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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 (doy 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 weirdest 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 - Part 2

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 y tiene la misma sonrisa de Franco.
He has the scar, he lived in Misiones and he has the same smile as Franco.
Caption 16, Yago - 10 Enfrentamientos - Part 4

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 85, Bersuit Vergarabat - EPK - Part 2 

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 - Part 2 


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 - Part 1

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 27, Calle 13 - Un Beso De Desayuno

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Comer, beber, tomar, tragar...

Our previous lesson focused on the proper use of reflexive pronouns. We discussed when and how to use them and how the meaning of what we say is affected by them. We also mentioned that there are some Spanish verbs that can be used with or without reflexive pronouns, and that the verb comer (to eat) and other "ingestion verbs" are excellent examples.
 
In theory, verbs like comer (to eat), tragar (to swallow), beber and tomar (to drink), etc., can either be used with or without reflexive pronouns. For example:
 
Yo como la zanahoria = Yo me como la zanahoria (I eat the carrot)
Nosotros bebimos el tequila = Nosotros nos bebimos el tequila (We drank the tequila)
Tú tomas la leche = Tú te tomas la leche (You drink the milk)
Ella traga la pastilla = Ella se traga la pastilla (She swallows the pill)

However, this equivalence is not 100% accurate. Most Spanish speakers would more likely use the second option with reflexive pronouns than the first one without them. Saying yo como la zanahoria may not be wrong, but it's surely more common to say yo me como la zanahoria.
 

Cuando te comes una seta venenosa...
When you eat a poisonous mushroom...
Caption 23, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 11
 
Nos bebemos la Coca Cola
We drink the Coca-Cola
Caption 85, Zoraida en Coro - Artesanos


On the other hand, sometimes you cannot use a reflexive pronoun at all—for example, when you don't use an article before the direct object. There's a difference between saying yo como la zanahoria (I eat the carrot) and yo como zanahoria ("I do eat carrot" or "I'm eating carrot"), right? But you can never say yo me como zanahoria.
 
So, you can say yo bebo el alcohol (I drink the alcohol), but it's more normal to say yo me bebo el alcohol (I drink the alcohol). You can also say yo bebo alcohol ("I do drink alcohol" or "I'm drinking alcohol"), but you can never say yo me bebo alcohol. Got it?
 
What about if we use indefinite articles (un, una, unos, unas)? Well, it's the same. You can't use reflexive pronouns when you don't use an article before the direct object. For starters, and by definition, you cannot use indefinite articles before nouns that describe an undetermined amount of something, like leche (milk). You don't say tomé una leche (I drank a milk)—you say tomé leche (I drank milk). But with countable nouns like pastilla (pill), you can say una pastilla (a pill) and la pastilla (the pill). So in Spanish you could say ella traga una pastilla , but it's even better to say ella se traga una pastilla (both meaning "she swallows a pill"). What you can never say is ella se traga pastilla. Here's a challenging example that combines the use of tragar (to swallow) with a reflexive pronoun, the reflexive verb pudrirse (to rot), and a pronoun (lo) playing the role of direct object:
 

Lo que uno se traga se pudre.
What one swallows rots [Keeping things to yourself is bad for you].
Caption 15, Yago - 8 Descubrimiento - Part 1

 
To make it simpler, you can substitute the pronoun lo with a proper direct object. Since this is a figure of speech, let's say we are talking about miedo (fear). The expression could be: el miedo que se traga se pudre (the fear one swallows rots). So it's two sentences combined: uno se traga el miedo (one swallows fear) / el miedo se pudre (fear rots).  
 
Now, a tricky question for you. Is it correct to say ella traga pastilla, since we just said that yo como zanahoria (translated either as "I do eat carrots" or "I'm eating carrot”) is correct? The answer is no, it's not correct to say ella traga pastilla. This is because nouns like zanahoria (carrot) can be used either as a countable noun (if you use an article) or an uncountable noun (if you don't use an article). But the singular pastilla (pill) is always a countable noun in Spanish: it's always one pill. The only way to refer to an indeterminate amount of pills in Spanish is by using the plural pastillas (pills). So in Spanish you could say ella traga unas pastillas, but it's even better to say ella se traga unas pastillas (both meaning "she swallows some pills"). But you don't say ella se traga pastillas. 
 
If you want to express that a certain girl does swallows pills regularly, you could say ella traga pastillas. That's correct, but you must know that, just like in English, Spanish prefers the use of the verb tomar (to take) for this particular expression: ella toma pastillas (she takes pills). But you can correctly say yo trago miedo ("I swallow fear" or "I'm swallowing fear") because miedo (fear) is an uncountable noun.
 
You also can't use a reflexive pronoun if you don't use a direct object at all with these verbs—for example, when you just use an adverb with the verb instead of a direct object. You can say yo bebo hoy (I drink today) but you can't say yo me bebo hoy (that would mean something that doesn't make sense, unless you are writing poetry: "I drink myself today").
 

Los españoles comen a las dos de la tarde.
Spaniards eat at two in the afternoon.
Caption 6, La rutina diaria - La tarde


Another example: you can say nosotros comemos despacio (we eat slowly), but you can't say nosotros nos comemos despacio (unless you mean "we eat each other slowly"!). You can use reflexive pronouns again if you add a direct object. The second option in the following examples is the more common:
 
Yo bebo rápidamente el tequila = Yo me bebo rápidamente el tequila  (I drink the tequila quickly).
Nosotros comemos despacio el atún = Nosotros nos comemos despacio el atún (We eat the tuna slowly).

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Those Tricky Reflexive Pronouns

Do you remember reflexive verbs? A verb is reflexive when the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself, in other words, when the subject and the object are the same. In Spanish reflexive verbs use reflexive pronouns (me, te,se, nos, etc.), which play the role of direct object in the sentence:
 
Yo me veo en el espejo.
I look at myself in the mirror.
 
Since they involve a direct objectreflexive verbs are also transitive verbs (verbs that take a direct object). Many transitive verbs can be transformed into reflexive verbs. Peinar (to comb), for example, is a classic example of a transitive verb:
 

Yo peino a mi bebé
comb my baby's hair
Caption 21, Lecciones con Carolina - Verbos reflexivos

 
that can also be transformed into a reflexive verb, peinarse:
 

Yo me peino
comb my hair [literally, "I comb myself"]
Caption 20, Lecciones con Carolina - Verbos reflexivos

 
On the other hand, intransitive verbs are action verbs that, unlike transitive verbs, don't take a direct object receiving the action. Examples are llegar (to arrive), estornudar (to sneeze), morir (to die), caer (to fall), etc. Consequently, these verbs can't really be transformed into reflexive verbs. So why do we always hear Spanish speakers using reflexive pronouns with these verbs? For example:
 

Si me caigo, me vuelvo a parar. 
If I fall, I stand up again.
Caption 8, Sondulo - Que te vaya mal

 
Obviously, me caigo doesn't mean “I fall myself." It just means "I fall," because the verb caer[se] is part of a group of verbs that use reflexive pronouns but are not reflexive verbs. These verbs are called verbos pronominales, verbs that are typically conjugated using a reflexive pronoun that doesn't have any syntactic function. It's just the way these verbs are typically constructed! Another example is the verb morir (to die). Me muero doesn't mean "I die myself"; it just means "I die." The following example uses it as part of an idiomatic expression:
 

No hablemos más de comida que me muero de hambre.
Let's not talk about food since I'm starving [literally, "I'm dying of hunger"].
Caption 35, Salvando el planeta Palabra - Llegada

 
Now, while reflexive verbs like peinarse always need to be used with reflexive pronouns, verbs like caer (to fall) and matar (to kill) can be used either as pronominales (caerse and morirse), or as simple intransitive verbs (caermorir), that is, without the reflexive pronouns. Therefore, the following expressions are also correct (though maybe just a little less common in everyday speech):
 
Si caigo, me vuelvo a parar. 
If I fall, I stand up again.
 
No hablemos más de comida que muero de hambre.
Let's not talk about food since I'm starving [literally, "I'm dying of hunger"].
 
The really tricky aspect of reflexive pronouns is how to use them, either with verbos reflexivos like peinarse or verbos pronominales like caerse and morirse. Typically, you will use the pronoun before the verb, for example me caigo (I fall), te peinas (you comb your hair). But how do you use reflexive pronouns in a sentence that uses more than one verb, for example an auxiliary verb such as the verb ir (to go) combined with a verb in the infinitive?
 
