Relative Pronouns (I)

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

One way to view relative pronouns is to recognise that they combine two sentences that share a common noun. In the following example, the common noun is “café” (coffee)

¿Dónde está el café? Compraste el cafe = ¿Dónde está el café que compraste?

Another way to view relative pronouns is to recognise that they are used to introduce a clause that modifies a noun. In the following example, the clause “I finished last night” modifies the noun “proyecto” (project).

Terminé el proyecto ayer. El proyecto es muy importante. =  El proyecto que terminé ayer es muy importante.

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” is the Spanish equivalent of the English words: who, whom, which, and that.

El chico que es guapo… (person, subject)

Los proyectos que son importantes… (thing, subject)

La chica que conocí… (person, object)

La carta que escribiste… (thing object)

The relative pronoun is often omitted in English, but it is never omitted in Spanish.

El coche que compramos es nuevo.
The car (that) we bought is new.

El programa que miraba era divertido.
The show (that) I was watching was funny.

That is all for today’s post. We will continue delving deeper in the Relative Pronouns and its use in the next few posts. If you don’t want to miss them, subscribe to our newsletter here.

Impersonal Constructions with Ser and Estar

This two verbs are a big cause of headaches. When to use one? When to use the other? We have already tackled this topic in two previous posts:

Ser or Estar? The Answer

Ser Bueno / Estar Bueno. Not the same thing

In this post, we will learn about the impersonal constructions with these two verbs.

  • Used to express opinion or emotion or to judge or appraise in an impersonal or general way.

1. Es + adjetivo (masc sg) + infinitivo
Es estupendo, es difícil, es inútil, es interesante

Es estupendo poder ir a la fiesta.
– It’s wonderful to be able to go to the party.

2. Es un / una + noun (to express assessment) + infinitive
Es una pena / un error / una suerte / una tontería

Es una pena llegar tarde.
– It’s a pity to arrive late.

Es una suerte saber hacerlo.
– It’s fortunate to know how to do it.

3. Está bien / Está mal + infinitive.

Está bien hacer ejercicio.
– It’s good to do exercise.

Está mal tomar demasiado azúcar.
– It’s wrong to have too much sugar.

  • Remember that in a previous post we said that we use “ser” to talk about the profession. Yes. But we use “estar” to talk about a job or profession with an eventual or temporary nature.

– Yo soy profesora de español.
– I am a Spanish teacher.

– Pedro es médico pero está de socorrista durante el verano.
– Pedro is a doctor but he works as a life guard during the summer.

  • Lo que + ser / estar + es + adjective. Used to rectify or clarify something mentioned previously. It’s always emphatic.

– ¿No estás cansada?
– ¿Cansada? Lo que estoy es cansadísima.

– Are you not tired?
– ¿Tired? What I am is exhausted.



Indicative or subjonctive with Verbs of Perception and Understanding

Subjunctive is one of the three moods in the Spanish conjugation of verbs, along with Indicative (used for objective facts) and Imperative (this is the one we use for the commands and orders).

The moods in the conjugations refers at how the speaker feels about an action while the tense talks about the time, when the action happen.

Indicative is the mood we use to talk about facts, about things that we consider true and concrete, while Subjunctive is the mood we choose to talk about subjective things, emotions, desires, doubts, abstract.

Having this in mind, the general rule to use Indicative and Subjunctive is as follows:

Indicative: used to talk about actions, events and states believed to be true, to make statements and objective descriptions.

Subjunctive: used to talk about emotions, doubts, wishes and everything that is not considered a fact. So it’s used to express opinion, give recommendations and commands.

Now, let’s see what happens with some verbs:

Verbs of Knowledge and Understanding

  • Creer: means ‘to think’ but also ‘to believe’ as ‘to have a faith or a believe’.

– Pedro tiene mala cara, creo que está enfermo.
– Pedro doesn’t look so good, I think he’s ill.

– Yo creo en la bondad de gente, ¿tú?
– I believe in people’s kindness, you?

  • Pensar: also has a couple of meanings, the first is ‘to think‘ but it also means ‘to intend‘. Let’s see the differences in the structures:

– Pienso que la película es una bobada.
– I think the movie is silly.

– ¿Qué piensas del matrimonio gay? Pienso que todos deberíamos tener los mismo derechos.
– What do you think about gay marriage? I think that we all should have same rights.

