I don’t know about you, but I love dreaming and making plans. Daydreaming is quite possibly my favorite pastime, and I talk about my hopes for the future all the time. A lot of our culture is about planning for the future – saving money, getting an education for a good job, outlining 5 and 10-year plans. We are always looking towards the future!
Since future plans make up such a big part of our life and conversation, we need to be able to talk about them in whatever language we are learning. In Spanish, we can use a couple of different tenses to talk about the future. If you have not already, check out our first two blogs on the future tenses: futuro simple + futuro próximo.
With this blog, we are going to go over a tense that is technically not a future tense but is commonly used as such.
The Simple Present
Yes, you read that correctly. We often use the simple present to talk about future plans! Before we get into when and how we use it, I want to go over the basics of conjugating verbs in the present simple just to refresh your memory. Please note that there is a lot more to talk about regarding the present simple (like stem-changing verbs and irregulars), but that’s for another blog.
I hope that all looks familiar! Now comes the big question – how do we use this to talk about the future?
How do we use it?
There is one big idea that encompasses the uses of the simple present in the future: set plans.
If you remember from our other blogs about the future tenses, none of them were used for set plans. The futuro próximo is used for plans in the making and intentions, but not for things set in stone. The futuro simple is also used for intentions, but still not for set plans.
Whenever we have a plan completely established, we can use the present simple. Think of it this way. If you got accepted to college for the coming fall and you finally have everything packed, all the paperwork is done, and financial aid is set up, you would say it was certain you were going. Of course, things happen that can’t be foreseen. However, based on what we know and what we can plan, everything is set for you to go to college. How would you express your plans for the fall?
I will go to college in a couple of months.
I’m going to college in a couple of months.
More than likely, you would use the second sentence as it expresses much more certainty. Wait, though. That’s the present continuous, not the present simple!
If you remember from our last future blog, the uses of the present simple and present continuous in English and Spanish are not as similar as you may think. We often use the present simple in Spanish when we would use the present continuous in English.
The present continuous in Spanish is used for things happening in this exact moment, while the English present continuous extends to plans we have in the future.
We’re going to Colombia in January.
Vamos a Colombia en enero.
I’m going to college in the fall.
Voy a la universidad en el otoño.
Can you see how these are set plans in the future? We often express this idea in English with the present continuous, but in Spanish it would be the present simple.
Some set plans are not always represented with the present continuous in English, however.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
Te miro mañana.
This is a very common statement, and this was actually my first introduction to this idea of using the presente simple for future plans. I often use the futuro simple to express set future plans, but I was translating directly from English and it was incorrect. I would say things like:
Te miraré mañana.
While this is definitely understandable, it does not accurately convey what I meant. This sentence is saying that it is my intention to see you tomorrow, not a set plan. To express a set plan, we need to use the presente simple – Te miro mañana.
There is yet another way to translate the presente simple into English.
Ella se casa el 17 de diciembre.
She gets married on December 17th.
Woah! We’re using the simple present in both English and Spanish! Sometimes it makes sense to use the simple present in English for things in the future. Here, we are looking at an event completely set in stone – the venue is booked, the caterer hired, the dress bought. Everything is set up and she is definitely getting married.
Using the presente simple to express things in the future is pretty straightforward in Spanish: use it to talk about set plans. However, the tricky part comes in when you are trying to talk about a set plan that would be talked about using a different tense in English. Something that will help you overcome this translation hurdle is to stop translating! Yes, you read that right. Stop thinking of the sentence in English first and translating it to Spanish. You are more likely to make mistakes trying to literally translate.
Yes, yes, I know. This is a lot easier said than done. I’ve been there, and I can tell you from experience that when you embrace the idea of not trying to translate everything and understand word-by-word what things mean, your understanding of the Spanish language will deepen and your conversational skills will flourish.
This requires a large learning curve, though, and a lot of patience. The first step can be practicing using the presente simple for future things! Remember that in Spanish, we use it to talk about set plans in the future. Don’t think about how sometimes it’s translated to English with the present continuous, sometimes with the present simple, and sometimes with the future simple. Embrace it for what it is in Spanish alone!
To help you in this process, try a FREE trial class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers. Practice your future tenses with them and have trial conversations! ¡Aprende más!Read More
Alright, guys. This one is for all you grammar nerds and advanced Spanish learners. If you are just starting to learn Spanish, I would not recommend this blog. You can learn more about simple reflexive verbs here. Even if you are an intermediate learner, there still may be some advanced topics discussed in this blog. However, the general topics are good to keep in mind!
Get out your Spanish notebook, your favorite pens, and a cup of tea or coffee and settle in! We’ve got a lot of grammar to cover.
What in the World are Pronominal Verbs?
I’m sure you’ve heard of reflexive verbs in Spanish, right? Cepillarse, bañarse, vestirse. Well, reflexive verbs are actually also pronominal verbs. Let’s see why.
If you look at the word ‘pronominal,’ can you take a guess at what it means? ‘Pronominal’ has the same root as the word ‘pronoun,’ or pronombre in Spanish. Now, how can verbs also be pronouns? Well, this word isn’t saying that the verbs are actually pronouns, but that they use pronouns.
