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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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Very Polite Independent Clauses Using Subjunctive

Let's go back to the subjunctive just a little. Did you know that one characteristic that sets apart the subjunctive mood from the indicative, conditional, and the imperative is the fact that the subjunctive is found primarily in dependent clauses? (Of course, the other moods can occur there as well.) Let's illustrate this with an example from one of our new videos:
 

¿Que estás queriendo que se muera más rápido?
What do you want, for him to die faster?
Caption 12, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 9

 

This is a classic example of subjunctive, right? It's being used to talk about a wish, a hypothetical situation. We have highlighted the subjunctive muera in bold and underlined the indicative queriendo to clearly show you the way the subjunctive is used as part of compound sentences: the indicative queriendo plays the main role as the independent clause (the action of wanting), while the subjunctive muera refers to the action that depends on it (the action of dying). This is the way the subjunctive is used most of the time. 

 

But the subjunctive is sometimes used in independent clauses. One of the most interesting cases is when the imperfect subjunctive is used to replace the conditional forms of the verbspoder (to be able), querer (to want), and deber (must) as part of what in Spanish is called elsubjuntivo de cortesía (the courtesy subjunctive). As its name indicates, this constructions is used to make a request or a suggestion in a more gentle, polite, or deferential way. This type of subjunctive is very, very common, so it's a good idea to memorize the corresponding conjugation for each verb. you can find full conjugations of these verbs on this page.

 

You might also want to explore the following examples. Note that the use of this subjunctive is usually combined with another verb in infinitive:

 

Quisiera saber si los perros tienen cosquillas.
I would like to know if dogs are ticklish.
Caption 102, Animales en familia - Señales de calma y cosquillas en los perros

 

¿Pudieras pasarme la leche?
Could you pass me the milk?
 

Angélica debiera bajar a comer.
Angelica should come down to eat.
Caption 11, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa

 

All these expressions would still be correct if you used the conditional forms (querría instead of quisierapodrías instead of pudierasdebería instead of debiera); the use of subjunctive just makes them more polite, refined. It's a subtle difference, really. Think of it this way: using the conditional podrías pasarme la leche could mean, in theory, that the speaker is actually doubting weather the other person is able to pass the milk or not, instead of just asking for a favor. The use of the subjunctive leaves no room for doubts that you are making a polite request.

 

We can't stress enough how common this substitution of conditional with subjunctive is. But make no mistake, this is no conditional, and it only uses these three verbs. You may bump into similar constructions that are just incomplete compound sentences, for example incomplete si (if) clauses:

 

Si yo supiera ... 
If I only knew...
Caption 61, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 4


The subjunctive is not used as an independent clause here. Grammatically speaking, this expression is just missing its main clause, in this case a conditional. If we add it, for example: si yo supiera te lo diría (if I only knew I would tell you), we have a classic case of conditional plus subjunctive, as seen in one of our previous lessons on the subject.   

 

The same happens with the following example. It's a tricky one, because even though it uses the verb poder (to be able), this is not a case of courtesy subjunctive. To prove it, we have completed the sentence with a conditional in brackets:

 

Si pudiera bajarte una estrella del cielo  [me amarías]
If I could lower down to you a star from the sky [you would love me]
Caption 5, Enrique Iglesias - Cuando me enamoro

 

Another interesting use of the subjunctive used as an independent sentence happens when it's used with words that mean “perhaps,” like tal vez and quizá

 

Tal vez cure el tiempo las heridas.
Perhaps time may heal the wounds.
Caption 20, Reik - No desaparecerá

 

Of course, it's also possible to simply use the indicative here and say: tal vez cura el tiempo las heridas (perhaps time heals the wounds). The use of subjunctive just stresses the idea that the action is improbable or doubtful, it's also more poetic. However—and this is just an exercise of the mind—another way of understanding these type of expressions is to recall that the words tal vez and quizá mean es posible (it's possible) and thus play the role of the main clause in a classic example of indicative plus subjunctive, where the subjunctive que cure... is the subordinate clause. Just saying.

 

Es posible que cure el tiempo las heridas.
It's possible that time will heal the wounds.

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Combining Subjunctive With Conditional

This is our third lesson in the series on the Spanish subjunctive. We invite you to read our lessons on Subjunctive and Indicative and Subjunctive and Imperative. Our site is featuring new social media widgets, so feel free to share the lessons with all your friends!