Voy a caer
I'm going to fall
 
Juan va a morir
Juan is going to die
 
Well, the rule is simple. You either use the reflexive pronoun right before the auxiliary verb:
 
Me voy a caer 
I'm going to fall
 
Juan se va a morir
Juan is going to die
 
Or you use it after the verb in infinitive as a suffix:
 
Voy a caerme
I'm going to fall
 
Juan va a morirse
Juan is going to die
 
And the same rule applies to reflexive verbs like peinarse:
 
Ella se va a peinar = Ella va a peinarse
She is going to comb her hair
 
In fact, this rule applies to all pronouns, even pronouns that are not reflexive (that are used to substitute the direct object in any given sentence), like lo, la, los, las, and te:
 
Como sandía / La como
I eat watermelon / I eat it
 
Voy a comer sandía
I'm going to eat watermelon
 
Voy a comerla = La voy a comer
I'm going to eat it
 
Coincidentally, comer (as well as other "ingestion verbs") is an excellent example of a verb that is transitive in nature but that is also used as a pronominal verb with reflexive pronouns. For example, it’s also correct to say voy a comérmela (I’m going to eat it).

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Amar y Querer

Even though there are plenty of websites devoted to explaining the difference between te amo and te quiero (both meaning "I love you" in English), learning how to use these expressions remains a difficult task for many English speakers. Why is that?
 
For starters, these phrases deal with perhaps one of the most complicated feelings human beings can ever experience. All things considered, you could say that a language that offers only two verbs to express this feeling is, in fact, very limited! And if you believe Spanish is just complicating things by using both amar and querer, consider that there are at least 11 words for love in Arabic! Is it really that surprising, considering the many ways, modes, and interpretations of love that there are out there?
 
So, generally speaking, the difference between te amo and te quiero is that the first one is more serious in nature, while the second one is more casual. You have also probably heard or read that te amo is romantic in nature and te quiero is not, but this is not really accurate. The phrase te quiero is used all the time to express romantic love, and is even perhaps more common than saying te amo.
 
What is the difference, then? Well, there is an added solemnity to saying te amo that is somewhat equivalent to the act of kneeling to propose marriage: some people may see it as too theatrical, affected, and old-fashioned, while others may see it as the ultimate proof of how deep and committed the declaration of love is. For many, using te amoas a declaration of romantic love is very telenovela-like, but for others, it's just the right way to do it. Our new series“Los Años Maravillosos” comically illustrates this duality of perspectives:
 

Te amo. -Yo también te amo-¿Cómo podían amarse? ¡Se habían conocido a la puerta del colegio hacía cinco minutos!
I love you. -I love you too. -How could they love each other? They had met at the school door five minutes ago!
Caption 47, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1 - Part 5


Te amo is also used very often to express romantic love in songs and poetry:
 

Te amo dormida, te amo en silencio
I love you asleep, I love you in silence
Caption 49, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor - Part 2



On the other hand, te quiero is a more relaxed way to express either romantic love or affection to family, friends, pets, etc.
 

Confesarte que te quiero, que te adoro, que eres todo para mí
To confess to you that I love you, that I adore you, that you're everything to me
Caption 3, Andy Andy - Maldito Amor - Part 1

 
Te quiero mucho (I love you so much) is something you can and must say to your kids, your partner, your family, and yourself on a regular basis:
 

¿Sabes lo que yo quiero hacer? Pasar mis días con mi abuelito. -¡Qué maravilla! -Te quiero mucho.
Do you know what I want to do? To spend my days with my grandpa. -How wonderful! -I love you a lot.
Caption 22, Yago - 4 El secreto - Part 11


But when can't you say te quiero? Well, here's an interesting tidbit. Spanish speakers have long used the distinction between te amo and te quiero* to test the commitment of their lovers. So learn this: If your lover says to you te quiero, you can answer yo también te quiero. (Of course, you also have the option to turn up the tables and solemnly answer yo te amo, if you are up for it.) But if your lover says to you te amo, be careful! She or he probably means serious business. You either answer with a reciprocal te amo, or answer with te quiero (which will likely be interpreted as, "Whoa! I want to go slower").
 
In Spanish, when someone says te amo to profess romantic lovethere's always this conscious choice of putting more emphasis, adding more commitment, giving more importance to the expression. It could come out of true emotion, of course, but it could also be a calculated move to manipulate someone. If you are familiar with the plot of “Yago Pasión Morena,” you know which is which in the following situation:
 

Yo también, mi amor. -Te amo. -Yo también te amote reamo
Me too, my love. -I love you. -I also love you, I love you so much.
Caption 2-3, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 2


So you definitely don't want to be saying te amo lightly to declare romantic love. However, different contexts mean different rules. For example, since expressing your love to your dad is definitely not in the context of romantic love, maybe you can use te quiero on a regular basis and use te amo, papá on his 70th birthday.
 
Moreover, in some situations, using the verb amar is more natural than using querer. This is especially true when you are talking about your love for inanimate or abstract things, like nature, a musical genre, etc. Why? Well, because the verb querer literally means "to want," while amar is exclusively used to express affection. Strictly speaking, you can also use querer, though it would sound a little odd (it would sound a bit as if you are professing romantic love for an object or an abstract thing). Anyway, if you decide to use querer to express your affection to something other than an animate being, make sure to always use the preposition a (for) plus an article (el, la, los, las, etc.) or a possessive adjective (mi, su, tu, etc). Study the difference between the following examples and their translations. The first option is the most natural and common, the second one is possible but uncommon, and the third one means something totally different:
 
Voy de vacaciones al campo porque amo a la naturaleza / quiero a la naturaleza / quiero la naturaleza.
I'm going on a vacation to the countryside because I love nature / I love nature / I want nature.
 
Gertrudis realmente ama a la literatura / quiere a la literatura / quiere literatura.
Gertrudis really loves literature / loves literature / wants literature.
 
Los niños aman a su hogar / quieren a su hogar / quieren su hogar.
The kids love their home / love their home / want their home.
 
Amo al jamón ibérico / Quiero al jamón ibérico / quiero jamón ibérico.
I love Iberian ham / I love Iberian ham / I want Iberian ham.
 
Finally, there is another instance is which you must use amar instead of querer: when you want to express love that is strictly spiritual in nature. So you say amar a dios (to love God), amar al prójimo (to love one’s neighbor), amara la creación (to love God's creation), etc. Again, it's possible to use querer in such contexts as well, but it's not customary and it would sound odd. Here's a nice example:
 

Hermano gato yo te amo no te mato
Brother cat, I love you, I don't kill you
Caption 19-20, Aterciopelados - Hijos del Tigre


*For advanced learners, here’s a very famous song that refers to the difference between amar and querer out of spite for an unrequited love.

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Flores y Monadas

Here's an easy-to-remember expression: sudar la gota (literally, “to sweat the drop”), which means "to worry." Sometimes you may also hear sudar la gota gorda (to sweat the fat drop)! We used a somewhat similar English expression to translate the following example:
 

Suda la gota cuando ya no la encuentra
He sweats heavily when he doesn't find her anymore
Caption 12, La Vela Puerca - Se le va - Part 1


Another funny Spanish expression that also exists in English and is associated with distress is llorar lágrimas de cocodrilo (to cry crocodile tears). It's a funny, kind of ironic expression that is used to indicate that someone is crying without really feeling sad, maybe just a little theatrically. The phrase derives from an ancient belief that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey!
 

No le creo nada, Ivo. Son lágrimas de cocodrilo.
I don't believe anything from him, Ivo. They are crocodile tears.
Caption 37-38, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 2


Talking about not believing, have you heard the expression ojos que no ven corazón que no siente (eyes that do not see, a heart that does not feel)? It's very close to the English expression "what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over." It's very common to hear Spanish speakers abbreviating this expression:
 

Igual, ojos que no ven...
Anyway, eyes that don't see...
Caption 26, Kikirikí - Agua - Part 2


Let's see a few more expressions that involve animals. It's no surprise that there are a large number of expressions involving monos (monkeys) and other types of apes. But Spanish uses a few that are really puzzling. For example, the expression dormir la mona (literally, "to put the female monkey to sleep"), which means "to sleep off a hangover”:
 

Tiene que hablar con la patrona y decirle que sus empleadas duermen la mona.
You have to talk with the boss and tell her that her employees are sleeping off their hangovers.
Caption 7, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 6


Una monada (a monkey-like thing), on the other hand, is used to describe something as very cute or beautiful:
 

Mira qué monada.
Look what a beauty.
Caption 5, Reporteros - Caza con Galgo - Part 2


What about expressions that refer to parts of animals? Spanish uses many with the word pata (paw). For example, meter la pata (to stick one's paw into something) means “to make a mistake.” The closest English equivalent is "to put your foot in your mouth," which means to say or do something tactless or embarrassing:
 

¡No! Pero si eso ocurre en cualquier momento metes la pata.
No! But if that happens, at any moment you'll put your foot in your mouth.
Caption 49, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 5


In Argentina and Chile, hacer la pata (to do the paw) means “to intercede for someone,” usually with sweet-talking:
 

¿Me hacés la pata con papá? -¿Para qué?
Will you give me a hand with dad? -What for?
Caption 63, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 3


Instead of hacer la pata, Mexicans use either hacer la pala (literally, “to do the shovel”), which means to sweet-talk someone in order to intercede for someone else, or hacer la barba (literally, “to do the beard”), which is used to describe someone who acts pleasantly with a superior in order to obtain his or her favor. English translations vary:
 
Julia le hace la barba al maestro para sacar buenas calificaciones.
Julia butters the teacher up so she gets good grades.
 