The definition of pronominal verbs according to the Real Academia Española is:
[un] verbo que se construye en todas sus formas con pronombres reflexivos átonos que no desempeñan ninguna función sintáctica y que concuerdan con el sujeto”
Translated, this says:
“A verb that is constructed in all of its forms with non-accented reflexive pronouns that don’t hold any syntactic function and that agree with the subject.”
Let’s break this down.
- ‘Constructed in all its forms’ refers to the conjugations for each personal pronoun. In other words, when pronominal verbs are conjugated, they use a pronoun in the conjugations for each person (subject pronoun), not just certain ones.
- ‘Non-accented reflexive pronouns’ are just the specific pronouns for pronominal verbs (see the chart below). Some pronouns do have accents in Spanish, like mí and él, but pronominal verbs use only pronouns that are not stressed or accented.
- ‘That don’t hold any syntactic function’ basically means that these reflexive pronouns do not change the structure of a sentence.
- ‘And that agree with the subject’ means that each reflexive pronoun must be in concordance with the subject. Just like you need to conjugate the verb to agree with the subject, you must use the correct pronoun that matches the subject of your sentence.
Let’s summarize this. Pronominal verbs always come with a reflexive pronoun, and both agree with the subject when conjugated.
One easy way to spot pronominal verbs is in their infinitive forms. Remember, infinitive verbs are ones that end in -AR, -ER, or -IR. If a verb is pronominal, it will have an -se after those infinitive forms. For example, if you remember the pronominal verbs we looked at previously, they all end in -se. Cepillarse, bañarse, vestirse. The ‘-se’ is actually a reflexive pronoun that we stick to the end! When the verbs are conjugated, this ‘se’ can stay as ‘se’ or will change to one of the other reflexive pronouns listed in the chart above. The pronoun also does not always stay joined with the verb; the placement in the sentence can vary greatly, and you can find out more about that here.
Types of Pronominal Verbs
Now, most Spanish students (including me) don’t ever hear about these pronominal verbs. Reflexive verbs are taught pretty early on, and I actually thought all verbs with a ‘se’ at the end were reflexive verbs.
In terms of form and pronoun use, you can think of reflexive and pronominal verbs as one and the same. Differentiating between will not affect how they are conjugated or how the reflexive pronoun is used.
Knowing the types of pronominal verbs will help you more deeply understand the meanings of some verbs and the ideas that are being expressed.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Various websites will tell you different things about how many different types of pronominal verbs there are. For this blog, we will break them into six groups:
- Reflexive pronominal verbs
- Reciprocal pronominal verbs
- Idiomatic pronominal verbs
- Psuedo-reflexive pronominal verbs
- Occasional pronominal verbs
- Pure pronominal verbs
1. Reflexive Pronominal Verbs
If you look up the definition of reflexive verbs in the Real Academia Española, you will find a link redirecting you to the pronominal verbs. This probably explains why most Spanish learners think that pronominal verbs and reflexive verbs are the same. They are not, though.
All reflexive verbs are also pronominal verbs.
All pronominal verbs are not also reflexive verbs.
Basically, reflexive verbs are a subcategory of pronominal verbs. You can probably tell from its name that reflexive verbs express an action done by the subject to the subject. The subject is reflecting the action back on themselves. The most common reflexive verbs are the ones that we use when we get ready in the mornings:
Yo me levanto.
I get up
Tú te cepillas los dientes.
You brush your teeth.
Ella se baña.
She takes a bath.
While these verbs are reflexive in Spanish, they are not translated reflexively in English. Remember that we express reflexive actions in English with the following pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves. Even though they are not technically reflexive actions in English, in Spanish they are considered as such because the action is being done to the subject by the subject.
2. Reciprocal Pronominal Verb
Reciprocal verbs are those that show a reciprocated action, or one that people do to each other. Since an action can be reciprocated with just one person, that means that reciprocal verbs cannot be used with any of the singular subject pronouns yo, tú, usted, ella, and él. That just leaves nosotros, nosotras, ellos, and ellas. Let’s look at an example to make this clearer.
¡Nos vemos mañana!
See you tomorrow! (literal: we will see each other tomorrow)
Ellos se hablan mucho.
They talk to each other a lot.
Ellas se abrazaron antes de despedirse.
They hugged each other before saying goodbye.
You can see that in English we can represent this reciprocal idea with the phrase ‘each other,’ while Spanish uses pronominal verbs!
3. Idiomatic Pronominal Verbs
These reflexive verbs have caused me a lot of grief over the past couple of years. I would hear them used and understand the sentence but have no idea why they were using reflexive verbs. Turns out, of course, that they weren’t using reflexive verbs, but pronominal verbs. While these phrases aren’t necessarily classified as idioms, they do lay outside the other groups of pronominal verbs. Let’s see why.
Cómete todas las verduras.
Eat all the vegetables.
You are probably thinking, just as I did for years, why in the world does comer have a reflexive pronoun! Well, it is added for emphasis. You can say either Come todas las verduras or cómete todas las verduras, and the idea would be the same – Eat all your veggies! However, the added reflexive pronoun puts emphasis on you actually eating them.