Let's now study how to combine subjunctive with conditional. Don't forget all our examples use bold to highlight the subjunctive and underlining for the other moods.

The Spanish subjunctive can be used with both forms of the conditional. The most common one is the simple conditional. Remember that to conjugate regular -ar, -er and -ir verbs in the conditional, you add the endings -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, -ían to the infinitive form of the verb. You may want to refresh your knowledge of the Spanish conditional and keep your conjugation charts handy for this lesson.

The simple conditional is usually combined with the pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo (imperfect subjunctive). It is one of the most common ways to express wishes in Spanish. Incidentally, this is one of the few cases in which you can use subjunctive as the main or indepented clause of a compound sentence in Spanish:

Quisiera que el coche tuviera GPS.
I would want [I wish] the car had GPS.

Compare this to the use of simple present indicative with present subjunctive, which we learned in our first lesson: 

Quiero que el coche tenga GPS.
I want the car to have GPS.

Which is very different from not using subjunctive at all: 
Quiero que el coche tiene GPS.
I want the car has GPS.


ERROR! You can't say this in Spanish. You must use subjunctive as in the first two examples. English can't get away with it either, at least not using present indicative, as shown in the equally wrong translation. The infinitive is acceptable in English ("yes, I want the car to have GPS"), but not Spanish: saying sí, quiero que el coche tener GPS is even worse! Don't do it.

Let's go back to simple conditional and subjunctive. You can also use the simple conditional with the pretérito pluscuamperfecto del subjuntivo (pluperfect subjunctive). Since this is a compound tense that's kind of fancy, is not very common to combine it with simple conditional. But it happens. Let's use the same example with the verb querer (to want):

Querría que el coche hubiera tenido GPS.
I would want [I wish] the car had had GPS. 

And it gets fancier than that. Spanish has two forms of conditional, a simple one and a compound form that uses the verb haber (to have) plus participio (-ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho endings): the conditional perfect. You can use it with pluperfect subjunctive. These expressions are not common since you can always use a more simple construction. But here are two examples:

With the imperfect subjunctive (seen above):
Habría querido que el coche tuviera GPS.
I would have wanted the car had GPS.

With the pluperfect subjunctive is even less common:
Habría querido que el coche hubiera tenido GPS.
I would have wanted the car had had GPS.

To end this lesson we want to share with you some cases in which Spanish uses subjunctive in simple sentences, short expressions that are very commonly uses in everyday life. Spanish is not precisely well known for having short expressions, but one of our readers helped us realized how beautiful these are:

¡Que descanses!
¡Que te vaya bien!
¡Que llueva!
¡Que todo se solucione!
¡Que salga el sol!

In fact, if you look closely, these short expressions are just using implicitly the verbdesear ( "to wish" or "to hope"):

¡[Deseo] que descanses! I hope you have some rest.
¡[Deseo] que te vaya bien! I hope you do well.
¡[Deseo] que lluevaI hope it rains.
¡[Deseo] que todo se solucioneI hope everything gets solved.
¡[Deseo] que salga el sol! I hope the sun comes out.

Which makes them a classic case of present indicative combined with present subjunctive. 

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Combining Subjunctive With Imperative

As promised, let's continue our lesson on the subjunctive by analyzing model sentences to learn how to combine it with other moods. You can read our previous lesson on subjunctive and indicative here.

You can combine the imperative (which is only conjugated in the present tense) with two different tenses of the subjunctive. The easiest and the most common case is when you use the imperative with the present subjunctive. Here are two examples (remember we're using bold for the subjunctive and underline for the other moods):
 

Tú haz lo que quieras y yo también.
You do whatever you want and so do I.
Caption 51, Jugando a la Brisca - En la calle - Part 1

Y decile a tu amigo que deje de llamarme Vicky.
And tell your friend to quit calling me Vicky.
Caption 19, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto - Part 4


Keep in mind that deci (tell) is typically Argentinian. In other countries you would hear di (tell): dile a tu amigo (tell your friend).

