When you just start to learn a foreign language, the grammar is completely overwhelming. You probably don’t think about which verbs you use and how to conjugate them in everyday speech, right? Now, with a new language (especially one like Spanish), it probably seems that grammar is all you think about!
It can be extremely easy to get lost in all the verb tenses and moods that Spanish has. A good place to start is with a verb tense that can get you through basic conversations, directions, and questions: the simple present.
The Simple Present: An Overview
What’s in a Name?
While the term “simple present” seems to imply that this tense is uncomplicated, there are a few things that may come as a surprise to you. First, let’s look at the name. In Spanish, the simple present is called el presente del indicativo. While you may want to refer to it as el presente simple, there are actually two different presente simple tenses in Spanish.
Yes, you read that correctly!
Spanish tenses are divided into three different moods:
Interestingly, both the indicative and subjunctive moods have a simple present tense. For now, that’s all you need to know; stay tuned for another blog post that explores the differences between the moods more extensively.
So, while “simple present” refers to one specific thing in English, it includes two separate tenses in Spanish. Therefore, when talking with your HSA Spanish teacher, make sure to use el presente del indicativo to ask questions about the simple present. From now on, we will use the term “simple present indicative” to refer to this tense just to get you in the practice of differentiating between the moods and to avoid any confusion.
Uses of the Presente del Indicativo
To understand the uses of the simple present indicative, we are going to first look at some examples of the simple present in English and then compare them to the Spanish form.
We go to Mexico every summer.
When it rains, it pours.
We start school on January 6th.
From these sentences, you can see that we use the simple present in English for
- habitual activities
- general truths
- set future events
Now, for the simple present indicative in Spanish, we use it for these three uses and more! (If you want to skip to the conjugations, scroll down below the uses!)
How Spanish Uses the Simple Present Indicative
1. Habitual Activities
Just like in English, we use the simple present indicative to talk about habitual activities in Spanish.
Vamos a México cada verano.
We go to Mexico every summer.
Me cepillo cada mañana.
I brush my teeth every morning.
Siempre leo un capítulo de mi libro antes de dormir.
I always read a chapter from my book before sleeping.
2. General Truths
Likewise, we use simple present in both languages to talk about general truths (including the zero conditional for all you English grammar aficionados).
Cuando llueve, llueve a cántaros.
When it rains, it pours.
El sol sale en el este y se pone en el oeste.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
El agua se congela a los cero grados Celsius.
Water freezes at zero degrees Celsius.
3. Set Future Events
While it may seem backward to use the simple present tense to talk about events in the future, we actually use it quite often in English and Spanish. (If you would like more explanation about this particular use, check out Part Three of our Future Tenses in Spanish blog post.)
Empezamos la escuela el 6 de enero.
We start school on January 6th.
Su boda es el 24 de septiembre.
Their wedding is on September 24th.
El avión aterriza a las 9:04 de la mañana el martes.
The plane lands at 9:04 am on Tuesday.
4. Current Actions
Now, this is where the simple present indicative starts to differ from English. When you talk about actions happening right now in English, you use the present continuous:
I am doing – yo estoy haciendo
However, in Spanish, you can use either the present continuous or the simple present indicative.
For example, a common question in English is “What are you doing?” which is in the present continuous form. Using the simple present “What do you do?” has a completely different meaning. Meanwhile, in Spanish, both types of questions are appropriate: ¿Qué estás haciendo? and ¿Qué haces? can be used interchangeably.
You can often hear native speakers using the simple present indicative to talk about the activities they are currently doing. Here are some examples:
Voy a la tienda para comprar un poco de azúcar.
I’m going to the store to buy a little bit of sugar.
Ella hace la limpieza en la sala.
She is cleaning the living room.
Caminamos en el parque.
We are walking in the park.
5. Events in the Near Future
Just like how you can use the simple present indicative for current actions, you can also apply it to events happening soon. These activities do not have to be set in stone but are considered to still be within the realm of the “present,” hence why you use the simple present indicative.
Mañana viajamos a la playa.
We’re going to the beach tomorrow.
Terminamos en más o menos una hora.
We’ll finish in about an hour.
Ahorita regresa ella.
She’ll be right back.
6. “If” Clauses
In English grammar, we call this type of sentence the 1st Conditional. However, in Spanish, we don’t use that title because the tenses are much simpler. Remember, even when you talk about events in the near future in Spanish, you use the present tense. The “present” in Spanish encompasses much more than it does in English. With that in mind, when you talk about hypothetical situations in the present, you use only the simple present indicative in Spanish. There is no need to involve the future tense like in English.
Si llueve, se arruina la fiesta.
If it rains, the party will be ruined.
Si llegamos tarde, no nos dejan entrar.
If we arrive late, they won’t let us in.
Si pierdo este examen, no gano la clase.
If I fail this test, I won’t pass the class
7. Passing of Time
There are so many similarities in English and Spanish grammar that Spanish learners sometimes assume every aspect of grammar is the same in both languages. While many grammatical structures are the same, the uses often vary in subtle ways. For example, when you talk about an event that has continued for an extended period of time, you use the present perfect (we have studied – hemos estudiado) in English. This tense is acceptable in Spanish, but there is another way to express the same idea using hace (ago) and the simple present indicative.
Hace un mes que trabajamos en este proyecto.
We’ve been working on this project for a month.
Hace un año que no nos vemos.
We haven’t seen each other for a year.
Hace tres horas que te esperamos aquí.
We’ve been waiting for you here for three hours.
8. Ordering Food and Drink
Similar to the previous example, using the simple present indicative for ordering food is not the only acceptable verb tense. There are multiple ways of ordering food in Spanish. However, if you’re anything like me, you probably wouldn’t think of using the simple present indicative in this scenario. It is very common, though, which is why it appears on this list. Check out some examples:
Me trae un vaso de agua, por favor.
Can you bring me a glass of water, please?
Quiero dos pupusas y una limonada, por favor.
I would like two pupusas and lemonade, please.
Me trae más picante, por favor.
Could you bring me more hot sauce, please?
Note that to maintain the formality of the situation and show respect to the waiter, you use the usted form in each of these sentences.
