Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pa'l Feis

The topic of contractions in Spanish doesn't seem to come up often, and there's a very good reason for that. There are only two.

Yep, you read that correctly.  There are only two official contractions in the Spanish language.  Let's take a look at them.

We'll start with the contraction al.

Voy al parque
I'm going to the park

So what is al? Al is....

Voy a el parque

A + el = al

Simple isn't it?

But let's back up for a second.

Unlike English, in Spanish you cannot pick and choose when to use (or not use) contractions.  In Spanish you are required to use contractions.  So that means Voy a el parque is incorrect.  If you say it that way you'll be understood, but it will sound really, really weird.

OK, one down, one to go.

Soy del sur
I'm from the South

What is del?

Soy de el sur

De + el = del

And just like with al, you have to use the contraction.

One thing I need to point out is not to confuse el with él.

el = the and él = him or his

So if we have the sentence:

Es de él
It's his

We don't use the contraction del.

And that's all there is to it.

Sort of.

Remember when I said there were only two official contractions in the Spanish language?  The operative word is "official".

There are actual other unofficial/colloquial contractions you'll hear in Spanish, like this one:

What is Pa'l?  It's a contraction of "para el".  You may also see it written as simple as pal or pal'.

Casi Muero, Pa'l Facebook
I almost died, this (photo) is for Facebook

If you don't understand the joke here, it has to do with people taking and posting photos on Facebook for any and every reason imaginable.  You can't really explain it, you just have to get it.

By the way, you may have noticed the title of this post uses the word feis.  That's a colloquial way to refer to Facebook, pronounced "face", which is used heavily by Mexicans and possible others.  You'll also see it referred to as "el face".

And speaking of Facebook, if you need to brush up on your Spanish vocabulary for Facebook, then read my post Si tu ere dominicano dale like.

Let's take a look at some more unofficial contractions.

Para + allá: Pa'llá

Voy pa'lla ahora mismo

I'm headed over there right now

Para + arriba: Pa' rriba

Voy pa' rriba
I'm going upstairs

Para + qué: Pa' qué

Préstame el coche.  ¿Pa' qué?
Loan me the car.  For what?

Pa' qué tu sepas, voy al super
Just so you know, I'm going to the supermaket

These colloquial contractions are extremely common, so it's a good idea to become familiar with them.

And don't forget to follow me on Facebook!

That's it for today, espero que les sirva.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Yo te invito

The verb invitar means to invite, and it's usage is pretty straight-forward.

Quiero invitarte a mi casa
I want to invite you to my house

¿Hiciste una fiesta y no me invitaste?
You threw a party and didn't invite me?

Te invito a festejar mi cumple
I invite you to celebrate my birthday

While we're on the subject of birthdays, some of you may be confused about the word cumple.  I won't address that in this post, but you can read my post Estoy de cumple, and everything will be explained.   By the way, that post is on my companion blog, My Spanish Notes.

Getting back to the subject at hand, let's take a look at one more example.

Te invito a cenar
I'm inviting you to dinner

This is where things start to get a little tricky.  You see, invitar also implies that when you invite someone somewhere, you're paying.

Let's try translating that sentence again.

Te invito a cenar
Let's have dinner, I'm buying

Here are some more examples:

Te invito a un cafecito
Let me buy you a coffee

Vamos por una cerveza, yo te invito
Let's go for a beer, I'm buying

You can invite people to more than just beer and coffee.

Now let's look a couple of ways we can invite people out and not have to foot the bill.

One way is to avoid the word invitar altogether.

¿Voy por una cerveza, quieres acompañarme?
I'm going to get a beer, do you want to go with me?

Another way is to tell your friend they're paying.

I'm inviting you out for some beers, but you're paying.

That's pretty much it for today, but I'll leave you with one last piece of advice that's very well known in the Spanish speaking world.

El que invita, paga
Whoever invites, pays

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook:

¡Hasta la próxima!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Informal Spanish Greetings

If you're completely new to Spanish, then you should learn the basic greetings, and here's a great lesson to help you with that:  Basic Spanish Greetings

While knowing the basic greetings is really important, they aren't very exciting.  In this post I'm going to talk about some very colloquial greetings that your Spanish book or teacher may not have mentioned.  Let's get started.

I'm sure you know about buenos días, buenas tardes and buenas noches - Good morning, good afternoon/evening and good night  respectively, but there's also buenas.

Buenas is an informal greeting that you can use anytime of time of day.  Just smile and say buenas.  You can even follow it up with a ¿Cómo estás?.  This an extremely common greeting that you'll hear quite often.

Another one of the most common greetings you'll hear is ¿Qué tal?.  It's a basic Spanish greeting used all over the Spanish speaking world.  So what does Qué tal mean?  Simple.

