Saturday, July 31, 2010

Simple Word Formation - Creating Nouns from Verbs

Spanish has an interesting way of creating some nouns from verbs. If you recall, a lot of nouns in the Spanish language end in either -o or -a, and are mainly masculine or feminine, respectively. You can actually take a lot of Spanish verbs and turn them into nouns ending in -o or -a, by conjugating the verb into the first or third person singular. You must memorize which way to convert these verbs to nouns.

For example, take the verb aumentar - to increase. Conjugating it into the first person singular, we can now turn it into a noun:

el aumento the increase

Other common verbs that are turned into nouns using the first person or third person singular are:

esperar la espera - waiting, as in "waiting" room

charlar la charla - chat, as in "let's have a chat"

ayudar la ayuda - help, as in "I need help."

volar el vuelo - flight, as in "When's the flight?"

regresar el regreso - return, as in "Upon her return..."

fracasar el fracaso - failure, as in "failure to communicate"

encontrar el encuentro - the meeting/match, as in "the match was well played"

gastar el gasto - the expense, as in "household expense"

One verb that reflects a minor phonetic change is the verb practicar, which carries an accent on the first syllable when changed into a noun:

practicar la práctica - practice, as in "Practice is at 2PM."

Forming nouns out of verbs is one of the key steps in establishing an understanding of the Spanish language. If it's a verb that doesn't appear on the list above, and you try to make a noun out of it, you'll find out from a Spanish speaker the correct word you're trying to get across. If anything, at least you tried!

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Irregular -ar Verbs

As opposed to the regular verb conjugations, we also have verb conjugations that are irregular. Let's look at -ar verbs and their irregularities, which are fewer existent than their -er and -ir counterparts.

First, let's revisit an example of a regular verb: the verb hablar. This verb has a regular format of conjugation:

Yo hablo. I speak.

Tú hablas. You speak.

Ud. habla. You(formal) speak.

Nosotros hablamos. We speak.

Vosotros habláis. You(familiar) speak.

Ellos hablan. They speak.

Now, let's look at an irregular verb. The verb becomes irregular because there is a stem-change involved in the root when it is conjugated. The first verb to review is the verb jugar - to play. Jugar has a stem change of (u--->ue), which means when conjugating, the vocal u changes to a ue. Only the nosotros and vosotros forms do not exhibit this change.

The conjugation with the new stem is as follows:

yo juego I play

tú juegas you play

él juega he plays

nosotros jugamos we play

vosotros jugáis you all play

ellos juegan they play

As far as -ar verbs go, the (u--->ue) stem change is unique to the verb jugar, so you won't see anymore of those.

Another unusual stem change is in the verb acertar - to guess right. The root change formula is (e--->ie), which is one of the more common irregularities. Following the same procedure for the verb above, replace every e with ie, except in the nosotros and vosotros conjugations.

yo acierto I guess right

tú aciertas you guess right

ella acierta she guesses right

nosotros acertamos we guess right

vosotros acertáis you(plural) guess right

ellos aciertan they guess right

Other -ar verbs that have a (e--->ie) stem change are pensar - to think, apretar - to squeeze, empezar - to begin, confesar - to confess, governar - to govern, cerrar - to close, and atravesar - to cross.

One other stem change to look out for in -ar verbs is (o--->ue), which is found in verbs like encontrar - to find and almorzar - to eat lunch.

How do you know if a verb is going to exhibit an irregular stem change, asks a confused Spanish student? Well, the simple answer is by experience. It takes years to master fluency in Spanish, and as time goes on you'll be able to recall verbs that carry with them the above-mentioned stem changes. However, in certain Spanish-English dictionaries, they will also accompany the translation with the stem change formula as a guide for you.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Future Tense (Regular Verbs)

The future tense is pretty self explanatory. It depicts an action that will occur in the, well, future. The vast majority of Spanish learners start out with the ir + a + infinitive to indicate "going to" do something. Notice the following example:

Voy a trabajar mañana. I'm going to work tomorrow.

It's really that simple; however, as you progress in the Spanish speaking world, you will discover that there is an additional tense used to convey future actions. It's really quite easy to implement also. The future tense uses a set of standard suffixes that are affixed to the infinitive of the verb. Whether or not the verb is -ar, -er, or -ir means nothing. Using the verb hablar, let's conjugate it in the future:

hablaré I will talk

hablarás you will talk

hablará he/she/it will talk

hablaremos we will talk

hablaréis you (plural) will talk

hablarán they will talk

Notice that there is a spoken and written accent on the last syllable, which is very crucial not to omit. Other than that stipulation, the endings will not change, which will make it easier for you to learn.

Some notes about the future tense: the future tense is generally NOT employed when we have included a time and date in the sentence. In this case, we will just revert to the present tense in these scenarios. For example, if there is a party this Friday in which I plan to attend, I can say the following:

Este viernes asisto a tu fiesta. This Friday I will attend your party.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

There is/There Are - Using the Verb Haber

To state that there is something, or that there are some things, you are going to use the present tense manifestation of the verb haber. Haber is unusual in that, when used in a simple, indicative sense, it is only found in the third person singular, namely the conjugation "hay". Even if the noun is plural, you would still only make singular the verb. Notice the following sentence:

Hay muchos libros en la biblioteca. There are a lot of books in the library.

This conjugation matches a plural noun, but the same verb is used for singular noun quantities. Check this example out:

Hay una recámara disponible. There is a room available.

In addition, used in the past tense the verb haber is only found in its singular, third person form, despite the noun being plural or singular.

Había muchos habitantes que vivían allá. There were a lot of people that used to live there.

Hubo un terremoto poderoso en Ciudad de México en 1985. There was a powerful earthquake in Mexico City in 1985.

There is one other way to use the verb "hay". The formula hay que + infinitive verb means "should" or "have to" in a general sense.

Hay que cepillarse los dientes regularmente. You should brush your teeth regularly.

Para tener éxito en la escuela, hay que estudiar mucho. To be successful in school, you have to study a lot.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Monday, July 26, 2010

Using Hacer que... to Express Actions in Time

The verb hacer can be used in a myriad ways, as you probably have already seen in Spanish. One way to use this verb is by adding it to the conjunction que to express the duration of an action that started in the past, but is continuing to occur into the present.

You can ask someone how long something has been occurring by using one of two phrases: Desde cuándo... and Cuánto tiempo hace que... Notice the following, with the corresponding phrases underlined:

¿Desde cuándo buscas empleo? How long have you been looking for employment?

¿Cuánto tiempo hace que estudias matemáticas? How long have you been studying mathematics?

With these questions, there are two possible ways to format complete answers. First you could use the expression hace + unit of time + que + present tense verb, like this:

Hace dos meses que trabajo en esta oficina. I've been working in this office for two months.

