Spanish Lessons


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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Tocar: A Touch of Chance

Yo sé que este país que me ha tocado conocer de cerca, palparlo de cerca...

I know that this country that I've had the fortune to know closely, to sense it closely...

Caption 2, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 1

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In addition to the well known meaning "to touch," there are many other uses of the verb tocar, one is to indicate chance or fortune.

Esta es la vida que me toca vivir.
This is the life that I have [fate has given me] to live.

Me tocó el boleto de la buena suerte.
I got [by chance] the lucky ticket [of all the ones distributed].

Le ha tocado la lotería.
She has won the lottery.



This is the sense that Felipe Calderón is using the verb in the phrase above:

"I know that this country that I have had the fortune to know closely, to sense closely..."

Keep your ears open for this use of tocar when you are listening to native Spanish.

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Haya: For Possibilities and Doubts

Parece mentira que haya tanta vida en este lugar. ¡Qué felicidad!

It's unbelievable that there's so much life in this place. So much happiness!

Captions 11-12, Café Tacuba - Mediodía

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One of the first Spanish words we learn is hay, that odd but ever so useful incarnation of the verb haber that means both "there is" and "there are." Hay dos gatos ("there are two cats"), hay una casa ("there is a house"). Wow, what a simple language!

And then somewhere along the line they told us about the subjunctive, where, even though the there's
usually no difference in English, the verb in Spanish is completely different if there exists any sense of uncertainty or doubt. Wow, this might be an impossible language!

Well, haya is where our friend hay meets our nemesis, the subjunctive. Like hay, haya also means "there is / there are", but it is used when the subjunctive is called for. Café Tacuba introduces doubt when it begins the lyric above with "It seems impossible" (Parece mentira- literally "It seems like a lie") so that the phrase that follows utilizes haya instead of hay.

"It seems impossible that there is so much life in this place. What happiness!"


In De consumidor a persona we find a discussion of "Fair Trade" commerce in which haya is used to express possibilities (not certainties):


Que no haya explotación infantil, que haya igualdad entre hombres y mujeres...

That there is no child exploitation, that there is equality between men and women...

Captions 36-37, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 5

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Profesor, Maestro: School Teacher

Bueno, mi experiencia como profesor de matemáticas ha sido muy gratificante.

Well, my experience as a math teacher has been very gratifying.

Caption 7, Profesor de matemática - Entrevista

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In English the term "professor" is reserved for those with high level university faculty positions, but in Spanish profesor can be used for "school teacher" at any grade level, including university (profesor universitario). Andrés Valencia, who teaches secondary school, uses profesor in the phrase above when he says:

"Well, my experience as a math teacher has been very gratifying."

Note: The term
catedrático, is only used at the university level and can refer to a "university professor," "full professor," "department chair" and other such things. Its use seems to
vary some from country to country as to how lofty a height one has to reach in the ivy tower before gaining this title.


In this clip Venezuelan restaurant owner Emiro Graterol tells us a little bit about his father.


Mi papá fue maestro de escuela, director de las escuelas de las compañías petroleras Shell, en aquel entonces.

My dad was a school teacher, head of the schools of the Shell oil companies, in those days.

Captions 6-9, Emiro - La Historia de Emiro

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Emiro's father taught at the K-12 level, and Emiro uses the alternate term maestro, which can also be used to mean "teacher."
"My father was a school teacher."


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Papel: It's a Role

El papel principal del gobierno es promover el desarrollo... y mejorar el nivel de vida.

The main role of the government is to promote development... and improve the standard of living.

Captions 21-22, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 3

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Most of us know that papel is "paper," not only do they sound alike but if you've ever taken Spanish class no doubt your teacher has often asked you to take out una hoja de papel, "a sheet of paper."

However, papel is also "role" (as in "the role of technology in education"). So, in the phrase above we have:

"The main role of the government is to promote development..."


El papel de la ONG ha sido un papel auxiliador.