But going back to the subjunctive, let's analyze the meaning of the expression in the last example. Spanish uses the subjunctive here because what has been said is in the realm of possibilities (in this case, is the expression of a desire) not in the realm of facts. So you can't say dile que me deja de llamarme Vickythis is incorrect because the indicative deja (he quits) is reserved to state facts, as in tu amigo deja de llamarme Vicky (your friend quits calling me Vicky). Another way to phrase the same request could be dile a tu amigo que no me llame Vicky (tell your friend not to call me Vicky). Note that instead of using the verb dejar (to quit) we use a negation plus the verbllamar (to call) in present subjunctive (llame). Again, you could not possibly use the indicative mood here and say dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky. This is incorrect— well, at least if what you want to express is a desire or a request. We say this because you know how context changes everything. For the pure pleasure of curiosity, consider an expression in which this last construction could happen, for example: dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky que venga a mi fiesta (tell your friend who doesn't call me Vicky to come to my party). See? We use the indicative llama (he calls) to express that it's a fact that he doesn't call Victoria "Vicky," and then we use the subjunctive venga (to come) because it states Victoria's desire for him to come to her party. 

But let's not torture ourselves with games and let's see the second case of imperative combined with subjunctive, this time the pretérito perfecto (equivalent to present perfect subjunctive) which is a compound tense that uses the auxiliary verb haber (to have):

Haz lo que te hayan dicho los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors have told you. 
Dame lo que hayas cocinado.
Give me whatever you have cooked.
Dime lo que María te haya contado.
Tell me whatever Maria has told you.

This is not exactly an easy tense, right? Compare these sentences with the following ones that use the imperative with the present subjunctive (reviewed first in this lesson):

Haz lo que te digan los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors tell you. 
Dame algo de lo que cocines mañana.
Give me some of what you cook tomorrow.
Dime lo que María quiera.
Tell me whatever Maria wants.

The good news is that you can find ways to get away without using the pretérito perfecto del subjuntivo. For example, you can just use the simple past indicative. It's much less... let's say sophisticated, because the subtle meaning of indeterminacy that the subjunctive gives to the expression (which in English is expressed using the word "whatever") gets lost. Still, the past indicative gets the job done:

Haz lo que te dijeron los doctores.
Do what the doctors told you. 
Dame lo que cocinaste.
Give me what you cooked.
Dime lo que María te contó.
Tell me what Maria told you.

Part 3 of this series will tackle the use of the conditional paired with subjunctive.

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Combining Subjunctive with Indicative

The Spanish subjunctive is one of the most challenging concepts for English speakers to master. Even though English does actually have a subjunctive mood (already challenging by itself), its use is more associated with formal and written speech. By contrast, Spanish uses the subjunctive in everyday situations far more often. And it gets even more challenging if you consider the many ways in which the subjunctive can be combined with other moods in Spanish. So let's try to tackle this prickly subject. But instead of talking about rules and grammar, let's try to take a more practical approach by learning and analyzing model sentences. 

A brief intro. It's very likely that you have already read a lot about the subjunctive. You know that it is not a tense but a mood. That it doesn't refer to the time when an action takes place (past, present, future, etc.), but rather that it reflects how the speaker feels about it. Therefore, that it's radically different from the most commonly used indicative mood, which expresses factual information, certainty, and objectivity. Very much like an evil twin, the subjunctive is used to express the opposite: things like doubt, uncertainty, subjectivity, etc. We have explored the basic use of the subjunctive before in previous lessons, and you are welcome to explore them again. Some are:

Using que [that] + subjunctive to express good wishes
Como si fuese: Learning to use the subjunctive
Haya: For Possibilities and Doubts

 We also have a couple of videos on the subjunctive:
El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos - Subjuntivo y condicional 
Escuela Don Quijote - En el aula - Part 1


In this lesson we will focus on the use of the subjunctive combined with the indicative mood by studying model sentences. Take note: we will always use bold to highlight the subjunctive and underlining for the indicative. Also, we recommend that you use https://conjuguemos.com if you need to check out the Spanish verb conjugation charts.

