The Redundant Use of Spanish Pronouns

For IOP redundantFor any self respecting student of Spanish, knowing that there are certain verbs that require the redundant use of the Indirect Spanish Pronouns is ‘imprescindible’ (vital). Without having this information in your pocket, believe us, you will find understanding the use of the Spanish pronouns an insurmountable challenge.

First of all, we had better start by answering the question:

What on earth are the Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns?

To help you grasp the answer, perhaps it would be wise to look at what they are in English first. We like to call them the Furniture Remover’s List.

That’s because in English, they normally sound like this:

To me…To you…To me…To you… Often heard as two men struggle to get your sofa through the front door whilst talking the paint off the walls!

Indirect Object Pronouns, then, are found in sentences like this:

He gave it to me.

We sold it to them.

She sent it to us.

¡AVISO! These pronouns also appear in other forms such as being preceded by ‘for’ or even on their own like ‘me’, ‘you’ ‘he’ ‘she’.

So now we have an idea of what the indirect Spanish pronouns are, we are able to answer the question:

What are the Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish?

The answer is:

ME (to me)                                        NOS (to us)

TE (to you)                                        OS (to you all)

LE (to him, her, it, usted)               LES (To them, ustedes).


If you are familiar with these already, great! If not, we suggest that you take a look at our podcast on IOP’s and for those new to the concept of the Redundant Indirect Object Pronouns then we recommend the following podcast.

Here’s an example of the way that IOP’s normally work. Their job is to quicken up speech.

Vestí a los niños. = I dressed the kids.

However, for speed, you can say.

Les vestí. = I dressed them.

And so, normally, that’s what they do.

However, there are certain Spanish verbs that require the pronoun whether you mention the person or not.

Here’s an example:


I sent John a letter= Le mandé a Juan una carta.

Notice that even though we mentioned Juan’s name, we still had to put the pronoun in. Strange eh?

Of course, if you knew who you were talking about you could say:

Le mandé una carta. = I sent him a letter.

But, you can NEVER say: Mandé a Juan una carta. (PROHIBIDO)

As we said, to use these IOP’s correctly, we must understand this concept and know exactly which verbs need them. The full list can be found in our Helpsheets, but one tip is that the verbs that need these Spanish pronouns normally have to do with sending, giving, preparing or talking to others.

Buena suerte con vuestros estudios, chicos.

How to Roll your Rs in Spanish Pronunciation

spanish-rOne of the greatest challenges for you as a Spanish Language student is knowing how to roll your Rs. Spanish speakers are renowned for the strength of their ‘R’. You can notice just how strong it is when you hear them speak English.  (I RRRRReally like this!)

Getting the ‘R’ sound right is not for the feint hearted, yet worry not. There are some things that you can do to strengthen up that R and really learn how to roll your Rs, even if you have what is known in the trade as a ‘Jonathan Ross R’.

It’s all about strengthening the muscle that is used to produce the sound and one which is often rarely put into action.


This is how you do it.

STEP 1. Start by pretending to be cold. Really force out the sound: ‘BRRRR’. This has the effect of beginning to strengthen the muscle needed to roll the ‘R’.

STEP 2.  Once you can get some ‘clicks’ of the tongue going, albeit exaggeratedly, then change the ‘BRRRR’ to a ‘DRRRR’. Pretend to be a motorbike or a man digging the road. This not only works to strengthen the necessary muscles but also helps put the mouth into the correct shape and position.

STEP 3. After a while you will notice that you can hold the R’s for a little longer. (This can take weeks or days, depending on you and the effort you put into it.)

AVISO. At this stage, even though you can get the roll, you may find that you still struggle to get the sound into speech. This is normal. The first three steps are just to get the muscle working.

The fact is that the R’s in any Spanish word either roll onto a vowel or roll off a vowel.  Thus, this is what you are going to practice now to how to roll your R’s in an authentic way.

