jueves, 11 de noviembre de 2010

VERBS: Ser / Estar

There are some verbs that are essential in every language. For example, in English we could deem the verbs "to be" and "to have" as the most important. On the other hand, these main verbs aren't two in Spanish but four: Ser, estar, haber, tener (though I would delete the verb "tener" from that list).
If you've been following me from the beginning of this blog, you'll already know how to conjugate part of the verb "ser", and also, part of the verb "estar". But do you really know what they actually mean? Yes, both verbs are the equivalent of the verb "to be". This lesson is crucial as long as you don't want to be mistaken when it comes to use these two verbs.

SER / ESTAR : Main difference

SER is used to describe permanent qualities of concrete and abstract things.
ESTAR is used to describe temporary qualities of concrete and abstract things.

(Yo) soy Antonio
Yo estoy Antonio (you can't stop being yourself)

(Tú) eres muy guapa  (you are very beautiful)
(Tú) estás muy guapa  (you are very beautiful - at this moment -)

Imagine you are in a party and your best friend introduce you to a n incredibly beautiful girl. You are delighted in her beauty and so you say "Tú estás muy guapa". Unfortunately, the girl start laughing at you. Why? 
Maybe she's making fun of your "beauty"... or more probably, your sentence was a bit ludicrous. 
First, if you want to make flattering comments to a person you've just met use the verb "ser". e.g. "Eres muy guapa".
Second, try not to use personal pronouns. Remember, you've just met her. If you say "tú", you are probably treating her too closely... or she realize you're a foreigner.
Supposing that you meet a girl you already knew, if she's prettier than usual, then you can say "Estás muy guapa".

Tu pelo es negro (your hair is black)
Tu pelo está negro (your hair is black - and that's not its natural colour- )

(Él) es simpático (He's a nice person)
(Él) está simpático (He's nice)

(Yo) soy médico (I'm a doctor)
(Yo) soy portugués (I'm Portuguese)
(Yo) soy de Madrid (I'm from Madrid)
Eso es una avion (That's an airplane)

In the example above, use the verb "ser" if you want to say someone is beautiful because it is supposed that he or she will be beautiful every time BUT now imagine that same girl is sad, use "estar" because it is supposed she's not always sad: "¿Estás triste?". 

SER is also used to talk about time, date, quantities...

Son las dos y media ( It is half past two /  It's two thirty)
Ya es primavera en el Corte Inglés (It's spring now in "El Corte Inglés)
Hoy es 11 de noviembre de 2010 (Today is november 11th, 2010) 
¿Cuánto es? Son dos euros. (How is it? It's two euros)

ESTAR is also used to talk about locations.

¿Está en casa? (Is it at home?)
Estoy en Venecia, mañana vuelvo (I'm at Venice, I'll come back tomorrow)
Estamos perdidos (We are lost)
El libro está encima de la mesa (The book is on the table)

Note: Estar is also used as an auxiliary verb.

¡!  ¿Dónde es la fiesta? (where's the party?) = ¿Dónde está la fiesta? (where's the party?)
We tend to  use the verb ser when we want to talk about the temporary location os something like an event. Therefore, "¿dónde es la fiesta?" is more frequently used than "¿dónde está la fiesta?. More examples:

- ¿Dónde es la boda? (where's the wedding?)
- ¿Dónde es tu cumpleaños? (where's your birthday?)
- ¿Dónde es el concierto de los Rolling Stones?  (where's the concert of the Rolling Stones?)

You are in a crossroads and you don't know where to go, so you ask your friend: ¿Por dónde es? 

Here we have a rap explaining the difference between ser and estar. You'll love it! ;)

Más información:


I forgot talking about the personal pronouns in the last post. Ok, it's not difficult. In Spanish we have singular personal pronouns (yo, tú, el/ella) and plural personal pronouns (nosotros/nosotras, vosotros/as, ellos/ellas). There are also two formal personal pronouns: usted (uses the third singular person form of verbs), ustedes (uses the third plural person form of verbs).