You can also use the expression verb in present tense + desde hace + expression of time. This interesting structure can be observed here:

Hablo español desde hace treinta años. I've been speaking Spanish for thirty years.

We can also express the English word ago by using the abbreviated phrase hacer + expression of time. Check out this example:

Me mudé a esta casa hace quince años. I moved into this house fifteen years ago.

So, employing these phrases you can create a complete dialog, as in the following discourse:

¿Cuánto tiempo hace que vives en Nicaragua? How long have you been living in Nicaragua?

Vivo en Nicaragua desde hace nueve años. I've been living in Nicaragua for nine years.

As we tend to do in English, a lot of Spanish speakers will actually drop most of the expression when replying, so if they were answering your question about living in Nicaragua, it's very common to hear the following:

Hace nueve años. For nine years.

These expressions, although weirdly sounding at first, will become commonplace to the ear as you progress in learning Spanish.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Use of the Infinitive Form, Part 1

As you probably know, the infinitive form is a verb that isn't conjugated to fit any subject. The infinitive ends in the following suffixes only: -ar, -er, and -ir. The main way we use the infinitive is to juxtapose two verbs where the preceding verb is conjugated to the subject and the following verb is in the infinitive. The second verb which is in the infinitive maintains its meaning of "to ....". Note the following two sentences, where the infinitive has its suffix underlined:

Quiero escribir una novela. I want to write a novel.

Necesitamos pasar la noche en el hotel. We need to spend the night in the hotel.

The conjugated verb + infinitive formula can also include a preposition in between the two parts; these prepositions can include a, en, por, para, de, sin, or con. A lot of times, there is no direct English equivalent to these prepositions. Some examples:

Van a venir a nuestra casa mañana. They're going to come to our house tomorrow.

Acaban de volver de su viaje a España. They just got back from their trip to Spain.

¿Tardaste en llegar al cine? Were you late in getting to the theater?

Me intereso por jugar al ajedrez. I'm interested in playing chess.

Pasaré el verano en México para relajarme un rato. I will spend the summer in Mexico in order to relax for a while.

Ella se acostó sin cepillarse los dientes. She went to bed without brushing her teeth.

The infinitive is also used after various prepositonal phrases, such as al, antes de, a pesar de, con el objeto de, después de, en lugar de, and en vez de.

Al empezar la clase, los estudiantes se callaron. Upon beginning class, the students stopped talking.

Entregué el ensayo antes de finalizarlo. I turned in the essay before finishing it.

No tomé nada a pesar de tener sed. I didn't drink anything in spite of being thirsty.

Marcos se matriculó en la Universidad con el objeto de sacar un título de ingeniería. Marcos enrolled at the University with the intention of earning an Engineering degree.

Puse mis platos en el lavaplatos después de cenar. I put my plates in the dishwasher after eating dinner.

Fui al cine en vez de asistir la fiesta tuya. I went to the movies instead of attending your party.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Speaking with a Native Spanish Speaker

Today, I had the opportunity to talk to a young lady form Guatemala for an hour or so, and it's great applying your skills in Spanish to someone whose ONLY language is Spanish, and who has very little propensities towards English. It's a great feeling to know that you're bridging the gap between two cultures, and automatically you are more worldly because of that.

Many of you don't know me personally, just through Skype lessons and web cams. However, I am not a native speaker of Spanish. I was first introduced to a Spanish-speaker (my good buddy Rogelio) in the fourth grade, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. He didn't speak a word of English, but our friendship grew over time and I picked up words here and there, as well as basic phrases and idioms, in order to help us communicate. Likewise, I reciprocated and taught him several things about English as well.

It was about the sixth grade that the State of California introduced a foreign language class in its junior high schools. It started off as experimental curriculum, but alas, it was doomed to fail in the coming years. However, I was one of the lucky ones and got to take Spanish in the 6th grade, as well as the 7th, 8th, and, well, you know where that's headed. The rest is history! My buddy Rogelio was learning English pretty damn fast, but I wasn't learning Spanish as fast; so, I set out to discover the reason.

It seems that good old "Ro" was forced to speak English because that was the "de facto" language in his surroundings. I thought to myself that if it could work for him, it'll work for me. So guess what...I spent a lot of time at the old boy's house; playing video games, eating meriendas, and watching TV while his Mom would constantly holler at us from the kitchen "¿Tienen hambre?"

So, I noticed over the coming years that I was gradually pulling ahead of the rest of the Spanish learners, simply because I chose to immerse myself in the language and the culture (and Ro's video games helped too). In the coming years, I would choose more adult pursuits, such as visiting Mexico several times, soaking up the sun as well as the Spanish. Everywhere there were Spanish speakers, there I was talking to them just for conversation.

The point of my rambling is to inform you that the BEST way to start speaking a language is to start talking; just because someone speaks a different language from you doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. In fact, the vast majority of Spanish speakers will think that it's great you are making an effort to try communicating with them in their own language, that they will love to give you some pointers and feedback. They are merely human beings as well, and they enjoy social interactions as much as you probably do. Try to take the time to meet people, and get to know them. You'll be surprised at what you might learn!

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Passive Voice Construction Using Se

One of my students yesterday, who is remarkably advanced, had several questions and concerns about the third person reflexive verbs. He noticed that several times in Spanish there are instances of when the se pronoun is mixed with its third person conjugation, but the way the sentence is laid out in Spanish doesn't add up to what he's been taught. For example, wouldn't the sentence

Se habla español.


He/She speaks Spanish to him/herself?

That's a very logical interpretation of the sentence, and actually he's not wrong. However, this use of third person verb manipulation is actually a passive verb usage, and is actually visible in business advertisements where the business owners want to indicate that they're bilingual. We can use the third-person reflexive pronoun se in order to take emphasis off the subject. To do this, we use the third person conjugation of the verb with se in front. So, the sentence above actually means:

Spanish is spoken.

You can do this with practically every verb out there, but bear in mind that there are several translations. However, all translations have one thing in common: they remove emphasis from the subject; hence, they are passive constructions.

Notice these examples:

Los juguetes se regalaron para la Navidad. The toys were given (as gifts) for Christmas.

Los ensayos ya se entregan. The essays are handed in already.

El aúto se vendió. The car was sold.

This type of construction can also be translated to something that means, in a general way, "You...." However, it doesn't refer to the second person "you". It takes on a general meaning, usually used when giving instructions. Plus, it can be interpreted as "One..." (does something). Observe the following examples:

Se sale por esta puerta.

"You leave through this door." or "One leaves through this door."

Se pagan aquí las compras.

"You pay for these purchases here." or "These purchases are paid for here."