You go through the vowels this way:


Then you turn them round:


The more you practice this, the better your Spanish Pronunciation will be. You can do this when you’re driving, walking, in the bath or wherever, but be sure that you are ALONE! Check out our podcast on the R to help you along the way.

Do this every day and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can get a real authentic sound. And, finally, it’s very difficult to be ‘over the top’ with the ‘R’, so don’t hold back. ¡A por ello!

Gordon 🙂

How to decide between the Spanish Preterite and the Imperfect.

clocks Preterite ImperfectAny student of the Spanish language will know that when it comes to deciding between the Spanish Preterite or the Imperfect past, there’s always a moment of confusion in which we have to trawl through our lists of rules and regulations to know which tense to use.

What makes it worse is that some text books bombard us with enormous lists of rules written in a language clearly designed to either confuse or strike fear into the average learner.

So, with that in mind, let’s see if we can demystify these two tenses a bit.

NOTE: I’m not going to talk about the structure or conjugations of these tenses, so if you are not sure, take a look at them now and then join me again.

A Useful Metaphor.

Imagine you were in a theatre watching a theatre production. As you sat there you listened to the music playing from the orchestra, you watched the lights changing place and colour and highlighting the background scenery.  Meanwhile, all the extras were dancing in the background.


Then, the two main characters came on stage, they stared at each other, and began to speak. The real action had begun.


When we tell a story about the past, we use the Imperfect to set the scene and then we use the Preterite to recount the action.





The Preterite Past is what we could call a ONE OFF tense., like: ‘I ate’, ‘I went’, ‘we spoke’, ‘they arrived’ etc.

The Preterite Past is TOTALLY MEASURABLE and is as though the speaker is wrapping the past event inside a BUBBLE OF TIME.


To know whether what you are about to say is Preterite then all you do is ask TWO SIMPLE QUESTIONS about the event.





If you can answer these questions with some certainty the the past WILL BE PRETERITE.



The Imperfect Past in Spanish is everything that the Preterite isn’t. It’s pure description. It does absolutely no measuring. We use it to SET THE SCENE in the lead up to providing the Preterite action.

The Imperfect Past is immeasurable like an EVENT IN A LONG UNBROKEN LINE.


To know when to use the Imperfect Past, you need to look out for the following in your English sentence:


WAS    …… ING




e.g.                                                       I was talking to Pedro.          We were looking at clothes.         I used to live in Spain.


Sometimes, none of the above appear in the sentence in English. So what do you do?

You can simply apply the Preterite questions and if you can’t reasonably measure it, then it will be Imperfect. Also, you can try and add the words “USED TO” to the sentence. If it still makes sense, then it will be Imperfect.


When I lived in Spain, I ate breakfast on the patio.

We could put ‘used to’ into this sentence and it will make sense. So this sentence will be Imperfect.

Of course, you can choose the tense according to what you want to say, too. By changing the tense, you will change the understanding of your listener. However, if there is any question of measuring the past, it will be the Spanish Preterite.

Hopefully this will help you begin to order your thoughts in a more simplistic way. Watch out for the up and coming video on this important subject.

Catalonia Independence and Spain. The Reasons Why.


Catalonia Independence. As you may be aware there is an on-going debate in Cataluña (and the rest of Spain) in which around 57% of the population of Catalonia want independence from Spain.

Cataluña isn’t the only region to want their independence, el País Vasco, too, wishes to be separate from Spain whilst in other parts of Europe there are several countries that are fighting for their own independence. (Scotland, Wales, Flanders, Madeira, etc.)

This desire for independence started with the Régimen franquista (1936-1975), in which the Catalonian language (catalán) (along with the rest of the languages in Spain apart from Castilian) was banned in public, resulting in the suppression of their autonomy and culture.

In 1979 Catalonia was recognised as a “nationality”, giving them a statute of autonomy once again. El catalán was then accepted as Catalonia’s official language, along with Castilian Spanish.

Other reasons for the desire to become independent are that some Catalonians believe they do not share cultural ties with the rest of Spain: there is no flamenco, bullfighting has been banned and they have their own customs. Of course, in addition to the cultural considerations, the independence of Catalonia would potentially create for them many financial benefits.

