Spanish Lessons


Ya: That's It, Enough Already!

Y ahí, bueno, pienso que con eso colaboro para mi país. Con eso... y ya.

And so, well, I think I'm helping my country like this. Like that... and that's it.

Captions 36-38, Patricia Marti - Perspectiva Política

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In Spanish, ya is an adverb that packs a lot of meanings. It most commonly means "already" and "now." In informal, everyday speech, it's best understood in the context. For example, in a busy café, a waiter might ask you and your friend:


¿Ya pidieron?
Did you all order already?

No, no tenemos la carta todavía
No, we don't have the menu yet

Ya se la traigo
I'll bring it to you now


Note that fellow adverb todavía means "yet" or "still". But getting back to ya, here are two phrases you're sure to come across often:


Ya es la hora = "It's time [already/now ]."
Ya está = "It's here [already/now]."

Our interview subject ends the interview with a shrug and a "y ya," which is her way of telling us "enough already," or "that's it."

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Anoche: Last Night

In the music video A Casa by Javier Garcia, take a look at two lines of the catchy refrain:


Anoche fue muy fuerte...

Last night was very tough...

Caption 7, Javier García - A Casa

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La noche fue muy fuerte...

The night was very tough...

Caption 11, Javier García - A Casa

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Note that anoche means "last night." Some non-native Spanish speakers think they should say 'la noche pasada,' but that would be akin to saying "the day before today" when you mean simply "yesterday" in English. So listen closely to distinguish 'la noche' -meaning, more generically, "the night"- from 'anoche' -meaning "last night"- as in this week's featured song.

Here are some more useful Spanish terms for the past:


Dígame... Eh Padre, ¿se acuerda de esa chica que estábamos hablando ayer?

Tell me... Um, Father, do you remember that girl that we were talking about yesterday?

Caption 12, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 2

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Ayer = "Yesterday"
Anteayer = "The day before yesterday"


You'll note ante means "before," and so anteayer is really just a contraction of "[the day] before yesterday." Following the logic, can you guess what anteanoche means? Yup, "the night before last." (Isn't it convenient to have one Spanish word when in English we require four?)

Moving from days to weeks and years, the rules change a little. You see, there's no single word that means "last week." Instead, you have to say: '
la semana pasada.' And to say "last year," use el año pasado. But there is a word that means "yesteryear": It's antaño. Like "yesteryear" in English, antaño in Spanish refers to "times past"--not necessarily last year.

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Llevar: Shades of Time

Meanwhile, in New York City, we catch up with Skampida's Gustavo and David on camera. They tell us what they've been up to:


Llevamos cuatro meses en New York City.

We've been in New York City for four months.

Caption 7, Skampida - Gustavo y David

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Bueno la... la banda ha estado... llevamos ocho años tocando y...

Well the... the band has been... we've been playing for eight years and...

Caption 12, Skampida - Gustavo y David

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You probaby know that the verb llevar means "to carry." But it has many other shades of meaning, one of which indicates the passage of time. Here are a couple more examples of llevar in this context:


¿Cuánto tiempo llevas aquí?

How long have you been here? 

Llevo seis horas esperando.

I've been waiting six hours.


Note that you could substitute "haber estado," as in "to have been," to arrive at approximately the same meaning as llevar.


El niño se daba cuenta que por haber estado agachado tanto tiempo.

The boy realized that as the result of having been bent over for so long.

Caption 36, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8 - Part 1

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Solía: Used To

In the new music video posted this week, the diction is very clear, but the meaning...? Well, Mexican pop band Molotov tends towards the surreal in this song about turning into a Martian (marciano). Once you listen carefully, and realize the lyrics are as goofy as the dance moves on your screen, you'll learn some very useful Spanish vocabulary.


For starters, take a look at the third line of the song:


No es el cuerpo marrano que solía tener...

It's not the fat body I used to have...

Caption 5, Molotov - Marciano

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Solía is from the verb soler, which means, in the present infinitive, "to usually do" or "to be accustomed to." But in the past tense -as in the caption above- it has a simpler English translation: "used to."

Here's the trick: Soler in the present or past tense is always followed by another verb in the infinitive. Compare these two similar sentences:

En verano, suelo ir a la playa.
In summer, I usually go to the beach.
Or: In summer, I tend to go to the beach.

Cuando era niño, solía ir a la playa (tense = past)
When I was a boy, I used to go to the beach.



