Posted by: janecronin | September 16, 2018


The verb “romper” means “to break”.  This can mean the literal kind of breaking, mobile screens, bones, fencing, that kind of thing, and also in the non-physical context of relationships and friendships.  We can also use the word “romper” in a kind of social context.  A new political movement might “romper moldes” (break molds – that is traditional roles or systems).  This same phenomenon is expressed in the phrase “romper esquemas” (break systems or outlines: that is traditional roles and ideas).  In the social sense as well we can talk about “romper el hielo” (to break the ice).  We can also “romper con el pasado” (break from the past) and “romper con la rutina” (take a break from the routine).

In terms of grammar, “romper” obeys all the usual rules except one, which is the past participle “roto”.  In fact, many people learn the word “roto” (feminine “rota”) meaning “broken” without ever associating it with its base verb “romper”.   Thus we can say “la puerta está rota” (the door is broken) or “nuestra relación está rota” (our relationship is broken).  Another way of saying the same thing is “Hemos roto nuestra relación” which basically means “We have broken up”.

An idea or phenomenon that is innovative can be referred to as “rompedor” or “rompedora”.  The translation of this word is “ground-breaking” which obviously contains the same idea.  There are a lot of compound words starting with “rompe-“ all containing the “breaking” concept.  For example, there is “rompeolas” (breakwater – literally, wave breaker); “rompecabezas” (puzzle or brainteaser – literally, head breaker; “rompecorazones” (heart-throb – literally, heart breaker) and, if you’ll pardon the expression “rompebolas” (ball-breaker, or as my dictionary politely puts it, “someone who is extremely annoying”)

Sometimes “romper” is used in the sense of being “stunning”.  In a play I was in a couple of years ago, one of the female actors appears dressed up to the nines (another interesting phrase) and exclaims “Estoy que rompo” (I’m looking stunning – enough to break camera lenses or hearts, I suppose).  Something that is “breakable” is “rompible” and therefore the opposite, “unbreakable” is “irrompible”.

If you are unfortunate enough to break a bone or some other part of your body, the usual way to express this is with the reflexive form “romperse”.  Therefore, for example, “I have broken my arm” is “me he roto el brazo” (literally “I have broken myself the arm).  This is along the same lines as many expressions, particularly referring to ones physical person, which use reflexive verbs and avoid the possessive adjective (my, your, his, her etc) replacing them with “the”).    Similar structures are: “me duele la cabeza” (my head hurts – literally, it hurts me the head), “me he puesto la chaqueta” (I have put on my jacket – literally, I have put on myself the jacket).

In English we have many uses for the word “break” which do not automatically translate as “romper” and if you need a break now, you actually need a “descanso” (a rest).

Posted by: janecronin | September 9, 2018


“Reír” expresses a wonderful human activity which we don´t do enough of, and that is “to laugh”.  As a verb it doesn´t give us a lot to laugh about as it’s one of those nasty “-ir” verbs which some root-changes, so we’d better get those out of the way first.  In the present tense it is a standard “e to i” root-changing verb, which means it goes like this:  “río” (I laugh), “ríes” (you laugh) “ríe” (he or she laughs) “reímos” (we laugh) “reís” (you – plural – laugh) “ríen” (they laugh).  In addition to these changes, notice that we have to put an accent over the letter “i” all the way through to split the sound off from the “e” that falls next to it.  This is all to do with diphthongs which we haven´t got room for here, but just make sure that the emphasis of your voice goes onto the accented “i” in each case.

The other forms which have a root change are the gerund “riendo” (laughing) and the third person preterite “rio” (he or she laughed) “rieron” (they laughed).  “Reír” can also appear in the reflexive form “reírse” and when we combine it with “de” – “reírse de alguien” we mean “to laugh at someone”.  When we want to tell someone to laugh, (as we would say in English “Go on, laugh!”) in Spanish we say “¡Ríete!”  That’s about as complicated as we need to go with “reír” so now let’s see if we can find some derivate words.

First of all we have “risa” which means “laughter”.  If something makes you laugh we say “me da risa” (it gives me laughter) or “es de risa” (it’s hilarious).  This second form is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, that is, something that is ridiculous.  You may not be aware, by the way, that the English word “ridiculous” comes from the same Latin root and originally meant “laughable”.  In Spanish we also have the word “ridículo” which carries the same meaning as in English.  In addition Spanish has the word “irrisorio” which now carries the more negative sense of “laughable” as in “derisory”.