The issue is, however, that the other 43% of the population in Cataluña  do not wish to be separate from Spain as they actually consider themselves to be Spanish. This could be because of the situation in which Cataluña enjoys a wide variety of immigrants, particularly those from Andalucía, Extremadura and Murcia who arrived there in search of work some generations ago and who feel as much catalanes as they do españoles.

On Spain’s National Day around 30,000 people attended a platform in Cataluña to launch the message: ‘We feel proud to be Spanish.  We claim our roots, history, memories, the richness of our language, our reality and our life’.

Their wish for Catalonia independence is understandable from the standpoint of their many cultural differences. However, the question is whether their reasoning is coming mostly from what could be called a “moving away” perspective or one of “moving towards”.

What that means is that perhaps it’s true and they really feel no sincere connection with the rest of Spain, nor its culture or its people and simply want to move toward a situation in which they can be themselves. Or, is it actually the case that they want independence because of a feeling of hatred towards the rest of Spain, the Spanish language and everything Spain stands for (for better or worse) and are moving away from what they don’t want?

And so, we might ask, if Catalonia finally was granted their independence, how would that affect other countries like Scotland and Wales who find themselves in the same position? Would this be the inspiration for other countries to begin to fight more aggressively for their independence?

Cynthia Smith-Durán.


Bullfighting in Spain. Is it Art?

bull-155411_640Bullfighting in Spain, also known as tauromachia or tauromachy (la tauromaquia) has been recently accepted as Cultural Heritage in an attempt to promote it and preserve it as our national cultural heritage.  This blog will be my honest opinion, as a Spaniard, about this subject.

Firstly let’s talk about bullfighting:  bullfighting is a “sport/art” practiced in Spain, some countries in Spanish America, Portugal, South of France and the Philippines. People who support bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form like any other.  However, more and more people across the globe are pushing fiercely against it, making promoters and supporters think of new ways to maintain bullfighting as a tradition. Their latest idea is to have bullfighting in Spain declared as a cultural heritage.

Before I move on, I must state that I do not support bullfighting. From my perspective bullfighting is not art, nor is it a sport… It is just a gruesome show in which thousands of bulls are murdered every year in front of multitudes of passive onlookers who applaud the matador’s skills as he slaughters those poor animals.

From my childhood onwards I have heard people excusing the existence of bullfighting in Spain by telling me how much the bulls have been pampered by their ganadero from birth; it’s good for the economy, or: el toro de lidia (the breed used) wouldn’t exist without this tradition; or: a bull fight’s a fair fight against a bullfighter; or even: that’s a bull’s destiny!

Let’s not kid ourselves, bullfighting is one of the cruellest means of entertainment that exists today, along with many others such as the Toro de la Vega. People who see animal cruelty as artful or as a fun sport are, in my honest opinion, very low in their emotional intelligence and empathy ladder and have a long way to go.

Excuse me in advance for my bluntness and rude words, but what makes it art I ask? Is it the colourful outfits, the copious amounts of blood swilling around the ring, the rousing music?  Or is it the tremendously entertaining scene as each terrified bull fights “una lucha  injusta” against a barrage of men armed with a range of weapons that no bull could ever compete with? Perhaps it’s the flamboyance of watching as a macho man in eye-wateringly tight trousers attempts, often quite badly, to plunge his sword into the heart of a bull whose lungs are in that moment already filling with blood from the profound wounds inflicted on it by the “picadores”?

Or do those people that consider it art do so only because that’s what they’ve been told since they were children?

Surprisingly, much of the support for bullfighting in Spain comes from tourists who flock to see the “show” and get a taste of real “culture”. Please, before you consider supporting what has become nothing more than a multi-million euro business, ask yourself the following questions:

What part of murder is art?

Shouldn’t we have evolved mentally since the Roman Circus?

Should animal suffering and death be a source of entertainment for us?

Cynthia Smith-Durán.