Spanish Blog

One verb, multiple uses ¿Vale?

This verb, valer, has different meanings in Spanish.

1. It’s used to ask for the price. It’s is accorded with the item whose price we want to know. Valer = ‘To cost’

– ¿Cuánto vale este bolso?
How much is this bag?

– ¿Cuánto valen estos zapatos?
How much are these shoes?

2. We use it to express agreement. Vale = Ok.

– ¿Te apetece ir al cine? – ¡Vale!
-Do you feel like going to the cinema? -Ok!

– Vienes con nosotros, ¿vale?
– You come with us, alright?

3.  It appears in the construction “valer la pena” with the meaning of ‘to be worth‘.

No vale la pena ir tan lejos para estar sólo un fin de semana.
– It’s not worth going that far to stay only a weekend.

– Vale la pena leer este libro.
– This book is worth reading.

4. It’s used to express if something is fit, useful or allowed.

– Estos pantalones no me valen.
– This trousers don’t fit me.

– Esta bolsa vale para guardar la ropa.
– This bag is useful to keep the clothes.

– ¡No vale mirar! 
– Looking is not allowed.

5. It appears in the expression “Ya te vale” in order to reproach or censure a behavior. Ya te vale = shame on you.

– Ayer bebiste demasiado alcohol y fuiste grosero con mis padres. Ya te vale.
– Yesterday you drank too much alcohol and you were rude with my parents. Shame on you.

Pedir o Preguntar: solving a confusing verb pair (II) 1


As we saw in a previous post, there exist few confusing verbs in Spanish. In this post I will take the doubts out of “pedir” and “preguntar”.

Both verbs express the idea “to ask” reason why they are often mixed up by the Spanish learners. The choice of one verb or the other depends upon the context in which is used. They aren’t interchangeable.

However, the rules that tells us which one to use are quite clear. Have a look at them:

  • Pedir means ‘to ask for’, yes, but it has the nuance of requesting an object, service or favor.

– Me ha pedido una hoja de papel porque ha olvidado el cuaderno.
– He asked me for a paper sheet because he forgot the notebook.

En el restaurante (In the restaurant)
– Vamos a pedir un entrante para compartir y un segundo plato cada uno. No tenemos mucha hambre.
– We are going to ask for a starter to share and a main course each. We are not very hungry.

  • Preguntar also means ‘to ask’ but in the sense of asking a question or request some information.

– Te estoy preguntado qué hora es. ¿Puedes contestarme?
– I am asking you what time it is. Can you answer me?

–  Mis suegros me preguntaron sobre mi embarazo.
– My in-laws asked me about my pregnancy.

Other ways of talking about the future (II) 1

As I explained in a previous post, when we want to talk about the future in Spanish we can use the future simple (or “futuro imperfecto de indicativo“) but this is not the only way we can resort to in order to talk about something that will happen in the future.

As in English, there are other ways of expressing future plans or events. Let’s see them.

  • Ir a + infinitive

This is, without doubt, the more common way of talking about the future. It is the equivalent of “going to…” and it’s used in the same way. This expression is used to talk about a future event already planned.

Tengo las entradas para el concierto de Robbie Williams. Vamos a ir mañana.
– We have the tickets for Robbie Williams concert. We are going to go tomorrow.

  • Pensar + infinitive

This expression means exactly the same as “ir a +infinitive” so you can use them without distinction. However you must be careful with the use of “pensar” (‘to think’) because it’s not the same to say: “Pienso en comprarme un coche este verano” (I’m thinking about buying a car this summer) than “Pienso comprarme un coche este verano” (I’m going to buy a car this summer).

  • Present tense with future meaning

As in English, the present tense can be used to talk about future events. When we use the present tense with this future meaning we express more certainty than the future simple.

 – Mañana al mediodía nos vemos y nos tomamos un café.
– Tomorrow at noon we meet and we have a coffee.

Te llamo esta tarde.
– I’m calling you this afternoon.

Tener or Haber: solving a confusing verb pair (I) 2


All Spanish courses focus since early stages in the learning of language in how to distinguish the scary verb pair “ser” and “estar” translated in english by just one verb, “to be”, however some of other confusing pairs are often overlooked only because they are used less often.

That’s the case of verbs pairs like “pedir” and “preguntar” (to ask), “salir” y “dejar” (to leave), “tocar” y “jugar” (to play) or “haber” y “tener” (to have), which is the pair that we’ll be exploring in this post.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that both, tener and haber are irregular.







  • The difference is very clear once I explain it here.

Tener” has the sense of ‘posses’ or ‘to hold’. For instance:

Tengo cuatro bolsos de Luis Vuitton.
-I have four Luis Vuitton bags. (In the sense of I own / posses four really expensive bags).

In contrast, “haber” is the auxiliar verb that goes with the past participle in the perfect tenses, like here:

He visto la última película de Nathalie Portman.
– I have seen Nathalie Portman last movie.

It’s easy up to this point?

  • However both verbs, tener and haber, can also be used with “queto express necessity and obligation.