Hazme la pala con tu amiga para que acepte salir conmigo.
Convince your friend for me so she agrees to go out on a date with me.
 
Very different is echar flores or tirar flores (to throw flowers at someone), which means “to compliment,” “to say nice things about somebody”:
 

Gracias, te agradezco mucho las flores que me estás tirando.
Thanks, I thank you very much for your compliments [literally, "the flowers that you are throwing at me"].
Caption 12, Muñeca Brava - 45 El secreto - Part 1

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On Shadows, Monks, and Saints

Let's study and learn some Spanish expressions by reviewing the way real Spanish speakers use them in real situations. Our always-growing catalog of Spanish videos contains many examples!

Ni a sol ni sombra (literally "neither under the sun nor the shade") is a lively expression that means "no matter what" or simply "never." It's very similar to the English expression "rain or shine”:
 

¡Do you remember the shawl from "La Negra" Cardoso? -¿La Negra Cardoso? Oh sí. No se lo sacaba ni a sol ni a sombra.
Do you remember "La Negra" Cardoso's shawl? -"La Negra" Cardoso? Oh, yes. She didn't take it off, rain or shine.
Caption 48-49, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 6


It's important to note that this Spanish expression may be used in situations in which English wouldn't necessarily use "rain or shine." You can read some examples below. We are using idiomatic translations here:
 

No soporto a mi jefe, no me deja en paz ni a sol ni sombra/ I can't stand my boss, he's always breathing down my neck.
Su leal perro no le dejaba ni a sol ni a sombra. / His loyal dog never left his side.

In fact, the word sombra (meaning "shadow" or "shade") is used in many other Spanish expressions. Some examples you may be interested in learning are below. We have included a literal translation first, and then an idiomatic translation:

Él no tiene ni sombra de sospecha/ He hasn't a shadow of suspicion. / He is clueless.
Busqué, pero no había ni sombra de ella. / I looked, but there wasn't even a shadow of her. / I looked, but there was no sign of her.
No soy ni la sombra de lo que era. / I'm not even the shadow of what I used to be. / I'm only a shadow of what I used to be.



Let's see another expression. This is an easy one to learn, because it has an exact match in English:
 

Bueno, que el hábito no hace al monje! Era un chistecito.
Well, the thing is that the habit does not make the monk! It was a little joke.
Caption 12, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 5

This recalls yet another expression that exists both in Spanish and English, and probably in many other languages as well:

Tu marido es un santo. -¡Ah, por favor!
Your husband is a saint. -Oh, please!
Caption 15, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 7


There are other Spanish expressions that use the word santo (saint) in a much more creative way. For example, the expression no ser santo de mi devoción (literally, "to not be a saint of my devotion") is used to express that you are not particularly fond of someone. This expression is equivalent to the English expression "not my cup of tea." There’s an interesting parallel between England's affection for tea and the devotion to saints in Spanish-speaking countries, don't you think?
 

Por favor, no invites a Julián. Sabes que él no es santo de mi devoción.
Please, do not invite Julian. You know he's not my cup of tea.


More difficult to translate is the expression a santo de qué, which is used to question the purpose or validity of something. It's a less sophisticated synonym of the expression en virtud de qué, itself the interrogative form of the expression en virtud de que, which also exists in English ("by virtue of"). Of course, using the expression a santo de qué is a very colloquial choice, one that will give people a very good impression of your Spanish skills:
 

¿A santo de qué voy a ir a almorzar con vos?
Why in God’s name am I going to go have lunch with you?
Caption 61, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema - Part 1


In this context, it wouldn't be uncommon for a Spanish speaker to use en virtud de qué instead. Saying ¿En virtud de qué voy a ir a almorzar con vos? may sound a little posh, but it’s totally acceptable. On the contrary, as you know, using "by virtue of what" in this situation wouldn't really be appropriate in English.

Finally, let's review another expression related to the word santo (saint) that exists both in English and Spanish, with subtle differences. While in English the expressions "patron saint's day" and "saint's day" do exist, it's more common to simply say "name day" instead. In Spanish, on the contrary, expressions like hoy es día de su santo patrono("today is his patron saint's day") or hoy es el día de su santo (today is his saint's day) are as common as the extremely abbreviated form used in this example taken from the Mexican movie El Ausente:

 

Es santo de Felipe, ¿sabes?
It's Felipe's name day, you know.
Caption 11, El Ausente - Acto 1 - Part 7

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To Be Honest & Avoid Being a Chump

Let's keep learning interesting Spanish expressions. Our always-growing catalog of Spanish videos contains many examples that will definitely help you boost your conversational skills.
 
Mili, the main character of the Argentinian telenovela Muñeca Brava, continues to be a never-ending source of colloquial expressions. In the following example, she gives us the Spanish equivalent of the expression "to call a spade a spade," which in Spanish has a very eucharistical nature:
 

¡Al pan, pan y al vino, vino, doña!
To call a spade a spade, ma'am! [literally: to call bread "bread" and wine "wine"]
Caption 54, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 4


Indeed, Mili siempre llama al pan, pan y al vino, vino (Mili always calls a spade a spade), because Mili es muy directa para hablar (Mili is very direct). Mexican folks would also say that Mili es muy claridosa (Mili is very plain-spoken, or blunt), a word that comes from the adjective claro (clear). Wouldn't you agree with Spanish speakers who would also say that Mili is not the type of person that esquiva el bulto (literally, “goes around the bundle”)? Depending on the context, this expression may be translated  as "to beat around the bush" or even "to dodge the bullet”:
 

Al contrario, vos estás esquivando acá el bulto para no pagarme a mí...
On the contrary, you are trying to dodge the bullet to avoid paying me...
Caption 35, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 2


Also equivalent are the Spanish expressions sacar la vuelta (to go around, to evade), hacer rodeos or andar con rodeos (to make detours):
 

Dime la verdad, no le saques la vuelta
Tell me the truth, don't beat around the bush.
 
Desde entonces, Lucía siempre me saca la vuelta.
Since then, Lucia is always evading me.
 
Está bien, Sor Cachetes, déjese de rodeos. Dígame, ¿qué, qué es lo que pasa?
All right, Sister Cheeks, stop beating about the bush. Tell me, what, what's going on?
Caption 41, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 7

Quiero andarme sin rodeos, confesarte que una tarde empecé a morir por ti
I want to go without detours [to be straightforward], to confess to you that one afternoon I began to die for you
Caption 16, Amaia Montero - Quiero Ser - Part 1


Going back to Mili's personality, another useful expression to describe the way she speaks would be ir al grano (to get straight to the point). When someone is wasting your time with a long chat, you can say ¡Ve al grano! (Get to the point!) Of course, you can also do as Mili does and omit the verb ir (to go):
 

Bueno, vamos. Al grano que quiero dormir mi siesta. ¿Qué venías a pedirme?
Well, let's go. Straight to the point that I want to take my nap. What did you want to ask me?
Caption 58, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 7


Another similar expression is ir al meollo del asunto or ir al meollo de la cuestión, which means “to get to the nub of the issue,” “to get straight to the point.” The word meollo is definitely a keeper. It means the central core of something, and comes from the latin medulla (marrow):
 

Bueno, el meollo de la cuestión.
Well, the point of the matter.
Caption 11, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 9


There are many virtues and benefits associated with being as direct as Mili is. People like her are usually honest and not prone to telling lies or cheating. Speaking of which, you may have heard the expression dar gato por liebre (to try to deceive; literally, “to give a cat instead of a hare”). A somewhat close English expression is “to be sold a pig in a poke,” which is not very common, anyway.
 

