El Aula – Ser and Estar Getting them right (1 of 3)

persons scale ser estar el aula

Ser and Estar.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that as students of the Spanish language, we choose the wrong one, VERY OFTEN. lol. One of the reasons that we have problems with these two verbs is that, normally, in our own language we have only one.

Also, errors occur when we don’t understand how the two verbs work and what they really mean.

The idea of this video blog is to help you understand how these verbs work and in what situations you would choose one against the other.

Once we have addressed the SER and ESTAR conundrum, we´ll move on to look at the Preterite and Imperfect tenses. The reason for this is that we have found that many students get the rules mixed up between SER and ESTAR and PRETERITE and IMPERFECT. As you can imagine, this can make what was already a tricky situation into a distaster!

The last video in the series will the one in which we pull together everything and look at the WAS words that have caused us all so many issues and frustration.

Why are there two verbs TO BE?

So many times I’m asked that question and my answer tends to be the same every time.

I have no idea…they just do.

This is not the answer that the students expect, but, in my opinion, it’s the only one that has any validity. Why? Because sometimes asking why doesn’t help you at all. Some things just are, an my suggestion is that when faced with strange situations like  SER and ESTAR, it’s best just to accept it and get on understanding HOW to deal with it.

When to choose SER

Ser is a verb that principally deals with the expected, the normal, our shared beliefs or what we perceive as permanent things.

In the video I cover a range of situations in which SER is used along with a way to think about it that might help you make the right choice in the future.

Think about this:

What colour is grass?

I imagine that the first answer that came to mind is “green”.

This is what we call a shared belief. It’s what we expect.  AND THIS IS “SER

However, that doesn’t get away from the fact that grass can often be others colours, right?

If it gets no sun, it can be yellow. If it is dying it can be brown. However, this is not normal. It’s not the colour that we expect grass to be.

When something does not fit into our shared expectation, or even our individual expectation WE USE ESTAR.


So, for example:

La hierba ES verde. (SER, what we expect)

La hierba ESTÁ marrón. (ESTAR, outside of the normal.)

La hierba ESTÁ amarillo. (ESTAR, outside of the normal.)

Using this system along with all the others that you already have will help to plug the gaps in the areas in which the other rules either don’t apply or are not as clear.

Remember: Native Spanish speakers don’t need to know these rules, nor think about them. They know them naturally, from having spent years hearing every possible combination there is.

As students of the language, we don’t have that luxury.

So, listen in and watch on and together “podemos lograrlo”.

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The Present Spanish Subjunctive 2 – Hopes and Maybes

maybe scaleSubjunctive and Indicative.

For us to study the Spanish Subjunctive, we must also understand the way we refer to the present tense. It’s called the “indicative”, which is purely the present tense, the one that we learn when we first begin to study Spanish.

Most times, when talking about this subject we ask: “Subjunctive or not subjunctive?” when really a better question would be: “Subjunctive or indicative?”

The Triggers.

Now that we have gotten into the meat of this subject, we can start looking at the real triggers that signal the need for the present Spanish subjunctive.

Probably, the most common element in 90% of all subjunctive sentences is the word QUE. As I explain in the video, QUE is I heavily worked word in Spanish and often causes confusion with students as they see it appearing “por todos lados” in their studies.

If you want to refresh your understanding of QUE, then why not take a look at our video blog on this subject.

What you must be cautious of, however, when working with the Spanish subjunctive, is not to imagine that it’s QUE  is the only word that triggers it off.

Rather, it is the appearance of QUE with other sentence structures that normally creates a need to use the subjunctive.

A frequent confusion.

Many students get a little confused about where to place the subjunctive verb once the trigger has been fired off. I explain in the video blog that normally the subjunctive is placed in the verb that FOLLOWS the trigger. Sometimes I have heard students placing the subjunctive on the trigger verb. This is not correct.


Here’s an example of how it works most times :

Espero que (trigger) mañana venga (following verb) temprano.


Tal vez (trigger) no quiera (following verb) decírnoslo.

So, as you can note, the Spanish subjunctive appears in the verb that follows the trigger and not in the trigger itself.

Also, typically, once the following verb has been used in the subjunctive, that’s everything done and you don’t need to continue adding each verb in the subjunctive.


Él espera que ( trigger) yo le llame (following verb) cada día porque se siente (normal indicative) muy solo.


Two or more in a row.

Of course, the exception to this suggestion is when there is a continuation of the “hope” across more than one verb.


Mi amiga espera que (trigger) vaya (following verb) a su fiesta y que (continued trigger) traiga (following verb) comida y bebida, también.

Here, you can see that although there isn’t a new trigger verb, by adding QUE, the trigger is extended and thus requires another subjunctive verb to follow it.

With this in mind, now it’s time to look at the video and start adding these handy triggers to your spoken Spanish.


Buena suerte.

Gordon 🙂

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El Aula – Spanish Pronouns – Getting the Order Right

stairs scale el aula pronounsSpanish Pronouns.

Once you enter into the world of Spanish pronouns, your Spanish will never be the same again. What we aim to do with this blog and video is to make sure that it’s for the better and not for the worst.

The idea of Spanish pronouns is to make your sentence CLEAR and EFFICIENT.

Unfortunately, because of the apparent complexity, often they do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE.

What to Expect.

There are two things to realise when you begin to use Spanish pronouns. The first is that you can expect your spoken Spanish to slow down dramatically. This is completely normal and it should be welcomed. If you skim the learning process you will only find yourself totally confusing your listener as you mix and match (incorrectly) the entire range pronouns at your disposal.

