Spanish at SBC — { El programa de español en SBC }

Spanish Speaking Countries

Spanish Writing Guide — { Guía para escribir en español }

Click on a word or category for an explanation with examples.

about
around
assume
ARTICLES
at
TO BE
because
brave
but
for
from
GUSTAR VERBS
just
love, marriage
meet
named
older
only
real
reason
so
that
think
time
very, more, a lot
who, whom
work

about

  1. to be about, to deal with = tratarse de
    • What is the story about? ¿De qué se trata el cuento?
  2. to speak about, to have an opinion about with pensar or opinar = de
    • The rose and the devil speak about utility. La rosa y el diablo hablan de la utilidad.
    • What do you think about that story? ¿Qué opinas/piensas de ese cuento?
  3. to write about a specific topic = sobre
    • Many philosophers wrote about the meaning of life. Muchos filósofos escribieron sobre el significado de la vida.
  4. to be about to = estar a punto de + infinitive
    • I was about to write you a letter. Estaba a punto de escribirte una carta.

around

  1. in the sense of general area = por
    • There's no one around [here]. No hay nadie por aquí.
  2. in the sense of surrounding = alrededor de
    • Around the house there are many trees. Hay muchos árboles alrededor de la casa.

assume

  1. to assume = suponer
    • I assume you know the truth. Supongo que sabes la verdad.

ARTICLES

Definite articles are used more in Spanish than in English, so lots of times we use them in Spanish even when the word would not be used in English.

  1. use with general categories and abstract nouns, but not when the noun is specific (unless you want the word "the")
    • Love is blind. El amor es ciego.
    • I like sports. Me gustan los deportes.
    • Italian shoes are very expensive. Los zapatos italianos son muy caros.
    • But... I bought shoes yesterday. Ayer compré zapatos.
  2. use with hours of the day = son las tres de la tarde
  3. use with titles that go with the last name, except when speaking directly to the person
    • I don't know Mr. Gómez. No conozco al señor Gómez.
    • Dr. Morales has a very interesting idea. El doctor Morales tiene una idea muy interesante.
    • Good morning, Professor López. Buenos días, profesora López.
  4. use with nouns iglesia, cárcel, escuela, centro (for downtown)
    • The criminal is in jail. El criminal está en la cárcel.
    • I need to go downtown. Necesito ir al centro.

Indefinite articles are used less in Spanish than in English.

  1. Don't use with unmodified nouns of profession, religion or nationality following the verb SER
    • My mother is a lawyer. Mi mamá es abogada. (When the noun is modified, use the article. Mi mamá es una buena abogada.)
  2. Don't use with otro or cierto for "another" or "a certain"
    • I want another car. Quiero otro coche

at

  1. to refer to a place in which people or things are already located = en
    • The doctor is not at his office; he is at the hospital. El médico no está en su consultorio; está en el hospital.
    • I'll be at the library at 3:00. Estaré en la biblioteca a las tres.
  2. to refer, with verbs like llegar, to a place to which someone is going = a
    • We will arrive at the airport early. Llegaremos temprano al aeropuerto.

TO BE

English has one verb TO BE that is used to express many different kinds of ideas. In Spanish, different verbs are used to express different modes of "being".

SER

  1. used to identify, when one noun or pronoun = another noun or pronoun
    • My mother is a lawyer. Mi mamá es abogada.
    • Carlos is a Chilean. Carlos es chileno.
    • Havana is the capital of Cuba. La Habana es la capital de Cuba.
  2. used to indicate time of day
    • What time is it? It is two o'clock. ¿Qué hora es? Son las dos.
  3. used with adjectives to indicate personal qualities (physical, mental, emotional) that are not changeable by an act of will
    • Carlos is tall. Carlos es alto.
    • Her husband is very young. Su marido es muy joven.
  4. used in impersonal expressions to denote "it is + quality" = es necesario, es importante, es bueno, es verdad, es difícil (Note that all impersonal expressions take the subjunctive in subordinate clauses except when they refer to certainty, as in es obvio, es verdad, es cierto, etc.)
  5. used to indicate when or where an event is taking place
    • The party is at seven; it will be at my house. La fiesta es a las siete; será en mi casa.
  6. used with the past participle to form the passive voice
    • The story was written by Nellie Campobello. El cuento fue escrito por Nellie Campobello.
    • Those houses were built by a famous architect. Esas casas fueron construidas por un arquitecto famoso.