Gato por liebre. -Exactamente.
A cat for a hare [you think you're getting one thing but it's another]. -Exactly.
Caption 11, El Ausente - Acto 1 - Part 7


This expression is very common in Spanish, so you may want a more contextualized example:
 
No quieras darme gato por liebre / Don't try to deceive me.
 
Another similar expression is tomar el pelo (to try to trick someone).The expression dar gato por liebre would be more suitable in the context of a real scam someone is trying to pull. On the other hand, tomar el pelo is more likely used in the context of a joke. In that sense it's similar to the English expression "to pull someone's leg." Here are two examples:
 

¿Ustedes dos me están tomando el pelo a mí?
Are you two pulling my leg [literally: pulling my hair]?
Caption 28, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 7

¿Qué tango, me estás tomando el pelo? Yo no escucho ningún tango.
What tango, are you pulling my leg? I don't hear any tango.
Caption 37, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 3

 

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Bien vs Bueno/Ser vs Estar/Adjectives vs Adverbs

The proper use of the words bien (well) and bueno (good) seems to be specially challenging for English speakers. From a grammatical point of view the difference between these words is quite simple: bueno (good) is an adjective, and bien (well) an adverb. But that doesn’t help much, doesn't it? Especially if you don't have a clear understanding of the function of adjectives and adverbs themselves. And even if you do, people who are really fluent don't usually go around wondering if a word is an adverb or an adjective in order to use it properly.

Is not that grammar isn't helpful, it's just that very often people try to use it as a rigid template that you can superimpose on any given portion of speech to determine its correctness. But trying to grammatically deconstruct a sentence in Spanish, or any language, can be a tricky and confusing exercise, one more suited to linguists than to language learners. Indeed, from a learner's perspective, grammar is more useful if you learn to see it as a set of very basic structures (think of Legos), that you learn how to combine and then use to build basic structures that may eventually be used to build more complex structures and so on. Imagine a foreign language is some kind of alien technology that you want to replicate and master. Would you prefer if you are given the blue print and some of its basic components, or would you rather try to do reverse engineering on it?

For example, "adjectives modify nouns and only nouns" is a much simpler grammar "Lego piece" than "adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs." Right? So maybe we can start with that. The word bueno(good) is an adjective, like bonito (pretty), flaco (skinny), and malo (bad). Add another basic Lego piece such as "in Spanish, adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify," and you can build:

El perro bonito /The pretty dog and  Los perros bonitos /The pretty dogs
El gato flaco / The skinny cat and Los gatos flacos / The skinny cats
El lobo malo / The bad wolf and Los lobos malos / The bad wolves
La niña buena / The good girl and Las niñas buenas / The good girls

A classic example of the proper use of bueno is the expression buenos días:

¡Hola, buenos días! -Joaquín.
Hi, good morning! -Joaquín.
Caption 7, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 16

Now, what about bien (well)? Bien is an adverb, like rápidamente (fast) or mal (badly). Adverbs in Spanish are invariable, which means they have only one form and do not change according to gender or number. The main function of adverbs is to modify verbs:

Yo corro rápidamente /I ran fast
Ella baila mal / She dances badly
Yo lo hago bien / I do it well

Adverbs also modify other adverbs:

Yo corro bastante rápidamente / I ran quite fast
Ella baila muy mal / She dances very badly
Yo lo hago bien temprano / I do it very early (yes, bien can also mean "very")

Adverbs also modify adjectives:

El perro muy bonito /The very pretty dog 
El gato bastante flaco / The quite skinny cat
El lobo terriblemente malo / The terribly bad wolf
La niña tan buena / The so very good girl

So, if the adjective bueno can only be used to modify a noun, and bien can only be used to modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb, how can Spanish speakers say things like La sopa está buena (the soup is good) or Yo soy bueno (I'm good) all the time? Aren't estar and ser verbs? They are, but here we have to step up our game and remember that these two verbs are very special in Spanish—they are special Lego pieces with special rules. 

You use the verb ser with an adjective to describe something or someone by stating their characteristics as essential qualities that are an intrinsic part of who they are. In a way, you could say that this use of the verb ser +an adjective is redundant because, whether you use ser or not, you are essentially expressing the same thing about the object or person (noun) you are talking about. Another way to put it is that when you use the verb ser (to be) with an adjective you are just talking about a characteristic as if it were an action, in a verbal form. Compare our first set of examples:

El perro bonito / The pretty dog =  El perro es bonito /The dog is pretty
El gato flaco / The skinny cat = El gato es flaco / The cat is skinny
El lobo malo / The bad wolf = El lobo es malo / The wolf is bad
Las niñas buenas / The good girls = Las niñas son buenas / The girls are good

But if you use the verb estar (to be) with an adjective you are not talking about a characteristic as if it were an essential trait, you are talking about a characteristic of someone or something but not seeing it as intrinsically related to that someone or something. It may be a trait only present for the moment, for example. English doesn't usually makes this subtle distinction, so we have added some extra information to the translations so you can better grasp the difference of using estar instead or ser:

El perro es bonito / The dog is pretty ≠ El perro está bonito / The dog is pretty (right now but maybe not tomorrow). 
El gato es flaco / The cat is skinny  ≠ El gato está flaco / The cat is skinny (today, but it could get fat if we feed him). 

Now, since estar is not used to express an intrinsic quality, the following examples using estar can't be referring to moral or spiritual qualities (intrinsic by nature) such as being good or being bad, so malo (bad) and bueno (good) here can only refer to something different: 

El lobo es malo / The wolf is bad ≠ El lobo está malo / The wolf is sick (or tastes badly). 
Las niñas son buenas / The girls are good ≠ Las niñas están buenas / The girls are tasty (Something the Big Bad Wolf could say, for example (think buenas = sabrosas = tasty). As "tasty" in English buenas can also mean "good looking," which is a rather vulgar expression, by the way). 

That covers the use of ser and estar plus an adjective like bueno (good). Let's see what happens if you combine these verbs with an adverb, like bien (well). The first good news is that you never use the verb ser with and adverb. So you can never user bien (well) with the verb ser. Never. The following are all incorrect expressions: 

Yo soy bien
Nosotros somos tan bien
El carro es bien


You must use instead an adjective combined with the verb ser if you want to talk about ethical or intrinsic qualities:

Yo soy bueno / am good
Nosotros somos tan buenos / We are so good 
El carro es bueno / The car is good (maybe it's a good brand, or a good model, or just a good one for some other reason)

If you want to talk about non-essential, non-intrinsic, non-ethical qualities, you need to use an adjective combined with the verb estar:

Yo estoy bueno / am tasty (If a good meal could talk, it could say something like that. The expression can also mean " I'm good looking" by extension, see above).  
Nosotros estamos tan buenos / We are so tasty (or "good looking," see above).  
El carro está bueno / The car is in good condition.

Or, finally, an adverb with the verb estar:

Yo estoy bien / am well
Nosotros estamos tan bien / We are so well
El carro está bien / The car is Ok (is doing well)
 

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Very Singular Plurals

Let's study a special type of Spanish plurals along with some idiomatic expressions in which they are used. In Spanish, there are nouns that can be used either in singular or plural to designate a single object that is constituted by symmetrical parts. That's the case of nouns such las tijeras (scissors), pantalones (pants), tenazas (tongs), gafas (glasses), calzones (underwear), etc. As in English, these Spanish nouns are normally used in the plural form. For example:


Estos pantalones, por ejemplo, son rosas
These pants, for example, are pink
Caption 56, Marta nos enseña - Prendas de ropa

Se recomienda el uso de guantes y de gafas protectoras.
The use of gloves and protective goggles is recommended.
Caption 56, Raquel - Fiestas de España

Que estoy viendo ahí unas pinzas muy curiosas.
Cause I am seeing there some very strange pincers.
Caption 84, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 16

However, for many of these it's also valid, but much less common, to use the singular form:
Este pantalón, por ejemplo, es rosa
These pants, for example, are pink

Que estoy viendo ahí una pinza muy curiosa.
Cause I am seeing there some very strange pincers.

