El Aula How to Say STOP in Spanish ¿Dejar-Detenerse-Pararse?

Stop in Spanish.stop scale

A great frustration for any student of the Spanish language is the range of options that present themselves “a la hora de” look for the appropriate way to say STOP in Spanish.

The Issue

The issue has to do with the way we use the word STOP in English and the way they sometimes use STOP in Spanish. As we have all found out to our disappointment and frustration, it isn’t always possible to make a direct translation from English to Spanish.

At the beginning, when we have little experience of the structure and melody of the Spanish language the best we can do is to create our sentences by reproducing word for word the English sentence that we have in our mind.

This leads to classic sentences like:

“Una usted curva” = A U-bend

“Vivo en Barco Colina.”  = I live in Ferryhill.

“Yo pintura” = I paint. (Debería ser “Yo pinto”.)

How they use DEJAR

The interesting thing about this verb is that it really doesn’t mean, TO STOP in Spanish. It actually means TO LEAVE. Now, this could seem to be a strange way of saying STOP unless you think of it in the way Spanish speakers do.

They might say, for example:

He dejado de fumar.

Which in English can really only translate as:

I have stopped smoking.

However, in Spanish it really translates as:

I have left (behind) smoking.

In English we might say something that has a similar feel to DEJAR which would be:

I have dropped the habit of smoking.

So, although DEJAR has a slightly different meaning, it can still be used to say to STOP in Spanish. At the same time, the same verb is used to say to LEAVE. For example:

Déjalo. = Leave it.

Lo dejé en marzo. = I left him in March. ( This could also mean “I stopped in March.”)

Voy a dejar tu abrigo en el dormitorio. = I’m going to leave your coat in the bedroom.

So, it’s these subtle differences in meaning that can catch us out at the beginning. However, you soon start picking up the feel for verbs and how they are used.


Direct translation is the system used by many beginners as that’s the only way they can communicate, and there are some great online translators that manage to give you a reasonable result. You must be careful, however, not to trust that what they give you is what you wrote in English. We have had the displeasure of having to mark essays written in English and then translated with an online translator which were, quite frankly, a pile of poppycock! (¡Una tontería total!)

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El Aula The verb to Move in Spanish Mudarse/Moverse etc

To Move in scale

This particular podcast lesson was requested from someone we would consider to be a ‘high level’ student with an already broad understanding of the Spanish language. And yet, despite that, this particular range of  verbs that we cover on ways to say’to Move’ in Spanish still caused him confusion.

Why so difficult?

The principle reason for the confusion is that there are different verbs for different moves. On top of that, sometimes they are reflexive and sometimes not.

It might be worth taking a little look at the difference between a standard verb and a reflexive verb.

If you ever find you way into one of my classes on Reflexive verbs you will probably hear me sing my little song, “A reflexive verb has a arse on the end, arse on the end…etc.”

Of course, that’s not strictly true because that only applies to AR verbs. However, it’s a fun way of remembering it.

Another student of mine incorrectly calls them reflective verbs. Yet, even though that not the right name, it is a great description of what they actually do.

Reflexive verbs REFLECT back the action onto the self same people doing the action.

What does that mean?

It means that unlike normal verbs that always involve the actor and the person or thing being acted upon, reflexive verbs only describe what the person or the people are doing to themselves.

Here’s an example with the verb  TO MOVE in Spanish which is MOVER or MOVERSE.

You should move yourself a bit more. = Deberías moverte un poco más. ONLY YOU ARE MOVING AND YOU ARE DOING IT TO YOURSELF. (The clue is the word yourself.)

Can you move your hand please? = ¿Puedes mover tu mano, por favor? YOU ARE NOW THE ACTOR AND THE HAND IS BEING ACTED UPON: THUS THIS IS NOT REFLEXIVE.

Can all verbs be reflexive?

An interesting question. The vast majority of verbs CAN be reflexive although some simply can’t. For example:

VIVIR = To Live, can’t be reflexive.

NACER = To be born, can’t be reflexive.

