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PeppyBurro

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One might argue that expensive isn’t a word worth learning on a day like Black Friday but then, weren’t you just planning on surviving the day? I mean there’s life after Black Friday for most of us, right? And it literally pays to know how to say something is too expensive. Particularly while dickering with a vendor hell bent on making a killing off your wallet. So our word of interest here is caro. That’s expensive in Spanish. In order to remember caro, just think of a ridiculously expensive car you’ve been dreaming of buying ever since the Big Bang but couldn’t. The rhyme between car and caro is not an easy one to miss. By the way, expensive is also dear in English and it’s no mere coincidence that the word for dear in Spanish is cariño, which is derived from – you guessed it – caro.
Black Friday or not, shopping is a compromise. Not just figuratively, but literally. Let's see how. The single most important verb in the context of shopping is, well, shopping. This one translates into comprar. Comprar is to shop and compras is the corresponding noun, shopping in English. How do you ensure the word doesn’t fall off your head?
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Ever since the dawn of civilization, death has been feared, revered, and celebrated like no other life event known to mankind. Almost every culture in existence has a tradition of worshipping death in one way or another. The Chinese have their Teng Chieh, the English their All Saints’ Day, The Japanese their Matsuri, the Koreans their Chusok, the Swedish their Alla Helgons Dag, the Germans their Walpurgisnacht, and the Mexicans their Día de los Muertos, i.e. the Day of the Dead. And this isn’t even scratching the surface because, like I said, every culture has its own way of honouring their dead.

The dates may differ, as may they customs, but an ode to the dead is integral to most cultures around the globe. What sets Mexico’s Day of the Dead apart from the rest, however, is the attention it enjoys. Take Walpurgisnacht, for instance. It’s big, no doubt, but it doesn’t define Germany. Christmas and even Easter still trumps it in that country by a wide margin when it comes to significance and scale. The Day of the Dead, on the other hand, pretty much identifies Mexico. It’s far bigger than any other celebration in Mexico in all aspects. And that’s why no study of the Mexican way of life is even close to complete without a spotlight on this celebration.
The idea of celebrating the dead is not new to Mexico. The Day of the Dead tradition goes back at least 3,000 years if not more and the Aztecs were already performing badass rituals to mark the day when the Romans were still worshipping Jupiter in Europe.
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Verbal phrases, as the name suggests, are phrases that involve at least one verb – Think phrases like put out, give up, etc. While practically speaking, an infinite number of such phrases is possible, we’re mainly concerned with ones of a certain kind. A very specific pattern. These are the ones that involve two verbs, one conjugated and the other in a present or past participle form. Think examples like come undone, go missing, play dead, etc. In this pattern, it’s always the first verb that’s conjugated while the second stays in either a present participle or past participle form. Although the examples you just saw were from English, Spanish verbal phrases also work the same way pattern-wise.
Spanish phrasal verbs are as interesting and ubiquitous as their English counterparts, if not more. Given their indispensability, it’s funny how little coverage they get in the classrooms and textbooks. Still wondering what the heck it is that I’m talking about? Well, verbal phrases are the very bedrock of any modern language and are largely responsible for making it sound matured.
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If you ever spot a verb that ends in -o, you can safely make a few assumptions right away. Despite all the apparent conjugation mayhem, Spanish verb tenses are more consistent than you think. For example, almost all of them end in -o when conjugated in the present tense for the singular first person. Goes without saying there’s bound to be exceptions but the consistency is dependable nonetheless.

So if you run into a verb with this ending, you know it’s talking about an action in the present and the subject is singular first person. Hablo (I speak), vivo (I live), bebo (I drink) – they all attest to this theory. Just keep the subjunctive out of this. Oh and no accent please. If the -o has a little tick on its head, it becomes something else altogether. Hablo and habló are different, very different!
Identifying the Spanish verb tenses when used in a sentence is not a mere fun activity. It’s an important step in the way of decoding real-world Spanish. Verbs form the pivot around which you weave a sentence in any language. And that’s why decoding the verb means decoding almost all of what’s being said. Yes there’s vocabulary and other figures of speech but none of those packs as much punch as verbs and their tenses.
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If you though knowing your letters was enough, you’ve obviously been wrong. There’s always more than meets the eye when it comes to language and its various aspects. That includes writing systems as well. There are some such quirks of the Spanish writing system that might intrigue you even if you can already read and write the language well.
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PeppyBurro

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The Muslim holy month of fasting, i.e. Ramadan, is underway and what better way to observe it than with a trip down the Moorish rabbit-hole of Al-Andalus!