For gafas it would be even less common, so we are not including an example. But let's see some examples from our catalog. Garments such as  pantalones (pants) are also used in singular:

¿Cuánto te cuesta un pantalón aquí?
How much does a pair of pants cost you here,
Caption 1, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 15

The noun falda (skirt) is also used both in plural and singular:

Esta falda, por ejemplo, tiene una goma elástica
This skirt, for example, has an elastic band
Caption 62, Marta nos enseña - prendas de ropa 

Another example. It would be much more common to say con las tijeras (with the scissors) but the use of the singular form is also correct:

¿Los rulos los hacés vos? -Sí, con la tijera.
Do you do the curls yourself? -Yes, with the scissors.
Caption 59, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 14

There are other cases in which Spanish prefers the use of singular and reserves the plural for expressive uses of the words. This is the case for el bigote (the mustache) and la nariz (the nose):

También, en el caso de los hombres, tienen bigote.
Also, in the case of men, they have a mustache.
Caption 77, Marta explica el cuerpo - La cabeza

Tiene la nariz roja y normalmente la cara blanca.
Has a red nose and normally (has) a white face.
Caption 52, El Aula Azul - Las Profesiones - Part 2

For emphatic purposes we can use the plural forms bigotes and narices:

¡Límpiate las narices y atúsate los bigotes!
Clean your nose and smooth down your mustache!

There are many expressions in Spanish that use these nouns. They are usually expresiones fijas (fixed expressions) or expresiones idiomáticas (idioms) that are used as a standard way of expressing a concept or idea. In these kinds of expressions the use of plural is predominant. Some of them also exist in English; others are easy to interpret. Let's learn a few.

Y aunque exista algún respeto, no metamos las narices.
And even though there exists some respect, let's not stick our noses [into it].
Caption 3, Molotov - frijolero - Part 1

o el Valle de Lecrín a las faldas de Sierra Nevada.
or the Lecrin Valley on the skirts of the Sierra Nevada.
Caption 25, Tecnópolis - Viaje por la red - Part 1

Finally, expressions using the plural pantalones (pants) are very common as well:

y que nadie ha tenido los pantalones para hablar
and that nobody has had the guts to speak
Caption 2, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

Porque vos en esa casa no llevás los pantalones.
Because you don't wear the pants in that house.
Caption 53, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 6

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Using Subjunctive After Conjunctions of Condition

Our last two lessons focused on how to use conjunctions (conjunctive phrases to be exact) to identify when we have to use the subjunctive. The first lesson in the series focused on conjunctions of time, and the second one on conjunctions of provision. Now we'll focus on conjunctions of condition. 

This type of conjunctions will always be followed by subjunctive provided one condition: that you are talking about hypothetical, or unknown circumstances at the moment. The conjunctions that are used to express condition in Spanish are a pesar de que, como, aunque, según, and donde. Let's start with the examples.

A pesar de que means "despite that," "even though" or "in spite of." Study the following example. Our friend Crista is talking about a hypothetical situation (that a place might be five or ten km away):

entonces, a pesar de que pueda estar un lugar a cinco o diez kilómetros, lo medimos dependiendo del tiempo que tarde uno en llegar allí.
so, even though a place might be five or ten kilometers away, we measure it depending upon the time it takes someone to get there.
Caption 54, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana - Crista Pérez - Part 1

That doesn't mean that you can't use indicative after a pesar de que. If, like our friend Beatriz,  you are talking about a fact (the fact that there are variations), you use a verb in indicative (tenemos) and not subjunctive (tengamos) after a pesar de que:

La cultura es una a pesar de que tenemos variaciones
Culture is one in spite of the fact that we have variations
Caption 39, Beatriz Noguera - Exposición de Arte

So, the difference between la cultura es una a pesar de que tenemos variaciones (culture is one in spite of the fact that we have variations) and la cultura es una a pesar de que tengamos variaciones (Culture is one in spite of the fact that we might have variations) is very subtle.

Let's continue. Aunque means "although" or "even if":

Estamos aquí a treinta y nueve grados... a la sombra. -Aunque estemos a la sombra.
We're here at thirty nine degrees... in the shade. -Although we're in the shade.
Caption 97, Burgos - Caminando

A more exact translation of aunque estemos a la sombra is, in fact, "although we may be in the shade," but since the person speaking is actually in the shade at the moment using "we're" makes more sense in English.  In Spanish using the subjunctive allows to make a very subtle distinction between estemos (we may be) and the indicative estamos (we are): the indicative aunque estamos can only be used when the person speaking is presently and actually in the shade, while using the subjunctive aunque estemos makes the whole assertion a little more vague and general (we could just be talking about being in the shade as an hypothesis). They're slightly different expressions but neither is incorrect.

Como (as, in any way, whatever), según (as, in any way, depending) and donde (where, wherever) are less commonly used conjunctions. It's important to note that como and donde must be written without tilde (the orthographical accent). 

Como and según mean the same thing, are used in the same way and are thus interchangeable. Como is perhaps more common and it's used in two phrases that you want to learn: como quieras (as you want) and como sea (however it might be, translations vary):

Sabe bien, sabe mal, como sea pero es tan real
It tastes good, it tastes bad, however it might be, but it's so real
Caption 11, Enrique Iglesias - Escapar - Part 1

Como quieras ¿eh?
Whatever you want, right?
Caption 52, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Microchip para Nacahué

Want to see examples of the use of como without subjunctive? It's very simple: whenever you are not talking about hypothetical situations you must use the indicative:

Tómame como soy
Take me as I am
Caption 9, Shakira - Gitana

Yo te trato como quiero porque para eso sos mi hija.
I treat you how I want because for that [reason], you are my daughter.
Caption 2, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 4

 Would you like to know how would the previous example translate if you use the subjunctive instead? For the first example there's a big difference:

Tómame como sea
Take me in any way

Not so much for the second one:

Yo te trato como quiera porque para eso sos mi hija.
I treat you how I want because for that [reason], you are my daughter.

Let's see examples for según meaning "as," "depending on," or "in any way," which is less common:

Puedes elegir hacerlo según quieras
You can choose to do it in any way you want

Finally, an example of donde meaning "wherever." Plus another example of cuando(whenever), a conjunction of time:

Esa me la vas a pagar. -Cuando quieras y en donde quieras, princesa..
You are going to pay me for that. -Whenever you want and wherever you want, princess.
Caption 33, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa - Part 9 Coming soon!!

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Using Subjunctive After Conjunctions of Provision

Let's continue practicing the use of the subjunctive in adverb clauses that are part of compound sentences (99% of the time subjunctive is used in compound sentences) by identifying the conjunctions typically used to introduce it. In our previous lesson we focused on conjunctions of time, this time let's revise the use of the subjunctive combined with conjunctions of provision, a classic match!

The conjunctions that are used to express provision in Spanish are antes (de) que, con tal (de) que, en caso (de) que, para que, sin que. You will love these conjunctions, which, by the way, are more properly called locuciones conjuntivas (conjunctive phrases). Why? Well, because they will always use subjunctive, always. There's no room for mistakes. They are, therefore, a great addition to your vocabulary, one that will automatically improve your proficiency in the use of the subjunctive. Of course, you also must learn the proper way to conjugate the subjunctive; if you are not there yet, we recommend you to first focus on the present subjunctive

So let's start with the examples. Always use the subjunctive after the conjunction antes (de) que (before):

Aléjate de mí y hazlo pronto antes de que te mienta
Get away from me and do it soon before I lie to you
Caption 1, Camila - Aléjate de mí

The same happens with con tal (de) que (provided that):

Soy capaz de todo con tal de que te quedes a mi lado.
I'm capable of everything, provided that you stay beside me.

You probably noticed that we put the preposition de (of) between parentheses. This is just so you know that many Spanish speakers don't use it and instead just say antes que (before), con tal que (provided that), sometimes even en caso que (in case that). We recommend you to always use it. Read about dequeísmo and queísmo here.

The conjunctive phrase en caso de que (in case that) will also always be followed by subjunctive: 

Porque en caso de que esté muy aguado, hecho el resto.
Because, in the case that it is very watery, I put in the rest.
Caption 46, Recetas de cocina - Papa a la Huancaína - Part 1

The same happens with para que (so that, in order that) and sin que (without):

Si quieres puedes voltear acá para que veas en el espejo el reflejo 
If you want you can look here so that you see the reflection in the mirror
Caption 27, Instinto de conservación - Gorgona - Part 4

Yo soy el que hago que coman sin que tengan hambre
I am the one who makes them eat without being hungry
Caption 10, Calle 13 - Calma Pueblo

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Using Subjunctive After Conjunctions of Time

The Spanish subjunctive is used in adverb clauses when the action described in the clause is anticipated or hypothetical (a reservation, a condition not yet met, a mere intention). Adverb clauses are sentences that function as adverbs in compound sentences: 

 

Organizaremos una fiesta / cuando mi esposo regrese de su viaje
We will organize a party / when my husband comes back from his trip

 

In the previous example, the main clause is organizaremos una fiesta and its verb (organizaremos) is in the indicative mood, future tense. However, the adverb clause that modifies that verb (in this case, establishing a condition of time for the action to happen) must use regrese, the subjunctive form of the verb regresar (to come back). Adverb clauses like this one are usually introduced by conjunctions, which you can use to identify the type of clause that it's being used. The previous sentence, for example, uses the conjunction cuando (when) to introduce the adverb clause. The word cuando is a conjunction of time, just like después (after). These conjunctions are used with the subjunctive to express anticipated circumstances, that is, a future occurrence not yet met. Let's study some examples from our catalog of authentic videos.

