Friday, September 14, 2018

The Difference Between "Cuál" and "Qué"

Although "cuál" and "qué" mean roughly the same thing ("what"), they can't be used interchangeably.  

The main difference is that "cuál" also means "which", or "which one", when faced with a selection or a list; however, it means "what" when the verb ser follows.  

"Qué" means an interrogative "what" when asking for a definition of something, or posing a question if the verb ser doesn't follow.  HOWEVER, when you are asking what the definition of a word is, or what an object is that is unknown, you use the interrogative qué.

It might sound complicated, but you'll see a pattern!  Let's look at some examples.

Using cuál, when posing a list or selection: 

¿Cuál prefieres, la camiseta azul o la blanca?  Which do you prefer, the blue shirt or the white?  

Using cuál, when it means "what" (noticed it's followed by the verb ser):

¿Cuál es la capital de Bolivia?  What is the capital of Bolivia? 

Using qué, when asking a question:

¿Qué quieres?  What do you want?

Following qué with ser, when begging the meaning of a word, object, or abstract thought:  

¿Qué es una bodega?  What is a bodega?  


A final note: some advanced Spanish speakers might wonder why the accent falls on the monosyllabic words when they aren't needed according to the rules of Spanish diacritical marks.  Well, they are an exception according to the Real Academia Española, the governing body of the Spanish language throughout the world.  Not only do they distinguish themselves as question starters, they also need to be differentiated from other uses of the aforementioned words.  For example, we use non-accented que in subjunctive clauses: 

Necesito que pongas la mesa.  I need you to set the table.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

La Diferencia Entre "Deber" y "Deber de"

One of the most common mistakes in the usage of Spanish grammar, for not just Spanish language learners but for native speakers as well, is the mistake of using deber instead of deber de, or vice versa.  Hopefully this brief lesson sheds some light on the whole mess for you.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that you have your verb charts handy and/or memorized so you are familiar with the conjugation of this verb (which is regular -er in all tenses and moods).

The difference is that deber + infinitive indicates obligation/necessity to do something, whereas deber de + infinitive indicates a probability of something occurring with a sense of definiteness ("must be", "probably are").  Let's look at some examples.  First, deber + infinitive (which is very similar to tener que + infinitive (to have to)) is constructed like this:

Debo lavar mi carro.  I should/need to/have to/must wash my car.  

Emilia debe pasar la aspiradora.  Emilia should/needs to/has to/must vacuum.  

Tú debes prepararte para la prueba.  You should/need to/have to/must get prepared for the quiz.

Nosotros debemos apagar las luces.  We should/need to/have to/must turn out the lights.

Vosotros debéis manejar a Toluca.  You all should/need to/have to/must drive to Toluca.  

Los empleados deben llegar a tiempo.  The employees should/need to/have to/must arrive on time.  

You'll notice in the aforementioned examples that each use of deber could very easily be replaced by the more common tener que.  The use of deber is slightly more aligned with the meaning of "should" or "ought to", but it still implies a sense of duty or obligation.

Let's now switch gears and check out deber de + infinitive.  This verb structure indicates a sense of probability of something occuring.  While it seems a minor difference with a simple addition of de, it is still a very common mistake for intermediate to advanced Spanish learners, as well as for native speakers alike.  Although the difference seems miniscule, it completely changes the meaning of the sentence.

Debo de saber la diferencia entre los verbos.  I probably/must know the difference between the verbs.

Debes de estar confundido.  You probably are/must be confused.

Juanito debe de estar trabajando.  Juanito is probably/must be working.  

Nosotras debemos de estar locas.  We probably are/must be crazy.  

Tu novia y tú debéis de estar enamorados.  You and your girlfriend probably are/must be in love. 

Ellos deben de estar dormidos.  They probably are/must be asleep.  

So in essence, if we take the verb conocer and apply it to both constructions, we can immediately see the difference in meaning of both utilizations:

Debemos conocer Barcelona.  We should/ought to/must/have to be familiar with Barcelona.

Debemos de conocer Barcelona.  We probably are/must be familiar with Barcelona.  

Ojalá que esta lección te ayudara...

Profesor Joel


Monday, April 10, 2017

Using the Subjunctive - Irregular Present Tense

There are only a couple of verbs that are irregular in the present tense subjunctive.  If you recall, the opposite vowel suffix substitutes for the first person singular suffix from the present tense indicative (namely, the –o).  However, there are a couple of verbs that don’t fit neatly into this process. 

