There comes a point in your Spanish learning journey when you hear about the infamous subjunctive: el subjuntivo. Many fear it without really knowing what it’s all about because they’ve heard that it’s hard. But hey, it’s not that bad at all! As I’ve mentioned before, there are elements of language that cannot be translated into another language as is. Sometimes, we need to create a new concept in our heads. While the subjunctive exists in English, we don’t use a specific subjunctive conjugation in every case – as we do in Spanish. Join me today as we disentangle the intricacies of the Spanish subjuntivo and learn why there’s no reason to fear it!
Don’t forget to follow these links to learn how to conjugate the subjunctive in the present tense and past tense. If you’re more of an auditory learner, check out our videos on the subjunctive here (and here – when we have the second one out)!
¿Qué es el subjuntivo?
What’s the subjunctive anyway? When we classify verbs, we can classify them according to different criteria. One of the criteria is the tense – present, past, future – which indicates when an action is taking place. Another one is the mood, which indicates the intention of the speaker. There are three moods in Spanish:
- indicative – expresses the meaning of the verb as a reality:
- Soy feliz. I am happy.
In this case, being happy is a reality, a fact.
- subjunctive – expresses the meaning of the verb as a non-reality:
- Si fuera feliz. If I were happy.
In this case, being happy is a wish, something that is not part of the current reality.
- imperative – expresses the meaning of the verb as a mandate or order:
- Sé feliz! Be happy!
We order someone to be happy. We use the imperative in the 2nd person, both singular (tú, vos, usted) and plural (ustedes) because these are the people we can “give orders”.
*We sometimes give an ‘order’ to a group of people we belong to: we – nosotros. Nosotros is the 1st person plural, not the 2nd person. While the mood is imperative, there’s no conjugation for nosotros in the imperative mood, so we ‘borrow’ the conjugation from the subjunctive.
Using the subjunctive in Spanish
Now that we know what the subjunctive is, we need to learn how and when to use it. As we learned above, the subjunctive is a mood that indicates the intention of the speaker. The fact that there are specific situations that call for the subjunctive makes it a lot easier to learn when we need to use it! You’ll see that it’s not that hard after all!
We use the subjunctive when we want to express uncertainty, desire, beliefs or possibilities. As you can see, all of these scenarios live in the realm of the unreal. These are all things that are not facts, but instead, what we think, guess, wish for, or believe.
1. Dependent clauses introduced by the relative pronoun que
Dependent clauses, also known as subordinate clauses, are a combination of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence since they are not a complete idea. They provide additional information to an independent clause. Independent clauses can stand alone because they do portray a full idea). Let’s look at some examples to understand this better:
Es posible + que vayamos al cine.
It’s possible + that we go to the movies.
We can see in these examples how the subordinate clause starts both in Spanish and English with que and that respectively!
Let’s look at some of the most common examples. All the expressions below are expressions that when followed by the relative pronoun que – that (written in the examples for clarity) require a subjunctive:
2. Adjective clauses introduced by the relative pronoun que
Adjective clauses are a set of words that describe a noun – they are a combination of words that work as an adjective. An adjective clause that begins with the relative pronoun que can either be in subjunctive or indicative. This depends entirely on the context of what we’re saying.
Let’s have a look at these two examples:
Questions and negative statements
Whenever you use adjective clauses starting with the pronoun que to question whether something is real or not, or when you negate the existence of something, you also use the subjunctive!
This is because you’re referring to something that is not part of your ‘reality.’ Let’s have a look at some examples:
3. After certain conjunctions
Conjunctions are words or sets of words that allow us to join words, phrases, and clauses. There are certain conjunctions that call for the subjunctive because they express doubt, uncertainty, or condition. These are the different conjunctions that can go along with the subjunctive if the context is right:
4. Conditional clauses – si (if) clauses
Conditional sentences have two parts (two clauses). The first one is the clause that indicates the condition – si clause -, and the second one is the clause that indicates the result if the condition is met.
There are 3 types of conditionals in Spanish. We use the subjunctive in two out of these three cases. While we won’t go into much detail in this blog post about each type, we’ll show you their structure:
This may seem a bit complicated, but the awesome thing is that these structures cannot be changed. If you’re using conditional sentences, anything other than what’s on the table above is wrong! That certainly makes it easy to learn!
We’ve explained the subjunctive and used many examples so that you can know exactly when to use it! Now, book a free class with one of our teachers so you can perfect your subjuntivo!
Do you remember the blog about ya where we introduced you to the first of many Spanish words that have multiple meanings? Today, we’ll continue exploring the phenomenon of words that are spelled the same but don’t mean the same thing! We can categorize these words as:
- Polysemic words – words that have one single origin, but when used in different contexts have different meanings.
- Homonyms – two or more words that are spelled the same but don’t have the same linguistic roots; they, therefore, have different meanings.
The difference between these two is that a polysemic word is one single word with two or more meanings that depend on context, while homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but mean different things because they don’t have the same etymological background. This means that homonyms are words that are spelled the same by chance, not because they have evolved from the same word.
For all you grammar nerds, Etymology is the study of the origin of words and their evolution throughout history.
