We use idiomatic expressions all the time in our conversations. However, learning to use idiomatic expressions in a foreign language is something that most students find particularly challenging. Let’s find out how to say “a piece of cake,” “rain buckets,” “get away with it,” and “feel like” in Spanish.
In English, when something is extremely easy to do we say that such a thing is “a piece of cake.” In Spanish, the equivalent expression is pan comido (eaten bread):
porque componer para mí es pan comido.
because for me composing is a piece of cake.
Caption 80, NPS, No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 9
In English, there’re several expressions that can be used to express that it’s raining heavily, for example “to rain buckets” or “to rain cats and dogs.” If we want to express the same idea in Spanish we must use the expression llover a cántaros [literally "to rain jugs"]:
Sí, llueve a cántaros.
Yes, it's raining buckets.
Caption 45, Español para principiantes - Saludos y encuentros
In English, when someone manages to do something bad without being punished or criticized for it, we say that he/she “gets away with it.” In Spanish, the phrase used to express the same idea is salirse con la suya:
Yo no pienso dejar que esa sifrina se salga con la suya.
I don't plan to let that snob get away with it.
Caption 79, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 10
Finally, when we want to say that someone has the desire to do something, we use the expression “to feel like.” In Spanish people use the phrase tener ganas de:
Si tienes ganas de más aventuras,
If you feel like more adventures,
Caption 20, Marta - Los Modos de Transporte
¿Tienes ganas de practicar más? [Do you feel like practicing more?]. Try finding more idiomatic expressions in our catalog of videos! And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this lesson, we will review some very useful idioms and expressions with the verb tener (to have).
Very often, we use idiomatic expressions with tener in the present so let’s review the conjugation of this verb in the present tense:
Yo tengo | I have
Tú tienes | You have
Él/Ella tiene | He/She has
Nosotros tenemos | We have
Vosotros tenéis | You have
Ellos tienen | They have
There are many idiomatic expressions with the verb tener that Spanish speakers use to express physical sensations. These include expressions like tener frío/calor (to be cold/hot), tener hambre (to be hungry) and tener sueño (to be sleepy):
Bueno, pero tengo frío.
Well, but I'm cold.
Caption 31, Natalia de Ecuador - Palabras de uso básico
Y más que tenemos hambre ya a esta hora.
And plus, we're already hungry at this hour.
Caption 106, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5
We are sleepy.
Caption 38, El Aula Azul - Estados de ánimo
Apart from physical sensations, we can also use the verb tener to express other more psychological states such as tener miedo (to be afraid), tener ganas (to want/to desire), tener prisa (to be in a hurry) and tener vergüenza (to be ashamed):
¡Tengo miedo, tengo miedo, tengo miedo!
I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid!
Caption 42, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 2
Siento que te cansaste y tienes ganas
I feel that you got tired and you want
Caption 4, Circo - Velocidades luz
la gente parece que siempre tiene prisa…
people seem to always be in a hurry...
Caption 38, Maestra en Madrid - Nuria y amigo
En este momento duda porque tiene vergüenza de ir a la escuela,
At this moment she hesitates because she's ashamed to go to school,
Caption 49, Con ánimo de lucro - Cortometraje - Part 4
And finally, don’t forget that you also need to use an idiomatic expression with the verb tenerwhen you talk about age:
Tengo veintiún años y soy estudiante de negocios internacionales.
I'm twenty-one years old and I'm a student of international business.
Caption 2, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle
That's all for now. We challenge you to try finding more idiomatic expressions with the verb tener in our catalog of videos! And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to email@example.com.
Let's continue learning idiomatic expressions that use names of body parts. This lesson focuses on the word boca (mouth).
The expression llevarse algo a la boca (literally "to put something in one's mouth") means "to eat." You can see an example in the following quote from our catalog of videos:
que te lleves algo a la boca. -¡Hombre, algo a la barriga!
you put something in your mouth. -Man, something to put into my belly!
Caption 87, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 10
Somewhat similar is the expression no tener nada que llevarse a la boca (literally, "to lack something to put in one's mouth"), which basically means "to be very poor."
Two very useful phrases using the word boca (mouth) are boca arriba (face up) and boca abajo (face down):
Túmbese, boca arriba.
Lay down, face up.
Caption 34, Club de las ideas - Técnico en imagen para diagnóstico
The expression abrir la boca (to open one's mouth) means "to speak out," "to confess or reveal a secret," or "to spill a gossip," depending on the context:
Eso sí, miralo y no abras la boca hasta que volvamos a hablar vos y yo, ¿eh?
Mind you, watch it and don't open your mouth until we speak again, you and I, OK?
Caption 6, Muñeca Brava - 9 Engaños - Part 8
Also similar is irse de boca (literally "to go mouth on"), that is "to run off at the mouth" or simply "to be indiscreet":
No te habrás ido de boca diciéndole la verdad a ese Sirenio, ¿no?
You wouldn't have been indiscreet by telling that Sirenio guy the truth, right?
Caption 52, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 12
El presidente se fue de boca otra vez.
The president ran his mouth off again.
Finally, keep in mind that irse de boca is also a synonym phrase of caerse de boca (to go headlong, to fall flat on your face). This is a very colloquial expression that you probably won't use in a formal situation:
Se fue de boca y se fracturó la nariz.
He went headlong and fractured his nose.
That's all for now. We challenge you to try finding more expressions using the word boca in our catalog of videos! And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learning how to combine prepositions such as a, ante, con, de, desde, en, para, por, and sin (among others) is key to being able to build complex ideas in Spanish. For example, you can use them to introduce a subordinate clause in a very simple sentence:
Voy al banco a cambiar un cheque (I go/I'm going to the bank to cash a check)
Voy al banco para cambiar un cheque (I go/I'm going to the bank to cash a check)
Voy al banco con María (I go/I'm going to the bank with Maria)
Voy al banco de la esquina (I go/I'm going to the bank on the corner of the street)
Voy al banco desde temprano (I go/I'm going to the bank early in the morning)
Voy al banco en carro (I go/I'm going to the bank by car)
Voy al banco por unos documentos (I go/I'm going to the bank to get some documents)
Voy al banco según me indicaste (I go/I'm going to the bank as you told me to)
Voy al banco sin mi paraguas (I go/I'm going to the bank without my umbrella)
You can also combine prepositions with other particles in Spanish. One interesting case is the combination of prepositions with the word que. Let's focus on the combination a que (entirely different from a qué), which is very useful! Here's an example:
Pues yo te invito a que lo pruebes.