Another example of idiomatic pronominal verbs would be the following:
I hear this one all the time in reference to my son. Everyone comments on how cute he is and tells me to take care of him. This would translate to, “Take care of him for me.” The ‘for me’ is communicated with the reflexive pronoun ‘me’ added onto the verb. Watch out for this tricky ‘me!’ If you ever hear it in conversation (and you definitely will because it’s quite common), don’t get confused. Just remember that the person is making their statement more personal, asking you to do something for them.
4. Psuedo-Reflexive Pronominal Verbs
This group of verbs looks and acts like reflexive verbs but aren’t actually – they’re just pronominal verbs! Remember, reflexive verbs only refer to those pronominal verbs that express the subject doing and action to themselves.
These pseudo-reflexive verbs do not actually represent actions, but feelings! This makes them pseudo-reflexive verbs, since they look and act like reflexive verbs, but do not include an action done on the subject, taking away their ‘reflexive’ status.
Me siento muy contenta por tenerte aquí.
I feel so happy to have you here.
Ella se emocionó al ver el perro.
She got excited when she saw the dog.
Can you see how they might be deceiving? You can even call theses emotional pronominal verbs to remind you that they are not reflexive verbs!
Let’s look at one last example.
Me aburrí tanto en la clase de física.
I got so bored in physics class.
This is talking about a feeling – boredom – so it can be classified as a pseudo-reflexive pronominal verb. However, there is more to it than that…
5. Occasional Pronominal Verbs
These pronominal verbs are not just verbs that can or cannot take reflexive pronouns; they are verbs that actually change meaning when they have a reflexive pronoun. You can find more of these here, but let’s look at just a few.
We just said that aburrirse was a pseudo-reflexive verb, but it is also an occasional pronominal verb! Yes, these verbs can be classified as different types of verbs depending on the situation. (Don’t panic – we will touch on this later.) So, aburrir (without the reflexive pronoun) means ‘to bore someone,’ while aburrirse (with the reflexive pronoun) means to get bored. While the general idea is the same, there is a clear distinction between the two verbs. Here are a couple more examples:
Fijar – to set
Fijarse – to notice
Probar – to taste
Probarse – to try on
Now, those changes in meaning are quite drastic! Be very careful with these occasional pronominal verbs because you could be saying something you don’t mean to say!
6. Pure Pronominal Verbs
After looking at all these examples, you may be wondering if some verbs are always pronominal verbs or just sometimes. Let’s take ver, for example. We had the sentence ¡Nos vemos pronto! classified as a reciprocal pronominal verb, but it doesn’t always need a reflexive pronoun!
Estamos viendo una película. (not pronominal)
¡Nos vemos pronto! (pronominal – reciprocal)
Ellos comieron cinco pizzas. (not pronominal)
Cómete todas las verduras. (pronominal – idiomatic)
Él levantó la mesa. (not pronominal)
Yo me levanto. (pronominal – reflexive)
See how all the verbs we’ve looked at so far don’t HAVE to have a reflexive pronoun? That means that they are not pure pronominal verbs. Their status as pronominal verbs depends on the situation and the ideas being expressed in each sentence. There are actually very few pure pronominal verbs, or verbs that MUST always be accompanied by a reflexive pronoun. You can find a full chart here, but we’ll explore a few now.
Antojarse: to get a desire for something
Se me antoja un cafecito caliente.
Suicidarse: to commit suicide
Lastimosamente, él se suicidó anohce.
Arrepentirse: to regret
Ya nos arrepentimos de nuestra decisión.
These verbs that are pure pronominal verbs cannot be used without a reflexive pronoun – ever. Thankfully, there aren’t very many of them, so you don’t have to memorize too many verbs. Plus, several of them are not very common in everyday conversations.
Now, before you go classifying every verb a pronominal verb, there are some things to remember.
- Most verbs can be either pronominal or not, depending on the situation.
- Verbs can be classified as different types of pronominal verbs depending on the sentence.
- All reflexive verbs are pronominal verbs.
- Not all pronominal verbs are reflexive verbs.
- Pronominal verbs are those that are accompanied by a reflexive pronoun.
Read that last sentence very closely. Only reflexive pronouns make a verb pronominal. Direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns do NOT make a verb pronominal. This can be a bit confusing because a lot of the pronouns are the same!
Can you see how many of the pronouns are the same? How do you kno w when a pronoun is reflexive and therefore makes the verb pronominal? Well, ‘se’ is usually a giveaway since it is never an indirect object or direct object pronoun. Another way to know is if the pronoun matches the subject. Check these out:
Te llamo después de mi clase. (not pronominal)
Me llamo Rogelio. (pronominal – idiomatic)
Ella nos habló sobre matemáticas. (not pronominal)
Nos hablamos cada noche. (pronominal – reciprocal)
Me preocupó mucho su ausencia. (not pronominal)
¡No te preocupes! (pronominal – psuedo-reflexive)
Are you starting to see the difference? Don’t worry; it takes practice, but you’ll get it soon. Another sign to look out for is the passive voice, which uses the pronoun ‘se’ a lot. The passive voice may look like a pronominal verb, but it is not!
¿Dónde se venden carros?
Where are cars sold?
¿Cómo se dice…?
How do you say…
No se puede.
It can’t be done.