¿Qué tal? is the equivalent of "What's up?".   You can use it any time of day although it's informal.

¿Qué onda? is the Mexican version of "What's up?".  Notice I said it was Mexican.  That doesn't mean other Spanish speakers won't understand what you're saying, but rather that it's primarily a greeting Mexicans use.  While nothing is impossible, it's not likely you'll hear a Spaniard or an Argentine using it.

You'll also hear phrases like ¿Qué hubo?  which is also a very slangy version of "What's up?".

Just like in English where we sometimes skip the hello and go straight to "how are you?", you can do the same thing in Spanish.

As you probably know, ¿Cómo estás? means "How are you?", but there's one more way to skin to that cat.

¿Cómo andas?  is a great alternative to  ¿Cómo estás?.  Think of it as a somewhat slangy "How's it going?"  In fact, andar is a great verb with quite a few uses, and this is just one of them.

¿Cómo te va? is a more literal translation of "How it's going?".

¿Qué hay? is a shortened version ¿Qué hay de nuevo?, both of which mean "What's new?".

Well, that's it for now.  Adding these phrases to your Spanish toolbox will impress your friends and make speaking Spanish a little more fun.  Take a look at the additional posts below to learn even more about informal Spanish greetings:

1.  ¿Quiubo parcero?
2.  ¿Cómo andas? Using Andar
3.  ¿Qué onda wey?
4.  ¿Cómo amaneciste?

¡Hasta luego!

Improving your listening skills

A critical part of being able to speak Spanish is being able to understand it when you hear it.  Easier said then done right?  Sure it's hard, but there are things you can do to improve those wanna-be Spanish ears of yours.

Let's look at some of the ways you can improve your listening skills.

Movies, Television and video

Turn on the subtitles when you're watching a movie.  You obviously have two options, and both have their merit.

Using English subtitles is a great way to ease into Spanish movies and television because you get to hear the Spanish and be able to really follow the story line with the help of the English subtitles.  This won't necessarily help you distinguish the words, but it's always good to listen to as much Spanish as possible.

Watching a movie in Spanish with Spanish subtitles is something that may not have occurred to you, but the benefits of doing so are tremendous.  This allows you see to the words as they are being spoken, so your eyes will work in conjunction with your ears to help you distinguish the words.  Do this repeatedly over time and you'll start to see huge improvements in your listening ability.  And you'll also start to notice that the subtitles don't always match what you hear.  But that's a completely different conversation.

Aside from movies and television, there a some great websites that offer videos with subtitles and/or transcripts.  One of my favorite sites is Spanish  at the University of Texas.

I consider this one of the best sites out there.  It's packed with videos of Spanish speakers of all nationalities giving natural, unscripted answers on a variety of topics.  The dialogues of the videos are available in both English and Spanish.

The videos cover a variety of topics for all levels of Spanish speakers.  The site is free, and you're really missing out if you don't take advantage of it.

There's also Yabla Spanish.

Yabla Spanish isn't free, but at only $10 a month it's a steal.  Yabla Spanish has almost a 1,000 videos and it's library is steadily increasing. Not only do the videos have the English and Spanish transcripts, but there are vocabulary and grammar lessons to go with the videos as well.  There are videos for all levels of Spanish learners in categories such as comedy, interviews, food, travel, telenovelas, music videos and more.

These are just two of many sites available on the internet.  If you have a site you want to share post it in the comments!

Listening to Music

Music is also a great way to improve your listening abilities.  It may not seem like it when you're trying to decipher all those lyrics you hear at what seems like light speed, but don't let that stop you from enjoying some great Spanish tunes.

Find a song or two you like and look up the letra (lyrics) and use them to help you sing along.

There's also a great site called Lyrics Training to help you use music to improve your Spanish.  It's packed with all sorts of music videos at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.  The lyrics are displayed as you watch and sing along.  It even has a game mode.  And did I mention it's free?

Singing will help you with your speaking abilities too.  Singing typically requires a faster pace than regular conversation, so if you can keep up with Shakira a regular conversation will be a breeze.


I always recommend podcasts because they allow you to make use of otherwise wasted time.  Like commuting.  And because I learned probably 60% of my Spanish from them.

My personal tastes aside, there a plenty of podcast sites to help you with your listening skills.

Veinte Mundos

This site has dozens of articles (podcasts) and matching PDF's so you can read along as you listen.  The articles are about the culture, history, food, people and more of the Spanish speaking world.  Most of the articles even include references to videos that provide supplemental information.  It's more for intermediate and advanced speakers as the materials are 100% Spanish.  Also free.  