Well, I invite you to try it.
Caption 87, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 6
Another way to express the same idea in Spanish is te invito a probarlo (I invite you to try it). Do you notice the difference? The preposition a introduces a verb in the infinitive (probarlo) while the combination a que introduces a clause with a conjugated verb (pruebes).
Another example/meaning of a que is:
Mi padre era muy reacio a que [yo] las tocara.
My father was very reluctant for me to touch them.
Caption 57, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 10
As you can see, English has a different, more convoluted way to express this idea of being reluctant about an action performed by a third person. But the Spanish a que construction can be combined with a conjugated verb in the subjunctive. If you were wondering, you can't express this precise idea in Spanish using the infinitive. But if the subjunctive is still hard for you, try something simple and depersonalized: Mi padre era muy reacio a tocarlas (My father was very reluctant to touch them).
The phrase a que can be used to answer someone who's asking an a qué question:
¿A qué viniste? -Vine a que me pagues.
What did you come for? - I came for you to pay me.
Finally, there's an expression using the combination a que that you will surely like. It's used to confirm that we are on the same page with somebody, that we agree about something:
¿Tú la cuidas bien a que sí?
You take good care of her, right?
Caption 23, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 16
In Spanish this expression a que sí is equivalent and very similar to ¿verdad que sí? (literally "is it true that yes?"). It can also be used in the negative form:
¿A que no adivinas dónde estuvimos?
I bet you won't guess where we were?
Caption 9, Guillermina y Candelario - Carrera de Relevos - Part 1
You can think of this expression as a short version of the phrase apuesto a que no (I bet that you don't...), which is also used in positive terms: apuesto a que sí (I bet you do...), by the way. It's just much more common to use the negative form to stress the daring nature of this expression. But it's perfectly correct to say: ¡A que sí puedes. Inténtalo! (I bet you can. Try!).
That's all for now! We'll explore more of these combinations in future lessons. Don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to email@example.com.
Let's learn some useful Spanish expressions.
The expression total, para qué ( literally "total, what for") is used to express hopelessness if you think that something is likely to fail or is unpromising. The phrase is equivalent to the English expression "So, what's the use," as you can see in the following example:
¡Ay! Total para qué... ¡Ya olvídalo!
Oh! So what's the use... Forget it already!
Another interesting expression is tener en cuenta (to keep into account, to keep in mind):
Intentaré hacer todo lo que me has dicho y tener en cuenta tus recomendaciones.
I will try to do everything that you have told me and keep in mind your recommendations.
Caption 56-57, El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos - Subjuntivo y condicional
Here's another example using teniendo (having, keeping) in a more formal context:
Teniendo en cuenta lo anterior, quisiera compartir con ustedes el siguiente mito muisca
Taking into account the foregoing, I would like to share with you the following Muisca myth
Caption 19-20, Aprendiendo con Carlos - América precolombina - El mito de Bachué
On the contrary, the expression hacer de cuenta, means "to pretend":
Entonces, haz de cuenta están hablando ellos
So, pretend they are talking...
Caption 16, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle - Part 1
As you can see, this expression is frequently used in the imperative mode:
Pero hagamos de cuenta que es profundísimo.
But let's pretend that it is very deep.
Caption 33, Salvando el planeta Palabra - Llegada - Part 8
The verb decir (to say, to tell) is very common in Spanish. Let’s learn how to use it.
One of the most commonly used forms of this verb is digo (I say):
Pero si yo digo: yo voy en el coche y tú vas en el autobús.
But if I say: I'm going in the car, and you are going on the bus.
Caption 46, Fundamentos del Español - 6 - Tú y Usted
The verb decir is frequently followed by the word que (that):
Yo digo que la fruta es para comerla no para hacerse una fotografía con ella.
I say that fruit is to eat it not to take a picture with it.
Caption 48, Los Reporteros - Sembrar, comer, tirar - Part 2
Also remember that in Spanish you don't always need to use personal pronouns before verbs, since these are conjugated differently for each person:
Pues entonces rejuvenece coger castañas. -Digo que sí.
Well then, it rejuvenates to pick chestnuts. -I say so.
Caption 19, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 4
Another common instance of the verb decir is dice (he/she/it says). The reason why dice is very useful is because it helps us talk about what we read or hear. For example:
Hay un letrero en la puerta que dice que ya está cerrado | There's a sign on the door sayingit's closed already.
El mensaje dice que viene una gran tormenta | The message says a big storm is coming.
Mayra dice que te tienes que ir | Mayra says you have to go.
We mentioned before that it’s very common to omit personal pronouns before verbs in Spanish. But you will find that the verb decir is frequently preceded by reflexive, direct, or indirect object pronouns (me, te, se, nos, os, le, les, la, las, lo) depending on what is being said and to whom. For example:
¿Quién nos dice que la vida nos dará el tiempo necesario?
Who says [to us] that life will give us the necessary time?
Caption 19, Julieta Venegas - El Presente
Supongamos que un amigo me dice lo siguiente:
Let's imagine that a friend tells me the following:
Caption 44, Carlos explica - Diminutivos y Aumentativos Parte 2
It's also important to remember how pronouns are combined when using this verb. You must place reflexive or indirect object pronouns first, and then direct object pronouns right next to the verb. In the following example te replaces an indirect object (you) and lo (it) replaces a direct object:
Te lo digo de corazón.
I tell [it to] you from the heart.
