Posted by: janecronin | July 15, 2018

Lavar


The verb “lavar” meaning “to wash” is about as regular a verb as you could ever hope to come across.  It has absolutely no peculiarities of any sort in the way it is spelt or conjugated, so for once we will just limit ourselves at looking when we use it and any interesting (or not so interesting) derivatives.

If what we are washing are things such as curtains, cars and floors or living creatures other than ourselves, such as children and pets, the simple verb “lavar” is all we need.  However, when we wash ourselves, or any particular part of ourselves, we have to use the reflexive version of “lavar” i.e. “lavarse” (to wash oneself).  This is how it works – to say “I wash my hands” in Spanish, I say “Me lavo las manos” (lit. I wash myself the hands).   Just to give you a few more examples “Wash your face” – “Lávate la cara” (lit. Wash yourself the face); “They have washed their feet” – “Se han lavado los pies” (lit. They have washed themselves the feet).

Here are another couple of examples which sound even stranger when translated literally – “lavarse la cabeza” (to wash one´s head – that is “hair”) and “lavarse los dientes” (to wash one’s teeth – that is “to clean”).  So, the sentence – “I can’t go out tonight, I have to wash my hair” takes on a whole new life: “No puedo salir esta noche, tengo que lavarme la cabeza” (I can´t go out tonight, I have to wash my head).  Similarly, “you should brush (or clean) your teeth after meals”, becomes “Debes lavarse los dientes después de las comidas”:  all very logical of course, just different.

There are a number of very familiar nouns that come from “lavar”.  The washing machine is “la lavadora”, the dishwasher is “el lavavajillas” (also more colloquially called “el lavaplatos”) and a car washing place or service is “el lavadero”.  A car wash is a “lavadero de coches” whilst those big automatic washing tunnels are called “tren de lavado” or “túnel de lavado” – “lavado” being the noun for “wash”.

The word for “laundry” in Spanish is “lavandería” and the old-fashioned figure of the “laundry maid” is “lavandera”.  The English word “laundry” is connected to the word “lavar” as they both are rooted in the Latin language. We can find the same root meaning in the English word “lavatory” which originally meant a “washing place” and was used as a euphemism.  The same can be said of the word “toilet, and in the old days ladies used to attend to their toilet, which did not mean that they went to clean the loo.

As you can see, I am running out of things to write about “lavar” as it is such a simple word to use.  I shall conclude by saying that only a few days ago I was in the Madrid district of “Lavapiés” which is quite a trendy area, even though it means “foot wash”.

Advertisements
Posted by: janecronin | July 8, 2018

Oír


Today’s verb is “oír” which means “to hear”.  You may notice straight away that there is an accent over the “i” of this infinitive form “oír”.  This is because the letters “o” and “i” usually merge together into what we call a diphthong, that is a single combined sound.  Consequently, in the infinitive we need the accent to indicate that the “ir” ending is emphasised separately.

“Oír” is a regular verb in general, but with one or two peculiarities.  First of all, for spelling and pronunciation reasons, it introduces the letter “y” into some of its forms, for example, oye,oyen, oyó, oyeron).  Secondly, in the first person singular of the present tense, in other words, the form that means “I hear”, it changes to “oigo”.  This is a similar phenomenon to that of verbs like “tener – tengo”, “hacer – hago”, “salir – salgo”.

Actually based on this word “oigo” comes the subjunctive form “oiga” which is very difficult to translate as a single word as the subjunctive does not exist in English.  To give us an idea, it means something like “I (or he/she) may speak”.  Here is a sentence to illustrate its use “No quiero que oiga la noticia” (I don´t want him or her to hear the news, or more literally, I don´t want that he or she -may – hear the news).    It is also quite common to hear the word “oiga” on its own as a kind of command meaning “hear me”.  Of course we would never say “hear me!” to anyone in English, but “oiga” is not out of place in Spanish, depending on the context, which is usually calling someone’s attention in a public place.  For those who find the word unpleasant, and perhaps too similar to the English exclamation “oi!”, it is worth bearing in mind that “oiga” really carries the subjunctive meaning – something like “may you hear me!” and is actually a polite form.

