And in some regions, that's not all. In Spanish, it is common for the consonants to be softer than they are in English, and sometimes they can become so silent as to be unnoticeable. Such is the case with the s and, as one Spanish student learned, even the g.
Most Spanish words will be understood in roughly the same way everywhere you go. But as I was reminded in an e-mail from a reader, that's not true of at least two words in our list of Thanksgiving vocabulary words: In many areas, an arándano might be understood to refer to a type of blueberry rather than a cranberry, and calabaza can refer to vegetables other than pumpkins. Context always matters, and that's a good thing to keep in mind when learning any Spanish vocabulary.Other lessons for this U.S. holiday weekend:
Question: Could you please explain the difference in meaning between the following two sentences: "El tratamiento se ha aplicado" and the sentence "El tratamiento se ha venido aplicando." Also do you have any good references on the use of venir with the gerund? — R.F., via email
Answer: The difference is much the same as between "they have applied the treatment" and "they have been applying the treatment." The first one, in the present perfect tense, suggests that the action has been completed. The second one, even though it uses the past participle of venir, is in a progressive tense and as such places emphasis on the ongoing nature of the action.
Usually, estar is used to form the progressive tenses, but venir and some other verbs can be used also. Use of venir in this way isn't particularly common, and it can suggest action over an extended period of time.
Note: In a followup letter, the correspondent said he had been confused in part by the use of the passive se. While the first sentence is straightforward when translated in a passive sense ("the treatment has been applied"), the second one is not. That is why I used an impersonal "they" in my suggested translations. Use of "they" in this way fulfills the main function of the passive voice, which is to avoid saying who has performed the action of a verb.
Question: I have seen many times the sentence "Lo que no nos mata nos hace más fuerte." The s in fuerte is omitted. Why does fuerte not agree with nos? In my opinion the sentence should be "Lo que no nos mata nos hace más fuertes." Is it a mistake or is it a peculiarity of the Spanish language? I would like to know your opinion. — Ilian, via email
Answer: You're right, that's a common saying, and it's a great question. I wish I had a good answer.
First of all, some quick research shows that the use of the plural form in this phrase, which means "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger," is also quite common: "Lo que no nos mata nos hace más fuertes." That doesn't do much to help with an answer, but it does show that this isn't some sort of fixed saying that violates the usual grammatical rules.Read More...
When you're first starting to learn Spanish, you may be told that the d of Spanish is pretty much like the English "d," and, indeed, if you pronounce it that way you'll probably be understood. But listen carefully, and you'll find that there are differences in the way the letter is pronounced in the two languages. Our lesson on pronouncing the d fills you in on the details.
Although Spanish is a remarkably uniform language considering how widely it is spread throughout the world, there are differences in how it is spoken from one region to another. Some of those differences are discussed in the newest installment of our series of country profiles, this one on Venezuela.
Question: I have two questions related to noun-verb agreement:
1. Mi mamá ha ganado muchas luchas. Should ganado be feminine (ganada) because mamá is a feminine subject?
2. If the subject is feminine and I use two or three adjectives to describe that person/thing, do all adjectives need to be feminine? E.g., saying Sara is a gentle, kind and loving friend. — adapted from an email sent by A.E.
Answer: 1. That's an interesting question, because it isn't unusual, especially in casual speech by native speakers, to match a past participle in a situation like that with the gender or number of the subject. Do some simple web searches, for example, and you'll find statements such as "¡Hemos ganados todos!" for "We have won everything!"
John F. Kennedy was one of the most quotable of the U.S. presidents. Since he was a popular figure in much of Latin America, many of his remarks have been translated to Spanish. If you teach Spanish and are looking for a timely lesson as the world observes the 50th anniversary of his death, you may want to consider these quotes as a way to illustrate grammatical concepts. I've included links to relevant lessons to help explain some of the grammar or vocabulary used:
- Jamás negociemos con miedo, pero jamás temamos negociar. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. (saying never, expressing fear, first-person plural commands)
- Perdona a tus enemigos, pero jamás olvides sus nombres. Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. (possessive pronouns, using olvidar)
- No te preguntes qué puede hacer tu país por ti, pregúntate que puedes hacer tú por tu país. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. (reflexive verbs, using written accents in indirect questions, using optional pronouns for emphasis, using hacer)
- La humanidad debe poner fin a la guerra, o la guerra pondrá fin a la humanidad. Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind. (using poner, using deber, using fin)