Caption 25, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor
The past tense dijo (he/she/it said) is another useful form of this verb. For example, you can use it to talk about what someone told you in the past. The expression me lo dijo (he/she/it told it to me) is worth learning:
¡Es verdad, pana, mi hermano me lo dijo!
It's true, pal, my brother told it to me!
Caption 45, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 3
No le digas (don’t tell him/her) and no me digas (don’t tell me) are also useful:
¡No le digas, Candelario!
Don’t tell him, Candelario!
Caption 14, Guillermina y Candelario - La isla de las serpientes
Another fixed expression is se dice (it's said, one says), which is equivalent to dice la gente(people say):
Bueno y se dice que la mujer tiene un sexto sentido.
Well, and one says that a woman has a sixth sense.
Caption 48, El Ausente - Acto 2 - Part 3
The same phrase, se dice, can also be used to talk about the correct pronunciation of a word, or its meaning in a different language. For example:
Buenos días se dice "bonjour" en Francés | "Bonjour" is good morning in French.
No se dice "soy contento", se dice "estoy contento" | You don't say "soy contento," you say "estoy contento" (I'm happy).
You can find many more examples of the verb decir in our catalog. You just need to type the form of the verb that you want to practice in the search tool to start learning real Spanish from real speakers in real situations!
How much you learn about the proper use of ser and estar (both meaning "to be") depends on your exposure to how real Spanish is spoken by real people. This lesson focuses on how a person can use estoy (“I'm” —the first-person singular form of estar in the present tense) to talk about himself or herself.
The present tense of the verb estar (to be) is estoy. You can use it combined with an adjective (or a participio—the -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho endings and their feminine and plural forms, used as an adjective) to express your current state of mind, body, or soul:
Yo estoy listo ya... ¿Dónde está el perro?
I'm ready now... Where's the dog?
Caption 108, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5
It's very common, for example, to use estar to talk about emotions, convictions, and beliefs:
Bueno, pero estoy muy contenta.
Well, but I am very happy.
Caption 12, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 6
Yo creo que sí. -Estoy convencido que poco a poco vamos a... a buscar alternativas.
I think so. -I am convinced that little by little we are going to... to look for alternatives.
Caption 75-76, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 5
You can use any other regular adjective as well. Some examples are below:
Estoy limpio - I'm clean.
Estoy enferma - I'm sick.
Estoy sola - I'm lonely.
At this point it's useful to compare the possible meaning of similar phrases using ser instead of estar. Note how, by using ser instead of estar, the adjective becomes an intrinsic characteristic of the subject:
Soy limpio - I'm a clean person.
Soy enferma - Incorrect, it’s better to say soy una persona enferma "I'm a sick person," or even just estoy enferma (I’m sick), because this phrase can also mean “I’m a sick person” given the appropriate context.
Soy sola - Incorrect, it’s better to say soy una persona solitaria (I'm a lonely person).
You can combine estoy with the gerundio (-ando / -endo / -iendo endings) to talk about your actions, about what you are doing. The combination with haciendo, the gerundio of the verb hacer (to do) is very common:
Yo estoy haciendo el control de calidad del producto.
I'm doing the quality control of the product.
Caption 4, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 20
But you can combine estoy with any other gerundio, for example cogiendo, the gerundio of coger (to grab, to pick):
Hasta que no palme estoy cogiendo castañas.
As long as I don't croak, I'm picking chestnuts.
Caption 6, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5
You can use estoy with a complement that denotes space to specify your location. The combination with an adverb of place is common:
Por eso estoy aquí, porque me han dicho...
That's why I am here because they have told me...
Caption 85, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 15
And also with the preposition en (in):
Eh, ahora mismo estoy en Málaga, estoy de vacaciones.
Right now I am in Malaga, I am on vacation.
Caption 2, Arume - Málaga, España
The verb estoy can also be combined with certain prepositions to express a wide array of ideas. For example, you can use it with the preposition de to talk about your role or position in a certain context:
Eh, y... estoy de acuerdo con, con Denisse ahí.
Uh, and... I agree (literally, "I'm in accord") with, with Denisse there.
Caption 24, Belanova - Entrevista - Part 3
No, luego, cuando acaba la campaña estoy de camarero.
No, after, once the season ends, I work as a waiter.
Caption 61, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 13
Eh, ahora mismo estoy en Málaga, estoy de vacaciones.
Right now I am in Malaga, I am on vacation.
Caption 2, Arume - Málaga, España
You can combine the verb estoy with the preposition por and a verb in infinitive (-er, -ar, -irendings) to talk about what you are about to do:
Estoy por ganar el juego de scrabble.
I'm about to win the Scrabble match.
Estoy por terminar. Espérenme, por favor.
I'm about to finish. Please, wait for me.
You can use estar and the preposition para to talk about purpose, function, etc.
Aquí estoy para servir.
I'm here to serve.
Here's an interesting example from our catalog of videos:
o estoy para dirigir cine tal vez.
or maybe, I'm suited to direct a movie.
Caption 68, Arturo Vega - Entrevista
There are many other ways in which you can use the verb estoy; these are just some of the most common ones. For now, we recommend you practice these expressions, maybe try transforming them into the past or future tenses! Our next lesson in this series will focus on how soy (the first-person singular form of ser in the present tense) can be used to talk about oneself.
Let's continue our lesson about the most common ways to say “I'm sorry” in Spanish. Thank you to everybody who sent us feedback and suggestions about this lesson!
We discussed the expression lo siento (I'm sorry) in our previous lesson. Let's now focus on the use and meaning of perdóna[me] and discúlpa[me]. As we mentioned before, these two words have a clear and very distinctive apologetic nature and both translate as "I'm sorry," given the appropriate context.
Ay... ¡perdón! ¡Perdón!
Oh... sorry! Sorry!
Caption 21, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle
Te recuerdo, no me digas así porque no lo soporto. -Ay, disculpa.
I remind you, do not call me that because I can't deal with it. -Oh, sorry.