– Pienso ir a Cuba este verano.
– I intend to go to Cuba this summer.

– Patricia no piensa volver a verlo.
– Patricia doesn’t intend to see him again.

Note that “pensar que” means ‘to think’, whereas, “pensar + verb in the infinitive” means ‘to intend‘.

  • Opinar: ‘to think‘, ‘ to give one’s opinion

– Opinamos que los chicos deberían venir a la fiesta.
– We think the guys should come to the party.

  • Considerar: this one appears in more formal contexts and it means ‘to consider’, ‘to think’ but also ‘to be considerate of’.

– Estamos considerando los pros y contras antes de tomar una decisión.
– We are considering the pros and cons before making any decision. 

– Glen y Mark son muy considerados con sus fans.
– Glen and Mark are very considerate of their fans.

Verbs of Perception

  •  Ver: ‘to see‘ as a physical perception, and ‘to see’ in the sense of ‘to understand‘.

– Veo el cartel, pero no puedo ver lo que pone.
– I see the poster, but I can’t see what is written.

– Ya veo que nadie quiere mojarse, así que me voy.
– I see that nobody wants to stick their necks out, so I split.

  • Sentir: we can use it with the meaning of ‘to feel sorry about’ but also with the meaning of ‘to feel’ as in a mental perception.

– Siento que todo haya salido mal.
– I am sorry everything went wrong.

– Siento que todos estáis contra mí por alguna razón que desconozco.
– I feel that you are all against me for a reason I ignore.

  • Notar: ‘to feel‘ as a physical sensation, but also ‘to notice‘, ‘to perceive‘ as a mental perception.

– He perdido la sensibilidad en los brazos, me has tocado y no he notado nada.
– I have lost sensibility in my arms, you touched me and I haven’t feel anything.

– He notado que no os lleváis bien, ¿ha pasado algo?
– I’ve noticed that you are not getting along, something happened?

Mood selection: Indicative or Subjunctive?

As you might have noticed in the examples, we use indicative and subjunctive with these verbs. Now the question is, when to use one or the other?

The answer is easy. We you negate the main verb (one of the verbs in this list) you will use the subjunctive, and when you use it in affirmative sentences, you use the indicative.

So, the structure you need to remember is:

Negation + verb of knowledge and understanding + que + subjunctive

For example:

– No creo que Pedro tenga esos libros.
– I don’t think Pedro has got those books.


– Creo que Pedro no tiene esos libros.
– I think that Pedro hasn’t got those books.

As you see, the negation here goes in the subordinate verb, the verb after “que”. In those cases, we use the Indicative. We only use the subjunctive when the negation goes at the beginning.

Remember that the negation is not only the word “no”, we can also express a negative idea with words as “nunca”or “nadie” for example. With these words we use the subjunctive as well.

– Nunca piensas que puedas ganar la lotería.
– You never think that you can win the lottery.



Verbs of transformation (Verbos de cambio)

Spanish has many verbs that are used for specific types of change or transformation, and if the change is sudden or involuntary. Many of those verbs mean “to become” in English but in Spanish they are not interchangeable because they have very specific meanings for particular situations.

The next four verbs can be translated with “to become, to get”: Hacerse, Volverse, Quedarse and Ponerse but they are used in very different situations to express different things.

Hacerse: Change of age, changes in the ideology, profession and other “external” aspects. It can be used with professions, ideologies and a change of degree in personal attributes (ie. rich – poor, strong – weak, young – old…). They express a voluntary change caused by an effort or a gradual process.

– Mi madre se está haciendo vieja.
– My mum is getting older.

– La niña se está haciendo mayor.
– The girl is growing up.

– Pepe se ha hecho profesor.
– Pepe has become a teacher.

– Isabel se ha hecho musulmana.
Isabel has become a muslim.

Ponerse: Express a momentary change of situation, in health, physical appearance, color, mood or behavior, without indicating if it is permanent or not.

– Me he puesto nerviosa cuando he visto a mi jefe.
– I got nervous when I saw my boss.

– Ana se ha puesto enferma.
– Ana has become ill.

– María se ha puesto roja cuando Danny la ha mirado.
– Maria blushed when Danny looked at her.