Verbs whose first person singular conjugation end in –y, such as estar (estoy), ser (soy), and dar (doy), all have irregular conjugations:


estar (to be)
Quieren que yo esté en la fiesta.  They want me to be at the party.
Espero que vosotros no estéis en casa.  I hope that you all are not at home.
Ellos desean que estemos en el cine.  They want us to be at the theater.
Necesito que tú estés en la reunion.  I need you to be at the meeting.
No puedo creer que estén aquí Uds.  I can’t believe that you all are here.
ser (to be)
Mi amigo espera que yo sea paciente.  My friend hopes that I am patient.
Necesito que tú seas paciente.  I need you to be patient.
Dicen que seamos amables.  They tell us to be friendly.
Espero que seáis puntuales.  I hope that you all are punctual.
Sugiero que sean simpáticos.  I suggest that you all be nice.
dar (to give)
Necesito que me des el informe.  I need you to give me the report.
Ellos quieren que yo les el informe.  They want me to give them the report.
El profesor pide que le demos nuestros ensayos.  The professor asks us to give him our essays.
Necesito que vosotros me deis vuestros papeles.  I need you all to give me your papers.
Espero que Uds. me den la tarea a tiempo.  I hope you all give me the homework on time.
ir (to go)
Mi madre necesita que yo vaya a la tienda.  My mother needs me to go to the store.
Necesito que tú vayas a la escuela conmigo.  I need you to go to the school with me.
Ella necesita que vayamos a la librería.  She needs us to go to the bookstore.
Prefiero que vosotros vayáis inmediatamente.  I prefer you all go immediately.
Espero que ellos vayan al aeropuerto ahora mismo.  I hope they go to the airport right now.
The verb saber (to know) also exhibits an irregular subjunctive conjugation: 
No creo que él sepa la respuesta.  I don’t believe that he knows the answer.
Necesito que sepas la materia.  I need you to know the subject.
El profesor exige que sepamos las respuestas.  The professor demands that we know the answers.
La maestra espera que sepáis las datos.  The teacher hopes that you all know the facts.
Sugerimos que Uds. sepan escribir bien.  We suggest that you know how to write well.
The verb caber (to fit) is highly irregular (the yo form is quepo):
Espero que la falda me quepa.  I hope that the skirt fits me.
Esperamos que los zapatos te quepan.  We hope that the shoes fit you.
Espero que te quepas en el carro chico.  I hope that you fit in the small car.
Dudo que nos quepamos en ese carro.  I doubt that we’ll fit in that car.
 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Puntos de Partida - Cómo conocer a alguien y empezar la conversación

Hay muchas preguntas que puedes hacer para iniciar una conversación con hispanohablantes.  Acuérdate de que tenemos que tener mucho contacto con el idioma hispano para tener éxito en el aprendizaje de la lengua.  Aquí están unos ejemplos: 

1) ¿De dónde es Ud.?  ¿Dónde nació?

2) ¿Cuales son sus pasatiempos favoritos? 

3) ¿Te gusta el fútbol?  ¿Cuál es su equipo favorito? 

4) ¿Le gusta salir las noches?  ¿A Ud. qué le gusta hacer? 

5) ¿Qué opina de la economía?

Hay otras preguntas básicas que se pueden implementar, pero estas son las más comunes en cualquier idioma.  Date cuenta que utilicé la forma de Ud., pero esto no es necesario.  De hecho, se puede utilizar la forma tuteada si te comuniques con un hablante de misma edad o menor. 

Sigue practicando, 

Joel

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Best Secret to Learning Spanish

How's everybody doing?  Ojala que todo vaya bien en sus estudios del idioma espanol.

Are you having trouble keeping pace with studying Spanish?  Do you feel that "you''ll just never learn, so, why bother keeping up with practicing"? 

Well, the answer is right in front of you.  You have the BEST tool for learning different languages simply because you're a human being.  Since the dawn of time and commerce, humans have exceeded expectations and have adapted to new cultures and languages:  the Carthiginians and the Hebrews were exposed to Egyptian, and "los anglosajones" (the Anglo Saxons, who were more Germanic in their presentation) were exposed to Roman (Latin, or more appropriately, Greco-romanesque) influence. 

Go and buy something at a local Fiesta, or La Michoacana, and just strike up a conversation with a clerk in the produce, "verduras".  It doesn't matter that you're a beginner, or that you're hesitant.  All that MATTERS is that you try.  People of all cultures are the same: they love engaging in conversation.  You might even score a few grammar pointers.  Pretty soon, these pointers will add up and you've be able to converse like a true native.

It's how I learned.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Irregular Verbs in the Present Tense Subjunctive

There are only a couple of verbs that are irregular in the present tense subjunctive.  If you recall, the opposite vowel suffix substitutes for the first person singular suffix from the present tense indicative (namely, the –o).  However, there are a couple of verbs that don’t fit neatly into this process. 

