Shortcuts to Learning español

Shortcuts to keeping peace on the streets....

Keep the locals calm and thinking you are muy educado, very polite, by learning and employing a few common phrases...

Con permiso.          Excuse me. (literally, "with permission")

Perdón.                   Pardon (me).

Por favor.                Please.

Lo siento.                I am sorry.  (literally, "I feel it")

Discúlpeme.            Excuse me.

Pido mil disculpas.  I ask a thousand pardons.

Siga nomás.            Just go ahead....Go right ahead.

Muy amable.           Very kind. (A common way to say thank-you.)

Verbs:  First person, present tense.

If you took Spanish in high school or have picked up a little Spanish somewhere, you probably already know that verbs in the first person (I walk, I watch, I spy) end in -o.

We will focus here on -ar verbs because they are more regular than the others, and most Spanish verbs end in -ar.

Back to I walk...I watch...I spy.

Camino, miro, espio.
The word for "I" which is yo, is implied in Spanish and normally used by native speakers only for emphasis.
The next-to-last syllable is stressed in this tense.  kah-MEE-no
That is unlike the infinitive, such as caminar, in which the final syllable is always stressed.  kah-mee-NAHR

To get to the first person present tense, substitute 'o' for the -ar, -er or -ir ending.

Hablar   To speak  (obb-LAHR)
Hablo     I speak.    (OBB-loh)

Verbs:  First person, past tense.

In speaking English, we use the past tense at least as much as the present.  Same in Spanish.  So it is important to know how to say I (did something).

It is easy with these verbs to change the verb to first person, past tense.

Instead of the 'o' at the end, use 'e' with the accent mark:  é.... and the accent mark means to put the stress on the last syllable.

We'll use caminar again.

Caminar    To walk

Camino.     I walk.

Caminé.     I walked.

kah-mee-NAHR ... kah-MEE-noh ... kah-mee-NAY

Try that with hablar, to speak.

To speak ... I speak ... I spoke.

Hablar ... Hablo ... Hablé.

Obb-LAHR ... OBB-loh ... obb-LAY.

Choose another verb from this post and do the same exercise:

verb infinitive (-ar) ... to first person present tense...
to first person past tense.

Like other lessons in this thread -- and learning Spanish in general -- you will not learn effectively by reading the lesson once.  Repetition and practice, including TV practice or actual conversations with native speakers, will reinforce the lesson and make it a true part of your knowledge and ability.

I have noticed this week that Expats speaking the local tongue are mis-speaking around one of the most common Spanish words, día, meaning day.

Although it ends with an "a," this is a masculine word.  El día.

Greetings and Good-byes.

So, Buenas Días (sic) is not the correct way to say, Good morning.
The correct phrase is Buenos Días.

Literally, the phrase means "Good days," and it is typically used only in the morning.

Note that the words used to say "Good afternoon" -- buenas tardes -- and "Good evening" -- buenas noches -- are feminine.

Frankly, I rarely use any of the above anymore and thus don't have to worry about what time of day it is every time I say hello.  I use hola.  Remember, the "h" is silent.

To say "Goodnight" as in "so long", the locals don't normally use buenas noches, which is a greeting and not a goodbye.

They normally say adiós or nos vemos (see you again) or hasta luego (until later) or ten una buena noche (have a good night).

Hasta la vista (baby) -- meaning "until I see you", literally "until the view" -- was in common use until the early 1990s.  It is rarely heard anymore, except as a joke or a punchline, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Great help , thank you    wish you can publish more easy info's like that

Telling Time.

Native speakers use the word hora, or hour, when asking for the time of day.

They will ask, ¿Qué hora es?  What hour is it?

If it's three o'clock, the answer is 'Son las tres.'  The meaning is "It's three o'clock" although the literal translation is "They are the three."

Son las cinco.  It's five o'clock.

Son las once. (OHN-say)  It's eleven o'clock.

Son las ocho y media.  It's half past eight.

The exception is one o'clock, since it's only one hour.

Es la una.  It's one o'clock.

Es la una y quince. (KEEN-say)  It's one-fifteen.

A few more....

Son las doce falta quince.  (DOH-say)  It's quarter to twelve.

Vuelvo a las cinco de la tarde.  I (will) come back at five in the afternoon.

Nos vemos a las nueve de la noche.

     See you at 9 p.m.


Getting mileage from two tiny words -- ya and se.

Ya used as part of a sentence usually means "already."