 YO   (first person - singular)
  TÚ   (second person - singular)
  ÉL   (third person - singular - masculine)   ELLA   (third person - singular - feminine)

  NOSOTROS  (first person - plural - masculine)    NOSOTRAS   (first person - plural - feminine)
  VOSOTROS  (second person - plural - masculine)    VOSOTRAS   (second person - plural - feminine)
  ELLOS   (third person - plural - masculine)  ELLAS   (third person - plural - feminine)

If you are talking of a group of women and there's a man, use VOSOTROS. If you are a group, no matter how many girls there are, use NOSOTROS if there's at least one man. Do the same thing with ELLOS. 

If you are talking with old people or with a man or woman you want to treat politely, use the formal personal pronouns: USTED and USTEDES.

In Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Uruguay, VOS is used instead of TÚ. Latin American people is very respectful, they treat almost everybody in a respectful manner. For example, if you are in Venezuela, the most typical way of adressing an adult is using formal personal pronouns. VOS can also be understood as a formal personal pronoun.  

Más información:

SER : Present Simple

                                                          Yo                       SOY
                                                          Tú                        ERES
                                                          Él / Ella                ES

                                                          Nosotros -as       SOMOS
                                                          Vosotros -as       SOIS
                                                          Ellos -as              SON

ESTAR : Present Simple

                                                         Yo                       ESTOY
                                                         Tú                        ESTÁS
                                                         Él / Ella                ESTÁ

                                                         Nosotros -as       ESTAMOS
                                                         Vosotros -as       ESTÁIS
                                                         Ellos -as              ESTÁN


sábado, 6 de noviembre de 2010


These first lessons are a bit boring. They’re too theoretical and you don’t understand many things yet. Be patient, a few more entries and you will start reading basic texts without difficulty.

Spanish is a romance language like French, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Romanian, Galician, etc… all these languages have a common ancestor: Latin. Fortunately, Spanish is not as difficult as Latin, for example, there are NO DECLENSIONS as in German or as in all Slavic languages (though we still have some remnants of it).

¡! Declensions? What do you mean? To decline is to change the aspect of a noun or adjective depending on the role it plays in the sentence. In Spanish only verbs and pronouns are highly inflected. Nouns and adjectives are only declined according to their gender and number but not according to their function. This is not enough to deem Spanish as a language with declensions. We have replaced declensions with prepositions.

House (English) = Casa (Spanish) = Talo (Finnish)
In a house (English) = En una casa (Spanish) = Talossa (Finnish)
From a house (English) = Desde una casa (Spanish) = Talosta (Finnish)
To a house (English) = A/Hacia una casa (Spanish) = Talolle (Finnish)
Without a house (English) = Sin una casa (Spanish) = Talotta (Finnish)


Spanish is a SVO language, in other words, sentences in Spanish tend to begin with a subject followed by a verb and finally, an object (or complement).

Yo         como          carne
  I            eat             meat
subject    verb          object

SVO languages are very common: Spanish, French, Italian, English, Catalan, Portuguese, Swedish, etc...
But we can also build other kind of sentences because Spanish is rather flexible, therefore we can put words together as follows:

Yo carne no como.
Carne comí yo ayer.
¿Come carne usted?
¿No come ella carne?

Hasta dos veces al día tiene razón un reloj parado.

In spanish, this is called hipérbaton and is a figure of speech. 

Sentences can be even weirder because we always try to avoid personal pronouns, so you can delete the blue  words (personal pronouns) from the previous sentences and they will still be grammatically correct.   
It's very important to bear that in mind because subject elision in Spanish is omnipresent. Moreover, sometimes you can figure out who's not native by just paying attention to the way he or she uses the personal pronouns.

Typical sentences uttered by foreigners:
¿Tú gustas chocolate? (correction: ¿(A tí) te gusta el chocolate?)
¿Tú trabajas?  (more frequently used: ¿trabajas?)
Yo voy al aeropuerto (more frequently used: voy al aeropuerto)

Personal pronouns are more frequently used when you want to treat someone politely or when you want to change the addressee in a conversation.

A- ¿A dónde queréis ir?
B- Yo quiero ir a Roma.
C- Y yo, a Florencia. ¿Y tú?
A- A Nápoles pero a Florencia también.

Also, we elide verbs in certain sentences, when the verb has already been said and is understood you are using it again. 

Yo como carne y ella come pescado. --------->  Yo como carne ; ella, pescado

Finally, we can avoid using objects as well but only when the object itself is understood.