The word “oír” crops up quite a lot in the world of mobile phones where we would add the words “can” and “can´t” in English to express the same idea.  “No te oigo” (I don´t – i.e. can´t – hear you) and “¿me oyes? (Do you – i.e. can you – hear me?)  Of course we have some strange expressions in English like “You’re breaking up!” which can´t be easy for foreign speakers of English to grasp.

A noun which derives from “oír” is “oído” which means the sense of “hearing” and also means “ear” as in the “hearing” part of the ear.  The ear that is visible on the side of your head is “oreja”, but if you have to go to the doctor with an ear infection, for example, it would be “una infección de oído”.

Another derivative noun is “oyente” meaning “hearer” or “listener”.  This is used when someone attends a meeting without being an active participant or a class or lecture just to listen, without being registered as a student.

Posted by: janecronin | July 2, 2018

A PORTRAIT OF SPAIN – UN RETRATO DE ESPAÑA


Do you know how long the Moors ruled in Spain?  Have you heard of the scourge of Almanzor, the Catholic monarchs or the Black Legend?  When did the Spanish civil war start, and why?  How long has Spain been a democracy and what were the events that led up to it?  Who is in charge of the country now and what challenges do they face?

The answers to all these questions and hundreds more are to be found in Jane Cronin’s new Spanish language and history course entitled “Un Retrato de España – A Portrait of Spain”.

The course is based on Jane´s highly popular “A Portrait of Spain” talks which were delivered over a number of years at different venues in and around Torrevieja, Orihuela Costa and the Mar Menor.  The talks were attended by hundreds of people who were fascinated to learn more about the country they had chosen to live in.

This course consists of 40 short texts in Spanish which are accompanied by an audio file of the same text in clear spoken Spanish and an English translation.  This variety of formats gives you the opportunity to approach the course in various ways, depending on your level of Spanish and style of learning. At the end of each text there are 8 simple questions which require one word or short answers based on the information given.  As with several of Jane’s successful internet courses, you have direct contact with her as your tutor as the course is conducted by e-mail.  At the end of each chapter, when you send in your eight answers, you will receive a reply with the correct answers along with the next text, audio and translation.

The cost of the course is 40€ (just 1€ per chapter).  This price is a standard one-off payment.  However, it is perfectly possible to start at a point in the course other than chapter 1 according to your personal interests, as long as you clearly state your preference.  You to sign up to the course on this link:

http://www.janecronin.eu/index.php/jane-cronin-products/on-line-courses/product/57-un-retrato-de-espana-online-course

Here is a list of the 40 chapters:

