Category Archives: Learn to Speak Spanish

Tips and tricks for studying Spanish. Learn some basic Spanish words, phrases and grammar that may help you in a Spanish conversation.

The different meanings of the verb gustar in Spanish

Gustar is a special verb in Spanish and you have to be careful with it because as opposed to English, when you say I like this, in Spanish you say that it is pleasing to you. This basically means that in Spanish, these sentences look a bit weird for English speakers, because verbs such as gustar need an indirect object pronoun in order to function. If you are a bit confused, I guess it is better for us to start out with an example. Below is the same sentence in English and Spanish.

English: I like chocolate

Spanish: Me gusta el chocolate (= Chocolate is pleasing to me)

There are some other verbs that act the same as gustar:

  • Disgustar- to upset, displease
  • Faltar -to lack, need
  • Fascinar- to fascinate
  • Importar- to be important
  • Interesar- to interest
  • Parecer- to seem
  • Quedar- to remain to someone, have left

Now, lets take a look at the verb gustar and use it to form a few sentences, just to see how it acts for every person.

  • Me gusta bailar, – I like to dance
  • Te gusta cantar. – You like to sing
  • Le gusta dormir. – He/ She likes to sleep.
  • Nos gusta correr. – We like to run
  • Os gusta comer chocolate.- You like to eat chocolate.
  • Les gusta leer libros. – They like to read books.

Now, lets see how the verb acts when we like more than one thing.

  • Me gustan las flores y las plantas.- I like flowers and plants
  • Te gustan los viajes con tu familia.- You like the trips with your family.
  • Le gustan los juegos de mesa. – He / She likes board games.

Now, if there is more than one verb after gustar, the verb gustar stays the same. Here are some examples:

  • Me gusta cantar y bailar. – I like to sing and dance
  • Nos gusta dormir y comer.- We like to sleep and eat.
  • Te gusta nadar y hacer yoga.- You like to swim and do yoga.

Besides this peculiarity of the verb gustar, it also has some other meanings besides to like. Here are some of them:

  1. feel and perceive the taste of things, as in: Gustar el vino

In this example, liking is very close to the sense of taste, can be replaced by the verb savor. So, to paraphrase this phrase, we can say “saboreó el vino”

  1. experiment, in the sense of trying. To support this definition, see the example:

Algunos poetas gustaron el género épico.

In this example, changing to like with to experiment, we would have: “Some poets experienced the epic genre”

The verb gustar is a bit strange. Kind of when we like something. However, I hope that after you have read this post, things are a bit clearer for you. If you want to learn about how to express feelings, you should also check out my other posts, they should be useful. Also, since Valentine’s Day is coming soon, try to impress your loved one with some romantic Spanish phrases.

What’s the difference between Tener que and hay que in Spanish?

As you probably already know, Spaniards really like to complicate things. They also want to be really specific about many things, and so they need 100 different words and expressions to say the same thing. Well, actually not quite the same thing, but we will get to that a bit later.

The problem that I am going to discuss with you today is about expressing obligation or necessity. In English we have modal verbs that help us with this matter. However, in Spanish, we have two expressions that basically mean the same thing: tener que and hay que. Well, not really, but this is what this post is all about. So, I guess that all you need are a pen and a piece of paper and lets get started.

Tener que in Spanish

Tener que + infinitive is as mentioned before, an expression used for either an obligation or a necessity. It could be translated into “have to”. To be more precise, it means that a person has to do something. In this case, the verb tener is conjugated according to the subject of your sentence. Below are some examples that will hopefully clarify the situation a bit.

  • Tengo que hacer mis deberes. (= I have to/need to do my homework.)
  • Mañana tenenemos que despertarnos temprano. (= We have to/ need to wake up early tomorrow.)
  • Juan tiene que lavar el coche. (= John has to/ needs to do wash the car.)