  Estoy esperando al maestro y ya he leído el nuevo libro.

  I am waiting for the teacher and I've already read the new book.

In another context, ya has a slightly different meaning:  "now."

    Ya ellos pueden entrar.

         Now they can go in.

As a standalone word, ya can also mean "now." 
    Or it can mean "I got it."

    ¿Cuándo lo quieres? ...  Ya.
           When do you want it? ..  Now.

    ¿Entiende el propósito? ...  Ya.

         Do you understand the purpose? ...  I got it.

Se can be used to indicate something that is happening or is allowed/not allowed, usually in the impersonal third person.

Some examples....

    Se habla español.

        Spanish is spoken here.

    Se permite uso de computadoras en este vuelo.

         Use of computers is allowed on this flight.

   No se fuma aquí.

        No smoking here.

   Se quitaron las sillas.

     The chairs were removed... or ... They removed the chairs.
         (In the latter case, it is not necessarily clear who did
           the removing.)

   Se ofrecen comidas para llevar.

       They offer take-out food.

Se also appears attached to the end of verbs that are often used to denote an action by a person or persons, not involving a separate person or object.

verb ... quedarse, to stay.

    Prefiero a quedarse en casa hoy.

       I prefer to stay at home today.

verb ... sentirse, to feel, as in "to have a feeling."

Advanced usage of this verb, with a twist ...

    Me siento feliz en su compañía.

       I feel happy in his/her/your company.


The most common questions a Gringo hears.

Here are three of the questions you will be asked the most by the locals, including some variations of the wording....

¿De donde es (usted)? 
Where are you from?

This is, far and away, the most common question you'll get from a taxi driver or someone you just met.

Alternate ways of asking...

¿De donde viene?
Where do you come from?

¿De qué pais es?
What country are you from?

Some possible ways a USA native might answer....

  Vengo de los Estados Unidos.
      I come from the U.S.

  Soy estadounidense. (eh-stah-doh-oo-nee-DEN-say)
      I am American (USA).

¿En qué le ayude?
How can I help you?

This you'll hear in any shop in town.

Possible answers may start with...

    Estoy buscando...  I am looking for...

    Quisiera (kee-see-AIR-ah)... I would like ...

    ¿Se ofrece...? (oh-FREH-say)  Do you offer...

¿Le gusta Ecuador?  Do you like Ecuador?
  (more literally, "Does Ecuador please you?")

Possible responses....

    Sí, me gusta mucho.  Yes, I like it a lot.

    Sí, esta ciudad tiene el clima lo mejor en el mundo.
    Yes, this city has the best weather in the world.

    Todavía no sé.  Acabo de llegar.  Te deciré en una semana.
        I don't know yet.  I just arrived.  I'll tell you in a week.

Thank you

A joke I found:

El presidente Correa da un discurso en motivo de la crisis: ¡Ciudadanos! Tengo una buena y una mala noticia. La buena es que nuestra deuda con China ha desaparecido, los chinos nos han perdonado hasta el último yuan. La mala es que tenemos 48 horas para abandonar el país.

President Correa gives a speech because of the crisis:  Citizens!  I have good news and bad news.  The good is our debt with China has disappeared, the Chinese have forgiven us to the last yuan.  The bad is that we have 48 hours to leave the country.

And another:

Llega un borrachito a Quito y habla con la Guardia Presidencial: Apártense, voy a pasar… Yo quiero ser el nuevo Presidente de la República del Ecuador meeesssma. ¡¡¡HIC!!! ¿Quéééé?, ¿Eres gafo..?, ¿Estás loco…?, ¿Eres retrasado mental..?, ¿Tienes excremento en la cabeza? Ah… No, Que vá!!!! mejor no, no sabía que pedian tantos requisitos…¡HIP!

A drunk arrives in Qutio and talks to the Presidential Guards:  Move aside, I'm coming through...I want to be the new President of the Republic of Ecuador, the very one.  HIC!!! 

Whaaat?  Are you an idiot?  Are you crazy?  Are you mentally retarded?  Do you have s*it in your head?, no way!!! Better no, I didn't know that you all would ask for so many requirements.  HIP!

Slowing things down.

Quito is a good place for Gringos to improve their Spanish skills, because Quiteños speak a clear and understandable version of la idioma and don't typically rush their speech if they are speaking to a foreigner.

