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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Friday, October 11, 2013

Expressing accidental actions in Spanish

While I don't consider myself a teacher by any stretch of the imagination, today I'm going to try and simplify a concept that can be a sticking point for many learners of Spanish, expressing accidental actions.

Let's pretend you accidentally broke a glass and need to fess up to it in Spanish.  You may be tempted to think of translating "I broke the glass" as:

Rompí el vaso

And you'd be correct, but it begs the question "Did you break it on purpose or by accident?".

In fact, "I broke the glass" in English leaves you with the same doubt.  To resolve that doubt in English we simply add "by accident".

I broke the glass by accident

So how do we resolve this question in Spanish?  We combine a reflexive verb with an indirect object.

If you're like me, after reading that you immediately thought "What?  Can you say that in English?".  I hear you. Grammar explanations can be confusing, so I'm going to explain it to you in plain English.

Let's keep it simple and refer to this as "accidental actions".   While some people might consider this a somewhat advanced level of grammar , it's actually pretty easy to tell someone you did something by accident, just by using this simple pattern:

Se + (me, te, le, nos, les) +  third-person singular preterite verb conjugation

I'm sure you noticed this: "third-person singular preterite verb conjugation".

Well that's a mouthful isn't it?  All it means is you want the usted preterite conjugation of the verb.  If you're looking at a verb chart just look for the preterite (pretérito in Spanish) of "Usted (Ud), él, ella". In fact, take a look at the conjugation chart for romper.   To simplify things a little for this post we'll just call it the usted preterite conjugation.  

Here's our simplified pattern:

Se + (me, te, le, nos, les) +  usted preterite conjugation 

Let's go back to the broken glass example.  Notice that in the pattern you have a choice of  me, te, le, nos, and les. Since you're saying "I broke the glass by accident" you want to use "me".  I'll explain the other choices shortly.  You'll also need the usted past tense of the verb romper (to break), which is rompío.

Se me rompió el vaso
I broke the glass by accident

Simple, right?  Here's another example:

Se me perdió la llave
I lost the key by accident

Pretty straight-forward right?  What if we want to say "you broke the glass by accident" or you lost the key by accident"?

Let's take another look at our pattern.

Se + (me, te, le, nos, les) +  usted preterite conjugation 

OK, it's time to talk about those little me, te, le, nos and les words I mentioned earlier.  You use those indicate who performed the accidental action.

Me - I lost it:
Se me perdió la llave
I lost the key by accident

Te - You lost it:
Se te perdió la llave
You lost the key by accident

Le - He/she lost it:
Se le perdió la llave
He/she lost the key by accident

Nos - We lost it:
Se nos perdió la llave
We lost the key by accident

Les - They lost it:
Se les perdió la llave
They lost the key by accident

And there you have it.  Notice the conjugation of perder (perdió) never changed.   Pan comido, right?

That pattern works for anything you might do by accident.  You just need to memorize the pattern and learn how to conjugate verbs to the third person singular preterite tense (remember this mouthful from above?) which you've already learned or are in the process of learning anyway, so there's no extra work involved for you.

Let's look at another example:

Se les perdieron las llaves
They lost the keys by accident

Hold on, let's back up.  Did you notice that?

The verb perder was conjugated in the preterite past tense, but in the ellos, ellas, ustedes form.  In grammar speak it would be the:

Third-person plural preterite conjugation

 The past tense verb conjugation must match the number of "things" that were accidentally affected.  That means we need one more pattern that's just a little different than the first one.

Se + (me, te, le, nos, les) + third-person plural preterite verb conjugation

All this means is we have to conjugate to the ellos, ellas, ustedes form of the verb in the preterite tense.  Just take a look at the chart I pointed you to earlier.

Now let's review our broken glass example again:

Se me rompió el vaso
I broke the glass by accident

Only one glass was broken in that example.  So what if I broke more than one glass?  Then it changes to:

Se me rompieron los vasos
I broke the glasses by accident

Let's look at one more example:

Se les quedaron las llaves en casa
They left the keys at home by accident

Make sense?  If you're still confused don't worry about it, it just takes a little practice.   To start using this "accidental actions" construction all you need to do is memorize the two simple patterns and learn a few verb conjugations.

Don't obsess over understanding the grammar at first, the important thing is to start using the construction and pay special attention to it when you see or hear it.  Eventually the understanding of the grammar will "click" and everything will make sense.

Here's another bit of advice.  Don't feel like you have to learn everything at once.  Feel free to start with focusing on the things you do by accident first, then once you get a feel for that start focusing in on being able to talk about what others do on accident.

Here are a few websites you can look at for more examples of how to talk about accidental actions in Spanish:

Se with unintentional events

Spanish Reflexive Pronoun Se with Unplanned Occurrences

Obviously a key part of talking about accidental actions in Spanish is verb conjugations.  Conjugating verbs may seem intimidating, but it's really not that hard.  In fact, here's a great website with some very helpful conjugation charts.  This is a great site when you want to quickly look up the conjugations of a verb.  There's even a blank template so you can practice.

Fred F Jehle - Spanish Verb Forms

If you want to practice conjugating verbs then I have another recommendation, The Spaleon Verb Conjugation Trainer.  Although I don't use it anymore, it's still a kick-ass site.  You can select the verbs and the tense you want to practice, and they even have pre-selected sets of verbs (Basic, Regular, Irregular, Traveling and Learning) to make your practice easier.

I didn't use any other online verb conjugation trainers, but if Spaleon doesn't work for you just do a search in Google on verb conjugation trainers and you'll find plenty of other options.

Both of the sites I mentioned above are great, but there's no doubt in my mind that the the Verbarrator is the most effective verb conjugation tool available. You have to see it for yourself, it's a great tool.  I did a review of it and you can read the Verbarrator review here.  OK, it's not so much a review as it is a close up look at the product.  Think of it as a product tour.

With the three options I mentioned above for verb conjugations you have more than enough to become a super whiz at conjugating Spanish verbs.  But if you want more help with mastering how to talk about accidental actions in Spanish, read on.

A more interactive tool to help you nail down how to talk about accidental actions in Spanish is Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 3.  It does a good job of covering this topic.  The course comes with over 30 lessons with each lesson being at least 25 minutes.  It devotes 2 and a half lessons (almost an hour) towards helping you learn how to use se to talk about accidental actions.  That's how I learned, so I know it works.

That's it for today.  I hope I was able to help you get a handle on talking about accidental actions in Spanish.

¡Hasta la  próxima!