The role of NGO has been an assisting role.

Caption 29, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 3

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Note: Organización No Gubernamental (ONG), Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)


In this final clip we have Carlos explaining some of the functions that the myth of Bachué played in Muisca society.


Que además resalta el papel que la mujer tenía en la sociedad muisca

Which also highlights the role that women had in Muisca society

como la encargada de transmitir las tradiciones y valores de la cultura.

as the ones in charge of transmitting traditions and cultural values.

Captions 57-59, Aprendiendo con Carlos - América precolombina - El mito de Bachué

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Radicarse: To Relocate Yourself

Eso fue cuando hicimos Inconquistable Corazón que yo ya tenía que radicarme acá.

That was when we did Unconquerable Heart and I really had to settle here.

Captions 49-50, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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The verb radicar can mean "to be situated/located (in)," and so what Natalia is saying in the quote above is:
"This was when we did 'Inconquistable Corazón' that I had to settle here."


Bueno, yo llegué a... a radicar a Holbox del Estado de Morelos, pero ahora ya me siento Holboxeño.

Well, I came to... to settle down in Holbox from the State of Morelos, but now I feel Holboxian.

Captions 7-8, Yabla en Yucatán - Jorge

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Con la crisis económico, me tuve que radicar en España.
Given the economic crisis, I had to relocate to Spain.


Pero hace diez años sí, ya nos radicamos en Buenos Aires.

But ten years ago we did establish ourselves in Buenos Aires.

Caption 13, Karamelo Santo - Goy

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Radicarse en otro pais es dificil.
To establish yourself in another country is difficult.


La belleza del ámbar mexicano radica en su gama de tonos.

The beauty of Mexican amber lies in its range of tones.

Caption 6, Sergio en Monterrey - El ámbar mexicano

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El problema radica en la falta de presupuesto para este sector.
The problem lies in the lack of budget for this area.


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Quejarse: To Complain

¡Y además te quejas!

And still, you're complaining!

Caption 7, Tu Rock es Votar - Comercial de TV

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Quejarse is a verb meaning "to complain," so we translate the above phrase directed at Mexico's voters as:
"And still you're complaining!"


Así que no puedo quejarme.

So I can't complain.

Caption 33, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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Similarly, the affable Federico Kauffman Doig uses quejarme when he states "So I can't complain."

On a related note, you won't be surprised to learn, if you didn't yet know it;
una queja is "a complaint."


Tengo que pedir el libro de reclamaciones y poner una queja.

I have to ask for the complaint log and make a complaint.

Caption 6, Raquel - El libro de reclamaciones

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Mañana misma pongo la queja.

Tomorrow I'll put in the complaint.

Caption 23, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2

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Cuando hace humedad, podemos escuchar a la gente quejándose por ello.

When it's humid, we can hear people complaining about it.

Captions 27-28, Clara explica - El tiempo

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The preposition following quejarse is often de.

Se queja de un dolor en el abdomen.
She complains of pain in the abdomen.

Se la pasa quejándose de que no tiene dinero.
She is always complaining about having no money.

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A ti: Emphasizing

A ti no te gustaría que te dijeran...

You wouldn't like it if they told you...

con quién tienes que andar.

who you have to hang out with.

Captions 1-2, Tu Rock es Votar - Comercial de TV

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As per our previous discussion of the verb gustar, the phrase above states:

"You wouldn’t like it if they told you who you have to hang out with."

But what does the addition of A ti at the beginning do for the phrase? It simply adds emphasis to the "you," the translation would be same even if it wasn't there.

[Side note: remember we
talked about
andar's various meanings outside of the obvious "to walk"? The phrase above demonstrates yet another, "to hang out / pal around."]


Él le hizo daño a mucha gente.

He did harm to many people.

-¿Qué daño te hizo a ti, mamá?

-What harm did he do to you, Mom?