This construction is seen all throughout the Spanish language, so be on the lookout! Good luck with it..

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Passive Sentences Using Por

Using the verb ser, we can set up a sentence with what is known as a passive construction. It will be required that you know what a past participle is, so research this topic in your Spanish text when you can.

What is a passive sentence, exactly? Great question. Basically, a passive construction is used when we want to place the emphasis of the sentence on something other than the subject. Usually, the focus of attention makes the direct object the subject of the sentence. As there is a passive construction, or "passive voice", there is also an "active voice". When placed by side by side, a sentence in both voices will actually have the exact meaning. Observe both of the following:

Passive Voice: La cena fue cocinada por Adán.

Active Voice: Adán cocinó la cena.

The passive voice sentence says "The dinner was cooked by Adam." The active voice sentence says "Adam cooked the dinner." Although grammatically different, semantically and pragmatically the sentences are equivalent. Notice the ser + por formula used in the passive voice sentence. The preposition por means "by" in Spanish(which is actually only ONE of its meanings).

There is another construction that we can use to create a passive construction using the pronoun se. Look forward to that in Part 2.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Expressing Time in the Past - Using Hacer que... in the Past Tense

Here is a lesson allowing you to understand the intricacies of past tense usage: using hacer + unit of time + que. This verb construction of hacer is used to depict an action occurring in the past that hasn't had a defined endpoint. You should recognize this by now as a mode of the imperfect tense. It will help you to review and learn the imperfect form as well as the preterit form of the past tense before continuing on with this lesson.

To start, we will use the imperfect conjugation of the verb hacer in order to set up our scenario. Then, use the conjunction que to attach a verb in its imperfect form. The imperfect of hacer is ONLY existent in its third person singular. Check out the following:

Hacía dos años que yo estudiaba. I had been studying for 2 years.

The underlined part "dos años" is the unit of time used in conjunction with this Spanish phrase. This format can also feature an additional preterit verb conjugation attached to it, so you can express something that might have happened while you had been studying for that two years. We'll add the word "cuando" ("when") to lend continuance to the sentence. Follow these examples:

Hacía dos años que yo estubia cuando por fin saqué mi título. I had been studying for 2 years when finally I got my degree.

Hacía treinta minutos que ella cocinaba cuando quitó las enchiladas del horno. She had been cooking for thirty minutes when she took the enchiladas out of the oven.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Monday, July 19, 2010

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns, Part 2

Let's continue where we left off with possessive pronouns. Spanish has a list of stressed pronouns that agree in gender and quantity of the noun that is being modified; the possessive adjective is also placed right after the noun. Each of the possessive adjectives in this case include the corresponding article as well, and are all four-form structures.

Here's the complete list, using each time a masculine and feminine noun in order to show you the difference:

(yo)el perro mío, la camisa mía

(tú)el perro tuyo, la camisa tuya

(él, ella, Ud.)el perro suyo, la camisa suya

(nosotros)el perro nuestro, la camisa nuestra

(vosotros)el perro vuestro, la camisa vuestra

(ellos, ellas, Uds.)el perro suyo, la camisa suya

If you want to pluralize the possessive adjectives, you simply just use a plural article (los, las, unos, unas) along with a plural possessive adjective. To pluralize the pssessive adjective, you simply add an "-s":

Las medias tuyas siempre están sucias. Your socks are always dirty.

Sure, we can simply just replace the stressed possessive adjective with "Tus medias siempre están sucias." However, remember that in this way we're stressing the possessive adjective, usually in comparison to another.

In addition to the stressed possessive adjectives, we can also remove the noun completely so we turn it into a possessive pronoun. This is extremely easy to do. Observe:

Al gerente le gustó el informe. The manager liked the report.

¿El informe de quién? Whose report?

El mío. Mine.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns, Part 1

When we are referring to possession, we usually start by learning the very simple sentence structure ser + de + possessor. For example, we could say the following:

El sombrero es de Ricardo. The hat is Ricardo's.

However, if we want to get more technical with our Spanish grammar, we can learn the sets of stressed and unstressed adjectives and pronouns that exist in the language. The first group of possessive adjectives precede the nouns that they modify, and only have two forms: singular and plural. However, the nosotros* and vosotros* forms also differentiate between the masculine and feminine forms of the noun that they modify. Below is the list of possessive adjectives along with an example:

(yo)mi, mis mi computadora, mis libros

(tú)tu, tus tu vida, tus clases

(él, ella, Ud.)su, sus su laboratorio, sus plumas

(nosotros)*nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras nuestro billete, nuestras lámparas

(vosotros)*vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, vuestras vuestra revista, vuestros chicharrones

(ellos, ellas, Uds.) su, sus su pupitre, sus botellas de agua

A couple of things you'll want to notice above are the nosotros and vosotros forms carry four forms each: the singular masculine, the singular feminine, the plural masculine, and the plural feminine. Also, the third person possessive adjectives su and sus can refer to either his, her, its, your, or there. To clarify, we can add the simple possessive preposition de to the sentence to clarify the possessor, if needs be.

The stressed possessive adjectives are stressed in that they clarify the possessor of the object. We usually do this in order to contrast one object with another. Using boldface, I can show you where the stress is placed in English:

My child is more well-behaved than your child.

Other than being fighting words, we can see how the possessive adjectives are stressed. We can rewrite the sentence in Spanish to say the following:

El niño mío se porta mejor que el niño tuyo.

We'll cover these tomorrow in Part 2. Make sure you commit the rest of the possessive adjectives encountered to memory.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Interesting Uses of the Neuter Article Lo

Direct object pronouns, as you have seen in your studies, are an integral part of learning any language. One good way to showcase your mastery of the language is by using the direct object pronoun lo. Lo is known as a neuter article. Although not taught in many Spanish classes, neuter articles do play an essential role in the development of your language fluency.

The first interesting way to use lo as a neuter article is to accompany it with an adjective. For example, check the following sentence out:

Lo bueno es que él compró pasajes baratos. The good thing is that he bought cheap tickets.

Notice how we discharge the neuter article in this situation. When used with an adjective, lo + adjective indicates an abstract idea or a certain quality. "Lo bueno" can take on a definition of "What's good" or "the good thing". Other uses of the neuter article are as follows:

lo fácil the easy thing, the easy part

lo importante the important thing

lo mismo the same thing

lo increíble the unbelievable thing

Now, this list is most definitely not all-inclusive. Technically, if it makes sense, you can add the neuter article to practically any adjective out there. You should practice implementing this formula into your daily Spanish-speaking activities.

There are other uses for the neuter article lo. You can use the neuter article before the preposition de to refer to "the matter concerning..." or "the situation with...". Check out the following examples:

Lo de los problemas de la economía nos inquieta mucho. The matter concerning the problems with the economy bothers us a lot.