We’ll start with our first polysemic word; this one has caused the most trouble to all my English-speaking friends learning Spanish! In Mexico and Guatemala, we use the word ahorita. This is the diminutive form of ahora – we sure love our diminutives! Ahorita is a colloquial expression, which means that we use it in informal speech. There are two reasons why this word causes so much trouble:
- As a part of informal speech, we use it all the time in conversations. So, it’s really easy to misinterpret it as we really use it so often!
- The meanings of ahorita are very contradictory. It can either mean:
- Right now, like right now, now. Right this second.
- Just a little bit ago.
- In a little bit, or anytime between 5 minutes and a couple of hours.
- In an indeterminate amount of time.
In order to understand what the other person means with ahorita, I’ve often needed to ask something like, “Are you leaving the house ahorita as in right this second, or ahorita as in a couple of hours?” I’ve also had friends who live only a 5-minute drive from me tell me they’ll leave their house ahorita, only to come to my house 4 hours later! And once they arrived, I asked them, “Weren’t you leaving ahorita?” To which they would usually reply with something like, “Oh, yeah, I did. I was just finishing something.”
As you can see, the meaning of ahorita greatly varies depending on the context. This can cause a lot of frustration not only for people who are learning about a new language and culture but also to people who speak the language as a mother tongue. Don’t ever feel bad about these misinterpretations! Remember that a language is not always an exact science!
While most of these words are not as confusing as ahorita, it’s important to know them before you encounter them!
Spanish Polysemic Words
As we mentioned before, a polysemic word has one single etymological origin and multiple meanings that vary depending on the context in which we use the word. Let’s have a look at some of these words:
As we mentioned above, homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but do not have the same etymological background, so they have various meanings. Let’s look at some of them:
As you can see in all these examples, there are many Spanish words that we spell exactly the same way but that have more than one meaning! We understand what these words mean because of the context in which we’re saying them. If someone said puedes bajar la llama de la estufa, they could mean two different things:
- You can turn the llama down on the stove, or
- You can get the llama off the stove
What is certain is that the person is most likely referring to turning down the flame on the stove, and not telling you to get the fluffy animal off the stove!
Let’s have a look at some more examples! As you will see below, there are times when more than one sentence makes sense. This is why the context is so important! If you’re sitting at a restaurant, you’ll more likely ask for a menu than for a letter or a card. And while a baby is sure mono (cute, lovely, or adorable), he can’t wear a monkey (monkey also means mono in Spanish – the right word here would be onesies).
Me duele la muñeca
- My doll hurts
- My wrist hurts
Me puede traer la carta
- Please, bring me the card
- Please, bring me the letter
- Please, bring me the menu
Me encanta comer falda
- I love to eat foothills
- I love to eat skirts
- I love to eat brisket
Mis plantas están verdes
- My plants are green
- My factories are green
- My soles are green
Las carpas son de agua dulce
- Tents live in freshwater
- Carps live in freshwater
El mono le queda muy bien al bebé
- The monkey fits the baby well
- The cute one fits the baby well
- Onesies fit the baby well
If you have any questions regarding the use of any words, remember that you can always schedule a FREE class with us and we’ll help you solve any doubts!
In English, whenever you are happy, at home, or cold, you use the verb to be (am, are, is) to refer to all three things. However, in Spanish you say estoy feliz (or in some cases soy feliz), estoy en la casa, and tengo frío! There are three different verbs for the equivalent English verb ‘to be.’ Today, we will discuss when it is most appropriate to use each verb! If you’d like to learn more about how to express your feelings in Spanish, go have a look at our feelings blog!
Ser vs. Estar
Although they express something similar (the characteristics of a person or thing), estar and ser convey distinct ideas. Pointing out this difference to an English speaker, or a speaker of any language that doesn’t differentiate between these ideas, is a little complicated. Since we use only one word to refer to both concepts, you’ll have to create an approach in your mind and learn how it works. As said above, don’t worry: the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it!
Ser expresses the attributes of a person or thing. When you use ser, you’re talking about characteristics that are a part of the essence of a person or thing: something unchangeable.
Since ser helps us express the characteristics of a person or thing, what comes after the verb is an adjective! The structure for these sentences is ser + adjective:
Another way you can remember when to use the verb ser is to completely get rid of the verb and see how the adjective matches your noun. Adding the verb ser turns this phrase into a sentence*:
*Sentences are grammatical units that include a subject (a person or thing) and a predicate (which includes a verb and whatever follows) and help us express a complete idea. On the other hand, phrases are a set of words that form part of a sentence or clause.
Think of estar as a status or condition. Estar expresses how a person or thing exists, finds itself in a place or situation, how it feels, or how it remains with stability in a place, situation or condition.
As you can see, estar refers to something that can change and that doesn’t belong to the nature of the person or thing.
Estar can help you say how you’re feeling, express a place that you’re at, or something that you’re currently doing. When forming sentences with estar, you want to use the following structures:
*Gerund: in Spanish, the gerund (verb with -ando and -iendo endings) helps us describe a continuous action that started taking place before we mentioned it and that is still taking place as we talk about it. The equivalent of this in English is the Present Continuous Tense that we form with the verb to be + another verb with the -ing ending.
Ser vs Estar Examples
Conjugation of Ser and Estar
Now that you know when you should use each verb, let’s have a look at the conjugation since they are both irregular verbs (estar only varies on the first person singular – the rest of its conjugation is regular):
Tener means to have, to own, or to possess. This verb may be a little easier to understand because it is a verb that exists in English. We can use tener to express something that we physically possess or a way we feel at a certain point in time – a feeling or need we “have.”