– Me he puesto muy gorda después de las Navidades.
– I have put on lots of weight after Christmas.

– Petra se ha puesto triste cuando Luis se ha ido.
– Petra got sad when Luis left.

Volverse: Change of character or behavior as permanent. It is normally used to express an involuntary change referred to negative changes (but not always).

– Jose se ha vuelto muy tacaño.
– Jose has become very stingy.

– Desde que es jefe se ha vuelto insoportable.
– Since he’s a boss, he has become insufferable.

– Ana se ha vuelto más amable desde que es madre.
– Ana has become nicer since she’s a mother.

Quedarse: Change as a result of another circumstance. Normally is about negative changes and the most common cases are the permanent body changes (ie. blind, deaf, bold, pregnant…) or a family situation (ie. widow or orphan). It can also be used to express an emotional change caused by another situation, although in those cases we can choose between “ponerse” and “quedarse”.

– Bea se ha quedado coja tras el accidente.
– Bea became lame after the accident.

– Antonio se quedó viudo a los 50 años.
– Antonio widowed when he was 50.

– Me he quedado preocupada después de hablar con ella por teléfono.
– I got worried since I talked to her on the phone.

These are only four of the most common verbs of change, but there are more than we will go through in the next post. As you can see, these four verbs are reflexive, they end in “se“: hacerse, ponerse, volverse and quedarse. Remember to use the corresponding personal pronoun (me, te, se, nos, os, se) before the verb when you conjugate them, because those verbs without “se” mean a completely different thing: poner: ‘to put’, quedar: ‘to have an appointment’, hacer: ‘to make / to do’, volver: ‘to return’.

Now I will leave you with a short story that will help you to remember this four verbs of transformation in Spanish in the video below.

Story [Translation]

Hi, I am María and I’m a very normal person, but throughout my life I have changed a lot.
I am very a very shy person, so when I am with strangers I “get very nervous” and sometimes I “blushed” as well.
Since I am a little girl I always knew what I wanted to do when I was an adult. When I “grew up” I “became a teacher”.
The first time that I was offered a teaching job in a school in France, “I got very happy”, in those nine months I learned a lot, but I “was very sad” when the school year was over and I had to go back to Spain.
It has been four years since I work remotely, teaching Spanish via Skype, that’s why I can travel very often. Since I travel, I’ve “become more open minded and understanding” and also “I’ve become a little bit more adventurous”. 

Three verbs to talk about length time in Spanish: “tardar”, “llevar” and “durar” 6

Do you know how to use the verbs “tardar”, “llevar” and “durar” in time expressions? Their use is fairly common to express how long it takes to do something, how long something goes on for or how long something has been going on. Let’s see the best way to use them:

  •  Durar: ‘to go on, to last’

durarWe use durar+ length of time to express how long something lasts.

– La película dura dos horas.
The movie lasts (for) two hours.

– ¿Cuánto dura el vuelo?
– How long is the flight? / How long does the flight take?

– La conferencia durará cuatro días.
– The conference will last four days.

  • Tardar: ‘to take (time)’

tardarWe use ‘tardar’ + amount of time + en  + infinitive to say how long it takes for someone (person, animal or thing) to do something.

Tardamos tres horas en llegar al pueblo.
– We took three hours to get to the village.

– ¿Cuánto se tarda en llegar de Madrid a Burgos en autobús?
– How long does it take to go from Madrid to Burgos by bus?

Tardar‘ also means to take too much time, as in delaying.

– Pedro tarda en llegar.
– Pedro is late in arriving.

  • Llevar

llevar– ‘Llevar‘ + time + gerund: ‘to be, to take’

We use this expression to refer to how long an action has been going on.

Llevo media hora esperando.
– I’ve been waiting for half an hour.

– ¿Cuánto tiempo llevas buscando a tus padres biológicos?
– How long have you been looking for your biological parents?

– ‘Llevar’ + time + sin + infinitive: ‘to go / to be for + length of time + without’

Lleva dos días sin comer.
– He hasn’t eaten for two days.

– ‘Llevar’ + amount of time (+ en) + place

We use this expression to say how long someone or something has been somewhere.

– La estatua lleva tres años en la plaza.
– The statue has been here for three years.

– ¿Cuánto tiempo llevas aquí?
– How long have you been here?