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Valentine's Day in Spanish: Vocabulary and Traditions

In preparation for El Día de San Valentín (Valentine's Day), let's listen to several pertinent clips from the Yabla Spanish video library... and learn some vocabulary in the process!

 

Aunque no crean, existe el amor a primera vista

Believe it or not, love at first sight does exist.

Caption 56, El reencuentro Las amigas hablan del trabajo y el amor.

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Cupido vuelve a apuntar con su flecha

Cupid aims with his arrow again

Caption 5, Tito El Bambino Llueve el amor

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Mande a pedir un ramo de doce rosas rojas

Order a bouquet of twelve red roses,

Caption 45, Programación de oficina El dictado del jefe

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Chocolate Perfección: el chocolate para enamorados.

"Chocolate Perfección": the chocolate for lovers.

Captions 43-44, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 5: Ha nacido una estrella - Part 2

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Valentine's Day in North America 

The captions above include some common themes and traditions of Valentine's Day in North America, which is meant to  festejar el amor  (celebrate love) for romantic partners and family members, and, increasingly, to show appreciation for friends. Typical ways of doing so include  intercambiar regalos (exchanging gifts) and tarjetas de San Valentín  (valentines), mandar flores (sending flowers), most typically rosas rojas (red roses), giving cajas de chocolate en forma de corazón (heart-shaped boxes of chocolate), and planning special citas (dates), such as salir a cenar (going out to dinner). Valentine's Day in North America is celebrated on el catorce de febrero (February fourteenth).

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Valentine's Day in the Spanish-Speaking World

Valentine's Day is celebrated in a similar fashion on the same day in many Spanish speaking countries, with varying degrees of popularity. In addition to El Día de San Valentín, many countries refer to this holiday as El Día del Amor y la Amistad (Love and Friendship Day) or El Día de los Enamorados (Lovers' Day), while some use these terms interchangeably. And Guatemala has a unique name: El Día del Cariño (Affection Day).

 

Many Valentine's costumbres (traditions) in the Spanish-speaking world overlap with North American ones:

 

La floristería. ¿Sí? Es una tienda donde la gente compra flores, plantas, ¿sí? Por ejemplo, para cumpleaños, o para... en... en primavera, o para el Día de los Enamorados, por ejemplo.

The florist. Right? It's a store where people buy flowers, plants, right? For example, for birthdays, or for... in... in spring, or for Valentine's Day, for example.

Captions 3-6, Curso de español Tiendas y edificios públicos en la ciudad

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However, there are some differences. In Chile, las orquídeas (orchids) are the flowers of love rather than roses. And some countries, like the Dominican Republic, have the tradition of a game called Amigo secreto (Secret Friend) or Angelito (Little Angel) among friends or colleagues, which is similar to the idea of Secret Santa. 

 

Valentine's Day Alternatives

Some countries celebrate their Valentine's Day on a different date, while others commemorate both February 14th and additional love and friendship holidays. 

 

Colombia's El Día del Amor y la Amistad falls on the third Saturday in September, while Argentina's La Semana de la Dulzura (Sweetness Week), where amigos (friends) and amantes (lovers) exchange chocolate and other dulces (sweets), lasts from June 1st through 7th. Argentinians also recognize El Día del Amigo (Friend Day) on July 20th, whereas Mexico has its El Día Internacional de la Amistad (International Friendship Day) on August 30th. Additional romantic holidays include El Día del Estudiante, de la Juventud, de la Primavera, y del Amor (The Day of the Student, Youth, Spring, and Love) on September 21st in Bolivia and El Día de San Jorge (Saint George's Day) in Catalonia on April 23rd, where red roses are traditionally gifted to women and books to men. On El Día de San Dionisio (Saint Dionysius Day) in Valencia on October 9th, the gift of choice is the Spanish sweet mazapán (marzipan) wrapped in a pañuelo (handkerchief).

 

Valentine's Day Verbs

Now that we know about various international Valentine's-like festivities, let's learn some romantic Spanish vocabulary, starting with some verbs:

 

abrazar: to hug/embrace

acurrucar: to cuddle 

adorar: to adore/love

amar: to love

besar: to kiss 

coquetear: to flirt 

casarse: to marry/get married

enamorarse: to fall in love

encantar: to [cause] love

gustar: to [cause someone to] like 

querer: to like/love

 

Related to these words are, of course, essential Valentine's Day nouns like  el beso (the kiss) and el abrazo (the hug) and adjectives like enamorado/a (in love). Let's hear a few of these words in action:

 

Me quiero casar con ella. Estoy enamorado, ¿eh?

I want to marry her. I'm in love, huh?

Caption 59, Muñeca Brava 2 Venganza - Part 9

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¿Y no te alcanza el tiempo para coquetear con cierto chico... rubio, guapo, encantador?

And don't you have enough time to flirt with a certain guy... blond, handsome, charming?

