Tag: Spanish grammar

Los usos de “se”

‘SE’ is one of those tricky words in Spanish that can drive non-native speakers nuts. Let’s take a look at the main uses of ‘se’ with examples from the Nuestra Cultura’s article “La Tomatina de Buñol”.

1. “SE” impersonal:

It works as a marker for impersonal statements when we don’t want to mention the subject of the action. Used in guidelines, instructions, advice, etc.

  • Se aconseja llevar zapatillas cerradas, gafas de bucear y, por supuesto, ropa vieja.
  • Make sure to bring sneakers, goggles, and –of course- old clothes.

2. “SE” sustituto de le/les (also known as “falso se” / “fake se”):

If the indirect object pronoun le/les is followed by the direct object pronoun lo/la/los/las, then we must replace le/les for “se”.

  • El hombre se los lanzó a los revoltosos jóvenes.
  • The man threw it to the rambunctious young men.

3. “SE” pronombre reflexivo:

In this case, SE substitutes a noun or noun phrase which coincides with the subject of the sentence. It is often followed by “a sí mismo”.

  • El día de la batalla campal los participantes se levantan muy temprano.
  • The day of the battle the participants get up very early.

4. “SE” pronombre recíproco:

It is used to indicate that two or more people are doing something to one another.

  • Los participantes se tiran tomates (entre ellos).
  • The participants throw tomatoes at each other.

5. “SE” morfema pronominal:

In this case, the pronoun is part of the verb’s lexical unit and it plays no individual syntactic role. Depending on the person used, it is replaced by me, te, nos, os.

  • Hasta que en 1957 se convirtió en fiesta de manera oficial.
  • Until 1957 when it became an official celebration.

6. “SE” pasivo reflejo:

It is used to indicate that the subject is not the person carrying out the action, but rather the one affected by it. It is a variant of the passive voice.

  • Se prohibió la Tomatina de Buñol en varias ocasiones.
  • The Buñol Tomatina was banned on several occasions.
Share with your friends


Faltar y Hacer falta

The expressions faltar and hacer falta are related in meaning since both indicate the absence of something (an action or a thing); however, their uses are quite different in Spanish. Let’s take a look:


(a) One of the main uses of faltar is to indicate the absence of something. In this sense, faltar simply means “there isn’t / there aren’t”:

  • No faltaron voces que denunciaran la manipulación de los resultados por el dictador. There wasn’t a shortage of voices to denounce the dictator’s manipulation of the results.

(b) When combined with time markers, faltar can also be used to point out the proximity of an event:

  • Faltando pocos días para su inicio, las olimpiadas de Beijing representan una ocasión de festejo para todos los deportes. A few days shy of their opening, the Beijing Olimpics represent a cause for celebration for all sports.

(c) Faltar can also be used as an equivalent for “not to attend” or “not to appear”:

  • El jugador faltó a la práctica. The player didn’t show up for practice.



The expression hace falta is always used to indicate a need. It can either be:

(a) The need for a certain action to take place:

  1. No hace falta decir que el equipo que marque más goles durante el partido resulta ganador. It’s not necessary to state that the team that scores more goals during the match will be the winner.

(b) Or, the need for an object, thing, or person:

Dado este auge mundial, hacía falta un organismo central que coordinara el deporte en el plano internacional. Due to this world-wide growth, it was necessary to create a central organization to coordinate sport at global level.

Share with your friends


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.
Share with your friends


¿Muy o Mucho?

Let’s take a look at their differences:


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 (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.

Share with your friends


Say NO to translation

Removing the translation component from your language studies and habits is crucial to gaining proficiently in any language. Word-to-word translations from one language to another prohibit a truly stream-of-consciousness thought process that allows for seamless communication between individuals and groups. Switching back and forth between two languages isn’t necessarily the most productive thing to do when you’re learning a new language, as you are simply translating and at the core still utilizing your native language. Some students develop this translation habit and have a very hard time kicking it. Here are some basic reasons why you should stop translating from English to Spanish or vice versa.

  • Translating consumes almost all your brain power and there is very little energy left for actual language learning.
  • The translated word is put in temporary memory not in long term memory. Next time you want to use it, it’s gone or misplaced somewhere in your gringo brain. Word retrieval becomes a painful experience!
  • Translation makes listening comprehension almost impossible. Please, put down your Duolingo program and try to infer the meaning of words from the context.
  • Translating word-to-word hinders the natural communication process. You sound robotic, disengaged and repetitive.
  • Translating turns you into an “ask-hole”! You’ll be constantly interrupting the person you’re speaking with for the meaning of the word in your native language.

That said, here are some practices we suggest you incorporate into your routine immediately!

Start acquiring new vocabulary without the interference of your native tongue. Make your first language a tool, not a means to learn new words. A simple way to do this is by creating flashcards using Spanish text on one side and images that illustrate the text on the other. There’re many applications that allow you to do this. This method is so effective because you’re essentially cutting out the middle man. After your brain learns a new word it recalls it as an image, not a group of letters needing to be processed. Studying this way feels effortless compared to the old-fashioned way, as you’re able to recall words much faster in much less time. This recall process will help your listening skills and eventually will have an impact on your speaking skills.

Another problem to tackle is that of translation and grammar, an exercise akin to sticking a square peg into a round hole.  Some students get very hung up in this area, twisting and turning word order and sentence structure as they stutter and hesitate through conversations. A great way to move away from this practice is to study and absorb intuitively the basic constructions of grammar and then move directly to applying it to the language itself. Make the target language (Spanish in this case) a more essential part of your life! If you’re studying Spanish, you might want to try getting your news from Spanish outlets, reading newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. all in Spanish, or simply listening to Spanish music just for fun. Repeated exposure to real-world applications of these concepts will allow you to let go of the word ordering, after all, the idea that you’re trying to express is much more important than the order of the words. And by the way, Spanish-native speakers have a huge tolerance for grammar mistakes but not so much for phonetic mistakes. So concentrate on how you pronounce words, not on the grammar structure.

Don’t expect to be perfect! Vocabulary, grammar, exceptions to the rules and cultural idiosyncrasies are so vast that you’re going to make a ton of mistakes. Embrace them and stop feeling embarrassed! Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and become a better language learner. Don’t be that person in your Spanish class making the same mistakes over and over again, the last thing you want is to be labeled a “perpetual beginner” in the minds of your teachers and peers!

Share with your friends


¿Más de o Más que?

Más que


Click here to learn more about making comparisons with “más que”.

Share with your friends


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.
Share with your friends


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.
Share with your friends


¿”Asimismo” or “Así mismo”?

Asimismo, Así mismo, A sí mismo

Click here to learn more about their differences.

Share with your friends


How do I say “Have a good time”en español?

Pasarlo bien


Click here to learn more about Pasar(lo) bien.
Share with your friends