More than 8% of the entire Spanish vocabulary today comes from Arabic which is quite a big deal. To give you some perspective, that’s about one word out of every twelve. Perhaps the single most important legacy of the Moorish influence on the Spanish vocabulary is some 200 warfare and clothing-related words and a bunch of place-names here and there. Most Arabic loanwords in Spanish happen to be nouns. There are very few adjectives or verbs and only one preposition, hasta. The fact that the southern coast of Spain is less than 10 miles from Morocco, an Arabic-speaking country, helps keep this connection alive and kicking. Here, we will try to learn some of the most well-known contributions of Arabic to the Spanish vocabulary. Please do note, however, that Arabic uses a non-Roman script and the transliteration of Arabic words here is based on my own perception and approximation rather than any agreed-upon standard.
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Dar is as inconspicuous as a Spanish verb could get. A tiny three-letter word with a very straightforward translation, to give. What could warrant an entire article on something that simple? Well, as they say, there’s more than meets the eye here. As in the case of all languages spoken, words multitask. Despite its seemingly unassuming form, dar has as many contextual connotations and as many idiomatic applications as human imagination would allow. And quite a few of those have the power to transform your communication in a heartbeat. Idiomatic expressions are the meat and potato of eloquence and dar offers those in generous helpings.
Dar is as inconspicuous as a Spanish verb could get. A tiny three-letter word with a very straightforward translation, to give. What could warrant an entire article on something that simple? Well, as they say, there's more than meets the eye here. As in the case of all languages spoken, words multitask. Despite its seemingly unassuming form, dar has as many contextual connotations and as many idiomatic applications as human imagination would allo...
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You see, Spanish speakers are not very fond of their adverbs. There aren’t many available for use anyway. In Spanish, most adverbs are formed by slapping –mente to an adjective. Take, for instance, evidentemente (evidently) which comes from evidente (evident). Such long words can sound quite loaded or pretentious to Spanish ears which are used to shorter words, hence the higher rate of speech. Shorter words is what makes Spanish such a rhythmic language and long adverbs stick out like a sore thumb, thus breaking the rhythm.

But adverbs are essential and you can’t just wish them away. If you don’t use one, you must have something good enough to make up for the loss. And that’s where Spanish verbal phrases come in handy. Since Germanic languages don’t mind long words or adverbs, verbal phrases are more of a luxury than a necessity in languages like English. Whereas Spanish verbal phrases aren’t mere luxury but a defining aspect of the language.

In Spanish, there’s over 60 such constructs and they’re very ubiquitous. Luckily for us, not all of them are equally important when it comes to daily usage. Here, we will look at the ones you need the most – the top 31. Learning these 31 would ensure you are equipped for any day-to-day conversation without much trouble. So let’s get started already as we have a lot of ground to cover today.
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Spanish is a very flexible language. The Spanish word order, they say, is far less rigid than its English counterpart. But that’s largely a misconception. It might seem chaotic and unruly but there’s always a method to the madness. On the surface, it might seem that the Spanish word order is not much different from the English one; both follow the subject-verb-object (SVO) format. This is what textbooks and classrooms insist on as you’re starting out with the language:

María tiene una bonita casa (Maria has a beautiful house).

El bebé llora (The baby is crying).

But once you start venturing out deeper into the wild, you run into sentences with a verb-subject-object (VSO) order like the following:

Llora el bebé (The baby is crying).

Murió un hombre en el ataque (One man died in the attack).

It would be easy for such examples to slip past unnoticed. However, the more you explore, the more of them start coming out of the woodwork, until one day you realize that they seem to outnumber the ones you might have considered regular up until now! And the worst part is that for reasons, I never quite understood, something this important happens to be almost universally ignored in the classroom. No grammar book or course touches upon the topic in a way that does justice to it.
Spanish is a very flexible language. The Spanish word order, they say, is far less rigid than its English counterpart. But that’s largely a misconception. It might seem chaotic and unruly but there’s always a method to the madness. On the surface, it might seem that the Spanish word order is not much different from the English one; both follow the subject-verb-object (SVO) format. This is what textbooks and classrooms insist on as you’re starting...
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PeppyBurro

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Latin American Spanish is different, you already know that. But this article is not about that. Instead, this one is about the myriad idiomatic expressions that underscore the Spanish of Latin America. These expressions make no sense whatsoever when translated literally. But strung together, they come loaded with meaning, wit, and humor. That’s what makes them so much fun to use.

Idiomatic expressions, be it Spanish or English, are a reflection of culture more than that of the language or its grammar. These evolve over years of vernacular improvisation and serve to lend a defining character to the region they’re used in. Think about it, would America sound the same without its get down to brass tacks or go the whole hog? Hardly.
Now listing out, let alone discussing, every Latin American Spanish idiom in currency would warrant way more than a blog article. Also, I am not qualified – I doubt anyone is – to objectively rank them by importance. What I’ve listed here is 21 of my personal top favorites. Some enjoy currency throughout the continent while others are more specific to certain countries. So let’s cut to the chase and start with the list.
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An entire post dedicated to oreja? More than 2,000 words discussing a single piece of anatomy? Isn’t that overkill? Well, oreja is not just a part of your anatomy. It’s the source of way too many interesting expressions in itself to ignore. If sounding witty in Spanish is your goal, you ought to color it with idioms like the ones oreja gives us. From darle a alguien un jaloncito de oreja to con las orejas gachas, oreja has a mighty interesting repertoire. It’s sad the word is so underrated despite its versatility.

In case you’re still wondering, oreja is Spanish for ear. The word is etymologically related to aural which should explain the faint hint of rhyme between the two words, their first syllables leastwise. Still struggling to memorize the word? Picture a boat and think of the two oars as its ears on either sides. That visual should help reinforce the connection. Now let’s move on to the interesting bits, shall we?
If sounding witty in Spanish is your goal, you ought to color it with idioms like the ones oreja gives us. From darle a alguien un jaloncito de oreja to con las orejas gachas, oreja has a mighty interesting repertoire. It’s sad the word is so underrated despite its versatility.
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When it comes to age, the following two expressions are the very staple of every Spanish-learning material there is. You probably even know them like the back of your hand:

¿Cuántos años tienes? (How old are you?)

Tengo veinte años (I am twenty years old).

But there’s so much we can say on the subject that the above two cookie-cutter expressions don’t even begin to cover all scenarios. How about turning a certain age? How about being in one’s, say, 30s? How about going on, say, 16? There’s so much to talk about and so little they teach! Let’s learn what books and classrooms don‘t teach when it comes to age and birthdays.
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