ESTAR

  1. used to indicate location
    • Havana is in Cuba. La Habana está en Cuba.
    • The library is next to Benedict. La biblioteca está junto a Benedict.
  2. used with adjectives to indicate changeable qualities
    • The coffee is hot/cold. El café está caliente/frío.
    • The young women are proud of their poetry. Las jóvenes están orgullosas de su poesía.
  3. used with past participles to indicate a state that is the result of a past action
    • The door is closed. La puerta está cerrada.

TENER

  1. used with certain nouns (hambre, sed, frío, calor, sueño, suerte, prisa) to indicate certain feelings a person might have (to be hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, sleepy, lucky, in a hurry)
    • I am very cold. Tengo mucho frío.
    • They are very hungry. Tienen mucha hambre.
  2. used with años to indicate a person's age
    • My brother is nineteen. Mi hermano tiene diecinueve años.

HACER

  1. used with certain nouns (tiempo, calor, frío, viento, sol) to describe the weather
    • What's the weather? ¿Qué tiempo hace?
    • The weather is bad. Hace mal tiempo.
    • It is very cold, but it is sunny. Hace mucho frío, pero hace sol.

HABER (HAY)

  1. used to denote existence, it is translated "there is" or "they are" and is always a third person, singular form
    • How many students are there in this class? There are twenty. ¿Cuántas estudiantes hay en esta clase? Hay veinte.

because

  1. preceding an explanation with a conjugated verb = porque
    • She studies literature because she likes to read. Estudia literatura porque le gusta leer. (Note: "Why" in questions. ¿Por qué?)
  2. because of (followed by a noun) = a causa de
    • They had to move because of the fire. Tuvieron que mudarse a causa del fuego.
  3. because of (followed by noun) = por
    • They married for love. Se casaron por amor.
  4. "because" introducing a sentence, in the sense of "as" or "since" = como
    • Because yesterday was Saturday, I got up at 10:00 AM. Como ayer fue sábado, me desperté a las diez de la mañana.

brave

  1. brave = valiente
    • The narrator wanted to be brave. El narrador quería ser valiente.
  2. bravo = arrogantly obnoxious

but

  1. but = nevertheless = pero
    • I study a lot, but I also have a good time. Estudio mucho, pero me divierto también.
  2. but = "but rather" or "but instead" = sino (only used following a negated statement to express the idea of replacing one thing or idea with another)
    • I'm not angry but tired. No estoy enfadada sino cansada.
    • She didn't go out, but stayed at home. No salió sino que se quedó en casa. (When what follows "but" in these cases is a conjugated verb, use sino que.)
  3. but = except = excepto, menos
    • Everyone but my brother speaks Spanish. Todos menos mi hermano hablan español.

for

  1. to indicate purpose, intention or destination = para
    • I have a gift for you. Tengo un regalo para ti.
    • These boots are made for walking. Estas botas son para caminar.
  2. to imply a comparison = para
    • She sings very well for a child. Ella canta muy bien para niña.
  3. forever = para siempre
  4. to indicate the basis for an action ("in the name of," "for the sake of") = por
    • The soldiers fight for their country. Los soldados luchan por la patria.
  5. to indicate duration of time = por
    • We lived there for three years. Vivimos allí por tres años.
  6. to indicate reason = por
    • I will not marry for money but for love. No me casaré por dinero sino por amor.
  7. to indicate exchange = por
    • I paid $10 for the book. Pagué diez dólares por el libro.
    • Thanks for your help. Gracias por tu ayuda.
  8. for that reason, that is why = por eso
    • I missed my plane and that's why I was late. Perdí el vuelo y por eso llegué tarde.

from

  1. origin = de
    • They say they're from France. Dicen que son de Francia.
    • I got a letter from my friends. Recibí una carta de mis amigos.
  2. range (as in from...to) = desde...hasta
    • I'll be in my office from 9:00 to 11:30. Estaré en mi oficina desde las nueve hasta las once y media.