Look at this examples:

Tengo que comprarme una mochila.
– I have to buy a backpack.

Hay que comprarse una mochila.
– It is necessary to buy a backpack.

In any case, you can check the differences between “hay que” and “tener que” with more detail in this post.


Bien or Bueno? Muy or Mucho? Erase any doubt! 9


This is a common question between the Spanish students and a great source of confusion so in this article you will learn to differentiate the two pair of terms and use them correctly.

The simple answer is that one is an adjective and the other is an adverb, but that doesn’t help much of you don’t have a clear understanding of the function of adjectives and adverbs themselves.


So, let’s make a quick explanation about these two concepts.

  • An adjective always modifies a noun, which means that an adjective talks about or is referred to a noun and therefore will accord always with the noun in genre and number. Look at the example:

– El perro mojado corre.
– The wet dog runs.

Here “mojado” is an adjective that talks about the noun, “perro“.

  • Whereas adverbs always modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb or phrase, which means that an adverb talks about or is referred to a verb or other adverb / adjective but not a noun.

– El perro mojado corre rápidamente.
– The  wet dog runs quickly.

In this example “rápidamente” is an adverb that talks about the verb, “corre“, and answers the question: “how the action (verb) is done?”.

It’s easy to see the difference between the adjectives and verbs with these kind of words: “mojado” is a participle and they work as adjectives, whereas the words that end in “-mente“, the equivalent of “-ly” in English, are adverbs and always talk about how the action is done.

Well, the problem arrives with the 2 pairs of words I presented you at the beginning of the post.


The previous answer is helpful but if you still have doubts about when to use bien or bueno, muy or mucho, keep reading this article and you won’t have any doubt left once you finish reading this article.


Bien is an adverb, so it will be referred to the verb, the action, of the sentence. So, as an adverb, the word “bien” won’t appear close to a noun but close to a verb and it will answer the question “How…?”. Look at the examples:

– No he dormido bien.
– I didn’t sleep well. (¿How did you sleep?)

– Desde que hago ejercicio estoy muy bien.
– Since I do exercise I am very well. (How are you?)

Bueno, on the other hand, is and adjective, so it will accord with the noun it goes with.

– La película buena.
– The good film.

– El libro bueno.
– The good book.

When “bueno” is used before the noun it becomes “buen” but only in the masculine.

– El libro bueno > El buen libro.

So basically bien is translated by well and bueno by good.

So far so good but… when to use “bien” or “bueno” with “ser” and “estar“?

I think that’s the most complicated part to understand but here is my attempt to make you finally understand this. “Ser” express a quality and “estar” a temporary thing or the result of something. Having this in mind, look at these examples:

– Yo estoy bien.
– I am well, fine, ok.

Yo soy bueno.
– I am a good person.


Yo estoy bueno.
– I am good looking. So careful with this if you don’t want to sound cocky 😀

Oh, and remember we never use “bien” with “ser” . So, “Esto es bien is wrong, you either say “Esto está bien“, which means that ‘this is right, correct or good’,  or “Esto es bueno”, meaning ‘This is good, beneficial’ depending on what you actually want to express.

  • MUY vs. MUCHO

This is the last pair of words that cause some headache to my students.

First thing: “muy” is an adverb and is referred to other adjectives and adverbs while  “mucho” an adjective referred to a noun.

Ese chico es muy alto.
– This guy is very tall.

–  Hay muchos libros encima de la mesa.
– There are a lot of books on the table.

 However, sometimes “mucho” works as an adverb and then you can find it referred to the verb / action.

– Estoy muy cansado porque he trabajado mucho.
– I’m very tired because I worked a lot.

As you see here, “mucho” is not talking about any noun but the verb “trabajar”.

So here is the rule:

– Muy + adjective

– Mi novio es muy listo.
– My boyfriend is very smart.

– Muy + adverb

– Hemos terminado el proyecto muy rapidamente.
– We have finished the project very quickly.

– Mucho + noun

– Tenemos mucho trabajo.
– We have a lot of work.

  • Verb + mucho

– Llueve mucho.
– It rains a lot.


If you liked this post, you might be interested in reading as well:
– “Ser bueno” and “estar bueno”: not the same thing?
“Ser” or “Estar”: the answer


Much of the above type and style of clarifications, grammar, and other tricky elements are now covered in Compass Spanish (a new course comprised of daily mini-lessons delivered straight to your inbox). If you struggle to find the time or have a busy schedule, try out a free week (no strings attached and no credit card required!).

Spill the Beans (1)

Relative clauses in Spanish 7


In this post I will explain you the relative sentences in Spanish, which are the combination of two sentences that share a common noun, that means that one of the sentences gives more information, modifies or specifies the noun in common. Look at these examples:

– ¿Has visto a esa chica?
– Have you seen that girl?

Esa chica está bailando en medio de la calle.
– That girl is dancing in the street.

¿Has visto a esa chica que está bailando en el medio de la calle?
– Have you seen that girl (that) is dancing in the street?

Here the common noun is “esa chica” and the second sentence specifies what girl I am talking about.