 

An example with the conjunction cuando (when):

pues no quiere deberle nada a nadie cuando llegue a la presidencia.
because he doesn't want to owe anything to anyone when he reaches the presidency.
Caption 20, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña - Part 1

 

An example with the conjunction hasta (until), which must be combined with the pronoun que (that):

Yo mantendré esa tradición hasta que me muera.
I will keep this tradition until the day I die.
Caption 66, Estado Falcón - Locos de la Vela - Part 4

 

Here's an example with the conjunction siempre (always), which combined with the pronoun que (that) means "whenever" or "as long as." Pay attention, the word order has been changed, so the main clause appears at the end. 

Pero siempre que sea posible, recurriremos a un fotógrafo profesional.
But whenever it is possible, we'll turn to a professional photographer.
Caption 22, Raquel y Marisa - Español Para Negocios - Introducción

 

Now, that doesn't mean that you should always use subjunctive after conjunctions of time. You must use it only when you are talking about actions anticipated to occur in the future. If, for example, the conjunction is used to introduce an adverb clause that refers to actions in the past or in progress, known facts or habits, you must use the indicative. Let's see examples:

 

An example where you don't use subjunctive after the conjunction cuando (when):

Lo primero que hago cuando voy de compras es mirar los escaparates.*
The first thing that I do when I go shopping is to look at the display windows.
Caption 20, Raquel - Haciendo compras - Part 1

*Another common word order could be: Lo primero que hago es mirar los escaparates cuando voy de compras.

 

Now, an example where you don't use subjunctive after hasta que (until):

Hay policías desde que salgo de mi casa hasta que entro al Tec.
There are police from when I leave my house until I enter the Tech.
Caption 67, Alumnos extranjeros del - Tec de Monterrey - Part 1

 

And here's and example with the conjunction siempre (always) combined with the pronoun que (that) that doesn't use subjunctive either. 

Entonces, yo siempre que estaba en Lima no los encontraba.*
So, every time I was in Lima, I didn't meet up with them.
Caption 22, Gonzalo el Pintor - Vida - Part 2

 *Again, the main clause appears at the end of the sentence here, but you can easily change the word order: Entonces, yo no los encontraba siempre que estaba en Lima.

 

Summarizing: the subjunctive is used after conjunctions of time (such as cuandohasta quesiempre que, etc.) only when you want to express anticipated circumstances, that is, a future occurrence not yet met (anyway, strictly speaking future is always hypothetical, right?). For your reference, other conjunctions of time that use subjunctive are después de que (after), mientras que (while, as long as), tan pronto que (as soon as), antes de que (before), and en cuanto (as soon as). So remember to always use subjunctive after them if you want to talk about anticipated circumstances. There is only one exception that applies to después de que (after), antes de que (before), and hasta que (until): you can get away with using a verb in infinitive (ending in -ar, -er, -ir) instead of subjunctive if you get rid of the pronoun que (that). Check the following examples:

 

Voy a bañarme después de hacer ejercicio.
I'm going to shower after I exercise.

Escribiré un libro antes de morir.
I will write a book before I die.

No me voy hasta hablar contigo.
I'm not leaving until I speak with you.

 

Of course, you can also use the subjunctive by adding the pronoun que. Here are the equivalent sentences for the examples above:

 

Voy a bañarme después de que haga ejercicio.
I'm going to shower after I exercise.

Escribiré un libro antes de que me muera.
I will write a book before I die.

No me voy hasta que hable contigo.
I'm not leaving until I speak with you.

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Encontrar

The Spanish verb encontrar basic meaning is "to find." This verb is, however, very versatile, and can also be used to express una plétora de ideas (a plethora of ideas). Let's see a few notable examples. 

As we just said, encontrar means "to find," or "to locate":
 

Sí. No encuentro palabras qué decir
Yes. I don't find words to say
Caption 1, Franco De Vita - No Hay Cielo


You must know, however, that Spanish also uses the verb encontrar as a reflexive verb, so you will commonly find it preceded by a reflexive pronoun. The meaning of encontrarse is "to be found" or "to be located:"
 

porque Barcelona se encuentra entre el mar y la montaña.
because Barcelona is located between the sea and the mountains.
Caption 14, Blanca - Sobre la ciudad de Barcelona


The meaning of the verb encontrarse is also equivalent to the verb estar (to be), depending on the context. For example:
 

Sí, el Señor Aldo Sirenio no se encuentra en este momento en la empresa.
Yes, Mr. Aldo Sirenio is not at the company at the moment.
Caption 33, Yago - 5 La ciudad - Part 5

Actualmente se encuentra filmando la película "Cleopatra,"
Currently she is filming the movie "Cleopatra,"
Caption 62, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 11


Consequently, you can substitute the use of the reflexive verb encontrarse with the verb estar(to be) in the previous examples: Aldo Sirenio no está (Aldo Sireno is not...), and ...está filmando la película (...is filming the movie). 

And just like the verb estar (to be), the verb encontrar can also be used figuratively to talk about the state of being of someone or something. It's very common to use it to ask about feelings or about someone's health. Check out the following example from our new series Los Años Maravillosos:
 

La gente verdaderamente se encuentra muy preocupada.
People are truly very worried
Caption 18, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1 - Part 3


In the previous example the verb encontrar is used as a reflexive (it is as if saying "people find themselves worried") but you can also use encontrar as a transitive verb. In the following example the pronoun lo (it) substitutes the direct object of the verb, which is el paciente (the patient), while el doctor (the doctor) is the subject who performs the action of "finding:" 
 

Bueno, doctor, y a mi enfermito, ¿cómo lo encuentra?
Well, Doctor, and my little patient, how is he?
Caption 23, El Ausente - Acto 1 - Part 1


In a way, this expression is similar to the English colloquial expression "how do you find (him)?" meaning "what do you think about (him)?" and is also reminiscent of the expression "how do you find the defendant"? Well, this use of encontrar also exists in Spanish:
 

si al mundo lo encuentras enfermizo, delirante y brutal
if you find the world sickly, delirious and brutal
Caption 2, SiZu Yantra - Bienvenido


Now, going back to the use of encontrar as equivalent to estar (to be), if a Spanish speaker asks you ¿Cómo te encuentras? you can answer by saying either estoy bien (I'm fine), más o menos (I feel so so), me siento mal (I feel bad), or something similar. Just don't say estoy aquí(I'm here) because he or she are definitely not asking where to find you :)!
 

Bueno Adrián, ¿qué tal estás? ¿Cómo te encuentras?
Well Adrian, how are you? How do you feel?
Caption 5,6, l Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos - Subjuntivo y condicional


Finally, the reflexive verb encontrarse also means "to meet" or "to run into":
 

...porque si se encuentra con el padre va ser un desastre.
...because if he runs into the father it's going to be a disaster.
Caption 14, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 1

...que la siga y cuando [ella] se encuentre con el Gringo, la atrapa.
...to follow her and when she meets with the Gringo, he traps her.
Caption 19, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

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Animal Words

For all the animal lovers out there, here is a collection of Spanish expressions related to pets and their owners.

The word for pet in Spanish is mascota, yes, similar to the English word "mascot." The only difference is that mascota can be used to talk about an animal kept as a companion (a pet), or to refer to a especial person, animal or thing used to symbolize a sports team, company, organization or other group (a mascot). Of course, the word mascota meaning "pet" can also be applied to a person, as in the following example:

 

...todos eran mucho más viejos que yo. Eh... y, como que, yo era como la mascota,
they were all much older than me. Uh... and, so like, I was like the pet,
Caption 63, Carli Muñoz - Niñez - Part 2


Now, in English the word "pet" is also a verb that means to stroke an animal affectionately. But in Spanish there is only one verb you can use instead of "to pet," or "to stroke," or even "to pat." That verb is acariciar (to caress). The following example is not about animals, but it's about el alma (the soul), a word that shares with the word animal a common etymological root: the Latin anima.