Phew! That’s a lot of information. I hope you are not too confused, but if you have follow-up questions, you can talk with one of our live, native Spanish-speaking teachers! Sign up for a FREE class today to keep practicing with the different types of verbs! ¡Tú puedes!Read More
Before you get started on this blog, this is part 2. Check out the futuro simple blog here if you haven’t already!
What are you going to do today? What are you going to do this summer/weekend? What are you going to do about it?
How many times have you heard these questions or asked them? Our plans and intentions for the future make up a larger part of our daily conversations. Make sure you can talk about these big ideas and plans in your budding second language, Spanish!
‘Going to’ Future
What is it?
Now that we’ve mastered the futuro simple, it’s time to move onto the futuro próximo, or the futuro idiomático. I would argue that this is much more commonly used in Spanish (at least where I live), and quite possibly in English.
If you remember the structure of the futuro simple, it involved a lot of new endings and accents. Luckily for you, the futuro próximo doesn’t have any new endings! This is a great thing because once you get the formula down, you won’t have to memorize any new verbs endings!
Firstly, let’s look at an example in English.
I am going to call you later.
If we make a formula out of this, it would look like the following:
Pronoun + conjugation of ‘to be’ in present simple + going + to + verb
If you are familiar with some different tenses, you may notice that we use the present continuous to create this future form in English. We can write the formula this way:
Pronoun + present continuous + infinitive verb
If you may recall, the present continuous forms in English and Spanish are very comparable:
I am eating.
Yo estoy comiendo.
However, the uses of the present simple and present continuous are NOT the same in English and Spanish. Before we go any further, we need to talk about these differences.
Present Simple vs. Present Continuous
In English, we use the present simple for habitual things and permanent situations (among other more complex situations that we can explore later). For example:
I go to school every day.
We eat cereal every Sunday for breakfast.
She goes to Spain every summer.
He likes chocolate.
We use the present continuous for things we are doing in the moment (or in the close future).
I am studying right now.
We are going to the store.
Now, in Spanish, the present simple (presente simple) is not as limited. We still use if for habitual things and permanent situations, just like in English, but it is more extensive than that. For example:
Voy a la tienda. – I am going to the store (soon).
Here, we don’t say Estoy yendo a la tienda in Spanish, unless you are actually on your way, and even then, it is more common in many areas to say ‘voy’ instead of ‘yendo.’
Even when you want to ask someone what they are doing right now, you can ask them ¿Qué haces? (presente simple) or ¿Qué estás haciendo? (presente continuo). You would generally respond using the present continuous, but the fact that you can use the present simple to talk about an action happening right now is very important to note.
Let’s take this all back to our future tense, el futuro idiomático.
I am going to call you later.
Would you say Estoy yendo a llamarte más tarde? No. Estoy yendo implies current movement, and if you remember, it is not as common as just saying ‘voy.’ So, when we’re talking about something we are going to do soon, we need to use ‘voy.’
Te voy a llamar más tarde.
What you need to remember is that while the present continuous is used to express things happening soon in English, we used the presente simple to express the same idea in Spanish.
Salimos en 5 minutos. – We’re leaving in 5 minutes.
Therefore, if you carry that logic through that we use the presente simple for future events, we must use the presente simple to form the futuro idiomático. Let’s look at our previous example.
I’m going to call you later.
Te voy a llamar más tarde.
Can you make a formula for the futuro idiomático?
Present simple conjugation of ir + a + infinitive verb
- Always use the present simple conjugations of the verb ir.
- Always include the word a between ir and the infinitive verb.
- An infinitive verb in Spanish is one that ends in -AR, -ER, and -IR.
If you already have the present simple conjugations of the verb ir memorized, then this form will be very easy for you! If not, you can use this following chart to refresh your memory:
You have everything you need to form the futuro próximo. But…when should you use it?
When do we use it?
Lo voy a hacer ahorita. – I am going to do it right now (soon).
¿Vas a venir con nosotros? – Are you going to come with us?
If you are talking about what you are going to do shortly (ahorita), you need to use the futuro próximo. This could include things that you’re going to do in 5 minutes or 5 days – it all depends on your definition of ‘soon.’ Either way, the futuro próximo is the appropriate tense to use.
Vamos a ir de vacaciones a México en diciembre. – We’re going on vacation to Mexico in December.
Ella va a tener una fiesta el sábado. – She’s going to have a party on Saturday.
When we say plans here, we are talking about plans that are made but that might not be set in stone. This would be for plans that we are currently making. Maybe you haven’t yet bought your flight to Mexico yet, but you are looking for a cheap one. Maybe your friend hasn’t invited everyone to the party yet, but she marked it down in her calendar.
Lo voy a hacer mañana. – I’m going to do it tomorrow.
Voy a limpiar mi cuarto después. I’m going to clean my room later.
Intentions are like New Year’s goals – sometimes they happen, sometimes they don’t. Other times they happen, just not how we expected. Either way, we need to use the futuro próximo in Spanish to express things that we intend to do.
Did you notice how in every example, the English and Spanish tenses were equivalent? The ‘going to’ future in English is comparable in structure AND use to the futuro próximo in Spanish. This means that when you would use the ‘going to’ tense in English, more than likely, you need to use the futuro próximo in Spanish. This is good to keep in mind since you probably won’t remember the three uses of the futuro próximo I listed above in your next Spanish conversation.