– Ayer me visitó mi vecina con su hijo Manuel.
– Yesterday my neighbor visited me with her son Manuel.

Su hijo es médico.
– Her son is a doctor.

– Ayer me visitó mi vecina con su hijo Manuel, que es médico.
– Yesterday my neighbor visited me with her son who is a doctor.

Here the common noun is “hijo” and the second sentences adds more information about that person.

Relative pronouns

Pronouns are words that refer to a noun. Relative pronouns are called “relative” because they are “related” to a noun that has previously been stated.

  • QUE

The most common relative pronoun, and the one used in the previous two examples is “que“. It can be used to refer to both persons and things, in either the subject or the object position. “Que” can be translated in English by “who”, “whom”, “which” and “that”.

Observe these examples:

– Mi actor favorito, que es muy guapo, se ha casado con una modelo.
– My favorite actor, who is very handsome, has got married with a top model.

In this example the relative is referred to a person and is the subject.

– La película que vi la semana pasada fue malísima.
– The movie that I saw last week was really bad.

And here, the relative pronoun talks about a thing and is the object of the relative clause.

Remember that the relative pronoun is often omitted in English but it is never, ever, omitted in Spanish.

– El libro que estoy leyendo es muy interesante.
– The book (that) I am reading is very interesting.


The relative pronoun “quien” is used only to refer to people. There is no genre distinction but it  has a plural form “quienes” . It’s important to notice that when the relative pronoun refers to a person as the object in the relative clause, you can use either “que” or “quien” and both are correct, but when the relative is followed by a preposition we can only use “quien” and not “que”.

– Mi amiga Pepa, que / quien vive en Australia, viene a visitarme el mes que viene.
– Mi friend Pepa, who lives in Australia, is coming to visit me next month.

– Ese hombre, con quien me viste hablar, es mi jefe.
– That man, with whom you saw me talking, is my boss.

– Pedro a quien entregué el paquete está encargado del proyecto.
– Pedro whom I handed the packet is in charge of the project.


The relative pronoun “el que, la que, los que and las que”  are used to refer to both people and things and are translated in English by “the one who / that”. We can use “el cual, la cual, los cuales and las cuales” instead of “el que…” but those are not used in everyday conversation but for written Spanish or a formal speaking.

– La botella de vino, la que tiene 20 años, está guardada en la bodega.
– The bottle of wine, the one that is 20 years, is kept in the cellar.

It’s important to notice that when the relative pronoun refers to an abstract idea, we have to use “lo que“.

Lo que quieres de él es imposible, es un insensible.
– What you want from him is impossible, he is an insensitive guy.

– No entiendo lo que está escrito en la pizarra.
– I don’t understand what is written in the blackboard.


This relative adjective relates the owner to that which is owned, is the equivalent of “whose” in English. There are four forms according to singular and plural, masculine and feminine.

– El perro cuyo dueño está en ese banco es una monada.
– The dog whose owner is sitting on that bench is a cutie.

– Estéban, cuyas ex novias están en la fiesta, está muy incómodo.
– Estéban, whose ex girlfriends are in the party, is very ill at ease.

Bear in mind that this relative adjective agrees in number and gender with the thing being owned and not with the owner.

– El perro cuyo dueño está en ese banco es una monada.

– Pedro, cuya hermana es muy guapa, es mi amigo.

– Estéban, cuyas ex novias están en la fiesta, está muy incómodo.

– Los estudiantes cuyos exámenes están suspendidos deben pasar por el despacho del director.


First of all, we have to distinguish two types of relative clauses:

  • Explicativas (explanatory): always between commas, are the ones that add information.

– Los estudiantes, cuyos exámenes están suspendidos, deben pasar por el despacho del director.
– The students, whose exams are failed, must visit the the Principal’s office. (All of them failed in the exam so all must visit the principal office)

  • Especificativas (defining): not between commas, specify which group.

–  Los estudiantes cuyos exámenes están suspendidos deben pasar por el despacho del director.
– The students whose exams are failed must visit the the Principal’s office.  (Only the ones that have failed must visit the principal office)


The explanatory clauses, “explicativas”, goes always with indicative.

– Mi novia, que es muy alta, nunca lleva tacones.
– Mi girlfriend, who is very tall, never wears high heels.

The defining clauses, “especificativas”, goes with indicative or subjunctive depending on the antecedent word the clause refers to.

For instance, if the antecedent exist or we know it, we use indicative:

– Los estudiantes que han hecho los deberes todos los días no tendrán que hacer el examen.
– The students who have done the homework every day, won’t need to do the exam.

In this example, I know that some of the students have done the homework every day, so only those ones won’t need to do the exam.

But if we don’t know if the antecedent exists or we don’t know it, we use subjunctive

The students que hayan hecho los deberes todos los días no tendrás que hacer el examen.
– The students who have done the homework every day, won’t need to do the exam.

Here, in this example, I don’t know yet what students have done the homework every day or if there are even students who have done the homework every day, but only those ones won’t need to do the exam.