Caption 11, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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Me gustas.
I like you.

A mi me gustas.
I like you. ("I" emphasized.)


A mí me gusta cambiar las sábanas cada semana.

I like to change the sheets every week. ("I" emphasized.)

Caption 21, Ana Carolina - Arreglando el dormitorio

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Besides adding emphasis, this type of construction can also clarify about whom you are talking.

Le gusta bailar.
He likes to dance.

A Juan le gusta bailar.
Juan likes to dance.

No mires a tu compañero, a ti te estoy preguntando.
Don't look at your buddy, I'm asking you.


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Labor, Trabajo: The Hard Worker's World

Este... Vamos a tratar de explicarles... este... la labor de la artesanía. Este... trabajo que llevamos acabo muchos jóvenes aquí en esta ciudad y...

We're going to try to explain... the... the work of crafts. This... work that many of us, young people carry out in this city and...

Captions 5-6, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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Nouns Labor (fem.) and trabajo (masc.) both mean "work" -- the opposite of retirement or rest. Venezuelan artisan Javier Marin uses the word interchangeably above to describe his subject: The work of local artisans, like himself, in the city of Coro, Venezuela.

Javier also uses the related verb trabajar ("to work") multiple times in his chat to describe how the work was done. Here, he talks about some of the materials they work with, such as glazed ceramic (el gres) and snail shells (los caracoles):


También trabajamos con el gres.

We also work with glazed ceramic.

Caption 26, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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También trabajamos un poco con lo que son este... las piezas del mar, los caracoles.

We also work a little bit with... parts of the sea, seashells.

Captions 54-55, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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When describing the employment history of his father, the verb trabajar pops up yet again. At this point in the video, Javier points to the building where his father worked in the '50s:


Mi padre antiguamente en los años cincuenta este... trabajó acá en este edificio.

Long time ago, in the fifties, my father... worked here in this building.

Captions 73-74, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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One line later, Javier employs the synonymous (though less common) verb laborar to describe what his dad's job was:


Laboró como telegrafista con el... con el código morse.

He worked as a telegrapher with the... with the morse code.

Captions 76-77, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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To buy time while thinking of synonyms for oft-repeated words, you'll note that Javier says este... a lot. It's a verbal tic repeated all over Latin America -- on TV talk shows and radio interviews, for example. Non-native speakers who have the habit of saying "um" over and over might want to replace their um's with "este..." if they hope to be mistaken for a native Spanish speaker. You simply can't say "um" in the middle of a Spanish sentence without someone figuring out that you're not speaking your mother tongue.

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Retirar: To Take Away and Other Uses

...retirándole recursos locales y retirándole autonomía alimentaria y productiva a los agricultores.

...taking away local resources and taking away alimentary and productive autonomy from the farmers.

Captions 5-6, De consumidor a persona - Short Film

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The verb retirar has an array of meanings. Often, it means "to take away" or "to remove." Here, in Part 4 of the stirring documentary De consumidor a persona, we learn how farmers are having both their local resources and autonomy in food production taken away by multinational corporations.

Note that retirar is derived from the verb tirar
("to pull"), mentioned in this space just
last week. As in English, the prefix re- can mean "back" in Spanish.

¿Puedo retirar el plato?," a waitress in a restaurant might ask you at the end of a meal, referring to your empty plate. If you say yes, she'll take your plate back to the kitchen.


Here we have another use of retirar in Yago, a TV series from Argentina:


Señor... Usted no puede estar acá, se tiene que retirar.

Sir... You can't be here, you have to leave.

Caption 9, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos

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At the same time, retirar can also mean "to retire" -- an English cognate that's easy enough to remember. But note that retirar's synonym jubilar is often used instead to describe the act of retiring from the workplace, as in Venezuelan Javier Marin's description of his dad's retirement:


Laboró como telegrafista con el... con el código morse y actualmente se encuentra jubilado.

