Author Archives: Spanish-Teacher-Marlys

About Spanish-Teacher-Marlys

Please see my bio at /marlys-teaches-spanish.

Mellowing Out Your Requests in Spanish:

How to Say Things in Spanish… Politely

Just as in English, in Spanish there are ways to mellow out your requests. Of course, intonation and body language are important when you want to appear friendly and amable (amiable). In addition, certain ways of speaking can help you to say things in Spanish that are really requests or commands, but at the same time show that you are muy amable (very nice).

Click Here for 11 Free Interactive Spanish Lessons

Lets begin with querer (to want). You may have learned the present tense conjugation:

(yo) quiero — (I) want
(tú) quieres — (you) want (familiar)
el, ella, usted quiere — he, she wants and you want (formal)
nosotros queremos — we want
ellos, ellas, ustedes quieren — they want and you [plural] want

In a restaurant you might say:

Quiero una limonada. — I want a glass of lemonade.

If a friend asks if she can offer you something, you might say:

Quisiera un vaso de agua. — I might like a glass of water.

[quisiera is a past subjunctive form: quisiera, quisieras, quisiera, quisiéramos, quisieran]

If what you want is not a thing, but for the other person to do something, a similar strategy may be used by putting the request in question form:

¿Quieres pasarme (alcanzarme) la salsa (por favor)? — Will you pass (reach me) the salsa, please?
¿Quieres acompañarme al cine? — Will you go with me to a movie?

To be even mellower, use the conditional form of querer [conjugation: quería, querías, quería, queríamos, querían]:

¿Querías pasarme la salsa? — Would you like to pass me the salsa?
¿Querías acompañarme al cine? — Would you mind going to a movie with me?

Another way to soften a request is with a lead-in:

A ver si... — Let's see if...
Hágame el favor de... — Do me the favor of...
Favor de... — Please...

Try these Spanish sentences:

A ver si me traes una cerveza. — Let's see if you could bring me a beer.
Hágame el favor de cerrar la ventana. — Do me the favor of closing the window.
Favor de pagar la cuenta en la caja. — Please pay the bill at the cash register.

And here’s how to say things in Spanish even to a complete stranger:

Disculpe la molestia pero... — Forgive the bother, but...

More Spanish sentences:

Disculpe la molestia, pero creo que este es mi asiento asignado. — Pardon me, but I think this is my assigned seat.
Disculpe la molestia, pero quiero ir a la Plaza Central. — Pardon me, but I want to go the Central Plaza [and I don't know how to get there - implied].

A third way to say things in Spanish with amabilidad (kindness) is to tack something on the end, such as ¿no?, ¿eh?, ¿se puede? (can it be done?), ¿puedes? (do you want to?):

Vamos a tomar un cafecito, ¿se puede? — Let's get a cup of coffee, okay?
Préstame tu diccionario, ¿puedes? — Lend me your dictionary, will you?
Manejas, ¿no? — You're going to drive, okay?
No grites, ¿eh? — Don't shout, okay?

Finally, remember that the diminutive suffix on nouns doesn’t just convey smallness, but possibly also endearment or softening of a request for something. For example, all over the Spanish speaking world, people are being asked to wait with this utterance:

¡Espere un momentito! — [Please] wait just a moment!
¡Compre estas galletitas riquísimas! — Buy these extraordinarily delicious cookies!

Learn How To Speak Spanish – 11 Free Lessons – Click Here

¡Hasta lueguito!

Spanish Prepositions: Possession and Properties

In other words: whose is it and what is it made of?

Spanish, like English, has a limited number of prepositions conveying information of the sort “from, of, to, at, for, with, toward” and so on. The problem for the learner is that these terms do not have a one-to-one correspondence from one language to the other. Today’s topic is the preposition de in two of its uses.

Click Here for Free Spanish Lessons…With Audio

De has many functions. First, we’ll show how to use it to indicate possession. In English, when something belongs to someone, the owner is indicated by adding ‘s. (Of course no sound is signaled by the written apostrophe, which is a large literacy problem!)

  • Lulu’s doll
  • the boy’s bike
  • Mr. Smith’s job

This even works for inanimate possessors:

  • the item’s price
  • the book’s cover

In English, if the possessor is something inanimate, the full prepositional phrase tends to be used for it unless the possessor is being emphasized. For example, you would probably say:

The color of the paint is too dark for this room.

But you might say:

The paint’s color clashes with the sofa’s color.

However, in Spanish, the possessor is always expressed by de + noun phrase.

la muñeca de Lulu — Lulu's doll
la bicicleta del niño — the boy's bicycle
el trabajo del señor Smith — Mr. Smith's job
el precio del artículo — the item's price
el forro del libro — the book's cover

Note that del is a contraction of de + el “of the”. De la remain separate words used if the owner is a feminine gender noun.

el color de la pintura — the paint's color
la manga de la chaqueta — the jacket's sleeve.

