Spanish Lessons


The Spanish Verb Decir

The verb decir (to say, to tell) is very common in Spanish. Let’s learn how to use it.
One of the most commonly used forms of this verb is digo (I say):

Pero si yo digo: Yo voy en el autobús y usted va en el coche,

But if I say: I am going in the bus and you [formal] are going on the car,

Captions 49-51, Fundamentos del Español - 6 - Tú y Usted

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The verb decir is frequently followed by the word que (that):

Yo digo que la fruta es para comerla no para hacerse una fotografía con ella.

I say that fruit is to eat it not to take a picture with it.

Caption 48, Los Reporteros - Sembrar, comer, tirar - Part 2

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Also remember that in Spanish you don't always need to use personal pronouns before verbs, since these are conjugated differently for each person:

Pues entonces rejuvenece coger castañas. -Digo que sí.

Well then, it rejuvenates to pick chestnuts. -I say so.

Captions 18-19, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 4

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Another common instance of the verb decir is dice (he/she/it says). The reason why dice is very useful is because it helps us talk about what we read or hear. For example:
Hay un letrero en la puerta que dice que ya está cerrado | There's a sign on the door sayingit's closed already.
El mensaje dice que viene una gran tormenta | The message says a big storm is coming.
Mayra dice que te tienes que ir | Mayra says you have to go.
We mentioned before that it’s very common to omit personal pronouns before verbs in Spanish. But you will find that the verb decir is frequently preceded by reflexive, direct, or indirect object pronouns (me, te, se, nos, os, le, les, la, las, lo) depending on what is being said and to whom. For example:

¿Quién nos dice que la vida nos dará el tiempo necesario?

Who says [to us] life will give us the necessary time?

Caption 11, Julieta Venegas - El Presente

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Supongamos que un amigo me dice lo siguiente:

Let's imagine that a friend tells me the following:

Caption 44, Carlos explica - Diminutivos y Aumentativos Cap 2: Definiciones generales

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It's also important to remember how pronouns are combined when using this verb. You must place reflexive or indirect object pronouns first, and then direct object pronouns right next to the verb. In the following example te replaces an indirect object (you) and lo (it) replaces a direct object:

Te lo digo de corazón.

I tell [it to] you from the heart.

Caption 25, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor

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The past tense dijo (he/she/it said) is another useful form of this verb. For example, you can use it to talk about what someone told you in the past. The expression me lo dijo (he/she/it told it to me) is worth learning:

¡Es verdad, pana, mi hermano me lo dijo!

It's true, pal, my brother told it to me!

Caption 45, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 3

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No le digas (don’t tell him/her) and no me digas (don’t tell me) are  also useful:

¡No le digas, Candelario!

Don't tell him, Candelario!

Caption 14, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes

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Another fixed expression is se dice (it's said, one says), which is equivalent to dice la gente(people say):

Bueno y se dice que la mujer tiene un sexto sentido

Well, and one says that a woman has a sixth sense

Caption 16, Club de las ideas - Intuición - Part 1

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The same phrase, se dice, can also be used to talk about the correct pronunciation of a word, or its meaning in a different language. For example:
Buenos días se dice "bonjour" en Francés | "Bonjour" is good morning in French.
No se dice "soy contento", se dice "estoy contento" | You don't say "soy contento," you say "estoy contento" (I'm happy).
You can find many more examples of the verb decir in our catalog. You just need to type the form of the verb that you want to practice in the search tool to start learning real Spanish from real speakers in real situations!

¿Qué Pasa? - What Happens with This Verb

Hola. ¿Qué pasa?

Now let's get started by looking at "pasar" -- a verb with many meanings. Here are some examples:

Hola. ¿Qué pasa? ¿Y qué te pasó?
Hi. What's up? [used as a common greeting] And what happened to you?

Pásame la sal.
Pass me the salt.

Vilma pasó veinte minutos buscando las llaves.
Vilma spent twenty minutes looking for the keys.

Él es muy cuidadoso al pasar la calle.
He is very careful crossing the street.


As you can see from our examples, "pasar" can mean "to happen" or "to occur." It can also express the passage of an object (like salt), the passage of time (like 20 minutes) or the passage from one place to another (e.g., across the street).

In the first part of our documentary about singer Alejandro Fernández, we hear a reflexive version of the verb pasar:


Alejandro te pasaste.

Alejandro you've outdone yourself.

Caption 3, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor

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At first glance, a native English speaker might try to translate this as "Alejandro, you've passed yourself," which obviously isn't quite right. However, if we modify this attempt slightly, we get "you've surpassed yourself," which has the same meaning as what we went with,  "you've outdone yourself."

The sentiment here is positive; Alejandandro has done an excellent job on his new album. However, it's interesting to note that pasarse is probably most often used to indicate the negative sentiment of "going too far," either literally:

Nos hemos pasado, el teatro está más arriba.
We've gone too far, the theater isn't this far down.

or figuratively:

Esta vez te has pasado, voy a llamar a tu mamá.
This time you've gone too far, I'm going to call your mother.

In English, another way of expressing "to go too far" is "to cross the line." The same is true 
in Spanish, where we find pasarse (de la raya). The de la raya portion of the phrase can be stated explicitly or omitted, in which case its meaning is implicitly understood. For example:

Me pasé (de la raya) al intentar besarla en los labios.
I went too far (crossed the line) when I tried to kiss her on the lips.

Las gasolineras se pasan (de la raya) con esos precios tan altos.
The gas stations are crossing the line with such high prices.

¡No te pases (de la raya)!
Don't cross the line! (Stay in check; control yourself.)


But all this negativity aside, in our video, "te pasaste" is clearly a compliment. Tone and context clue us in. It's similar in English when you say: "You've outdone yourself this time!," and, depending on your tone of voice and the context, such a statement can be taken as an insult or as praise.  We'll take that as a compliment.


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Porqué: The Reasons

No se tenía porqué poner zapatos.

There was no need to wear shoes.

Caption 30, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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In this space, just two weeks ago, we discussed que ("that") and ¿qué? ("what?"), porque ("because") and ¿por qué? ("why?"). In these instances, the accent over the é turned a conjunction into an interrogation.

This week, the affable archaeologist Federico Kauffman Doig reminds us of another porqué, which is a noun that means the reason, cause or motive for something. Because it's a noun, porqué has a gender – masculine – and is often preceded by a definite (el, los) or indefinite article (un, unos).



Nadie sabe [el] porqué de su abandono.

Nobody knows the reason for its abandonment.

Caption 39, Querido México - Teotihuacán

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Escuchar esta música en la voz de Alejandro nos hace recordar el porqué hacemos esto.

Listening to this music in Alejandro's voice makes us remember why (the reason) we do this.

Captions 12-13, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor

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Los porqués son...
The reasons are...
Un porqué

A reason for....


So, take this hint if you want to ace a Spanish spelling bee (un concurso de deletreo): If porqué is used as a noun, it's always one word and has an accent over its é.


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