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Lessons for topic Grammar

Al Desear: By wanting

Pero al desear siempre un poco más... por allá ya vas.
"But by wanting always a little more... you're already going there."
[Captions 7-8 and 15-16, Sizu Yantra> Bienvenido]

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References (such as this one) would suggest that al desear here could be translated as "when wanting" or "upon wanting," but we went with "by wanting." The idea here is that one action leads to the other, the desire in inself makes you move forward. An equally acceptable translation here would be "in wanting always..."

Al cambiar de actitud, la mayoría de la gente puede cambiar el modo en que otros los tratan.
"By changing their attitude, most people can change the way others treat them."

Al confesarle la verdad, le dio la posibilidad de evaluar la situación.
"By telling the truth, he gave her the opportunity to assess the situation."

Al dejar a aquella mujer, pudo comenzar una nueva vida.
"By leaving that woman, he could start a new life."


Final note about Sizu's Bienvenido: You will probably find captions 10 and 12, in particular, rather unusual in terms of sentence structure. These lines can have even native speakers scratching their heads and are not typical Spanish.

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Invisible Pronouns

From the clarity of the diction and the pacing of the music, you might think Sizu Yantra's tune Bienvenido would be easy to translate. But you'd be wrong. Some lyrics drove us to semantic delirium! Here is the opening:

Y si tú ya estás aquí, yo quisiera preguntarte
si al mundo lo encuentras enfermizo, delirante y brutal.
Tú ya estás aquí y deseando que tú goces...

"And if you are already here, I would like to ask you
if you find the world sickly, delirious and brutal.

You're already here and [I am] desiring that you enjoy [it]..."

[Captions 1-3, Sizu Yantra> Bienvenido]

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The very first line of lyrics is clearly enunciated and seemingly unambiguous -- with personal pronouns and yo included to set the listener off on the right foot. OK: it's sort of trippy, but we have every reason to believe we are hearing what the songwriter wanted us to hear.

But we get to the second sentence (caption 3) and native English speakers may find themselves at a bit of a loss. "Deseando" -- the gerund of the verb desear ("to desire, to wish, to look forward to") -- has no immediately apparent subject. So, how would we know to translate "deseando" as if it were the first person, progressive, "estoy deseando"? There are a few clues to solve this mystery. Let's investigate:

  1. Gerunds -aka -ndo verbs-- are usually used as part of the progressive tense in Spanish. Note that they are not entirely interchangeable with "-ing verbs" in English, which have many more uses. (See: Gerunds and the progressive tenses.)
  2. After "deseando," we encounter the common "que" which is most often used to introduce a subordinate clause in a complex sentence.
  3. After "que" we hear "tú goces" -- i.e., the second-person, present subjunctive of the verb gozar ("to enjoy"). Yes, here's the dreaded subjunctive -- the verb "mood" that means or implies the imposition of will, emotion, doubt, or non-existence. (See: In the Mood: The Subjunctive, Part 1.) You see, after an expression of desire, Spanish grammar demands the subjunctive in the subordinate clause if the person doing the desiring is different from the object of that wish. And that, in turn, means "you" ("") cannot be the one doing the desiring ("deseando"). Got that?
  4. Let's back up and approach the subordinate clause another way. Spanish grammar rules demand that if the two verbs (desear and gozar) had the same subject, the second verb would take the infinitive.
    Yo quiero irme
    I want to go
    If the subject changes, the second verb takes the subjunctive.
    Yo quiero que te vayas
    I want you to go

If this detective work seems complicated, remember that in English we have a similar situation with "Wish you were here." Taken on its own, this seemingly simple sentiment has an implied subject (Could it be "I wish"? Or: "We wish"?) and then a subordinate clause using the subjunctive. At the end of the day, the subject is left to context -- or the listener's own interpretation.
 

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Back to our slippery song. "Deseando que tú goces" was finally translated as "I am desiring that you enjoy it..." because it matches best with the first line of the song (where "yo" is introduced) -- and doesn't break any grammar rules. Whew. Keep listening, for more constructive confusion!

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¿Por qué?: Why? Because!

Do you ever wonder why "por qué" has an accent in certain instances and not others? In a similar vein: Do you know the reason "porque" is sometimes one word and sometimes two? Tune in to the latest new content at Yabla Spanish and read the captions to see "por qué" and "porque" in action.