Sometimes you will encounter someone who is originally from another area such as the Ecuadorian coast with a velocidad of speech that one Gringo called "machine-gun speed."

How to slow down a speedy speaker?  Here are some words and phrases.  Pick one or two you like....

Speak to me slower.                              Hábleme más lentemente.
                                                            (OBB-leh-may mahs len-teh-MEN-tay)

Slow(er), please.                                    Despacio, por favor.

I don't understand.  Repeat it, please.   No entiendo.  Repítalo, por favor.

What are you saying?                         ¿Cuál dice?

What?                                                    ¿Qué?

Again, please.                                        Otra vez, por favor.

I'm a simple person.  Please speak       Soy persona sencilla.
   in a simple way.                                      Favor de hablar sencillamente.


Getting Attention.

Ecuador and its markets can be busy places.  Sometimes you have to know how to get someone's attention.

There are various ways to do this.  Pick at least one or two that might work for you.

Tu atención, por favor. 

Your attention, please.

Hazme caso, por favor.   (OZ-may KAH-soh)

Your attention, please.

Discúlpeme.   (Dees-KOOL-peh-may)

Excuse me.


Pardon me.

Or use the person's title or characteristics to get their attention.

¡Señor ... Señorita ... Señora ... Joven* ... Tendero/Tendera ... Jefe/Jefa!

         Sir ... Miss ... Ma'am ... Young person ... Grocer ... Boss!

*Joven (HOH-ben) can be male or female.  I would normally use jovencita
if calling to a female.


How to say No in español.

Mañana.   Not today.

Vamos a ver.   We'll see.

Pensaré en eso.   I'll think about it.

Hablaré con mi marido/esposa/tío/consejero/contador/congresista.

I'll talk it over with my husband/wife/uncle/counselor/accountant/Congressman.

Es poco probable.   It's unlikely.

Quizás en la próxima vida.   Possibly in the next life.


How to say Yes in Spanish.

Si.   Yes.

De acuerdo.   Agreed.

Absolutamente.   Absolutely.

Por supuesto.   Of course.

Definitivamente.   Definitely.

Claro que sí.   Certainly.

Con gusto.   With pleasure.

No cabe la duda.   There's no doubt about it.

Bonus phrase of the day ...

Ya se ha zarpado ese buque.  That ship has sailed. :)

False friends.  Amigas falsas.

Capítulo Uno -- Chapter 1

The point of "False Friends" is to acquaint new learners of español with potentially confusing words so they don't overly embarrass themselves in the conversations with native speakers that are typically necessary for learning.

The way to use these capítulos is to go line by line, potentially learning -- or reviewing what you've learned -- as you go.

Typically, several Spanish words will be listed, often followed by the pronunciation, plus: (1) what a Gringo thinks the word means, (2) what the original word really means, (3) the common word in Spanish that the Gringo should learn, (4) in some cases, explanatory note(s).

Mano (MAH-noh)

What the Gringo thinks it means:  man

What the original word actually means:  hand

Common word for "man":  hombre

Note the gender difference between la mano (the hand) and
    el hombre (the man).

Taxo  (TOCK-soh)

What a Gringo thinks it means:  tax

What the original word really means:
     a type of fruit similar to passion fruit, currently a popular
        flavor of ice cream (source: Hermano Archer)

A common word for "tax":  impuesto

The word for "passion fruit" is maracuyá (mah-rah-koo-YAH)

Saltar (sah-LAHR)

What the Gringo thinks it means:  to salt

What it really means:  to skip or jump

The Spanish word for salt is sal (sahl).  "To salt" is salar.

False Friends.  Capítulo Dos.

Gato (GAH-toh)

What a Gringo thinks it is... a gate.

What gato really is ... a cat.

A common word for gate... cerca.


What a Gringo thinks it is... rope.

What ropa really is... clothing.

A common word for rope... cuerda.


What a Gringo thinks it means... four.

What a cuadro really is... a painting, frame or photo.

A common word for "four".. cuatro, with a 't'.

Clarification on the previous post about "gate"...

Cerca means fence.

Verja means gate, as in 'door in a fence on property.'

Puerta also means 'outdoor gate,' in addition to its common usage
   as 'door' or 'doorway.'

What about Ecuador/Andean specific Spanish, or Quechua/Spanish? How about Morocho? I like this word because it can replace the very awkward word for expats... negro (for a person, not the color).