However, apart from a few select verbs, the rest can be both. Often, however, the meaning changes when the verb becomes reflexive.

Here’s an interesting example:

CREER= To Believe

¿Crees que es un buen hombre? = Do you believe/think that he’s a good man?

Él se cree superior a los demás. = He believes himself to be/think he is better than everyone else.

 Ten cuidado.

You have to be careful with these kind of verbs. Sometimes the meaning is very clear yet many times it changes completely.

The best way to understand them is to use such tools as or ask a native speaker. That way you won’t make mistakes like I did with the innocent verb Correr and its rather less innocent reflexive cousin. (And no further information can be supplied on this. Investigate for yourself.)

Enjoy the podcast. Nos vamos y nos vemos.

Gordon 🙂


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Spanish Idioms 1 A-Z by LightSpeed Spanish

Spanish Idioms.a to z

Probably many students of the Spanish language have had the shocking experience of having gone to a Spanish speaking country only to find that everything they had learnt in their lessons didn’t have any value to them. This happens for a couple of reasons:

1, In class, teachers normally talk slowly and clearly with good grammar. In the world outside of the classroom, people talk as they fancy. They break the rules constantly, they pronounce badly, they miss words out and, well, do just about everything that is prohibited.

2, People, and some more than others, like to talk using idioms.  An idiom is an expression that doesn’t translate into other languages yet is understood by most native speakers. The classic example of this is the high powered manager that talks in that mysterious idiomatic code to talk to his people:

Look guys, either we get this running on all four cylinders or it’s going to get wrapped around our necks and we’ll end up shooting ourselves in the foot. So it’s nose to the grindstone and backs against the wall and remember, it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

(I have no intention of translating that into Spanish!)

Get a mix of the two…

So, quite often, when you spend time in a native speaking country, you’ll come across someone who does a bit of both things. They speak badly (men much more than women) and they liberally sprinkle their conversation with idioms. (Men more than women, again in my experience.) Frankly, this can be the most frustrating experience for any learner.

I recall going to Murcia, Spain for a weekend and barely understanding anything of what was said to me. That was after spending two years in Mexico. I recall coming home very, very angry. “What language had I been learning, for God’s sake?” I remember asking myself .

Then, when Cynthia first moved to England after having spent 10 years learning English, she quite literally couldn’t understand what people said to her. I had to repeat, in English, the same thing that the person had just said  to her and only then would she understand it.

Then, of course, we come to the Spanish idioms. No matter how tuned in your ear is, unless you understand the meaning behind the Spanish idioms, it’s very unlikely that you will be able to grasp what the person is driving at. (This last sentence is a metaphor, by the way.)

I recall José, Cynthia’s father saying to me once, “En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo.” I looked at him glazed eyed not making head nor tail of it. (Another idiom, too.) Of course, the best way to understand these expressions is just to ask.  You’ll be amazed at how difficult it is to explain them. That expression of just seven words took him about 50 to explain.

It means, “The people who should best be able to help themselves because of the skills they have, often do not do so.”

In the house of the blacksmith, wooden knives.

So, our advice is to learn the Spanish idioms. Read books, as it’s a great way to see them in use and then use Google to help with their explanation. Also, this series is designed to give you some of the more commonly used ones.


Buena suerte, chicos.

Gordon 🙂

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Past Subjunctive Spanish Guide 9 The IF Would Combination

sierraPast Subjunctive Spanish Guide.

In this podcast we cover the very important distinction between the WOULD/IF trigger that demands the past subjunctive Spanish verb and the IF in present, which does not.

The Big Issue.

The problem that most students have with this construction is identifying when they should use the past subjunctive and when the present. We already covered this in the Subjunctive podcast/blog number 8. However, it will be worth reviewing it here. (Repetition is the mother of all learning.)

When you start a sentence with the word IF, then ask yourself this question about your English sentence.

After the IF is the verb that follows in present or in past tense?

Here is what we mean. Take a look at these examples:

If you want, we can eat there.

If you wanted, we could eat there.

If the verb that follows IF/SI is in present, then that’s what you use in Spanish.  You simply use the Present Indicative, or as in the above example, QUIERES.