Regular Verbs in the Simple Present Indicative
Now that you are familiar with the uses of the simple present indicative in Spanish, it’s time to learn about the conjugations. The Spanish conjugation chart below is divided into three sections: -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs. These titles refer to the three different endings for Spanish verbs in their infinitive (non-conjugated) form. The far left column contains the personal pronouns in Spanish. If you don’t quite remember what they mean, check out our pronoun blog post!
The following chart shows the endings for regular Spanish verbs in the simple present indicative. “Regular” means that the majority (not all!) of verbs in Spanish use the same endings listed below.
Conjugations of Regular Verbs in the Simple Present Indicative
|-AR Verbs||-ER Verbs||-IR Verbs|
|Hablar (to talk)||Comer (to eat)||Vivir (to live)|
|Él / Ella||habla||come||vive|
|Ellos / Ellas||hablan||comen||viven|
Do you see any patterns in the chart? There are a couple that can help you memorize the conjugations!
- For all three types of verbs, the yo ending is the same: -o.
- The conjugations for tú always end in -s.
- The endings for usted, él, and ella are always a single vowel.
- The conjugations for nosotros always end in -mos.
- The conjugations for ustedes, ellos, and ellas always end in -n.
- The endings for -AR verbs all start with the vowel a, except for the yo form.
- The endings for -ER verbs all start with the vowel e, except for the yo form.
- The conjugations for -ER and -IR verbs are the same, except for the nosotros forms in which the e changes to i for -IR verbs.
Irregular Verbs in the Simple Present Indicative
Here comes the most difficult part of any Spanish conjugation: the irregular verbs. Before you start panicking, there are more patterns that can help you memorize all the irregular verbs.
These irregular verbs are called “stem-changing” because the base, or stem, of the verb changes slightly in the simple present indicative. Think of the stem as the part of the verb that remains when you take off the infinitive endings -AR, -ER, and -IR. For example, the stem of hablar is habl-. There are many verbs that alter their stem in the same way, so we have separated them into groups to represent those similar changes.
Stem Change: E to I
|Decir (to say)||Pedir (to ask for)||Servir (to serve)|
|Él / Ella||dice||pide||sirve|
|Ellos / Ellas||dicen||piden||sirven|
*Note that decir has an additional change in the yo form. The c changes to g.
Stem Change: E to EI
|Querer (to want)||Tener (to have)||Pensar (to think)|
|Él / Ella||quiere||tiene||piensa|
|Ellos / Ellas||quieren||tienen||piensan|
*Note that tener, like decir, does not exactly follow the change in the yo form. Here, there is no stem change, and a g is added.
Stem Change: I to IE
|Adquirir (to acquire)||Inquirir (to inquire into)|
|Él / Ella||adquiere||inquiere|
|Ellos / Ellas||adquieren||inquieren|
Stem Change: O to UE
|Soñar (to dream)||Mover (to move)||Recordar (to remember)|
|Él / Ella||sueña||mueve||recuerda|
|Ellos / Ellas||sueñan||mueven||recuerdan|
Stem Change: U to UE
|Jugar (to play)|
|Él / Ella||juega|
|Ellos / Ellas||juegan|
This list of stem-changing Spanish verbs represents but a few of the verbs that undergo such changes in the simple present indicative. There are numerous other verbs that change in the same way; the above verbs are some of the most common ones to get you started.
Stem-Changing… or Not?
Did you notice that one form never changed in any of the verbs? Exactly! The nosotros form does not participate in any stem change.
Pro Tip: any verb that ends with one of these stem-changing verbs also undergoes the same changes. For example, contener (contain) ends in tener, which is a stem-changing verb. Therefore, contenter is conjugated in the same way as tener, just with the prefix con- before each form.
Keep in mind that these stem changes are only for the simple present indicative. Many of the verbs on these lists are regular in other forms, and others are irregular but change in different ways.
Irregular 1st Person Singular (Yo)
We’ve already seen two verbs that have a unique yo form: tener and decir. There are other stem-changing verbs that do not follow the rule for yo.
Venir (E to IE) – Yo vengo. Tú vienes.
I come. You come.
Seguir (E to I) – Yo sigo. Tú sigues.
I follow. You follow.
Regular Verbs With An Irregular Yo Form
These next verbs are all regular except for the yo form. Many of the spelling changes occur to maintain the correct pronunciation of the verb.
Endings -ger, -guir, and -gir
As a rule, verbs that end in -ger, -guir, and -gir change only in the yo form because an o following a g changes the sound of the g. You can learn more about vowels and hard/soft letters in our pronunciation blog post.
|Escoger (to choose)||Distinguir (to distinguish)||Dirigir (to lead, manage)|
|Él / Ella||escoge||distingue||dirige|
|Ellos / Ellas||escogen||distinguen||dirigen|
The chart shows verbs that end in -ger and -gir replace the g with j before adding the appropriate ending for the yo form. Any verb that ends in -guir removes u along with -ir before adding the yo ending. In all the other forms, the verbs are conjugated normally.
Endings -cer and -cir
Likewise, verbs that end in -cer and -cir add a z before the c in the yo form:
|Conocer (to know)||Producir (to produce)||Traducir (to translate)|
Add -g- or -ig-
|Poner (to put)||Hacer (to do)||Salir (to leave)|
|Traer (to bring)||Caer (to fall)|
|Dar (to give)||Estar (to be)|
*The other forms of estar have a bit of a twist to them. While the conjugations are the same as other -AR verbs, every form except nosotros has an accent over the a. (Tú estás. Ellos están.)
|Ver (to see)||Caber (to fit)||Saber (to know)|
Completely Irregular Verbs
One last group of irregular verbs doesn’t quite fit into any of these other categories. Although unique, they are quite common in the Spanish language. Haber is a special auxiliary verb which we will explore in another blog post, so if you want to just focus on ir and ser for now, that’s completely fine!
|Ir (to go)||Ser (to be)||Haber (to have – auxiliary verb)|
|Él / Ella||va||es||ha|
|Ellos / Ellas||van||son||han|
Congratulations! You’ve survived your first Spanish grammar lesson! It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but with practice, you can soon become a master of the simple present indicative. Remember, it even takes native Spanish speakers years to learn all the nuances of the conjugations and irregular verbs. Be patient with yourself! Also, if you have any questions or would like more practice, schedule a free class with one of our exceptionally knowledgeable Spanish teachers! ¡Tú puedes!