We have a great range of laughter related words in English, such as cackle and guffaw, and this latter word is expressed in Spanish by the word “risotada”.  A modern trend in these days of self-improvement is “risoterapia” (laughter therapy).  I have to say that although I can enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone, (in the words of Monty Python’s sergeant major) the idea of making myself laugh in a group therapy session really does not appeal.  I imagine it would be about as funny as trying to explain a joke: with apologies if you’re a laughter therapist and I’ve got it all wrong.

Finally, if we add the prefix “son” to give us “sonreír” we have the verb “to smile”.  “Sonrisa” therefore is the noun “smile” and “una persona sonriente” is a “smiley” sort of person.


Posted by: janecronin | September 2, 2018


“Querer” is one of the most commonly used verbs in everyday speech, as it is the infinitive of the word “quiero” (I want) which is a staple for going shopping, making appointments and generally getting want you want.  In fact, as well as meaning “to want”, “querer” also means “to love”.  This might sound confusing, but in real life never is. “Quiero un kilo de manzanas” (I want a kilo of apples) is never going to be confused with “te quiero” (I love you).   Many English learners of Spanish find the idea of saying “I want” rather rude (especially if you were told as a child “I want doesn´t get”)  but the Spanish language is much more direct than English so you won´t be told off for saying it here.

There are a number of variations to the formations of “querer”.  In the present tense it is a “root-changing” verb, changing the root “e” to “ie” in four out of the six forms – “quiero, quieres, quiere and quieren”.    It is irregular in the past simple or preterite tense, and goes – “quise, quisiste, quiso, quisimos, quisisteis, quisieron”.   Just to add to our joy, it is also irregular in the future and conditional forms, where the “e” of the ending is suppressed, giving us “querré” (I will want) and “querría” (I would want) along with all the corresponding changes of person.

A form of “querer” that you may have come across in your studies is “quisiera”.  From a grammatical point of view, this is actually an imperfect subjunctive form and as such it is rather difficult to translate in isolation.  It means something like “I would wish”.  In formal situations, this can be a substitute for the straightforward “quiero” I want, but it is a bit over the top for everyday use in Spain.  The South Americans tend to use the language more formally, including the use of “quisiera” to make a request, and a lot of courses teach South American Spanish.

From “querer” we get the word “querido” or “querida” which means “loved one” or “dear”.  It is used when writing letters (remember those?) to friends (Querido Juan – Dear John, Querida Mary – Dear Mary).  However, when writing to someone unknown, Mr. Mrs, Sir or Madam we replace “querido/a” with “estimado/a”.  In some contexts “querido” and “querida” can also be used to mean “lover” although the more common word for this is “amante”.

We can combine the verb “querer” with another verb “decir” (to say) to make an expression which in English translates as “to mean”.  When we are clarifying something and putting it into different words, we often start with “I mean ….”  In Spanish this is “Quiero decir ….”.   When you are trying to interpret what someone has said; perhaps something that has been misunderstood by someone else, you might say “Creo que quiere decir …”  (I think he means…) or “Lo que quiere decir es … (What she means is …)

Posted by: janecronin | August 26, 2018


“Perder” is a verb that means “to lose” and also “to miss” in the sense of missing a bus or your favourite TV programme.  It is a root-changing verb which means that in the present tense some of its forms add an extra letter “i” namely “pierdo” (I lose) “pierdes” (you lose) “pierde” (he or she loses) and “pierden” (they lose).  Other than that we are looking at an ordinary sort of verb that behaves itself reasonably most of the time.

There are quite a few derivatives of “perder”; the first of which that comes to mind being “pérdida” which means “loss”.  This is a word that is used when giving directions.  After informing people about the appropriate number of turnings and roundabouts, the instructions are often rounded off with “no tiene pérdida” which literally means “it doesn´t have any loss” but actually translates as “you can´t miss it”.  I don´t know about you, but when someone says that to me it’s a guarantee that I will never get there.

A “perdedor” or in the feminine “perdedora” is a person who loses at a game or sport, the opposite of “ganador” and “ganadora”, the winner.  If someone falls in madly in love, we may say in Spanish that they fall in love “locamente” but often we use the expression “perdidamente” which, even though we can´t translate it literally (lostly) I think expresses the idea better:  you don´t go exactly go mad but you lose yourself temporarily.

Another derivative is “perdición” which does have the exact equivalent in English “perdition”.  This expresses the religious concept of eternal punishment or loss of salvation, although some people associate the word with eating chocolate, their ultimate downfall.