He worked as a telegrapher with the... with the morse code and currently he's retired.

Captions 76-78, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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"Se encuentra jubilado," ("He's retired,") Javier explains in Part 1 of his chat with us about jewelry-making.


Coming to us from Spain, Constantino Cuenca tells us a little bit about his family's business:


Es una champiñonera tradicional que estableció mi suegro.

It's a traditional mushroom farm that my father-in-law established.

Y fue familiarmente. Y ya ahora claro pues, mi suegro ya se ha jubilado.

And already now of course well, my father-in-law already has retired.

Captions 6-8, La Champiñonera El cultivo de champiñón - Part 1

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"Retired people" are referred to as jubilados -- doesn't that sound like a happy state to be in? Yes, through shared Latin roots, jubilar is related to "jubilant" in English.


Macho, si sobreviven los jubilados, ¿no va a sobrevivir un pibe?

Dude, if the retirees survive, isn't a kid going to survive?

Caption 47, Yago - 7 Encuentros

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Volcar: Overturn and Other Uses

Hemos volcado nuestra experiencia, nuestros estudios, nuestras investigaciones, nuestros recorridos por selvas, por sitios difíciles a veces...

We have used our experience, our studies, our research, our journeys in the jungles, in difficult places, sometimes...

Captions 9-10, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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The verb volcar literally means "to overturn," "to dump," "to knock over," etc. It is, however, often used figuratively. In the example above, Señor Doig is talking about those things that he and his fellow archeologists have "used," or "drawn upon." "We have used our experience, our studies, our research, our journeys in the jungle..." The mental image that the use of volcar might create here is that they have figuratively "dumped out" all the things they've learned over the years onto a big table -- sorted through and arranged them -- using them to write their books.

Busca un trabajo en el que pueda volcar toda su creatividad.
She is looking for a job where she can exploit all her creativity.

Volcar can also me "to be engrossed in," or "to be devoted to."

Está completamente volcado a su trabajo.
He is completely devoted to.


Iker Casillas, de la mano de la ONG Plan, con la que colabora, se han volcado en conseguir toda la ayuda posible para Haití.

Iker Casillas, hand in hand with the NGO Plan, with which he collaborates, have thrown themselves into obtaining all the help possible for Haiti.

Captions 2-3, Iker Casillas - apoya el trabajo de Plan

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Jalar and More: Different Ways to Pull

Pero la calle lo siguió jalando

But the streets kept pulling him back

Y de lo bueno ya no va quedando

And nothing good is being left

Captions 21-22, La Secta - Consejo

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The verb jalar means "to pull" and its use is common in many parts of Latin America. Miami-based La Secta, in their music video Consejo (which means "advice"), uses the verb in the phrase above, "But the street kept pulling him back."

If jalar means "to pull," why have we seen the
command hale, with an h, printed on doors in countries like Venezuela and Mexico? Well, it turns out that halar also means "to pull," and when we boil down the evidence it seems that halar is basically the same verb, more or less, as jalar, but spelled with an h up front. Which spelling came first, which is more "correct," etc., seems to be up for debate, and also a matter of regional preference.

In Spain, we are like
ly to see tirar (which can mean "to pull") printed on one side of a door, and in Argentina we are likely to see the indicative form, tire. (By the way, most of these countries tend to agree that empuje or empujar, "to push," goes on the other side of these doors.)

Folks in Spain pretty much never use jalar for "to pull," however they do use it for "to eat," but only in very informal settings -- it can be considered a bit crude.

¿Quién se ha jalado todo el jamón?
Who has wolfed down all the ham?

Vamos a jalar. ¿Vienes con nosotros?
Let's go eat. You coming with us?

In parts of Central America, such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica, jalar can be used to mean "going out" or "dating."

Él y ella estan jalando.
He and she are dating



You can read a long discussion on the regional uses of jalar, halar and tirar here.

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Quien calla, otorga: And More About Silence

Cuando callas otorgas...

