Tag: Grammar Bites

El foco y la foca

Is el foco the masculine of the word la foca? No quite so!

El foco has several meanings including the commonly-used word light bulb:

  • El baño está oscuro porque se quemó el foco. The bathroom is dark because the light bulb is burned out.

La foca means seal:

  • Las focas son animales mamíferos. Seals are mammals.

Other translations of el foco:

  • El foco de la investigación fue el lavado de dinero. The focal point of the investigation was the money laundering.
  • Times Square es un gran foco turístico. Times Square is an important touristic epicenter.
  • El actor debe estar debajo del foco durante su monólogo. The actor must be underneath the spotlight during his monologue.

By the way, the masculine for la foca is el foca, and remember that ‘focus’ is a false friend. The Spanish word for “focus” is “atención” or “concentratión”.

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Principales usos de “por”

Let’s take a look at some of the main uses of the preposition “por”, using examples from the Nuestra Cultura’ s article “Machu Picchu, la ciudad de los incas”.

1. Por + something/someone:  It is used to indicate what or who causes a certain mental state or attitude:

  • Los científicos están fascinados por sus misterios. Scientists are fascinated by their mysteries.

2. Por + cause: It indicates the cause or reason of something:

  • Por estos motivos y muchos más, Machu Picchu es uno de los destinos turísticos más importantes del mundo. For these reasons and more, Machu Picchu is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world.

3. Por + date: It marks the approximate time of an event:

  • Pachacútec, el primer emperador inca, lideró a su gente por el año 1450Pachacútec, the first Inca Emperor, lead his people around the year 1450.

4. Por + purpose: It indicates the purpose or objective behind an action:

  • Ya sea por amor a la historia, o por amor a lo exótico, todo fanático de los viajes debe conocer este increíble lugar. Whether for a love of history or a love for exotic places, any travel enthusiast has to get to know this incredible place.

5. Por + place: It is used to indicate the distance or route through which something or someone passes:

  • Las áreas religiosas más importantes están situadas en la cima de la montaña, por donde asoma el Rey Sol. The most important religious areas are located at the summit of the mountain through which the King Sun appears.

6. Por + person: It marks the agent or doer of the action in the passive voice structure:

  • Las ruinas de Machu Picchu fueron redescubiertas en 1911 por el arqueólogo Hiram Bingham. The Machu Picchu ruins were rediscovered in 1911 by the archaeologist Hiram Bingham.
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¿Muy o Mucho?

Let’s take a look at their differences:

MUY: 

Muy is an adverb, so it never changes. It is placed before adjectives, participles, adverbs and nouns (that act like adjectives).  Muy can be translated as very, too, highly, etc, and is used to add a superlative degree of significance:

  • Muy tarde. Too late.
  • Muy rápido. Very fast.
  • Muy estrecho. Too tight.
  • El sur de España es muy cálido. The South of Spain is very warm.

MUCHO:

Mucho (much, many, great) may act as an adjective, pronoun or adverb:

a) As an adjective:

  • Hace mucho frío. It’s so cold.
  • Hay muchas personas en el almacén. There are many people in the store.

b) As a pronoun:

  • Hay muchas. There are many/a lot.

c) As an adverb:

  • Me gusta mucho este vestido. I like this dress a lot.

So, we can use mucho, mucha,muchos, muchas before a noun, or mucho after a verb.

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¿Tienes confianza o confidencia?

How do we say “confidence” in Spanish? Is it “confianza” or “confidencia”?

Well, it depends on what we mean to say; both words have very different meanings. Let’s take a look:

 

Confianza: We use this word to talk about our trust or belief in ourselves or someone else, or to describe someone who is self-assured and secure in what they are saying:

  • Cada día ella tiene más confianza en su español. Every day she has more confidence in her Spanish skills.
  • Ellos tienen confianza en que la economía mejorará pronto. They have confidence in the fact that the economy will improve soon.
  • Siempre habla con mucha confianza; es un gran orador. He always expresses himself with great confidence; he’s a great speaker.

 

Confidencia: In the other hand, we use this term to talk about secrets or confidential information:

  • Sabía que se casarían porque me lo contó como una confidencia. I knew they were getting married because he told me in confidence.
  • No le hagas confidencias a Miguel; no sabe guardar secretos. Don’t share any confidences with Miguel; he can’t keep secrets.
  • Cuando mi hermana y yo no podemos dormir, nos contamos confidencias. When my sister and I can’t sleep, we exchange confidences. 
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Macho / Hembra

If el gato is a male cat and la gata is a female cat, what would be the word for a male rat since la rata is the word for a female rat. El rato? No quite so!

La rata applies to both the male and female rat:

  • Hoy vi una rata gigantesca en el metro de Nueva York.  Today I saw a giant rat in the New York subway.

 

El rato, on the other hand, refers to a period of time:

  • Llevo un rato esperando mi turno. I’ve been waiting  a while for my turn.

Other expressions with “rato” include:

  • Pasar el rato: to pass the time.
  • A cada rato: all the time, constantly.
  • Al poco rato: later, shortly after.

 

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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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