The second thing to be aware of is that, no matter how much you might fight against it,  you simply CANNOT avoid them. Direct and Indirect pronouns are everywhere. in the Spanish language.

The Good News.

The good news is that Spanish pronouns are not so difficult to use as you might imagine. Firstly, however, before you can really get full benefit from this video you must understand what the Indirect and Direct Spanish pronouns are. To do that, we already have some podcasts on this subject.

If you need to bring yourself up to speed or refresh your thinking check out these two podcasts:

Double Pronouns

Direct and Indirect

The Big Issue.

The biggest issue that people have when trying to incorporate Spanish pronouns into their spoken Spanish is getting the order right, as well as getting the person right.

In this video I give you a foolproof and step by step system that will always produce the correct sentence. All you need to do is to learn the system and apply it.

What puts many people off, however, is that like any learning, it’s a slow and clumsy process at first. (Remember learning to drive and how you were at the beginning.) The other issue is that whilst you are mechanically going through your internal questions and getting the order right, your listener is stifling a yawn and losing the will to live. lol.

The fact is, it will always be like this until you have practised it enough to get a flow going. Just make sure you only talk to kind, understanding people. 🙂

So, watch the video as many times as you need to get it right. Take notes, write test sentences, practice with your study group, do as much as you can to really get the structure into your head and your Spanish can do nothing else but vastly improve.

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Early Intermediate Spanish Podcast 26 – Spanish Greetings Sending Your Regards

Spanish Greetings.faces scale earl inter 26

It may seem like a small part of a vast language, but Spanish greetings could well be one of the most important parts of your Spanish speaking skill.

Given that the majority of us are going to be visiting Spanish speaking countries, or intermittently seeing people, we really should have our Spanish greetings up to par.

In our own language there’s never any problem and we instinctively know, from years of practice, how to greet someone correctly, how to send our regards to another and how to say goodbye in the right way.

In another language, of course, things just aren’t as simple. To get it right, as we are discovering, we cannot simply translate what we say in our own language into Spanish.

What are you up to?

For example, we often ask others, “What are you up to?” an expression impossible to translate directly. Rather, it’s common to say in Spain, “¿Qué te cuentas?” which translates as, “What are you telling yourself?”

Saying goodbye also has its challenges.

In English we often say, “See you later.” whereas in Spanish, they tend to say, “Hasta luego.” which translates as, “Until then.” or “Nos vemos” which means, “We´ll see each other.”

Getting it Right.

The point is with these Spanish greetings and farewells that unless you know them, there’s no way you can get them right.

The same applies to the act of sending your regards.  There’s a very specific way of doing so and not only that, but when someone sends their regards, there’s a very specific way that you should reply.

What are they? Well, the way to find out is to watch or listen to the podcast and listen to how we use these important Spanish greetings in conversation which is often the best way to learn them. After all, that’s how we learnt our own language.

We can Help You.

All of our podcasts are backed up with a full and clear helpsheet that is designed to help you get the maximum learning from this lesson. Although all of the lessons are free and can be downloaded to listen to over and over again, we do ask a small amount for our helpsheets which go toward funding our future lessons to help you take your Spanish to LightSpeed.

Gracias a todos por vuestra atención. Suerte con vuestros estudios.


Gordon y Cynthia 🙂

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Early Intermediate Spanish Podcast 25 – No Sólo, Sino in Spanish and Se Me Da Bien

translate scale earl inter solo sinoSino in Spanish

Some years ago there was a T.V. programme here in the U.K. called,  “Not only but also.” which when it came out in Spanish was called, “No sólo, sino.”

It’s this expression that we hear used such a lot when Spanish speakers want to describe something that has more than one effect.


Not only do you bring joy to my life, but you also make me feel valued.

The temptation for many students of Spanish when confronted with a sentence with this structure is to use the word “BUT”, which is “PERO”.

However, this is the BIG mistake. Whenever you find yourself saying “not only”, you must use SINO in Spanish.

In this podcast we give you various examples of how to use this particular structure in real-life conversation, and not only do we talk about this particular structure, but also about the use of SINO in other ways.

The interesting thing is that it doesn’t just work with “no sólo”, but rather, on its own.

We´ll not tell you what that is here, but rather suggest that you listen in to the podcast to discover the other way that  SINO in Spanish works.

Se Me Da Bien.

I recall (Gordon) many years ago struggling to work out how to say, “I’m good at it.” in Spanish. I tried various formats from, “Soy muy bueno en ello.”, a rather strained direct translation that really doesn’t work that well. I wondered if I could say, ” Lo hago muy bien.” , literally, “I do it well.”

Like most expressions, however, there really isn’t always a good way to directly translate them and any attempts to make direct translations of the many idiomatic expressions we have in English can get you into a right sticky fix. (That’s one, by the way.)

A student once said to me, “…desde el culo de mi corazón.” Now he wanted to say, “…from the bottom of my heart” but only managed to say, “…from my heart’s bum.”

This is the danger of trying to translate expressions literally. lol

So, the way a Spanish speaker would say, “I’m good at it.” is to say, “Se me da bien.” which, like many expressions, translates woefully from one language to another.  The translation would be something like, “It gives itself to me well.” which, if you said that to an English speaker, would mean very little.

Listen in to our podcast to see and hear how we put that into conversation and how we can apply it to others, also.

All of our podcasts come with a comprehensive Helpsheet designed to take you through a step by step understanding of these subjects and then test your understanding. We hope they will be of value to you.


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