Si quieres, podemos comer allí.

If the verb is in the past then you use the Past/Imperfect Subjunctive. Why? Because we are using a past tense word to talk about a possible future event. THAT’S WEIRD! So, in this case we would use QUISIERAS.

Si quisieras, podríamos comer allí.

Which is Imperfect Subjunctive and which is Conditional?

The other issue that many students have is understanding whether the Imperfect Subjunctive follows the SI or if the Conditional follows the SI.

This issue comes in sentences like this:

If you could, would you be the president if the United States?

Would you be the president of the United States if you could?

The reason it’s a problem is because in English both the word COULD and WOULD are conditional. So which is which?

We have developed a really easy way of knowing how to GET IT RIGHT.

SIERA (Sierra= Saw/Mountain range)

If you remember this word you will always get it right.  IERA is one of the optional endings of the Imperfect Subjunctive. Now, the Imperfect Subjunctive ALWAYS follows IF or SI.

Therefore, by keeping in mind SIERA, you will always know where and what to put. Let’s consider the above sentences.

If you could, would you be the president if the United States?

Notice that after the IF/SI appears the verb CAN/PODER. This is the one that takes the IERA. Thus the sentence would be:

¿Si pudieras, serías el presidente de los Estados Unidos?

However, notice that the order has beeen changed in the following sentence. This does not matter! You still follow the same SIERA rule.

Would you be the president of the United States if you could?

¿Serías el presidente de los Estado Unidos si pudieras?

So, now that you have that a little clearer (hopefully), listen in to the podcast and let us explain everything in more detail in this Past Subjunctive Spanish Guide.

Gordon 🙂

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Native Spanish Speakers Attitudes to the British with José Antonio

Another of our Native Spanish Speakers.hamburger scale

José Antonio is an interesting guy from the heart of Spain in Guadalajara. In this interview he talks about his opinion of the British as well as other European people. As a truck driver, his experience of British food seems to have been limited to the layby cafés and Greasy Joes’ That said, he still has quite a positive opinion of them.

That apart, this is probably a great time to tell his story, albeit a sad one. At the time of the interview, José was a truck driver who delivered fresh fruit and vegetables from Spain to the UK and Germany as well as other countries. He owned his own enormous lorry and travelled through Europe with his wife who had also gotten her heavy goods vehicle licence so that they could travel together on the long journeys.

Their business was going from strength to strength and they had invested in a new truck which cost pretty much what a house might cost to buy. Life seemed like it couldn’t get better.

Terrible News.

Then one day, as José went to invoice the company that contracted his services he discovered that the company had gone bust. It had simply closed its doors the night before and disappeared. Worse still, they owed him many thousands of pounds.

This left José and his family in a terrible state. Their income had stopped suddenly, all of their resources had been invested in the business and the bank was asking for money. The company that owed him what was around three months salary was limited and so would offer nothing toward the outstanding payment.

What made matters worse was that right at that moment Spain was caught in the beginnings of the crisis and the financial climate  was on a severe downturn. There were no jobs to fall back on.

In the space of six months, they went from having a wonderful lifestyle to not knowing when the next euro would come through the door.

Getting By.

Right now, they live very much from day to day. Their two sons fall in and out of sporadic work and José’s wife has managed to secure a job as a cleaner.  Unlike here in the UK, the support in Spain for people in José’s situation is minimal and as a family they have had to make some significant changes in their life to cope with these events.

Despite everything, José remains chipper and upbeat about the future. He has many extra skills and does servicing of cars and any other handyman jobs that come his way. Personally, I admire his fortitude and dogged perseverance. He has even, in times of need, had to live off the land and find his food (in the shape of four legged running creatures) out in the countryside.

Their family are great friends of ours and we really hope that life picks up for them soon and that the Spanish economy gets back on its feet tan pronto como sea posible.

In the mean time, enjoy this native speakers interview with José Antonio and if you struggle a little, that will be because he’s down in our book as 3 stars out of 5 for difficulty.

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