Lo de tu examen de español es grave. The situation with your Spanish test is serious.

Other interesting uses of the neuter article are:

Lo más/lo menos/lo antes posible As much/as little/as early as possible...

Lo que necesito no existe. What I need doesn't exist.

Keep in mind that the neuter article is basically what its name implies: neutral. Usually it refers to a general or abstract concept.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Friday, July 16, 2010

Another Use of Object Pronouns - Unplanned Situations (EXPERT MATERIAL)

OK, for this topic you might have to put your thinking caps on. There is a verb set that includes indirect object pronouns that are converted to fit the object of the sentence, and not the subject. Usually in Spanish, the subject pronoun (yo, tú, él, etc.) conjugates the verb in its correct manifestation. But now, we are going to see how to formulate an expression of unplanned occurrences.

There is a small list of verbs that in all respect is very static (i.e. it doesn't change, and there are no other verbs that follow this pattern.) They are manipulated in such a weird way due to their common utilization in the language. You MUST memorize the verbs and when to use them for maximum effect.

The verb formula for "to drop" is caérsele. This might look familiar to the reflexive infinitive caerse, which means "to fall down" or "to be fallen". Incidentally, if you really don't understand the reflexive verb format, then you probably should master that concept prior to continuing with this one.

Spanish speakers use the caérsele format to state that they have accidentally dropped something, which usually can account for being an unplanned occuurrence or situation. So let's say I dropped some enchiladas. Why do I keep talking about enchiladas? Because they are sabrosas. I will give you the correct way to say this, followed by a dissection of its parts.

¡Se me cayeron las enchiladas! I dropped the enchiladas!

The se construction is associated with the conjugated verb cayeron, and is conjugated by the new subject "las enchiladas" (mmmm). Weirdly, if we left the me out of the sentence and simply said "Se cayeron las enchiladas", the sentence would translate as "The enchiladas were fallen" or "The enchiladas were dropped". But by whom? This is where the direct object pronoun me comes in. The direct object pronouns in these odd sentence structures acts as a "possessor" of sorts of the object in question. Thus, me can almost refer to "I".

If I said YOU dropped the enchiladas, then I would rewrite the sentence as follows:

Se te cayeron las enchiladas. You dropped the enchiladas.

Literally, this translates as "The enchiladas were dropped for/to you.". Weird.

The limited vocabulary list, in addition to caérsele is as follows. I will give an example sentence below each of the verbs.

acabársele to run out of (something)

Se me acabó la mantequilla de cacahuete. I ran out of peanut butter.

ocurrírsele to dawn on, get the idea of

¿Se te ocurre comer allá en ese restaurante? Are you getting the idea to eat at that restaurant?

olvidársele to forget

Se le olvidó estudiar para el examen. He forgot to study for the test.

perdérsele to lose

Ayer se me perdió mi tarjeta de crédito. Yesterday I lost my credit card.

quedársele to leave something behind

¡Se nos quedaron nuestros pasaportes! We left behind our passports!

rompérsele to break

¿Se te rompió el brazo? Did you break your arm?

Notice that in every situation, the reflexivity is all based in the third person, whether it be singular or plural. Learn this topic extremely well, and then you might as well call yourself fluent in Spanish! Maybe....

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Indefinite Articles and their Use

An indefinite article is an article, that, well, isn't defined. If you remember from some of your earliest grammar classes, an article accompanies a noun. In English, you'll be looked at weird if you muttered, "I have car." So, to avoid being ostracized, we are taught to attach an article to that noun "car". Now, the article has only a couple of static possibilities in the English language: 1)the indefinite articles "a", "an", and "some", and 2)the definite article "the".

By now, you should recognize that Spanish, being the Latin-based language it is, is heavily dependent on the gender and the quantity of a given noun. The indefinite articles are no different. There are 4 different possibilities of articles:

1. singular masculine - un

2. plural masculine - unos

3. singular feminine - una

4. plural feminine - unas

Notice the following examples, using each of the four indefinite articles:

Tengo un libro. I have a book.

¿Tú compraste una computadora? Did you buy a computer?

Hay unos museos en Londres. There are some museums in London.

Pido unas enchiladas, por favor. I'll order some enchiladas, please.

Notice how each of the indefinite articles fits nicely with the noun's gender and quantity: enchiladas is a plural feminine noun, thus it is combined with the plural feminine indefinite article. Many English speakers might question the perils of equivocating the indefinite article, but as natives, Spanish speakers are accustomed to hearing the language a certain way (as English speakers are to their mother tongue), so fudging something as basic as an article might cause confusion for the listener.

In certain cases, we omit the indefinite article. Notice the following examples:

Yo soy maestro de español. I am (a) Spanish teacher.

Miguel tiene cien dólares. Miguel has (a) hundred dollars.

¡Que tengas buen día! Have (a) good day!

This lesson gives you a pretty good understanding of the basic fundamentals of indefinite articles, and their placements. Keep in mind, one shouldn't just learn new vocabulary, but should also recall the gender of the noun when learning. Gender discrepancies will be revisited again in future lessons.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Placement of Object Pronouns

Direct object pronouns, if you recall, are simply pronouns that take the place of a noun which is a direct object. The direct object in question is merely a noun (person, place, thing or idea) that can be directly manipulated by the verb modifying it. The following sentence gives us a quick review:

¿Compraste las verduras para la cena? Did you buy the vegetables for dinner?

Sí, las compré. Yes, I bought them.

Notice our direct object pronoun matches the gender and the quantity(singular/plural) of our previously-mentioned direct object(the vegetables/las verduras).

Now, let's talk about the rules of placement for these wonderful grammar parts. They actually follow two strict rules: 1)the direct object pronouns (or any pronouns for that matter) either are placed before the conjugated verb modifying the pronoun, or 2)affixed(attached) to the end of the infinitive of the verb modifying the pronoun.

Let's look at the following example:

Tengo aquí la cazuela. ¿La quieres hornear ahora?

I have the casserole right here. Do you want to bake it in the oven now?

Notice that the direct object pronoun is placed before the conjugated verb querer. Now, let's answer the question about what to do with the casserole:

No. Vamos a helarla así que podamos comerla la próxima semana.

No, we're going to freeze it so we can eat it next week.

Notice both direct object pronouns (which are referring to the same direct object i.e. the casserole) are affixed to the end of the infinitives of helar(to freeze) and comer(to eat). Spanish-speakers use both forms relatively equally, so be prepared to hear both. Remember, as in English, direct object pronouns replace nouns that have already landed in the immediate context of the conversation. What I mean by that is the direct object is known to both the speaker and the listener. The identity of the direct object has already been established, so there should be no confusion when the pronoun is interjected.