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Our team of translators took special pains to put all the accents in their proper places in the captions of this week's installment of the documentary ¡Tierra Sí, Aviones No! You'll see evidence of their hard work in the short excerpt below.

¿Por qué? Porque él es el unico responsable.
"Why? Because he is the only one responsible."

[Caption 5, ¡Tierra Sí! > Atenco > 4]

 

 

Why does the first "por qué" take an accent mark over the é? Because it is used to ask a question, that's why. Remember: "Who, what, when, where and why" (those famous five Ws of journalism) all take accents in Spanish -- as in "Quién, qué, cuándo, dónde y por qué."

Now that you've got the "questioning word = accent mark" rule in mind, let's look at some trickier cases. One pops up just a sentence later.

Pero a nivel ejidal no tiene por qué meterse en nuestro ejido
"But at the cooperative level, he has no reason to meddle in our cooperative."

[Caption 7, ¡Tierra Sí! > Atenco > 4]

 

No tener por qué + infinitive ("to have no reason to...") is one of those auxiliary (modal) verb phrases that you simply have to memorize -- or figure it out from context. Listen for it; we think you'll find it's surprisingly common in spoken and written Spanish. In these cases por qué means "reason" or "cause." For example:

No tengo por qué juzgar el comportamiento de otros.
"I have no reason to judge the behavior of others."

Sometimes it's best translated in the sense of necessity.

Amor no tiene por qué doler.
"Love doesn't have to hurt."

Listening to the lyrics of Belanova's ballad featured this week, we encounter another "por qué":

Me pregunto por qué
No te puedo encontrar.

I ask myself why
I can't find you.

In the song's refrain, above, Belanova lead singer Denise is asking herself a question. We don't need to use question marks to get the idea across; the "por qué" here expresses an indirect inquiry.

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We left you to figure out that "porque" -- one word, no accent mark -- means "because." It begins the answer to many a "por qué" question. Why? Just because!
That is, expressed in Spanish:

¿Por qué? ¡Porque sí!
Why? Just because! (or: Because I said so!)

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Haber+De+Infinitive: Something you should learn

The Mexican trio Belanova use the haber + de + infinitive construction repeatedly in the chorus of Por Ti:

Si mi vida ha de continuar
"If my life should continue"
Si otro día llegará
"If another day will come"
Si he de volver a comenzar
"If I should start all over again"

será por ti.
it will be for you.
[Captions 6-9, Belanova > Por ti]

 

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As it turns out, the haber+de+infinitive construction, often found in music and literature, is deceivingly difficult to translate with precision. A native speaker staff member tells us that, in the context of this song, she gets the sense that ha de continuar expresses possibility ("if my life is to continue / is going to continue") more than obligation ("if my life must continue"). However, generally speaking, haber+de+infinitive, does convey a sense of obligation or necessity, though often milder than the tener+que+infinitive construction ( tiene que continuar -`"has to continue") or hay que+infinitive construction (hay que continuar -"has to / must continue").

For this reason, in the end, we chose to use "should" in our English translations as it is nicely ambigious, conveying a sense of possibility but also having the alternate meaning of mild obligation.

Note that haber+de+infinitive and hay [also from the verb haber] + que + infinitive are completely distinct, and used in distinct contexts. So, how should you decide de vs que? You see, hay que continuar, loosely translated as "one has to continue," would always express a generalization. Meanwhile, the first-, second- and third-person conjugations of haber -- that is, he, hemos, has, han, ha and han -- plus 'de' yields a more specific, though milder sense of obligation, or of possibility, as in our featured song.

 

Check out these discussions on the topic:

Spanish Kit >
Spanish Idioms with Tener, Deber, and Haber
About.com >
How is Haber de used?
WordReference.com > haber de, haber que, tener que
 

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A final note regarding the verbs in Belanova's provocative refrain: 'Volver a comenzar' could be translated bit by bit as "to return ['volver'] to begin [comenzar]." But in English, we tend to say "to start again" or, with more emphasis, "to start all over again."

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—ito, —ita: Making it smaller, or is it?

Among Polbo's song lyrics that are entirely in Spanish in this video, we see the diminutive of todos ("everyone" or "all") repeated in the refrain:

Ahora toditos se fueron al sur
"Now everyone's gone south"
[Captions 10, 21 27, Polbo > Yo era tan cool']

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Why use the diminutive of todos here? Well, adding the suffix -ito to make it toditos doesn't change the meaning of the word. It simply renders it more colloquial.

