Lições Espanhol


Tener que ver con: What's Sight Got to Do with It?


Aplicarle la palabra "solidario" a las finanzas tiene que ver con que todo el mundo pueda acceder a ese... elemento de intermediación que es el dinero para poder hacer lo que de verdad importa ¿no?

Applying the word "solidarity" to finance has to do with everybody being able to access that... element of intermediation, which is money, to be able to do what's really important, no?

Captions 51-54, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 6

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There are some complicated thoughts being expressed in this short film about the social consequences of consumerism. The number of verbs in the above quote alone could make your head spin. But here we want to home in on just two of those verbs, joined together in a common phrase: tener que ver.

In Spanish, tiene que ver con means, basically, "has to do with" or "got to do with" in English. But, of course, ver means "to see" and not "to do" (that's hacer). That's just the way it is.


En este cuadro, represento a Bachué, que tiene que ver con la cultura muisca de las montañas en Colombia.

In this painting, I represent Bachué, who has to do with the Muiscan culture from the mountains in Colombia.

Captions 16-17, Beatriz Noguera - Exposición de Arte

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¿Y eso qué tiene que ver?
What's that got to do with it? [Or, more simply:] So what?

No tiene nada que ver. 
It's got nothing to do with it.

One of the points that comes across loud and clear in the film De consumidor a person
 is that a lot of social issues have to do with $money$ (el dinero). Eso es la verdad. ("That's the truth.")

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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.


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

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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

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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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Cómo No: Of Course (It's a Piece of Cake!)

Dicen que no se puede cambiar... pues, ¡cómo no! si se llevan la tajada más grande del pastel.

They say it can't change... well, of course! if they take the biggest piece of the cake.

Captions 3-4, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - Publicidad de TV - Part 2

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The setup line here, Dicen que no se puede cambiar, translates to:

"They say that things can't change."

Then we have the simple phrase
¡cómo no!, which is translated as "of course!" Taking it word by word, cómo (with an accent over the first ó) means "how," and no means "no" or "not." But "how not!" is not quite as straightforward as the simple "of course!" in our translation. Context can be most helpful here. So, ask just about any soccer (fútbol) fan if they'll be watching the World Cup finals on Sunday and the reply in Spanish is the same: ¡Cómo no! / ("Of course!")

Next comes,
si se llevan la tajada más grande del pastel, or "if they take the biggest piece of the cake." Note that the phrase la tajada más grande del pastel can also be phrased el trozo más grande de la tarta.

You see, both pastel and tarta mean "cake." At the same time, both trozo and tajada mean "slice" or "piece." And your choices don't end there: Another way to say "a piece" or "a bit" is un pedazo, but that's not necessarily culinary. It's often used in the sense of "to fall to pieces" (caerse a pedazos). Meanwhile, una porción is commonly "a portion" but it can also mean "a slice" as in, una porción de pizza.



Got all that? Don't worry if you don't find it's "a piece of cake," which, incidentally, is expressed in Spanish as no está chupado or, no es pan comido.


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Buena Lid: Fair Fight

The votes are in and the official count is over. But the presidential election in Mexico may still be less than finished. The more left-leaning of the top two candidates, López Obrador lost by a hair (according to Mexico's election authority), but he's not admitting defeat and demands a painstaking recount. In this video footage, shot before the ballot counting began, the candidate says confidently:


Vamos a ganar de manera limpia, pacífica, en buena lid...

We're going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight...

Captions 27-28, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

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Make a vocabulary note that lid in Spanish means "fight" or "combat." Meanwhile, "en buena lid" is a common expression (in some parts) that means "in a fair fight" or, more figuratively, "fair and square." So the phrase above gives us:
"We are going to win in a clean way, peacefully, in a fair fight..."

The expression does not necessarily mean "a good fight," in the sense of it being close or fun to watch, but the election in Mexico has turned into just that.



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Lograr: Achieve Success

Porque sabíamos que teníamos que ganar la batalla con la gente y tengo la satisfacción de que logramos cambiar la opinión.

Because we knew we had to win the battle along with people and I've got the satisfaction that we succeeded to change opinion.

Captions 31-32, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 3

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Did you have the feeling that former energy minister and presidential rival Felipe Calderón has accomplished a lot by watching this video? It might be the repetition of the verb lograr that left that impression. In this week's video from Calderón's publicity campaign, there are six--or is that seven?--appearances of the verb lograr--which means "to achieve," "to obtain" or "to succeed in."

In the quote sited above, we translate: "I've got the satisfaction that we succeeded to changing opinion..."

Here's another one:


Esa pasión por México tiene que sacarnos adelante, nos va a sacar adelante si logramos canalizarla bien.

That passion for Mexico has to make us prosper, it will make us prosper if we can channel it correctly.

Captions 82-83, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 3

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We'll know soon if Calderón succeeds in overcoming his biggest challenge yet.

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Tocar: The Turn's Turn.

¡Ahora nos toca a nosotros!