As we learned in our blog about expressing the way we feel, we can use tener (to have) to express needs or emotions at a specific point in time.
The construction for this is tener + a noun. Let’s have a look at some examples and what a literal translation would look like:
Tener is, like estar and ser, an irregular verb. You need to keep that in mind when building sentences with it:
Like we reviewed in our common mistakes blog, there are some things you need to keep in mind to make your Spanish even better. When it comes to expressing the way we feel, make sure you remember this list:
- Tengo calor: while in English you say ‘I’m hot’, in Spanish you say ‘I have heat’ (I experience heat). Saying ‘estoy caliente’ or ‘soy caliente’ means that you are aroused by something, so you really want to avoid making this common mistake and having people look at you funny.
- Tengo frío: in Spanish we say that we ‘have cold’ (we experience cold). To properly that that you’re cold, you need to say tengo frío. To say estoy frío or soy frío me means that you’re a cold person – a person who doesn’t show their feelings.
- Estoy mal vs. soy malo
- Estoy mal: since we’re using the verb estar, we’re referring to a condition that is not a part of the character of a person. In this case, estoy mal means that you feel physically sick or that you’re upset about something.
- Soy malo: ser expresses qualities about a person or thing that are part of them and therefore unchangeable. If we say soy malo, we’re saying that we’re a bad person, not that we’re feeling unwell. Another thing to keep in mind here is that if you want to say that you’re ‘bad at something’ like I am at playing soccer, you say soy malo para el fútbol. We use ser in this case because not being able to play soccer well is a part of me that’s not going to change because I’m not interested in soccer.
- Estoy bien vs. soy bueno: estoy bien and soy bueno work the same way as estoy mal and soy malo.
- Estoy bien: we’re using estar so we refer to a condition that we’re currently at. When you say estoy bien, it can either been that you’re physically or psychologically fine.
- Soy bueno: since we’re using ser, we’re talking about a part of our character. We’re saying that we’re a good person. Like with soy malo, if we want to say that we’re good at something – at something being the keyword here – we say soy bueno para jugar ajedrez (I’m good at playing chess). This means that being good at playing chess is a part of our skills.
I know this is a lot to take in, and the best way to learn all this is by practicing and practicing! Why don’t you jump into a FREE class with us so that you can practice even more with one of our teachers!
Continue practicing with our handy-dandy PDF!
Get ready and put on your wetsuit because today we’re going to dive into the deep ocean of Spanish idioms and explore the colorfulness of the language. Just like with English, we use idioms all the time in Spanish, which makes them so important to learn!
But first, what is an idiom? According to Meriam Webster, an idiom is “an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either grammatically (such as no, it wasn’t me) or in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (such as ride herd on for “supervise”).”
Just so that you know exactly what we’re looking at today, here’s a list:
- Idioms in Spanish
- The literal translation into English so you can see how important it is to keep in mind that language is a lot more than just a translation of words. It is a common mistake to translate idioms word for word, so try to avoid that!
- The actual meaning in English
- An example of each one so you can learn when to use them!
Some idioms have an equivalent in English, while others don’t.
We’ll start with my all-time favorite idiom because I’m an avid cat lover, who is unfortunately allergic to cats. Oh, the ironies of life! Maybe it’s something good; otherwise, my house would be filled with cute, furry little creatures!
Isn’t this awesome? You’ve just learned 20 new idioms in Spanish that will help you communicate even better! Now book a FREE class with us so you can practice them and learn even more!
Whenever we’re learning a new language, we come across certain aspects of it that seem to make sense and be right to us as speakers of another language. However, as I’ve mentioned before, a language is not only a translation of words. It entails a whole cultural and linguistic background, and the unique history and evolution of each language define the meaning of every word and how we use them. Today we’ll have a look at some of the most common mistakes we can make when learning Spanish! Don’t forget to check out our accompanying video.
Several of these common mistakes stem from the fact that in Spanish (like other languages) there are some concepts that do not exist in English. This means that instead of trying to understand something that doesn’t exist in our world at all, we need to accept it and learn how it works. Other mistakes arise from the vast differences in the grammatical structure of each language – these are also certain rules that we’ll have to learn by heart. Additionally, similar-sounding words that actually have distinct meanings in each language cause many mistakes.
Before we start, remember that making mistakes is totally fine! It’s a part of the learning process. We’ve all made mistakes, and we’re going to make mistakes again. We even make mistakes sometimes when we speak our mother language. So don’t feel too bad about it – learn from it! The more you practice, the easier it will get.
1. Use of Ser and Estar
While in English there’s only one verb to express qualities of a thing or person (to be), in Spanish there are three: we can use either ser and estar depending on what we want to say, and sometimes we can even use tener (to have).
We use ser when talking about characteristics that are unchangeable and part of the essence of something or someone. On the other hand, we use estar when talking about characteristics that describe a specific or current state. Furthermore, we use tener when referring to an emotion or need.
Since we know that this is a delicate topic for any person learning Spanish, we’ll soon be sharing with you an entire blog post about the differences between ser and estar and the appropriate situations to use each!