And what about in the future or in the conditional tenses? Well, soler doesn't have a future or a conditional tense. That puts the word in a category of verbs that are not fully conjugated, known as "defective verbs." Other examples of defective verbs in Spanish include llover--"to rain"--and amanecer--"to dawn." (Click here for more.)

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Acatar: A Very Obedient Verb

No acato límites.

I don't obey limits.

Caption 33, Babasónicos - Carismático

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The verb acatar means "to respect," "to observe," "to comply with" or "to defer to." For the lyrics quoted above, we translate: "I don't obey limits."

Here are some other examples of the verb in context:

Deben acatar la ley.
They ought to follow the law.

El gobierno acata la decision final.
The government respects the final decision.



Acatar is conjugated the same way as hablar. In other words, it follows the rules (acata las reglas) of a regular -ar verb.

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Pendejo: A Kid or an Insult

In this week's new videos, Argentine movie and TV star, Pablo Echarri, tells us about when he was a kid:


Y yo me recuerdo que de pendejo en la escuela me llamaban continuamente.

And I remember when I was a kid in school I was called constantly.

Captions 17-18, Biografía - Pablo Echarri - Part 4

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Here is another example. This time from the Argentinian telenovela Verano Eterno.


Mirá pendejo, no me jodas porque estoy de mal humor.

Look jerk, don't piss me off because I'm in a bad mood.

Captions 3-4, Verano Eterno - Fiesta Grande - Part 8

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A word of warning here: In Argentina and Uruguay, the word pendejo is a benign, if slangy, synonym for muchacho meaning "kid, youth or teen." But you couldn't use pendejo in the same way in Mexico or parts of Central America and get away with it. There, pendejo is a crude profanity that you should read about in Wikipedia's write-up under Spanish profanity or this etymology discussion.

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Otro: Another Common Mistake

Otro is a simple word in Spanish that looks and sounds like its English equivalent, "other" or "another." But with this ease of recognition and use, many non-native speakers misuse otro by adding an article where it doesn't belong.



Here's a tricky question. How do you say "another" in Spanish — as in, "I'll have another (beer)"?

Answer: "Tomaré otra (cerveza)."


Note that it's NOT: una otra or un otro. That's wrong. It would be like saying "an another" in English.


In an episode of the documentary series 75 minutos, we find the following clip:


Yo tengo lo que me pertenece a la de... de la custodia: un fin de semana sí y otro no.

I have what belongs to me to the... from the custody: one weekend yes and the other, no.

Captions 13-14, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 17

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Note once again that otro in Spanish doesn't require the article that "other" does in English.


The time to use a definite article before otro is when we need to distinguish between "another" and "the other" if, indeed, the distinction needs to be made:


Otro día =  "Another day"

El otro día = "The other day"


So, if you add an article before otro(a), make sure it's a definite article (el or la) and not an indefinite one (un or una):


¡Hola! -La otra socia. -Sí. -La otra.

Hello! -The other partner. -Yes. -The other one.

Caption 16, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 8

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And finally, don't forget about otra vez, a very useful expression that you can use when you want to say 'another time' or 'once again.'


That's it for today. Did you like this little reminder? Please send us your comments, questions, and suggestions

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A finales de: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

Nos encontramos aquí en Adícora desde enero... desde el nueve de enero,

We are here in Adícora since January... since January ninth,

y terminamos nuestro trabajo de grado en abril, a finales de abril.

and we'll finish our thesis in April, at the end of April.

Captions 18-22, Patricia Marti - Estudios Médicos - Part 1

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With all Patricia's talk of school requirements, you could be forgiven for initially thinking 'a finales de abril' referred to her final exams. But the phrase actually means "at the end of April" or "around the end of April." And so, the quote cited above is translated as: "....and we'll finish our thesis in April, at the end of April."

If Patricia's project were to be delayed, she might say:

...terminamos nuestro trabajo de grado a principios de mayo
or even:
...terminamos nuestro trabajo de grado a mediados de mayo

As you probably guessed, those two phrases above mean "around the beginning of May" and "around the middle of May" respectively.



If she wanted to be even more vague, Patricia could also use the common phrase a mediados de año which means "around the middle of the year." As an adjective, mediado(a) means "half-full" or "half-empty," depending on how you look at it.


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Tener que ver con: What's Sight Got to Do with It?


Aplicarle la palabra "solidario" a las finanzas tiene que ver con que todo el mundo pueda acceder a ese... elemento de intermediación que es el dinero para poder hacer lo que de verdad importa ¿no?

Applying the word "solidarity" to finance has to do with everybody being able to access that... element of intermediation, which is money, to be able to do what's really important, no?