GUSTAR VERBS

Some verbs in Spanish have special constructions because their real meaning in Spanish is different from the English meaning we often want to express. These verbs are gustar, encantar, fascinar, interesar, importar, molestar, faltar, quedar, and parecer.

Because the Spanish meanings of these verbs differ from what we are used to saying in English, we have to base our Spanish sentence on the Spanish meaning of the verb so that it can express our English idea. We do this by expressing the English subject as the indirect object of the Spanish verb.

  1. Gustar means to please. In English we say "to like".
    • I like horses. Me gustan los caballos.
  2. Encantar means to enchant. In English we say "to love (something)".
    • We love chocolate. Nos encanta el chocolate.
  3. Fascinar means to fascinate. In English we sometimes say "to be fascinated by".
    • I am fascinated by Russian novels. Me fascinan las novelas rusas.
  4. Interesar means to interest. In English we sometimes say "to be interested in".
    • She is interested in computers. Le interesan las computadoras.
  5. Importar means to be important or to matter. In English we sometimes say "to care".
    • I don't care about clothes. No me importa la ropa.
  6. Molestar means to bother or to annoy. In English we sometimes say "to mind".
    • Don't you mind the noise? ¿No te molesta el ruido?
  7. Faltar means to be lacking or missing. In English we sometimes say "to need".
    • I need $5 to buy the ticket. Me faltan cinco dólares para comprar el boleto.
  8. Quedar means to remain. In English we sometimes say "to have left".
    • They only have $3 left. Sólo les quedan tres dólares.
  9. Parecer means to seem. In English we sometimes say "to think".
    • What do you think about these verbs? ¿Qué te parecen estos verbos?

just

  1. to have just done something = acabar de + infinitive
    • I [have] just received this letter. Acabo de recibir esta carta.
  2. for "had just" use acabar de in the imperfect
    • We had just arrived. Acabábamos de llegar.
  3. just = only = sólo
    • I just have $3.00. Sólo tengo tres dólares.
  4. just = fair = justo
    • My father is a very just man. Mi padre es un hombre muy justo.

love, marriage

  1. to marry, to get married to = casarse con
    • Margarita married Luis. Margarita se casó con Luis.
  2. to fall in love with = enamorarse de
    • Shirley fell in love with another man. Shirley se enamoró de otro hombre.
  3. to be in love with = estar enamorado de
    • The narrator was in love with Shirley. El narrador estaba enamorado de Shirley.

meet

  1. for the firse time = conocer
    • We met them yesterday. Los conocimos ayer.
  2. to run into (by accident) = encontrarse con
    chance meeting = encuentro
    • We met Alberto at the restaurant. Nos encontramos con Alberto en el restaurante.
  3. to meet as a group = reunirse
    meeting = reunión
    • The professors meet on Friday. Se reúnen los profesores el viernes.
  4. to meet by arrangement = to see each other = verse
    • We'll meet/see each other at 7:00. Nos veremos a las siete.

named

  1. que se llama
    • I have a friend named Susan. Tengo una amiga que se llama Susana.

older

  1. mayor
    • I have three older sisters. Tengo tres hermanas mayores. (younger = menor)

only

  1. adjective = único
    • She is my only friend. Es mi única amiga. (must agree with noun)
  2. adverb = sólo (usually with verbs), solamente (with verbs and adjectives)
    • I only have to study the verbs. Sólo/Solamente tengo que estudiar los verbos. (these forms do not agree)
  3. "the only thing" = lo único
    • The only thing I need is a new car. Lo único que necesito es un coche nuevo. (this form does not agree)
  4. "if only" = ojalá [que] (always used with a form of the past subjunctive for this meaning)
    • If only we could go to the beach. Ojalá [que] pudiéramos ir a la playa.