All this talk about casseroles is making me kind of hungry. Time to go find some lunch....

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Direct Object Pronouns Me, Te, Nos, and Os

You have already been introduced to the direct object pronouns of lo and la, as well as their plural forms of los and las. These pronouns are the third person singular and plural pronouns used to be substitutes for a person or object when being referred to in the third person.

Now, we're going to cover the rest of the direct object pronouns. Remember, a direct object pronoun is a pronoun that replaces a direct object noun. In the last part when we talked about third person pronouns, we found out that people are also represented by direct object pronouns when they are direct objects in a sentence. Look at the sentence:

David drove me to the party.

In this sentence there is a direct object pronoun. Can you guess what it is?

David drove me to the party.

In this case, "me" is a direct object pronoun. How? Because in this instance, "me" is being directly manipulated by an entity in the sentence. Notice that you can replace "me" with other direct object pronouns, such as "it" or "them", and it still is grammatically correct.

The rest of our direct object pronouns, and examples of their use are:

Mi esposa me llevó al aeropuerto.

My wife brought me to the airport.

Te veré en dos semanas.

I'll see you in two weeks.

¿Nos recojes cuando aterriza el avión?

Do you pick us up when the plane lands?

Os oigo hablando todavía, estudiantes. Por favor haced vuestra tarea.

I hear you talking still, class. Please do your homework.

Although not generally employed in Latin American, any vosotros manifestation is quite commonly used in Spain, Cuba, and certain South American countries. If you don't want to use the vosotros form, and want to replace it with something else, use the third person plural Uds. pronoun which is los.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Direct Object Pronouns Lo and La

Once we start delving into the topic of direct object pronouns, it's important to review the rules of noun gender that is ever so prevalent in the Spanish language. Remember, unlike English, every noun in Spanish carries a masculine or a feminine identity. In Spanish 1, you probably can just avoid studying nouns along with their definite articles, but once you make the decision that "yes, Spanish is for me", then you must take into account the gender of all of those nouns in those vocabulary lists that your teacher loves to give out for homework.

Here's why: when we want to refer to a noun in a neutral form, i.e. refer to the noun as "it", we take very specialized object pronouns and place them either in front of the conjugated verb, or attached to the end of the infinitive. The direct object pronouns lo and la are the first ones we are going to master since they occur in the third person form and we can most easily associate them with the English "it". However, this is only a small portion of the topic of direct object pronouns, so keep an eye out in the future for more on this subject.


Lo estudio. I study it.

In the above example, lo can refer to anything that is singular and masculine; for instance, we could have been referring to el portugués.

Manuel quiere comerla. Manuel wants to eat it.

In the above example, la refers to anything that is singular and feminine; for instance, we might have been referring to la enchilada.

Did you know that the object pronouns lo and la can also refer to people? Let's say you have a friend named Manuel who went to México on a nice little sabbatical from his job. He's been down there surfing for about a week. I want to ask you if you picked him up yet at the airport. The question posed, along with its reciprocation:

¿Conseguiste a Manuel al aeropuerto? Did you get Manuel at the airport?

Sí, lo recojí a las dos. Yes, I picked him up at 2.

Of course, you would change the lo to la if we were referring to a female.

Now, suppose you want to pluralize the direct object pronouns? Very simple. Just add an s to the lo or la, and you got it made.

¿Dónde están mis enchiladas? Where are my enchiladas?

¡Yo las comí! I ate them!!

Using direct object pronouns is a great way to maximize your efficiency in Spanish, and can immediately make you start sounding native.

Sigue estudiando,


Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Imperfect Tense

The imperfect tense is another version of the past tense used by Spanish speakers. This tense is used to express an action that is considered ongoing in the past with no definite reference points for a beginning or an end. We use the imperfect tense if we are describing some repeated actions that occurred in the past, or ones that are still potentially ongoing. Look for clues when debating whether or not to use the imperfect versus the preterit. Some adverbial phrases like todos los días(every day), siempre (always), and muchas veces (many times) all give rise to the necessity of the imperfect tense in Spanish.

We use the imperfect in English with the addition of the words was or used to. The following sentences employ the imperfect in English:

I used to ride my bike to school.

Diana was boiling water for the noodles.

I was reading the newspaper when my house caught on fire.

All of the above examples don't specify an ending point to the action, so the imperfect is used. The imperfect can be a great way to describe something in the past (like your boyhood memories), and set up a story-telling scenario in which you can describe to somebody what was happening at the moment something else occurred.

Conjugating verbs into their infinitive formats is actually one of the most easy tasks in Spanish grammar. Drop the suffix of the infinitive like you were going to conjugate the verb in the present tense. Then, when you're left with the root of the verb, you add a set of imperfect endings. With the exception of three verbs, ser, ver, and ir, all conjugations follow the same formula.

For -ar verbs:

hablar to speak

yo hablaba

tú hablabas

él, ella, Ud. hablaba

nosotros hablábamos

vosotros hablabais

ellos, ellas, Uds. hablaban

You will notice that the first and third person singular suffix is the same. For -er/-ir verbs, there is a different suffix to tack on, but they follow the same configuration. The first person and third person singular conjugations are also the same:

leer to read

yo leía

tú leías

él, ella, Ud. leía

nosotrs leíamos

vosotrs leíais

ellos, ellas, Uds. leían

salir to leave

yo salía

tú salías

él, ella, Ud. salía

nosotros salíamos

vosotros salíais

ellos, ellas, Uds. salían

To finish off the imperfect tense set, we recall that there are three(3) irregular imperfect verbs. You must memorize them, since they don't have a static conjugation pattern.

ser to be

yo era

tú eras

él, ella, Ud. era

nosotros éramos

vosotros erais

ellos, ellas, Uds. eran

ir to go

yo iba

tú ibas

él, ella, Ud. iba

nosotros íbamos

vosotros ibais

ellos, ellas, Uds. iban

ver to see

yo veía

tú veías

él, ella, Ud. veía

nosotros veíamos

vosotros veíais

ellos, ellas, Uds. veían

There are many more concepts employed by the imperfect tense, which will appear in more of our later blogs. In the meantime,

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are probably the first topic when an English speaker figures to him or herself that maybe Spanish was going to be a little harder than they thought.

There is a huge class of Spanish verbs called reflexive verbs, that simply don't have an equivalent in English. You could, however, make English verbs reflexive by adding words like myself, yourself, or himself. Likewise, English sentences like "She will be seated" or "Joanie gets dressed" also exhibit some form of reflexivity in that the action is directed, or reflected, back to the subject of the sentence via the addition of an adjective or past participle.