Caption 31, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 3
Remember that perdón and disculpa are also nouns that mean "forgiveness" and "excuse" respectively. So you can say te pido perdón (I ask your forgiveness) or te pido disculpas (literally "I ask you to excuse me"):
Y si he fallado en algo, te pido perdón
And if I have failed in something, I ask your forgiveness
Caption 11, Enrique Iglesias - Mentiroso
¿Ya, contento? -Te pido disculpas.
Happy now? -I ask your forgiveness.
Caption 68, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8
But by simply saying perdón or disculpa you are actually using these words as verbs in the imperative form, just like "forgive me" and "excuse me" in English. That's made more evident when you attach the personal pronoun me as a suffix to either perdón or disculpa, which is very common (and adds a personal touch to the expression):
You may want to know that even though both perdóname and discúlpame can be translated as "I'm sorry," there are subtle differences between them. In general, perdón is seen as a more heartfelt apology, and more personal. So, thoughtful people who really value precision reserve it for occasions in which they made an actual mistake, personally hurt somebody, etc. Saying disculpa or discúlpame is seen as more casual. Perhaps that's why disculpa is preferred as a simple polite expression equivalent to "excuse me" or "pardon me," phrases that don't necessarily imply you've made a mistake. Remember that, depending on your personal preference and the context, you may want to address people politely by saying (usted) disculpe or discúlpeme:
Disculpe, ¿y usted quién es?
Excuse me, and who are you?
Caption 39, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 4
As long as we are human, we are bound to make mistakes—a simple rule that applies doubly if you are a human trying to learn a foreign language! But what distinguishes a successful learner from an intransigent one is whether one can admit to one’s mistakes and redress them, right? So, don't shy away from speaking if you make mistakes in your Spanish. Sweeten your friends up instead with a candid apology! Here's a lesson about the most common ways to say “I'm sorry” in Spanish.
One short and very common way to say "I'm sorry" in Spanish is lo siento (literally, "I feel it"). Using the proper intonation, this phrase can help you get out of almost any sticky situation or mistake, but, and this is very important, you have to really mean it! Why? Because, just like "I'm sorry," this little Spanish phrase can also be used in a dismissive way, for example:
Lo siento, pequeña, pero aquí las cosas hay que ganárselas.
I'm sorry, little one, but things here have to be earned.
Caption 14, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 5
Perhaps that's why it's very common to add the adverb mucho (a lot) to this phrase, as in lo siento mucho (I'm very sorry) as a way to make sure that the apologetic nature of one's lo siento gets properly transmitted. Another alternative is to use repetition to stress the importance of what you are saying... You can never be too sorry, right?
Bueno, sí, sí, sí, lo siento mucho, Andrea, por favor. -Ay, mire, lo siento, lo siento.
Well, yes, yes, yes, I am very sorry, Andrea, please. -Oh, look, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Caption 20, Confidencial - El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2 - Part 3
But even lo siento mucho is not exclusively used to offer apologies. You can say it as a sarcastic remark, for example, or you can use the phrase lo siento mucho pero to casually introduce an excuse:
Lo siento mucho Mateo pero tengo que irme.
I'm very sorry, Mateo, but I have to leave.
Caption 42, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8
You may also hear people (especially in Spain) using que (as, since, that) instead of pero (but), as in lo siento mucho que:
Mariona... lo siento que llego de la biblioteca.
Mariona... I'm sorry as I'm coming from the library.
Caption 1, Blanca y Mariona - Vida en general
Note that the expression siento que (without the pronoun lo) is also used to express empathy about an unfortunate situation:
Siento que te hayan despedido, Tomás.
I'm sorry you got fired, Tomas.
It’s also a good option when offering condolences (besides using the classic phrase mis condolencias, which is more formal and more impersonal):
Siento que perdieras a tu mamá, Lucía.
I'm sorry you lost your mom, Lucia.
Perdóna[me] and Discúlpa[me]
Here are some truly apologetic words! The noun perdón (forgiveness) and the verb perdonar (to forgive) have heavy connotations in Spanish. The reason behind this is that these words are rooted in legislative or ecclesiastical contexts in which the notion of perdón is intrinsically linked to the notion of culpa (guilt, fault). The same is true of the noun disculpa (apology, forgiveness, literally "non-guilt") and the verb disculpar (to forgive, literally "to take away the guilt"). There are subtle differences between using perdón and disculpa though. We will tackle those in our next lesson, so stay tuned!
One of our latest videos includes an example of an interesting way to pose a question:
¿En qué le puedo ayudar?
How can I help you?
Caption 6, Cita médica - La cita médica de Cleer
In this example, the combination of the preposition en (in, on) and the interrogative word qué (literally “in what”) means how (cómo). Even though the expression cómo puedo ayudarle (how can I help you) exists in Spanish, using en qué instead is a very common choice for native speakers, especially when the expression is meant to be a greeting. In fact, it can be argued that there's a subtle difference between saying ¿en qué puedo ayudarle? (literally "what can I help you with") and ¿cómo puedo ayudarle? (how can I help you): the first one is a polite greeting, while the second one is a general question. Compare the following examples:
Hola ¿en qué puedo ayudarle? - Quiero ordenar a domicilio.
Hi, how can I help you? -I want to order for delivery.
¿Cómo puedo ayudarle, tía? - Ayúdame a rebanar el pan.
How can I help you, Aunt? -Help me slice the bread.
But that’s not the only meaning of en qué. Here’s a notable example:
Oye, y ¿en qué trabajas?
Hey, and what do you do [for a living]?
Caption 82, Ricardo - La compañera de casa
En qué can also be used to ask about a location. It's roughly equivalent to dónde (where):
¿En qué lugar se enamoró de ti?
In what place did he fall in love with you?
Caption 7, Marc Anthony - Y cómo es él
En qué can also be used to talk about time. It's roughly equivalent to cuándo (when):
¿En qué momento sucedió?
When (in what moment) did it happen?
There are many fixed questions that use en qué. The question en qué consiste is worth learning:
¿En qué consiste tu trabajo, Paco?
What does your job consist of, Paco?
Caption 42, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 13
Finally, there are also idiomatic expressions that use en qué. For example, en qué quedamos (literally "in what we agreed”):
¿En qué quedamos? ¿Va tener una herencia o no?
What did we settle on? Is he going to have an inheritance or not?
Caption 38, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 9
Let's review some unique Spanish words that you may not have heard of before.
Spanish uses a specific word to describe the rheum (more commonly known as "sleep" in English) found in the corner of the eye after sleeping: lagaña (also legaña). This odd word has an uncertain origin, though some experts believe it to be inherited from a Paleohispanic language! It's important to note that lagaña is not a specialized term as "rheum" is in English, but a common word used in everyday conversations:
Esto es que una... una de las glándulas que se encarga de fabricar la lagaña...
This is because one... one of the glands that is in charge of producing rheum...
Caption 79, Animales en familia - La operación de Yaki
Other unique Spanish words related to the body are entrecejo (the space between the eyebrows).
Y esta parte se llama entrecejo.
And this part is called "entrecejo" [the space between the eyebrows].
Caption 16, Marta explica el cuerpo - La cabeza
and chapas (blush, the pink tinge on the cheeks):
...para obtener las clásicas chapitas de Pikachu.
...to get the classic Pikachu rosy cheeks.
Caption 25, Manos a la obra - Separadores de libros: Pikachu
Do you know any Spanish words or expressions used to describe different types of rain? The expressions está chispeando and está lloviznando both mean "it's drizzling." The verb chispear comes from the noun chispa (spark), while the verb lloviznar comes from the noun llovizna (drizzle). On the other end, when the rain is really heavy, people may use the noun tormenta (storm) to describe it, though aguacero (downpour) is also very common:
Aguacero de mayo, me lleva, papá
May downpour, it's taking me away, man
Caption 44, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 6
Of course, people also use idiomatic expressions to talk about the rain. One example is llueve a cántaros (the equivalent of "it's raining cats and dogs," literally "it's raining as if pitchers were being poured from the sky"). Other words that you may want to explore on your own are: chubasco (a very intense, windy storm) and chaparrón (an intense, sudden, and short storm).
Another interesting set of unique Spanish words is the group used to talk about family in-laws, a list that is quite big, as you can imagine. It's not only suegro, suegra (father- and mother-in-law), but also yerno, nuera (son- and daughter-in-law), cuñado, cuñada (brother- or sister-in-law), and even concuño, concuña (brother, husband, sister, or wife of one's brother-in-law or sister-in-law)!
Es una champiñonera tradicional que estableció mi suegro.
It's a traditional mushroom farm that my father-in-law established.
Caption 6, La Champiñonera - El cultivo de champiñón
Estaba en la casa de mi suegra y mi cuñada, la hermana de mi marido...
I was in my mother-in-law's house, and my sister-in-law, my husband's sister...
Caption 52, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 1
Interesting tidbit: The equivalent of "in-law family" in Spanish is familia política. You can use the adjective político (political) to describe less close relatives such as primo político (in-law cousin).
In a previous lesson, we learned about how the verb volver can be used figuratively to express the idea of becoming:
Después se volvió más profesional y me encantó más aún todavía, ¿no?
Afterwards, it became more professional and I loved it even more still, right?
Caption 10, Los Juegos Olímpicos - Adrián Gavira
But other Spanish verbs also translate as "to become," for example the verbs transformarse and convertirse (to become, to turn into). These verbs are just as common as volverse but they work differently. That's why you can't just substitute se volvió with se transformó or se convirtió in the example above. When using these verbs you need to be more specific and always remember to use the preposition en (into) to introduce a complement that gives more information about the transformation in question. For example:
...pronto se convierte en una carrera de obstáculos.
...quickly becomes a highway of obstacles.
Caption 41, Animales en familia - La operación de Yaki
El pergamino se transforma en "cisco" y en almendra.
The parchment is transformed into the leftover "cisco" and the bean.
Caption 41, Una Historia de Café - La Bodega
You can switch convertirse and transformarse in the examples above and obtain correct expressions:
...pronto se transforma en una carrera de obstáculos.
...quickly becomes a highway of obstacles.
El pergamino se convierte en "cisco" y en almendra.
The parchment is transformed into the leftover "cisco" and the bean.
But with the verb volverse you don’t need the preposition en (into), so you say:
...pronto se vuelve una carrera de obstáculos.
...quickly becomes a highway of obstacles.
El pergamino se vuelve "cisco" y almendra.
The parchment is transformed into the leftover "cisco" and the bean.
However, to use transformarse or convertirse instead of volverse in the first example you'll have to do more than that, because you can't just say that something or someone se transformó en más profesional (transformed into more professional), right? The expression is incomplete. “Transformed into a more professional what?” people would ask. So you have to say something like:
Después se transformó en una actividad más profesional...
Después se convirtió en una actividad más profesional...
Afterwards, it became a more professional activity...
Finally, an interesting tidbit: You can use both transformarse and convertirse alone as reflexive verbs to express the idea that a person transforms herself or himself, without the need of any complement or preposition, but you can't do the same with volverse:
Me transformo (I transform myself).
Me convierto (I transform myself).
Me vuelvo (This is incomplete; you have to state what you are turning into, for example: me vuelvo un vampiro, which means "I become a vampire").
The verb volver is translated as "to return," but it actually has a great variety of other meanings. Let's see how real Spanish speakers use it in real situations.
Usually, the verb volver means "to come back." It's very common to use its infinitive form combined with another verb, like querer (to want) or ir (to go). Learning how to use the infinitive form of verbs in phrases is actually very useful, especially if you haven't yet mastered the conjugation of irregular verbs such as this one.
¿Y quieres volver al centro? -Efectivamente.
And you want to come back to the center [of the city]? -Exactly.
Caption 48, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 12
You can also use the verb volver figuratively. The following example translates as "again":
Otra vez, volver a hacernos daño.
One more time, hurting each other again.
Caption 24, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 15
Another possible translation of this example is: "Again, going back to hurting each other."
The combination of volver with the preposition a (to) is also a very useful one. You can combine it with other verbs in phrases such as volver a vernos (to see each other again), volver a empezar (to start all over again), volver a entrar (to reenter), etc. Or, you can use conjugated forms:
Pero bueno, cuando pueda, me vuelvo a inscribir en otro gimnasio y me meto.
But well, when I can, I'll enroll again in another gymnasium and I'll go.
Caption 29, Patricia Marti - Diversión y Ejercicio - Part 1
Did you notice the use of the reflexive pronoun me? Well, the verb volver also has a reflexive form: volverse. It's not always easy to know how to use it, though. it usually depends on the verb you are combining it with. As a general rule, you can't use the reflexive form if the following verb is a transitive verb (with a direct object). Compare these examples:
Luisa se volvió a desmayar (Luisa fainted again). It's a mistake to say "Luisa volvió a desmayar" only.
Luisa volvió a romper mi juguete (Luisa broke my toy again). It's a mistake to say "Luisa se volvió a romper mi juguete".
But this is not always the case. You can actually use the reflexive form with transitive verbs as well, when the action of volver has a reflexive meaning (loosely, when the direct object is also the subject of the sentence). This is why me vuelvo a hacer la tarea (I [myself] get back to doing my homework) is different from vuelvo a hacer la tarea (I do my homework again).
Sometimes, the use of a personal pronoun is not an indication of a reflexive action but simply of the existence of a direct or indirect object. In the following example, the pronoun te substitutes for a direct object:
Hijo, móntate adelante pero no te vuelvo a sacar a pasear más, ¿oíste?
Son, get in the front seat, but I am not going to take you out for a ride again, did you hear?
Caption 9, Chiste de Carlito - No. 3 - Part 1
But here the pronoun te substitutes for an indirect object:
Te vuelvo a repetir...
I repeat it to you again...
Caption 74, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 8
As a last example, a very common figurative meaning of the reflexive volverse is "to become":
Entonces, el asunto se vuelve más complicado.
So, the issue becomes more complicated.
Caption 32, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero - Part 3
Quedar is a very useful and interesting Spanish verb because it has a great number of different meanings. Let's learn a few!
Quedar ("to stay" or "to remain") is commonly used alone (quedar) or accompanied with reflexive pronouns (quedarse). This verb can be followed by different complements and prepositions such as con (with), en (in, on), or de (of, from).
Quedarse con means "to stay with":
Y te quedas con los niños.
And you stay with the children.
Caption 29, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 3
It's useful to learn how to turn this expression into an order or request. All you have to do is use the reflexive pronoun as a suffix of the verb: quédate con los niños (stay with the kids). Here's another useful example:
Stay with me
Caption 42, Carlos Baute y Marta Sanchez - Colgando en tus manos
If you combine the verb quedar(se) with the preposition en (in, on), you can introduce an expression of place:
El azúcar se queda en la sangre.
Sugar stays in the blood.
Caption 5, Los médicos explican - La diabetes
You could also use it to express time using prepositions such as desde (since), or durante (during). For example: Elisa se quedará durante el verano (Elisa will stay during the summer); Nos quedaremos desde mayo hasta junio (We'll stay from May to June).
Do you remember how Spanish uses the word hay (there is, there are), the impersonal form of the verb haber (to have)? You can do something similar with queda or quedan (singular and plural third person of quedar) to express the idea "there is [something] left":
Pues ya no queda nada de qué hablar, nada...
For there is nothing left to talk about, nothing...
Caption 2, Bunbury - Entrevista Con Enrique Bunbury - Part 2
This combination of “queda + something” is very useful, and interesting too, because it uses the verb quedar as in a way similar to the impersonal verb hay (there's, there are). So, for example, you can say: ¿Queda café? (Is there any coffee left?), ¿Quedan plátanos en el refri? (Are there any bananas left in the fridge?).
Quedar can also mean "to end up," or "to result in." For example, in the question ¿En qué quedó eso? (How did that end up?). Or here:
Y así queda nuestro diseño.
And our design ends up looking like this.
Caption 7, Manos a la obra - Papel picado para Día de muertos
This can also be used with reflexive pronouns. You can say: Así nos queda nuestro diseño. Another example is:
...porque si no el brócoli sí que nos queda crudo.
...because if not the broccoli does end up raw [for us].
Caption 17, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 8
The expressions quedar con and quedar en can be used figuratively to express that you have agreed about something with someone. For example, agreeing to meet in a certain place:
Quedamos en vernos aquí a las tres en punto.
We agreed we will meet here at three o'clock.
Or just agreeing with someone on something:
Quedé con Esther en que me quedaría a cuidar a los niños.
I agreed with Esther that I would stay to take care of the kids.
The verb quedar can also be used to express the idea that someone has changed or ended up in a certain position or state of mind. For example: Juliana se quedó sola tras la partida de Esther (Juliana was left alone after Esther's departure). Me quedé sorprendido con su actuación (I was [left] surprised by her performance). Translations vary, however. For example:
Bueno, mi papá se quedó sin trabajo.
Well, my dad lost his job.
Caption 15, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 2
You can also use the verb quedar to express the idea that a person has gained a certain reputation after an action. For example: quedé como un idiota (I looked like an idiot). As a result, the fixed expression quedar bien means then "to look good" or "get in good with," while quedar mal means the opposite.
No me quedes mal, papá.
Don't let me down, Dad.
Además es una manera de quedar bien con la empresa.
Additionally, it's a way to look good with the company.
Caption 84, Raquel y Marisa - Español Para Negocios - Nuestro perfil profesional en la red
Quedar can also be used to express the idea that you will keep something with you. For example:
-Me quedaré con tu pluma porque me gusta mucho. -No, no puedes quedártela.
-I will keep your pen because I really like it. -No, you can't keep it.
Can you think of a way to answer the previous question with a positive? It's Claro, quédatela ("Sure, keep it")!
You can also use the expression quedar por + a verb in the infinitive to express the idea that something is left to be done. Translations vary depending on the context. For example:
Sólo queda por hacer la tarea.
Only homework is left to be done.
No quiero ni pensar en todo lo que nos queda por alcanzar.
I don't even want to think about how much we still need to achieve.
Finally, the verb quedar also means "to fit" or "to suit":
¿Me queda bien? Sí, ¿no? -Guapo, guapo, muy bien se ve.
Does it look good on me? It does, right? -Handsome, handsome, it looks very good.
Caption 52, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 6
Figuratively speaking, it means "to be appropriate”:
¡No queda que fumes en una fiesta infantil!
It's not appropriate for you to smoke at a children's party!
Let's continue studying phrases that combine prepositions, articles, and pronouns since these can be a source of confusion for Spanish learners. Take a look at Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here.
Check out the following quote from one of our most recent videos. In this clip teacher Carolina is discussing common mistakes that her students make, and says:
El primer caso del que les quiero hablar hoy es...
The first case I want to talk to you about today is...
Caption 7, Lecciones con Carolina - Errores comunes - Part 5
The phrase del que les is used frequently in Spanish, and has no direct translation in English. If we break this phrase down, we find that it literally means "of the which to you:" the contraction del (preposition de + article el), plus the relative pronoun que (which), and the personal pronoun les (to you). But in English, we don't really say things like "of the which to you." Instead, English uses a very different structure that requires an additional word: "about."
In fact, a more literal translation of the example would be something like: "The first case about which I want to talk to you today is." In Spanish, by the way, there's a similar construction that uses the phrase acerca de, which literally means "about." So in fact, you can also say the following:
El primer caso acerca del que les quiero hablar hoy es...
The first case about which I want to talk to you today is...
However, these expressions are a bit over complicated, both in Spanish and in English. In Spanish, it's better and more straightforward to simply use the preposition de (of, from) combined with the appropriate articles and pronouns, which must agree with the nouns they refer to in both number and gender. For example:
El tipo del que les hablo nunca más apareció;
The guy about whom I speak to you never again showed up
Caption 5, ChocQuibTown - Oro
So, if you are talking about a noun that is both singular and masculine, like el caso (the case) or el tipo (the guy), you need to use del, that is de + el (the). Let's now see an example with a plural noun like artistas (artists), that needs de + los (or de + las if we were talking about female artists):
Pintó junto a grandes artistas de los que aprendió casi todo.
He painted alongside great artists from whom he learned almost everything.
Caption 15, Europa Abierta - Alejandro Hermann - El arte de pintar
All cultures and languages have expressions about good and bad luck so it's not surprising to find similar phrases in different languages. Let's take a look at some Spanish expressions used to express good and :( bad wishes and talk about fortune in general.
The best and most common way to wish luck in Spanish is simply that: desear suerte (to wish luck). You can say: te deseo buena suerte (I wish you good luck) or omit the adjective buena(good) and simply say te deseo suerte (I wish you luck). In the following example, the Mother Superior is addressing Father Manuel formally, and that's why she uses the pronoun le instead of te.
Muy bien, le deseo suerte.
Very well, I wish you luck.
Caption 22, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 11
You can also omit the verb desear:
OK, buena suerte al aprender español.
Okay, good luck learning Spanish.
Caption 29, Cabarete - Escuela de trapecio
Or omit both verb and adjective and emphatically say just ¡suerte!:
Caption 4, Frutería "Los Mangos" - Vendiendo Frutas
Other common expressions are ¡Qué buena suerte! (How lucky!) and ¡Qué mala suerte! (How unlucky!). It's also common to just say ¡Qué suerte! (literally "Such luck!"); whether the person is referring to bad or good luck is left to be inferred from the context.
¡Qué suerte encontrar a Gustavo!
How lucky to find Gustavo!
Caption 46, Eljuri - "Fuerte" EPK - Part 1
Now, we wouldn't like to be the ones teaching you how to wish bad luck. Besides, apart from expressions that involve the verb maldecir (to curse), it would basically consist of substituting the adjective buena (good) with mala (bad). For example, te deseo mala suertemeans “I wish you bad luck.” Guess bad-luck-wishers are less creative than good-luck-wishers!
But there's an expression about bad luck that’s very common, and very superstitious in nature: echar la sal (literally, "to throw salt at," to jinx). So you would say ¡No me eches la sal! (Don't jinx me!), or Lucía me echó la sal y por eso me caí (Lucía jinxed me and that's why I fell). We don't have an example yet of this particular expression in our catalog of videos, but we have something even more interesting. The belief that salt is associated with bad luck is a widespread superstition in many cultures, Spanish- and English-speaking cultures included, of course. According to this superstition, spilling salt is bad luck and throwing a pinch over your shoulder reverses that bad luck, right? Have you ever seen a chef doing this? If you haven't, check out our chef Tatiana, who is very much into magic thought, when she is preparing her salsa:
Preparamos una super salsa.
We make a great salsa.
Caption 25, Tatiana y su cocina - Chilaquiles
Finally, if you prefer more linguistic ways of protecting yourself from bad luck, there's the expression tocar madera (knock on wood). You need to conjugate the verb to use it properly. Here's a made-up example, along with several other colorful Spanish expressions all put together, to contribute to your research on the topic of bad luck versus good luck.
¿Y si te resbalas? Sería muy mala pata, ¿no?
And if you slip? That would be really unlucky, no?
¡Cállate, no me sales! Toco madera.
Shut up, don't jinx me! Knock on wood!
¡Qué la boca se te haga chicharrón!
I hope it won't happen! (Literally, "May your mouth turn into a pork rind!")
The Spanish word que: how can such a tiny word be so complicated? A pronoun that translates as "who," "which," "whom," and "that." A conjunction that translates as "that," "then," "so," "if," or even "of" and has many other uses that simply don't have a direct translation in English. How should we tackle the topic? Maybe let's start with some useful common phrases, the most popular ones that use this tiny word, and take it from there.