Captions 51-54, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 6

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There are some complicated thoughts being expressed in this short film about the social consequences of consumerism. The number of verbs in the above quote alone could make your head spin. But here we want to home in on just two of those verbs, joined together in a common phrase: tener que ver.

In Spanish, tiene que ver con means, basically, "has to do with" or "got to do with" in English. But, of course, ver means "to see" and not "to do" (that's hacer). That's just the way it is.


En este cuadro, represento a Bachué, que tiene que ver con la cultura muisca de las montañas en Colombia.

In this painting, I represent Bachué, who has to do with the Muiscan culture from the mountains in Colombia.

Captions 16-17, Beatriz Noguera - Exposición de Arte

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¿Y eso qué tiene que ver?
What's that got to do with it? [Or, more simply:] So what?

No tiene nada que ver. 
It's got nothing to do with it.

One of the points that comes across loud and clear in the film De consumidor a person
 is that a lot of social issues have to do with $money$ (el dinero). Eso es la verdad. ("That's the truth.")

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Solo: Only Alone

Solo and sólo... Are you still confused about when to write this word with or without a graphic accent? If you still don't know how to go about it, we have some good news for you: the word solo doesn't need an accent... ever! Although the rule has already been in place for quite a few years, there are many people who are not aware it.


The old rule: sólo vs. solo

Before the Real Academia Española (RAE) decided that the word solo didn't need a graphic accent, the old rule used to work like this:


Sólo is an adverb meaning "only," "solely" or "just" — the same as solamente. In fact, sólo and solamente can be used interchangeably. A speaker (or singer) can decide which sounds better in any given sentence.

On the other hand, solo without an accent mark is an adjective meaning "alone," "on one's own" or "sole." Solo describes a lone man or a masculine object--for example, un café solo is "a black coffee". For a woman, the adjective is sola. "¿Estás sola?" (are you alone?) is a simple, direct pick-up line.


Today's rule: just one solo for "only" and "alone"

Whether you are using solo as an adjective or as an adverb, the word solo doesn't need the graphic accent. 


Solo as an adjective meaning "alone":

Muy raro que un agente, solo... solo, le caiga a un carro con placas diplomáticas.

Really weird that an agent, alone... alone, drops on a car with diplomatic plates.

Captions 33-34, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 3 - Part 2

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Solo as an adverb meaning "only":

Solo yo sé lo que sufrí

Only I know what I suffered

Caption 2, Alejandra Guzmán - Porque no estás aquí

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That's it for this lesson. Keep in mind this "update" and don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.


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Cómo No: Of Course (It's a Piece of Cake!)

Dicen que no se puede cambiar... pues, ¡cómo no! si se llevan la tajada más grande del pastel.

They say it can't change... well, of course! if they take the biggest piece of the cake.

Captions 3-4, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - Publicidad de TV - Part 2

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The setup line here, Dicen que no se puede cambiar, translates to:

"They say that things can't change."

Then we have the simple phrase
¡cómo no!, which is translated as "of course!" Taking it word by word, cómo (with an accent over the first ó) means "how," and no means "no" or "not." But "how not!" is not quite as straightforward as the simple "of course!" in our translation. Context can be most helpful here. So, ask just about any soccer (fútbol) fan if they'll be watching the World Cup finals on Sunday and the reply in Spanish is the same: ¡Cómo no! / ("Of course!")

Next comes,
si se llevan la tajada más grande del pastel, or "if they take the biggest piece of the cake." Note that the phrase la tajada más grande del pastel can also be phrased el trozo más grande de la tarta.

You see, both pastel and tarta mean "cake." At the same time, both trozo and tajada mean "slice" or "piece." And your choices don't end there: Another way to say "a piece" or "a bit" is un pedazo, but that's not necessarily culinary. It's often used in the sense of "to fall to pieces" (caerse a pedazos). Meanwhile, una porción is commonly "a portion" but it can also mean "a slice" as in, una porción de pizza.



Got all that? Don't worry if you don't find it's "a piece of cake," which, incidentally, is expressed in Spanish as no está chupado or, no es pan comido.


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Buena Lid: Fair Fight

The votes are in and the official count is over. But the presidential election in Mexico may still be less than finished. The more left-leaning of the top two candidates, López Obrador lost by a hair (according to Mexico's election authority), but he's not admitting defeat and demands a painstaking recount. In this video footage, shot before the ballot counting began, the candidate says confidently:


Vamos a ganar de manera limpia, pacífica, en buena lid...

We're going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight...

