Advanced Intermediate Podcast 31 Spanish Preterite vs Imperfect

ball scaleThe Spanish Preterite vs Imperfect.

In all of our private classes we probably spend more than 50% of our time helping people control the Spanish preterite vs imperfect tenses.


Well, there are two principle reasons. The first is that we talk in the past a LOT! The second is that getting them right can be a real challenge!

Juggling the Preterite and the Imperfect

In our own mother tongue we don’t think twice when we want to tell a friend about something that happened to us the other day. The words just roll off our tongue as we focus on telling the story and not on HOW to tell the story.

It’s quite the opposite, however, when we have to battle with the Spanish preterite vs imperfect whilst at the same time managing our tale and trying to keep our listener interested.

Then there are all those rules

It’s a fact that to learn when to use these tenses you have to know quite a few rules and regulations.  What’s more, before we open our mouths we have to trawl through a number of questions to know if we should be saying ‘pude’ o ‘podía’.

All this mechanical brainwork slows our speech right down, sometimes to a snails pace, and can be very frustrating.

The ironical thing

The irony of it all is that if you were to speak to a Spanish speaker about the rules, they would have no idea what you were waffling on about. Native speakers don’t use rules to speak. They just do it. They don’t have the constant battle between the Spanish preterite vs imperfect as we do.

In fact, most times,  when you ask them if the preterite or the imperfect is correct in a particular sentence they will tell you that both are fine!

Lots of times both are correct

What??? How can both be correct? Well, think of these sentences:

I talked to my friend the other day. (Pret)

I was talking to my friend the other day. (Imperf)

Is there a lot of difference when we compare the two sentences? Not really.

Do the two sentences mean different things? Maybe yes, maybe no. Some people would argue that they were very different, some would say they were identical.

Am I measuring it or describing it?

Really, the bottom line is that to understand the Spanish preterite vs imperfect puzzle, all you have to do is ask yourself the above question.

The preterite is a measurement of action.

The imperfect is a description of what was happening.

And if it were that easy, all our problems would be solved. However, the real skill is putting those benchmarks into practice. In this podcast we help you do that. Listen in and perhaps you’ll learn the most important thing about the Spanish preterite vs imperfect up to now.

Saludos, Gordon y Cynthia

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32 Advanced Intermediate Tratar and Acabar in Spanish LightSpeed Spanish

Tratar and Acabar in Spanish.tratar

In this Podcast we don’t just deal with Tratar and Acabar in Spanish  but also the reflexive versions of these verbs which you have probably see before: ‘Acabarse and Tratarse.

What you will find is that, just like many other verbs that have a reflexive option (just about all of them) the meaning sometimes changes subtly between the two  and sometimes it’s completely different.

Look at the verb Poner, for example. On it’s own it means ‘to put’:

Pongo la taza en la mesa. = I put the cup on the table.

Then, we have Ponerse.

Just by adding the reflexive pronoun we have change of meaning to ‘to become’ or to ‘put on’:

Se puso furioso. = He became furious. (Lit. He put himself furious.)

Se puso una chaqueta. = He put a jacket on. (Lit. He put a jacket on himself)

As you can see from the examples,  sometimes the meaning can change quite dramatically.

Sometimes, however, there is little difference, like in the verbs Olvidar and Olvidarse. To forget/oneself

These two can be used equally and yet they mean pretty much the same:

Olvidé decirte que…. = I forgot to tell you that…

Me olvidé de decirte que… = I forgot to tell you that….

Notice that the only difference is the ‘de’ preposition that must go with ‘olvidarse’.

So, the case is that just like Tratar and Acabar in Spanish compared with Tratarse and Acabarse, Spanish verbs can have multiple meanings that simply have to be learnt. However, we have no room to complain about verbs that change meaning.

English is much worse.

Quite often, when we are faced with these changes of meaning we roll our eyes and sigh with frustration. ‘Why can’t they just be straight forward?’ we ask.

Well, every time you think like that, just remember that English has the infamous ‘Phrasal verbs’ that change meaning totally with every preposition you add. For example:


Get on = Subirse

Get on with = Llevarse bien con alguien

Get over  something = Superar/mejorarse

Get by = arreglarse

Get in = subirse/entrar 

Get through = ponerse en contacto/hacer entender

And the list goes on!

Imagine if you had to learn English consciously, you would have to memorise the meaning of every Phrasal verb….and there are hundreds.

The simple fact is that verbs change meaning and that’s good. They make up the very richness of the Spanish language and so, in this Podcast we will give you an insight into the verbs Tratar and Acabar in Spanish. We cover many other verb meanings in our Podcast range so watch out for them. If you need to search for a verb you can do so in our Search Bar which is very good.

Hasta pronto,

Gordon 🙂


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33 Advanced Intermediate Talking Spanish well The little words LightSpeed Spanish

Talking Spanish.spanish-375830_1280

Let’s be honest, no matter which way you look at it, we are all here to be able to do one thing and that is talking Spanish well.

No matter how much we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we get more benefit from written exercises, or that reading about grammar will make us a proficient speaker, the bottom line is that if you want to speak Spanish well, that’s precisely what you have to do. You have to get ‘ talking Spanish ‘ like crazy.

Why do we avoid speaking?

The answer is easy. FEAR. We are typically frightened to speak because we are scared of making mistakes. Of course, this limiting fear, in turn, limits our learning and we get caught up in a downward spiral of  the following:

We don’t speak so that we won’t make mistakes and because we don’t speak we don’t get the practice that we need to stop us from making so many mistakes so that, when we are forced into talking Spanish, we make mistakes because we haven’t practiced enough and that makes us frightened of speaking the next time and on and on…

We’ve all been there.

The reason I can talk about this ‘FEAR’ phenomenon is because I’ve felt it more times that you can imagine. The only benefit I had when I was first learning, however, was that I was in a Spanish speaking country and I simply didn’t have a choice. It was talking Spanish or going without food. That was a great motivator.

Generally, however, we learn our second language in our own native country and so finding opportunities to speak Spanish isn’t so easy. Quite often, the longer the gap between conversations, the more anxiety we feel about speaking. Yet, when you are doing it all day, it quickly becomes the norm.

The little words.

We have made this Podcast and the accompanying helpsheets to help you overcome your fears and more to the point, to let you make your Spanish conversation flow more naturally. When you are talking Spanish it pays to have a generous bank of filler words that allow you to hang on to your conversation. (Spanish people will jump into any lengthy gap you leave in your conversation so to avoid interruptions you need to fill the gaps with stuff that doesn’t really mean anything.)

By using these filler words when talking Spanish, you make your spoken word sound more authentic and natural. Why? Because every native speaker uses them. We all do. And you can too!

Listen in to the podcast and choose the little words you like the sound of and ones you can incorporate into your conversation. It will be the making of you! Oh, and get talking Spanish!


un saludo,

Gordon 🙂

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34 Advanced Intermediate Spanish Diminutives and Augmentatives

Smaller than life Spanish Diminutives.bulldog-1047518_1280

Spanish diminutives are probably one of the great mysteries of the Spanish language. When I say ‘mystery’ I mean that in terms of understanding the system.

There seems to be a distinct lack of regimented, clearly set out rules about the ending you give to each noun. Of course, we do have some guidelines, such as the following example of Spanish diminutives with the word ‘Chico’:


Chico  = In this sense it means small.

Chiquito = Quite small

Chiquitito = Very small

Chiquititito = Extremely small

Chiquitititito = Ridiculously small (lol)


So, with certain words we can apply the ‘just add an ‘ito’ rule and we are plain sailing. However, that’s not always the case. There are many other endings used as Spanish diminutives that ‘must’ only be used with certain words. (We cover this in the Helpsheets)

So how do we know what to add?

Well, the fact is that we don’t know. The use of Spanish diminutives seems to be very much a regional or national thing. Different parts of Spain have different preferences. For example, in Murcia they seem to prefer ‘ico’ rather than ‘ito’.

In Mexico, the use of Spanish diminutives is massive.  The personal officer in the factory that I worked in would frequently ask me:

Gordon, ¿quieres tomar un cafecito conmigo? Quiero platicar contigo un ratito sobre unos problemitas que tenemos en la fábrica. = Gordon, do you want to have a little coffee with me? I want to talk with you a little while about some little problems we have in the factory.

We have them too.

The Spanish speaking world doesn’t have the monopoly on diminutives of course. In English we too use them. The English diminutive is normally created by adding ‘Y’ onto words and we typically do that to make things sound cute or inoffensive. We use them with children, just as they do in Spain and we also use them when we want to make something that is not so good for us sound attractive:


Do you want a voddy? (vodka)

I’m going to smoke a ciggy.

Do you want some choccy pudding?

My wife with my son.

When Cynthia talks to Sebastian, my son, she constantly uses Spanish diminutives. One that stands out is when she talks about water:

Sebastián, ¿quieres un poquito de aguita?

Try as I might I can’t get a decent translation into English of the word ‘aguita’. I would sound a bit like this:

Sebastian, would you like a little bit of warty? jeje.

So, if you would like to find out more about Spanish diminutives and hear some great advice on how non-natives should use them, then have a listen to this podcast. And remember, the Helpsheets are available to really give you a full insight into how to use them and when.


un saludo,


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35 Advanced Intermediate Remember in Spanish Acordarse / Recordar

Remember in Spanish. Which one to use?brain-770044_1280

If you’ve been studying for any length of time you will be sure to have had a moment in which you wanted to use the word Remember in Spanish. (or I don’t remember, for that matter)

As you looked into whatever dictionary you use (we like wordreference whilst others like Spanishdict) you will have been faced with the two options of the verbs Recordar and Acordarse.

The question which you were sure to have asked yourself was: So, which one do I use? (and why?) That’s because we are thinking and (sometimes) rational adults.  As a consequence we often ask the ‘why’ question which in truth is the least helpful one.


Ask the ‘when’ and ‘how’ questions.

As we have said in our books, the ‘why’ question rarely helps us. That’s because it’s probably the least important question of them all. What’s more, sometimes the answer to that question is ‘because!’.

Acceptance of they way a foreign language is used is a real gift.  When faced with yet one more of the idiosyncrasies  of the Spanish language such as how to use Remember in Spanish, the clever students just say: ‘Ah, I see. So how do I use it and when?’

This Podcast.

In this podcast and the corresponding Helpsheets we go into just when and how you use these two verbs to say Remember in Spanish.  What is interesting is that both can be used in the vast majority of situations. However, there are times when only Recordar will work and times when only Acordarse will work.

The benefit of being native.

One of the reasons that Cynthia and I are able to explain concepts in a digestible manner is because of the fact that she is Spanish and I am English. We’ve both gone through the same learning process but in the opposite direction.

When I ask Cynthia a question about some grammar point, most times she doesn’t need to consult a book. She just listens to the melody of the sentences and she tells me which one sounds right and which sounds wrong. Then, from that information I can most times develop a system to help the learners to get it right most times. This is what we have done in this Podcast. Cynthia helps us to know when we really can’t just use both these verbs for Remember in Spanish.

If I had to just guess at something by checking online, my learning systems would probably be a lot less reliable.

So, check out the Podcast and let’s get you flying in formation with your Remember in Spanish and remember to check out the Helpsheets too which are designed to really clear up ‘cualquier duda que tengas’.


un saludo,

Gordon 🙂

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