Morocho comes from the Quechua word muruch'u

jessekimmerling :

What about Ecuador/Andean specific Spanish, or Quechua/Spanish? How about Morocho? I like this word because it can replace the very awkward word for expats... negro (for a person, not the color).

Morocho comes from the Quechua word muruch'u

According to my favorite dictionary-type source, , morocho is used in Mexico (as well), meaning dark-skinned or brunette.

Gringos' awkwardness notwithstanding, Ecuadorians don't have the same issue with the word negro for a person.  As Jesse probably has noticed, there is a chain of vegetable-soup restaurants in Quito named Menestras del Negro. 

cccmedia in Quito

Yeah, Menestras del Negro has good churrasco. Better than most of the big chain restaurants.

False friends.  Capítulo Tres.


What a Gringo thinks it means...
    fast-rising hot-shot.

What it really means... to eat.


What a Gringo thinks it means .. a Latin dance step.

What it really means... I have.  From the root verb tener.


What a Gringo thinks it means ... a list.

What it really means ...ready or smart.

The Spanish word for "list" is lista.


False friends.  Capítulo Cuatro


What a Gringo thinks it means ... To dispose of.

What it really means ... to get married.

A common word for "to get married" ... casar(se).


What a Gringo thinks it means ... car.

What it really means ... expensive.

Common words for car ...

   coche and carro, with the rolled double 'r'.

Salida  (sah-LEE-dah)

What a Gringo thinks it means ... salad.

What is really means ... exit.

The Spanish word for salad is ... ensalada.

False friends.  Capítulo cinco

dice   (DEE-say)

What a Gringo thinks it means .. casino dice.

What it really means ..he says or she says.

The word for casino-type dice is dados.


What a Gringo thinks it means ... special.

What it really means .. of or pertaining to space, including outer space.

The word for "special" is ... especial.


What a Gringo thinks it means ... your sister's daughters.

What it really means ... nuts, as in 'nuts and raisins.'

The word for "niece" ... is sobrina.


False friends. Capítulo seis


What a Gringo thinks it means ... empress.

What it really means ... business or company.

How to say "empress" in Spanish ..


What a Gringo thinks it means .. a Latin dance step.

What it really means .. direction, or path.

hablaba (ah-BLAH-bah)

What a Gringo thinks it means .. (no clue ... ???)

What it does mean .. he/she was speaking.


False friends.  Capítulo siete


What a Gringo thinks it means... To order.

What it really means... To milk as with a cow.

"To order" (with its various meanings) is ordenar,
   without the tilde.


What a Gringo thinks it means... Deceased.

What it really means... a finger.

The word for "dead" is muerto or muerta.

el fiscal  fees-KAHL

What a Gringo thinks it means... the tax year.

What it really means ... the district attorney.


The easy way to the past tense ... acabar de.

The Spanish verb acabar means to end, to finish or to complete.

Add de to make acabar de, meaning "to have just finished" something.

This can often be used to describe having done or finished something in the past day or two, and helps new Spanish learners avoid all kinds of fancy verb endings before they are ready for them.

The first person singular, "I did something," is the most common way this construction is used.  Say Acabo de... followed by the infinitive, which always ends in 'r.'
Pronounced ah-KAH-boh day...


I just ate, so no-thanks to going with you to the restaurant.

Acabo de comer, asi que 'no gracias' por acompañarte al restaurante.

I just found out that my girlfriend has a new lover.

Acabo de descubrir que mi novia tiene un nuevo amante.

In third person singular (he, she), use acaba de...

She just arrived at the airport.

Ella acaba de llegar al aeropuerto.


You may also see acabados which is a noun from the verb acabar, meaning that which is finished - especially in real estate listings, where a description for a high-end home may say acabados de la primera (calidad) or just acabados de primera meaning 'finishings of the highest (quality)', that the floors, fittings, doorknobs and other appointments etc. are excellent (at least in the opinion of the listing).

False friends.


What a Gringo thinks it is... a pork store.

What it really means... filth or (noun) that which pertains
    to a pig.

A butcher shop is a carnicería.

tonto  TOHN-toh

Who a Gringo thinks it is... the Lone Ranger's sidekick.

What it really means... foolish.

Another word, tanto -- TAHN-toh -- means "so much."

joya  pronounced HOY-ah

What a Gringo thinks it means... joy.

What it really means... a jewel.

Joyería means jewelry store.

Alegre means joy.


Thanks, ccc.  These are so good.

False friends.


Who a Gringo thinks it is ... someone who takes the law
   into his own hands.

