Category: Grammar Bites

Should I say ‘cambiar de mente’ or ‘cambiar de idea’?

Always say “cambiar de idea” o “cambiar de opinion”.

When we talk about altering one’s opinions or decisions, the correct equivalents are “cambiar de idea” and “cambiar de opinión”.

“Cambiar de mente” is a literal translation from the English expression “to change one’s mind” that would only make sense in Spanish if we were talking about a brain transplant.

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Are “aggressive” and “agresivo” the same?

“Aggressive means agresivo, right?” Well, yes and no.

When we use this adjective to describe a violent situation or someone who is hostile and always ready to pick a fight or an argument, agresivo is the correct equivalent.

  • Su comportamiento reciente es muy agresivo; sus padres están preocupados por él. His recent behavior has been very aggressive; his parents are very concerned about him.
  • Durante una discusión agresiva siempre se dicen cosas de las que uno se arrepiente más tarde. During an aggressive discussion people always say things that they regret later.


However, we often use the word “aggressive” to convey the idea of vigorous, energetic, forceful, or assertive, we need Spanish adjectives such as emprendedor, energético, activo, dinámico.

  • El equipo tiene una defensa muy enérgetica. The team has a very aggressive defense.
  • La nueva vendedora es muy activa; sus jefes están muy contentos con su trabajo. The new saleswoman is very aggressive; her employers are very happy with their work.
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What is the difference between “sentir” and “sentirse”?

When we talk about these verbs the difference is not really in their meaning, but in their structure.

Sentir + nouns: we use it to express feelings and sensations. It answers the question: ¿Qué sientes? (What are you feeling?)

  • Siento una gran felicidad por la graduación de mi hijo. I feel great joy over my son’s graduation.
  • Todos sienten hambre ya que no han comido durante todo el día. Everyone feels hungry since they haven’t eaten all day.


Sentirse + adjectives/adverbs: we use to describe the way someone feels. It answers the question: ¿Cómo te sientes? (How do you feel?)

  • Me siento feliz por la graduación de mi hijo. I feel happy over my son’s graduation.
  • Todos se sienten hambrientos ya que no han comido durante todo el día. Everyone is feeling hungry because they haven’t eaten all day.
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Is there a difference between “ir” and “irse”?

Does adding the pronoun “se” to the verb “ir” changes its meaning in any way?  


Yes, the pronoun “se” makes a big difference.

“Ir a” means going or moving from one place to the other.

  • Ellos van al supermercado todos los sábados. They go to the supermarket every Saturday.
  • Ustedes fueron al cine ayer. They went to the movies yesterday.
  • Cuando el clima está agradable voy al trabajo caminando. When the weather is nice I walk to work.


“Irse de” means leaving a place, permanent or temporally. It is sometimes used with the connotation of abandoning a place.

  • Ellos se fueron del pueblo porque sólo estaban de vacaciones. They left town because they were only on vacations.
  • te fuiste de la fiesta por cuanto no te gustó. You left the party because you didn’t like it.
  • Su hija se fue a la universidad. Their daughter left for college.
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When should I use the indicative or the subjunctive?

When should we use the indicative or the subjunctive? Do they follow certain phrases or verbs?

Let’s take a look at some general uses of the indicative and the subjunctive:

We use the indicative to talk about actions, events, states which are believed to be facts or true. It is a rather objective mood. On the other hand, we use the subjunctive mood to talk about wishes, emotions, doubts, and hypothetical situations. It is a rather subjective mood.


a) Facts vs hopes and doubts:

[row][one-third]Él está triste. (He is sad.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Dudo que esté triste. (I doubt he is sad.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Ella estudia español. (She studies Spanish.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Ojalá que estudie español. (I hope she studies Spanish.)[/two-thirds][/row]


b) Verbs of opinion: if our statement is affirmative, we use the indicative; if it’s negative, we use the subjunctive. (Click here to learn more about this  use.):

[row][one-third]Creo que la película es interesante. (I think the movie is interesting.)[/one-third][two-thirds]No creo que la película sea interesante. (I don’t think the movie is interesting.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Me parece que tenemos tiempo suficiente. (I think we have enough time.)[/one-third][two-thirds]No me parece que tengamos tiempo suficiente. (I don’t think we will have enough time.)[/two-thirds][/row]


c) After “cuando”, “mientras”, “hasta que”, “tan pronto como”: we use the indicative when the action has taken place already or it happens regularly; we use the subjunctive when the action has not taken place yet:

[row][one-third]Nos gusta dormir la siesta cuando llueve. (We like to nap when it rains.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Me gustaría dormir la siesta cuando llueva. (I would like to nap when it rains.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Vemos las noticias mientras comemos. (We watch the news while we eat.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Veremos las noticias mientras comamos. (We will watch the news while we eat.)[/two-thirds][/row]


d) Descriptions: we use the indicative to talk about specific people or things, and we use the subjunctive to talk them in general terms.

[row][one-third]Llama al profesor que sabe español. (Call the teacher who knows Spanish.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Llama a un profesor que sepa español. (Call any teacher who knows Spanish.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Nuestra casa tiene vista al mar. (Our house has an ocean view.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Queremos una casa que tenga vista al mar. (We want a house that has an ocean view.)[/two-thirds][/row]

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“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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