Now it's our turn!

Caption 12, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - Publicidad de TV

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The campaign ads running on Mexican TV reflect the candidates' different styles. In one ad supporting Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, a group of Mexicans say in unison: ¡Ahora nos toca a nosotros! ("Now it's our turn!").

The verb tocar means many things in Spanish. "To touch" and "to achieve by chance/fortune" are two definitions we discussed
a few weeks ago. But here the verb has a different meaning. Tocar a alguien can mean "it's somebody's turn" or "it's up to somebody." So, me toca means "it's my turn" and nos toca means "it's our turn." And, for added emphasis and clarity, nos toca a nosotros also means "it's our turn".

 Here's another example that's always appropriate for an election:

A ti te toca decidir.
It's up to you to decide.



The fact is: There are many more uses of the verb tocar than there are candidates in this hotly contested campaign. The authoritative dictionary from the Real Academia Española contains more than 30 entries for tocar. It's one of the few words that can fit any political purpose.

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Valer la Pena and Probar: Trying To Be Worthwhile

Vale la pena explicar que en estos trabajos... este, hemos tratado lo más posible de no dañar la ecología.

It's worth explaining that in these jobs... well, we've tried to do everything possible not to damage ecology.

Captions 1-3, Javier Marin - Artesano Venezolano

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Venezuelan artisan Javier Marin tells us right away that he and his fellow jewelry makers are not damaging sea creatures when they make their pretty shell necklaces to sell on the beach. In this video clip, Javier's opening sentence begins: Vale la pena explicar que... A literal translation might begin: "It's worth the trouble to explain that..." Or, more simply: "It's worth explaining that..." 


Vale la pena recordar la frase "vale la pena"

It's worthwhile remembering the phrase "vale la pena"


Later in the same sentence, we translate: "... we have tried to do everything possible not to damage the ecology." The verb tratar can mean "to treat" or "to try [to do something]" / [de hacer algo]. But note that there's another way to say "to try" in Spanish: probar. Here's how to differentiate the two:


Probar usually means "to try" in the sense of "to taste" or "to test." To try on clothing in a store, you use the reflexive probarse [probarse la ropa en una tienda]. 


Ay, no sé cómo detener esta máquina, voy a probar con el botón azul.

Oh, I don´t know how to stop this machine, I'll to try pressing the blue button.


Tratar [de] is usually used more in the sense of "to intend to" or "to attempt to." For example:


Tratamos de explicar el sentido de la palabra.

We tried to explain the sense of the word.


Es bastante testarudo pero igual voy a tratar de convencerlo.

He is quite stubborn but still I'll try to persuade him.


Of course, tratar means "to treat" too:


Cada vez que vamos a visitarlos nos tratan como reyes / nos tratan de maravillas.

Every time we go to visit them, they treat us as royalty / they treat us wonderfully.



 And tratar [con] "to deal [with]". For example:


No quiero ni tratar con esa clase de gente.

I don't even want to deal with those people.


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Culei: Slang for the Worst

Vota por la opción que más te gusta, o por la menos culei.

Vote for the option you like the most, or for the least bad.

Captions 14-15, Tu Rock es Votar - Comercial de TV

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Tu Rock es Votar speaks directly to Mexico's youth in the language they understand. Problem is, Spanish dictionaries don't contain every example of youthful Mexican street slang. Case in point: culei. To understand this word, a native speaker from México is going to be more helpful than your average dictionary. So we asked our friends on the ground to translate, and we learned that culei is a Mexican variation of the slang word culero, which has many, colorful meanings--basically, malo ("bad") or gacho (Mexican for "nasty" or "ugly"). Trolling around the web, we also found culei linked to the brand name Kool-Aid -as in the Technicolored, artificial fruit beverage. Their pronunciations are almost identical--save the final "d." Without sweating the details of the origins of the slang too much, we bring you the translation:

"Vote for the option that you like most, or for the least bad."



Sounds like the U.S.'s last "Rock the Vote" campaign, which acknowledged the youth vote's antipathy or even disgust with available election candidates.

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Requerir, Carecer: Meaning Needed, Meaning Lacking

We begin this cortometraje ("short film") about the dangers of unventilated cooking in Peru with the basic needs of man.


Desde que el hombre apareció como tal sobre la faz de la Tierra... ha requerido, y por cierto, aún requiere, de diversas fuentes de energía que le sirvan de combustible.

Since man appeared as such on the surface of the Earth... he has required, and in fact, still requires, diverse sources of energy to be used as fuel.

Captions 1-5, Cocinas Peruanas - Short Film

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Above, the verb requerir ("to require" or "to need") is followed by the preposition de. This is common only in Latin America, notes HarperCollins' Spanish Unabridged Dictionary. Meanwhile, the Spanish spoken in Spain for the most part uses requerir as a transitive verb followed by a direct object, meaning no preposition is requerido ("required"). For example, in Spain you'd likely hear:

Esto requiere cierto cuidado.
This requires some care.

