Early Intermediate Spanish 31 Mistakes with SE in Spanish

Se in Spanish…what’s it all about.error scale

We have already covered the multiple uses of SE in Spanish and the overwhelming amount of areas in which it appears. However, in this podcast we are focussing on the uses of SE in Spanish around Reflexive, Reciprocal and Pronominal verbs. (All of these names just mean verbs that use the SE in Spanish)

The main issue.

The main issue, and one that we cover in this podcast is that we tend to see and hear the same mistakes being made by students as they work their way through these concepts. It’s not that this particular part of SE is terribly confusing, but rather, it’s probably because for English speakers (and those of other languages), this is a unfamiliar concept.

To begin with, although we have reflexive verbs in English, we haven’t made them into an art form as have Spanish speakers. The fact is that unless you understand these SE verbs completely, you will have confusion in every tense you come across. (They are EVERYwhere.)

In addition to that, even if we did have the self same system in our own language, we have all learnt English unconsciously for the most part. That means that we haven’t analysed our own language the way we have to when we begin to learn another one.

Can you get by without the SE in Spanish?

Absolutely not! If you’ve seen the video that I (Gordon) made called: A fun look at the use of SE in Spanish, then you’ll know that SE has found its way into almost every aspect of spoken and written Spanish. Therefore, it’s vital that you understand the Reflexive verb concepts fully, something that will allow you to know when the SE in Spanish is reflexive and when it’s something else.

A great tip.

If you really want to get to grips with the use of SE in Spanish, then our advice is  for you to begin reading books in Spanish.  Spanish books, especially novels, are filled with every kind of SE. Many of our students bring their books to class to specifically ask what many of the SE mean.  Why don’t you try that too? Even if you don’t have a teacher to ask, you can always go to the forums online and ask for clarity. There are always people willing to help with things like that.

Just be careful.

We do qualify that suggestion by saying that you mustn’t take people’s explanations as ‘gospel’ as they say. Especially if they aren’t teachers. (Don’t even believe us all of the time!) There are always differing opinions and different ways of seeing the same thing.

Enjoy the podcast and remember that all podcasts are backed up with Helpsheets to give you a deeper understanding of the subjects we cover.

Video for This Spanish Lesson

Audio for This Spanish Lesson

35 Early Intermediate Spanish Podcast Parecer in Spanish How to use it properly

Parecer in Spanish. To seem/look/appear like.keira scale

Cynthia and I have often asked ourselves: What is it that makes this verb so confusing to so many students of the Spanish language? Perhaps it’s because, running alongside Parecer in Spanish is it’s close cousin, Parecerse.

Quite often, when we are faced with multiple options, everything gets a little blurry. What doesn’t help is that the verb Aparecer which means ‘to appear’ (out of nowhere) is just like the English verb ‘to appear’ (to seem).

We’ve lost count of the times when a student has chosen Aparecer instead of Parecer in Spanish to say that a person seemed like something. For example:

Mi amigo aparecía triste. = My friend used to appear (out of nowhere, sad).

This sentence creates a strange imagery in our mind of some miserable friend who had the habit of turning up to events and bringing everyone down. jeje.


So, what is the difference between Parecerse and Parecer in Spanish?

As we explain in the podcast, Parecer in Spanish means to seem or to look like something. That’s not to say that you can use it to say that someone looks like someone else. No! That’s the job of Parecerse.

Parecer in Spanish is used like this:

Ella parecía bastante contenta. = She looked/seemed quite happy.

¿Qué te pasa? Pareces enfadado. = What’s up with you? You look/seem angry.


Parecerse a.

However, if you want to say that someone resembles another person, you use parecerse in this way:

Mi primo se parece a George Bush. = My cousin looks like/resembles George Bush. (Pobrecito.)

Entró una mujer que se parecía mucho a Keira Knightly. = A woman came in who looked a lot like Keira Knightly.


The Personal ‘a’.

What is important to note is that with Parecer in Spanish, there is no personal ‘A’ but with Parecerse, there is.  Without going into a long discussion as to why, just understand that the ‘A’ shows an interaction between two or more people, which exists in parecerse (She looks like Him.)