When you keep silent, you consent...

Caption 10, Circo - Un Accidente

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In the refrain to this catchy punk-pop hit, lead singer Fofé uses the common verb callar, which anyone who has ever annoyed their Spanish teacher knows means "to be quiet," "to keep silent" or, more bluntly, "to shut up." The next verb, otorgar, often means "to grant" [as in, permission] or "to award." There's an expression in Spanish: Quien calla otorga, which basically means "silence is consent" (or, "whoever is silent, consents"). So the refrain can be interpretted as "When you keep silent, you consent."


Incluso muchas veces me he tenido que... que callar porque...

Many times I even had to... to be quiet because...

porque no he tenido más remedio que reírme un poco.

because I didn't have any option but to laugh a little.

Captions 22-23, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live

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No te puedo mentir, no me puedo callar

I can't lie to you, I can't shut up

Caption 11, Bloque - Nena

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¿Te podés callar la boca? Mire, patrona, yo le voy a explicar.

Can you shut your mouth? Look, boss, I'm going to explain [it] to you.

Caption 51, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro

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Shut up! (singular)

Shut up! (plural)

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Ánimo de lucro: Intent to Profit

Pero yo no me lo creo, así que decido hacer este documental. Con ánimo de lucro

But I don't believe it, so I decide to do this documentary. With Intent to Profit

Captions 26-27, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 1

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Lucro means "gain" or "profit." Think "filthy lucre" as a mnemonic device.


Nosotros no somos coherentes si ponemos nuestro dinero primero, buscándole un gran lucro.

We're not being logical if we put our money first, looking for a big profit.

Captions 32-34, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 6

 Play Caption predomina la lógica del beneficio y del lucro sin límite.

...if the logic of benefit and unlimited profit predominates.

Caption 67, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 7

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Frankly, it's a little surprising to have a documentary ostensibly about the quest to end poverty and hunger with the title Con ánimo de lucro ("With Intent to Profit" / i.e. "For-profit"). After all, to describe non-profit (or, not-for-profit) ventures in the Spanish-speaking world, the phrase "sin ánimo de lucro" (or, "sin fines de lucro") is commonly used... Well, future installments of this documental promise to explain this cryptic title.

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The Verb Acabar: More Meanings In the End

The short film Con ánimo de lucro starts with a series of commands reminiscent of the John Lennon song "Imagine":


Imagina acabar con el hambre y la pobreza.

Imagine putting an end to hunger and poverty.

Caption 1, Con ánimo de lucro Cortometraje - Part 1

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So, what's that word after Imagina (the familiar command form of imaginar, or "to imagine")? It's the Spanish verb acabar, which most commonly means "to end" or "finish." Although we could "end" our discussion right there, we won't because, as we see in this example, the verb acabar can mean different things in combination with different words and in different contexts. But before moving on to those, let's take a look at a couple of "classic" examples of this common Spanish verb: 


Classic Examples of the Verb Acabar


Al final... Nuestro caso no es distinto de otros casos que acabaron mal

In the end... Our case is not different from other cases that ended badly

Captions 13-14, Victor & Leo - Recuerdos de amor

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Vale, hemos acabado.

OK, we've finished.

Caption 69, Animales en familia Un día en Bioparc: Cachorro de leopardo - Part 2

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Now, let's move on to some more nuanced uses of the verb acabar. Although all of them entail some kind of "ending," these variations can help us to express a multitude of English idiomatic expressions in Spanish. 


Alternative Uses of the Verb Acabar


1. Acabar: "to end up"


We can use the Spanish verb acabar to talk about the idea of "ending up," or where something or someone ultimately arrives, perhaps unexpectedly:


y seguro que iba a acabar en la basura, ¿no? 

and for sure it was going to end up in the trash, right?

Caption 49, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 5

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al final el congelador acaba quemando los alimentos.

in the end, the freezer ends up burning the food.