A- ¿Comes carne  
B- No, no me gusta (la carne)

In English you might say I don't like it but please, never translate it as ello in Spanish. ELLO (it) is hardly ever used. We prefer to use demonstrative pronouns instead.


In Spanish every words is either masculine or feminine. There are some neuter words, but not many, so we can say that Spanish has two genders. English speakers may find it a bit difficult because they have almost no genders in their language but, don't worry, many languages have genders and most of them have at least three (feminine, masculine, neuter) and others have even more , for example Polish which has five grammatical genders. 
Besides, it's easy to discern which words are feminine or masculine in Spanish. Most masculine words end in -o or consonant and most feminine words end in -a. As there are few words that end in -i or -u in Spanish, you only have to memorize the gender of not many words.


La radio (feminine) ¡! El radio (masculine) means The radius.
El día (masculine) means The day
El problema (masculine) means The problem
El mapa (masculine) means The map
La mano (feminine) means The hand

Some other rules:

- Many words ending in -e are feminine (la torre, la clase, la calle, la tarde, la gente, etc...) but not all of them (el sable, el cable, el diente, el coche, el personaje, etc...)
- Words ending in -dad, -tad, -ed, -tis, -ción, -zón, -sión, -dez, -iz are feminine (la artritis, la libertad, la red, la pared, la verdad, la mitad, la pasión, la razón, la estupidez, la sensación, la sed, la canción...) but there are also exceptions (el corazón, el desliz, el matiz, el camión,  etc...)
- Some words can change their gender depending on the person implied (el pianista, el cantante, el profesor, el ladrón, el rey, el actor if you are talking of a man / la pianista, la cantante, la profesora, la ladrona, la reina, la actriz if you are talking of a woman). In this particular case, some words are irregular  (el actor/la actriz, el rey/ la reina, el modelo/la modelo, el policía/la policía, el tenista/la tenista, etc...)

More information:

As for grammatical numbers, Spanish distinguish only between singular and plural (as in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, etc...). If you want to make a word plural, add -es / -s at its end.

Rata -----> Ratas
Ratón ----> Ratones
Libro ----> Libros
Corazón ----> Corazones
Coche -----> Coches
Flor -----> Flores 
Hindú -----> Hindúes 
Ley -----> Leyes 
Examen ----> Exámenes ( xa keeps its stress and as it becomes the antepenultimate syllable, its stress is then marked) 
Francés ----> Franceses
Pez -----> Peces (note that z becomes c) 

It's very easy. If you want to pluralize a word that end in a consonant or in a stressed vowel, just add -es; Otherwise, add -s.
But, obviously, yes, there are exceptions:

Virus ----> Virus
Café ----> Cafés
Menú ----> Menús (menúes can also be correct but is rarely used)
Sofá -----> Sofás
Papá / Mamá ----> Papás/ Mamás
Camping ----> Campings (just an -s, as in many foreign words)

Verbs, pronouns and determiners agree in gender and number. So, for example, if I'm talking of a house, I'll say una casa ; but if what I'm talking about is of some houses, then I'll say unas casas. This agreement is the reason why you must always pay attention to the grammatical gender and number of the nouns you use.

Niño pequeño -----> Niños pequeños
Niña pequeña -----> Niñas pequeñas

Note: This video is wonderful. Native pronunciation, good explanations and very easy to understand.

More information:


Spanish has definite and indefinite articles, as in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Catalan... but not many others. Languages outside the Indoeuropean branch with definite and indefinite articles are scarcely found.

Definite articles indicate that its noun is a particular one (or ones) identifiable to the listener. It may be the same thing that the speaker has already mentioned, or it may be something uniquely specified; whereas, indefinite articles indicate that its noun is not a particular one (or ones) identifiable to the listener. It may be something that the speaker is mentioning for the first time, or its precise identity may be irrelevant or hypothetical, or the speaker may be making a general statement about any such thing. Thanks Wikipedia.

Spanish indefinite articles: 

                       Singular                Plural
 Masculine          UN                   UNOS
 Feminine           UNA                 UNAS

E.g. Un perro (a male dog), una perra (a dog) , unos perros (some male dogs), unas perras (some female dogs).