Captions 116-117, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 10

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Siento que cada día te quiero más

I feel that each day I love you more

Caption 27, Alberto Barros Mano a mano

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Since the subtle differences between the different "love" verbs can seem a bit confusing for English speakers, we recommend our lessons on three different ways to express love in Spanish and Amar y Querer. And, since the way that verbs like gustar and encantar  work can feel a bit counterintuitive, we recommend this two-part lesson on Querer vs. "To Like": A Difference in Perception.

 

Terms of Endearment

Let's conclude today's lesson with some ways to refer affectionately to your romantic partner, although you might additionally hear many of them used among friends. While we will provide their literal translations below, many of them can be used similarly to the way that the terms "honey," "dear" or "sweetie" are used in English. 

 

Amor: love

Cariño: affection

Corazón: heart

Mi cielo: my sky

Mi rey/reina: my king/queen

Mi vida: my life

Querido/querida: dear

 

Let's hear a few of these in action:

 

y te mando un beso, corazón.

and I send you a kiss, sweetheart.

Caption 11, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 7

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Dame un beso. -¿De verdad, mi cielo?

Give me a kiss. -Really, my dear?

Caption 64, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 3

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¡Mi reina! Mi amor, cómo te extrañé. -Hola, yo también.

My queen! My love, how I missed you. -Hello, me too.

Captions 1-2, Yago 6 Mentiras - Part 2

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And remember that while gordo/a literally means "fat" or "fatty," it is also used as a term of endearment in some Latin American countries (although we definitely don't recommend employing it's English equivalent!).

 

Ay, gordo, muchísimas gracias por haber estado aquí. -A ti por invitarme.

Oh, honey, thank you very much for having been here. -To you for inviting me.

Caption 13, Club 10 Capítulo 2 - Part 4

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We hope that this lesson rife with Valentine's Day vocabulary has been useful to you, and  ¡Feliz Día de San Valentín (Happy Valentine's Day)! And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

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Getting Impersonal

An impersonal statement is one that has no determinate subject. In English you'll hear impersonal expressions like "you shouldn't point your finger at people" or "one would think the airlines would have to close down." 

Spanish has a different way to express the impersonal voice, though. To make general statements Spanish adds the pronoun se in front of verbs. Let's see some examples:

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 In the new episode of Yago - Pasión Morena we hear a distressed Yago stating a very basic and general principle indeed:

 

No se mata lo que se ama.

You don't kill what you love.

Caption 25, Yago - 11 Prisión

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Of course, to express this idea in Spanish you can also do as in English and simply conjugate the verb in the second person:

No matas lo que amas.
You don't kill what you love.

However, in Spanish the use of se is much more common, expressive and emphatic.

Actually, in Spanish it's also possible to use the word uno (one) instead. In this case you must use the third person:

Uno no mata lo que ama.
One shouldn't kill what ones loves.

Here are another two examples from our catalog, both using the verb decir (to 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

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Bananas, o ¿cómo se dice en España?

Bananas, or how do you say it in Spain?

Caption 39, Curso de español - Tiendas y edificios públicos en la ciudad

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And then with the verb hacer (to do, to make):

 

...s' se hace como un... té.

...o' one makes like a... tea.

Caption 12, Recetas - Capirotada

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Take note, both the Spanish impersonal and singular passive voice use the same construction. You can clearly see it by comparing the above example with the following one using the same verb hacer (to do, to make):
 

¿Esto se hace en otros puntos de... de Europa?

Is this done in other parts of... of Europe?

Caption 59, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 13

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Luckily, being able to make this distinction is really not that relevant because the difference is mostly just grammatical. For example, for practical purposes, you could also interpret this example as a case of the impersonal and translate it as, "Do you do this in other parts of... of Europe?"

Finally, note that Spanish also uses the plural to express impersonal ideas. In this case, however, you don't need to use the pronoun se, you only use the third-person plural ellos (they).
 

Y el futuro que vendrá, dicen que pende de un hilo

And the future that will come, they say that it hangs by a thread

Caption 79, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 2

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The beautiful thing about the Spanish plural impersonal is that it doesn't use the pronoun ellos (they)—just the verb conjugated in the third-person plural dicen (they say). In fact, in Spanish it can't be impersonal at all if you include the pronoun, if you actually say ellos dicen (they say). If the same example were to include the pronoun ellos (them), then it would mean that the subject is actually known from context. Check out the modified version of the previous example to which we added one of many possible contexts in brackets:

[Los dioses llegaron en sus naves blandas.Y el futuro que vendrá, dicen ellos que pende de un hilo.
[The gods arrived in their soft vessels.] And the future that will come, they say that it hangs by a thread.

The plural impersonal is used a lot to spread gossip when combined with the verbs decir (to say), contar (to tell), etc.
 

Dicen que nadie puede seguirte el tren

They say nobody can keep up with you

Caption 14, Bahiano - Oyelo

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Or popular knowledge:

 

Dicen que si los sueños se cuentan

They say that if you tell your dreams,

después no se cumplen, loco.

then they won't come true, dude.

Caption 43, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta

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Grammar

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