You see, in Spanish adding a diminutive suffix -- namely, -ito or -ita -- is often used in informal speech -- in its extreme, in baby talk or other affectionate banter. So, a gatito (gato / "cat" + -ito) can be a little cat (or "kitty") but it can also be a big cat that you're discussing with a small person. For example:

Mira el gatito, mi amorcito
"Look at the kitty, my little love.
"

This could be said at the zoo in front of a lion's cage if we're talking baby talk. Another example:

Besitos grandes
"Big affectionate kisses.
"

Back to our song. Toditos is "everyone" said in a friendly, familiar way. Toditos is not meant to shrink the size of "everyone," just to cut make it more casual.

 

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Gender Reversals: "El Alma" and more

Colombian crooner Juanes has the audience singing along to every word of his hit Para tu amor in this week's featured video. Catchy lyrics are helpful language-learning aids: When they get stuck in your head (and won't leave) they build up your vocab and aid in your memorizaiton of usage rules. Case in point: Para tu amor contains many lyrical lines that can help non-native speakers grasp the difference between para and por -- both translated into English as "for" in many cases. In newsletters past, we've drawn from the Yabla Spanish archive of song lyrics to write about distinctions between por and para. (Linked here for your review.) So, in this week's newsletter, we'll use Juanes to illuminate a gender rule bender instead.

He sings:

Yo te quiero con el alma y con el corazón



"I love you with my soul and with my heart."



[Captions 13 and 23, Juanes > Para tu amor]

Check our online dictionary and you'll see alma (a noun) is feminine, as so many Spanish words that '-a' are. But alma belongs to a subgroup of feminine nouns that take masculine articles when singular. Others include:

  • El agua fría ("The cold water")
  • El águila americana ("The American eagle")
  • El ama de casa desperada ("The desperate housewife")

Note that all four examples listed above begin with a stressed a-, which wouldn't sound right to a native speaker if preceded by la or una. Also note that when plural, they revert to the feminine article las or unas. So it's las aguas tibias ("the lukewarm waters").

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As a final note: Whatever the number, alma and her gender-bending ilk behave like feminine nouns when they are paired with adjectives. That is to say, the adjectives they are paired with are made feminine with an -a ending. For more on words that break gender rules, see:
 

About.com > Spanish grammar > Gender reversals

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—ote, —ota, and encajar: Too big to fit?

We learn many things in the sixth installment of actress Natalia Oreiro's biography. One is that she's not a Tom Cruise- or Winona Ryder-sized wee thing. She's tall -- for an actress. And that was actually a worry at first, her friend Rosa tells us. Here's a snippet of the interview:

Le dijeron… que era como muy grandote y no encajaba

They told her... that she was like too huge and would not fit

[Captions 9-10, Natalia Oreiro > Biografía > 6]

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Rosa has a colorful way of speaking. The first of the two words we highlight above --grandote-- is formed from the adjective grande ("big, large") and the augmentative suffix -ote, which amplifies the meaning of grande, making our best translation "huge." Adding -ote or -ota "often adds a note of contempt to the idea of bigness," according to The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice (published by Passport Books).

Note that augmentative suffixes can be applied to pretty much any noun or adjective. Some augmented words merit their own dictionary entries, especially if they take on a special meaning, while others don't. For example, consulting a few sources, we found entries for:

ojotes (root word: ojos, "eyes"): "bulging eyes, goggle eyes"

palabrota (root word: palabra, "word"): "swear word, dirty word"

animalote (root word: animal, "animal"): "big animal; gross, ignorant person"

In Spanish, augmentative suffixes are not quite as popular as diminutive ones (-ito, -ita, -cito, -cita), but you will hear them peppering the language for emphasis. (For some more on diminutives, review our previous discussion of poquitito some weeks back. To learn more about suffixes in general, About.com has a helpful list.)

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Moving on to the second word we highlighted above: It's encajaba, from the verb encajar. It, too, is a compound word, formed from the prefix en- ("in") and root word caja ("box"). The verb encajar means "to fit." It can suggest a physical fit (e.g., pieces of a puzzle fitting together), or a more thematic one (e.g., a transfer student fitting in to his new school). Rosa is using the second sense of the word, when she describes the fears that her friend wouldn't fit in to the acting world in Buenos Aires.

For more on compound words in Spanish, see: About.com's Colorful Combinations.