Hay que in Spanish

Hay que + infinitive is also used to express either an obligation or a necessity. So, why then do we really need to have two expressions to say the same thing? Well, remember how I said that we will get to this topic later. That “later” is finally here. The expression hay que + infinitive means “it should be done”. Here there is no subject and the expression stays the same.

  • Hay que tener cuidado con el fuego. (= It is necessary to be careful with the fire.)
  • Hay que aprender a hablar alemán para entenderlos. (= It is necessary to learn German in order to understand them.)
  • Hay que limpiar la casa. (= The house should be cleaned.)

Below is an example to help show the difference between the two expressions:

Juan ha manchado la camiseta. Ël tiene que lavarla. ( = John has stained the t-shirt. He has to wash it.)

La camiseta tiene una mancha. Hay que lavarla. (= The t-shirt has a stain on it. It should be washed.)

As you can see, Spanish language is not so hard after all. Even though the two expressions mean the same thing, there are different and help you understand the situation better. If you want another explanation for this grammar problem, do check this out. You also want to check out the blog post about the main differences between the indicative and the subjunctive. Why? Because this is one of the main errors that people make when learning Spanish.

Great sites where you can read in Spanish and improve your vocabulary

Today, we are going to talk about learning Spanish through texts. They say that you have to hear, say, write or read a word for approximately 80 times in order to permanently learn it. You probably already know that memorizing lists of words is quite hard, no matter how hard you try. This is why, reading is one of the best methods to learn new words, and at the same time you get to improve your writing skills in Spanish, because you also read phrases.

Reading takes you a step further. It makes you more familiar with the language; it is the first step to thinking in Spanish. In addition, you get to learn new words in their context, which means that you will have a harder time forgetting them. For these reasons, below are some websites that I recommend if you want to improve your vocabulary by reading in Spanish.

News is an important part of our lives and it also keeps us informed. This site is actually the most popular newspaper in Spain. The political viewpoint of this site is center-leftist. In addition, you can click on many different options, and you can really read about a variety of topics, from the most serious ones to the funniest. The words are not hard to understand, and the facts are very detailed. In addition, you will most definitely find something that will catch your attention here.

If you are a sports fan, then you have come to the right place. I have not forgotten about you. This website focuses on sports, as its name (Sports World) already suggests it. The main team that the news revolves around is FC Barcelona. However, you can also find out many things about other football teams and read about the latest matches. In addition, you can find information about basketball, golf, tennis, cycling, and other sports. If you are passionate about sports, this site is a great resource for you to learn the specific vocabulary.

Here is a site for those artsy persons, or people who are simply fascinated about art or want to learn more about it. Jot Down mainly centers its articles on contemporary culture and also arts. The texts in this publication are mostly for both intermediate and advanced learners, as the vocabulary is not accessible, and the writing style might sometimes be a bit too artsy. However, you get to learn a lot of things about many types of art, and also sports, science, and even music and TV. The site has opinion blogs and interviews, and topics such as fashion and traveling are also covered.

Trivia is a good ice breaker, and it can also be a great for those awkward moments of silence that we all face. If you are a fan of trivia, this is the place for you. The great thing about this site full of fun facts and interesting bits of information is the fact that the vocabulary is also easy, which means that you will not have to go running for the dictionary every two sentences. In addition, the topics are diverse, which means that you can also expand your knowledge on different domains.

Economy plays a big role in our day to day lives. Whether you are interested about the financial market, or simply want to learn more things about the Spanish economy, this is the place for you. If not, you can always read the texts as an exercise for building up your Spanish vocabulary about economics.

We all like to have a bit of fun once in a while, and why not expand our vocabulary while at it? Well, this fake news website is really funny and provides a lot of humorous articles which you can read and have a laugh. The best part is that it looks like a normal news site. In addition, the vocabulary is simple, making it a great resource for reading materials for both beginners and advanced learners.