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As parents, we want the best for our children, and that inspires us to help them reach their full potential in every way. If your child is taking Spanish classes online or at school, you are surely interested in supporting them in their studies. But how can you help them learn effectively? This article will give you practical tips that you can use at home to encourage learning, boost language skills, and promote memory retention in order to strengthen your child’s Spanish learning.
Keep a Positive Attitude!
According to leading researchers in pedagogy, the sole factor in children’s educational success is parents and their attitude towards learning. That sounds like a pretty big job for a parent! Your attitude and disposition toward your child’s language learning journey are absolutely crucial. Make sure to create a calming atmosphere, a focused environment, and remember to cultivate a loving sense of communication while engaging in your child’s studies at home. Dr. Idit Katz reports in the educational journal Learning and Individual Differences that “parents can improve a sense of competence by allowing children to structure their own tasks and by giving the child the feeling that [he or she] is loved and admired no matter how successful he or she is in math or language.” Whether or not you are fluent in Spanish is inconsequential when compared to how you feel about studying with your child. Positivity, curiosity, and willingness to dig for answers together is your first step to successfully supporting your child’s Spanish class at home.
Routines and Activities
While a positive, engaging attitude is an essential foundation to support language learning, it’s important to consider which practical methods, routines, and activities will work for you. Check out this list of ideas that you could try out:
- Dedicate a specific amount of time to Spanish learning on a daily basis. Our lives are busy, but even so, it’s important to spend at least 15 minutes a day (or even better, 30!) engaged in Spanish content. Practice vocabulary, review class notes and quiz them on new words and phrases with flashcards. Regular practice is a powerful key to success!
- Ask your child to teach you Spanish. This method is called simply Learning By Teaching, it requires your child to explain the new information to you correctly in a lesson format and have you respond as the student. This boosts the child’s understanding of the material and stimulates their sense of initiative.
- Seek out Hispanic or Spanish cultural events as often as possible. Some ideas include volunteering with a charity, searching for Hispanic- and Spanish-inspired restaurants to try new food, and taking salsa dancing classes together.
- Ask your child’s teacher for resources. Connect to your child’s teacher in person or through email and ask how you can help at home. More often than not, your child’s teacher will be thrilled to assist you with extra resources.
- Provide a Spanish-rich environment at home. Regularly incorporate Spanish videos, books, and songs into your child’s life. The themes can relate to what your child is learning at school or not. Ultimately, the extra exposure will be tremendously beneficial. (Check out our lists of books for teens, books for elementary, books for preschool, songs for teens, and songs for young children)
- Encourage direct Spanish language experience outside of the classroom. If you know a native Spanish speaker, ask them to come over and chat with your child. Sign up for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and have them talk with one of our certified Guatemalan teachers. You could also enroll your child in a language camp, a study abroad program, or a foreign exchange program. Nothing is more long-lasting than real-life experience!
- Host a Spanish night at home. Find some delicious Spanish recipes (even better if you read them in Spanish!) to make, set up Spanish learning games (like Mexican bingo, or see more examples below), and invite friends and classmates over.
- Find Spanish apps that your child enjoys. The interactive nature of Spanish apps on any device usually succeeds in holding your child’s attention for longer periods. Look together for apps that you love, or check out our list for ideas!
- Use the internet to your advantage. Find online video games, podcasts, listening comprehension tools, and conjugation trainers to reinforce particular areas of language learning that will benefit your child.
A game is a structured activity or form of play whereby players attempt to reach a specific goal (such as winning or learning). By choosing the right games to reinforce Spanish, you will enhance your child’s communication skills, improve their cognitive development, and promote building social skills. For very busy families, setting aside one night a week to play language-related games is an important aspect of supporting your child’s Spanish class at home. Here is a list of fun and educational Spanish games that you can enjoy!
Spanish Word Snake – (2 or more players) The first player jots down a word in Spanish. The next player must begin their word with the last letter of the previous word. Write it down in the form of a long snake to see how big it grows! If your child knows a great deal of vocabulary, amp up the challenge by starting each word with the last syllable of the previous word.
Spanish Pictionary – (2 or more players) Using a paper, pen, and a timer, each player gets a chance to draw a verb, noun or phrase that they want the other players to guess. You can lower the difficulty by using only nouns, only animals (for example), or you can increase the difficulty by broadening the possible categories.
Spanish Hangman – (2 or more players) Using the rules of the traditional game, simply choose only Spanish words. With each incorrect guess, the hangman’s body parts are drawn until he ‘dies’ and the guessing player loses. Like Pictionary, you can lower or increase the difficulty by changing the available categories to choose a word from.
Veo, Veo – (2 or more players) This is just like “I Spy” but slightly different. Player one says, Veo, veo (I see, see) while the second player (or the group) replies, ¿Qué ves? (What do you see?), and the original player continues, una cosita (a little thing). Each player must guess what it is by trying to identify its features or location, such as ¿Es rojo? (Is it red?), ¿Está abajo del árbol? (Is it under the tree?). You can make the answer easier to guess for beginners by giving a clue: una cosita roja or una cosita pequeña.
The Sweet Support of Family
Encouraging your child to excel in their Spanish studies is one of the best gifts you can give them as a parent. Bring your family together with games and activities that inspire learning and help your child succeed through new studying routines. If you would like to see your child speaking Spanish to a native speaker, sign them up for a free online class at Homeschool Spanish Academy. They will be speaking Spanish by the first class, guaranteed!Read More
We all need a day to pamper ourselves, right? The stress of work, life, school, family, and kids all builds up and drains us. Take some time for yourself and go to a nail salon or spa! Relájate. Now, if you are in a Spanish-speaking area and don’t know how to ask for a relaxing spa treatment, you might find it next to impossible to get the relaxing day you hoped for. Knowing the right Spanish vocabulary to overcome this hurdle is the key to treating yourself to the fullest. If you want to also get a haircut, brush up on the words and phrases you’ll need before you head off to the hair salon!
Cuál versus Qué
In your first couple of Spanish classes, your teacher probably taught you the question words: ¿Quién? ¿Qué? ¿Dónde? ¿Cuándo? ¿Por qué? ¿Cómo? ¿Cuánto? ¿Cuál? If your classes were anything like mine, you learned that qué means “what,” and cuál means “which.” Right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that.