However, with Parecer in Spanish, there is no interaction (you seem pensive) between multiple people, so there is no need for the ‘A’.

Watch the Podcast.

The best way to really get this concept in you mind is to firstly, watch the podcast and listen to our examples live. Then, start practicing it as often as you can. It’s easy! Every time you see a Spanish speaking friend tell them they look great. Then tell them who they look like.

People love compliments so as long as you choose someone attractive to compare them to, you’ll be on to a winner. jeje.

‘Hola, Julía. ¡Qué guapa pareces hoy! ¿Sabes qué? Creo que te pareces a Keira Knightly. También es muy guapa ella.’

That can’t be so difficult, can it?


Gordon y Cynthia:)

Video for This Spanish Lesson

Audio for This Spanish Lesson

32 Early Intermediate Spanish Más, Mucho and Muy in Spanish

Mucho or Muy in Spanish?bart

Over the years we have noticed that when faced with choosing between Mucho and Muy in Spanish, many students get very nervous and unsure.  If we’ve heard ‘Mucho grande’ once over the last 15 years, we’ve heard it a thousand times. But why? Well, the truth is that in the media many people, in their attempt to show off their Spanish speaking prowess, make glaring errors that the rest of the world picks up on.

Bart’s error.

A perfect example of this is the ‘No problemo’ catch phrase used by Bart Simpson. One supposes that the original idea was to make an ironic inside joke of an American using Spanish incorrectly. (It should be ‘No problema’.)

The irony of the joke was that it was only funny if you knew Spanish. However, because not that many people know Spanish well, for the vast majority of viewers, ‘No problemo’ is simply the way to say ‘No problem’ in Spanish. The end result is that, now, the vast majority of the English speaking, Simpson watching world says: ‘No problemo’ in the firm belief that they are speaking perfect Spanish.

Mucho Abuso.

Here’s another example of the same kind of issue and one that brings us back to our original theme of Mucho or Muy in Spanish. I recently watched an animated film with my son called: The house of magic. One of the characters in the movie is a small dog that speaks with a mixture of Jive and really bad Spanish. (I’m not sure if Jive speak still exists, but if it does, this dog uses it!)

At one point the dog says: ‘Mucho grande’ which, if you are a student of Spanish, you will recognise as a load of rubbish. The issue is, however, it’s a key line in the film and unless you know otherwise, you might think that that’s how you say ‘very big’ in Spanish. So, as you can see, we are up against it here.

It’s easy.

Despite what you may think, however, the difference isn’t so confusing between Mucho and Muy in Spanish. Mucho means ‘a lot’ and Muy means ‘very’.

So why the confusion? Well, we get ourselves into a muddle with the way that the Spanish language structures sentences like:

I am very thirsty. – Spanish structure: I have a lot of thirst.


I am very frightened. – Spanish structure: I have a lot of fear.

What’s interesting is that although in Spanish it’s possible to say:

‘Estoy muy sediento.’ or ‘Estoy muy miedoso.’

it is not the way these sentences are made in day to day speech. Rather Spanish speakers say:

‘Tengo mucha sed.’ and  ‘Tengo mucho miedo.’

In reality, it is only this kind of structure that is different to English. For the most part, when you want to say: Very, you will say Muy in Spanish. And when you want to say: A lot, you will say Mucho.

Join us in this Podcast as we talk you through all of this and offer you some practical examples of how to use these two words correctly. In addition to that, we cover the frequent mistakes with Más too.


Gordon y Cynthia:)

Video for This Spanish Lesson

Audio for This Spanish Lesson

33 Early Intermediate Tardar and Llevar in Spanish To Take

How to use Tardar and Llevar in Spanish, well! alarm-clock-590383_1920

Well, I have to say that this podcast was, for me, very special (Gordon). Why? Because for whatever reason I had never got to grips with some of the uses of Llevar in Spanish. In fact, I had missed a fundamental part of how the verb worked.

What I discovered during the making of the Podcast with Cynthia was that Llevar in Spanish works just like is does in English. For whatever reason, I just hadn’t put the two together.