What it means in Spanish ... security guard.


What a Gringo thinks it means .. 20 percent off.

What it means in Spanish ... he/she leaves.

It's from the irregular verb salir, to leave or go out.

Descuento means discount.


What a Gringo thinks it means ... system using audio waves
    to locate submerged objects.

What it usually means in Spanish ... to produce a sound.

Se suena el teléfono.  The phone is ringing.

False friends.


What a Gringo thinks it means... mid-sentence punctuation.

What it really means... a bed.

malo  MAH-loh

What a Gringo thinks it means... opposite of female.

What it really means... bad or evil.

"Masculine" is masculino.

águila  AH-ghee-lah

What a Gringo thinks it means... agile.

What it really means... an eagle.

The word for "agile" is ágil .. AH-heel.


False friends.


What a Gringo thinks it means... to damage or spoil.

What it means in Spanish... the sea.

Dañar is a common word for "to damage."


What a Gringo thinks it is... red, white or blue.

What it really means... heat.

The word "color" is spelled the same in both languages.
In Spanish, it is pronounced koh-LAWR.


What a Gringo thinks it means... a single time.

What it means in Spanish... eleven.
Pronouncer:  OHN-say

A way to translate "once," the English word, into Spanish... una vez.

False friends.


What a Gringo thinks it is... a food store.

What it really means... rude or vulgar.


What a Gringo thinks it means... the way out.

What it really means... success.

Salida is a common word for "the exit."

volvó   bohl-BOH

What a Gringo thinks it means... a Swedish car.

What it really means... he/she returned.

False friends.


What a Gringo thinks it means... real or actual.

What it really means in Spanish... (adj.) current or present.

  El presidente actual  =  the current president.


What a Gringo thinks it is... a carpet.

What it really means in Spanish... file folder.

Alfombra means carpet or rug.


Who or what a Gringo thinks it means...
    Superman's strangest nemesis.

What it really means in Spanish... brave or valiant.

The English word "bizarre" can be translated as
raro/rara or extraño/extraña.


False friends


What a Gringo thinks it means... a thick book.

What it really means... he/she takes ...
   from the verb tomar.


Who a Gringo thinks it is... iconic American actor who appeared in
   The Godfather: Part 2... Good Fellas... and Midnight Run.

What it really means... money.


Who or what a Gringo thinks it means... the Channel 7 weatherman.

What it really means... fat.


False Friends


What a Gringo thinks it means...  Florida vacation site.

What it really means... mouth.


What a Gringo thinks it means... secret password.

What it really means... elbow.

"Password" is clave.


What a Gringo thinks it means... challenge.

What it reallly means... I will give.

cccmedia :


What a Gringo thinks it means... secret password.

What it really means... elbow.

Note that codo is also slang used to mean stingy or miserly (see also mezquino, tacaño)
and you may see the gesture graphically commenting on someone's stinginess where one hand hits the elbow or where the elbow is used to hit a surface.
Tan codo que es, nunca invita a nadie comer con el fuera de la casa, ni hasta sus sobrinos.
He's so stingy, he never invites anyone to eat out with him, not even his nephews and nieces.

False friends


What a Gringo thinks it means... to compare.

What it really means... to buy.

"To compare" is comparar.

sopa  SOH-pah

What a Gringo thinks it means... soap.

What it really means... soup.

"Soap" is jabón -- hah-BOHN.


What a Gringo thinks it means... a tramp.

What it really means... a trap or a trick.

A "tramp" is vagabundo.


False friends


What a Gringo thinks it means... rice.

What it really means... rings.  The word for "ring"
    is aro or anillo.

arroz -- ah-ROCE, with the accent on the final syllable --
    means rice.


What a Gringo thinks it means... a plate.

What it really means... silver.

Plato -- PLAH-toh -- is a word for plate.


What a Gringo thinks it means... a precious metal.

What it really means... to whistle.

cccmedia :


What a Gringo thinks it means... a plate.

What it really means... silver.

plata is also used to mean money in its widest sense, the same as dinero but more informally.
No tengo la plata para comprar un carro.
I don't have the money to buy a car.
Tengo plata para ir de mochilera pero nada de lujo.
I've got money to go by backpack but nothing luxurious.

moneda is used to mean a coin, billete for bill (paper money).
Tengo un billete de veinte y algunas monedas.
I've got a twenty dollar bill and some coins.

New topic