This website is a great resource for fans of science. It has many great articles, which range from biology to chemistry, and even astrology or ecology. Basically almost all science related topics are covered on this website. In addition, the articles are all well written, and the information is very interesting. However, there is one catch: this site has a lot of technical vocabulary, which is mostly suitable for more advanced learners. Despite this, you can give it a try if you arm yourself with a lot of patience and a dictionary.

This section of the newspaper El País, is a great resource for people who are interested in travel and in learning about new places. The vocabulary is suitable for all types of readers, and the topics are very engaging. In addition, you can learn a lot of great things, while improving your vocabulary.

If you want to impress your crush with a poem, you have come to the right place. This site is a great resource for poems, and a great way to improve your vocabulary, and maybe even impress the person that you like. It has different types of poems, which range from modern to old. This means that you can learn both contemporary vocabulary, and some archaisms.

As you can see, there are many different sites where you can read a lot of interesting information which is also useful. By doing so, you will improve your Spanish vocabulary, and your writing skills too.

As mentioned above, by putting words into context, you will have an easier time remembering them, and you will learn Spanish in no time. The more you read, the more your language skills will improve. In addition to checking out these sites, you can also start reading books and physical newspapers and magazines.

Spanish Words that are (almost) the same in English

Learning a new language is not always easy at first, especially when it is not similar to your own. The only thing that will make your job easier is if there were some words that looked alike in both languages. If however, you are lucky, you might even find some words that are identical in both languages and could help you. Below is a list of cognates and perfect cognates that will make learning Spanish words a bit easier.

Perfect cognates

As you could simply guess from the word perfect, these words are the ones which are identically spelled in both languages and also mean the same thing (so no confusion here). Below are just some:































For an easier learning of the Spanish language, you can use some tricks to remember how other cognates are formed. Below are the rules:

Rule 1: English words ending in -ous usually become -oso

Here are some examples:














Rule 2: English words ending in -al usually stay the same

 Here are some examples:















 Rule 3: English words ending in -ct usually become -cto

 Here are some examples:

















Rule 4: English words ending in ance usually become -ancia

 Here are some examples:















 Rule 5: English words ending in ic usually become -ico

Here are some examples:
















Rule 6: English words ending in -ar usually stay the same

 Here are some examples:
















 Rule 7: English words ending in -ary usually become -ario

 Here are some examples:
















 Rule 8: English words ending in -ant usually become -ante

 Here are some examples:
















 Rule 9: English words ending in -ble usually stay the same

Here are some examples:
















 Rule 10: English words ending in -ence usually become -encia

 Here are some examples:



Sentence (punishment)












 Rule 11: English words ending in -id usually become -ido

Here are some examples:
















Rule 12: English words ending in -ment usually become -mento

Here are some examples:














Knowing these tricks, Spanish just got a bit easier to learn. However, when you use them, do not forget to double check the words just to be sure that they exist.

Expressing feelings in Spanish

It is true that nowadays most of our communication is online. We can express anything through smiles and gifs. The same happens in the real world where when we do not know how to express our feelings and we simply smile, laugh, or frown. You have probably caught yourself just saying sí and no in Spanish when trying to express your feelings. Add a smile or two, and maybe this is the best that you can do. Fortunately, by the end of this post, you will be able to say more than sí/ no and actually manage to express your feelings.

Let’s start by learning how to express happiness. There are three common ways of doing so:

  1. Estoy contento(a)

This means that I am happy. You can use this expression to express your general satisfaction or happiness.

Example: Estoy contento de tener que trabajar menos que ayer.

Translation: I am happy that I have to work less than yesterday.

  1. Estoy feliz

This expression also means I am happy. Although it has a similar meaning to the expression from above, estoy feliz means that you are a bit more excited and joyful.

Example: Estoy feliz porque he ganado el premio.

Translation: I am happy because I have won the prize.

  1. Me alegro or estoy alegre

The first expression comes from the verb alegrarse, which is reflexive. It means that I am happy or that I am glad. You can relate it to the English expression I am happy to hear that. The second expression, means that I am happy.