2. Use of Adjectives
In English, we always use adjectives before nouns, but in Spanish, while we can use them before or after the noun, it is most common to use them after: noun + adjective!
Using adjectives before nouns in Spanish is a lot less common, but we can use them this way when we want to emphasize a trait or when writing poetically.
Let’s see some examples:
3. Subjects in Sentences
Part of English grammar is always using a noun or pronoun as a subject in a sentence. In Spanish, because of the more detailed conjugation of the verbs that changes with each person (I, you, he/she/it, we, you all, they), the subject of the sentences can often be left out.
That means that we don’t always need to write who is performing an action. Instead of writing Yo voy al mercado (I go to the market), we only need to write Voy al mercado. Since voy is conjugated in the first person singular – yo, I – we understand that it is I who is performing the action without having to explicitly write it down.
There are cases when it is important to mention who is performing the action in order to give the sentence more clarity, but it is not needed for the sentence to be right. Keep in mind that in order for your Spanish to sound more natural, you need to avoid the excessive use of pronouns and other subjects in sentences.
4. People vs. Gente
In English, the word ‘people’ is a plural count noun and therefore takes a plural conjugation – we say people are and not
people is! In Spanish, the word gente is a collective noun so it refers to a group of people, a plural, but it keeps its singular form.
Gente has no plural because it is already a plural form for the word persona (person). Although personas is the plural of persona, we more often use gente to refer to a group of persons as a collective. In this case, we say that la gente es, instead of
la gente son or las gentes son.
Keep in mind that verbs and adjectives need to match the singular word although its meaning is plural:
5. False Cognate
False cognates, or false friends as we also call them, are words that sound or are written in a similar way but don’t have the same meaning. This can happen in one language, or in two separate languages. Always try to keep in mind that two words sounding or looking similar doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the same meaning. A very common mistake here is embarazada, which sounds a lot like embarrassed, but actually means pregnant! You certainly don’t want to say you’re pregnant when you want to express how embarrassed you already are about something. We’ll compile a list of the most common false cognates for you so you can always keep an eye on this. Stay tuned!
6. Capitalization of Words
In English, capitalization rules vary greatly from those in Spanish, as we capitalize a lot of words that are written with lowercase letters in Spanish.
When we write in English, we capitalize the days of the week, months of the year, languages, religions, nationalities, and most words in titles of books, plays, articles, etc. However, in Spanish, we don’t capitalize any of the above, and when it comes to titles, we only capitalize the first letter!
Some of the most common capitalization rules are that we only capitalize:
- Given names of people, animals, and places (Majo Grajeda, Firulais, Guatemala)
- All significant words in given names of organizations, associations, institutions, organism, newspapers, universities, schools, companies, musical groups, etc. (El Periódico, Instituto Nacional de Turismo, Universidad del Valle)
- The first word of titles in movies, books, articles (Bajo la misma estrella, El rey león, La isla del tesoro)
7. Double Negative
When in English we want to say that we haven’t written anything, we can either say that we haven’t written a thing, or that we have written nothing. What we cannot say, is that “we haven’t written nothing.” This is a double negative, and in English, a double negative creates a positive statement.
So if we said “I didn’t hear nothing” it means that “you did hear something,” and not that “you didn’t hear any noise.” In Spanish, however, we use double negatives all the time because it is the right way to say things and using them doesn’t alter the negative meaning of statements.
An important rule here is that Spanish sentences don’t usually mix positive and negative words in statements. If you start your sentence as a negative statement (no, nunca, nada, nadie, ningún/ninguna, jamás, tampoco) you need to continue your sentence, with a negative word. This also applies to sentences that start as positive statements. In those cases, you need to continue your sentence with a positive word (siempre, algo, alguien, algún/alguna, también).
8. Right Usage of Verbs
In Spanish, there are verbs that seem to have similar meanings but may subtly or completely alter what you’re trying to say. Let’s have a look at 3 of these pairs:
Ir vs. Venir
Ir means ‘to go somewhere,’ while venir means ‘to come from somewhere’:
Traer vs. Llevar
Traer means to bring something to a place where you already are or to a place that you’re already talking about. Llevar means to take something to a place different than the one you’re currently at or that isn’t part of the context of what you’re speaking at the moment.
To understand this better, let’s have a look at a little conversation:
(Backstory: Maria and Ana are at Ana’s house getting ready for a party.)
Oír vs. Escuchar
Oír means to perceive sound with your senses, while escuchar means to pay attention to what you’re listening to. While these two verbs are interchangeable at times – and everyone will understand what you mean if mix them up – it’s important to keep in mind that there are cases when using one is better than using the other one.
Mastering these common mistakes will bring your Spanish skills to a whole different level! Don’t forget to watch our video and schedule a FREE class with one of our native Spanish teachers to clarify any doubts you may still have.Read More
The long-awaited summer is finally here! It’s time to go out – or stay in – and invest some precious time in our favorite activities! Our hobbies and what we do in our free time is such an important part of who we are, so let’s learn to share more about ourselves in Spanish! If you haven’t watched our video Talking about Hobbies in Spanish, go check it out!
Our Favorite Hobbies in Spanish
As you may have guessed correctly, there is a long list of vocabulary here! We all like different things and that’s what makes us unique. There are also activities that we do with others that bring us closer together. Let’s get started! Look at the hobby vocabulary below and find the five things that you like to do the most in your free time.