There are a number of useful expressions which contain the verb “perder”.  One I rather like is “perder el norte” (literally, to lose the north).  This is a metaphor based on compass points: someone who loses the north on the compass loses their way completely, but it is used in everyday speech to refer to a person who has “lost it” in some way.  It could be someone who has completely forgotten about their vocation in life or how they should behave in a social situation.

Similar, but not exactly the same, is the person who “pierde los papeles” (loses their papers).  This is someone who becomes so angry or upset that they lose self-control and start shouting and yelling.  I think it’s a rather graphic way of describing how you feel in the face of Spanish bureaucracy, when all your papers seem to fly everywhere to everyone’s confusion.

Finally, “perder” also has a reflexive form “perderse” (to lose oneself, to get lost).  This could be literally to lose ones way in a place, but  we can also get lost in someone’s argument or the plot of film, something that happen to me rather often, mainly because I fall asleep half way through.


Posted by: janecronin | August 25, 2018

Spanish Classes – September 2018

I will be starting Spanish classes in Jacarilla (near Bigastro and Orihuela) on week commencing Monday 10th September 2018.   I have classes at various levels including a new group of complete BEGINNERS.

Courses consist of two 90-minute classes per week and the price has been kept at a very reasonable 5 euros an hour.  All groups are small and have a very friendly atmosphere.

If you are interested in learning practical everyday Spanish and improving your communication skills in Spanish please contact Jane on: or by phone on 966 77 08 44.

Posted by: janecronin | August 19, 2018


This week’s verb is a good, solid everyday one.    “Mirar” is wonderfully regular in all its forms and only means one thing – “to look”.  How tricky translation is sometimes, because “to look” means two different things in English, and “mirar” is the translation of only one of them.  We perform the action of looking at something, using our eyes – that is what “mirar” means.  What it doesn’t mean is “to look” as in the sentence “you look tired” or “that looks interesting”.  In this case, we are not talking about something we do with our eyes; we are referring to the appearance of something, or someone.  In Spanish this is usually expressed with the verb “parecer” (to appear).  So “you look tired” is “pareces cansado” and “that looks interesting” would be “eso parece interesante”.   It all comes down to thinking about what we really mean, rather than simply transposing words from one language to another.

“Mirar” has to be one of the first words a small child picks up, and you only have to be in the presence of Spanish children for a short time before you hear “¡Mamá, mírame!” (Mummy, look at me!) usually shouted whilst hanging upside down from a metal bar two metres of the ground.   Remember of course that it doesn´t sound how you possibly hear it in your head, with a clipped, short “i” sound.  As you know the Spanish “i” is a longer vowel, somewhat close to our “ee” as in “cheese”.  Somehow, this is particularly noticeable when “mírame” is being screamed out at full volume.

There are a few words that derive from this simple verb.  One of these is “mirador” which means a “viewpoint”, as in a panoramic viewpoint.  Literally of course, it means a place to look from, with the obvious implication that you will be looking at something nice.   “Mirada” is another derivative which means “look” in the sense of “facial expression”.

Now let’s look at some typical phrases using “mirar”.  We have “mirar por encima” which means to look over something superficially.  “¿Has leído el artículo?”  (Have you read the article?) “Lo he mirado por encima” (I’ve had a quick glance through it).   “Mirar de reojo” means to give a sidelong glance, or as we sometimes say, to look out of the corner of our eye.  “Cuando entré en la habitación me miró de reojo” (When I came into the room, he (or she) glanced at me out of the corner of his (or her) eye.  That sounds very clumsy in English, but you know what I mean.  Finally, a curious difference between Spanish and English cultures: in Spanish there is no word for “to stare” so we have to say “mirar fijamente”.   As a child I was told off for staring, as though it were some terrible social faux pas, whereas many Spanish people are quite happy to have a good long look at someone if they want to.

Posted by: janecronin | August 12, 2018


“Traer” is an interesting verb as it has a lot more associations with the English language that you would necessarily realise at first glance.  “Traer” means “to bring” and as usual we are going to look at any oddities about its formation first.

In common with a number of basic verbs, it has an alternative form in the first person singular of the present tense, namely “traigo” (I bring).  Apart from this the present tense is regular as are most other forms until we get to the preterite (past) tense where it changes to “traje, trajiste, trajo, trajimos, trajisteis, trajeron” that is, I brought, you brought, he/she brought, we brought, you brought (plural) and they brought.

If you know some clothes vocabulary, you may remember that “traje” also means “suit”.  This word derives from the same verb, the connection coming from the related concepts of “to bring – to carry – to wear”.  Although these mean different things to us, they have some overlapping meanings and some common linguistic roots.  The Spanish word comes from the Latin verb “trahere” which means “to draw” or “to drag”.