You'll find lots of podcasts for all levels with transcripts and grammar lessons.  They even have lessons that focus on regional Spanish.  Put these lessons on your smart phone, iPod or iPhone and you can learn Spanish where ever you go.  You can read the transcripts and grammar lessons on your computer or print them out and take them with you. You can even read them on your phone or tablet if you like.

Speaking of reading, there's a great book call Read and Think Spanish that has some great stories about traveling and culture in the Spanish speaking world.  This book is great because the articles are fun and informative with vocabulary and translations printed in the margin of each page.  And it comes with a CD so you can hear the conversations as well.

So those are a just a few options you have to help you improve those Spanish eats of yours.  But before I let you go, I want to share a few pearls of wisdom with you to help you navigate the often difficult and frustrating process of improving your listening skills.

Managing your expectations  

Lots of people get discouraged when they can't understand what they're listening to.  I used to be the same way.  But the truth is, in the early stages you aren't supposed to understand everything you hear. Otherwise you wouldn't be learning Spanish, you'd be a Spanish speaker.  Don't beat yourself up, just remember that you're learning and you're not going to understand everything.  It's a normal  part of the process.

And if you think the day will come when you can actually understand everything you hear, good luck.  After 8 years I'm still waiting for that day.

Listen to something everyday

I can't emphasis this enough.  If you want to be able to understand Spanish, you need to hear it constantly.  It doesn't matter whether or not you understand everything, you just need to hear it.  Have something Spanish playing in your ear as much as possible, even if you're only passively listening.

You don't have to listen for long periods of time, 5-10 mins a day is fine

Yep, you don't have to torture yourself by listening to 2 hours of something you don't understand, a few minutes a day will do the trick.  In general, I recommend you listen to something as often as you can for as long as you can.  Honestly, 5-10 minutes of the morning news on TV or the radio will work just fine.  Or put on one those Spanish songs you like.   But really, anything will do.  Whatever interests you and keeps you listening everyday is just fine.

Listening is a skill you will develop over time

It's going to take a little while, but if you stick with it you'll notice a significant change in your listening abilities.  That 5-10 minutes or more a day will start to pay off.  I recommend you find a song, a podcast, a video, something in 100% Spanish to serve as a gauge.  It should be something you have a hard time understanding.  Listen to it a couple of times, set it aside and come back to it after a few months.  I bet you'll be surprised at how much more you understand.  Assuming you keep practicing during those 1-3 months, that is.

Don't focus on what you can't understand, but rather on what you do understand

We often focus on the negative instead of the positive.  Pat yourself on the back for every single word you successfully process.  You gotta give yourself credit where credit is due.  Remember, your goal is to make progress, not to beat yourself up about the things you didn't understand.

You'll probably have to listen to things more than once

It's true.  The first time you hear something you may not understand it.  To this day there are still things I have to listen to 3 or 4 times to be able to understand it.  Each time you listen you tend to pick up a little more.

Listen to things that interest you

You'll be more motivated and dedicated if you listen to things you like.  Movie trailers, music, songs, interviews, you get the idea.

And finally.....

That's it.  If you follow the advice in this post you'll quickly make huge advancements in your listening ability.

Here are some related posts you may find helpful.

  1. I want to learn Spanish, now what?
  2. Improving your conversational Spanish


Friday, January 10, 2014

Hazme caso por favor

Welcome to the first in a series of posts I'm going to call All About Verbs.  I'll be discussing the real life use of a montón (a ton) of Spanish verbs.  We'll get things started with hacer, so let's get to it.

Your Spanish book will tell you the verb hacer means to make or to do, but it actually has a lot more uses than you might expect.  Let's take a look at some of the different ways hacer is used.

Let's start with something you may already know.

¿Qué haces?

This question actually has a couple of meanings.

¿Que haces?
What are you doing?

It's also a way of asking someone about what they do for work.

¿Que haces?
What do you do (for a living)?

Let's move on so some uses of hacer you may not know about.

If you want to tell your Spanish friends you're throwing a party at your house, then you'll need hacer.

Hacer fiesta - To throw a party

Voy a hacer una fiesta en mi casa
I'm going to throw a party at my house

Taking a trip?  Then you need probably need to hacer maleta.

Hacer maleta - To pack a suitcase

Tengo que hacer la maleta
I have to pack my suitcase

¿Ya hiciste tus maletas?
Did you pack your bags yet?

Speaking of traveling, if you ever take vacations on a cruise ship, then you hacer crucero.

Dónde y cuándo hacer un crucero
Where and when to take a cruise

Es la tercera vez que hago crucero por las islas griegas
It's the third time I'm going on a cruise to the Greek Islands

And if you're the type who likes to make the bed after you get up, then you like to hacer la cama.