Now that you’ve found the five things you prefer to do in your free time, let me ask you:
- ¿Qué haces en tu tiempo libre? What do you do in your free time?
- ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tu tiempo libre? What do you like to do in your free time?
- ¿Cuál es tu pasatiempo favorito? What are your favorite hobbies?
Keep reading to find out how to answer these questions!
Now that we know the names of different hobbies in Spanish, let’s learn how we can use this knowledge in sentences! There are several ways to say that we like – or dislike – something. Today, we’ll have a look at:
interesar (to be interested in), gustar (to like), and encantar (to love)
We conjugate these verbs a little differently than normal verbs. Why? Oh, the joys of language learning!
As you can see in the table above, the indirect object pronouns (me, te, le, nos, les) are the ones that change to match the subject in the sentence, not the verb. This affects the sentence we form as a whole. Indirect object pronouns are words that tell us to whom or for whom something is being done. It can be a person, an animal, or a thing. In the sentence ‘I give her the book.’, her is the indirect object pronoun because her is receiving the book!
The normal sentence pattern in Spanish is subject + conjugated verb + object. However, in the case of these three verbs, things change a little bit. The sentence pattern that we use is:
indirect object pronoun + conjugated verb + object
Let’s look at some examples:
The best way to remember this sentence construction is to think of the fact that while in English we say I like something. In Spanish, it’s a lot more like Something pleases me. Always keep in mind that language learning is not just translating words, but learning a whole new perspective on communication – with new words!
In this case, Me gusta leer is the equivalent to Reading pleases me. And a word-by-word translation of Me gusta leer is Me pleases to read. A more literal translation, that would make a little more sense is Me it pleases to read.
Another very important factor to remember when you’re building these sentences is that sometimes you’ll use the article, and sometimes you won’t. Thankfully, there is a rule here:
Let’s build some more sentences together so that it becomes clear!
And what about the things we don’t like? Well, that one’s easy for a change! You simply add a no before the indirect object pronoun. Let’s practice with some examples:
Uff! This was a lot to take in, but don’t worry! The more you practice your favorite hobbies in Spanish, the easier it will get. And don’t forget to book your FREE class today so we can practice together!Read More
We’ve all heard me or te when learning Spanish. Me llamo [insert your name here] is probably one of the first things we learn to say. But this me and te are neither the English me or the Spanish tea (tea is Spanish is té with a tilde!). Me, te, se, nos are the Spanish reflexive pronouns that accompany reflexive verbs. What are reflexive verbs, you may be asking yourself? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!
What are reflexive verbs?
We use a reflexive verb when we want to say that the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself. For example: in Spanish you don’t shower, tú te duchas (you shower yourself) because tú (you), as the subject, are performing the action on yourself. Now, if you use the verb as a non-reflexive verb, you’re performing the action on something – or someone – else other than yourself or a part of your body. Let’s see:
When using reflexive verbs, you will need a reflexive pronoun that matches the noun of the sentence that is performing the action on itself. Let’s have a look at the reflexive pronouns:
Let’s check out how these look in sentences:
As you can see in the English translation, these are not actions that are directed towards ourselves, but to another object, so they are not reflexive! But are there reflexive pronouns in English too? Yes! Let’s have a check them out to have a better understanding of their Spanish meaning:
Placement of Reflexive Pronouns
We place reflexive pronouns:
Change In Meaning
Whenever we use verbs as reflexive verbs, the meaning of the verb slightly changes to refer to an action that the subject of a sentence performs on itself. With certain verbs, however, the change in meaning goes a lot further than that, so by making the verb a reflexive one, we completely alter the meaning.
It’s important to keep in my that while we can turn most verbs into reflexive verbs, the meaning isn’t the same, and in some cases, it means something very different. Let’s have a look at some verbs in which the meaning drastically changes when we use them as reflexive:
Of course, there are verbs that only exist in the form of reflexive verbs. We cannot use these verbs in a non-reflexive form, as they do not exist in a non-reflexive form. Let’s check some of these out:
A Little Practice
Practice your reflexive pronouns with this short exercise. And don’t forget to book a FREE class today to practice even more!
Now it’s your turn to build sentences with these adjectives:
I’ve often written that language is very closely tied to culture, and therefore to people! And what is the one thing we humans do every single day of our lives? We eat! Food is one of the things we all need and enjoy. It also brings us together – remember all those fun family lunches and dinners you’ve attended?
We all also have that one food that brings us back to our childhood; just the smell of it reminds us of when our mother, grandmother, aunt – or in my case, both my grandmother and great-grandmother – cooked the dish! All this talk about cooking got me thinking about the one dish that immediately brings me back to a younger version of myself. So, I grabbed the phone, called my grandmother, and asked her for her amazing chiles rellenos recipe – the one she learned from my great-grandmother!
It was nice to talk on the phone with her, and to catch up. She took a long time explaining really carefully and with much detail how to prepare the dish. Like a typical Guatemalan abuela, she only cooks in really big batches! Last time she cooked chiles rellenos, she made over 50 at once! However, she tried downsizing it for me to only 20 chiles rellenos instead.