We have talked before about compound verbs, which are formed when a few letters, called prefixes, are added to the front of the verb to create a new word.  “Traer” has a number of these, for example:  “contraer” (to contract), “sustraer” (to subtract), “atraer” (to attract); “detraer” (to detract); “retraer” (to retract).  All of these verbs conjugate in exactly the same way as “traer”, so for example “I attract” is “atraigo”; “he, she or it subtracts – “sustrae” and so on.  The interesting thing to notice here is that, whereas the basic form “traer” is translated by the English word “bring” (a word incidentally which is of Germanic origin) all the compound verbs are translated by words containing the syllable “tract”.  This is a phenomenon that exists is several other verb families and illustrates that in the English language our basic language is Germanic whilst our more sophisticated vocabulary frequently comes from Latin.

When we look at the noun forms based on “traer” we find an even closer similarity.  Words like “contracción”, “sustracción” and “atracción” are quite understandable as is “tracción” meaning “traction” which takes us right back to the Latin meaning related to motion.  We also have the word “tract” in English meaning a stretch of land, and although I hadn´t thought of it before, I guess that “tractor” comes from the same root.  In Spanish we have “trayectoria” meaning a distance travelled, used in everyday language more than the English word “trajectory” which has more to do with direction of bullets.

As strange as it may seem, all these words belong to the same family, even those that apparently mean unrelated things like a suit or the trajectory of a bullet.   I hope I haven´t got too complicated this week, but I do think that discovering word families is a great way of expanding ones vocabulary and understanding the real meanings of words.

Posted by: janecronin | August 5, 2018


I thought I would live dangerously this week and go for a more complicated verb.  “Caber” is different from many verbs for two reasons, firstly it has all sorts of strange irregularities in various forms and secondly it’s a bit more difficult to explain what it means!  As a starting point, we will say that “caber” means “to fit”.  That´s sounds fairly uncomplicated, but there is a bit more to it.

First of all though, we will look at some of the more peculiar forms of the verb itself.  The present tense is in fact regular except for the first person singular (I fit) which is “quepo”.  A context for this might be a car where people are squashing in together.  When it’s your turn to get in, you might say “no quepo” (I don´t fit) before you shove your way in anyway.  Because of this first person singular difference, this form gets carried over into the present subjunctive which goes: quepa, quepas, quepa, quepamos, quepáis, quepan.

The next oddity is the preterite tense which changes to “cupe” (I fit – but in the past).  The whole conjugation is “cupe, cupiste, cupo, cupimos, cupisteis, cupieron”.  It might be a step too far to tell you that from this form we get the imperfect subjunctive, but now I’ve said it, I’ll have to go the whole way: “cupiera, cupieras, cupiera, cupiéramos, cupiérais, cupieran”.  Sorry I can´t go into how that would be used right now, but it’s there for your reference when the imperfect subjunctive becomes something meaningful to you, if it isn´t already.

Finally on the formation, we have the future simple and conditional forms which are also irregular.  In both cases we remove the letter “e” for the infinitive, giving us “cabré” (I will fit) and “cabría” (I would fit) with their corresponding conjugations.

So, in the unlikely event of you reading this far, we will now look at how we would use this verb in everyday conversation.  I have given you one example already of “no quepo” and similarly, it we were trying to fit something into something – like a book onto a bookshelf, we might want to say “cabe” or “no cabe”, it fits, or it doesn´t fit.    Another shade of meaning is “to be or to have room for something”.  In other words, if I were to ask “¿Cabe uno más en el autobús?” this means “Is there room for one more on the bus?”

“Caber” really comes into its own, however, in more idiomatic phrases.  A very common one is “no cabe duda” (literally – there is no room for doubt, i.e. there is no doubt).   The verbal phrase “cabe recordar” really means “it’s worth remembering” although the literal meaning is “it fits to remember” which doesn´t make any sense at all.  A good one to finish on is “no me cabe en la cabeza” (It doesn´t fit in my head, that is, I cannot comprehend it).

Posted by: janecronin | July 29, 2018


The verb “recibir” has the same Latin root as its English equivalent “receive” and also has similar related words such as “reception”, “receptionist” and “receipt”, along with a few more.

As far as the grammar of “recibir” goes, once more (and no doubt to your great relief) there is nothing of much interest to say.  It behaves like a standard “-ir” ending word and only has one basic meaning.  Actually, as you increase your vocabulary in Spanish you will find that this is more often the case than not.  It is actually the most common verbs like “to go” “to have” and “to be” which create most of our problems, and once you get on to more advanced or specific meanings, they settle down and start behaving themselves.