After living in Guatemala for several years, people have asked me my name a lot—by asking ¿Cómo te llamas? or ¿Cuál es tu nombre? However, they have never asked me ¿Qué es tu nombre?
Wait, what? That last sentence is incorrect? Yup. You should never say ¿Qué es tu nombre? When I realized this, I felt completely decepcionada. Why did my teacher tell me that qué means “what,” and cuál means “which,” if that’s not the case?
To be fair, cuál often translates to “which,” but not always. There are a couple of rules to remember when deciding whether to use qué or cuál in a question. (For the full list, you can visit this article on Qué vs Cuál.) Let’s take a look at them here:
4 Rules to Remember
- If the question word is followed by a noun, use qué. (¿Qué libro te gusta más?)
A common question in Spanish is “what/which type…?” and translates to ¿cuál tipo…? Since the question word is followed by a noun (tipo), we always use qué. While in English we could say something like “Which book do you like best?” we could never say ¿Cuál libro te gusta más?
- If the question word is followed by de, use cuál.
If you want to express a choice between things (nouns) without using qué, you can say cuál de. For example, ¿Cuál de los libros es tu favorito? This is essentially asking the same thing as our question in the previous point, but it is worded in a slightly different manner.
- If you are asking to define something, use qué.
My favorite question is ¿Qué significa…? This is a perfect example of how we use qué when looking for a definition. As a Spanish learner, this is also a really important question to learn, along with ¿Qué es eso? Both questions are looking for clarification or a definition to something, which calls for the question word qué.
- If it is an open-ended question, use cuál.
This last rule might be the most confusing one and may be difficult to get used to. In one of our previous examples, we looked at the correct question ¿Cuál es tu nombre?Here, we must use cuálbecause we are not looking for a definition. And the answer could be any number of things—it is an open-ended question. Another common question that is often said incorrectly is ¿Cuál es tu color favorito? Yes, here we also use cuál! It may take time to break the habit of using quéfor all these questions, but with practice, you can master it!
Do you remember learning about compound words in elementary school? Some examples are butterfly, raincoat, sunflower, and haircut. This combination of two words to make one word also happens in Spanish, but it is not as common. Luckily for us, we have several examples in our charts above. Can you find them?
The first one, quitaesmalte, breaks into quita and esmalte. Quita means “remove,” and esmalte is “nail polish,” so when we put them together, it means “nail polish remover.” Pretty simple, right? Normally, with compound words in Spanish, you can deduce the meaning of them by breaking them into separate words. It’s not always that easy in English (take butterfly and sunflower, for example), but in Spanish, you can easily figure out the meaning of compound words if you understand their components.
Break It Down
Let’s see if we can break down pintaúñas. Do you know what words we can separate this into? Great! Pinta (or paint) and uñas (or nails). This literally means “paint for nails,” which we would call nail polish. The last example starts with the same word, pinta (paint), and is followed by labios (lips). Again, this would literally be “paint for lips,” but we call that lipstick. Can you see how easy it is to find the meaning of compound words?
Check the Spelling
Warning, be careful with the spelling! Although pintalabios ends in s, it can be both singular and plural: el pintalabios or los pintalabios. The s comes from the word labios and does not automatically make the compound word plural. Look out for changes in gender in compound words, as well. Although both pinta and uñas end in a, and uña is a feminine noun by itself, these words come together to form a masculine noun. While the components of the individual words are still there (like the gender and singular/plural), when they come together, they give up their individuality to create a new word. It can be confusing, but just memorize the compound words with their corresponding articles.
You are now ready to pamper yourself in Spanish! Head on over to your local salon or spa or have a relaxing day in with your friends and use your new vocabulary words. If you have any questions or would like to practice with a certified teacher, sign up for a FREE trial class with us. Our teachers will help you to speak fluently in no time!Read More
How’s the weather today where you live? I bet you have an opinion or two about how much you like or dislike the current climate in your area. In our lesson about the weather, you will involve your child in talking about the conditions outside. Teaching your little one to describe the weather and make observations about weather patterns is one of their first introductions to science. Combining Spanish with the basics of scientific observation about weather creates plenty of exciting lessons! ¿Qué tiempo hace hoy?
When discussing the weather in Spanish, there are three main ways to describe it using appropriate verbs:
- What the weather does (hacer)
- What the weather is (estar)
- What weather “there is” (haber/hay)
Download our exclusive Homeschool Spanish Academy Spanish Weather Words flashcards here:
Download Weather Words for Preschool
What the weather does (hacer)…
How the weather is (estar)…
What weather is there?
More Important Vocabulary
The Four Seasons
There are many fantastic weather activities that you and your child can enjoy during your Spanish lessons! Here are some ideas:
Wind Art: gather up a piece of paper, a straw, some paint, and newspaper or something else to protect your surface from paint spills. Squeeze a pile of paint in the middle of the paper and have your child blow it around using the straw while they pretend to be a light breeze or a strong wind. Words of advice: tell your child not to suck in or to touch the straw to the paint.
Read Lluvia (Haga El Tiempo Que Haga) by Carol Thompson and explore wind, snow, rain, and sunny weather with the five senses.
Read El Día Ventoso by Tracey Stanley and use a portable handheld fan to blow things around like the wind in the book. Things you can set up to let your child blow around: craft feathers, dry leaves, cotton balls, ribbons, thin craft paper, etc.
Make Snow Playdoh: You will need a bowl, spoon, cookie cutters, a rolling pin, and any other playdoh accessories you want to include. The recipe needs 2 cups of cornstarch, 1 ¼ cup unscented white hand lotion, and 2-3 drops of peppermint extract. Let your child measure the ingredients and mix them all together in a bowl. A soft and pliable snowball will begin to form. Use the snowball to extend the lesson with cookie cutters, legos, or other toys for imprinting.
Palo de Lluvia (Rainstick): Create the sound of falling rain with a palo de lluvia! For full instructions on how to design this craft, click here.
Make Weather Mobiles: Get your child’s hands busy with crafts that last throughout your weather lesson. Make individual mobiles of weather conditions and nouns, such as rainbow, clouds with rain, and bright sun. Check out these fun instructions!