real

  1. verdadero
    • The real victims are the children. Las víctimas verdaderas son los niños
  2. realistic (in the arts) = true to life = verosímil
    • That story is not very realistic. Ese cuento no es muy verosímil.
  3. realistic (in terms of attitude) práctico, pragmático
    • We need a more realistic plan. Necesitamos un plan más práctico.
  4. realism (a literary movement) = el realismo
    realist (a work within that literary movement) = realista

reason

  1. the reason why = la razón por la que
    • This is the reason why I couldn't finish my homework. Esta es la razón por la que no pude terminar la tarea.
  2. the reason for = la razón por
    • The reason for the delay is difficult to explain. Es difícil explicar la razón por el atraso
  3. for that reason = por eso

so

  1. adverb = tan
    • Spanish isn't so hard. El español no es tan difícil.
  2. adverb: so much = tanto/muchísimo
    • Those children sleep so much. Esos niños duermen tanto/muchísimo.
  3. so much, so many = tanto, tantas, tantos, tantas/mucho, muchas etc.
    • I have so many responsibilities. Tengo tantas/muchas responsabilidades.
  4. thus = así
  5. conjunction implying result = así que
    • I arrived late, so I haven't eaten yet. Llegué tarde, así que todavía no he comido.
  6. conjunction introducing an event that follows in a narration in a conversational style = pues
    • So at 7:00 we went to the movies. Pues a las siete fuimos al cine.

that

  1. relative pronoun that introduces clauses = que
    • We know [that] they work in the city. Sabemos que trabajan en la ciudad. (Note that in English the word "that" is often not used, but the que must be used in Spanish.)
  2. demonstrative adjective that modifies a noun (plural is "those") = ese, esa, esos, esas
    • That car is very cheap. Ese coche es muy barato.
  3. demonstrative pronoun that refers to a noun that is not present in the sentence (plural is "those") = ése, ésa, ésos, ésas
    • I want to buy a blouse, but I don't like those. Quiero comprar una blusa, pero no me gustan ésas.
  4. neuter demonstrative that refers to "that" as a general idea = eso
    • We don't understand that. No comprendemos eso.

think

  1. to think.... [followed by an opinion or idea] = pienso/creo que + conjugated verb
    • I think the book is very interesting. Pienso/creo que el libro es muy interesante.
  2. to think about someone or something = pensar en
    • I am always thinking about you. Siempre pienso/estoy pensando en ti.
  3. to think about = have an opinion about = pensar de or parecer (used like gustar)
    • What do you think about my friends? ¿Qué piensas de mis amigos?/¿Qué te parecen is amigos?

time

  1. time of day = hora
    • What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?
  2. time as a general concept = tiempo
    • I want to go shopping, but I don't have time. Quiero ir de compras, pero no tengo tiempo.
  3. time referring to "instance" = (la) vez, las veces (plural)
    • I saw them yesterday for the first time. Los vi ayer por primera vez.
    • How many times have you read Don Quijote? ¿Cuántas veces has leído Don Quijote?
  4. period of historical time = época
    • At that time there were no newspapers. En esa época no había periódicos.
  5. period of time spent doing something = temporada
    • I spent some time in Colorado. Pasé una temporada en Colorado.

very, more, a lot

  1. very = muy
    • Her novels are very important. Sus novelas son muy importantes.
  2. more = más
    • They have more problems this year. Tienen más problemas este año.
    • My cousins are smarter than my sisters. Mis primas son más inteligentes que mis hermanas. (Note use of más in comparative constructions)
  3. much, a lot, many = mucho
    • They have many problems. Tienen muchos problemas.
    • We don't have much money. No tenemos mucho dinero.

who, whom

  1. who: in a question (as subject) = quién
    • Who wrote this? ¿Quién escribió esto?
  2. whom: in a question (object) = a quién
    • Whom did you visit yesterday? ¿A quién visitaste ayer?
  3. who as a relative pronoun, introducing a clause = que
    • John is the young man who lives in Mexico. Juan es el joven que vive en México.

work

  1. to work as in to perform work = trabajar
    • Helen works in the library. Elena trabaja en la biblioteca.
  2. to work as in to function properly, like a machine = funcionar
    • My phone isn't working. Mi teléfono no funciona.
  3. to work out, as in a plan = salir bien
    • Their plan didn't work. No salió bien su plan.
  4. noun = the work one does, one's job = el trabajo
    • I don't like my work. No me gusta el trabajo.
  5. noun = a literary or artistic work = obra
    • It is a very complex work. Es una obra muy compleja.
    • Shakespeare's works are very famous. Las obras de Shakespeare son muy famosas.
Spanish Speaking Countries