In the dictionary or vocabulary lists, reflexive verbs in their infinitive forms have an attached pronoun se. When conjugated the pronoun will precede the conjugated verb.

bañarse to take bath

me baño

te bañas

se baña

nos bañamos

os bañáis

se bañan

The following are some examples of sentences with reflexive verbs:

acostarse to go to bed

Me acuesto a las diez. I go to bed at 10.

vestirse to get dressed

¿Te vistes cuando sales en la noche? Do you get dressed when you go out at night?

lavarse to get washed up

Me lavo antes de cenar. I get washed up before dinner.

Now each of the above verbs used have a transitive mode, as well. Notice the following sentences, with NO reflexive pronouns:

Mamá acuesta a los niños a las diez. Mom puts the kids to bed at 10.

También, mamá viste a los niños en la mañana. Also, Mom dresses the kids in the morning.

Lavo el carro con un Sham-Wow. I wash the car with a Sham-Wow.

In these instances, the verb doesn't reflect back onto the subject, but rather addresses an object or other people.

There are SEVERAL reflexive verbs in Spanish that deal with actions that one does to his or her body, or daily hygienic activities. The literal translation of these verb phrases are practically illogical and odd, so it will do you no good to translate directly into English. Remember, avoid the translation trap. In these cases, the reflexive pronoun is an indirect object rather than a direct one. For example, the reflexive verb ponerse + article of clothing means literally "to put on to oneself the article of clothing". So,

Me pongo los zapatos. I put on the shoes.

And, using the reflexive verb limpiarse (to clean oneself) and adding a body part to that (los dientes, for example), we can say

Luis se limpia los dientes. Luis cleans his teeth.

Other commonly used reflexive verb phrases that might interest you are listed below.

amarrarse los cordones to tie one's shoelaces

cepillarse los dientes to brush one's teeth

cortarse el pelo to cut one's hair

maquillarse la cara to put makeup on

torcerse el tobillo to twist one's ankle

So, if this your opening venture into the world of reflexive verbs, let it not be your last, because I assure you, it won't!

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Singular Nouns and their Articles

Remember in elementary school you learned about nouns? Nouns are classified as parts of speech, and depict a person, place or thing. It's pretty straight forward, except in Spanish we have to add one important nugget of information to the noun. We must add its gender.

The gender of a noun is important in the Spanish language, and yes, when we're referring to the gender, we're referring to whether the noun is a "boy" or "girl". Actually, in more technical terms, we're distinguishing between whether the noun is "masculine" or "feminine". All nouns in English have a neutral gender, but in Spanish, no nouns are neutral.

So, I recommend when learning every noun that you also the learn the definite article associated with the noun. The definite article will depict the gender of the noun, and will be especially important in your studies in the future. The definite articles are as follows. For masculine nouns, the definite article is el, and for feminine nouns the definite article is la. These articles apply only to singular nouns.

The noun for book is libro, but like I said, let's learn this noun along with its definite article.

el libro the book

la casa the house

Therefore, the noun book is a masculine noun and the noun casa is feminine. One must memorize these definite articles el and la.

Now, for the most part, nouns ending in -o are masculine and those ending in -a are feminine. Also, most nouns that end in –ión (conversión) and –dad (universidad) are feminine. Also, nouns that are male in nature carry a masculine article (el hombre the man), and nouns that represent females are feminine (la mujer the woman).

Here are some special cases:

el tema the theme

la mano the hand

el día the day

You must also deal with ambiguity in nouns and article. Some nouns are ambiguous, as far as their gender is concerned, meaning that simply left by themselves some nouns are either masculine or feminine when lacking a defining article. We must then add meaning by using context. This can be done using an article.

Nouns that end in the suffix –ante can either be masculine or feminine, which we clarify by adding the gender to the article. For example,

el estudiante the student(masculine)

If the student is feminine, however, we add the definite feminine article la:

la estudiante the student(female)

Other nouns that are like this are:

el cantante (singer, male)

la cantante (singer, female)


el amante (lover, male)

la amante (lover, female)

As we see, the article of the noun explains to us what the gender is. Other ambiguous nouns can be made feminine by adding an –a on the end of it, or simply replacing the –e with an –a to “soften” the noun. Check out the following table:

Masculine Feminine Meaning
el autor la autora author
el doctor la doctora doctor
el profesor la profesora professor
el comerciante la comerciante merchant
el jefe la jefa boss
el francés la francesa French person
el español la española Spaniard
el presidente la presidenta president
el pariente la parienta relative
el sirviente la sirvienta servant

Nouns that end in –ista normally don’t change their suffix, irregardless of the gender of the noun. This suffix is equivalent to the English -ist:

el periodista (journalist, male)

la periodista (journalist, female)

el dentista (dentist, male)

la dentista (dentist, female)

el artista (artist, male)

la artista (artist, female)

It’s important during the course of your studies that you memorize every noun with the correct definite article, as this will prove its importance in the future.

You might be wondering (hopefully you are!) how you can determine a nouns gender if the noun doesn’t fall cleanly into a masculine/feminine ending. The best way to determine a nouns gender is by looking it up in a Spanish-English dictionary. For example, let’s pretend we want to know the Spanish word for milk. You will find in the dictionary:

milk leche f.

Notice the “f” in italics next to the word leche. This stands for feminine. How about the word for dessert?

dessert postre m.

The “m” in italics is an abbreviation for “masculine”. Finally, if you look up the word for “smuggler” (well, you could!) you will find

smuggler contrabandista m., f.

This time, you will notice you stumbled upon a noun that can either be male or female, depending on whether or not the smuggler is a, well, male or female. If you haven’t yet purchased one, go and buy a Spanish-English dictionary. They will come in handy later on.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The World Cup Update - For you Sports Fans!

Well the World Cup, or, La Copa Mundial de FIFA, is fast approaching its climactic game. We now know that the Netherlands, who are also known internationally as Holland (Holanda and Los Países Bajos in Spanish) continue their feverish attempt at gunning for the unusually-awkward looking World Cup trophy that looks like something that came out of Hades. I guess as long as this trophy's contents contains some kind of precious metal, all will be satisfecho.

Uruguay was upset in stunning fashion, as are most hardcore contenders for the crown this deep in the pursuit. Fútbol has a way of making champs out of chumps, which is the very reason Spain has advanced thus far, so as a result we are now guaranteed an All-European Final game. The Netherlands can now propagate another dynasty reminiscent of the 1970s where England simply had to lay down the flag of St. George playing team Oranj. Too bad the Dutch only finished 2nd two years in a row, which in and of itself doesn't fare to shabby, yet this precursor will doom the current-day boys from Amsterdam I think with another second-place finish, especially if they have to cleat up against their German foes who continue to impress with impressively accurate striking.