The word que is combined with certain verbs very often. For example, with the verb tener (to have). Tener que is used to express a necessity or an imperative, or simply put, that something must be done.
Tienes que trabajar sábado y domingo.
You have to work Saturday and Sunday.
Caption 36, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 19
You have to learn how to conjugate the verb tener, of course. You would find this expression more frequently in the indicative mood, like in the example above, but you can also find it in the subjunctive:
Es posible que tenga que quedarme algún día más en Barcelona.
It's possible that I may have to stay one more day in Barcelona.
Caption 52, Raquel - La Compra de un Billete de Tren - Part 1
But be careful, there's an idiomatic expression that uses the same construction, always combined with the verb ver (to see) and the preposition con (with). Tener que ver con (literally "to have to see with”) is used to establish a relationship or connection. Most of the time this expression is preceded by another que (meaning "that"). We have a lesson on this topic, but let's analyze additional examples:
Espero que por favor practiquen todo lo que tiene que ver con conjunciones disyuntivas y copulativas.
I hope that you please practice everything that has to do with disjunctive and copulative conjunctions.
Caption 45, Lecciones con Carolina - Conjunciones copulativas - Part 1
Keep in mind that it is also possible to use the verb ver (to see, to look) combined with tener que to simply express a necessity (literally "to have to see") and not as an idiom:
y, eh... también tengo que ver el tráfico del sitio.
and, um... I also have to look at the site's traffic.
Caption 53, Carlos Quintana - Guía de musica latina - Part 1
Note that, in this case, you won't use the preposition con (with). If you were to add it, then you would be using the idiom tener que ver con (to have to do with). Tengo que ver con el tráfico del sitio means "I have something to do with the site's traffic."
And there's another idiom that may get in your way here. You can also use tener que ver con meaning "to have to deal with something." The expression is not very common because we also have the verbs enfrentar (to face) and lidiar (to deal), but here's an example:
ahora tengo que... tengo que ver con las consecuencias.
now I have to... I have to deal with the consequences.
Caption 27, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 7
From this idiom comes a threatening expression: te las tendrás que ver con... (you will have to deal with...). For example: Si lastimas a Jenny te las tendrás que ver conmigo (if you hurt Jenny you will have to deal with me). Keep in mind that Spanish allows for a playful use of the relative pronouns, so you can also say: Si lastimas a Jenny tendrás que vértelas conmigo, which is actually more common.
¡Esta lección tuvo que ver solamente con una frase que combina '”que”con el verbo “tener”!
This lesson was only about one phrase that combines “que” with the verb “to have”!
We'll explore more phrases in future lessons. Stay tuned! Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The verb ir (to go) is used in many idiomatic expressions in Spanish. One of the most interesting uses of this verb is to indicate the beginning and progression of an action, for example:
¡Excelente! Voy planeando el evento.
Excellent! I'm starting to plan the event (right now).
It's not easy to translate the expression voy planeando el evento with precision. In the same situation, an English speaker would often use the future tense, "I will start planning the event," which has an exact equivalent in Spanish: comenzaré a planear el evento. But voy planeando (literally, "I go planning") is in the present tense, and the expression means that I'm starting the action of planning at a certain point (the present in this case) and that it will continue for some time in the future until its completion. It also implies that I will be planning while other actions are taking place simultaneously. This may be something obvious that could be inferred by context or mere logic in English, but there is no special verbal form to express it.
Now, this expression has many variations and, since the verb ir (to go) is an important irregular verb, it's worth studying different examples. The basic structure of the expression is as follows: a conjugated form of the verb ir (to go) + a verb in gerundio (-ando, -iendo endings in Spanish). In the previous example we used voy, the conjugated form of the verb ir in the present, and planeando, the gerundio of the verb planear (to plan). Let's see variations with different persons and tenses:
Iré planeando el evento.
I will start planning the event.
Lucía irá planeando el evento.
Lucia will start planning the event.
The verb ir in this expression can also be conjugated in the past tense. For example:
Fuimos planeando el evento.
We went about planning the event.
Did you notice that we adjusted our translation to better express the meaning of the sentence? The same happens when we use other verbs different from planear (to plan):
Voy cancelando el evento.
I start by cancelling the event.
(Though Spanish also has an exact equivalent for this translation: empiezo por cancelar el evento.)
But let's see some examples in real context. In the following examples, try to analyze the construction and meaning of the sentence in Spanish but also the translation we used for each. Maybe you can come up with a better one!
Te pones de rodillas o vas cambiando de postura.
You get on your knees or you go around changing postures.
Caption 75, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5
Y ahora, una vez que tenemos el aceite, lo vamos clasificando por cualidades.
And now, once we have the oil, we're going to classify it by traits.
Caption 66, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14
They have a very developed sense of smell, enseguida te huelen el trocito de manzana, galleta, lo que sea, y te van siguiendo.
They have a very developed sense of smell, right away they smell the little piece of apple, cookie, whatever, and they start following you.
Caption 54-56, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Coatís
Poco a poco la iremos consiguiendo.
Little by little, we are going to achieve it.
Caption16, ¡Tierra, Sí! - Atenco - Part 4
Poco a poco los irás descubriendo todos.
Little by little you'll go along discovering all of them.
Caption 40, Fundamentos del Español - 9 - Verbos Reflexivos
Hasta después fui aprendiendo conforme se fue haciendo el cómic.
Until later I started learning as the comic was being made.
Caption 40-41, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ilustración - Part 1
Finally, here's an interesting example that uses the verb ir not only as the auxiliary conjugated verb but also for the gerundio, which is yendo (going). The expression is then voy yendo (literally "I go going").
Bueno, voy yendo que... -Sí, sí. -...deben de estar por llegar.
Well, I'm going since... -Yes, yes. -...they are bound to arrive soon.
Caption 18, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 5
That's it. Mejor nos vamos despidiendo (We better start saying goodbye)!