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Por, Para: Forever complications

The title of this week's new music video is the common phrase Para Siempre, meaning "forever." Take a look at how the phrase is used in the lyrics:

Puedo esperar para siempre
"I can wait forever"

Puedo durar para siempre
"I can last forever"

Quiero vivir para siempre
"I want to live forever"

Tiene que ser para siempre
"It has to be forever"
[Captions 6, 8, 14 and 16, Zurdok > Para Siempre]

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Para here means "for." Para + an expression of time will indicate a point in time for which something is intended--or, a deadline. In the examples above, our singer is intending something to go on forever. Here are two less poetic examples of para in action:

Tengo tarea para mañana.
"I have homework for tomorrow."


Tengo que terminar este informe para la semana que viene.
"I have to finish this report for next week."

But astute listeners will catch that there's another way to say "for" in Spanish, also used in this song. Look at this line of our featured song:

O por toda una eternidad
"Or for all eternity"

[Caption 4, Zurdok > Para Siempre]

You see, por + an expression of time usually indicates the duration of something. For example:

Él trabajó por tres horas
"He worked for three hours"

 

Por la semana que viene, vamos a tener clases en el edificio viejo porque acá hay una reunión.
"(Just) for next week, we are having classes in the old building because there is a meeting here."
 
 
 
 
The difference is subtle when we're talking about the intention "forever" (para siempre) vs. the duration "forever" (por siempre). It's no wonder por and para take a lot of practice to get right for non-native Spanish speakers. But here's a hint to help you along: The phrase 'para siempre' is much more common than 'por siempre' in romantic song lyrics and on Valentine's cards. And even native Spanish speakers debate the por / para divide, as on this webpage.
 

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So, if you want to tell someone that "it has to be forever"--and you want to sound like a native Spanish speaker in the process-- remember this catchy tune to remind you to say "tiene que ser para siempre."

(Final note: We've touched on por and para before, specifically looking at what happens when each is paired with the infinitive of a verb.)
 

 

 

 

 

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Otro: Another usual mistake

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

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

Answer: "Me tomaría otra (cerveza)."

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

In the sixth installment of the short documentary Con Ánimo de Lucro, we encounter a short clip from Nicaraguan TV:

...la policía capturó a dos sujetos...

uno porque supuestamente se acababa a robar una moto...

y otro porque se metió a una casa...


"...the police captured two individuals...

one because he had allegedly just stolen a motorcycle...

and the other because he broke into a house... "


[Captions 13-15, Con Ánimo de Lucro > cortometraje > 6]

Note that once again, otro in Spanish doesn't require the pronoun it does in English.

The time to use a definite pronoun before otro is to distinguish between "another" and "the other"-- if the distinction needs to be made. For example:

Otro día =  "Another day"

But: El otro día = "The other day"

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So, if you add a pronoun before otro(a), make sure it's a definite prounoun (i.e., el or la) and not an indefinite one (i.e., un or una).

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Solo: Only alone

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

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The old rule: sólo vs. solo

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

 

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


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

 

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

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

 

Solo as an adjective meaning "alone":

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

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

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

 Play Caption

 


Solo as an adverb meaning "only":

Solo yo sé lo que sufrí

Only I know what I suffered

Caption 2, Alejandra Guzmán Porque no estás aquí

 Play Caption

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

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A ti: Emphasizing

A ti no te gustaría que te dijeran con quién tienes que andar.
[Captions 1-2, Tu Rock es Votar > TV Spot > Part 1]

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

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

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

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

Me gustas.
"I like you."


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


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


Le gusta bailar.
He likes to dance.


A Juan le gusta bailar.
Juan likes to dance.


No mires a tu compañero, a ti te estoy preguntando.
"Don´t look at your buddy, I´m asking you."

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Que: It also means "because"

Pero no te quedes ahí dándole vueltas a la cabeza, que tanto pensar no es bueno.



[Caption 29, De consumidor a persona > Short Film > Part 1]



 

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Que most often means "that." Slap an accent on the final e and we have qué, used to ask the question "what?" -- add por before qué and you have ¿por qué?, which asks the question "why?" ¿Por qué? is two words, but if we push the two together, without the accent on the e, we have porque, which is one word, and it means "because."







You may just know all that. What you might not have known is that que can also mean "because," or "as," and that's the meaning it takes in the line above:







"But don't stay there making your head spin, because [or "as"] thinking so much is not good."