Wonderful World of Weather
We hope this guide helps you to bring the weather to life for you and your child in your Spanish preschool lessons. Inspire your little one to talk about the weather with a native Spanish speaker in a free online class. Have them ask the teacher about the weather in Guatemala!
First of all, where is Latin America?
It is the area consisting of Mexico, all of Central America and South America, as well as the Caribbean islands. Most inhabitants speak Spanish or Portuguese, but there are other languages in this region like Indigenous languages, French, English and Dutch.
This is a vast area that cannot be defined simply. There are differences in language, culture, flags, terrain, climate, music and tortillas, to name a few. Spanish and Portuguese are the most widely spoken languages in this part of the world because the Spaniards & Portuguese colonized the majority of Latin America. Cultural influences come not only from Spain and Portugal, but also include contributions from indigenous tribes, other European nations, and African and Caribbean cultures.
Fun Facts about Latin America
Did you know….?
- Current population is 650,860,000 (look here for real-time updates)
- The largest trading partner is the USA and the second is Asia
- The Amazon rainforest reaches nine countries – Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
- 20% of the world’s oxygen is created from the Amazon jungle
- It is estimated that 77 uncontacted tribes live in the Amazon Jungle
- The oldest university in North America is the National University of Mexico
- Colombia produces more than 90% of the world’s emeralds.
- In Latin America, the largest waterfall is Angel Falls in Venezuela, the largest lake is Lake Titicaca in Peru & Bolivia, and the largest city is São Paolo
- Brazil hosts the largest street party in the world: Carnival (Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras) in Rio de Janeiro
- Ecuador was the first country in the world to give constitutional rights to nature, meaning that mountains, water, air, forests, islands, etc. have legally enforceable rights to “exist, flourish and evolve.”
- Darwin developed the theory of evolution while visiting the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
- 80% of the population lives in cities, making it the most urbanized continent in the world.
There is SO much more to add to this list, but this gives you an idea of the variety of things this region is known for.
But how did all of this begin? It is an interesting mix of war, oppression, recovery, and perseverance!
Let’s go back to the beginning…
Pre-Colombian Era (~20,000 BCE -1492 BC)
History shows the fluidity of power and dominance, and how civilizations were taken over one by another. The era prior to 1492 is known as the ‘pre-Columbian’ era because it is before the European-Spanish occupation and influence of the Americas (voyage led by Christopher Columbus).
The first known major civilization of Latin America was the Olmecs of Mexico. Little is known because they did not have a written language. The Olmecs were located in ancient Mexico from 1200 BCE to 400 BCE and foreshadowed all subsequent Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya, Aztec, and Inca.
The Olmec civilization fell around 400 BCE, but it is not precisely known why this is because there was little documentation. They did, however, leave behind immense stone heads carved out of volcanic rock.
Many years later the Spanish arrived in the New World and encountered three major civilizations: the Incas in present-day Peru, the Aztecs in Mexico and the Mayans in Mexico and present-day Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. There were many other isolated tribes as well.
Below is a very simplistic timeline of the major civilizations:
- Olmecs ruled from 1200 BCE to 400 BCE
- Maya ruled from 1800 BCE to 1519 CE (ended when the Spanish conquered them)
- Aztecs ruled from 1345 CE to 1521 CE (ended when the Spanish conquered them)
- Inca ruled from 1400 CE to 1533 CE (ended when the Spanish conquered them)
Colonial Period (1492-1810)- The New World
This era stands out as doing the most to shape Latin America into what it is today. It began in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and the Europeans colonized Latin America.
The Europeans changed the landscape from what it was in the Pre-Columbian era. Power structures that were newly put in place by Spanish and Portuguese still exist today. Native populations were wiped out and continue the struggle to recover today.
European explorers mark the beginning of this era by voyaging from the “Old World” (Europe) to the “New World” (North America and Latin America) in the 15th century. Christopher Columbus not only has an era named after him (“Pre-Columbian era”), he is credited with bringing the Spanish language to Latin America.
There is controversy about whether or not the “New World” was actually discovered by Christopher Columbus and other Europeans because indigenous populations had been living here for centuries. Yet, despite the debate, history classes will claim this was the beginning of the exploration and settlement of the modern western world.
During this time, the Native American population suffered and millions of people died. Much of the indigenous musical, language and other cultural traditions in the Caribbean and on the mainland were lost after the Europeans arrived due to conflict, forced labor, enslavement, and cultural abandonment as well as the spread of disease. For example, the Taíno tribes of the Caribbean consisted of 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 people before Christopher Columbus arrived, and by 1548 the native population had declined to fewer than 500 people.
Africans also suffered in this era and fleets of ships brought them to the Americas to work as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade. The main destinations on the mainland were Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Nicaragua as well as present-day Colombia and Panama. The main disembarkment locations in the Caribbean islands were Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, present-day Haiti and St. Martinique. The largest population of African slaves (35%) went to Brazil on the mainland, and Jamaica in the Caribbean. The Africans brought with them a rich musical, cultural and culinary background. Latin America is known for having the “largest concentration of people with African ancestry outside Africa.”
Latin America has stood strong amidst these adversities and thrives today.
Post-Colonial Period (1810-Today)
Post-Colonial means the period of time where countries began getting independence from colonial rule. Colombia was the first nation to win independence from Spain and this marked the beginning of post-colonialism in Latin America. Other Latin American countries fought long and hard for independence. Most countries have since achieved sovereignty. However, 19 places are still under rule.
Non-sovereign territories include:
- United States Territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands
- British Overseas Territories: Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat
- The Netherlands Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten
- French Republic: French Guiana (only mainland country) Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barts and St. Martin
- Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: New Sparta and the Venezuela Federal Dependencies
What Makes Up Latin America Today?
Here is a full list of countries and territories that make up Latin America today:
The ethnically diverse region of Latin America is thriving in the global economy and a leader in environmental conservation. It is a vibrant land comprised of varied people living mostly harmoniously and collaboratively. With time, the indigenous population will continue to thrive. A huge milestone was in 2006 when the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, was elected in Bolivia since pre-Columbian days.
Where Will You Go in Latin America?
I hope you learned something new about Latin America and its rich history! Comment below or sign up for a free class and tell us which country is on your bucket list!