First of all, let’s look at some curious ways the Spanish use the basic conjugation of “recibir” to apply to different words that belong to other parts of speech.  You may we know the word “recibo” meaning “receipt” but what you may not have realised is that the word actually means “I receive” and comes about because of the layout of a receipt which often starts with the wording “recibo” – “I receive” a certain quantity of money from another person.  Also used is this way is a chit of paper called a “recibí”.  This again is part of the conjugation of “recibir” and means “I received” in the past tense.  A “recibí” is often used as confirmation of receipt of a parcel or other kind of delivery.

As already mentioned, the word “reception” comes from “receive” and likewise from “recibir” we have the word “recepción”.  We usually associate this word with hotels or office lobbies but we can also use it more figuratively to talk about the “receiving” or “receipt” of something.  For example, to confirm “receipt” of a letter we would use the phrase:  “Confirmo recepción de su carta” (I acknowledge receipt of your letter).  From the word “recepción” we obviously get the name of the job “recepcionista”.  Notice incidentally that it is one of those jobs that has the ending “-ista” irrespective of whether the job is done by a man or a woman – similar to “dentista”, “especialista” and “taxista”.

Another word that comes from “recibir” is “recibidor” which means “hall” or “vestibule”, in other words a place where you “receive” your guests, in a house somewhat larger than the one I live in.   There is also the word “recibimiento” which refers to the manner in which someone is welcomed, for example: “El público le dio al cantante un recibimiento muy entusiasmado” (the audience gave the singer an enthusiastic reception or welcome).  Finally, the word “recibir” can crop up at the end of letters, for example: “recibe un fuerte abrazo” (receive a big hug – i.e. lots of love) or “reciba un saludo” (yours sincerely).  In this last example “reciba” is in the subjunctive and is a kind of formal command.

Posted by: janecronin | July 22, 2018


The obvious meaning of “servir” is “to serve” although it can be used in a number of different ways. From a grammatical point of view, the main thing to say about “servir” is that it is what we call a “root-changing” verb.  This means that in certain forms the letter “e” in the main part of the verb changes to the letter “i” following the same pattern as verbs like “pedir” or “repetir”.   This means that the present tense goes like this:  “sirvo” (I serve) “sirves” (you serve) “sirve” (he, she serves) and “sirven” (they serve).  The two forms that keep the same root as the infinitive “servir” are “servimos” (we serve) and “servís” (they serve).

This “e” to “i” root change also occurs in the gerund: “sirviendo” (serving) and in two of the preterite (past) tense forms – “sirvió” (he or she served) and “sirvieron” (they served).  Finally, both the present and imperfect subjunctive tenses are affected by the same phenomenon: “sirva, sirvas, sirva, sirvamos, sirváis, sirvan” (present subjunctive) and “sirviera, sirvieras, sirviera, sirviéramos, sirviérais, sirvieran” (imperfect subjunctive).  I realise I’m probably pushing some of my readers a bit too far with all this talk of subjunctives, but you might want to make a mental note for future reference, that this “e” to “i” root change works in exactly the same way for quite a number of other verbs with the infinitive “ir” ending.

One way in which “servir” is used differently from English is when it means “to be useful, or good, at something”.  A true statement about myself is “Sirvo para explicar idiomas pero no sirvo para reparar ordenadores” (I’m good at (useful at) explaining languages but I’m no good at (i.e. useless) at mending computers”.  I had quite a lot of choice there from all the things I’m useless at.  If I were completely useless at everything I would say “no sirvo para nada”.  You might say that about a useless item – some unwanted Christmas present perhaps – “no sirve para nada” (it´s completely useless).

If you wanted to know why you have to do something, you might ask “¿Para qué sirve?” (“What is it used for?” or “What is the point?”)  “¿Para qué sirve estudiar español?” (What is the point of studying Spanish?)  I will leave that question in the air for you to think about in your own time.

From “servir” we get the word “servicio” (service) which we see around us in many contexts such as “autoservicio” (self-service) which I used to think was a car part shop, and of course “servicios” meaning loos.  The general word for “servant” is “sirviente” but there is another word “servidor” which is means “servant” in a more formal context, somewhat akin to the old-fashioned phrase “your most humble and obedient servant”.   It can be used to refer to oneself in a self-effacing way, for example “este artículo fue escrito por una servidora” (this article was written by “yours truly”).

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