  1. INTRODUCCIÓN – INTRODUCTION
  2. LOS PRIMEROS IBERICOS – THE FIRST IBERIANS
  3. LA PRESENCIA ROMANA EN IBERIA – THE ROMAN PRESENCE IN IBERIA
  4. LOS VISIGODOS – THE VISIGOTHS
  5. LA LLEGADA DE LOS MOROS – THE ARRIVAL OF THE MOORS
  6. LA CREACIÓN DE AL-ÁNDALUS – THE CREATION OF AL-ANDALUS
  7. EL CALIFATO DE CÓRDOBA – THE CALIPHATE OF CORDOBA
  8. LA CAÍDA DEL CALIFATO – THE FALL OF THE CALIPHATE
  9. LAS TAIFAS Y LOS REINOS CRISTIANOS – THE TAIFAS AND THE CHRISTIAN KINGDOMS
  10. LOS ALMORÁVIDES – THE ALMORAVIDS
  11. LA RECONQUISTA – THE RECONQUEST
  12. LA CAÍDA DE GRANADA – THE FALL OF GRANADA
  13. LOS REYES CATÓLICOS Y SUS HEREDEROS – THE CATHOLIC MONARCHS AND THEIR HEIRS
  14. EL AUGE DEL IMPERIO ESPAÑOL – THE DAWN OF THE SPANISH EMPIRE
  15. LA LEYENDA NEGRA – THE BLACK LEGEND
  16. HIDALGOS Y AVENTUREROS – KNIGHTS AND ADVENTURERS
  17. LA EDAD DE VELÁZQUEZ – THE AGE OF VELAZQUEZ
  18. EL FINAL DE LOS HABSBURGO – THE END OF THE HAPSBURGS
  19. LA GUERRA DE LA SUCESIÓN ESPAÑOLA – THE WAR OF SPANISH SUCCESSION
  20. ESPAÑA SE MODERNIZA – SPAIN MODERNISES
  21. EL PERIODO NAPOLEÓNICO – THE NAPOLEONIC PERIOD
  22. LA GUERRA DE LA INDEPENDENCIA – THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
  23. EL REGRESO DE “EL DESEADO” – THE RETURN OF “THE DESIRED ONE”
  24. LA CAÍDA Y EL AUGE DE LA MONARQUÍA – THE FALL AND RISE OF THE MONARCHY
  25. PRINCIPIOS DEL SIGLO XX – THE START OF THE 20th CENTURY
  26. LOS PRIMEROS AÑOS DEL GENERAL FRANCO – GENERAL FRANCO’S EARLY YEARS
  27. LA SEGUNDA REPUBLICA – THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  28. UN GOLPE MILITAR FALLIDO – A FAILED MILITARY COUP
  29. EL INICIO DE LA GUERRA CIVIL ESPAÑOLA – THE START OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
  30. EL FIN DE LA GUERRA CIVIL ESPAÑOLA – THE END OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
  31. LOS AÑOS DE HAMBRE – THE YEARS OF HUNGER
  32. EL PERIODO DE AISLAMIENTO – THE PERIOD OF ISOLATION
  33. LEGITIMIZACIÓN – LEGITIMISATION
  34. LOS AÑOS DE DESARROLLO – THE YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT
  35. EL FIN DEL PERÍODO FRANQUISTA – THE END OF THE FRANCOIST PERIOD
  36. LA TRANSICIÓN – THE TRANSITION
  37. LAS PRIMERAS ELECCIONES – THE FIRST ELECTIONS
  38. LOS AÑOS OCHENTA – THE EIGHTIES
  39. EL PARTIDO POPULAR DE AZNAR – AZNAR’S PEOPLE’S PARTY
  40. CRISIS Y AUSTERIDAD – CRISIS AND AUSTERITY

CONCLUSIÓN:  MIRANDO AL FUTURO  – CONCLUSION:  LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

http://www.janecronin.eu/index.php/jane-cronin-products/on-line-courses/product/57-un-retrato-de-espana-online-course

Posted by: janecronin | July 1, 2018

Costar


“Costar”, rather unsurprisingly, means “to cost”.  You may have learnt at some time the question ¿Cuánto cuesta?” (How much does it cost?) although in most purchasing situations “¿Cuánto es?”(How much is it?) is quite sufficient and “¿Cuánto vale?” (How much is it worth?) is another similar option.  As you can see from the example “¿Cuánto cuesta?”, “costar” is a root-changing verb which means that the “o” letter in the root or stem part of the verb changes to “ue” in four out of the six present tense forms.  Apart from that, “costar” is an entirely standard verb.

Obviously, the usual context of “costar” is to do with money, as “cost” is in English.  However, Spanish has an addition meaning to this word which does not exist in English, or at least is fair less common.  It is the idea of something “costing” in terms of effort or difficulty.  When I starting teaching English in Spain I got used to people saying to me “me cuesta mucho” which literally means “it costs me a lot” but of course was nothing to do with the price of the classes.  It is the equivalent of saying “I find it very difficult”.  Another similar phrase is “me cuesta entenderte” (I find it difficult to understand you).  In fact, you can add any second verb in the infinitive to “cuesta” provided it’s something you find difficult to do.  There is a song by the 80s Spanish pop group Mecano entitled “Me cuesta tanto olvidarte” (I find it so difficult to forget you).  At least that is the most repeated line in the song.