Primero lo primero – First Things First
Like with any other recipe, before we start, we first need to make sure that we have all the necessary tools and ingredients. What I try to do whenever I cook is to take all the ingredients out and put them on the counter to make sure I have everything I need! Those last-second trips to the grocery store are not always ideal!
What we will need for this recipe:
- A lot of patience (there’s a lot of mincing by hand involved!)
- A blender
- A very big pot
- A big bag
- A towel
I had done this recipe once before many, many years ago, and throughout my life, I’ve watched my great-grandmother and grandmother do it more times than I can remember. The one thing I remember best is that my grandma always prepares the stuffing one day and she finishes the chiles rellenos the next. Why? Because it’s A LOT of work! This time, I naively believed I’d be able to manage to do everything on the same day – ha ha – be warned!
The reason why it takes so long to prepare the stuffing is because there is a lot of VERY TINY MINCING (picar – to mince). Let’s get started!
I know, I know, it seems like I’m exaggerating when I say it takes a long time to get this ready because the instructions seem pretty easy. Believe me when I tell you that once you’re done with all that, there’s nothing else you want to do because the mincing such tiny itsy bitsy pieces of food takes a long time and is exhausting! So don’t worry if you need to make a pause now, just put everything to the side, make yourself a toast for dinner, and continue with this recipe the next day. This stuffing that we made needs to be room temperature, so you need to wait for it to not to be hot anymore anyway.
Everything that comes now is a lot easier! Let’s continue.
And now what?
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve prepared your first traditional Guatemalan meal! At my family’s house, there was always a special way to serve chiles rellenos – with lettuce, a couple of raw onion rings and chopped parsley! It tastes especially well if you put it in a bun. Once cooked, you can store the chiles rellenos in the fridge!
We hope you enjoyed this recipe and don’t forget to book your FREE CLASS to tell us about your experience with this awesome dish!
By now, you probably know a couple of words in español: hola, adiós, ¿dónde está la biblioteca? However, have you ever thought of where Spanish comes from? Did it just pop up one day in Spain, or is there more to it? Today we’re going to explore the history of Spanish because it didn’t just magically appear! Language is more of a living creature that evolves with the passage of time. People are the vehicle of language, and language is what gives us humans the ability to communicate our inner worlds in such a detailed fashion! It’s a win-win situation! Join me today as we trace back the history of Spanish language! If you want the short version, download the timeline below.
Maybe you would prefer to download the whole blog as a PDF. You can review and study it with your Spanish learner, and even test their knowledge with a quick exercise at the end!
History of Spanish and History of Spain
The history of the Spanish language is closely tied to the history of Spain. As groups of people moved through what is now recognized as the country of Spain, multiple languages came and went! Some of them left a big mark, while others barely brushed through. These migrations have always taken place – humans have constantly moved through territories and “secure borders” (like we now have) were certainly not a thing 5,000 years ago!
Let’s start with some useful vocabulary! In Spanish, there are two ways to refer to the Spanish language:
*The literal English translation of castellano is Castillian. However, the English term refers to specific varieties of Spanish only, not to the Spanish language as a whole. The Spanish castellano can refer to either the Spanish language as a whole or to specific varieties. The term comes from Castilla, the region in Spain where Spanish came to life!
History of Spanish: A Jigsaw Puzzle
When we think of Spanish – or any language – we see a whole: a language! Or maybe we think about the elements we learned when studying it: words, grammar, pronunciation, spelling. For today, we’ll think of Spanish as a historical jigsaw puzzle with interchangeable, multicultural pieces that come in various sizes. Just think about it: there was a time when the Spanish we now know didn’t exist. However, all the pieces of the puzzle were already scattered all around the world. They eventually found their way to one another, and so created a beautiful and diverse mosaic of language. Let’s read more on the history of Spanish and how this jigsaw puzzle came to be!
Putting Together the Pieces of the Puzzle
A long long time ago
5000 years ago, the ancient indigenous peoples of (now) Spain, the Iberians, spoke their own Iberian language. This language even had its own script and many of the inscriptions they wrote still survive today! This piece of the puzzle is a really tiny one as their writing system disappeared with the conquest of the Roman Empire some 2000 years ago, and very few words can be understood now. As you may have guessed, the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) owes its name to its first inhabitants, the Iberians!
3000 years ago, the Celts started to make their way south to the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. They came with their own Celtic language (also called Common Celt or Proto-Celt)! Nowadays, there are still 6 Celtic languages that evolved from that one Celtic language from a long time ago: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. Some of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct, just as it happens in Guatemala with Mayan Languages. Read more about what is happening to Mayan languages here! Many words we use in Spanish are of Celtic origin, so this piece of the puzzle is a little bit bigger! Some examples are:
bruja (witch), gancho (hook), carro (car), añicos (smithereens)
The Iberians and Celts coexisted in Spain until the Celtic people changed so much because of the Iberian influence that Celtiberians came to existence. Celtiberians spoke the Celtiberian language and used the Iberian script that they borrowed from the Iberians, but they were considered Celts.
A long time ago
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks all came to the Iberian Peninsula between the 15th and 4th century BCE to found colonies. While their impact on agriculture, economy, and mining was substantial, their influence on language wasn’t.
