lo pasaban. -A pesar de ya estar familiarizado con la represión.

Then they did show it. -Despite being familiarized already with the repression.

Caption 86, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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No fue a la reunión a pesar de que le habían dicho que era muy importante.
He didn´t attend the meeting despite being told it was very important.

A pesar de todo, todavía te quiero.
In spite of all, I still love you.



Qué Onda: What's Up? Waves and Good Vibes.

Let's continue with Arturo Vega's tentative arrival in New York:


Y vine primeramente en el sesenta y nueve para ver qué onda, a ver qué tal estaba Nueva York.

And I first came in sixty-nine to see what was going on, to see how New York was.

Captions 70-71, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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"¿Qué onda?" It's a common question in Mexico and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world. It's even a common greeting. If you took it literally, the question sounds like "What wave?" -since "qué" (with an accented é) means "what" and "onda" means "wave," technically speaking. While "de onda corta" is "shortwave," as in shortwave radio, note that "onda" can also mean "vibe" informally. And so "qué onda" can mean, basically, "what's up" or "what's going on," as our translators have it. ("What vibe" sounds silly in English.)

Onda in this informal sense seems to have originated in Mexican colloquial speech and is used in a
wide variety of ways. This usage has spread throughout Latin America but, by most accounts, continues to be most common in the place it originated.

Note that ola is also a word for "wave," and this is the word used to describe the things that slap the beach. If you talk about an onda when describing a body of water, most native Spanish speakers will take it that you mean a "ripple." So, next time you visit
Puerto Escondido, note that a surfista is certainly riding las olas, but might be staying at Cabañas la Buena Onda (The Good Vibe Cabanas) -- which are still so pure that they don't appear to have a website, but we guarantee you they exist (find them at La Punta, "The Point").




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Los Sesenta: The Sixties and the Grammar Police

Chatting with Arturo Vega, the artistic director of the seminal New York rockers The Ramones, we learn he's from Chihuahua, Mexico (yes, the namesake of those tiny Taco Bell / Paris Hilton dogs). We also learn that he came to the U.S. in "los sesentas" ["the sixties"] -- as in, "los años sesenta." In fact, in just over six minutes of chatting in front of the camera, Vega mentions "los sesentas" four times (in captions 29, 30, 40 and 50, to be precise).


En los sesentas empecé a viajar y por supuesto en los sesentas era más atractivo ir a lugares como San Francisco, California

In the sixties I started to travel and of course in the sixties it was more attractive to go to places like San Francisco, California

Captions 29-30, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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But the grammar police say that Vega gets it wrong four times: In proper Spanish, the decades are supposed to be singular, so it's los sesenta (short for los años sesenta).


Well, let's give Vega the benefit of the doubt. You see, Anglicisms in Spanish are increasingly popular. By "Anglicism" here we are referring to the application of a rule of English grammar to Spanish. Besides making decades plural, as an Anglicism, you may hear some family names pluralized in Spanish as the are in English. For example: Los Ramones (as uttered by our interviewer in caption 37) is technically the incorrect way to refer to the members of the fictional Ramone family.


Y... aquí fue donde... conociste a Los Ramones

And... it was here where... you came to know the Ramones

Captions 36-37, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 1

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(Granted, "los Ramone" does not echo the name of the legendary band....) Note: the band members each took the last name "Ramone" as stage names, but these neighborhood pals from Queens were not, in fact, related, nor born with this surname.

Tip: If you want to hear a more traditional translation of a famous U.S. family into Spanish, tune into
Los Simpson
. (Yup: it's singular: "Simpson.")


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