Captions 27-28, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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Make a vocabulary note that lid in Spanish means "fight" or "combat." Meanwhile, "en buena lid" is a common expression (in some parts) that means "in a fair fight" or, more figuratively, "fair and square." So the phrase above gives us:
"We are going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight..."

The expression does not necessarily mean "a good fight," in the sense of it being close or fun to watch, but the election in Mexico has turned into just that.



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Lograr: Achieve Success

Porque sabíamos que teníamos que ganar la batalla con la gente y tengo la satisfacción de que logramos cambiar la opinión.

Because we knew we had to win the battle along with people and I've got the satisfaction that we succeeded to change opinion.

Captions 31-32, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 3

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Did you have the feeling that former energy minister and presidential rival Felipe Calderón has accomplished a lot by watching this video? It might be the repetition of the verb lograr that left that impression. In this week's video from Calderón's publicity campaign, there are six--or is that seven?--appearances of the verb lograr--which means "to achieve," "to obtain" or "to succeed in."

In the quote sited above, we translate: "I've got the satisfaction that we succeeded to changing opinion..."

Here's another one:


Esa pasión por México tiene que sacarnos adelante, nos va a sacar adelante si logramos canalizarla bien.

That passion for Mexico has to make us prosper, it will make us prosper if we can channel it correctly.

Captions 82-83, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 3

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We'll know soon if Calderón succeeds in overcoming his biggest challenge yet.

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Tocar: The Turn's Turn.

¡Ahora nos toca a nosotros!

Now it's our turn!

Caption 12, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - Publicidad de TV

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The campaign ads running on Mexican TV reflect the candidates' different styles. In one ad supporting Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, a group of Mexicans say in unison: ¡Ahora nos toca a nosotros! ("Now it's our turn!").

The verb tocar means many things in Spanish. "To touch" and "to achieve by chance/fortune" are two definitions we discussed
a few weeks ago. But here the verb has a different meaning. Tocar a alguien can mean "it's somebody's turn" or "it's up to somebody." So, me toca means "it's my turn" and nos toca means "it's our turn." And, for added emphasis and clarity, nos toca a nosotros also means "it's our turn".

 Here's another example that's always appropriate for an election:

A ti te toca decidir.
It's up to you to decide.



The fact is: There are many more uses of the verb tocar than there are candidates in this hotly contested campaign. The authoritative dictionary from the Real Academia Española contains more than 30 entries for tocar. It's one of the few words that can fit any political purpose.

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Valer la Pena and Probar: Trying To Be Worthwhile

Vale la pena explicar que en estos trabajos... este, hemos tratado lo más posible de no dañar la ecología.

It's worth explaining that in these jobs... well, we've tried to do everything possible not to damage ecology.

Captions 1-3, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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Venezuelan artisan Javier Marin tells us right away that he and his fellow jewelry makers are not damaging sea creatures when they make their pretty shell necklaces to sell on the beach. In this video clip, Javier's opening sentence begins: Vale la pena explicar que... A literal translation might begin: "It's worth the trouble to explain that..." Or, more simply: "It's worth explaining that..." 


Vale la pena recordar la frase "vale la pena"

It's worthwhile remembering the phrase "vale la pena"


Later in the same sentence, we translate: "... we have tried to do everything possible not to damage the ecology." The verb tratar can mean "to treat" or "to try [to do something]" / [de hacer algo]. But note that there's another way to say "to try" in Spanish: probar. Here's how to differentiate the two:


Probar usually means "to try" in the sense of "to taste" or "to test." To try on clothing in a store, you use the reflexive probarse [probarse la ropa en una tienda]. 


Ay, no sé cómo detener esta máquina, voy a probar con el botón azul.

Oh, I don´t know how to stop this machine, I'll to try pressing the blue button.


Tratar [de] is usually used more in the sense of "to intend to" or "to attempt to." For example:


Tratamos de explicar el sentido de la palabra.

We tried to explain the sense of the word.


Es bastante testarudo pero igual voy a tratar de convencerlo.

He is quite stubborn but still I'll try to persuade him.


Of course, tratar means "to treat" too:


Cada vez que vamos a visitarlos nos tratan como reyes / nos tratan de maravillas.

Every time we go to visit them, they treat us as royalty / they treat us wonderfully.



 And tratar [con] "to deal [with]". For example:


No quiero ni tratar con esa clase de gente.

I don't even want to deal with those people.


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Culei: Slang for the Worst

Vota por la opción que más te gusta, o por la menos culei.

Vote for the option you like the most, or for the least bad.