Verbs whose first person singular conjugation end in –y, such as estar (estoy), ser (soy), and dar (doy), all have irregular conjugations:


estar (to be)
Quieren que yo esté en la fiesta.  They want me to be at the party.
Espero que vosotros no estéis en casa.  I hope that you all are not at home.
Ellos desean que estemos en el cine.  They want us to be at the theater.
Necesito que tú estés en la reunion.  I need you to be at the meeting.
No puedo creer que estén aquí Uds.  I can’t believe that you all are here.

ser (to be)
Mi amigo espera que yo sea paciente.  My friend hopes that I am patient.
Necesito que tú seas paciente.  I need you to be patient.
Dicen que seamos amables.  They tell us to be friendly.
Espero que seáis puntuales.  I hope that you all are punctual.
Sugiero que sean simpáticos.  I suggest that you all be nice.

dar (to give)
Necesito que me des el informe.  I need you to give me the report.
Ellos quieren que yo les el informe.  They want me to give them the report.
El profesor pide que le demos nuestros ensayos.  The professor asks us to give him our essays.
Necesito que vosotros me deis vuestros papeles.  I need you all to give me your papers.
Espero que Uds. me den la tarea a tiempo.  I hope you all give me the homework on time.

ir (to go)
Mi madre necesita que yo vaya a la tienda.  My mother needs me to go to the store.
Necesito que tú vayas a la escuela conmigo.  I need you to go to the school with me.
Ella necesita que vayamos a la librería.  She needs us to go to the bookstore.
Prefiero que vosotros vayáis inmediatamente.  I prefer you all go immediately.
Espero que ellos vayan al aeropuerto ahora mismo.  I hope they go to the airport right now.

The verb saber (to know) also exhibits an irregular subjunctive conjugation: 
No creo que él sepa la respuesta.  I don’t believe that he knows the answer.
Necesito que sepas la materia.  I need you to know the subject.
El profesor exige que sepamos las respuestas.  The professor demands that we know the answers.
La maestra espera que sepáis las datos.  The teacher hopes that you all know the facts.
Sugerimos que Uds. sepan escribir bien.  We suggest that you know how to write well.

The verb caber (to fit) is highly irregular (the yo form is quepo):
Espero que la falda me quepa.  I hope that the skirt fits me.
Esperamos que los zapatos te quepan.  We hope that the shoes fit you.
Espero que te quepas en el carro chico.  I hope that you fit in the small car.
Dudo que nos quepamos en ese carro.  I doubt that we’ll fit in that car.

El maestro espera que os quepáis en las sillas.  The teacher hopes you all fit in the chairs.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Accents and other Special Characters
As you have probably noticed, Spanish implements diacritical marks (accents) from time to time.  Written accents ALWAYS fall on a vowel.  The stress of the pronunciation of the word falls where the accent lies. 
Accents are occasionally located over vowels that are part of a diphthong.  If this occurs, then the diphthong pronunciation is broken up and each vocal is sounded out.  Note the following: 

·         el río (pronounced  "ree YOH")
·         el baúl (pronounced "bah OOL" )

Another character that appears regularly in Spanish is the tilde, on the letter ñ.  This letter, pronounced , is found in words such as mañana (tomorrow, morning), and año (year). 

You’ll also rarely encounter the umlaut, which is used to sound out the “ü” when it appears after a “q” or “g”.  Without the umlaut, the “u” is silent.  One word you’ll find with an umlaut is bilingüe (pronounced ).
In exclamation sentences, you’ll find the upside down exclamation point at the beginning of the sentence:

¡Hace buen tiempo!  What great weather! (Literally, It makes good weather!)

With interrogative sentences, you’ll find the upside down question mark:

¿Qué quieres?  What do you want?

Other grammar symbols are the “«” and the “»” quotation marks that take the place of the English quote marks, “ ”.
Here is a chart that shows you all of the ALT codes so you can create them on your computer:
 
Symbol
ALT Code
Á
0193
É
0201
Í
0205
Ó
0211
Ú
0218
Ñ
0209
Ü
0220
á
0225
é
0233
í
0237
ó
0243
ú
0250
ñ
0241
ü
0252
¿
0191
¡
0161
«
0171
»
0187


0128


ALT codes can be created by pressing and holding the ALT button while typing in the corresponding number pad keys, then releasing the ALT button.  Since all keyboards are different, you might have to research your own computer’s owner manual for proper functioning of the ALT codes.  

Search my Blog: