36 Beginners Spanish The Definite Article in Spanish A Real Puzzle

What is the Definite article in Spanish?end-812225

Good question. Before we start to talk about how to use it, we had better clear up just what on earth it is.

Actually, when you think about what it’s called, for once the grammatical name that they’ve given it actually makes sense.

The definite article in English is THE. The definite article in Spanish is EL, LA, LOS, LAS.

The name makes sense for once!

If you think about it, when we say: ‘The cat next door.’ we are referring to a definite, actual, real, existing cat. For that reason the word THE is called the definite article.

To help you better understand this, let’s look at what the Indefinite article is. In English this is: A, or SOME as in a cat, a dog, a house, some cats, some dogs, some houses. In Spanish, the indefinite articles are: UN, UNA, UNOS, UNAS.

Can you see why these might be called indefinite? Basically, it’s because we are not talking about a specific thing, but rather something in general.

So what’s the problem?

The real problem is that the rules are not very clear about when you should use the definite article in Spanish and when you shouldn’t (nor are they in English for that matter).

This makes it difficult for the student of the Spanish language to know if they should say: ‘Aprendo Español’ or, ‘Aprendo el español’.

It seems that sometimes the definite article in Spanish is used just like it is in English, yet at other times it isn’t.

Gustar for example.

With Gustar and other impersonal verbs, most times the definite article in Spanish is used. So we see sentences like:

Me gustan los animales. = I like the animales.

Clearly, in English we would only use the definite article if we were talking about some specific animals, for example:

I like the animals at that farm.

Whatever the case in English, the definite article in Spanish is used with these kind of verbs as a matter of course.

Sometimes it’s even an abbreviation.

What throws more confusion into the pot is when Spanish speakers use the definite article as a shortened version of a longer sentence.

La Elena llega un poco más tarde. = The sister, Elena is arriving a little later.

In this sentence, the word, hermana or hija, sobrina, nieta, prima, for that matter is omitted. Instead, they just use the definite article in Spanish and the listeners fill in the gap.

Listen in as we help you with this.

We cover this tricky subject in our podcast and also offer much more detailed information in our helpsheets which will offer you lots of exercises this time to help you perfect your use of the definite article in Spanish.

Esperamos que os guste.

Gordon y Cynthia.:)

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37 Beginners The Verb Poder in Spanish Such an important verb!

What is so special about the verb Poder in Spanish?banner-939233

Well, that’s an interesting question. A more appropriate one, however, would be: What’s so special about the verb To Be Able in English? Because to be frank, it’s quite weird and very irregular in English.

That’s not to say that the verb Poder in Spanish is any less irregular. However, there’s something strange about how we use the To Be Able verb in English that causes us to have problems when we try to use the verb Poder in Spanish.

Are you able to do this or can you do this?

The first issue that we have is that, unlike in Spanish, the verb ‘to be able’ is also used as ‘can’. However, the word ‘can’ cannot function as an infinitive. We can’t say: ‘I am going to can to do it.’ Rather we have to say, ‘I am going to be able to do it.’

With the verb Poder in Spanish, it’s much easier: Voy a poder hacerlo.

It’s weird in it’s present tense form.

We probably are very aware that the verb Poder in Spanish is irregular in present tense. Yet did you realise that it is also irregular in English too? Look at this:

I can/Puedo

You can/Puedes

He/she/it can (not ‘cans’ which is the normal conjugation. e.g He eats, sleeps, works etc.)/Puede

We can/Podemos

You all can/Podéis

They can/Pueden

So, as you can see, it’s missing the famous ‘s’ that appears in third person singular in most English verbs.

The Conditional ‘Could’, the Preterite ‘Could’ and the Imperfect ‘Could’.

The other issue that causes us confusion when we try to use the verb Poder in Spanish is the strange thing it does in English

Look at these examples:

Pude hacerlo. = I could do it (one off event in which I tried and I did it.)

e.g. The door was locked, but finally I could get in. = La puerta estaba cerrada con llave pero al final pude entrar.

Podía hacerlo. = I could do it (repetitive action in which I was able to do it many times.)

e.g. When i was younger I played the trumpet and I could do it well. = Cuando era joven tocaba la trompeta y podía hacerlo bien.

Podría hacerlo. = I could do it (If I wanted to do it. I have the capacity.)

e.g. Podría hacerlo si no hubiera otra opción. = I could do it if there were no other option.


So, it’s no wonder that we have so many issues when we are working on assimilating and understanding the verb Poder in Spanish. Although it’s irregular in Spanish it is nothing compared to the confusion we have with it in English. Imagine how it must be for a foreign person to have to learn the rules on the verb ‘to be able’.

So, before you start to complain bitterly about having problems with the verb Poder in Spanish, spare a thought for all of those people who never had the luxury of learning its English version unconsciously as we did.

Watch on as we talk you through this interesting verb.


Gordon y Cynthia:)

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38 Beginners Lo in Spanish and Lo Importante

hands-460872_1920Lo in Spanish.

So, just what is Lo in Spanish and what does it mean? Well, to answer the first question, LO is what we call an indirect pronoun.

What that means is that it is a shortened version of certain Spanish words and we use it to speed up our spoken and written language.

What it means. (Most of the time.)

What Lo in Spanish means is the following: Him/It.

Some examples of this would be:

Lo conocí en Berlín. = I met him in Berlin.

¿Lo has visto? = Have you seen it?

So, the job of LO in Spanish in these examples is to avoid having to write or say the full name of the thing or person.

But wait, that’s not all.

But what is going on with sentences like, ‘Lo importante’ or ‘Lo interesante’?