There are several derivative nouns from “costar”, one of which is “la cuesta”, the slope or incline.  Another thing that happened in my first year in Spain was that I joined a walking group, and as we were walking uphill, one drole individual always used to say “cuesta la cuesta” (the slope costs, in other words, “it’s difficult walking up the slope”).  Before the years of financial crisis in Spain they always used to refer the post-Christmas period as “la cuesta de enero” (the January uphill slope), with reference to the difficultly of getting to the end of the month after all the spending at Christmas.  I’ve noticed in recent years they use the expression less often, probably because every month is an uphill struggle these days.

There are several derivatives of “costar” which mean “cost” as a noun.  “El coste” is the cost or price of something, so that “El coste de la vida” means the cost of living.  The noun “cost” in the literal sense can also be expressed by the word “costo”. In addition, “costa” has the less literal meaning of “expense” and is used in phrases such as “a costa de” (at the expense of) and “a toda costa” (at any expense, that is, regardless of the expense).

 

Posted by: janecronin | June 24, 2018

Llegar


“Llegar” means “to arrive” and sometimes “to manage”, “to reach” or in certain contexts “to get”.  As usual we will start with the grammar and spelling.   Actually, there is nothing to say about the grammar of “llegar” as it does all the same things as other “-ar” verbs and doesn´t pull any tricks.  There is one issue regarding spelling, with which my regular readers will be familiar, which is what I call a “spelling adjustment”.   This is because the letter “g” falls at the end of the root of the verb. We have to be aware of potential spelling adjustments whenever a “g” or a “c” are found in this position.  They are the only two consonants in the Spanish spelling system that have alternative pronunciations depending on which vowel follows them.  In this case, the “g” has a hard, dry sound, similar to the English in “garden”, and this remains the same throughout most of the conjugations as it is followed by “a” or “o”.  However, when the following letter is “e” we have to put a silent “u” in the way, whose function is to keep the “g” as a hard sound.  Therefore the first person singular of the preterite tense is spelt “llegué” (I arrived) and similarly, the present subjunctive is “llegue, llegues, llegue, lleguemos, lleguéis, lleguen”.

Remember of course that the double “l” at the beginning of this verb is pronounced like a strong letter “y”.  In old-fashioned Spanish this double letter represents a kind of lengthened “l” sound which is quite distinct from the “y” sound, but nowadays “ll” and “y” have exactly the same pronunciation.

“Llegar” appears is quite a lot of everyday expressions.  “Llegar al fin de mes” means to “get to” the end of the month, financially speaking.   If a project or idea is successfully communicated or completed we say “llegar a buen puerto” (to reach a good port).   In a number of contexts we can translate “llegar” as “manage” or even “be able”.  For example: “No llego a entender el problema” (I’m not able to understand the problem).  “¿Cómo llegas a educar a ese niño?”  (How do you manage to bring that child up?)  Similarly, we can “llegar a hablar con alguien” (to manage to speak to someone).  When we can´t reach something, for example on a high shelf, we might say “no llego” (I can´t reach).

A derivative of “llegar” which is familiar to English speakers, who travel to and from Spain, is “llegada” which appears on airport signs.  “Llegada” is the noun “arrival” derived from the verb form.    “Llegar” can also be used when asking directions: “¿Cómo llego al ayuntamiento?” (How can I arrive at – find my way to – the town hall?).  Finally, when in English we talk about “being” late, in Spanish we refer to “arriving late”.  Therefore, “sorry I’m late” would be “siento llegar tarde”.  What the concept of “late” actually is is another matter.