Another thing to help you remember when to use the futuro próxmio is when you want to do something, but don’t have anything set in stone – in other words, tentative plans.
But wait! If you remember from our futuro simple blog, we said that you could use the futuro simple for your intentions. So…which do we use? The futuro simple or futuro próximo?
The answer is both. When it comes to our intentions, we can use either tense. They each have a slightly different connotation, or feel, to them which you will learn over time (or maybe you can already feel them in English). However, both are appropriate and completely acceptable when talking about your intentions. Don’t stress too much about deciding which future tense to use if you’re discussing your intentions!
Voy a practicar mi español más. – I’m going to practice my Spanish more.
Practicaré mi español más. – I will pracitce my Spanish more.
Vamos a hablar de eso después. – We’re going to talk about that later.
Hablaremos de eso después. – We will talk about that later.
Can you see how we can use both tenses when talking about our intentions – and they are very comparable to the English forms! That makes life a bit easier for you, right?
Of course, la práctica hace al maestro. To make sure you can use the futuro próximo with ease in your next Spanish conversation, check out our extra practice materials! You can find our video on all the future tenses in Spanish below. It is in Spanish, so it will give you extra practice! We also have a special PDF for you to test what you’ve learned in this blog. Don’t forget to check your answers with the answer key!
Even if you have everything memorized, it still may be hard to produce the futuro próximo fluently in conversation. If you would like help from a native Spanish speaker, try a FREE class with us! Our teachers would be more than happy to go over some of these rules or just have a practice conversation with you. Sign up today!Read More
What are you going to do this weekend? Will you get your homework done on time? Are you planning to study more?
What do all of those sentences have in common? Yup, you guessed it! They all talk about things happening in the future – whether they are certain or not. Every day, we talk about our future plans, intentions, and assumptions. However, I bet you don’t pay much attention to what grammatical tense you use to talk about said plans, right?
Well, when learning another language, you may find that you do begin to think about which tense you use for every little situation. This is completely normal! There will come a time when you don’t need to think about tenses as much, but there’s no need to rush yourself.
Now, to talk about future plans in Spanish, there are a couple of different tenses that we need to go over. For this blog, we will only be talking about one tense. Click through the links to find more about other future forms in Spanish! You may feel overwhelmed at first, but with practice, you’ll master the Spanish future tenses in no time!
What is it?
When you think about the future tense, what do you think of? If you’re like me, you think of the word ‘will.’
I will do that tomorrow.
He will not come to the party.
The Spanish equivalent of this tense is called the futuro simple. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as adding the word ‘will’ before the verb. Let’s look at the conjugations first, then talk about some common patterns!
What do you know – the futuro simple may actually be simple after all! Did you notice how all types of verbs, -AR, -ER, and -IR, use the same endings? That’s super helpful.
There are two main things you need to look out for, though. Normally, when we conjugate verbs in Spanish, we take off the -AR, -ER, and -IR (infinitive) endings before adding the new endings specific to each tense. However, with the futuro simple, we leave those infinitive endings and add additional endings onto the end of the verb! The second important point is to watch out for the accent marks. Every form of the futuro simple EXCEPT the nosotros form has an accent on the ending.
Of course, like all Spanish tenses, there are irregular verbs. I will break them down for you into three different groups, though, so you can see the patterns.
Alright. We have 12 irregular verbs here, and most of them fall into one of two categories – either taking out the last vowel or replacing it with a ‘d’ before adding the futuro simple endings. Now, it’s just up to you to memorize which verb falls into which category! A lot of the common irregular verbs, like ir and ser are actually regular verbs in the futuro simple! Easy, right?
When do we use it?
Now that we’ve mastered the conjugation of the futuro simple, we need to make sure we can use it in the right situations.
Lo haré mañana. I will do it tomorrow.
In this situation, we use the future simple in both English and Spanish. We are talking about an intention to do something. Is it certain? Not necessarily, but the intent is there, so we use the futuro simple.
Ya estará en camino mi esposo. My husband is probably on his way.
Here, you can see that in Spanish we use the futuro simple, while in English, we use the present simple. Whenever you are assuming something without knowing if it is true or not, you use the futuro simple in Spanish. This sentence is an example of an assumption in the present tense, but this rule also applies to future assumptions.
Hazlo ahora. No tendrás tiempo el fin de semana. Do it now. You won’t have time this weekend.
Interestingly enough, for future assumptions like this one, you use the future simple in both English and Spanish!
Ya es muy tarde. Debo irme. Mi mama estará preocupada. It’s late. I have to go. My mom is probably worried.
Here we can see someone talking about the possibility that their mom is worried. While we could possibly translate this to English as “My mom will be worried,” the reality is that the mom is probably worried now because it is late. Either way, we use the futuro simple in Spanish to represent the possibility that she is worried.
¿Cuánto costará ese carro? I wonder how much that car costs.
This sentence also represents a possibility, but it looks a little different. In Spanish, we don’t have a word for ‘wonder,’ so we often use the futuro simple to express the uncertainty and possibility of the situation. Interesting, right?
Alright! That was a lot of information about the futuro simple. If you would like to learn more about this tense, check out our video below! Don’t forget to download practice exercises to make sure you can use the futuro simple on your own. You’ll find the answer key at the end!
