Pronunciation: Questions and Answers
Q: I was baffled by two words: estar and haber. They both mean "to be". Could you please tell me the difference between them?
A: Basically there are two official ways to say "to be", they are "estar"; and "ser". A conjugation of the verb "haber" is sort of a third way to mean "to be" when conjugated as "hay". Basically, "hay" means "there is" or "there are". You use "hay" when talking about objects, ideas or people. For example, "there is a book" would be "hay un libro", and the phrase, "there are three cars" would be "hay tres carros". To simplify, anytime you want to say "there is" or "there are" you use "hay". The phrase "hay" is very limited. For example, you would never use "hay" to say "He is" or "She is". It only means "there is" or "there are". For more information on how to use "hay", as well as the past form of "hay" and other limitations, go to section "4. Grammar" of your Level I Visual Link Spanish™ course. The course will show you many examples on how to use "hay".
Now, just so you know, "haber" can actually have another meaning. A whole verb tense is formed around a conjugation of the verb "haber". Some examples are, "I have eaten", "She has jumped" and "We have read". A complete explanation on how to conjugate "haber" in this way is found in our Level II Verb Course.
Q: I have been in many countries in "América Latina", especially in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Argentina and Colombia. I have noticed that most of the people in these countries speak with "vos" especially in El Salvador and Argentina (e.g. "vos sos un muchacho muy inteligente; vos sos una gran amiga", etc.) Would you please explain what is this? is this an abreviation of "vosotros", if it is not so, is this another way to say "tú"? Is this castillian?
A: The word "vos" means "you" and is sort of a slang form of "tú". It has been adopted in many regions of Latin America. Some countries have even put it into their grammar books with instructions on how to conjugate it. It is basically conjugated like "tú" with a few alterations. My understanding is that it is sort of a knock off from "vosotros", however, "vosotros" means "you" plural and "vos" is used when only talking to one person. Since it's more of a slang type of word, "vos" is used in more casual settings. It's used in the countries you mentioned as well as Uruguay, Paraguay, and Guatemala among others. When you visit those countries, you don't have to use "vos", you can simply use "tú" and they will understand you just fine. However, if you want to sound a little more native, when in those regions, you might want to try using "vos" in informal settings.
Q: Can you explain the difference in using "apurado" and "prisa" (in the characteristics lesson "Section 9" from the Level I Visual Link Spanish™ course)?
Also, I have heard of a level ll course mentioned several times. Is this another set of tapes? ¿La cuenta por favor?
I am studying hard for a two week trip to Costa Rica in Dec. Do you have any info on native dialect? For instance, I understand they say "porfa" instead of por favor?
A: The Spanish phrases meaning "I’m in a hurry" are "Estoy apurado" and "Tengo prisa" they are basically interchangeable. However, it was my experience that in regions of South America, they tended to favor "Estoy apurado" and in regions of Mexico, they favored "Tengo prisa".
Level II is an online Verb course. There are 28 free partial demo lessons you can test drive. It is on sale right now for $69.96 (save $10!).
On your last question of the regional dialect. Honestly, there are so many regions and so many small differences that it would be almost impossible to keep track of all of them or sell a course that had them all. The good thing is that around 99% of the Spanish, taught in our courses, is usable and understandable in just about every Latin country.
Q: How come, if the adjective goes after the noun, that "next week" is la proxima semana?
A: You are right that adjectives go after nouns in Spanish: la casa blanca (the white house), el carro rojo (the red car), la persona alta (the tall person) etc.
However, adjectives of number such as: first, last, next, second, third etc. always come before nouns in Spanish.
Here are a few examples: la primera casa (the first house), el próximo mes (the next month), el segundo carro (the second car), la última persona (the last person), etc.
Q: I have just a brief question, what does the words below mean and exactly when do you use them?
lo, le, te, ti, ya
A: The first three are used as direct objects (people or things that receive the action of a sentence).
- The word "lo" means "it". Example: "I want to eat it" "Quiero comer lo"
- "Le" means "him" or "her". Example: "I need to tell her" "Necesito decir le"
- "Te" means "you" informal (for when you’re on a first name basis with someone). Example: "I want to help you" "Quiero ayudar te"
- "Ti" also means "you" informal but is used anytime after the following words (prepositions) "para" (for), "por" (for/because of), "de" (from/about/of), "en" (in/at/on), "sobre" (on top of) and so forth.
