Spanish Lessons


That Fancy Spanish...

If you have spent some time learning and listening Spanish, you have probably noticed that many common Spanish words have cognates in the fancy English vocabulary. This happens because Spanish is a romance language, that is, a language that directly evolved from vulgar Latin (and was even later enriched with classic Latin during the Middle Ages when Spanish became a written language), while approximately only 29% of the English vocabulary comes from Latinate sources.


That's the reason why it's very common for a Spanish speaker to use verbs like estrangular (to choke) or canícula (dog days, midsummer heat) in everyday speech. In fact, similar words exist in English (to strangulate and canicule) but they are cultisms that are way too fancy to be used in everyday situations. On the other hand, and quite surprisingly, very often using these words is the only alternative you have to express something in Spanish. That's the case for estrangular (to strangulate, to choke) and canícula (dog days); really, there is no better, more common way to express such ideas in Spanish than using those words.

Words that are used to describe diseases and medical terms in Spanish are also great examples. In Spanish it's common to say (and make the distinction between) el oculista (oculist) and el optometrista (optometrist), while an expression like "el doctor de ojos" (the Eye doctor) may be understood, but sounds very much like toddler talking to Spanish speakers. And there are even stranger examples, some of which may sound like tongue twisters for you. Take for example the common otorrinolaringólogo (ear nose and throat doctor, otorhinolaryngologist). But let's try to find examples from our catalog.

In Spanish, the verb aliviar means either "to get better" or "to cure," or "to alleviate" and it's just as common as the verb curar (to cure). In English the verb to alleviate is much more fancy, and it's only used in certain contexts, usually very formal or written speech:

Estoy enfermo, espérense a que me alivie.

I'm sick; wait until I get better.

Caption 19, El Ausente - Acto 1

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The nouns cicatriz (scar) and cicatrización (scar healing) as well as the verb cicatrizar (to heal a scar) are common in Spanish, while "cicatrix," "to cicatrize" or "cicatrization" are less common in English:

Tiene la cicatriz, vivió en Misiones

He has the scar, he lived in Misiones

y tiene la misma sonrisa de Franco.

and he has the same smile as Franco.

Caption 16, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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The adjetives primordial  and esencial are both commonly used in Spanish, usually as synonyms. English, on its part, does have the word "primordial," but the use of "essential" is more common in everyday speech:

Es importante, primordial, muy necesario.

It's important, essential, very necessary.

Caption 3, Bersuit Vergarabat - EPK 

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Another example is the word subterráneo ("subterranean", but most commonly "underground"):

Contaminación de las aguas superficiales o subterráneas

Pollution of surface and underground waters

Caption 7, 3R - Campaña de reciclaje

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In Spanish the word docente is both an adjective meaning "teacher-related" and a noun that is synonymous with maestro (teacher). It's a common word in and it's used in many Spanish expressions. In contrast, the English word docent is far less common and, it has a slightly different meaning

Es más, es que no se entiende la labor docente de otra manera.

Moreover, the thing is that the teaching job should not be understood in any other way.

Caption 13, Club de las ideas - La motivación

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The list goes on and on. Let's see one more example. In Spanish it's common to use the noun equilibrio (balance) and the verb equilibrar (to balance), both words are just as common as balance (balance) and balancear ("to balance", but also "to swing"). In contrast, English reserves the use of "equilibrium" and "to equilibrate" for scientific or highbrow language.  



Tú eres todo lo que me equilibra.

You're everything that balances me.

Caption 28, Calle 13 - Un Beso De Desayuno

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A Useful Verb: Hacer

The Spanish verb hacer primarily means "to do" or "to make." This verb is used in a wide range of expressions, which makes it one of the most versatile verbs in Spanish. However, and maybe for the same reason, the meanings and uses of hacer are not always easy to grasp. The fact that this is an irregular verb doesn't make it any easier either. So, to successfully master the verb hacer, the first step would be to memorize its conjugation (the past tense is especially challenging). After that, we recommend that you study it using a case-by-case approach. Luckily, the use of hacer is extremely common, so our catalog of videos offers you plenty of examples. 


Let's quickly review the two basic meanings of the word hacer. The first meaning is "to make":

Vamos a hacer un arroz.

We're going to make rice.

Caption 74, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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The second basic meaning of hacer is "to do":

¿Y ahora qué hacemos?

And now what do we do?

Caption 12, Guillermina y Candelario - Una película de terror

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Keep in mind that these meanings of the verb hacer as "to do" or "to make" can be used in many different situations that don't necessarily correspond to the uses of "to make" and "to do" in English. For example, in Spanish you can use the verb hacer to say quiero hacer una llamada (I want to make a call), and hazme un favor (do me a favor). But you can also use it in expressions like me haces daño (you hurt me), and ella hizo una pregunta (she asked a question). Here's another example:

Tú me hiciste brujería.

You put a spell on me.

Caption 38, Calle 13 - Un Beso De Desayuno

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Hacer is also extensively used in Spanish to express time or duration. It can be used to express for how long you have been doing something:

Tengo veinte años y estoy hace dos años acá en Buenos Aires.