Posted by: janecronin | June 17, 2018

Buscar


The verb “buscar” means “to search” or “to look for”.  In everyday English speech we use the two-word verb “to look for” much more commonly than “to search”.  If you are a native English speaker you have possibly never given this much thought, but to all learners of English as a foreign language, “look for” belongs to a dreaded group of words called “phrasal verbs”.  English is absolutely chock-a-block with them – get off, go out, play up, put up with – and hundreds more.  Of course we take these for granted, but they are very complicated for non-English speakers, who often have single words in their own language to convey the same meaning.  I mention this now, because when you translate from English into Spanish, it’s a common mistake to assume you have to translate all little words too.  In other words, don´t think that an alternative way of translating “to look for” is “mirar para”.  This is a complete misunderstand due to the weirdness of the English language and the phenomenon should be borne in mind generally as the same applies to many other verbs.

“Buscar” is a completely regular verb but it does undergo what I call a “spelling adjustment” in certain forms.  When the endings begin with an “e” or an “i” the “c” of “buscar” has to change to a “qu” for it to phonetically represent the same sound.  Therefore with have “busqué” (I looked for) and “busque, busques … etc” in the present subjunctive.  You can see the same spelling adjustment in the noun “search” (as in “the search for truth”) which is “búsqueda” (la búsqueda de la verdad).

A place where the word “busca” appears a lot is on signs which are the equivalent of “wanted” posters in English:  “se busca …”   It could be a lost pet or an outlaw in the Wild West, both of which are being sought, which is what “se busca” means (one seeks).  You will also find the button “buscar” instead of “search” on the internet.

If we add the prefix “re” to buscar, we get “rebuscar” which means to look for something very carefully and thoroughly.  The “re” gives it the meaning of looking for something over and over again.  We often find a form of this verb in the word “rebuscado” which usually refers to written communication and means tortuous, obscure or affected.  Those letters you get from the tax authorities or the law courts which make absolutely no sense at all, to you or anyone else.  They can be described as “rebuscado”, and in many cases one suspects, deliberately so.

“Buscar” can also be found in the reflexive form “buscarse”.  This basically intensifies meaning of “look for” to something like “go looking for” in the sense of “provoke”.  It is also used in the well-worn phrase “buscarse la vida” which means to “make your own way in life” as we all have to do.

Posted by: janecronin | June 10, 2018

Ver


“Ver” has two basic meanings in English: “to watch” and “to see”.  So, “ver la tele” would be to “watch TV” whereas “ver a mi vecino en la calle” would be “to see my neighbour in the street”.  This verb does have one or two irregularities so I’ll deal with those first.  If you don´t like the grammatical bits you’d better skip a couple of paragraphs!

In the first person singular of the present tense (meaning “I see” or “I watch”) the form is “veo”.  This is slightly irregular as the “e” of the “er” ending wouldn´t normally be included.  One way to remember this to it learn the Spanish version of “I spy with my little eye” which goes like this:  “Veo, veo”  “¿Qué ves?”  “Una cosita” “¿Qué cosita es?  “Una cosita que empieza por A”.  “Cosita” means “little thing” by the way, and yes, they really do go through this chant every time.  At least, they used to, before the days of ipads and tablets.  Try it with the younger members of your family some time!

Another irregularity is the past participle “visto” meaning “seen”, as in “He visto la película” (I have seen the film).   “Visto” can also be used as an adjective which means “seen” in various different ways.  In judicial terms it means “approved”, and it can also mean “obvious” or “clear”.  If we say something is “muy visto” it contains the idea of something that has been “seen too much”.  “No vuelvo a ponerme este vestido, está muy visto” (I won´t wear this dress again, it’s been seen too much).

Finally, “ver” is one of the few verbs (one of just three) that are irregular in the past imperfect tense (the one that means “was seeing” or “used to see”).  Here again it keeps the letter “e” in where you wouldn´t normally expect, so ” I used to watch TV in the evenings” is “Veía la tele por las tardes”.