- "Ya" means "already". Example: "Enough already!" "¡Basta ya!"
Q: ...when I took Spanish in High School, we learned to pronounce the elle ("ll") like a "y" but I've noticed some of my friends who are native Spanish speakers from South American countries, as well as the woman on the online verb course, pronounce the "elle" almost as a "j". Does the pronounciation differ by country, even among the Latin American countries, or is it a "y" sound in Spain and a "j" sound in all Latin American countries? A friend of mine from Puerto Rico pronounces her last name, Castillo, with a "y" sound. But another friend of mine from Venezuela pronounces his last name, Murillo, with a "j" sound, and actually almost like a "yj" sound (if that makes any sense). Personally, I feel more comfortable with the "y" sound because I learned it that way in high school. But should I practice with the "j" sound from now on? Or is it acceptable either way?
A: Frequently in South America, they'll say "jo" more than "yo". Argentina and a few other countries always will use a "j" sound for the "y" and "ll". Up north in Mexico, they don't use it as much (or so they say). If you ask most Mexican speakers if they use a "j" or a "y" sound for the "y" and "ll", they'll tell you they use a "y" sound instead of a "j" sound. The interesting thing is if you record them, and I have recorded many over the years, almost all of them will use the "j" sound more frequently than they think or realize. Like Mexico, in Spain they will also pronounce the "y" and "ll" sometimes with a "y" sound and sometimes with a "j" sound. To answer your question, either is correct and equally understood. Personally I lean towards the "y" sound but I sometimes get on kicks where I will switch to the "j" sound just for fun.
Q: If we want to say "she is pregnant" should we say "es embarasada" o "está embarasada"?
A: Usually, the rule of thumb that I go by is if a characteristic applies to a person for more than four to five days at a time (strong, short, tall, etc.), it is usually considered a permanent characteristic and you would use "es" instead of "está". If a characteristic applies to a person for only a few days at a time (happy, sad, sick, etc.) it is considered a temporary characteristic and you should use "está". A hint to help you remember which to use is that the "t" in "está" stands for "temporary".
Now that you have the rule in mind, we'll look at the exception being "pregnant" or "embarazada". A person is usually pregnant for more than four to five days at a time; however, nobody is permanently pregnant so you would use "está embarazada". Remember, the "t" in "está" indicates a temporary characteristic.
Q: When do we use ¿Cuál? y ¿Qué? in a question? Can I use ¿Cuál día vas al teatro? or is it ¿Qué día vas al teatro?
A: There is a set specific rule and way to do it, however people from some regions especially Mexicans tend to break the rules. Basically, the official rule is:
If you are talking about a noun and the noun comes directly after "what/which", you should use "Qué." Here are some examples: "What/Which book?" would be "¿Qué libro?", "What/Which car?" would be "¿Qué carro?", and "What/Which experience?" would be "¿Qué experiencia?"
You use "Cuál" when the noun doesn’t come right after. Here are some examples: if you were to simply ask "Which?" it would be "¿Cuál", "Which is it?" would be "¿Cuál es?" and "Which (one) do you think...?" would be "¿Cuál piensas?" In contrast, the phrase "¿Qué piensas?" means "What do you think?"
Sometimes native speakers, especially those from Mexico tend to use "Cuál" when they should used "Qué". Here are some examples: "What/Which book?" is said "¿Cuál libro?", "What/Which car?" would be "¿Cuál carro?", and "What/Which experience?" would be "¿Cuál experiencia".
To answer your original question, since "día" is a noun, the phrase "¿Qué día vas al teatro?" is tecnically correct, however, many Mexicans and some people from other regions may say "¿Cuál día vas al teatro?"
Q: How would I say 'I hope you have a good day' to a single female? I know I read '¡Que tengan un buen día!' but would 'tengan' change for the singular?
A: First of all, verbs in Spanish are changed (conjugated) according to how many you people you are talking to or about (one person vs. two or more). They are also conjugated depending on whether you are talking directly to someone in a formal or informal setting. However, verb conjugation does not depend on whether the person is a male or female.
To answer your question, if you are on an informal basis (where you are comfortable enough to talk to her using her first name), you would say '¡Que tengas un buen día!' If you are on an informal basis with her (where you would use a title like Mrs. etc.), you would say '¡Que tenga un buen día!'