The Spanish present subjunctive is notoriously used combined with the indicative present in sentences for which English uses only the indicative. There is a memorable sentence you can use as a model to remember this: 
 

Quiero que me quieras.
I want you to want me.
Caption 1, Gael García Bernal - Quiero Que Me Quieras


So never say quiero que me quieres, ok? That makes the same sense in Spanish that "I want that you would want me" makes in English. Get it? Another example: don't say no deseo que sufres, instead say no deseo que sufras ( I don't want you to suffer). 
Present subjunctive can be combined with indicative future:
 

Desearé que tengas buen viaje.
I will wish that you have a nice trip.
Caption 55, Kany Garcia - Hoy Ya Me Voy


Now, you can also combine the past indicative with the past subjunctive. The easiest and most common case is when you combine the pretérito del indicativo (simple past indicative) with pretérito imperfecto subjuntivo (past imperfect subjunctive). Call it the Simple Past Mash-up:
 

Siempre quise que fueras feliz.
I always wanted you to be happy. 
Caption 14, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 6


Then you can also combine the pretérito imperfecto del indicativo (imperfect past indicative) with the same pretérito imperfecto subjuntivo (past imperfect subjunctive). As you may know, the imperfect is used to refer to past habitual actions or to set the scene in the past. So if this is of any help to you, you could call this the Habitual Past Mash-up. Here's a model sentence using the same verb querer (to want):
 

Ella no quería que yo leyera.
She didn't want me to read.
Caption 17, Carli Muñoz - Niñez - Part 1


So, in Spanish you have these two options that translate the same way in English. Feel comfortable using either of them; the difference is quite subtle:

Ella no quizo que yo leyera / Ella no quería que yo leyera.
She didn't want me to read / She (habitually) didn't want me to read.

Note: there are other options to combine the past indicative with the past subjunctive, but we'll skip them since they use compound forms of the verb and are not used that often in common speech. Instead, let's analyze and learn some interesting combinations of present indicative with past subjunctive next.

Spanish speakers use present indicative with past subjunctive and vice versa. This happens with the past perfect tense (either in the subjunctive or in the indicative moods) because of its proximity to the present tense.

When it's present indicative with past subjunctive, it's with the pretérito perfecto subjuntivo, a compound tense in the subjunctive mood that uses the verb haber (to have) plus a participio (the -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho ending):
 

No creo que hayas venido nada más que para decirme algo que yo ya sé.
I don't think that you've come just to tell me something that I already know.
Caption 9, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 10


We suggest you to practice this model sentence with other persons and forms of this subjunctive (using different participios as well):
No creo que hayan tomado mucha cerveza / I don't think that they've drunk a lot of beer.
No creo que él haya salido de ahí / I don't think that he has come out of there.
No creo que hayamos  impreso eso / I don't think that we've printed that.
No creo que hayas dicho eso / I don't think that you've said that out.

Note also that here no creo (I don't think) is expressing doubt, and that's why the sentence needs the use of subjunctive. If we were to say the opposite, yo creo (I think), we could also combine it with a past tense but in the indicative mood. For the first example: Creo que han tomado mucha cerveza (I think they have drunk a lot of beer).

Finally, the other way around, Spanish speakers can use past indicative with present subjunctive. When this happens it's with the pretérito perfecto indicativo, a compound tense in the indicative mood that uses the verb haber (to have) plus aparticipio (the -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho ending):
 
Él no ha querido que yo diga nada.
He hasn't wanted me to say anything.

And that's it for now. Who said this lesson wouldn't be loaded with grammar? Anyway, we suggest that you learn the model sentences and try to build new ones making substitutions. We will continue next week analyzing sentences that combine subjunctive with other two moods: the conditional and the imperative.

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Drop That Article

Articles are used before nouns to indicate a subject's number or gender. Sometimes, however, the use of an article before a noun is not required. This happens with both indefinite and definite articles, in Spanish, in English and in many other languages as well. In fact, generally speaking, articles are used the same way in Spanish and English. There are many cases in which the same rules apply for both languages. For example, you don't use definite articles before days of the week or months following the verb ser(to be):

Hoy es viernes. Son las siete de la tarde.
Today is Friday. It's seven in the evening.
Caption 4, Reporteros - Crecen los robos en tiendas - Part 2

or following the preposition de (from):

Trabajo de lunes a sábado.
I work from Monday to Saturday.
Caption 31, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 12

It's not very common, and even unnecessary, but you could use indefinite articles in both cases. The meaning is slightly different and this happens both in Spanish and English:

Hoy es un miércoles / Hoy es miércoles
Today is a Wednesday / Today is Wednesday
Es la misma rutina de un lunes a un viernes / Es la misma rutina de lunes a viernes.
It's the same routine from a Monday to a Friday / It's the same routine from Monday to Friday.