As always, if you have any questions or want one-on-one help, schedule a FREE class with one of our amazing native Spanish-speaking teachers! They would love to help you with your language learning journey. ¡Hasta luego!Read More
On Part 1 of the Spanish subjuntivo series, we’ve learned what the subjuntivo is all about! The Spanish subjunctive allows us to express ideas, thoughts, desires, possibilities, and doubts.
Always keep in mind that the subjunctive is not a tense, the subjunctive is a mood! This means that it can be found in different tenses! Today, we’ll explore the conjugation of the subjunctive in the present tense!
Subjuntivo Conjugation in Present Tense
The conjugation of regular verbs in the subjunctive mood is really simple! Have a look at the table below, and take a note of your observations!
These are some rules that will help you learn the conjugation of verbs in the subjunctive even faster:
- The conjugation of -er and -ir verbs use the same endings:
-a, -as, -a, -amos, -an, -an
- In the case of -ar endings, we use the same stem in the present subjunctive as in the present indicative, and replace the ‘a’ with an ‘e’ – yo is an exception to this as we replace ‘o’ with an ‘e’
- In the case of -er and -ir endings, we use the same stem in the present subjunctive as in the present indicative, and replace the ‘e’ with an ‘a’ – yo is an exception to this as we replace ‘o’ with an ‘a’
As we already know, the conjugation of Spanish verbs is plagued with exceptions. In order to make it a little easier for you to learn them, we’ve separated them into groups!
As you can see from the examples above, even irregular verbs seem to follow a pattern! I told you when we started looking at the subjuntivo that there was nothing to fear, and as we disentangle all the little details of this verb form, it starts to make even more sense!
Conjugate the verbs in parenthesis! Remember that in Spanish, you don’t need to use personal pronouns like you do in English, so use the English translations to make sure you conjugate the verb in the correct form!
Yo quiero que _____ (venir) mañana.
I want you to come tomorrow.
Tú no crees que _____ (tener) suficiente tiempo.
You don’t believe we have enough time.
Ella busca una blusa que _____ (tener) rayas.
She’s looking for a shirt that has stripes.
Nosotros no pensamos que eso ______ (ser) cierto.
We don’t think it is true.
Ustedes dudan que _____ (llegar) a tiempo.
You all doubt he will be here on time.
Ellos necesitan que _____ (escribir) una carta.
They need you to write a letter.
Practice makes perfect! Book a free class with us and so that we can practice together everything we learned on the 1st Part of the subjuntivo series (when to use the subjuntivo), and combine it with what we’ve learned today (conjugation in the present tense)!Read More
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!
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
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:
So, you’ve been taking Spanish class for a while now, and you’ve got the basics down. You feel confident enough to have your first real-life conversation with a native speaker. Everything starts off well – you introduce yourself with the correct phrases and ask the right questions. And then they ask you how long you have been studying Spanish and you can’t quite remember the word for ‘ago.’ You start stumbling over your words, not knowing how to continue, and all your newfound confidence slowly wanes.
Have you been there? Have you ever just needed a moment in a conversation to collect your thoughts, remember the correct translation of that tricky word, or recall how to conjugate irregular verbs in the past tense? I have. Oh, I have been in that situation too many times to count. Even now, as a fluent Spanish speaker, I still have moments where I get confused between Spanish and English, or a particular tense trips me up (yes, this happens to me in both languages now). Are we destined to always stumble over our words while we think of the correct way to express ourselves? The answer is no. There is a trick I’ve learned over the years that can give you those extra couple seconds you need to remember the past tense of decir in the ‘usted’ form.
Have you ever noticed how native speakers – of any language – pause naturally to think about what they want to say? It is usually accompanied by a transition word to let the other person know that they just need a moment to gather their thoughts. For example, how many times do you use ‘uhm’ or ‘like’ in a conversation as a transition word between sentences? If you’re anything like me, it would be a lot. Very few people can hold a conversation flawlessly without using these little words to help them along. The only issue is…they aren’t international.
There are some words that take a lot of work to switch into our second (or third or fourth) language because they are second nature. For me, the hardest phrase to translate was ‘I mean….’ I would be speaking fluent Spanish and out of nowhere, I would stick an ‘I mean’ into my sentence. I have heard other native English speakers trip up of words like ‘alright,’ ‘like,’ and even ‘uhm.’ If your goal is fluency in Spanish, then these words can be a small but impending obstacle. However, I have put together a list of phrases that I have learned to use as transitional words to give me some extra time to think and put together my thoughts in my second language.
Let’s start simple. ‘Uhm.’ I can’t even tell you how many times I use this word in a day. We use it when we’re thinking, as a pause, when we don’t understand, etc. It is such a common word that it may seem weird that it is not universal. Of course, if you say ‘uhm’ while speaking Spanish, you will be understood, no question. However, you may start to notice that native Spanish speakers say it a little different.
Instead of ‘uhm,’ it’s more of an em sound. Here are some examples to look at:
“Em…la verdad no sé.”
“Uhm…honestly, I don’t know.”
“Él habló sobre, em, el tema de desigualdad.”
“He talked about, uhm, the topic of inequality.”
