How to Get a Handle on To Get


The English verb to get is one of those all purpose, catch all verbs which can be problematic when trying to find an equivalent in Spanish.  Just think how often you use this verb in English, and it’s rampant in slang expressions.  When you want to use an equivalent in Spanish, you really have to look underneath the expression to see what you’re really trying to express, as word for word equivalents for “get” are rare.  The easiest and most straightforward one is to think of it as “to obtain”.  The verbs obtener and conseguir are direct translations.  Necesito obtener el precio.  ¿Dónde puedo conseguir un taxi?  However, consider the following “underneath” usages: To get ready, in the sense of to dress, put on makeup, etc. – arreglarse    Necesito arreglarme para la fiesta. To get lucky – tocarle la suerte    Me tocó la suerte ayer porque gané la lotería. To get out of – escapar    Escapé de una situación muy mala. To get sick – enfermarse   No quiero enfermarme.   To get red – ponerse rojo  Debo moverme del sol porque no quiero ponerme rojo. To get up (arise) – levantarse   Tengo que levantarme temprano. To get along – llevarse bien    Mi amiga y yo nos llevamos muy bien. To get together – reunirse  Tenemos que reunirnos pronto. To get through – pasar   ¿Me permite pasar, por favor? To get down, off – bajar(se)   Quiero bajarme aquí. To get away – escapar  Los ladrones escaparon por la otra calle. To get married – casarse   Mis amigos se casaron en la playa. To get back – regresar   Necesitamos regresar a casa a las seis. To get in the habit of – acostumbrarse  No quiero acostumbrarme a esta comida. To get fat – engordarse  El se engordó mucho de su trabajo en el restaurante. To get hurt – lastimarse   ¡Cuidado!  No quiero que te lastimes. To get yours – salir con la tuya.  Espero que salgas con la tuya un dÍa. To get it – comprender     No comprendo la relación entre ellos. And there are many, many more.  Get moving, and get them all!

I “like” like you

Ah, the mysteries of liking something in Spanish! One of the trickiest verbs in Spanish, gustar, is often translated as to like, but to understand how to use this verb, you most definitely need to think of it as to be pleasing to. Then you have to know the indirect object pronouns – me (to me), te (to you, familiar), le (to him, to her, to you, formal), nos (to us), les (to them, to you all). Now take something you would want to express such as “I like fruit.” Realize that you can’t express this idea directly with the same structure as in English. Go through the back door and say it more literally as “Fruit is pleasing to me.” Remember that fruit is the subject and to me is the object. Now remember that indirect object pronouns always come before the verb, so start your sentence in Spanish with Me. Your subject of fruit is a singular word – la fruta (you have to add the word for the because you’re speaking of it in a general way), so your verb should be the third person singular form of a regular AR verb – gusta. You should end up with Me gusta la fruta. Remember this word order and that the first word is not the subject, but the object. Now let’s move on to a plural subject and another indirect object pronoun. Paul likes enchiladas. In this one note that your object is third person singular, requiring the le. This can be a catch-all pronoun because it can mean several things. Because of this, it’s often clarified. And yes, it does sound like double-duty overkill, but that’s the way it’s done. In front of your le, put A Pablo (remembering that you’re stating to Paul). Now realize that your subject in this structure is a plural one – las enchiladas, so make your verb third person plural of a regular AR verb, or gustan. You should end up with A Pablo le gustan las enchiladas. On one of the tracks of the CD recommended in this issue is a song titled Me gustas tú. I like you, but then, your mind is thinking of it as you are pleasing to me.
There are other verbs which function in this same way, and the trick to them is the backdoor approach. Think of faltar, often translated as to miss or to need. If you think of it as to be lacking to, it will work just like gustar. Me faltan diez pesos. A Pablo le falta la inteligencia. Another useful one is encantar, often translated as to really like or to love something. Think of it as to be enchanting to. Me encantan las fiestas. Nos encanta el ambiente de México (atmosphere).