However, there are a few cases in which we wouldn't use "a" or "an" in English, but we would in Spanish and vice versa. For example, in Spanish you can use a definite article before days and say Los lunes no trabajo (I don't work on Mondays) or Estoy esperando desde el lunes (I've been waiting since Monday). These you need to learn, so let's explore some examples.

In Spanish, you can drop indefinite articles when the noun is preceded by words like tal[es] (such), otro/a (other), and qué (what). Compare with the English translation in the following examples:

Qué lástima que no llegaste al partido; estuvo joya.
What a pity that you didn't come to the game; it was awesome.
Caption 5, Fonda Mi Lupita - Encargado - Part 2

... de cierta manera... con ciertos defectos, ¿no?
...in a certain way... with certain defects, right?
Caption 32, Nortec Collective - Bostich+Fussible

In the previous example English drops the article when using the plural only, while Spanish drops it in both singular and plural. And yet, saying de una cierta manera in Spanish is also correct.

Spanish doesn't use definite articles before numerals that express titles of rulers:

El edificio data del siglo dieciocho, en tiempos de Felipe Quinto.
The building dates from the eighteenth century, during the time period of Philip the fifth.
Caption 22, Madrid - Un recorrido por la capital de España - Part 1


In Spanish you usually drop definite and indefinite articles before nouns in apposition (when a noun explains another). But you don't necessary want to do it every single time. For example, in Spanish you can say Ankara, capital de Turquía, es una bella ciudad  (Ankara, the capital of Turkey, is a beautiful city.) However, it's still correct to say Ankara, la capital del Turquía, es una bella ciudad. Obviously, in this case you can't use the definite article. You can't say Ankara, una capital de Turquía—that doesn't make sense either in Spanish or English since cities have, by definition, only one capital.

But check out this example: Juanita, una tía de Raquel, vino de visita (Juanita, one of Raquel's aunts, came to visit).Saying Juanita, tía de Raquel, vino de visita (Juanita,Raquel's aunt, came to visit) is also correct. And Juanita, la tía de Raquel, vino de visita is correct too.The translation in English is the same: Juanita, Raquel's aunt, came to visit. The only difference is that the definite article la (the) confers some sense of specificity to the expression. Maybe it means that Juanita is the only aunt Raquel has, or that she is particularly close or somehow special, she is not any aunt but la tía (the aunt). 

In Spanish you usually drop indefinite articles before unmodified nouns when stating nationality, profession, and religious or political affiliation. You can't always do the same in English. For example:

El Señor Chong es mexicano. Es burócrata. Es Secretario de Gobernación. Es católico. Es priísta.
Mr. Chong is Mexican. He is a bureaucrat. He is Secretary of State. He is a Catholic. He's an affiliate of the PRI party.

Here is another example from our catalog:

Y ¿tu marido es agricultor o algo?
And your husband is a farmer or something?
Caption 55, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 18


That doesn't mean that saying mi marido es un agricultor (my husband is a farmer) is wrong. It's just not the way you usually state professions. On the other hand, when the noun is modified (usually by an adjetive or a subordinate clause), you have to use an article. For example, you must say: mi marido es el agricultor famoso (my husband isthe famous farmer) or mi marido es un agricultor que se preocupa por el medio ambiente (my husband is farmer who cares about the environment).

What is really incorrect is not using articles before the names of languages. When talking about languages, English usually drops the articles, but Spanish doesn't:

El español es un idioma muy bonito.
Spanish is a very nice language.
Caption 42, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana - Crista Pérez - Part 1


There's an exception. You can drop the article when the language is used directly after a verb as its complement:

Como... como yo hablo árabe.
Since... since I speak Arabic.
Caption 8, Taimur - Taimur habla - Part 1

Finally, don't drop the article when telling the time in Spanish. You will always use the feminine definite article la or its plural las, since it refers to la hora (the hour) or las horas (the hours). 

Salí a las siete y media y voy llegando a la una.
I went out at seven thirty and I'm arriving at one.
Caption 77, Calle 13 - La Perla

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