A lesson learnt.

The crazy thing about the whole experience, and I will leave you to watch the video to see how my confusions were cleared up, was that I should have known it! But I didn’t.

After more than 15 years of leaning Spanish, I had missed an important meaning of the verb Llevar in Spanish. How? Well, because throughout my learning journey I have always used a system that has helped me no end and yet has also limited my learning.

The Good/Bad system.

The system I have always used helps me when I am struggling to find a way to say something. When I can’t say the sentence one way, I say it another. As I have always said to my students: “Don’t get stuck trying to say something when there are hundreds of other ways to say it.”

And, I have to say that it’s a great system that has served me well. However, it has also meant that I have been able to avoid creating structures that have confused me.

One such structure was the use of Llevar in Spanish. The truth is that I always plumbed for Tardar because I understood it better. And because I could use it perfectly well, I never really had a need to use Llevar in Spanish when talking about ‘taking time’.

The Lighbulb moment.

So, it was because of this very same system that I had never understood how to use Llevar in Spanish until Cynthia so kindly explained it to me.  And then, WHOOSH! I had it. A vital piece of my puzzle just dropped into place with a clatter.

Never be too cocky!

We can never afford to be overly confident and assume that we know everything. Learning a language is a life long project and the more I learn the more I realise that I don’t know things. Still, that’s the fun of it, isn’t it? The journey is the fun part not the arrival. It’s like when we are reading a really good book and we never want it to end.

I know that I will be learning Spanish for the rest of my life and I look forward to many more lightbulb moments. And you should too.


Enjoy the video.

Video for This Spanish Lesson

Audio for This Spanish Lesson

34 Early Intermediate Sentirse and Sentir in Spanish

Sentirse or Sentir in Spanish?seagull-115618_640


I recall feeling very confused about when to use Sentirse or Sentir in Spanish.  Cynthia would often correct me when I said things like, ‘Siento triste por…’. She would say: Eso no, Gordon. Es ‘Me siento triste…’

What wasn’t clear, however, was why. What was I doing wrong when I used Sentir in Spanish rather than Sentirse?

Natives don’t often know.

What’s clear about these kind of confusions is that if you ask a native speaker whose job isn’t in teaching (and sometimes when it is) they will often not be able to tell you why. Why is a tough one for them.

They can tell you perfectly well  ‘how’ to say something correctly. They just struggle to tell you why. That’s because native speakers have not learnt their language like we have to.

They have learnt what we call the melody of the language. You either sing the tune correctly or you hit a bum note. Their ears are tuned in and all of their language skill has been learnt, for the most part, unconsciously.

Non-natives need to know ‘when’ and want to know ‘why’.

Because we are learning Spanish in a conscious way, we need to understand exactly ‘when’ we have to use Sentir in Spanish and ‘when’ we have to use Sentirse. What’s more, we really wouldn’t mind knowing ‘why’ although, if I can offer a piece of advice, ‘why’ not one of the most useful questions to ask and the answer is often very unsatisfying.

The answer to the ‘When’ question, however, is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  When we know ‘when’ we have to say Sentir in Spanish and not Sentirse, we can begin to use it just like a native does.

How do I know that?

Because I have spent years asking native speakers the ‘why’ question and they rarely know the answer. yet, they speak the language perfectly. This has brought me to the conclusion that knowing ‘why’ has nothing to do with your ability to speak well or not.

I decline to learn Latin.

I recall having a lovely chap in one of my classes that could explain every part of a sentence down to the minutest detail. He would ask about accusatives and datives and all of those words that Latin scholars and people who have watched the Life of Brian use. Yet, when he tried to put all that knowledge into a basic sentence, well, he couldn’t. Knowing all the ‘whys’ and the ‘wherefores’ didn’t help him at all.

So, if you really want to know ‘when’ you should use Sentir in Spanish and when you should choose Sentirse instead, just watch the video and all will become clear….very quickly.


Buena suerte de un fanático del ‘¿cuándo?


Gordon 🙂

Video for This Spanish Lesson

Audio for This Spanish Lesson