Other examples:








No comas más, que no es bueno antes de ir a la cama.



"Don't eat more, as it's not good before going to bed."







Obedéceme, que si no lo haces, te vas a arrepentir.



"Obey me, because if you don't, you are going to regret it."







No corras, que el piso está mojado.



"Don't run, because the floor is wet."

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U for O, E for Y

 

un segmento de una hora u hora y media

a period of one hour or one hour and a half

Caption 40, Rafael T. La Cultura Maya - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Sooner or later we all notice cases where u replaces o ("or") or where e replaces y ("and"). These conjunctions change when the word following them starts with the same letter sound. Therefore in the example above, o changes to u because the beginning sound of the next word, hora, is [o] (note that the h is silent).

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The rule of thumb is pretty simple: With the conjunctions o ("or") and y ("and"), the vowels change if they are followed by the same vowel sounds.

Here are some examples of the vowel change in action:


¿Vas a comprar siete cervezas u ocho?
"Are you going to buy seven beers or eight?"


¿Quieres cervezas o gaseosas?
"Do you want beers or sodas?"


and...

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Julieta e Ignacio estudian la medicina.
"Julieta and Ignacio study medicine."

Yasmil y Javier tocan a la guitarra.
"Yasmil and Javier play the guitar. "

Try speaking the sentence without changing the vowel and you should hear that it sounds funny to say the same vowel sound twice. That should help you remember this simple rule.

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Ir+a+Infinitive: Going to an alternative to future tense

Somos dos, nunca sola vas a ir.
[Caption 17 & 28, Liquits > Desde que]


Somos dos, juntos vamos a vivir.
[Captions 19, 31 & 33, Liquits > Desde que]

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A quick word about the future tense in spoken Spanish: In many cases, it's simply not used. Instead, you commonly hear the present tense of ir (voy, vas, va, vamos, van) followed by a, followed by an infinitive of a verb (such as, ir or vivir). In this song by the Mexican group Liquits, the construction makes for some catchy refrains ("We are two, never alone you are going to go," and "We are two, together we are going to live.") In practical life, non-native Spanish speakers who know their ir may be grateful to buy some extra time to think of just the right vocabulary to express themselves. Voy a... voy a... voy a aprender a hablar con más fluidez, you might finally come out and say. The same sentence using the future tense? Aprenderé a hablar con más fluidez.

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"Se"+indirect object+verb+direct object: Accidental grammar

Se te acabó el tiempo, Milagros
[Caption 34, Muñeca Brava > Pilot > 8]

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Is there anything scarier than finding an angry nun in your room late at night? In this installment of Muñeca Brava, our heroine Milagros encounters a stern Mother Superior back in her room at the orphanage after sneaking out for some night-clubbing. The nun disregards the girl’s flimsy excuses and says ominously: "Se te acabó el tiempo, Milagros."

-The declaration means: “You’ve run out of time, Milagros.” But if you look at the construction “se te acabó -from the reflexive verb acabársele (to run out of)- it more literally means “Time has run out on you.”

We find something similar going on in caption 17 of Taimur Talks.

esos se me echaron a perder...
[Caption 17, taimur > Taimur Talks]

 

Our friend-for-life Taimur is tellling us "those got destroyed (on me)" or "those got wrecked (on me)." Like the good monja above, he might have put the subject last, had he wanted to: Se me echaron a perder mis cosas ("My things got wrecked").

These are examples of a special se construction used to describe unplanned or accidental occurences in Spanish. As a rule, the se + me, te, le, les or nos (indirect object) + verb construction describes occurrences that happen "to someone" (a alguien). The verb agrees with what in English is the thing acted upon (the direct object) because in Spanish that thing becomes the subject, that which is doing the action. No need to get mired in grammar, just have a look at these other examples and it should start to soak in.

Se nos está acabando el pan. (acabársele)
"We’re running out of bread. / The bread is running out on us."

Se me rompieron los anteojos. (rompérsele)
"I (accidently) broke my glasses. / My glasses broke on me."

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De repente, a Pablo se le ocurrió una idea. (ocurrírsele)
"
Suddenly, an idea ocurred to Pablo.
"

 
 

 

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—azo: a painful suffix

Es como un piedrazo en la cabeza.
[caption 26, Verano Eterno > Fiesta Grande > Part 6]

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That's gotta hurt. In Spanish, the suffix azo can signify a blow by the object at the root of the word. So, piedrazo means a blow by a piedra, or stone. By this logic:

Bala -> "bullet"
Balazo -> "blow by a bullet; a gunshot wound."

