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Gentilicios: Adjectives of Nationality in Spanish

Let's talk about gentilicios (demonyms)! Gentilicios are words that we use as adjectives when we want to say the place where someone or something comes from. In other words, they are adjectives of nationality in Spanish! Some examples of demonyms are words like “Brazilian,” “African” or “Chinese.”
 

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Unlike English, we don’t capitalize demonyms in Spanish:

 

Mejor dicho, esas que son una mezcla entre peruana y colombiano.

In other words, those that are a mix between a Peruvian girl and a Colombian guy.

Caption 35, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 1

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We form demonyms using suffixes, which most of the time need to be consistent with the gender and the number of the noun they are describing. Let’s take the suffix ano:
 

Roberto es mexicano | Roberto is Mexican (singular masculine)
Claudia es mexicana | Claudia is Mexican (singular feminine)
Roberto y Claudia son mexicanos | Roberto and Claudia are Mexicans (plural masculine)
Claudia y Daniela son mexicanas | Claudia and Daniela are Mexicans (plural feminine)

 

cuando realmente veo otros mexicanos, otros latinos,

when I see other Mexicans, other Latin people,

Caption 13, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 5

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Other suffixes that are very often used to form gentilicios are és (singular masculine) and esa(singular feminine) as well as co (singular masculine) and ca (singular feminine):
 

De padre austriaco y madre francesa, es casi políglota de nacimiento.

From an Austrian father and French mother, he's pretty much multilingual from birth.

Caption 12, Europa Abierta - Alejandro Hermann - El arte de pintar

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We also have the suffix eño (singular masculine) as in limeño (from Lima, the capital of Peru), and the suffix í as in the demonym iraní (from Iran). The latter is used for both masculine and feminine and only changes in its plural form (iraní becomes either iranís or iraníes, both forms are correct):

 

madrileñomadrileña, de Madrid, la capital de España.

or "madrileño," "madrileña," [from Madrid], from Madrid, the capital of Spain.

Caption 34, Carlos explica - Geografía y gentilicios

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Just like iraní, the demonym estadounidense (from the United States) is the same for the masculine and feminine forms. Some people use americano or americana when referring to someone from the US. However, if you are travelling across Latin America try to use estadounidense instead. Most people in Latin America treat the word América as a continent and not a country so using that demonym when referring to the US will certainly leave a nice impression across the Americas.
 

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That's all for now. We would like to leave you with the following exercise: Choose 20 countries from the world and try to write the gentilicios for each one. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Imperative Constructions

The Spanish constructions haber + de, tener + que, hay + que, and deber + infinitive are all used to express that something demands attention or action: an obligation, requirement, or necessity. Let's review some examples to learn the subtle differences between them and how to properly use them.

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The construction haber + de + infinitive is used to express a mild sense of obligation or necessity (in some contexts it could be just a possibility). Its use is, therefore, preferred when you want to give an instruction in a very polite way, making it sound more like a suggestion than an order. For example, in one of our new videos Raquel uses haber de + infinitive repeatedly to share some entrepreneurial tips:
 

En primer lugar, hemos de definir nuestra estrategia.

In the first place, we have to define our strategy.

Caption 5, Raquel y Marisa - Español Para Negocios - Introducción

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Básicamente, en esta parte, hemos de definir qué vamos a publicar en cada red social.

Basically, in this part, we have to define what we are going to publish on each social network.

Captions 8-9, Raquel y Marisa - Español Para Negocios - Introducción

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Additionally, by using the first person plural, hemos, Raquel gives a subtle aura of consensus to her advice, which stresses the idea that even when she is using an imperative expression, she is not giving an order but rather sharing advice. If she were to use, for example, the second person, the expression would have a bit more pressing or demanding tone:
 

Lo primero que has de hacer al reservar en un restaurante es...

The first thing that you have to do upon reserving at a restaurant is...

Caption 3, Raquel - Reserva de Restaurante

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Here's another example with a twist, using negation:
 

Y no ha de faltarle nunca un sanconcho de ñato pa' rematar.

And you should never lack a snub-nosed fish stew to add the finishing touch.

Caption 14, Mary Grueso Romero - Platonera en la plaza del mercado

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You could also add the word uno (one), to talk impersonally. For example:

Uno ha de hacer aquello que desea.
One must do whatever one wants.

Incidentally, there is one Spanish imperative construction that only uses the impersonal form to express needs, obligations, or requirements in a more generalized way: hay + que infinitive.
 

¡Eres una víbora a la que hay que quitarle la ponzoña!

You're a snake from which it's necessary to remove the venom!

Caption 27, El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 7

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Or for everyday tasks at hand:
 

Pues hay que diseñar unos 'flyers'.

So, we have to design some flyers.

Caption 58, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 5

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On the other hand, to convey a higher grade or urgency, necessity, or imperativeness, the expressions tener + que + infinitive and deber + infinitive* come in handy. The difference between deber and tener is subtle: the use of deber confers a sense of duty or moral imperativeness to the expression, while tener is better suited to talk about more practical matters.

You can also use these constructions in an impersonal way, adding the word uno (one):
 

Ya, cuando a uno le toca ser papá, pues, uno tiene que reflexionar sobre eso.

Then, when it's time for one to be a dad, well, one has to reflect on that.

Caption 8, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 13

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[If you want to use the verb deber you would say: uno debe reflexionar (one must reflect)]

 

Or you can use the first person for more particular and pressing needs:
 

Ahora tenemos que hablar de precio.

Now we have to talk about price.

Caption 74, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 11

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[If you were to use the verb deberdebemos hablar de precio (we must talk about price)]

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*By the way, the use of deber de + infinitive in imperative statements (such as debes de comer, meaning "you must eat") is common but grammatically incorrect. The use of deber de + infinitive is correct when used to express probability. 

Apenas —Hardly, Just Only, and About to Happen

If you are at all familiar with the Spanish word apenas, the meaning that probably first comes to mind is "hardly" or "barely," as we find in the interview with Pablo Echarri:

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Pasó apenas un año o una cosa así, y...

Hardly a year or so passed, and...

Caption 15, Biografía - Pablo Echarri

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Apenas can also mean "just," as in "only." You may have picked this up when watching Shakira's latest tantalizing video, "Loba."
 

La vida me ha dado un hambre voraz y tú apenas me das caramelos

Life has given me a voracious hunger and you just give me candy

Caption 11, Shakira - Loba

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Our recent interview with illustrator Antonio Vargas brings us another use of apenas you might be less familiar with:
 

Este restaurante todavía no existe; apenas se va a hacer.

This restaurant doesn't exist yet; it is about to be built.

Caption 3, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ilustración

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When placed before a future tense phrase, apenas often conveys the message that the action is just about to happen, or is on the verge of happening.


Arturo Vega, the famous Ramones' lighting and logo designer, uses apenas this same way when he predicts the rise in popularity of Latin American rock bands.
 

Yo creo que apenas va a empezar.

I believe it's just about to start.

Caption 17, Arturo Vega - Entrevista

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Keep your eyes and ears open for still more interesting uses of apenas. We will, too, and bring them to you in future lessons.

 

Grammar

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