I'm twenty years old and I've been here in Buenos Aires for two years.

Caption 40, Buenos Aires - Heladería Cumelen

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Or to express the concept of "ago":

Hace unos días me olvidé la mochila en el tren.

A few days ago I forgot my backpack on the train.

Caption 22, Raquel - Oficina de objetos perdidos

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Hacer is also used in weather expressions:

Hoy hace tanto viento que casi me deja caer.

Today it is so windy that it almost makes me fall [over].

Caption 22, Clara explica - El tiempo

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And other impersonal expressions, such as hacer falta (to need/be lacking):

Se puede poner entero, no hace falta quitar corteza.

It can be put in whole; it's not necessary to remove the crust.

Caption 84, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli

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To indicate taking on a role:

Siempre quieres que haga el papel de villana.
You always want me to play the role of the villain.

Or to indicate that someone is pretending to be something: 

Digo si pasa algo con mi hijo, no te hagas la ingenua.

I'm saying if something is happening with my son, don't play dumb.

Caption 13, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro - Part 5

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The reflexive form hacerse is commonly used in this way in many expressions such as hacerse el loco (to pretend to be crazy), hacerse la mosquita muerta (to look as if butter wouldn't melt in one's mouth, literally "to pretend to be a dead fly"), hacerse el muerto (to play dead), etc. Here is another example:

Mira, no te hagas la viva.

Look, don't play smart.

Caption 3, Yago - 3 La foto

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Hacer can also express the idea of getting used to something:

No hacerme a la idea de que esto está bien

Not to get used to the idea that this is OK

Caption 32, Xóchitl - Vida en Monterrey

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Hacer is also used to express that something doesn't matter in expressions such as no le hace (it doesn't matter), or no hace al caso (it doesn't pertain to the matter). Or it can mean "to refer to": Por lo que hace al dinero, tú no te preocupes (Concerning money, you don't worry). The list of its possible uses goes on and on! Let's see one last use of hacer, which was sent to us by one of our subscribers:

The expression hacer caso means "to pay attention," "to obey," or "to believe":


Nada, hay que hacerle caso al médico.

No way, you have to pay attention to the doctor.

Caption 63, Yago - 8 Descubrimiento

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Hazme caso que tú eres perfecta.

Believe me that you are perfect.

Caption 58, Biografía - Enrique Iglesias

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Pero yo siempre, siempre, siempre le hago caso a Sor Cachete.

But I always, always, always, do as Sister Cachete says.

Caption 35, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro - Part 2

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Thank you for reading and sending your suggestions.


Using 'Si Clauses' as Part of a Question - Part 1

Using 'Si Clauses' as Part of a Question - Part 2


The conditional si (if) is used to express probability, possibility, wonder or conjecture in Spanish. One of the most common ways to use this conjunction is in the so called "si clauses," i.e. conditional sentences that have two parts: the condition, or si clause, and the main clause, which indicates what will happen if the condition of the si clause is met. Here is an example of a si clause in its classic form:

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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However, the use of si clauses in Spanish is very versatile. Not only are there several types of si clauses, but also several ways to actually use them in real speech. One notable example is the use of si clauses in questions. Let's review some examples:

In one of our newest videos, we hear a member of the Kikiriki crew using a si clause to make a proposal:

¿Y si nos conseguimos un abrigo de piel de jaguar

How about we get a jaguar fur coat

para que él piense que somos primos de él?

so that he thinks that we are cousins of his?

Captions 24-25, Kikirikí - Animales

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The use of the conjunction y (and) before the si clause in this type of question is very common, even when it's posible to get rid of it without altering its meaning:

Another common way to introduce a si clause in this type of question is using the phrase qué tal (how about):

Qué tal si yo me inyecto el pulgar en la boca

Maybe if I stick my thumb into my mouth

Caption 59, Calle 13 - Un Beso de Desayuno

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It's also very common to combine both the conjunction y (and) and the phrase qué tal (how about) to introduce the si clause:

¿Y qué tal si hablo así?

And what about if I speak like this?

Caption 14, Guillermina y Candelario - Una película de terror

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Of course, in the previous two examples, you could perfectly get away with not using the y (and) and qué tal (how about) introductions. But using them would definitely make your speech sound much more like that of a native speaker. 

In Spanish, there are even longer phrases that people use in order to introduce a si clause in a question. For example, you can use another question: qué les parece (what do you think):

¿Qué les parece si ahora que se acercan las fiestas navideñas,

Now that the Christmas holidays are coming up,

nos apuntamos a un servicio online... ?

how about signing up for an online service... ?

Captions 29-30, Tecnópolis - Empresas del mar en Almería

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Finally, we want to share an interesting substitution of the conditional si (if) for the word tal (such), which you may hear in Colombia and other South American countries:


Entonces, qué tal que nosotros le llevemos un concierto.

Therefore, how about we take a concert to them.

Caption 14, Festivaliando - Mono Núñez

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¿Y qué tal si continúas aprendiendo español con uno de nuestros nuevos videos(And how about you continue learning Spanish with one of our new videos?)

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