Example: Me alegro de recibir esa noticia.

Translation: I am happy to hear this news.

On the other hand, you also need to express sadness and fury in Spanish. Below are some common ways to do so.

  1. Estoy triste

This means I am sad. You use this expression when you are feeling down.

Example: Estoy triste porque mis padres no me dejan salir.

Translation: I am sad because my parents do not let me go out.

  1. Estoy enfadado (a) and estoy enojado (a)

These two expressions are used to express anger. The main difference between the two is the region where they are used. The adjective enojado is more commonly used in Latin América, while the adjective enfadado is more frequently used in Spain.

Example: Estoy enfadado/ enojado porque se me ha roto la bicicleta.

Translation: I am angry because my bicycle broke down.

These are some of the most common ways of expressing feelings in Spanish. Of course, there are many more options to do so, such as expressing your love for someone or on the contrary, the hate for them. In addition, you can also express indifference, but we will cover these topics on a later post. If you want to learn more about this topic, you can contact me, or check out this post by Fluentu, which has many more useful expressions on this topic. After all, you can’t just smile and wave your whole life.

Impersonal vs passive “se”

Once again the Spanish language is offering us something confusing, this time I am talking about the word “se”. The two constructions, impersonal se and passive se look quite similar and it is not that easy to tell them apart. As usual, you should get prepared, take a pen, pencil, or whatever writing tool you want, a piece of paper or a notebook and let’s get started. Oh, not to forget, also arm yourself with optimism and you will surely succeed.

Impersonal se in Spanish

As its name states it, this kind of “se” does not refer to a specific person. It is actually used to refer to something that should be done, without specifying who should be in charge of it. This is what makes the statement impersonal.

We normally use impersonal expressions in order to say how things are usually done, whether we are referring to custom, rule, or general consensus. We also use impersonal expressions when we make general statements.

So now you know when we use impersonal expressions. However, there is still one question that has probably crossed your mind. How do we form “se ”constructions? Do not panic, because it is actually quite simple.

To from an impersonal se construction we use “se” + a verb in the third person singular. Below are a few examples that will help you have a better understanding of the concept.

  • Se habla español. ( = Spanish is spoken here.)
  • Se usa el reloj para saber la hora. ( = The clock is used to know the hour.)
  • No se permite hacer fotos aquí. ( = It is not permitted to take photos here.)
  • Se dice que antes vivía una bruja aquí. ( = It is said that before there lived a witch here.)
  • En Francia se come mucho queso. ( = In France they eat a lot of cheese.)

Passive se in Spanish

We usually use the passive voice in order to talk about an action that happened to an object, but without specifying who or what did that thing to it. Passive se constructions are formed using transitive verbs, which are those that require a direct object. Below are a few examples that will help you have a better understanding of the concept.

  • Se ha roto la puerta. ( = The door has been broken.)
  • Se te ha acabado el dinero. ( = Your money has run out.)
  • Se busca profesor de inglés. ( = English teacher wanted.)
  • Aquí se alquilan coches. ( = Cars are rented here.)
  • Se ha quemado la comida. ( = The food was burnt.)

I guess that by now you get the difference between impersonal and passive se. If not, you should read more. However, there are more problems that people face when learning Spanish, so you should definitely refresh my blog every few days and something new might appear. Sooner that you know it your Spanish skills will improve.

Christmas traditions in Spain

Whether you are going to spend the winter holidays in Spain this year, you want to incorporate some Spanish Christmas traditions this year, or you simply want to learn some more about Spanish traditions, you have reached the right post. There are many different traditions related to the beloved holiday. However, I will only mention a few of the most important ones.

  1. Lotería de Navidad

This is probably the craziest Christmas tradition in Spain, not in terms of how weird the tradition is, but in terms of the craze around it. Ever since the beginning of the year, people from all around Spain, buy tickets for la Lotería de Navidad, or the Christmas Lottery. They do this in the hope of winning the grand prize, or the so called “el Gordo”, which would translate into the fatty, because the prize is in fa big.

