Saturday, July 19, 2014

¿Qué te pasa?

Today we're going to take a look at the verb pasar, and you can use it to say a lot more than ¿Qué pasa?.

I don't think there are to many people who don't know what ¿Qué pasa? means. It's not the most exciting phrase you can use the verb pasar for, but it is a good place to start.

¿Qué pasa?
What's happening?

This works as a greeting and as a way to find out what's going on.

In fact, you can use pasar to talk about things that happen in general.

Mierda, eso siempre me pasa
Shit, That always happens to me

Por suerte, eso nunca me pasó
Luckily that never happened to me

You can also use pasar to talk about passing or stopping by.

Voy a pasar por tu casa 
I'm going to stop by your house

Pasa por mi oficina por favor
Stop by my office please

El bus pasa por mi casa
The bus passes by my house

Need a ride?

Mi vuelo llega a las 6.  ¿Puedes pasar por mi?
My flight arrives at 6.  Can you pick me up?

You can also use pasar to ask someone what's wrong.

¿Qué te pasa?
What's wrong?

And if  you use the right tone of voice it can also mean:

¿Qué te pasa?
What's wrong with you?

The verb pasar can even come in handy when you're on the phone.

Pásame a tu hermana
Pass me over to your sister

And you can pass more than telephones.

Don't judge me.  And pass the salt.

By the way, pásame should have an accent.

You'll need the verb pasar, or pasarlo bien,  if you want to talk about having a good time.

¿Lo pásate bien?
Did you have a good time?

Que te lo pases bien
Have a good time

Want to invite your guests in?

Come in

I quite often use pasar to find out if a bar or restaurant is showing an event.

¿Va a pasar la pelea?
Are you going to show the fight?

This is a common way to ask someone to send you a link to a web page.

Pásame el link
pass (give) me the link

When someone goes just a tad to far with their words or actions, you can say:

Con este chiste te pasaste
You went to far with that joke

Or simply,

Te pasaste
You went too far

Well, that's it for now.  This should be more than enough to get you off to a good start with the verb pasar.

Here are some related posts I've written involving the verb pasar.

Pasa vs Pasar Por vs Pasarlo bien

¿Me puede pasar corriente?

¿Puedes pasar por mi?

Lastly, here are a couple more things you don't want to miss out on.

You can have all of these handy phrases (and more) at your fingertips no matter where you go if you have an Android phone and the My Spanish Phrasebook app.

Don't forget to follow my other blogs, My Spanish Notes and ¡Que Boquita! No Seas Pelangoche.

And of course, you can join me and lots of other Spanish learners on Facebook in my Estudiantes de Español group.

That's it for today, ¡espero que les sirva!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Spanish phrases every beginner should know

Here is a short list of phrases that every beginning Spanish learner should know.  Let's get to it.

One of the biggest challenges you'll face as a beginner is understanding what's being said to you, because everything sounds like one huge run-on sentence.  You might actually understand what's being said to you if they just didn't talk so fast.  Well, here are a few phrases to help you with that.

¿Puede hablar más despacio por favor?
Can you speak more slowly please?

While that phrase is pretty useful, it is a bit of a mouthful.  You can shorten it to:

Hable más despacio por favor
Speak slower please

You can actually whittle that down even more.

Más despacio por favor
More slowly please

Now that we've asked our Spanish speaking friend to slow down, you may need to ask them to repeat what they said.

¿Me lo puede repetir, por favor?
Can you say that again please?

Repita por favor
Repeat that please?

¿Cómo dijo?
What did you say?

Sadly, sometimes you just can't figure out what's being said.

No entiendo
I don't understand

You may want to follow that one up with:

¿Hay alguien aquí que hable inglés?
Is there anyone hear who speaks English?

Of course, you could start the whole conversation off with:

¿Habla inglés?
Do you speak English?

Who knows, you may get lucky.

Here are a couple of other phrases that might come in handy.

No hablo español muy bien
I don't speak Spanish very well

Todavía estoy aprendiendo español
I'm learning Spanish

¿Puede apuntarlo?
Can you write it down?

You can also combine these phrases. Here are some examples.

No entiendo, ¿puede hablar más despacio por favor?
I don't understand, can you speak more slowly please?

No hablo español muy bien, ¿puede hablar más despacio?
I don't speak Spanish very well, could you speak slower?

No entiendo, ¿habla inglés?
I don't understand, do you speak English?

That's it for today.  I think you'll find these phrases useful.  And if you're concerned that you won't be able to remember them, then check out My Spanish Phrasebook (for Android phones) which has all those phrases and more that you can carry with you where ever you go.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Casi me caigo de culo

Let's start with a translation:

Casi me caigo de culo
I almost fall on my ass

Hmm.  "I almost fall...".  That doesn't sound quite right does it?  At least not in English it doesn't.  The correct English translation would be:

I almost fell on my ass

So what's going on here?  There's a simple explanation for this.

While in English we use the past tense to talk about what we almost did, in Spanish you have to use the present tense.  Don't ask me why, that's just the way it works.

Let's look at some more examples.

Casi me quedo dormido en clase
I almost fell asleep in class

Casi me olvido de tu cumpleaños
I almost forgot about your birthday

Casi rompo la dieta
I almost broke my diet

Casi me muero de la risa
I almost died laughing

Pan comida, ¿verdad?

This bit of Spanish is really straight-forward and easy to integrate into your Spanish toolbox, even if you're a beginner.  The thing I found surprising is I had been learning Spanish for years without knowing or even thinking about how to say something almost happened until I was listening to my copy of Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 3.  It's good stuff, check it out.  One of these days I'll get around to doing a review of it.

Here are some other posts you may find useful:

1.  How to say you forgot something in Spanish
2.  Expressing accidental actions in Spanish
3.  How to say could have in Spanish

I hope you all learned something from this post.  Don't forget to follow this blog on Facebook.

¡Hasta la próxima!

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 and you have 3 minutes to spare, this video says it all.  Heck, you should watch it no matter what, it's just plain funny.

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