Let’s Talk

It is impossible to advance your Spanish without including many common conversational idioms.  These are all high frequency ones which sound quite strange if translated literally.  The trick here is to observe things which you often say in English in conversations and then master the Spanish equivalents, all worked out. To answer  ¿Quién es?, perhaps when someone has knocked at the door – Soy yo.  It’s me.  Soy Pablo.  It’s Paul. To ask what someone is like (personality, physical appearance) – ¿Cómo es ella?  Es bonita y simpática. To ask if someone likes someone else in the sense of being a “good guy” – ¿Te cae bien?  Sí, me cae muy bien. To express wonder – ¿Dónde estará?  I wonder where he is.  ¿Qué hora será?  I wonder what time it is. To locate someone – Se encuentra en la oficina.  No se encuentra por aquí. Something smells wonderful.  Algo huele muy rico.  El cuarto huele a flores. To be a long time – ¿Tarda mucho en llegar?  No, no tarda mucho…llega en 5 minutos. Sending a fax with problems – Traté de enviar el fax, pero nunca recibí el tono. To notice something – Su vestido me llamó mucho la atención.   One way or another – de una forma u otra Change the subject – Voy a cambiar de tema.  Rapidamente Juan cambió de tema. How far – ¿A qué distancia está el hotel? ¿Qué tan lejos queda el hotel? Greeting – Siento no haberte saludado cuando llegaste, pero estaba ocupada en la cocina.  Sorry I didn’t say hello when you came in, but I was busy in the kitchen. To fulfill something – Juan no cumplió con su promesa.  He didn’t do what he said he would, didn’t come through. To be hard (to do something) – A mi hijo le cuesta mucho trabajo leer en inglés.   To do, as a profession – ¿A qué te dedicas?   Soy arquitecto.  (notice the lack of a word for “an”). How are you? – Cuéntame de ti.  ¿Cómo estás?  ¿Qué novedades hay?  (¿Qué hay de nuevo?) To be about – ¿De qué se trata?  Se trata del dinero. Big dream, pie in the sky – Es mi sueño dorado tener una casa en México un día. Day after tomorrow – Pasado mañana voy a Guatemala. Not once – Ni una sola vez pagó la cuenta. To stay – Voy a quedarme cinco días, pero me habría gustado (I would have liked to) quedarme cinco días más. Really, really – A fuerzas quiero aprender el español. A general response – Es una situación muy difícil.  Sí, me imagino

What is what?

What is what?  Unlike English, “what” cannot be translated into an all purpose word in Spanish.  It all depends on what kind of what you’re talking about, and qué is not an all purpose what. Here’s a quick recap of the various differences.  What – meaning a definition:  ¿Qué es un puente?  Un puente es una construcción que cruza los dos lados de un río y que se usa para el transporte.  What – meaning which of many possibilities:  ¿Cuál es su apellido?   ¿Cuál es el número?      Special note here.  When the “selection” word is used in combination with a noun, you use qué instead of cuál:  ¿Qué número tiene?  ¿Qué apellido es el más famoso?  What – meaning that which:  Lo que es muy importante es la calidad del programa.  Lo que más me gusta es bailar.  Lo que necesito es más tiempo y más dinero.  What – meaning what did you say:  This can have various forms, but the most universally used one is ¿Cómo?  It’s like saying how did you mean that?  What – meaning what something is like:  ¿Cómo es la novia de Pablo?  What’s Paul’s girlfriend like?  Qué- when it doesn’t mean what, but how:  ¡Qué bonito!  ¡Qué guapo!  ¡Qué rico!  Qué – when it doesn’t mean what, but how far: ¿ A qué distancia está la casa de la escuela?  How far is the house from the school?  Que – when it means who:  El hombre que vive aquí es español.  The man who lives here is Spanish.  Qué – to mean you’re welcome:  No hay de qué.  Que – to mean have a nice day when you’re the one leaving:  Que le vaya bien.  With a good friend:  Que te vaya bien.  It’s like may it (things) go well with you, the equivalent of the English have a nice day.  There are many other times when que (without an accent) is used in idioms:  Hay que hacerlo.  One must do it.    Tengo que aprender más español.  I have to learn more Spanish.  Es imposible que él lo haga.  It’s impossible for him to do it.  Tengo más libros que tú.  I have more books than you.  But be careful with the next one.  Tengo más de cuatrocientos libros.  I have more than 400 books.  Notice the de when it’s in front of a specific number.