Captions 14-15, Tu Rock es Votar - Comercial de TV

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Tu Rock es Votar speaks directly to Mexico's youth in the language they understand. Problem is, Spanish dictionaries don't contain every example of youthful Mexican street slang. Case in point: culei. To understand this word, a native speaker from México is going to be more helpful than your average dictionary. So we asked our friends on the ground to translate, and we learned that culei is a Mexican variation of the slang word culero, which has many, colorful meanings--basically, malo ("bad") or gacho (Mexican for "nasty" or "ugly"). Trolling around the web, we also found culei linked to the brand name Kool-Aid -as in the Technicolored, artificial fruit beverage. Their pronunciations are almost identical--save the final "d." Without sweating the details of the origins of the slang too much, we bring you the translation:

"Vote for the option that you like most, or for the least bad."



Sounds like the U.S.'s last "Rock the Vote" campaign, which acknowledged the youth vote's antipathy or even disgust with available election candidates.

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Requerir, Carecer: Meaning Needed, Meaning Lacking

We begin this cortometraje ("short film") about the dangers of unventilated cooking in Peru with the basic needs of man.


Desde que el hombre apareció como tal sobre la faz de la Tierra... ha requerido, y por cierto, aún requiere, de diversas fuentes de energía que le sirvan de combustible.

Since man appeared as such on the surface of the Earth... he has required, and in fact, still requires, diverse sources of energy to be used as fuel.

Captions 1-5, Cocinas Peruanas - Short Film

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Above, the verb requerir ("to require" or "to need") is followed by the preposition de. This is common only in Latin America, notes HarperCollins' Spanish Unabridged Dictionary. Meanwhile, the Spanish spoken in Spain for the most part uses requerir as a transitive verb followed by a direct object, meaning no preposition is requerido ("required"). For example, in Spain you'd likely hear:

Esto requiere cierto cuidado.
This requires some care.

A little later in the short film, we encounter a verb that's always followed by de and then an indirect object: 


...en especial la rural, los utiliza para cocinar en sus viviendas, las mismas que, en su mayoría, carecen de ventilación.

...especially rural population, use them to cook in their houses, houses which mostly lack ventilation.

Captions 11-12, Cocinas Peruanas - Short Film

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Carecer [de algo] means "to lack [something]." Above, the narrator is speaking of "their houses... which mostly lack ventilation." The use of the preposition de is required here, regardless of which continent the speaker is standing on. If it were missing, you would have to say the sentence lacks something (la frase carece de algo).

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Lindo: Beautiful Words

 Did we mention Felipe Calderón is a politician? In Part 2 of the presidential candidate's promotional video, Calderón discusses his profound love for his family.


Y comparto con ella, pues, no solo el amor que nos tenemos, que es un amor sincero,

And I share with her, well, not only the love that we have for each other, that is a sincere love,

que es un amor profundo, que es un amor bello... 

that is a deep love, that is a beautiful love...

sino también el amor que tenemos por nuestros tres magníficos hijos...

but also the love that we have for our three wonderful kids...

Captions 13-15, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 2

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María... es... una niña muy linda...

Maria... is... a very pretty girl...

Luis Felipe... es un niño muy lindo...

Luis Felipe... is a very lovely child...

Juan Pablo... es una lindura...

Juan Pablo, two years old, is so beautiful...

Captions 19-24, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 2

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He describes each one of his three kids -María, Luis Felipe and Juan Pablo- as lindo(a), meaning "pretty" or "beautiful." This synonym for bonito, hermoso or bello is an adjective that is used a lot in the Spanish-speaking world. See a baby on the street and "¡Qué lindo!" (or "¡Qué linda!") is a very common thing to say.

In the sentences quoted above, note that linda agrees with the feminine noun niña ("girl") and lindo agrees with the masculine noun niño ("boy"). Also note that Calderón employs the noun lindura ("a beauty") to describe his youngest son -a noun that's always feminine, despite his son's gender.

Another way the proud dad describes his
tres magníficos hijos ("three magnificent children") appears in caption 18:


Bueno la verdad es que son tres chavos sensacionales.

Well the truth is that they are three sensational kids.

Caption 18, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 2

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We translate this as: "Well the truth is that they are three sensational kids." But instead of repeating the standard word hijos ("kids" or "sons [and daughters]"), Calderón uses chavos, which is a colloquialism heard in Calderón's native Mexico as well as Honduras and Nicaragua, according to the authoritative Real Academia Española. Like hijos or niños, chavos means "kids," but not necessarily in the sense of sons and daughters. Got that, muchachos?

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