There are quite a lot of expressions using a derivative of “ver” which is “visto”.  “Estar mal visto” means to be “considered unacceptable” or “frowned upon”.  “Dar el visto bueno” means to approve of something and to give it the “go-ahead”.   Another familiar derivate of “ver” is the word “vista” meaning “view”.   There is a compound verb “entrever” which means “to glimpse” “to catch a glimpse of” or more figuratively “to suspect” and “entrevista” means “interview”.

“Ver” is also used in that most everyday of expressions “vamos a ver” which means “let’s see”.  People use this all the time as a kind of prelude to looking into something that might be tricky or trying to explain something to someone.  It is also sometimes cut down to “a ver”.  I remember a few years ago hearing someone answer the phone by bellowing “¿A VER?” very loudly at the unexpected caller.  I’m sure he didn´t mean it quite as aggressively as he managed to make it sound.

 

Posted by: janecronin | June 3, 2018

Trabajar


Ironically, as most of the people I teach no longer engage in this activity, and when they did they probably moaned about it a lot of the time, “trabajar” meaning “to work” is one of the best known Spanish verbs.  I´m really not sure why this should be, but there you go.  There is absolutely nothing to say about the grammar of this verb, it is a completely standard “ar” verb with absolutely no tricks up its sleeve.  Also, unlike many of the verbs we have looked at, it only has one meaning.  Maybe that explains why it is so popular.  The only thing one could possibly complain about is the occasional form that becomes a bit of a mouthful, such as “trabajábamos” (we worked/we used to work/we were working).

The noun related to “trabajar” is “trabajo” which can be “work” or “job”.  There are different ways of describing ones “trabajo” – for example “trabajo fijo” (permanent job); “trabajo temporal” (temporary work); “trabajo de tiempo parcial” (part-time work or job) “trabajo de tiempo completo” (full-time work or job).   In my case, I am none of these, being a “trabajadora autónoma” (a self-employed worker – in the feminine form of course).

Another noun from “trabajar” is “trabajador” meaning “worker”.  The day of the worker is on 1st May, which became a public holiday in Spain under the socialist government after the death of Franco, who wasn´t too interested in workers´ rights, or anyone else´s for that matter.  The word “trabajador” can also be used as an adjective meaning “hard-working”.  “Es una persona muy trabajadora” (He or she is a very hard-working person).   Another adjective in the same family is “trabajoso” which means something that causes or creates a lot of work.  “Hacer encajes es muy trabajoso” (Lace making is very laborious).

The word “trabajar” appears in a very familiar phrase which is the traditional, overworked pick-up line rather on the lines of “What is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”  In the Spanish the question is “¿Trabajas o estudias?” (Do you work or study?)  This has given rise to another phenomenon of this never ending period of financial crisis which as you may know runs into huge numbers of unemployed youth.  This is the figure of the “nini” (“neither-nor”) and comes from “ni trabaja ni estudia” (a person who neither works nor studies).

One more word of warning about the verb “trabajar” –  it does not mean “work” in the sense of “function”.  In other words, “trabajar” is the thing that we actively engage in, but “function” refers to when a machine is performing correctly.  So, when you take your food mixer back to the shop because it doesn´t work, you have to say “no funciona” and not “no trabaja” which would sound awfully odd to the Spanish, as though you were expecting your food-mixer to do all the housework as well.

Posted by: janecronin | May 27, 2018

Escribir


Most people learn the meaning of the word “escribir” pretty quickly as it is what you hear as a piece of paper and pen are shoved in front of you when you’re trying to tell somebody your name.  You might not think that is reasonable, but Frederic Marmaduke Blenkinsop is not immediately understandable to your average Spanish bureaucrat.    You will know therefore that “escribir” means “to write” and is linked to our words like “scribe” and “script” which share the same Latin root.

“Escribir” is a regular verb in almost all of its forms, the exception being the past participle “escrito” (written).  If it were regular it would be escribido, and if you ever make that mistake you will sound just like a two or three-year-old Spanish child, as the error is equivalent to “buyed” or “putted” in English.  As well as forming part of a verb tense (e.g. “he escrito un mensaje” – I have written a message) “escrito” also works as an adjective, as in “ingles escrito” (written English).

