Category: Grammar Bites

“Creo que” Vs. “No creo que”

“Creo que…” and “no creo que..” are used to express our opinion or certainty regarding an idea or given fact. In this sense, they correspond to the English structures “I believe /think that…” and “I don’t believe/think that…”

When using these structures, the main verb (verbo de opinión) can be conjugated in the indicative or subjunctive mood, respectively, depending if the sentence is positive or negative.


Here you will find a practical explanation of this phenomenon:

1) We use the indicative when the verb is affirmative (Creo que…):

These expressions show that the speaker is confident in their opinions:

  • Creo que Joaquín Sorolla es el pintor que mejor captó la vida y la luz de las costas del Mediterráneo. I think that Joaquín Sorolla is the painter that best captured the life and the light of the Mediterranean shoreline.
  • Archer Huntington creyó que Sorolla tenía un gran talento y por eso lo introdujo al mercado estadounidense. Archer Huntington believed that Sorolla had great talent and that is why he introduced to the American market.


2) We use the subjunctive when the verb is negative (No creo que…):

These expressions show that the speaker is not completely confident in the opinion they are stating:

  • Él no creyó que la exhibición de Sorolla haya sido tan magnifica como todos decían. He didn’t think that the Sorolla exhibit was as magnificent as everyone claimed.
  • Ellos no creyeron que fuera necesario hacer cola para ver los murales el día de la inauguración. They didn’t believe it was necessary to wait in line to check out the murals on opening day.


There are other verbs similar to creer which are used to express opinions:

  • Pensar que
  • Parecer que
  • Opinar que
  • Suponer que
  • Saber que
  • Ser cierto que
  • Ser verdad que
  • Considerar que

Just like with creer que, these verbs are followed by the indicative mood if the phrase is positive, and by the subjunctive mood if the phrase is negative.

  • Es cierto que “Visión de España” fue todo un éxito; más de 160,000 personas visitaron la exhibición en un mes. It is true that “Visión de España” was a success; over 160.000 visited the exhibition in a month.
  • No considero que sus obras de crítica social sean tan buenas como sus trabajos posteriores. I don’t feel as if his social commentary works were as good as his subsequent works.
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When do I use “saber” and “conocer”?

If both “saber” and “conocer” can be translated as “to know”, can I use them interchangeably? No, we can’t; both verbs express two kinds of knowledge.


Generally, we use “saber” to talk about a more intellectual knowledge; in order to know something or someone we have to read, listen, watch, study, learn, memorize, etc.

  • Julio sabe todas las capitales de los países. Julio knows the capitals of all the countries. (He studied them at school.)
  • Yo español porque aprendí cuando era niña. I know Spanish because I learned when I was a child.
  • ¿Sabes quiénes serán los candidatos para las próximas elecciones? Do you know who will be the candidates for the next elections? (Have you heard who will be running?)


On the other hand, we use “conocer” to talk about a more hands-on knowledge of people, places, and/or things; in order to know something or someone we have to meet, visit, observe, touch, experience, etc.

  • conoces algunos países de Centroamérica. You know some countries in Central America. (You’ve visited them.)
  • Sarah conoce todos los museos de la ciudad. Sarah knows all the museums in town. (She’s been to all of them.)
  • ¿Conoces a la nueva profesora de español? Do you know the new Spanish teacher? (Have you met her?)


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“Severe” doesn’t mean “severo”

When you first see or hear the Spanish word “severo” you immediately think to yourself “oh, it must mean “severe”! They are spelled and pronounced almost identically.” Well, in fact that’s where the similarities stop; their meanings are quite different.

“Severo” is an adjective that we use to describe the personality of someone who is strict, stern, harsh; or to describe a stringent set of guidelines or laws.

  • Sus padres son muy severos; los niños están castigados a menudo. Their parents are very strict; the kids are grounded often.
  • Por los casos recientes de violencia escolar, el director estableció reglas mucho más severas para los estudiantes. Due to the recent cases of school violence, the principal has enforced more stringent rules for the students.

To convey the same meanings of “severe” we have more suitable terms such as:  “grave” (to talk about medical issues and situations); “serio” or “sobrio” (to talk about someone’s appearance or personality); or “duro”, “difícil”, “extremo” (to talk about weather conditions).

  • Su condición todavía es muy grave, pero los médicos son optimistas. His condition is still pretty severe, but the doctors are optmistic.
  • Su apariencia es siempre muy seria, pero en realidad es una persona muy agradable y divertida. Her exterior is always very severe, but actually, she is a very nice and fun person.
  • Las condiciones climáticas del último año fueron muy duras. The weather conditions this past year were very severe.
  • Acaban de emitir una alerta de tormentas intensas y recomiendan que las personas permanezcan bajo techo. They’ve just issued a severe thunderstorm alert and they recommend that people remain indoors.

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Are “actual / actually” and “actual / actualmente” the same?