In modern Spanish, however, there are a lot of words that come from Greek! Greek didn’t really have much impact on the puzzle of Spanish when the Greeks came to Spain, but Latin and Arabic had already been greatly influenced by Greek. So the great amount of words with Greek origin in Spanish has more to do with the influence of Greek on Latin and Arabic, and less to do with a direct adoption of Greek words by the indigenous Spanish people. Some examples of Greek origin adopted through Latin are:
academia (academy), carta (letter), diamante (diamond), fósforos (matchstick)
The Romans arrived in the Iberian Peninsula some 2200 years ago. They got there because they were at war with the Carthaginians, who had already occupied a significant part of Spain. After a lot of back and forth that included three wars, known as the Punic Wars (that lasted over 100 years), the Romans finally defeated the Carthaginians. 200 years later, they conquered the whole of Spain! As such, the Iberian Peninsula became a part of the Roman Empire.
The Romans brought along their culture and language, which was Vulgar Latin (vulgar means common – Common Latin, like the Common Greek). Romans were all about individuals having rights, so they never violently forced their language on the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula. They did, however, encourage them to learn the language through other more effective means: creating documents only in Latin and opening Latin schools for people to be able to learn.
The Romans occupied Spain for 700 years. In this extended period of time, Latin was greatly influenced by the languages that were spoken in the peninsula when the Romans arrived. By the first century AD, the modified version of Latin was spoken throughout the entire Iberian Peninsula!
Latin is by far the biggest – and central – piece of the puzzle! Every other piece connects around this one. Latin is the language that evolved and adapted elements from other languages to eventually become Spanish!
The Moors came to Spain in the year 711. They conquered Spain and stayed until 1492, the same year Christopher Columbus discovered America! They arrived in Spain because there were (again) some wars. They were called by some friends in Spain to help with the wars but ended up staying and occupying the territory for almost 800 years! As the Romans did before them, the Moors also brought along culture and language!
The language of the Moors was (and still is – yay to our first still living language!) Ḥassāniyyah Arabic, a dialect of Arabic. In the 781 years that the Moors occupied Spain, the modified Latin (that will soon turn into Spanish) started adopting A LOT of Arabic words. The Moors also introduced the Arabic numerals and the numbering system, and they contributed greatly to the fields of architecture, religion, agriculture, and education.
Almost 800 years of occupation are more than just brushing through. Arabic’s piece of the puzzle is rather significant when compared to the other languages we’ve talked about before Latin became THE LANGUAGE of Spain. Moors brought along with them many new things. All of them had no name in Latin because you don’t have a name for something that doesn’t exist in your world. Some examples of Arabic words that eventually made their way into Spanish are:
almohada (pillow), azúcar (sugar), ajedrez (chess) barrio (neighborhood)
Interesting fact: During the Moorish occupation, all the cultures – and religions – coexisted peacefully, and some temples were used both for Christian and Muslim services. The marriage between Christians and Muslims was also common and gave birth to a new culture: the Mozarabs. As we’ve seen multiple times, with culture comes language: the Mozarabic!
1492 and the History of Spanish
The year 1492 is a special year for Spain. Three major events occurred that greatly affected the course of history:
- The fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. Subsequent expulsion of the Moors.
- The expulsion of the Spanish Jews (Sephardic Jews) after they had lived in Spain for centuries.
- Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Fall of Granada
In 1469, Prince Ferdinand, heir to the crown of Aragón, and Queen Isabella of Castile married. Their united forces helped achieve the fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. This brought to an end the 700 years of Moorish invasion. Language: Due to the importance of their union – and the territories they had together – the dialect spoken in Castile became the official language of Spain. The name of the dialect spoken in Castile was Castillian. El dialecto de Castilla era el castellano. Thus, Classical Spanish came to life.
Expulsion of Sephardic Jews
Jews that had peacefully lived and coexisted for centuries with Muslims and Christians were forced to choose between staying in Spain and converting to Catholicism or leaving Spain, their homes, and wealth behind. Language: Many Jews chose to leave Spain and settled in the Ottoman Empire. They took with them the Spanish language, as it had been their language for centuries. Eventually, the Spanish they brought along combined with Hebrew, Turkish, Aramaic, Bulgarian, and Greek elements became Ladino or Judaeo-Spanish.
Christopher Columbus discovers America
In August 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe with three ships and accidentally discovered America while trying to find a better and faster route to Asia. The colonization of the New Continent by the Spanish Crown of Castille begins. Language: As colonization began, Spanish spread throughout North, Central, and South America. The fact that we speak Spanish in Guatemala is a direct result of that!
The Spanish in America
As we noticed before, the Spanish were not necessarily accepting of other cultures and religions. The Moors were completely expelled from Spain after the Fall of Granada. The Jews were given the option to convert into Catholicism or leave the country. What was bound to happen after the discovery of America in that same year? Take into account that the indigenous people of America didn’t share culture, language, or religion with their conquerors!
When the Spanish came to America, they put a tremendous effort into eradicating the culture, religion, and language of the indigenous people. Unlike the Romans who accepted individual freedom and didn’t impose language or religion on their conquered land, the Spanish enslaved the indigenous population and used force to impose their religion, language, and culture. This is sad news for history lovers, as many manuscripts of older civilizations were lost to the hands of the Spanish who were unaccepting of another religion and view of the world.
