Posted by: janecronin | October 1, 2017


I think I may be getting a bit too serious with these verbs, so this week’s is much more playful, in fact it is the verb “to play” – jugar.   “Jugar” is used very similarly to “play” in English referring to sports, board games, children’s games and the like but I should point out straight away that it is not used to talk about playing a musical instrument.   In Spanish we “touch” instruments, so we might say “toco la guitarra” (I play the guitar) or “mi hija tocaba el violin” (my daughter used to play the violin).

Apart from that exception, we’re on reasonably safe ground when using “jugar”.  There are one or two things to point out about the changes we make to the verb itself.  In the present tense it is called a “root-changing” verb, which means that the letter “u” in the root (between the j and the g) changes to “ue” in four of the six forms.  Therefore I play is “juego” and not “jugo”.  The other slightly awkward thing in terms of the spelling is that, since the root ends in the letter “g” we have to adjust the spelling from time to time to keep it consistent with the hard sounding “g”.  In other words, if I want to say, for example “I played”, it is spelt “jugué”, inserting a silent “u” between the “g” and the “e”.  If we were to spell it “jugé” the sound of the “g” should soften into a throaty “h” sound.   It rather difficult to explain this in a short paragraph, so if that doesn´t make sense, keep it in mind for any future time you come across the same phenomenon.

Related to the verb “jugar” is the noun “juego” which means “game”.  You see this on those flashing fruit machines in the corner of the local bar.  Another derivative of “jugar” is the word for “toy” which is “juguete” (this contains another example of the silent “u” keeping the “g” hard).  You may well have noticed toy shops with names like “Juguetilandia” although the general word meaning “toy shop” is “juguetería”.

A word that means playful is “juguetón”.  This can refer to children and puppies but in some contexts can mean “provocative” or “seductive”.  My feminist hackles have just been raised my noticing that it also means “wanton” but that the dictionary has thoughtfully put “female” in brackets after the word!

Going back to “juego”  a point of interest is how we say “Olympic Games” in Spanish.  These, unsurprisingly are “Los Juegos Olímpicos”.  Nothing strange there, but what you might not know is how the Spanish abbreviate titles when they are in the plural.  They double the initial letter of the plural word, so In the case of “Juegos Olímpicos” they write JJOO.   It’s the same process that means “Estados Unidos” EEUU and Comunidades Autónomas CCAA.


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