Are “actual” (in English) and “actual” (in Spanish) the same thing? How about “actually” and “actualmente”?

No, they are quite different. Let’s take a look at each pair:

The word “actual” in Spanish means “current”, “present”, “contemporary”.

  • Las condiciones climáticas actuales no son favorables; creo que debemos cancelar la feria. The present weather conditions are not favorable; I think we need to cancel the fair.
  • El actual diseño del nuevo museo atrae a muchos visitantes. The contemporary design of the new museum attracts many visitors.
  • La dueña actual quiere vender la casa pronto. The current owner wants to sell the house quickly.

When we want to convey the meaning of the English term “actual”, we use “real”, “verdadero”, “exacto”, “propiamente dicho”.

  • Todavía no se conocen los números exactos. The actual numbers are still unknown.
  • La dueña real está viajando por el extranjero; él solo está cuidando la casa. The actual owner is travelling abroad; he is just housesitting.
  • Este semestre vamos a estudiar casos verdaderos. This semester we are going to study actual cases.

The same happens with the popular English adverb “actually”. In Spanish, we express its meaning with words and phrases such as: “en realidad”, “de hecho”, “exactamente”; while the Spanish adverb “actualmente” conveys the idea of “currently”, “nowadays”, “at the moment”.

  • En realidad todavía no los hemos visto; recién hemos llegado. Actually we haven’t seen them yet; we’ve just arrived.
  • De hecho, los crímenes han bajado con la nueva ley. Actually, crimes have gone down with the new law.
  • Actualmente vivimos en un mundo muy tecnológico. Nowadays we live in a highly technological world.
  • Ella no se encuentra actualmente, ¿quiere dejar un mensaje? She is not here at the moment, do you want to leave a message?
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Adjectives: before or after the noun?

Do you ever wonder where do adjectives go en español? Before or after nouns?

Traditionally in Spanish adjectives go after nouns (the opposite of English); particularly when these adjectives are used to qualify or describe the attributes of that noun:

  • Mi casa es grande y luminosa. My house is big and bright.
  • El día está gris y frío. The day is gray and cold.
  • Los tres hermanos son altos y morenos. The three brothers are tall and dark-haired.


However there are some exceptions; when adjectives are used to identify a noun (demonstratives, possessives, numerals, indefinite, etc) they usually go before it:

  • Esta casa es de mi abuela. This house belongs to my grandmother.
  • Aquel auto es muy rápido. That car is very fast.
  • Mi casa es grande y luminosa. My house is big and bright.
  • ¿Tu hermano se casa el sábado, no? Your brother is getting married on Saturday, right?
  • Los tres hermanos son altos y morenosThe three brothers are tall and dark-haired.
  • Mañana es el primer día de clases. Tomorrow is the first day of school.
  • Algunos días llego muy tarde a casa después de trabajar. Some days I get home from working really late.
  • Hace varias semanas que no hablamos por teléfono. It’s been a few weeks since we last talked on the phone.


Another exception is when we place a qualifying adjective before the noun in order to emphasize its attributes:

  • Las tradicionales fiestas de Carnaval. (The emphasis is on the traditional aspect.)
  • Bebimos una refrescante limonada. (The emphasis is on how refreshing the drink is.)
  • Están muy cansados después de un largo viaje. (The emphasis is on how long the trip was.)

Note that placing the adjective before the noun can sometimes cause a change of meaning:

  • Mi viejo amigo. (We’ve been friends for a long time.)
  • Mi amigo viejo. (My friend is old.)
  • Es un gran hombre. (He is a great man.)
  • En un hombre grande. (He is a large man.)
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La posición del adjetivo

All languages have different tools to emphasize or reinforce the message they are trying to get across. One of the most popular tools in Spanish is to place the adjective before the noun. This grammatical resource is frequently used in literary discourse (especially poetry), but it is also very popular in the advertising world to highlight the qualities of the products being sold.

When we reverse the traditional noun + adjective order of Spanish grammar by placing the adjective before the noun, we attract the listener/reader attention to that quality, thus emphasizing it.

  • Además de sus conocidísimas pinturas, Goya realizó magníficos dibujos y series de grabados. In addition to his world-renowned paintings, Goya created magnificent drawings and series of prints.
  • De estos últimos años son sus célebres Pinturas Negras, como “Saturno devorando a sus hijos” o los grabados “Los desastres de la guerra”. His famous Black Paintings, such as “Saturno devorando a sus hijos” or the set of aquatint prints  “Los desastres de la guerra”, date from these last years.
  • La estrecha relación que mantuvieron el pintor y la Duquesa de Alba fue uno de los escándalos más jugosos de la historia española. The close relationship between the painter and the Duchess of Alba was one of the juiciest scandals in Spanish history.
  • Su privilegiada posición en la corte hizo que Goya pudiera tener contacto directo con la aristocracia española. His privileged position in the court allowed Goya to have direct contact with the Spanish aristocracy.