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Do you want a guaranteed way to learn Spanish while enjoying yourself completely? It’s through music! Ten long years ago, I started learning Spanish from scratch and my constant companions were clear and catchy Spanish songs. I spent at least an hour daily listening to my favorite songs, hoping to get them to stick in my head (they always did). This method has worked wonders for me in French, as well, where I spent thousands of hours of my teenage years listening to French pop, polishing my accent, and increasing my fluency. While you’re not here to learn French, you will be happy to know that this trick works for any language! With regular auditory exposure to Spanish music such as the songs I share below, you will build your vocabulary, practice your accent, learn some useful phrases, and pick up a thing or two about the cultures that produced them. So, grab your favorite headphones, curl up in a comfy spot, and let’s get to listening. ¡Escuchemos música!
10 Spanish Songs to Study
To make the most of out of each song here (and others you may add to your playlist), be sure to study them one by one. Start with one song and listen to it while you read the lyrics. Jot down some words or phrases that are confusing to you. Use a dictionary to translate the meaning and create a picture of what’s happening in the song. And most importantly—sing along! By singing the songs, you get all the benefits of becoming more familiar with Spanish, like an increase in your pace of speech, refined pronunciation, and a boost in fluency.
How does this work? Each song has a Youtube link to follow. Start listening while you come back to this blog post and try to hear the lyrics in bold. The verbs, words, and phrases precede the lyric and give you a chance to use them on your own. Let’s get to it!
Julieta Venegas, from Mexico
Song: “Limón y Sal”
Album: Limón y Sal
Tener que – to have to (tengo que confesar = I have to confess)
Desaparecer – to disappear (tu me desapareces = you disappear on me)
Ponerse – to become/get (te pones de un humor extraño = you get in a weird mood)
Volver a + verb – again (vuelvo a empezar = I start again)
tal y como – just/such as (yo te quiero tal y como estás = I love/want you just as you are)
hacer falta – to lack/to be necessary (no hace falta cambiarte nada = there is no need to change anything about you)
Los Amigos Invisibles, from Venezuela
Una mentira – a lie (esas son puras mentiras = those are pure lies)
Andar – to walk/hang around (esa noche yo no andaba allí = that night I wasn’t hanging around there)
Contar – to tell (te cuentan que me vieron paseando en la ciudad = they tell you that they saw me taking a walk in the city)
Portarse – to behave (cuando no estás conmigo, yo me porto bien = when you’re not with me, I behave well)
Contento – happy, distraido – distracted (yo estaba muy contento y como distraido = I was really happy and as distracted)
Ricardo Arjona featuring Gaby Moreno, both from Guatemala
Song: “Fuiste Tu”
Album: Independiente + demos
Ser – to be (Fuiste tú = it was you)
la melancolía – melancholy (Lo tuyo fue la intermitencia y la melancolía = yours was intermittence and melancholy)
un chantaje – blackmail (Jamás te dije una mentira o te inventé un chantaje = I never told you a lie or blackmailed you)
el motor de arranque – the starter motor (cuando los besos fueron el motor de arranque que encendió la luz = when the kisses were the starter that ignited the light)
disfrazarse – to disguise/dress up (Así se disfraza el amor para su conveniencia = that’s how love is disguised for convenience)
Juanes, from Colombia
Song: “La camisa negra”
Album: Mi Sangre
De luto – in mourning (hoy mi amor está de luto = today my love is in mourning)
Herir – to hurt/wound (Y eso es lo que más me hiere = and that’s what hurts me most)
Quedarse – to stay/to be left (mal parece que solo me quedé = it seems bad that I was left alone)
Con disimulo – surreptitiously/furtively (Te digo con disimulo = I tell you furtively)
Amargo – bitter (Respiré de ese humo amargo de tu adiós = I breathed the bitter smoke of your good-bye)
Mostrar – to show (Ni siquiera muestras señas = you don’t even show signs)
Bomba Estereo, from Colombia
Song: “Somos dos”
Llenar – to fill up (tus ojos me están llenando solo con verlos = your eyes are filling me up just by seeing them)
Abrazarte – to hug you (no necesito si no abrazarte para sentirlo = I need only to hug you to feel it)
Emoción – feeling/excitement (que emoción = how exciting)
Ser parte de – to be a part of (ser parte de tu sonrisa y de tu alegría = to be a part of your smile and your happiness)
Callarse – to hush/be quiet (cuando el silencio se calle la boca y no pide perdón = when silence hushes the mouth and doesn’t ask for forgiveness)
Mientras – while, meanwhile (mientras los mundos se juntan = while the worlds come closer together)
Song: “Te Voy a Amar”
Album: Un Nuevo Sol
Poco – little/not much (Es poco decir = it’s not enough to say)
Alcanzar – to reach/catch (no me alcanzan las palabras = I can’t find the words)
Volverse – to become (Lo blanco y negro se vuelve color = black and white become color)
Medir – to measure (Porque me das tu amor sin medir = because you give your love without measure)
Junto – (quiero vivir la vida entera junto a ti = I want to live my whole life next to you)
Alex Ubago, from Spain
Song: “Mil Horas”
Preguntarse – to wonder (Yo me pregunto para qué sirven las guerras = I wonder what wars are for)
Alrededor – around (como la nieve a mi alrededor = like the snow all around me)
Hace (impersonal verb) – it has been (hace tiempo que estoy sentado sobre esta piedra = it’s been awhile that I’ve been sitting on this rock)
Esperar – to wait (La otra noche te esperé bajo la lluvia dos horas = the other night I waited for you in the rain for two hours)
Malu Trevejo, from Cuba
Song: “Una Vez Más”
Una vez – one time (una vez más = one more time)
Seguir – to follow (Que si tú te vas al cielo te sigo = if you go to heaven, I’ll follow you)
Alejarse – to go away (Quieres que me aleje = you want me to go away)
Cualquiera – ordinary/any (Sé que no soy cualquiera = I know I’m not ordinary)
Decir – to say (El corazón dirá más = the heart will say more)
Venir – to come (Dime que por mí vendrás = tell me you will come for me)
CNCO, boy band formed from the show La Banda
Song: “De Cero”
Album: Que Quiénes Somos
Sufrir – to suffer (dicen que estás sufriendo = they say you are suffering)
Entregarse – to surrender (Sin mente yo me entregaré = without thinking, I will surrender)
Empezar – to start (de cero empezamos = we start from zero)
Dejar – to leave/abandon/forget (Mejor dejamos la estupidez = we better leave behind the nonsense)
El tuyo – yours (Yo soy lo tuyo y tu eres la mia = I’m yours and you’re mine)
Un regalo – gift (La vida es corta y tu eres un regalo = life is short and you’re a gift)
Jesse y Joy, brother and sister duo from Mexico
Descifrar – to decipher/to figure out (Tú dices que soy imposible de descifrar = you say that I’m impossible to figure out)
Tanto – so much (Te amo tanto = I love you so much)
Tonta/tonto – silly (Tanto que me siento tonta = so much that I feel silly)
Sumar – to add (Cuenta todas las estrellas y súmale una más = count all the stars and add one more)
Soler – to tend to (me suele incomodar = it tends to make me uncomfortable)
Bulk Up Your Playlist
Seeking out more songs is so much fun. Once you finish absorbing the material from the 10 songs above, you can start adding your own! Here is a set of criteria to use while searching for the most effective songs for Spanish learning:
- Clarity – Make sure that endings of words and complete syllables aren’t chopped off, that the pronunciation of words is as accurate as possible and that the speed is understandable.