Hago mi cama todo los días
I make the bed everyday

On a diet?  Hacer dieta.

Hago dieta y no bajo de peso
I'm on a diet but I'm not losing weight

You use hacer caso when you need to get someone to listen to you.

Hazme caso
Pay attention to me

Haz caso
Pay attention

No me haces caso
You don't pay attention to me

There's one more I want to tell you about.  They say the best way to learn Spanish is to have a Spanish speaking pareja, a partner.  As in a boyfriend or girlfriend, and if that's the case, then you'll probably need this one:

Kiss me and make love to me.  The complete expression is hacer el amor.

Quiero que me hagas el amor
I want you to make love to me

If you're wondering about the weird conjugation (hagas), don't.  Just memorize it for now.  But if you must know, it's a form of the subjunctive.  If you're a beginner I really suggest you just memorize this phrase for now.  Subjunctive = major headache. You've been warned.

Quiero hacerte el amor
I want to make love to you

Well, that's it for today.  Hacer has a lot more uses and I'll write about those a little later.  But for now, now soak in what you've learned and go forth and speak Spanish.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Tengo que lavar los trastes

Sometimes there are things that we just have to do.  Well, if you ever need to tell someone what that something you have to do is in Spanish, then you'll need the expression tener que.

Tener by itself means "to have".

Tengo 21 años
I'm 21

Tengo dos coches
I have two cars

Add the word que after it and now it means to have to.

Tengo que lavar los trastes
I have to wash the dishes

Tengo que recoger mi madre del aeropuerto
I have to pick my mom up from the airport

You may be thinking "Doesn't que mean what?" Well you're right, it does.  But combine it with the word tener and the meaning changes.  Don't try and figure it out, it's an idiomatic expression and you just have to memorize it.  

Tienes que memorizarlo
You have to memorize it

You'll hear tener que a lot, and if you actually use your Spanish in real life you'll end up using it a lot so commit this one to memory.

Here's a link to a free podcast on tener que.  Be sure to go get your free lesson right away because it won't be free forever.   It's a great podcast and it actually has even more great Spanish you need to know like the Spanish contraction al and the verb quedarse. You'll also learn about the word enamorados (people in love).

In fact, if you want to learn more about enamorados and how to talk about the different stages of romance, then take a look at this blog post:

Soy muy noviera

That's it for today, and be sure to follow or subscribe to this blog by email!  Also be sure to check out my other blogs My Spanish Notes and No Seas Pelangoche.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tuve un buen tiempo

I love to help people with their Spanish.  Every week I'm exposed to many beginners and people just starting their journey down the road to Spanish fluency.  With that said, I hear a lot of the same errors over and over again.  So this the first of a new series of posts called Spanish Blunders to help you identify and correct (and hopefully prevent) your mistakes.

I also do a lot of socializing with up and coming Spanish speakers, and it's not uncommon for me to get messages like this after a social event:

Tuve un buen tiempo
I had a good time

Bless their hearts, I'm so glad my friends are enjoying themselves.  Unfortunately, that's not how you say I had a good time.

In their defense this is a very common mistake, so today I'm going to talk about the right way to say this.

The correct expression in Spanish to talk about having a good time is Pasarla bien.

The verb is pasar and one of it's meanings is to pass, as in to pass time.  Now let's look at a few examples of how to tell someone you had a good time.

La pasé bien anoche
I had a good time last night

¿La pasaste bien?
Did you have a good time?

 ¿La pasaron bien?
Did you all have a good time?

 La pasamos super bien en el cine
We had a really good time at the movies

Que la pases bien
Have a good time

Que bien lo paso contigo
I'm having a good time with you

No la pasé bien
I didn't have a good time

Notice in some examples I used la and in others lo.  So what I really should have said earlier is you can Pasarlo bien or Pasarla bien.  What's the difference?  In all honesty, I would just chalk this up to a regional difference.  Based on my experience I would say Pasarla bien is used in Latin America and Pasarlo bien in Spain.  The truth is you can use which ever version you like, because at the end of the day, nobody cares.

You'll see how fun it is when snows, they said.  You'll have an amazing time, they said.

Pobrecito, looks like he's not having much fun at all.

Lastly, I'm going to point you to a book that will help you fix a lot of the common mistakes people make.

I have a copy of Correct Your Spanish Blunders myself.  It's certainly helped me out a lot.  While there are a lot of Spanish books out there, very few of them give you the return on your investment like this one will.  If you're serious about learning Spanish, you need to have this book in your collection.

That's it!  Be sure look to the top right-hand side of the page to follow or become an email subscriber to this blog to get more great lessons to help you learn Spanish.  And be sure to follow us on Facebook:

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