Spanish definite articles:

                       Singular                Plural

 Masculine          EL                     LOS
 Feminine            LA                    LAS

 E.g. El perro (the male dog), la perra (the female dog), los perros (the male dogs), las perras (the female dogs).

Spanish has many kind of determiners, but we'll see them later. These ones , the articles, are the most important.

Note: I don't like the pronunciation in that video. The boy at the end of it mispronounces the word estudiante and he says estudiente instead.

Note: Native pronunciation but only definite articles :( (and yes, the girl doesn't pronounce the s completely, I'll explain you that later. But please, you are a snake ,ok? you love pronouncing the s's accurately).

More information:


Adjectives  are words that modify nouns by giving them qualities. In Spanish, adjectives can be placed either after a noun or before it. Normally, we place them after a noun but placing them before one is equally correct but slightly differente, it's a bit more poetic.

El perro rojo
El  rojo perro

In fact, the latter sounds a bit weird to me. It's not easy to be poetic, so try to place adjectives always AFTER the noun. But sometimes, we do use them before one, you'll learn when to use adjectives that way over time. 


In my opinion, verbs are the nucleus of language (I suppose). It's critical to learn them well especially verbs like ser or estar (and we'll see them very very soon). Verbs are the difficult part of Spanish:

- We conjugate them depending on gender, number, tense, aspect, mood and voice .
- We have many irregular verbs (many more than English).
- We also have many tenses and moods like the subjunctive mood that is way more present in Spanish than in most other languages. 
- Did I say that we tend to omit personal pronouns? Yes, I did. So, now you know that you can't hang always on them.

¡! Good news!!!, we have no phrasal verbs though verbs are usually linked with a particular preposition. For instance, you can´t say soñar en alguien but soñar CON alguien. But these are not phrasal verbs. In English you put out a fire, in Spanish we don't ponemos afuera un incendio but extinguimos un incendio. In English you get by, in Spanish we don't cogemos por but nos las arreglamos (and there are no prepositions).

I want you to learn just one thing now: Infinitive. Infinitive words end always in -ar, -er, -ir. For example:

Hablar (to speak)
Comer (to eat)
Beber (to drink)
Ir (to go)
Soñar (to dream)
Ser (to be)
Estar (to be)

Verbs conjugation depend on these infinitive endings, so they're extremely important. And no, there are no exceptions, ALL verbs in their infinitive form end in -ar (first infinitive ending), -er (second infinitive ending), -ir (third infinitive ending).


 Just change the intonation and mark them with two interrogation marks: ¿ (to open questions) and ? (to close them).

Ella come carne -------> ¿Ella come carne?

BUT there's something more I want you to learn today. That example above is grammatically but we tend to change the word orden when we ask something. As in English, we tend to use an VSO order.

¿Come  ella carne? (but, you know, even frequently is ¿Come carne? when you think the listener already knows who you  are talking of).

More examples:

¿Es tuyo el boli?
¿Vendrá  ella a casa?
¿Irá el perro también?


Spanish prepositions are: a, ante, bajo, cabe, con, contra, de, desde, en, entre, hacia, hasta, para, por, según, sin, sobre, tras.

A little too hasty? Ok, we'll see them later. But, as you can see, there aren't many and they're also easy to learn.


- Adverbs modify verbs. In Spanish, many adverbs end in -mente. If you find a word with that ending then that's an adverb, for sure. Well, except the word mente (mind).

- The most important conjunctions are y/e, o/u, pero, aunque, ni...ni, o...o, and a few more. Y means and.

María y Pablo  
Pablo y María
María, Isabel y Pablo
María, Pablo E Isabel

If the word just after y begins in i or hi, change y for e. If the word begins in  hie or y, use y anyway.

Miedo e histeria
Se necesita fuerza e inteligencia
Ya tengo la Coca-Cola. Dame ron y hielo.
Tengo una mansión, varios coches y yates.

In like manner, change the conjunction o (or)  for u (or) the following word begins in o or ho

O francesa u holandesa, pero María no puede ser las dos cosas.

- Interjections in Spanish and in English are used similarly: ¡Ey! ¡Ah! ¡Oh! ¡Jajaja! Glup, ¡Piiiiiii!.... Yes, they follow few rules.  

In brief:

¡Hasta la próxima!