The big surprise continues to be Spain who, based on as-far-analytical-as-you-can-get reports will have their relojes cleaned playing the Krauts in Johannesburg. The cries of olé in the stands will continue to be drowned out by the vuzuvelas, much to the chagrin of the Real Madrid players who have taken their nation's banner to South Africa in a glorious attempt to restore Spain to their glory days of Felipe II's 16th Century. The Escorial is either pledged to become a monumental sign of Spanish soccer wizardry or a Goliath-type burial house for the defenders who aren't going to be paying attention to the offside line on a dominating German offense.

Now is the time, world, where we must decide for the next four years the fate of the footballing world. Will we be destined to learn the German way of soccer, or can we assume that perhaps the Dutchman can put up more goals and less windmills? The North Sea after all might flood out all of the soccer fields this year in the Netherlands, so this might be the last time for another twenty years the the Dutch can etch a mark in the annals of FIFA history.

Monday, July 5, 2010

¡Saludémonos! Basic Courtesies and Greetings

This is basically the natural starting-off point to learning Spanish. After you finish learning the following vocab, you should be able to greet someone formally and informally. This is the best way to open the doors to communicating with someone in any language.

Frases útiles
¡Hola! Hello
¡Buenos días! Good morning!
¡Buenas tardes! Good afternoon!
¡Buenas noches! Good evening!
Adiós… Good bye
Hasta luego See you later
Hasta la vista See you around
Hasta mañana See you tomorrow
Señor(Sr.) Mr., sir
Señora(Sra.) Mrs., ma’am
Señorita(Srta.) Miss. Ms.
gracias thanks, thank you
muchas gracias thank you very much
muchísimas gracias thank you SO much
de nada, por nada you’re welcome
no hay de qué you’re welcome
por favor please
perdón excuse me, pardon me(to get attention)
con permiso excuse me, pardon me (used to politely walk by someone)
lo siento I’m sorry(express sorrow or regret)

Otros saludos y cortesías
In Spanish, there are two ways to greet the 2nd person(you):

1) formal way, for teachers, professionals, elders, etc.

2) informal/familiar way, for friends, relatives, others known on first-name basis.

Notice the following examples and their subtle differences:

¿Cómo estás? How are you?(familiar, uses 2nd person singular in familiar tense)

¿Cómo está Ud.? How are you?(formal, uses Ud. or usted)

¿Cómo te llamas? What’s your name?(familiar)

¿Cómo se llama Ud.? What’s your name?(formal)


Juan: ¡Hola Brian! ¿Cómo estás?

Brian: Bien, Juan, bien. ¿Y tú?

Juan: Mal.

Brian: Lo siento. Adiós.

Juan: Muchas gracias. Buenas noches, Brian.

Brian: Hasta mañana.

"¿Y tú?" is a common response to "How are you?", in Spanish. The pronoun “tú” refers to “you” in the familiar sense. You would use this form whilst conversing with a friend or such.

So, next time you're at a function and you overhear some folks conversing in Spanish, jump right in the mix with some of the above mentioned dialog, and who knows, they might invite you over for their daughter's quinceañera.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Verb Gustar

One of the biggest leaps of faith that one needs to make when learning a new language, is not only absorbing new vocabulary, but also accepting a different way that ideas and thoughts are expressed. One of the first verbs that students learn where their brain must be reprogrammed is the verb gustar, which means "to please", or "to be pleasing".

The issue with this verb is that it is almost always associated with the phrase gustarle a alguien, which means literally "to be pleasing to someone". Now, in English it's quite possible to say

I like pizza.

However, the Spanish language doesn't have a verb that is equivalent to English's "to like". Instead they use the verb gustar ("to please" or "to be pleasing"). This verb is centered around the object being liked, and not the subject of the sentence. Observe, if you dare:

I like chimichangas.

Me gustan chimichangas.

Here, "chimichangas" are the objects that are being liked, so we conjugate the verb gustar to fit the third person plural object of "the chimichangas". Another example:

I like you.

Me gustas.

If the thing being liked is a verb, then you treat it as a third person singular. So,

I like to teach.

Me gusta enseñar.

A way to rewire your brain to accept this unusual syntax is by rewriting the sentence to be translated to fit the following formula:

Indirect Object Pronoun + gustar(conjugated to fit object) + object

Take the sentence "My mom likes the films of Michael Douglas." Rewrite it, in English, so it fits the above formula, like this:

To my Mom they are pleasing the films of Michael Douglas.

Don't worry if it doesn't make complete sense, or if it sounds weird.

In this instance we'll use the third person singular indirect object pronoun le to substitute for "To my Mom...". Then, let's conjugate the gustar verb to fit the object, which is the third person plural noun "the films of Michael Douglas". So, we're left with the finished product:

Le gustan las películas de Michael Douglas.

In this case, too, it's best to clarify the third person indirect object pronoun in order to avoid ambiguity (because third person indirect object pronouns can either mean "to him", "to her", or "to it".) So, to be sure everybody knows that we're talking about my Mom, we'll add "A mi mamá" in the front of the sentence, so we're left with

A mi mamá le gustan las películas de Michael Douglas.

Other common expressions that follow the same pattern as gustarle a alguien are listed below. Keep in mind they offer different meaning than their English counterparts. For example, encantarle a alguien means literally "to enchant or to be enchanting" to someone, but is used to express "to love something":

encantarle a alguien to love something

Me encanta el Ford Mustang.

I love the Ford Mustang.

entusiasmarle a alguien to be excited about something

¿Te entusiasma el viaje en el avión?

Are you excited about the trip in the airplane?

faltarle a alguien to be missing something, not to have something

Me faltan mis llaves.

I'm missing my keys.

importarle a alguien to care about something, to mind

Nos importa levantar temprano.

It's important to us to get up early.

interesarle a alguien to be interested in something

¿El libro te interesa?

Is the book interesting to you?

tocarle a alguien to be someone's turn

Mi amor, te toca echar la basura.

Honey, it's your turn to take out the garbage.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

El Salvador - La Pulgacita de las Américas

Slow day in the Spanish lesson circuit, so I thought I'd upload a sample essay I threw together today, about my favorite country in Central America, La República de El Salvador. It's only a rough draft, though, so I challenge some of my students to check and see if I made some grammatical errors!!