Another use of de, which may be useful to the Spanish learner who is going shopping or traveling, is to express the name of the material from which something is made.

el suéter de lana — the wool sweater
una pulsera de oro — a gold bracelet
unos aretes de plata — some silver earrings
las ollas de barro — the clay pots
una chaqueta de cuero — a leather jacket

Note that in this use of de, corresponding to “of”, there is no article before the noun specifying the material of which something is made.

Now that you can answer the questions:

¿De quién es? — Whose is it?
¿De qué está hecho? — Of what is it made?

…let’s try some mini-dialogues:

Q: ¿De quién es esta chaqueta? — Whose is this jacket?
A: La chaqueta de cuero es de Juan. La de lana es de Antonio. — The leather jacket is Juan's. The wool one is Antonio's.

Q: ¿Qué clase de joyería desea ver, señorita? — What sort of jewelry would you like to see, Miss?
A: Quisiera ver las pulseras y los aretes de plata por favor. — I would like to see the silver bracelets and earrings, please.

Q: ¿Estos platos son de barro o de porcelana, señor? — Are these earthenware or porcelain plates, sir?
A: Los platos son de porcelana y los plateles son de barro muy fino. — The plates are of porcelain and the platters are of very fine earthenware.

Q: ¿De qué son las canastas? — What are the baskets (made) of?
A: Algunas son de totora y otras son de mimbre. — Some are of reed and others are of wicker.

Espero que todo esto es…¡de utilidad!

For an Excellent Series of Free Spanish Lessons – Click Here

How To Say You’re Sorry in Spanish

Just learning how to say “I’m sorry” in Spanish may not always be enough; sometimes social situations need a little smoothing over. Maybe it’s something you’ve said or done. Maybe you just want to express your sympathy for another’s misfortune. In any case, words count, so let’s learn some vocabulary and expressions.

Learn How to Speak Spanish – Get Free Spanish Lessons – Click Here

la pena — mental or spiritual anguish, misfortune (something to be sorry about that's not physical pain)

Me da pena. — It gives me pain (It causes me distress.)
¡Ay, qué pena! — What a drag! (What a misfortune!)

Be careful, because pena is a “false friend” corresponding to “pain”—it does not mean physical pain.

el dolor — pain, usually physical
dolor — to hurt, to ache, to feel pain

Tengo dolor de cabeza. — I have a headache.
Doctor, me duele la cabeza. — Doctor, my head aches.
Le duele la espalda. — His back hurts.

Whether or not you caused the pain, you will want to express your sympathy.

compadecer — to sympathize (literally, to suffer with)
Lo compadezco — I sympathize

sentir — to feel, to sense
Lo siento — I'm sorry

Lo siento is also appropriate for a social gaffe, but when you are responsible you will want to use a form of…

disculparse — to be forgiven

…where you are literally asking not to be held culpable.

Suppose you step on someone’s toe, you momentarily forget a name, you forget an appointment—there are so many small social misfortunes. You say:

¡Discúlpeme, por favor! — Forgive me, please!

or simply,

¡Disculpe! — Forgive! (me, is implied)

(Background for grammar buffs: the verb is disculpar “to forgive” but the form is the present subjunctive, conveying “May you forgive…” or “I hope you forgive…”)

If you have to interrupt someone at a task, in order to get their attention, you should apologize by saying:

Disculpe la molestia… — Forgive the bother…

And no, you are not asking advance forgiveness for some illegal act; molestar is another “false friend” meaning “bother”, not molest.

Finally, let’s deal with situations where you need to apologize in advance for what you are about to do, such as step in front of someone to reach your seat in a theater, or a bus or plane. Or you may need to excuse yourself from a group such as at a dinner table or a conversational gathering. In these cases you are actually asking permission, so remember to say:

con su permiso por favor — with your permission please

or simply,

con permiso — permit (me)

And if you should have the bad luck to trip and fall into someone’s lap as you clamber to your seat, by all means say:

¡perdóneme! — Pardon me! (please)

or simply,

¡perdón! — pardon! (me)

Just don’t say permiso in the above case. ¡Ay, qué pena! (How embarrassing!)

Here is a list of words and expressions on how to say you’re sorry in Spanish—with related phrases:

compadecer — to sympathize with
lo compadezco — I sympathize
disculpar — to forgive, to exculpate
disculparse — to be forgiven, to be sorry
discúlpeme — forgive me
el dolor — pain, hurt
dolor de cabeza — headache
doler — to hurt, to ache, to feel pain
me duele la cabeza — my head hurts, aches
la molestia — bother, annoyance
molestar — to bother, to annoy
la pena — mental pain, anguish, distress
me da pena — it causes me distress
sentir — to feel, to sense
lo siento — I'm sorry (for something)

Click Here to Get Free Spanish Lessons – Learn How to Speak Spanish