- Simple – Choose songs with fairly easy lyrics that don’t complicate the message.
- Catchy – Find songs you like! With a nice beat and fun rhythm, the lyrics you’re learning are more likely to stick in your head.
- Repetition – Gravitate toward songs with plenty of repetitive parts that encourage you to practice over and over.
Practice with a Native Speaker
After you spend some time learning new words and phrases, you will feel really motivated to use them in speech. Sign up for a free online class with a native Spanish-speaking teacher from Guatemala, and let them know all about your favorite Spanish songs!Read More
Do you like learning about make-up or trying different types of nail polish? All the colorful and curious items that women use to enhance their appearance or fragrance is defined as cosméticos or cosmetics. This vibrant and varied world can be overwhelming to explore, even in your native language. With this introductory guide to cosmetics in Spanish, you will learn how to discuss your favorite types of make-up and cosmetic accessories in another language. ¡Hablemos de cosméticos!
Here is a list of some of the most popular types of cosmetics with a downloadable set of flashcards for practicing! While these words are understood in all Spanish-speaking countries, it’s important to note that the vocabulary varies by region. For example, in some countries, people say blush instead of colorete, or rímel instead of máscara de pestañas. Lastly, don’t forget to practice rolling your r’s for words like corrector and rizador (check out this video for a refresher).
Download your flashcards here: Spanish Cosmetics
Body Parts in Spanish
Although cosmetics are used in different parts of the body, the grand majority of products are designed to improve the face’s appearance. Let’s take a look at some of these words so you can talk about makeup with your Spanish-speaking friends. You will also learn how to explain that you’re applying a product on a particular part of your face using maquillarse or aplicarse.
Verbs and Example Sentences
Here are some very useful verbs to use while discussing cosmetics or your makeup routine. Check out the following list with examples on how to use them in a sentence:
Maquillarse (to put on makeup) is a reflexive verb:
Yo me maquillo todos los días. – I put on makeup every day.
Me gusta maquillarme. – I like to put on makeup.
Desmaquillarse (to take off makeup) is a reflexive verb:
Ella se desmaquilla con agua y jabón. – She takes off makeup with water and soap.
Yo me desmaquillo antes de dormir. – I take off my makeup before going to sleep.
Aplicar (to apply, to put on):
¿Cómo te aplicas la sombra de ojos? – How do you apply eyeshadow?
Yo me aplico la máscara de pestañas después de usar un rizador de pestañas. – I put on mascara after using an eyelash curler.
Yo me aplico mucho perfume. – I put on a lot of perfume.
Curious About Cosmetics
Anyone can learn about cosmetics in Spanish! Being curious about both familiar and new things while learning a foreign language will always be beneficial. We hope you enjoyed this Spanish guide to cosmetics and how to use them. If you have any questions or would like to discuss what you’ve learned, sign up for a free online class with a native Spanish speaker. Here at Homeschool Spanish Academy, our teachers enjoy talking about all sorts of topics!Read More
While telling our kids what to do is generally just another parental chore, teaching them to follow our instructions in Spanish can actually be fun! Giving commands in Spanish is possible through the use of imperatives. This type of verb conjugation tends to be a bit complicated with four separate distinctions, but here we simplify it to how you will speak to your child using one form, the tú form. Learning ways to use commands with your child will increase daily Spanish use, improve their listening skills, and enrich their lesson experiences with Spanish instruction.
In English, it is much more common to use the “soft imperative” that goes something like this: “Could you come here?” instead of blurting out, “Come here!” However, in Spanish, while the soft imperative can be used (¿Podrías venir acá?), it is much more common to hear the unsoftened version: ¡Ven acá! and it is not rude. Keep in mind for this article, we are using the tú form instead of the usted form.
Do or Don’t
Imperative verbs can be affirmative or negative. In order to make affirmative imperative, you use the 3rd person indicative form. This rule applies to all regular verbs. For example:
In order to make a negative imperative, you use the subjunctive tú form. For example:
Now that you know how the imperative is formed in both affirmative and negative forms using any regular verb, you can practice using your favorite verbs with your child!
The irregular verbs, however, do not follow a predictable pattern. They are many very useful verbs that are irregular in this sense and so they must be memorized. That is why our Top 10 Commands are all irregular!
Top 10 Commands to Use with Kids
Here is a list of the top 10 most useful imperatives to use with your child:
As you can see, the affirmative imperative form is irregular and you will simply have to memorize it and use it often with your little one to help them learn it, too. The negative imperative form is, as we learned above, made from the subjunctive tú form. Here are some ways to use your new command words in example instruction scenarios:
Some more useful phrases:
Recoge tus juguetes – pick up your toys
Bajate de allí – get down from there
Limpia tu cuarto – clean your room
Lava los trastes – wash the dishes
Vístete – get dressed
Improve with Imperatives
By teaching your child to follow your instructions in Spanish, they will be much more likely to use these words on their own. It will bolster their listening skills, improve their memory of commonly-used verbs, and it may just make your child love following instructions! Give your child a chance to use their new knowledge of imperatives with a native Spanish speaker by signing up for a free online class. Your child is guaranteed to speak Spanish after the first class!Read More
Learning about animals is a very exciting time for your preschooler. Suddenly, the world opens up with fascinating creatures who live in magical places like the jungle or forest. While teaching Spanish to your young learner, you most likely already plan to teach them about animals, but it’s a great opportunity to talk about habitat, too! In our Spanish Animals guide, you can explore sets of animal vocabulary as you introduce five different hábitats: farm, jungle, forest, ocean, and home.