Caption 4, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 7

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2. Acabar con (algo): "to put an end to" (something)


As we saw in the opening quote, acabar con (literally "to finish with") can have the more specific meaning "to put an end to," perhaps some unpleasant phenomenon: 


Para nosotros, para el santuario de burros en España, es muy importante acabar con el maltrato animal,

For us, for the donkey sanctuary in Spain, it's very important to put an end to animal abuse,

Captions 38-39, Amaya El Refugio del Burrito

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3.  Acabar con (alguien): "to break up with" (someone)


When speaking about a person, however, acabar con can mean "to break up" in the sense of ending a relationship:


Pienso acabar con mi novio. 

I'm planning to break up with my boyfriend. 


4.  Acabar con (alguien): "to finish off/kill" (someone)


Of course, without context, someone could definitely misunderstand our previous example, as acabar con alguien can also mean to kill them!


acaben con él y lo entierran por allí en el llano. 

finish him off and bury him somewhere in the plains.

Caption 19, El Ausente Acto 2 - Part 8

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5. Acabar de + infinitive: "to have just" (done something)


The very important verb acabar de plus the infinitive form of a verb allows us to express the idea of having "just" completed some action:


Isabel Zavala acaba de salir del edificio.

Isabel Zavala just left the building.

Caption 3, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 4 - Part 15

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Acabo de ver a ese chico moreno, alto y de ojos azules,

I just saw that brown-haired, tall guy with blue eyes,

Caption 19, Fundamentos del Español 3 - Le Estructura de las Frases

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6. Acabar por + infinitive: "to finally" (do something)/"end up" (doing something)


Acabé por decirle la verdad. 

I finally told him the truth. 


Depending upon the context, an alternative translation might be "I ended up telling him the truth. "


 7. Acabarse (to run out)


The reflexive verb acabarse can also mean "to run out," of something literal or figurative: 


Cuando llegan cosas como que se acabó la leche, los pañales,

When things come like, that the milk ran out, the diapers,

Caption 8, La Sub30 Familias - Part 6

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In this context, you will frequently encounter the verb acabarse in the form of a "no fault"/involuntary se construction. You will note that although acabarse is conjugated in the third person singular in accordance with the subject (el tiempo/the time), the indirect object pronoun nos lets us know to whom the action of the sentence is occurring (to us). Let's take a look:


Eh... Se nos acabó el tiempo, entonces espero que practiquen en su casa

Um... We ran out of time, so I hope you practice at home

Caption 59, Lecciones de guitarra Con Cristhian - Part 3

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Although this sentence was translated as "We ran out of time," the literal translation would be "Time ran out on us." For more information on the se involuntario, check out this series from El Aula Azul


8.  Acabarse (to sell out)


Acabarse is also a synonym for agotarse, which can mean "to sell out" in Spanish: 


Quería ir al concierto pero las entradas ya se hab​ían acabado

I wanted to go to the concert, but the tickets had already sold out


9. Acabarse (to be over)


The reflexive form of acabar can also mean "to be over." In fact, you will often see this verb in quite dramatic contexts, most often in the preterite tense:


Anda, ¡para! ¡ya! ¡Ya está, se acabó

Come on, stop! Now! That's it, it's over!

Captions 28-29, Carolina - Acentos

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Other colloquial translations for the expression ¡Se acabó! might include "That's it!" or "That's that!"


Se acabó, yo no voy a insistir.

That's it, I'm not going to insist.

Caption 1, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 5

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Para Acabar (to Conclude)... 

So, speaking of "being over":


Y colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado.

And snip, snap, snout, this tale's told out" [Literally: Red, red-colored, this tale has ended"].

Caption 65, Cleer La princesa y el guisante

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This common expression, the equivalent of the English, "And snip, snout, this tale's told out," often appears at the end of children's stories to say something like, "And that's all, folks!" On that note, we hope you've enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments


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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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