Be more commanding

670px-Teach-Your-Dog-Basic-Commands-Step-2In this lesson we’ll review command forms.  You can’t be functional in a language until you can give someone an order (politely, of course!).  The easiest way to start is to remember one phrase, and then add an infinitive (no conjugations!).  When speaking formally to one person, Hágame el favor de + infinitive.  You’re literally asking someone to do you the favor of doing something.  Remember to attach object pronouns on the end of the infinitive.  Hágame el favor de pagar la cuenta.  Hágame el favor de pagarla.  In using the informal “tú”, adapt to – Hazme el favor de + inf.  When speaking to more than one person – Háganme el favor de +.  This is an easy, grammatically correct form.  You’ll want to move on to a more complex level, however, as you progress.  With these forms, you need to sound them out, think them often, and think a whole package of sounds.  There are logical rules which apply, but there seem to be a lot of them.  To simplify – when speaking to a “tú” person, just think in your mind that you’re more formal when you’re bossy, so use the Ud. form of the regular present tense.  For instance, when talking to your best friend, you say – Pablito, habla español, por favor!  Add pronouns at the end – Háblame español, por favor.  The irregular forms are most often short one syllable words (faster to order around your children!):  Haz (do)  Pon (put)  Di (say, tell)  Ten (have)  Ven (venir).  Practice these in combinations such as:   – Hazlo ahora!  Ponlo aquí.  Dime la verdad.  – Ten cuidado!  – Ven aquí!  If you’re talking to an “usted”, think switchy endings.  If it’s an AR verb, but an E on the end of it.  If it’s ER or IR, put an A on the end of it.  Señor, (hablar) hable español, por favor.  Señora, (pagar) pague la cuenta (note that the spelling has to change somewhat to accommodate the “e” here).  Señor, (regresar) regrese aquí a las ocho, por favor.  (Note that these forms do NOT have an accent on the end, so they should not sound at all like regresé, which means I returned in the past…completely different!!)  Señora, (dar) déme el cambio en dólares, por favor.  Señor, (comer) coma el pan, por favor.  Most of the irregular forms come from the irregular first person “yo” forms in the present tense.  Venga (from venir, yo vengo).  Ponga (from poner, yo pongo), Tenga (from tener, yo tengo),  Diga (from decir, yo digo).  But do notice that these are all affirmative commands, or telling someone positively to do something.  In negative commands, things are a bit different.  The easiest ones are the “usted” commands.  Use the same verb, but remember to put those pesky little pronouns in front.  +Hágalo, por favor.  -No lo haga, por favor.  +Hábleme en español.  No me hable en inglés.  +Olvídelo. -No lo olvide.  The “tú” negative commands are a little trickier.  They use a completely different verb form than the positive commands.  But they’re easy – just tack an “s” on to your switchy usted ending.  +Hazlo ahora, Pablito.  -No lo hagas más tarde.  +Háblame en 5 minutos, Pablo.  -No me hables ahora. Make a game of thinking of a negative command every time you make an affirmative command.

Lo and Behold

LO AND BEHOLD  The little word lo in Spanish is a very handy one and is used in a variety of ways.  One use is as a direct object pronoun, replacing a masculine singular word and meaning “it”.  Always remember to put it in front of conjugated verbs, attached to infinitives.  (el libro) Lo tengo.  Quiero comprarlo.  Another use is when you want to use the word “what” as a subject, not just as the question asking word. (A question asking word would be asking for a definition – Qué es esto?)   In English anytime you can use “that which”, you can use lo que in Spanish.  What (that which) I need is more time – Lo que necesito es más tiempo.  What’s (that which is) important is the cost –  Lo que es importante es el precio.  And there’s even more!  You can take an adjective and turn it into a noun meaning a thing by adding lo.  Lo bueno – the good thing, lo malo – the bad thing, lo mas necesario – the most necessary thing, lo bonito – the pretty part (or thing).  Another use of lo is in the common expression to express probability, and it doesn’t even need a subjunctive verb.  A lo mejor, Pablo no necesita más dinero – Pablo probably doesn’t need any more money.    A lo mejor, Juan viene mañana – Juan’s probably coming tomorrow.  Contrast this with the more complex construction of – Es probable que Pablo necesite más dinero.  Es probable que Juan venga mañana.