 

Acaricia mi alma, vuélvete la luna
Caress my soul, become the moon
Caption 14, Shaila Durcal - Vuélvete Luna - Part 1


Let's talk about the distinction between animales domésticos (domestic animals) andanimales salvajes (wild animals). When you tame an animal it becomes domesticated or tamed, right? Spanish uses the verbs domesticar (to domesticate), domar (to tame), which come from the Latin domus (house). Sometimes, Spanish also uses the verb dominar (to dominate), which comes from the Latin dominus (the latin word for master of owner, "the lord of the house"). Ah, but if you want to talk about taming a horse, there's a specific word for that: desbravar (to brake in, literally "to take out the braveness").

Another very common word is amansar (to make docile, meek). So it's common to hear people saying about a pet that es manso(a) or mansito(a) to indicate that it's gentle, friendly.Un perro que no muerde (a dog that doesn't bite) es mansito

 

Uy, buena, Pepino. -Es mansito. -Tan bonito el gatito.
Oh, good one, Pepino. -He's tame. -Such a pretty kitty.
Caption 49, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 6


Talking about bites and dogs, there is a famous saying in Spanish, perro que ladra no muerde,which means, literally, "a barking dog never bites." 

 

pero perro que ladra no muerde, querida.
But, his bark is worse than his bite, dear.
Caption 56, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 8


It may be a little disrespectful, but some people may use the verb amansar to refer to the action of calming down a person, or even appeasing the gods:

 

Y tener poderes místicos para amansar las "tulucus".
And having mystical powers to tame the "tulucus".
Caption 26, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 7


What if an animal is not mansito? That means it's fiero (fierce), feroz (ferocious), salvaje(wild), or maybe even feral (feral). A famous one is el lobo feroz, (the Big Bad Wolf) yes, the one that tried to eat Caperucita roja (Little Red Riding Hood) and los tres cerditos (the three little pigs). Can you blame him? Have you ever had un hambre feroz?

 

Si pones la mesa que no sea para dos, porque somos como catorce con un hambre feroz
If you set the table, it shouldn't be for two, because we're like fourteen people with a ferocious hunger
Caption 29, Enanitos Verdes - Cuánto Poder


One last expression before saying goodbye. It's important to walk your dog everyday, right? Agreed, but never ever ever say something like caminar a tu perro. That makes no sense in Spanish. The correct expression is sacar a pasear a tu perro (to take the dog out for a walk).  The Argentinian band Los Pericos (the Parrots) have a song entitled Fácil de engañar (Easy to be fooled) in which a former lover is compared to a pet owner:

 

Me tenías en la jaula, me sacabas a pasear
You had me in a cage, you took me out for walks
Caption 8, Los Pericos - Fácil de Engañar


By the way, if you are not easily fooled, you probably like the saying that goes:

 

A otro perro con ese hueso
Don't try that one on me [literally, "to another dog with that bone"].
Caption 28, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 7


That was two last expressions. The thing is, there are so many interesting words about pets and owners! We should revisit the subject again in the future.

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Summer Vocabulary

Let's learn some Spanish expressions related to the summer season.

Hace, the impersonal form of the verb hacer (to do, to make) is essential to talk about the weather in Spanish. Want to know how to say "it's hot"?
 

Ferné, sopla esa gaita que hace calor.
Ferné, blow those bagpipes 'cuz it's hot.
Caption 75, Calle 13 - Cumbia de los Aburridos - Part 1

 

In Spanish you can talk about the sun as being caliente or caluroso (both words mean "hot") or fuerte (tough):
 

y no es un sol tan fuerte y tan caluroso como en verano,
and it's not a sun as tough and as hot as during the summer,
Caption 23, Azotea Del Círculo de Bellas Artes - Andrés nos enseña una nueva perspectiva


Of course, you can also talk about the sun as being radiante (radiant):
 

y no es un sol tan fuerte y tan caluroso como en verano,
and it's not a sun as tough and as hot as during the summer,
Caption 40, Cabarete - Charlie el taxista - Part 1


Check out how Spanish uses the verb tomar (to take) to express the action of getting sun:
 

Y también me alegra que esté tomando sol porque últimamente está muy pálida.
And it also makes me happy that she is getting sun because lately she's very pale.
Caption 20, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 11


If you get sun te bronceas (you get a tan), and having una piel bronceada (a tan skin, the verb is derived from the word bronce) is nice. 
 

Ir a tomar sol con ella y su bronceador
Go sunbathe with her and her suntan lotion
Caption 29, Enanitos Verdes - Cuánto Poder

 

But if you get too much sun te quemas (you get sunburn)! Some people may even like this, but it's not really a healthy thing to do. You may hear some Spanish speakers use the expression estar quemado as a synonym of estar bronceado:
 

A mí me encanta estar quemada pero este sol me recalienta la cabeza, los sesos, así que me voy adentro.
I love being tan but this sun is overheating my head, my brains, so I'm going inside.
Caption 19, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 10


We say it's better to use bloqueador solar (sunscreen), don't you think? Did you notice the verb recalentar (to overheat)?

By the way, the word calor (heat) is one of those Spanish nouns of indeterminate gender, like el sartén/la sartén (the pan), la azúcar/el azúcar (the sugar), etc. This means that both forms of the noun, masculine and feminine, are considered correct by the DRAE. However, the use of one form or the other can tell you a lot about who the speaker is. For example, the use of la calor is common in the coastal regions of Peru and many small town across all Latin America, but it's still considered incorrect (even a sign of lack of education) by many Spanish speakers, who don't necessarily (and why would they) catch up with the many updates and revisions done to the DRAE by the Real Academia Española. Here are two examples:
 

Pero la calor en verano es un poco mala.
But the heat in summer is a bit bad.
Caption 43, Clara y Cristina - Hablan de actividades

A ti como que el calor te está afectando las neuronas, verdad
For you [it's] like the heat is affecting your brain cells, right?
Caption 26, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 6


What we do recommend is to stick to the use of only one form, whichever you prefer. If you like to say la calor always use the feminine, if you like to use el calor, well, stick to the masculine. Apply this advice to similar words like el sartén/la sartén (the pan), la azúcar/el azúcar (the sugar). As an exception, the noun la mar/el mar (the sea), a summer word for many indeed, comes to mind. Our take on this word is that you use el mar when talking about the sea in a very practical way, for example:

 

bajando por todo el mar Mediterráneo
going down along the whole Mediterranean Sea [coast],
Caption 49, Álvaro - Arquitecto Español en Londres - Part 1

 

and use la mar for when you want to get poetic:

 

Muchos son los talentos que se pierden en la mar
A lot of talents get lost in the sea.
Caption 16, La Mala Rodriguez - La Niña

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There's More to Dar than Giving

The Spanish verb dar means "to give." However, Spanish uses this verb in many more ways than the English verb "to give." A basic dictionary reports more than forty different uses for it. We already have a lesson exploring some of them. But since the list is long, let's explore another use of the verb dar by analyzing examples found in our catalog of authentic Spanish videos. 

Let's focus on the expression estar dandowhich literally means "to be giving" as in El papá le está dando dinero a su hijo (the father is giving money to his son). Since Spanish usesdar in many more ways than English uses "to give," you will find that estar dando is used in a much broader sense too. For example:
 

...porque le está dando la luz al monumento.
...because it is lighting the monument.
Caption 26, Club de las ideas - De profesión - Part 1


Let's analyze this construction for a moment. It uses dando (giving), which is the gerundio of the verb dar, followed by the noun luz (light) to express a continuous action. It's not that Spanish lacks more orthodox options to express continuous actions. In Spanish, you can also directly use the gerundio of the verb iluminar (to light):  porque está iluminando al monumento (because it is lighting the monument). This is how English usually expresses these continuous actions anyway, by using verbs with the -ing ending, like "lighting." The Spanish use of dando is just an alternative, one that not all verbs would accept. In fact, if you look closely at the last examples in the following list, you'll notice that the alternative using "giving" also exists in English, with certain verbs.

Lucía está dando gritos - Lucía está gritando / Lucia is shouting
Estás brincando - Estás dando brincos / You are jumping
Estamos informando - Estamos dando información / We're informing - We're giving information
Estoy coloreando - Estoy dando color / I'm coloring - I'm giving color
Estoy amando - Estoy dando amor / I'm loving - I'm giving love
Le estamos dando molestias - Le estamos molestando / We are bothering you - We are giving you trouble

Note that you can't always do these substitutions with all verbs. The example with the verbcomer (to eat) is very illustrative: Elvira está comiendo (Elvira is eating) and Elvira está dando comida (Elvira is giving food) don't mean the same thing. But you can get away with it if you use the verb alimentar (to feed): Elvira está alimentando and Elvira está dando alimento mean exactly the same: "Elvira is feeding." 