El Salvador: La Pulgacita de las Américas

En general, hay muchos paises en que quiero visitar, pero no hay ningún país como El Salvador, o llamado oficialmente la República de El Salvador. Efectivamente, es el dueño de mi corazón. Lleno de montañas altas, selvas mojadas, y un ambiente tropical que no tiene ningun rival en el mundo entero, el pueblo salvadoreño es el más amable de todo el mundo. Traducido al inglés, El Salvador quiere decir “The Savior”, y se nombró por los conquistadores que venturaron en la área para aumentar su dominio. Cuando se descubrió, El Salvador era lleno de gente indígena que se llamaban los Pipil. La población de Pipil derrotó a los conquistadores en 1526, pero ellos volvieron a conquistar el país de nuevo en dos años. Los Pipil padeció mucho en las manos españoles, y luego se esclavaron para extraer los minerales naturales que predominaba el terreno, como plata, fierro, y oro, y para que los conquistadores pudieran mantener control sobre ellos.

Hoy en día, los Pipil existe todavía, y se puede admirar mezclándose con la gente hispana que hace la mayoría de la población. Sin embargo, la población de El Salavador en su totalidad consiste en noventa por ciento de mestizos, o sea, los que llevan padres de orígin español y indígeno, nueve por ciento de los que se llaman los “gueros”, quienes son de nacionalidad americano y europeano, y últimamente, falta un por ciento en que se meten los Pipil. Comparten las derechas de votar entre todos para que se puedan disfrutar del poder político, y además el proceso del gobierno.

El siglo veintiuno ha visto crecer El Salvador y también se lo ha visto convertir en un país de economía diversa. Su mejor producto de exportación continua ser el café y el azúcar, y mas productos de comida nativos. No obstante, el turismo juega un gran parte en la diversificación de la economía. Pienso que sea un gran país al viajero por eso, y a los turísticos les gusten mucho. Hay mucho para hacer en El Salvador; por ejemplo, las estaciones son bien definidas, especialmente en las montañas en donde llueva regularmente en el invierno debido a la precipitación de las aguas del Mar Caribe, aunque El Salvador es el único país de America Central que no está situado a orillas de la costa. Asi se puede ir de excursión por las selvas tropicales donde se tumban muchas lluvias, y se pueden observer la fauna y la flora que hay en esta habitación.

Los picos más altos de El Salvador acuestan en una cadena de volcanes activos que no se han durmido hace siglos. El cumbre de Cerro El Pita es de altura 8957 pies sobre el nivel del mar, y les gusta este pico a los hikers que frecuentan la área regularmente. Otra montaña incluye San Vicente que sube arriba del valle Jiboa, lleno de haciendas y terreno adecuado para crecer el ganado, que es otro producto de exportación en que los depienden los salvadoreños.

Los lagos grandes de El Salvador le ofrecen una gran diversión a los que prefieren relajar en el sol o en la sombra. Para la gente adventurosa, toman lugar muchos deportes como el parasailing y el buscear en el lago Coatepeque, o además en el lago Llapango. Los que quieren ir de pachanga lo pueden hacer en los bares y los clubes ubicados a orillas de los lagos, o cerca de la playa al lado del océano Pacífico.

¿Tienes hambre? Asegúrate traer contigo tu apetito. El Salvador tiene mucha comida nativa como pupusas, el plato más popular del país, en que se mete entre dos tortillas una mezcla de queso oaxacano, chicharrones, y frijoles refritos. ¡Qué sabrosas! Se pueden comprar en las tienditas o “bodegas” que están situadas a lo largo del país. También, asegúrate probar la paella de pollo y camarones, llena de crema y mantequilla. Por lo último, prueba la oja de yucca frita, que es una oja de la planta yucca en que se meten chicharrones y pimientos dulces. Si tienes sed, toma la horchata que consiste en leche, agua, unas especias molidas, y azúcar. Se bebe la horchata a lo largo del año.

Una cultura grande se puede encontrar por el turístico en El Salvador. Hay muchos murales pintados a lo largo del país, y escultura bonita aparecen en la ciudad capital de San Salvador. Aquí hay una gran combinación de cultura indígena y Española, y los habitantes de la ciudad disfrutan de ella. Bailes folklóricos son muy populares, así como los vestidos de colores frecuentemente llevados por la gente indígena del país.

Para llegar a El Salvador, recomiendo que traigas cheques de viajero en vez efectivo debido al crimen que afecta el país profundamente. Necesitarás llevar tu pasaporte siempre, y si se te pida el aduano en el aeropuerto, se lo necesitas procurar. El Salvador es servido por el aeropuerto internacional de Comalapa. Cuando salgas del aeropuerto, te vas a dar cuenta que haya muchos taxis y otras formas de transportación que circulan en las ciudades. Sin embargo, al viajero a los lugares más escondidos y rurales, falta muchísima el transporte que tendrás que caminar o esperar el autobus que tarden en llegar.

Ojalá que decidas viajar a El Salvador, que es todavía el dueño de mi corazón. Hace muchos años que no he estado allí, pero extraño al gente, la cultura, y especialmente, la comida riquísima y hecha con amor.

¡Sigue estudiando!

Professor Joel

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Uses of Ser

This morning, my student and I delved into the verb ser, which is the most frequently used verb in the Spanish lexicon. Now, my student was exhibiting some real labor pains trying to grasp the concept of this verb, but his angst was probably the result of making things more difficult than they really are.

Below is a rough outline of when to use ser. I made it as simple as possible, so you wouldn't be reaching for your last clump of hair with the intention of yanking it out. Enjoy!

Ser is used for:

Describing something:

La casa es de madera. The house is (made) of wood.

El mantel es de lana. The blanket is (made) of wool.

Physical/Personal Characteristic:

La basquetbolista es muy alta. The basketball player is really tall.

Mario es muy amable. Mario is very friendly.


Soy de los Estados Unidos. I am from the United States.

Esa camisa es de Pakistan. That shirt is from Pakistan.

Nosotros somos de origen mexicano. We are of Mexican origin.


Elena es canadiense. Elena is Canadian.

Ellas son europeanas. They are Europeans.

Possession (ser + de):

Este reloj es de mi. This watch is mine.

Ese automóvil es de Juan. That is Juan's automobile.

Telling Dates and Times:

Son las cinco de la tarde. It's five in the afternoon.

Es jueves. It is Thursday.


Yo soy maestro de español. I am a Spanish teacher.

Mi padre es electricista. My dad is an electrician.

Last but not least, here are some things to remember about this verb:

Ser is used before adjectives to indicate that the condition expressed by the adjectives does not result from a change.
• These adjectives express inherent qualities and characteristics such as nationality, physical attributes, personality, etc.
Ser is ALWAYS used to tell dates, times, professions and religions. When referring to a profession/career, the indefinite article is omitted.

By the way, I always tell my students that when in doubt, and you are not referring to someone's location on a map, then use the verb ser. Hope that helps, but I'm sure you'll be back for more.

Sigue estudiando,

Professor Joel

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