The Spanish often use the verb “escribir” where we would use the verb “to spell”.  In other words, to say “How do you spell your name?” the Spanish would say “¿Cómo se escribe tu nombre?”  (How is your name written? or How does one write your name?) Of course the whole obsession with “spelling” pertains to the English language, as we do not have a phonetically written script.  All those spelling tests we had to suffer as children and all those rules like “i before e except after c”, the “magic e” and the silent “gh” are peculiar to English.  The Spanish language is phonetically written which means that they rarely have to spell out anything to each other.  Yet more reason why they push a piece of paper in front of you and say “escribe” almost as soon as you’ve opened your mouth.

A derivative of “escribir” is the verb “describir” meaning, unsurprisingly “to describe”.  All we are doing is adding the letter “d” as a prefix, and all the verb forms work in the same way as its root “escribir”.  Therefore, the past participle “described” (as in “I have described” etc) is “descrito”.

Other words that come from “escribir” are “escritor” (writer – masculine) and “escritora” (writer – feminine).  Unlike in English where the tendency is to eliminate gender references in job titles, the Spanish trend is to specify gender (usually by changing “o” to “a” or in some cases by adding the letter “a”) to vindicate the presence of female workers in whatever field of activity.

Another derivative word familiar to many is “escritura” which means “deeds”: the word no doubt harking back to the years when deeds were written out by hand.  “Escritorio” means a “writing desk” although I don´t think many of us use one of those any more.   Ink wells and blotting paper are well in the past, now we have laptops, mouse pads and speakers instead.

 

Posted by: janecronin | May 20, 2018

Tocar


As often happens when we translate words from one language to another, the verb “tocar” has more than one meaning.  The most obvious basic meaning is “to touch” and an example is the saying “toca madera” which means “touch wood” and is used in the same way as in English.  Another principle meaning of “tocar” is “to play” (an instrument or music).  “Tocar el piano” (to play the piano) or “Cuando era niña tocaba el violín” (when I was a child I played the violin).  That famous line from the film Casablanca “Play it, Sam” (she didn´t say “play it again, Sam” incidentally) is “tócala Sam”.   (The feminine pronoun “la” referring to the feminine word for song “canción”)

The conjugation of “tocar” is entirely regular and standard, although it is affected by the phenomenon I have pointed out before, since the root of the verb ends in the letter “c”.  This means that in any form where it is followed by the vowels “e” or “i” the letter “c” has to change to “qu” to keep the phonetic spelling of the hard “k” sound.  Therefore, for example, the first person singular of the preterite tense is spelt “toqué” (I touched, or I played).

Sometimes in shops or other public places you may see the sign “no tocar” which obviously means “do not touch”.   When we give orders in Spanish (the form we call imperative) the verb changes depending on whether we are addressing an individual or more than one person, whether we are being formal or informal and also whether the order is positive or negative.  On a sign to the general public therefore, as it is impossible to make all those decisions, it is quite common to use the infinitive (e.g. tocar) and have done with it.

Another very common use of “tocar” is also something that is hard to translate.  We use it when we are waiting in a queue and wish to say that is it our turn to be served.  The phrase to use is “me toca” which means “it’s my turn” but is literally translated as “it touches me”.  The same phrase can mean to win by chance, that is in a raffle or the lottery.  “Me ha tocado el gordo” is something I would love to say one day, as long as it means “I’ve won on the Christmas lottery” and not “the fat man has touched me”.

The noun from “tocar” is “toque”.  We can use it to mean a short phone call, like “a ring”. “Dame un toque cuando llegues” (Give me a ring when you arrive).  It also means a “touch” in the sense of a “tap” or a “nudge”.  A “toque de atención” is a “call to attention” in the sense of a light reprimand or warning.   Interestingly the word for “curfew” in Spanish is “toque de queda”.  Hopefully you will never need to know that, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Older Posts »

Categories