What happened to the Spanish language in America? Each region contributes a tiny little piece to the puzzle!!! This is the reason why Spanish all throughout America has so many diverse accents, words, structures, and sayings! How and why did this happen? Remember our Chanin blog post where we talked about Guatemala having 24 official languages? Now imagine that amplified throughout the ENTIRE CONTINENT! Each country has several cultures spread and all these different cultures have a language of their own. Each and every one of these languages influenced Spanish!
This puzzle of the Spanish language isn’t finished yet! Nor do I think that it will ever be. To me, it’s more of a never-ending puzzle that humanity will keep building piece by piece. Humans and society keep changing, and as we change, so does language!
Okay, enough of a history class for the day! Let’s come back to today and the fact that we have the best tools for you to learn Spanish! Come have FREE CLASS with us to learn more about how we can help you improve your MODERN Spanish! Be sure to download the free PDF as well to review and study at your own convenience.Read More
There’s only one thing other than the two-month long holiday at the end of the year* I miss about school: wearing a uniform! I went to the same school for 14 years, and for 12 of those years, I wore a uniform! Now, it’s been almost ten years since I graduated, but I just realized that for almost half my life I’ve known what to wear! Don’t you think it would be easier sometimes if you didn’t have to decide what to wear every single day? Just think of those days you stay at home wearing pajamas. Isn’t it nice not having to think about clothes or what to wear? Since you’re starting to learn Spanish, you’ll start thinking about these things in Spanish, too: ¿Qué me pongo? – What should I put on?
Nuestro uniforme era un pantalón o falda gris y una camisa polo blanca. (Our uniform was grey pants or skirt and a white polo shirt.) Just imagine a couple hundred children wearing the same clothes! While wearing a uniform makes life so much easier, I do like being able to decide what to wear. I love wearing vestidos (dresses) and botas de combate negras (black combat boots) – that would have been a big no-no at school! So, today let’s learn how to describe the clothes we wear – la ropa que nos ponemos.
*Fun fact: In Guatemala, the school year begins in January and ends in October!
If you want to hear the pronunciation of the following phrases and vocabulary, check out our video! You can also download the printable version of this blog as a PDF.
¿Qué te pones o qué llevas puesto?
While there is more than one way to say ‘to put on’ and ‘to wear’ in Spanish, we will focus today on ponerse (to put on – the act of getting dressed) and llevar puesto (to wear – the act of using clothes).
The main difference between the two is that you say ponerse when you’re referring to the action of putting clothes on only.
Ponerse is a reflexive verb.
‘Poner’ means to put, and ‘-se’ means oneself.
This means that in Spanish you are literally putting clothes on yourself – not just ‘on!’
As we’ve mentioned several times, language is way more than just translating words. Something interesting happens here:
- In English, when you’re wondering which dress would be best for your cousin’s wedding you ask: What should I wear to the wedding? – referring to the action of already having the clothes on, of using them.
- In Spanish, however, you would ask: ¿Qué me pongo para la boda? – What do I put on for the wedding? – referring to the action of putting on clothes, instead of starting to use them.
As we learned above, ponerse is a reflexive verb. We use a reflexive verb when we want to say that the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself. In this case, we are putting the clothes on ourselves. We conjugate this verb like this:
Use of Articles
As we have seen above, the use of articles- or lack thereof – depends largely on the context. Let’s review!
Llevar means to carry. In the context of clothes, we say in Spanish that we carry the clothes that are on us. The way to say this is to use the adjective* puesto to describe where the clothes are. Llevar puesto [insert noun here] then means that we are actively using the clothes, carrying them placed onus: we are wearing them!
llevar ropa puesta
llevar – to carry, ropa – clothes, puesta – placed/put on us
* puesto is also the participle of the verb poner – in Spanish (just like in English), we can use participles as adjectives to describe nouns!
Something very important to note here is that since puesto is an adjective, it needs to match the noun it refers to! The matching needs to occur both in number and gender.
Let’s look at it:
Since puesto is an adjective, we can place it both before or after the noun. Whether it goes before or after depends on what you’re saying! Check out more on Spanish adjective placement here. So we can say:
* Keep in mind the use of articles with ponerse. We use them the same way we would with llevar puesto! If you need a refresher, check out the table above once more!
Conjugating llevar puesto
When we conjugate llevar puesto [noun], we need to keep in mind that
- the verb llevar matches the subject of the sentence,
- the adjective puesto matches the noun that the subject of the sentence is wearing!
The best way to learn how to describe what you’re wearing is to practice every day as you’re getting dressed! I suggest adding the articles every time so that you get extra practice with the new vocabulary! As an example, let me tell you what my morning looked like:
Yo me pongo el pantalón. Yo me pongo la playera. Yo me pongo las calcetas. Yo me pongo los zapatos. Me pongo gorra antes de salir. Al estar afuera, pienso, ¡llevo puesta toda esta ropa!
(I put on pants. I put on a T-shirt. I put on socks. I put on my shoes. I put on a cap before I leave. Once I’m outside, I think, “I’m wearing all these clothes!”)
Now it’s YOUR turn to practice! Book your FREE CLASS with us so that you can tell us all about your favorite clothes and when you like to wear them!
For more practice, download this PDF complete with exercises and an answer key!
Don’t forget to practice your pronunciation with our supporting video lesson!Read More