Well, in these cases, for us as English speakers we need to think about Lo in Spanish as meaning ‘THING’.

Lo importante es que estemos allí para las diez.’ = The importante thing is that we are there for ten.

Lo interesante de su discurso era la información sobre la compañía.’= The interesting thing about his talk was the information about the company.

So, as you can see, when we place the ‘Lo in Spanish’ before an adjective, it becomes ‘the thing’. Once you understand that, many of the confusions simply fade away.

Lo in Spanish is used in other situations, too, all of which we will be covering either in the podcast here or in the Helpsheets that always complement our coaching podcasts.

Clearly, we aim to give the viewer as much information in the ten minute classes as we possibly can. However, there is always more to cover. We do that in our Helpsheets which this time around will be crammed with practical exercises so that you get it ‘right first time’ every time you use Lo in Spanish.

Other uses of Lo in Spanish.

If you want to look further into the use of LO in Spanish then you can check out how the phrases are used such as:


Lo de…

Lo que…

Lo nuestro…


In the forthcoming helpsheets (we haven’t got them finished yet, but estamos en ello) we will also be covering these expressions and so much more.

So now, enjoy the podcast and we hope that you get great benefit from it.


Como siempre, os mandamos un saludo muy grande.


Gordon y Cynthia:)

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39 Beginners Verbs that begin with DES in Spanish.

Des in Spanish.craftsmen-1020156_1920

In this podcast Cynthia and I realised something very important. That was that the verbs with DES in Spanish don’t always have a logical explanation to them.

Of course, we have the same kind of verbs in English, only in English they tend to have many and varied prefixes. Sometimes there’s a pattern, sometimes there most certainly isn’t.

Some examples.

So, let’s take a look at some of the verbs that start with DES in Spanish and see how they work:


Destruir = Destroy

Here we have an example of a verb that starts with DES in Spanish and in English.

The opposite number.

What is interesting about the verb Destruir is that it has its antonym/antónimo in Construir.

So, as we see, by changing the prefix we change Destroy into Construct. Perhaps it will be easier to see the connection by looking at these words:


Can we do that each time?

So, the question is, ‘If we can create the antonym of this word by whipping off the DES in Spanish and adding CON, can we do that with all if the verbs that start with DES in Spanish?’

The simple answer is NO!

Take a look at these examples:

Desmayarse = to faint.

This is a stand alone verb and ‘Conmayarse’ doesn’t exist as a word. Rather the antonym of the verb ‘to faint’ is: Recobrarse or Recuperarse.

Deshacer = to undo.

In this example, we just need to take off the Des in Spanish to create the antonym which is Hacer= to do.

So, unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule to know what to do with these verbs that start with Des in Spanish.  There are some patterns but, for the most part, they cannot be counted on every time.

It’s the same in English.

Of course the same thing applies to the Dis verbs in English too.  Sometimes you can take the Dis off and you get the antonym. Here is an example:



However, there are just as many exceptions:

Disable – Enable

Discard – Retain

Disbark – Embark

Learn the verbs with Des in Spanish one by one.

The bottom line is that, just as we do in English, in Spanish we will have to learn each of the verbs individually.  There really is no hard and fast rule that will help you out.

In this podcast we will be doing our best to highlight some of the key verbs with Des in Spanish. In the Helpsheets there’ll be even more!

Esperamos que te guste.


Gordon y Cynthia:)

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40 Beginners Spanish Listening Test

Why check my Spanish listening skills?rabbit

There really is something very strange about what happens to people when they embark on the task of learning Spanish. In our experience, the vast majority of students only want to read and write most of the time. Of course, we know fine well why this is. Reading and writing is a very safe part of learning a language. We have time, we can ponder at our leisure about the meaning of something or how we should structure a particular sentence.

What is more, when you read and write you can repeat the same sentence over and over again until you get it to what you perceive to be a good level. It’s all just so very comfortable for us as learners. Don’t you agree?

Listening and Speaking makes no allowances.

What most learners are afraid of, however, is having to listen or to speak Spanish. Why? Because these two mediums of communication are the least forgiving. There is little chance for us to repeat and repeat our sentences until we get them right. When we listen in a live situation, for example, we either catch the idea or we don’t. When we are speaking off the cuff, we either say what we want to say correctly, or we cock it up.

And that is frightening to us. We don’t like getting things wrong. In fact, we would go as far as to say that making a mistake in Spanish is, for many sensitive students, a cardinal sin. For that reason, they avoid any Spanish listening or speaking situations.

It’s a vicious circle.

The problem with avoiding Spanish listening or speaking opportunities is that we never get any practice at it and so never get any better. We study away, scribbling in our books and reading everything we can get our hands on and yet, when we are faced with any test of our Spanish listening or speaking skills, we react like the rabbit in the headlights and clam up.

It doesn’t need to be that way.

If you can relate to this in any way, then fear not! Help is at hand. At the end of many of our Podcast series’ we produce a ‘Test your Spanish Listening Skills’ podcast. We pitch them at different skill levels and they provide you the opportunity of listening in to find out how much you can pick up and understand.

The great thing about these Podcasts is that you CAN repeat-listen as many times as you like. It’s amazing how much more you pick up of the fine detail when you listen three, four or five times.

Even more helpful is listening firstly without the transcript, so that you get as much of the information as you can and then following up by listening along with the transcript.  This system of listening and reading the words at the same time is a fantastic way of training your ear to pick up on, and going forward, understand the words that most cause you an issue. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

If you are wondering how to get hold of the transcripts for these Podcasts, then just go to our website and check out the Helpsheets page.

We hope you enjoy the podcast and testing your Spanish listening skills.


Gordon y Cynthia 🙂

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