The unofficial start of Christmas holidays in Spain is on December 22nd. Yes, you have guessed right. This is when people start camping in front of the Tv, hoping to hear the lucky numbers that they have chosen in order to win “el Gordo” . On this day, children from San Ildefonso School sing both the numbers and prizes of the beloved Christmas Lottery. This is exactly when you know that the holiday spirit has reached the country.

  1. Día de los Santos Inocentes

While not exactly related to Christmas, but a few days after, el Día de los Santos Inocentes or the Day of the Innocent Saints, is celebrated on the 28th of December. This holiday was originally used to commemorate the young victims of a massacre, which was order by Herodes. He was hoping to eliminate a newborn that supposed to be the “future king of the Jews”, which was a threat to his power.

Despite the sombre background that this holiday has, Spaniards have given it a funny spin. The Day of the Innocent Saints is the Spanish equivalent of, April Fool’s Day. It is the day when the Spanish people prank each other. You should be careful. You either prank someone or you risk being pranked.

  1. Waiting for the Three Kings

The Three Kings or los Reyes Magos visit the Spanish people on the 6th of January. The day before, people rush to the bakery in order to get a traditional Roscón de Reyes, which is a cake shaped like a ring. This delicacy is eaten for breakfast on the 6th.

This holiday is anxiously expected by everyone in Spain from the little ones to adults. In town, you can see parades, where the three kings throw candy to the children. Then, they go to sleep, to find out the gifts prepared for them the following morning.

These are three of the most striking Spanish winter traditions. I hope that you will add at least some aspects in your own celebrations.

Regarding the content writing, knowing this and many other traditions is mandatory if you want to speak about things that matter for the audience just before they will become important through the year.

Key differences in Grammar between English and Spanish

Due to the fact that both Spanish and English have Indo-European origins, they have some common vocabulary. In addition, the structure of Spanish language is not so complicated to understand if you know English. For example, these two languages use the parts of speech in the same way. Moreover, the prepositions in both languages are placed before an object. However, besides these similarities, the two languages are not identical and have some key differences in terms of grammar. Read on to find out more.

  1. Placement of adjectives

In English, adjectives are usually positioned before the noun that they are describing. However, in Spanish, they are normally placed after the noun which they determine. For example, we say “a happy dog”, which translates into “un perro feliz”.

There is however, a possibility to place the adjective in Spanish before the noun that it describes, but it will totally change its meaning. For example “an old factory” is translated into “una fábrica antigua”. If however, we decide to say “una antigua fábrica”, then we actually mean that the place used to be a factory, but it is now something else.

  1. The verb to be

In English, we only have one verb “to be”, which in Spanish, can be translated in three different ways: “ser” ,‘ëstar” or “haber”. Just to sum up, the verb “ser” is used for permanent characteristics, for names, for future events. The verb “estar” is used  to express the location of known subjects, temporary characteristics, such as the emotional state. The verb “haber” is used to express the location of an unknown subject.

Even though it might be hard to understand the differences between these three verbs that mean “to be”, you should not panic. The explanation was an oversimplified version of this post, that will most definitely help you in the future.

  1. Need for subject

In English, you can’t form a sentence without stating the subject, because it simply does not make sense. However, in Spanish this is possible due to the fact that each pronoun has a corresponding conjugation. So, do not worry if you decide to skip the subject or if you omit it by mistake, just make sure that you are writing in Spanish and not in English, because otherwise you might just have a problem.

It is true that there are many more differences between Spanish and English, as they are not identical languages. Do not worry, however, because you will learn them in time. It is normal for these two languages not to be identical. What is even more important when learning a language is to try to speak regardless of whether you are making mistakes. It is normal to do so at first.