So, we started simple. This one is just a change in pronunciation. Let’s look at another simple word
Since English has become the international language of business, many English words have infiltrated various languages, especially Spanish. This means that Spanish speakers understand and even use this word, ‘okay,’ but it is not as common as the Spanish equivalents – and let me tell you, there are many. If it is your goal to become fluent in Spanish, it is always good to know the correct way to say things in Spanish and not just use a common English word in its place.
Although there are many ways to say ‘okay,’ we are going to look at one that is incredibly popular in Latin America – va. It can actually be used in two main ways. The first would be short for the word for vale, which (also) means okay. The second way is actually short for the word true, verdad, and is used at the end of sentences. Let’s take a look:
“Necesito que llegues a las 8 en punto.” “Ah, va. Está bien. Allí estaré.”
“I need you to be there at 8 sharp.” “Ah, okay. That’s fine. I’ll be there.”
“Tengo que estar allí a las 8, ¿va?”
“I have to be there at 8, right?”
Now, for the purposes of this blog, we will be focusing on the first use. It is normally used as a response to someone to express your understanding and agreement, but you can also use it to give you some time to process what that person said before responding.
This transition word is va, pronounced more as a ‘ba’ than a ‘va.’ Although the correct pronunciation would be with a ‘v’ sound, the majority of people pronounce the ‘v’ and the ‘b’ as a combination of the two sounds, leaning more towards the ‘b’ sound. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between botar and votar based on pronunciation alone. You would have to use context clues to know which word is being spoken.
“Well, I’m not sure.” How would you translate this sentence to Spanish? What about, Bien, no estoy seguro. Unfortunately, that would be incorrect. Although ‘well’ does often translate to ‘bien,’ it has a completely different translation when used as an interjection. The correct word to use would then be pues. Let’s look at some more examples:
Pues, creo que estás equivocado.
Well, I think you’re mistaken.
Pues, necesito terminar aquí primero. Dame 5 minutos.
Well, I need to finish up here first. Give me 5 minutes.
If you are unsure of how to respond to someone, the word pues can give you that little extra time you need to form your response without making it seem like you are struggling.
Have you ever been in the middle of a great conversation and then been interrupted? In English, we usually return to the previous conversation by saying ‘anyways…’ If you are unsure of how to use this word in Spanish, you may be stuck frantically racking your brain for a way to return to that great conversation you were having – as I have many times. Don’t worry, though! This short, simple phrase will convey that you would like to return to the conversation topic that you were involved in before the interruption: pues sí.
This phrase literally means ‘well yes’ or ‘so yes,’ but it would be most accurately translated colloquially as pues sí. Let’s imagine you’re talking with a friend at a café, and another friend stops by to greet you.
“¡Qué gusto verte otra vez! Hablamos después. ¡Adiós! Perdón, Alex. Pues sí…”
“It was so great to see you again! We’ll talk later. Bye! Sorry about that, Alex. Anyways
Maybe you are talking to someone outside and see a car run a red light, almost causing an accident:
“¡Ay, Dios mío! Qué miedo. La gente debe ser más cuidadosa. Pues sí…”
“Oh my gosh! That was so scary. People need to be more careful. Anyways…”
No matter the situation, pues sí is your key phrase to get you back into the conversation you were having – and it’s the perfect excuse for a pause to collect your thoughts as you switch gears back into the previous topic.
For a long time, I thought the English word ‘alright’ had no appropriate translation. When I was teaching my classes in Spanish, I would always change topics by saying ‘alright’ in English. I knew it sounded strange, an English interjection in the middle of Spanish conversation, but I was stumped by how to correctly express myself in Spanish. After listening closely to Spanish conversations, however, I realized that there is such a word in Spanish – bueno.
Yes, yes, bueno does mean ‘good.’ As you have seen with these transition words, they often have multiple meanings. Part of the beauty of learning a language is discovering all the different ways you can use one small word.
“Hacer ejercicio es bueno para la salud.”
“Exercising is good for your health.”
“Tenemos buenos recuerdos de ese lugar.”
“We have good memories of that place.”
“Bueno. Empecemos en la página 28.”
“Alright. Let’s start on page 28.”
As you can see with the last example, when used at the beginning of a sentence as an interjection, bueno means ‘alright.’ You can use it to wrap up one topic and start another – or as a way to quickly organize your thoughts before starting a new subject of conversation.
It’s just that…
This next transition phrase is by no means official, but it is extremely common in informal conversation. Have you ever found yourself saying phrases like ‘it’s just that…’ or ‘it’s like…’ to introduce an explanation or reasoning to something? There is often a pause following these phrases as we figure out how to best express ourselves. Guess what? There’s a similar phrase in Spanish: es que.
This literally translates as ‘it’s that…’ which is very similar to the English counterparts. You will hear this very often as native Spanish speakers organize their thoughts or think of how to better explain something. It’s time for you to try it out as well if you need some extra time to form your sentence in Spanish.
“Es que…necesito averiguar que haya tiempo para esa actividad.”
“It’s just that…I need to check that there’s time for that activity.”
“Es que…la razón por la cual dije eso es porque no quise ofender a nadie.”
“It’s just that…the reason I said that is because I didn’t want to offend anyone.”
This phrase often has no connection to the following sentence but is just used as a filler while the speaker decides what they want to say. This makes it perfect for all you Spanish learners – you can use this trick to sound just like a native speaker while you search your memory for those tricky rules about the subjunctive tense.