Note that placing the adjective before the noun can sometimes cause a change of meaning:

  • Vendí mi viejo coche. (The adjective has a more positive connotation. I feel nostalgic about selling a car I had for so many years.)
  • Vendí mi coche viejo. (The adjective has a rather negative connotation. The car is old, and I want to get rid of it.) 
  • Mi viejo amigo. (We’ve been friends for a long time.)
  • Mi amigo viejo. (My friend is old.)
  • Es un gran hombre. (He is a great man.)
  • En un hombre grande. (He is a large man.)
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What is the difference between “a qué hora” & “cuándo”?

Is there a difference between “a qué hora” and “cuándo”? Can we use them as synonyms? Although both are used to talk about the time, they have distinct uses:

Use of “¿A qué hora?”

We use this phrase to ask the specific time an action starts or finishes:

  • – ¿A qué hora comienza la película? – What time does the movie start?
    – La película comienza a las 5pm. – The movie starts at 5pm.
  • – ¿A qué hora fue la reunión? – What time was the meeting?
    – La reunión fue a las 10am. – The meeting was at 10am.


Use of “cuándo”

“¿Cuándo?” is an interrogative pronoun used to inquiry about dates (days, months, years):

  • – ¿Cuándo termina el contrato de trabajo? – When does that the work contract ends?
    – El contrato termina la próxima semana. – The contract ends next week.
  • – ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? – When is your birthday?
    – Mi cumpleaños es el 23 de mayo. – My birthday is on May 23th.
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Are “por qué” and “porque” the same?

Have trouble telling apart “¿por qué?” and  “porque”? No hay problema!


“¿Por qué?” and “porque” may be closely related in meaning, but they are not interchangeable. Let’s take a closer look to their specific uses:


Uses of  ¿por qué?:

1. It is used to ask questions:

  • ¿Por qué estudias español? Why do you study Spanish?
  • ¿Por qué te gusta viajar? Why do you like to travel?

2. Sometimes it is used in statements that form an indirect question:

  • Dime por qué las noches son tan largas. Tell me why the nights are so long.
  • Quiero saber por qué no me llamaste. I want to know why you didn’t call me.


Uses of porque:

1. It is used to answer questions, especially those asked using “¿por qué?”:

  • – ¿Por qué no me llamaste? – Porque era muy tarde.

             – Why didn’t you call? – Because it was too late.

  • – ¿Por qué no vienes al cine con nosotros? – Porque tengo que estudiar.

             – Why don’t you come to the movies with us? – Because I have to study.

2. It is used to explain the reason or cause of something:

  • Él no viene porque está cansado. He’s not coming because he is tired.
  • Mi hermana está feliz porque hoy empiezan sus vacaciones. My sister is happy because her vacations start today.
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What is the difference between “acordarse” and “recordar”?

Do you know the difference between “acordarse” and “recordar”? It’s easier than it sounds!


The main difference is their structure:

Acordarse means to remember something. We always use it with a pronoun and it is generally followed by the preposition “de”.

  • No me acuerdo. I don’t remember.
  • ¿Te acuerdas de la primera vez que visitamos México? Do you remember the first time we visited Mexico.
  • Siempre se acuerda de todos los cumpleaños. She always remembers everyone’s birthdays.


On the other hand, recordar means to recall or to remind. This verb does not need a pronoun, and it isn’t followed by a specific preposition:

  • Recuerda llamarlo esta noche. Remember to call him tonight.
  • ¿No te recuerda a alguien? Doesn’t she remind you of someone?
  • No recuerdo la última vez que hablamos por teléfono. I can’t recall the last time we spoke on the phone.
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Are “atender” and “asistir” the Spanish equivalents of “to attend”?

Are “atender” and “asistir” the Spanish equivalents of “to attend”? Are they synonyms?  Not exactly; let’s take a look at each of them:


1) The Spanish equivalent of “to attend” is “asistir”.

  • Ellos asisten a clases todos los días. They attend classes everyday.
  • Viajó a NY para asistir a una conferencia. He traveled to NY to attend a conference.
  • Mary está enferma y no puede asistir a la fiesta. Mary is sick and she can’t attend the party.


2) On the other hand, “atender” is what we call a “false friend”: it looks and sounds like “to attend”, but it has a different meaning. Atender can mean various things, such as:

a) to pay attention:

  • Pedro no atiende en clase, por eso le va mal en los exámenes. Pedro doesn’t pay attention in class, that’s why he does poorly in his exams.

b) to take care of something or someone:

  • Juan se encargó de atender la tienda, mientras sus padres estaban de vacaciones. Juan took care of the store while his parents were on vacation.

c) to consider someone’s wishes or advices:

  • Si atiendes mis consejos, te irá mejor la próxima vez. If you listen to my advice, you’ll do better next time.
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