3 Do’s and don’ts of learning Spanish

Do's and don'ts of learning Spanish
flickr photo by quinnanya shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Learning a new language does not come easy to many people. Some parts are easier to understand for some people, while others find them hard. For example, there are people who find vocabulary easy to learn, while for other people grammar is key. However, the sad part is that we kind of need both grammar and vocabulary to learn Spanish. Well, do not panic as this post is going to help you with some tips and tricks to make your life easier and who knows, maybe you will end up speaking Spanish in no time.


What should you actually do while learning Spanish?

  • Repeat new words

It is said that you have to stumble upon a word for a number of 80 times in order for it to remain locked in your mind forever. What can you do about it? Listen to eat, repeat it out loud, and even write it down.

  • Put words in context

Learning a new word might be hard. However, putting it in a context will ease your way. You can listen to some songs and the words will come easier in your mind. You can also try to make sentences with the new words in order to remember them better.

  • Try to think in Spanish

Thinking in Spanish is one step forward towards learning the language. Writing your sentences directly in Spanish without translating them is essential and you are less prone to making mistakes.


  • Skip learning some words

I am 100% sure that you have at least once in your lifetime found a word that you were like: oh, when will I use it? Three years later, you are stuck in a gas station not knowing how to say that you have a flat tire. Learn words when you stumble upon them. You will later thank yourself.

  • Translate sentences

You should not think about full sentences in your own language and then try to translate them. You will end up frustrated and your text might not sound as good as you have imagined it.

  • Skip writing accent marks

Accent marks are a key aspect of the Spanish language. They can change the whole meaning of a sentence. It is important to learn how and when to put them. In addition, you should always try to write them. This way you will get used to it and your Spanish skills will definitely improve.

Learning Spanish might not come so easy, but in the end it is totally worth it. Whether you are planning on visiting Spain or Latin America, or simply want to read your favorite authors in their original language, it is always good to know how to speak it. Do not worry if your Spanish is not yet perfect, the good thing is that there is always room and time for improvement. Also, if you are not sure about whether your text has errors or not, you can always hire a proofreader.

Tips for Spanish essay writing

Whether you are currently learning Spanish or already have good Spanish language skills, there is always room for improvement. You might understand it when it is spoken, you might be able to perfectly understand a text in Spanish, but how good are your Spanish essay writing skills?

Writing in a foreign language is usually hard. I mean learning to write in your own language is hard as well. Just think about it. When you were little, you first learned to talk, then to read, and finally, you learned how to write. As you can see, writing is the hardest thing to do. So, regardless of if you are writing an essay in Spanish as a Spanish native, or as a Spanish learner, below are a few tips for Spanish essay writing that will improve your skills.

  1. Use words that you know


Writing in a new language does not mean opening the dictionary every couple of minutes just to use fancy words and sound smart. It also does not mean that you should not open a dictionary when you do not know a word. What I meant to say is that you should mostly rely on the words that you already know. Why? Because in writing you are also applying your grammar skills and trying to perfect them. In addition, using words that you do not really know might result in a disaster as the words might have many different meanings that you are unaware of. Better stay safe than sorry.

  1. Think in Spanish

Thinking in Spanish will make it easier for you to write sentences correctly. Trying to compose a text in your mind and later translate it in Spanish will only create confusion and frustration. Some expressions are hard to be translated. Other times, writing a text in Spanish as complex as the one that you are thinking about might not be possible. Why? Maybe because your Spanish skills are not that developed and you might end up disappointing yourself.

  1. Take accent marks seriously

As mentioned in a previous post, accent marks play a key role in the Spanish language. They can make or break a sentence and they can change the whole meaning of a word. It might take a bit of time to master accent marks, but in the end, I guarantee you that they are worth the effort. Accent marks contribute to the correctness of your text and show that you have the necessary skills.

If all of this seems like a lot of effort, do not panic. There are still some things that you can do. For example you can hire an essay writer to do the work for you and this way you will have a correctly written text in no time. If however you want to write the text yourself, but also want it to be correctly written, there is also an option. You can hire a proofreader to make sure that your Spanish essay has no errors in it.