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Gerald Erichsen

Gerald\'s Spanish Language Blog

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Expand Your Vocabulary With Suffixes

Monday June 2, 2014

In Spanish, a tabla is a board (among other things). By changing its ending, you can come up with new words and meanings: A tablado is a platform, a tablero can be a game board (such as for chess), a tableta is a tablet or a candy bar, and a tablón is a plank or a bulletin board. These endings added to tabl- are known as suffixes, and in Spanish they can be used with great versatility to add nuances of meaning or to come up with new words entirely.

Although most suffixes are different enough from those in English that you might not be able to guess their meanings, that's not so with Spanish prefixes, which overlap substantially with those of English.

Impersonal Es Phrases Often Trigger the Subjunctive Mood

Saturday May 31, 2014

The subjunctive mood can be intimidating when you first start to learn it, but don't let that deter you — although the subjunctive mood is often neglected in English, it's an essential feature of Spanish. One way to ease yourself into using the subjunctive is by studying our list of phrases such as "Es posible que" and "Es necesario que" and learning which ones can trigger the use of the subjunctive mood. That list is featured in our grammar lesson on es phrases and the subjunctive.

All in the Family

Thursday May 29, 2014

As you travel around the Spanish-speaking world, chances are that you'll frequently be asked about your family. Even if you're new to Spanish, you can learn how to refer to your relatives. Today's featured lesson, on Spanish names of family members, lists nearly every named relative there is — from parents to second cousins — and provides some simple sentences that you can use so you can engage in basic conversations about the people closest to you.

Preterite Perfect Tense Tells What Happened Before

Monday May 26, 2014

As I prepared my newest lesson, one on the preterite perfect tense, I learned a new word: "anterior," and it's the same in Spanish: anterior. It carries the idea of something coming before. And that makes sense: The preterite perfect tense is used to tell of an action that took place just before another action, and an alternative name for the tense is the anterior perfect. The tense isn't used much, but it's good to know for when you come across it.

Verbs for 'To Be'

Saturday May 24, 2014
The differences between the two Spanish verbs for "to be," estar and ser, can be difficult to grasp for some people who are new to learning Spanish. Spanish speakers think of the two verbs in entirely different ways, and they are seldom interchangeable. In today's featured lesson, we take a look at ways you can distinguish between ser and estar.

Make These 3 Verbs Do More Than Exist

Thursday May 22, 2014
Verbs don't always show much action. In fact, our newest lesson is on three verbs that indicate existence. Of course, existir is one of them, although the other two are more common: estar and haber.

Put on a Show With Mostrar

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Here's an interesting etymological tidbit I discovered: Despite their vastly different meanings, there's a connection between the words "monster" and "demonstration": Both come from a Latin family of words with meanings that include "to show," "to point out" and "to warn."

What does this have to do with Spanish? Not much, except that those same Latin words also gave us the Spanish words mostrar and demostrar. Although there's nothing monstrous about them, they do convey the idea of showing.

Which 'You' Do You Use?

Sunday May 18, 2014

If you've been studying Spanish for a while, knowing which subject pronoun for "you" to use — usted, , vosotros, or ustedes — is something that you don't have to think about anymore. But if you're new, it can be confusing. Our lesson on the four yous of Spanish offers an explanation of the four pronouns and lets you know when you use each one.

Don't Let Apagar Turn You Off

Friday May 16, 2014
In English, a fire might be extinguished, a TV might be turned off and enthusiasm might be dampened, but in Spanish you can use the same verb for all three actions, as explained in our lesson on using the verb apagar. Words such as apagar are one reason you should avoid the temptation of translating word for word — context always matters. Three other verbs with a wide range of translations include servir, realizar and caer.

Precise Punctuation: the Semicolon

Wednesday May 14, 2014

Although the semicolon isn't used very often, it provides a useful function, emphasizing the connection between statements or words in a way that neither the period nor comma can. Our lesson on the Spanish semicolon is one in a series on Spanish punctuation.

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