Our master list features 31 different animals with a pronunciation guide. You may choose to teach them all at once or divide them by their habitat and expand your child’s context of understanding. Sharing the sounds that animals make is also super fun, which you can find in this article about Spanish onomatopoeia.
Download our exclusive Homeschool Spanish Academy Animals Flashcards to use for your lessons and activities below!
Download Spanish Animals for Preschool
Introducing the idea of different habitats for specific groups of animals will facilitate your child’s ability to mentally organize and memorize new vocabulary. The 5 main habitats for this animal guide are:
1. La granja (farm)
2. La selva (jungle)
3. El bosque (woods/forest)
4. El océano (ocean)
5. La casa (house)
What can you do to teach the habitats for each animal set?
Sorting is an essential activity for preschoolers. It is a pre-math skill that allows children to make sense of their world through organization. While teaching your child where the animals live, you can use our exclusive Homeschool Spanish Academy Animal Sorts to inspire hands-on sorting. Laminate the pages for durability, then cut out the individual animals. Lay out the habitat pages and figure out together where each animal lives!
This simple question and answer game “Where does it live?” in Spanish will teach the question word ¿Dónde? and how to use the 3rd person singular* conjugation of vivir:
Parent: ¿Dónde vive el elefante? (Where does the elephant live?)
Child: El elefante vive en la selva. (The elephant lives in the jungle)
Parent: ¿Dónde vive el gato? (Where does the cat live?)
Child: El gato vive en la casa. (The cat lives in the house)
*You can extend this lesson to include plurals by asking, “¿Dónde viven los elefantes?” (Los elefantes viven en la selva.)
Get creative with lots of hands-on crafts, animal-related Spanish stories, and visits to see real animals! You can incorporate many other skills into your child’s Spanish animal lessons, such as math, reading, and grammar. Expand their lesson with additional themes like opposite words and color awareness.
- Read the books Cositas del Monito by Rebecca Bielawski, ¿Dónde quieres vivir? by Arnhilda Badia, Vamos al Zoológico by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza, and Selvas by Richard C. Vogt
- Make Paper Plate Animal Masks – using paper plates, paints, and other materials listed here, make animal masks and role-play how these animals act.
- Make Paper Bag Animal Puppets – use rectangular brown paper bags that you turn upside down to create animal puppets who interact with each other. Find craft templates here.
- Shadow Drawings – you will need to buy small to large animal figurines for this activity. Using sunlight or a lamp, position one animal figurine on a piece of white paper so that its shadow is cast over most of the paper. Have your little one trace the shadow and finish drawing the animal as they see it.
- Farm or Zoo visit! Take a road trip to a nearby farm or petting zoo. Ask your child, “¿Qué tipo de animal es esto?” (What kind of animal is this?) as they reply, “Es una oveja” or “Es una vaca.”
- Play Charades – Using the Animal Flashcards, have your child pick a card and then act out what the animal does. Your child can ask you, “Qué tipo de animal soy yo?” (What kind of animal am I?) and you say, “Eres un pájaro!” (You’re a bird!)
Adventures with Animals
By using this animal guide, you now have plenty of fun and exciting ideas for teaching your little one about animals in Spanish. As we always say – sign up for a free online class so your child can practice their new skills with a native Spanish speaker! They can talk about which kinds of animals live in Guatemala, where the teacher lives.
The world we live in is a result of the decisions of billions of people across the globe. In one way or another, everything our ancestors did bears some level of influence in modern culture. One of the most compelling aspects of this influence is met through proverbs. The proverbs our grandparents and parents say have an impact on the way we, as a younger generation, think and speak. These bits of common wisdom not only tell us about our culture, but also what we value and how we look at the world. Some of these famous Spanish proverbs might have English translations or parallels, while others might be completely new to you. Either way, Spanish-speaking people will be pleasantly surprised to hear that you know these sayings! Keep in mind that some of these may sound strange in English because the rhymes and rhythms get lost in translation. However, the meaning behind the phrases is the same.
“Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente”
This proverb talks about patience, opportunity, and attention. It translates as “If a shrimp falls asleep, the current will take them away.” You can say this to someone who’s taking too long to decide something, or to someone who’s being lazy and distracted. This is also an example of proverbs made into songs, as we will soon see in some of the other sayings in our list here. An artist called Ricky Maravilla (Ricky Wonder in English) made a song about this proverb. Check out the video to learn some Spanish!
“El comal le dijo a la olla: ¡Qué tiznada estás!”
This one I also learned about through a song by Cri Cri, a well known Mexican band that sings songs for kids. The song “El Comal le Dijo a la Olla” talks about this saying. This one actually has an English translation: “The pot calling the kettle black.” Interestingly, comal actually means griddle, but not just any kind of griddle. Comales are clay or metal griddles that are widely used in Central and South America to cook things like tortillas, nuts, or meat. If you want to know more about tortillas and comales, make sure to check out our blog on tortilla culture!
“El que madruga Dios lo ayuda”
Translates to “He who gets up early is helped by God,” but the parallel to this in English is “The early bird gets the worm.” I always thought this phrase was funny in English. I remember thinking to myself: Wouldn’t the early worm get eaten by the bird? Worms that get up early make easy prey for birds, so maybe waking up early is not as great as it seems! It’s all a joke though, there’s a reason this saying spans across different languages. I just like to sleep in!
Dare to be wise!
These are only some of the proverbs that grandmas all over Latinoamérica share with us. These beautiful bits of wisdom help us grow up and learn about the world. Asking people to share some common wisdom can be a great way to meet locals during your travels. If you want to learn more proverbs, why not take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy? With enough practice, you’ll learn all kinds of quotes and phrases!Read More