Here are more examples:
 

Me tienes dando vueltas como torbellino.
You have me spinning like a whirlwind.
Caption 61, Calle 13 - Cumbia de los Aburridos

Ahí le vamos dando la forma, despacio.
There we go about shaping it, slowly. [There we go about giving it shape, slowly]
Caption 23, Recetas de cocina - Arepas colombianas


Here is another example with a slightly different construction but the same principle:
 

Otras más polémicas son las de la Virgen María dando el pecho en el portal de Belén.
Other more controversial ones are those of the Virgin Mary breast-feeding in Bethlehem's stable.
Caption 8, Europa Abierta - Joaquín Pérez - escultor de belenes


By the way, in Spanish, there is also a verb for breast-feeding, it's amamantar. So it's also correct to say la Virgen María amamantando en el portal de Belén (the Virgin Mary breast-feeding in Bethlehem's stable).

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A Word Set Apart

Cognates are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation and are a great tool for expanding your vocabulary. However when learning cognates, you must also learn how to use them correctly. Take for example the word aparte(apart). In one of our newest videos we hear Cleer using it:

 

¿Puedo ordenarla sin cebolla y con el aderezo aparte?
Can I order it without onions and with the dressing on the side?
Caption 32, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurante - Part 1



In this case, English generally uses the expression "on the side" and not the cognate "apart" to translate aparte, even though expressions such as "can I have the dressing apart" or "serve the dressing apart" are not necessarily incorrect. On the other hand, Spanish does have an equivalent expression to "on the side": a un lado, which, in this case, you can certainly use instead of aparte¿Puedo ordenarla sin cebolla y con el aderezo a un lado? 

The word aparte is used a lot in Spanish. It could mean "besides, apart from, aside, as well, other than that" etcetera. For example:
 

...pero en lugar de ponerle nada más el caldito del piloncillo, aparte se le va poniendo una leche, evaporada.
...but instead of putting into it only the little brown sugar cone broth, besides, one starts putting into it some milk, evaporated [milk].
Caption 29, Recetas - Capirotada - Part 1



It's very common to combine the word aparte with the preposition de. 
 

Pues, pero aparte de eso, para mí lo más importante es la seguridad.
Well, but besides that, for me, the most important thing is safety.
Caption 28, Sub30 - Familias - Part 13



So you can use the expression aparte de as an equivalent of "apart from" meaning "besides" or "other than that":
 

Y... aparte de la música, me gusta patinar.
And... apart from music, I like to skate.
Caption 14, Zoraida - Lo que gusta hacer - Part 1



Sometimes you would need the verbs separar (to separate) or apartar (to put or get apart) for expressions that in English require the word "apart." For example, while in English you say "I'm never apart from you," you can't really say nunca estoy aparte de ti in Spanish. Spanish speakers would rather say nunca me aparto de ti or nunca me separo de ti.
 

Tiene un valor muy importante para mí... jamás me separo de esa foto.
It has a very important value for me... I'm never apart from that photo.
Caption 6, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8



Spanish doesn't use aparte in the same way English uses "apart" to talk about difference or separation in time, for example:
 

Como se llevan cuatro años de diferencia.
Since they are four years apart.
Caption 26, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 1



So if you want to express the idea "they were born four years apart" you would say nacieron con cuatro años de diferencia [or separación]. 
Spanish also uses the verb separar (to separate) in cases where English uses expressions such as "put apart," "drive apart," "come apart," etc.:
 

Nos separa tu temor
Your fear tears us apart
Caption 5, Ha*Ash - Lo que yo sé de ti 
 

Or even verbs like deshacer (to undo):
 

Evidentemente, al cocer, se va a deshacer, se va a desmenuzar.
Evidently, upon cooking, it is going to come apart, it's going to crumble.
Caption 20, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 6


Instead of the dramatic "tear apart" Spanish would use the prosaic abrir (to open):
 

Nos abrimos el pecho
We tear our chest apart
Caption 15, San Pascualito Rey - Hoy no es mi día - Part 1


 

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Not Exactly The Same

This lesson explores some expressions that exist both in English and Spanish. By comparing their resemblances and differences you can make them leave a distinctive mark on your memory and eventually brag about them with your friends as new acquisitions in your Spanish lexicon.

Talking about leaving a mark on the memory, Spanish also uses the expression dejar una marca en la memoria (to leave a mark in the memory). There are, however, other alternatives. You can use the word recuerdo (remembrance), for example: dejaste una marca en mi recuerdo (you left a mark on my memory).

Spanish makes a clear distinction between the words memoria and recuerdo, even when sometimes it uses them indistinctly. La memoria (the memory) refers to the brain's ability to retain information, while el recuerdo (the remembrance), is used to talk about a more complex type of memory, one that usually involves feelings. The following example is self-explanatory. Our English translation avoids the use of "remembrance," uncommon in everyday speech, and uses the plural form of "memory" instead:

 

Siempre quedará en mi recuerdo y en mi memoria.
Will always remain in my memories and in my mind.
Caption 20, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live - Part 4

 

Ten en mente (keep in mind) that it's also very common to use the verbs escribir (to write), grabar (to engrave), tatuar (to tattoo), or even imprimir (to print), instead of marcar(to mark). In Spanish, a common trope in love declarations, poems, and songs is: te llevo grabado en mi recuerdo (I have you engraved in my memory). The verb grabar (to engrave) also combines very well with the words piel (skin), or mente (mind). So you can say te llevo grabado (or tatuado) en la piel, meaning "I have you engraved (or tattooed) on my skin," a phrase that's usually figurative, but that could be made literal... we guess. Otherwise, maybe you'd rather say: llevo tu recuerdo grabado en la piel (I carry the memory of you engraved on my skin) to leave no room for a literal interpretation.

Surely some purists would advise to dejar al corazón para las cosas del corazón (leave the heart for the matters of the heart):

Leería mi nombre marcado para siempre en tu corazón.
She would read my name written over your heart forever.

And since we just bumped into the expression "leaving no room for interpretation," know that no dejar lugar a interpretaciones also exists in Spanish.  No dejar lugar a dudas (leave no room for doubt), however, is much more common.

Another expression. In our new video about Otavalo, a city in Ecuador, Natalia says:
 

...han logrado llevar sus productos y sus expresiones artísticas a otros rincones del planeta.
...have managed to bring their products and their artistic expressions to other corners of the planet.
Caption 21, Otavalo, Ecuador - El mercado de artesanías de Otavalo - Part 1


Spanish has two words for "corner:" rincón and esquina. The word rincón is used to denote the idea of a remote location, or even a small special place in a given location:

 

Mi rincón favorito de Madrid es el templo de Debod.
My favorite nook in Madrid is the Debod Temple.
Caption 42, Álvaro - Arquitecto Español en Londres - Part 1


Rincón can also can mean a hideout or a hidden place, even if you speak just figuratively. You can use it in expressions such as en un rincón de mi cabeza (in the back of my mind) oren un rincón de tu corazón (in a corner of your heart). Or you can use the verb arrinconar (to corner) in expressions such as  me siento arrinconado (I feel cornered) or me tienes arrinconado (you have me cornered).

The word esquina, on the other handis more specific. You use it to talk about the intersection of two walls, or,—a classic example—two streets. In the following example, take note of the figurative use of the Spanish verb doblar (to fold):

Me dijo dobla en la esquina, iremos hasta mi casa.
She told me turn at the corner, we'll go to my place.

Nice, don't you think? Of course, you can easily use the verb voltear (to turn) as well: volteaen la esquina (turn at the corner). Or just say da vuelta en la esquina (make a turn at the corner). Going back to esquina, we recommend that you learn the participleesquinado (cornered). It could be used as an adjective to describe the position or direction of something, for example: pon la mesa de forma esquinada (place the table right next to the corner), or even, the RAE tells us, the prickly temperament of a person (someone with many angles or "corners"). Another keeper is the word esquinero (corner shelf), which is used as an adjective too: mesa esquinera (corner table), farol esquinero (corner lamppost), etc. 

To wrap it up... there is an impolite expression that is used exactly the same way in both languages: vete a tu esquina (go to your corner). Try not to use if too often, if possible. There are, anyway, more productive ways to use this word. Take for example the evocative lyrics of the famous Tinta roja (Red Ink) tango song, which Gardel (a character in our series Yago Pasión Morena) quotes when he feels lost upon arriving in his Buenos Aires arrabal:
 

¿Dónde estará mi arrabal? Con un borrón, pintó la esquina.
Where would my neighborhood be? With a blot, it painted the corner.
Caption 33, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 3


Here you can read the entire lyrics of Tinta roja and a translation.

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