A little later in the short film, we encounter a verb that's always followed by de and then an indirect object: 


...en especial la rural, los utiliza para cocinar en sus viviendas, las mismas que, en su mayoría, carecen de ventilación.

...especially rural population, use them to cook in their houses, houses which mostly lack ventilation.

Captions 11-12, Cocinas Peruanas - Short Film

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Carecer [de algo] means "to lack [something]." Above, the narrator is speaking of "their houses... which mostly lack ventilation." The use of the preposition de is required here, regardless of which continent the speaker is standing on. If it were missing, you would have to say the sentence lacks something (la frase carece de algo).

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Lindo: Beautiful Words

...Nuestros tres magníficos hijos....
María... es... una niña muy linda....
Luis Felipe... es un niño muy lindo....
Juan Pablo... es una lindura....

[Captions 15, 16 and 17, Felipe Calderón > Publicidad > Part 2]


Did we mention Felipe Calderón is a politician? In Part 2 of the presidential candidate's promotional video, Calderón discusses his profound love for his family. He describes each one of his three kids -María, Luis Felipe and Juan Pablo- as lindo(a), meaning "pretty" or "beautiful." This synonym for bonito, hermoso or bello is an adjective that is used a lot in the Spanish-speaking world. See a baby on the street and "¡Qué lindo!" (or "¡Qué linda!") is a very common thing to say.

In the sentences quoted above, note that linda agrees with the feminine noun niña ("girl'") and lindo agrees with the masculine noun niño ("boy"). Also note that Calderón employs the noun lindura ("a beauty") to describe his youngest son -a noun that's always feminine, despite his son's gender.

Another way the proud dad describes his
tres magníficos hijos ("three magnificent children") appears in caption 14:

Bueno la verdad es que son tres chavos sensacionales
[Caption 14, Felipe Calderón > Publicidad > Part 2


We translate this as: "Well the truth is that they are three sensational kids." But instead of repeating the standard word hijos ("kids" or "sons [and daughters]"), Calderón uses chavos, which is a colloquialism heard in Calderón's native Mexico as well as Honduras and Nicaragua, according to the authoritative Real Academia Española. Like hijos or niños, chavos means "kids," but not necessarily in the sense of sons and daughters. Got that, muchachos?

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Tocar: A touch of chance

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

[Caption 2, Felipe Calderón > Publicidad > Part 1


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

Esta es la vida que me toca vivir.

"This is the life that I have [fate has given me] to live."

Me tocó el boleto de la buena suerte.

"I got [by chance] the lucky ticket [of all the ones distributed]."

Le ha tocado la lotería.

"She has won the lottery."



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

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

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

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Haya: For Possibilities and Doubts

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

[Captions 11-12 , Café Tacuba > Mediodía]


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

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

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

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

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

[Caption 25 , De consumidor a persona > Part 5]


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

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

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Profesor, Maestro: School Teacher

Bueno, mi experiencia como profesor de matemáticas ha sido muy gratificante.
[Caption 7, Profesor de matemática > Entrevista


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

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

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

Mi papá fue maestro de escuela.
[Caption 6 > Emiro > La Historia de Emiro


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

[Note: Emiro 's video can be found in the "La Costa Caribe: Venezuela" section of Yabla Spanish.]

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Papel: It's a role

El papel principal del gobierno es promover el desarrollo.
[Caption 17 , Con ánimo de lucro > Cortometraje > Part 3]


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

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

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

El papel de la ONG ha sido un papel auxiliador.
[Caption 23, Con ánimo de lucro > Cortometraje > Part 3]

"The role of the NGO has been an assisting role."

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

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Radicarse: To relocate yourself

Eso fue cuando hicimos Inconquistable Corazón que yo ya tenía que radicarme acá.
[Caption 29 > Natalia Oreiro > Biografia > Part 5]


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

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

Radicarse en otro pais es dificil.

"To establish yourself in another country is difficult."

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

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Quejarse: To Complain

¡Y además te quejas!
[Caption 7, Tu Rock es Votar > Publicidad > Part 1]


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

Así que no puedo quejarme
[Caption 29, Federico Kauffman Doig > Arqueologo > Part 4]

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

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

The preposition following quejarse is often de

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

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

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A ti: Emphasizing

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


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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Labor, Trabajo: The hardworker's world

Este... Vamos a tratar a explicarles... este... la labor de la artesanía... Este... trabajo que llevamos acabo...
[Captions 3-4, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]


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

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

...trabajamos con el gres
[Caption 17, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]

También trabajamos un poco con lo que son este... las piezas del mar, los caracoles
[Caption 33, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]

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

Mi papa antiguamente, en los años cinquenta, este... trabajó acá
[Caption 45, Javier Marin > Artesano > Part 1]

This translates to, "Formerly, in the fifties, my father... worked here."

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

Laboró como telegrafista...
[Caption 46, Javier Marin > Part 1]


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

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