Codo -> "elbow"
Codazo -> "blow by an elbow; nudge
."

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Por y Para: Learning through love

One way to make a TV themesong irresistibly catchy is through repetition. In Chayanne's themesong for Provócame, it works. Take these two lines:

Por amor
Por amar
[Captions 9-10 and 12-13, Provócame > Pilot > 11]

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The straightforward translation is: "For love / For loving." Amor is a noun meaning "love." Meanwhile, change one letter and amar is the infinitive "to love." In Spanish, the infinitive is often used the way we in English use the gerund (with the -ing ending). For example, "I like singing" is translated as Me gusta cantar in proper Spanish.

Ok. You probably figured out quickly that the repeated por here means "for" in English. But it's a little more complicated than that. You see, there are two words that both mean "for" in Spanish: Por and para. Por can mean "for the sake of, in the cause of, or, by means of," while para can mean "with the destination of, or, in order to." In Chayenne's lyrics, por amor can be translated as "for love" in the sense of "for the sake of love" [like we saw in last week's newsletter, with por amor, usa forro ("for the sake of love, use a condom")]. That's straightforward. But some might argue Chayenne is taking a little bit of poetic license when he says por amar ("for the sake of loving") in instead of para amar, ("in order to love"), which is a more common construction with the infinitive of a verb. But, really, it works both ways - and it certainly sounds catchier with the repeated por.

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Hablar por hablar.
"To talk for the sake of talking."

Aprender español para hablarlo.
"To learn Spanish in order to speak it."

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Voseo: Another form for "Tú"

Pedro:¿Tú querías conocer a Chocolate y alguien te lo impidió?
Julieta:¿Y cómo sabés que se llama Chocolate?
[Captions 7-8, Provócame > Pilot > Part 8]

As in English, French, and no doubt countless other languages, small differences arise when we move from one region to another. Native Spanish speakers navigate through these differences with ease; non-natives can learn to do so as well. Did you catch in the interview with Enrique Iglesias (in "Music Biz Interviews") when the Argentine interviewer told Enrique how she used to hide her student cheat sheets con la pollera and Enrique immediately comes back with ¿ah, con la falda, no? She called her skirt pollera and Enrique knew it as falda. This had little bearing on their overall ability to communicate.

We see the same thing happening in this exchange between Pedro and Julieta. Pedro, who is played by the Puerto Rican pop star Chayanne, addresses Julieta throughout the show using the form with which all of us are quite familiar (no pun intended) -- ¿Tú querías conocer a Chocolate y alguien te lo impidió? ("You wanted to meet Chocolate and someone stopped you?"). Julieta also uses an informal singular form of "you" but, as the actress is Argentine, she uses the voseo or vos form, responding ¿Y cómo sabés que se llama Chocolate? ("And how do you know his name is Chocolate?"). The only difference in this case is the accent on the "e" (sabes, vos sabés).

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With the notable exception of ser (vos sos, eres), and stem changing verbs (vos venís, vienes), the difference in conjugation between vos and in the present often involves only an accent (comes, vos comés). For some tenses there is no difference at all. The only reason we know Pedro intended the tú form in this particular phrase is because he says the pronoun tú explicitly, as the conjugation would have been the same for vos (querías, vos querías).

The most important thing to take away from this is that neither Julieta nor Pedro is impeded in the least by these slight differences in speaking styles. Both have accustomed themselves to hearing small regional differences. Through exposure to speakers from thoughout the habla hispana; we can easily do the same.

A Yabla Spanish viewer wrote to us last week about some accents where he didn't expect to find any. In Disputas, La Extraña Dama, part 4 he noticed the accented "a" on pará when the pibe commands Pará, pará? ("stop, stop.") in Caption 5. The same viewer also wondered about caption 12 when the mina (Soledad) says pedíle y vení a verme mañana ("ask him and come to see me tomorrow"). These examples highlight voseo embodiments of commands (i.e. imperative tense) -- had Sole been inclined to use she would have said pídele y ven a verme mañana.

No Sos Vos Soy Yo (It's not you, it's me)

(Romantic Comedy, 2004)

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The voseo in depth, including its presence outside of Argentina/Uruguay/Paraguay:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voseo
 

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