We all have trademark phrases that we use way too often. One of those phrases for me is ‘I mean…’ This was made blindingly obvious to me as it came out in English all the time while speaking Spanish with my husband. While he eventually understood what I intended to say, it frustrated me that I was lacking a key phrase in Spanish.
The word ‘mean’ (used to clarify what you are saying) does not have a direct translation in Spanish, which makes it difficult for those of us who use it all the time in English! However, there are other ways to express the same thing. Let’s look at some examples:
“Reunámonos el viernes. Digo, el sábado.”
“Let’s meet up on Friday. I mean, Saturday.”
“Tu correo dice que el total es $110. ¿Es correcto?” “Oh, perdón. Quise decir $100.”
“Your email says the total is $110. Is that correct?” “Oh, sorry. I meant $100.”
As you can see from these examples, the translation for ‘I mean’ would be digo, or ‘I say.’ However, if you want to use it in the past as ‘I meant,’ it would be quise decir, or ‘I wanted to say.’
Both phrases are helpful to know, but in reference to transition words, digo is definitely one of the keywords to learn. When speaking our native language, we can mix up our words and accidentally say the wrong thing. This becomes all the more probable when speaking another language, which is why this small word will help clear up confusion quickly and effortlessly.
In other words…
Speaking of clarifying things, there is another great phrase that is used to reword something: ‘o sea.’ This can be used to reword what you have just said or to put what someone else said into your own words to ensure you have understood them. Although this looks like ‘Oh sea’ in English, the pronunciation is pretty different. The ‘o’ is the same, but the ‘sea’ is pronounced ‘say-ah.’
This phrase is a great way to give yourself another chance at explaining something or to be sure that you understand what is being said in the conversation without saying no entiendo. It literally translates to ‘or it is,’ but we would say ‘in other words’ in English. You can use the phrase ‘en otras palabras,’ but ‘o sea’ is much more common in informal conversations, and it is less of a mouthful.
“Nos falta mucho para terminar. O sea que tendremos que trabajar este fin de semana.”
“We still have a lot to do to finish. In other words, we’ll have to work this weekend.”
“Debes usar esos otros marcadores para escribir en el pizarrón.” “O sea que ¿este es un marcador permanente?”
“You must use those other markers to write on the board.” “In other words, this is a permanent marker?”
As you can see in the last example, another possible translation for o sea can be ‘mean.’ We could have translated that part as “You mean this is a permanent marker?” and it would have the same effect. Since ‘mean’ does not directly translate to Spanish, you can use a couple of these transition phrases to express yourself – just make sure you use digo only when you’re clarify something you personally said.
The thing is that…
This phrase can be literally translated to la cosa es que, but there is another phrase that is very unique. I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to translate it to English, and the phrase ‘the thing is that’ is the closest I could think of, but it doesn’t quite do it justice. Fíjate que (or fíjese que in the ‘usted’ form) literally means ‘pay attention’ or ‘notice’ something. It is in the command form, which basically tells your audience ‘listen up!’ However, in context, it has a much softer voice. It has actually become notorious as the introduction to excuses!
“Fíjese que mi hermanita botó agua en mi tarea y por eso no la traje.”
“The thing is that my little sister spilled water on my homework, and that’s why I didn’t bring it.”
“¿Ya revisaste los documentos?” “Fíjate que no. No he tenido tiempo.”
“Did you check the documents yet?” “The thing is that no, I haven’t had time.”
As you can see, colloquially, fíjate is often used to introduce bad news or news in general. This is also one of those great examples of a word that has no good translation in English – you can understand the meaning but there is no word that truly captivates its essence in the English language.
This last transition word is just as versatile as the rest – ‘look.’ No, we are not talking about actually looking at something but the interjection. “Look, I think we should start over.” We are not asking someone to physically look at something, but instead, we are introducing an idea or a solution. Either way, the translation would be the same in Spanish – mirar can be both a verb and a transition word.
The most common form of mirar that I have heard as a transition word is mirá, which is the command form of ‘vos.’ Depending on what country you are in, this form may also be popular. If you are unsure, you can always use the ‘tú’ form, which would be mira (accent on the ‘i’ instead of the ‘a’). You can even use the ‘usted’ of mirar is the occasion calls for it: mire.
“Mirá, creo que debemos rehacer esta parte aquí.
“Look, I think we should redo this part here.”
“Mira, hagamos un plan.”
“Look, let’s make a plan.”
“Mire, necesito ayuda con estos documentos. ¿Me los puede autorizar?”
Look, I need help with these documents. Could you authorize them for me?
No matter the form you use, this word is a great way to introduce ideas and give you some extra time to organize your sentence in Spanish.
That was a lot of information! I hope these words helped your Spanish conversation skills – try using them one at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed! Also, listen for these words in Spanish conversations, movies, and songs. Now that you are familiar with them, you’ll notice them and hear more of their uses! Don’t be surprised if you hear combinations of these words, such as mirá pues, pues, fíjate que, or bueno pues. This is just a short guide to all the nuances of Spanish transition words! Don’t forget to practice them with your Spanish teacher in class, and feel free to ask them any questions you may have. ¡Hasta la próxima!Read More