Copyright © 2018-2020 Spectrum Monkey |  monkey@spectrummonkey.com



 BLOG ZONE
¡EMPECEMOS!
 02 AUG 2018 | WELCOME | POST #1
 1 MIN | by Spectrum Monkey

Welcome to the Spectrum Monkey Blog Zone. Let's begin our journey!

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PROGRESS UPDATE
 06 AUG 2018 | SITE UPDATE | POST #2
 2 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

A short progress report of site development to date.

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LEARN YOUR ABCs
 08 AUG 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #3
 20 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Pronunciation - Let's not run before we can "talk".

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ACCENTS AND ACCENTS
 14 AUG 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #4
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Following on from our ABCs. Why accents are important, both kinds!

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ADJECTIVES QUIZ
 17 AUG 2018 | LEARNING TOOL | POST #5
 3 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

How to get the most from the Adjectives Quiz.

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DECONSTRUCTING 10
SPANISH PHRASES

 23 AUG 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #6
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Let's looks at 10 simple Spanish phrases and really understand their sentence construction.

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NUMBERS, TIMES, DATES & GENDER AGREEMENT
 28 AUG 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #7
 20 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Exploring different types of numbers in Spanish and how they are affected by gender agreement.

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DAYS AND MONTHS CONTINUED
 30 AUG 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #8
 20 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Continuing on from the previous post. Let's expand our vocabulary beyond just numbers.

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ASKING QUESTIONS
 05 SEP 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #9
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Examining how questions are formed in Spanish, using statement phrases and question words.

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SALUTATIONS
 14 SEP 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #10
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Exploring common ways to say Hello and Goodbye in various situation.

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ADVERBS
 24 SEP 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #11
 7 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Introducing more concepts of Spanish grammar.

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THE RAIN IN SPAIN STAYS MAINLY ON THE PLANE
 27 SEP 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #12
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

¡El tiempo! - Looking at different ways to describe the weather.

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5 SPANISH WORDS THAT DON'T EXIST IN ENGLISH
 3 OCT 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #13
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Let’s look at five different words that have no direct English translation and see what we can learn.

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NOUNS
 10 OCT 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #14
 12 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

A beginner's guide to nouns, and why we have gender agreement.

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ARTICLES
 15 OCT 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #15
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Following our recent lesson on Nouns. Let's explore the articles that accompany them.

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ANTONYMS: BECAUSE OPPOSITES ATTRACT!
 17 OCT 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #16
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Learning words with their opposites in pairs.

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AN INTRODUCTION TO VERBS
 30 OCT 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #17
 12 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Scratching the surface of "doing" words.

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VERB PARADIGMS AND PATTERNS
 08 NOV 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #18
 20 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Continuing to explore verb forms. Learning by patterns.

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DIMINUTIVES
 13 NOV 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #19
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Words that are not only reserved for small cute things.

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AY, HAY, AHÍ OR ALLÍ?
 19 NOV 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #20
 4 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Demystifying some common words that are phonetically similar.

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MORE PAST TENSES AND AUXILIARY VERBS
 29 NOV 2018 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #21
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Learning more verb tenses, and how to use the auxiliary verb haber.

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MOODS AND MORE SIMPLE FORM VERB TENSES
 10 DEC 2018 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #22
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Expressing commands, ideas, feelings and opinions with the subjunctive and imperative tenses.

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¡FELIZ NAVIDAD A TODOS!
 17 DEC 2018 | BEGINNER | POST #23
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Seasons greetings! A festive look at some Spanish Christmas phrases.

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YET MORE SIMPLE FORM VERB TENSES
 30 DEC 2018 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #24
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Finishing our look at simple form verb tenses: The conditional and imperfect subjunctive.

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IRREGULAR VERBS
 10 JAN 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #25
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Let's talk about verbs that don't follow the rules.

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SPANISH OMELETTE | TORTILLA DE PATATAS
 15 JAN 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #26
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Indulging our inner foodie with this Spanish classic.

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5 CANARIAN WORDS
 19 JAN 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #27
 3 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Five interesting yet completely different Spanish words that originate from the Canary Islands.

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AN INTRODUCTION TO PRONOUNS
 22 JAN 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #28
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Taking our first look at one of the most fiddly aspects of Spanish grammar.

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VERB CONJUGATION TOOL
 24 JAN 2019 | LEARNING TOOL | POST #29
 1 MIN | by Spectrum Monkey

Introducing the Spectrum Monkey verb conjugation tool.

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¿SER O ESTAR?


 31 JAN 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #30
 12 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

“To be, or not to be, what is the difference?”

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Today we are going to look at two essential Spanish verbs that have the same meaning in English: Ser and estar.

Ser and estar both mean “to be”, and thus conceptually as English speakers, these two verbs can cause us all sorts of problems when deciding which verb to use.

Before we look at these Spanish verbs, let’s quickly discuss to be as an English verb so we can fully appreciate its meaning.

The verb to be is an essential English verb, playing a major role in many types of constructions. It functions as a main verb as well as an auxiliary verb. However, when we check a dictionary definition of the verb to be we begin to realise quite how many meanings it can represent. These include: existing, occurring (taking place), occupying a position in space, having a state, quality, identity or role, and so on…

When we start constructions with “I am…”, “You are…”, “It is….” etc, we are using conjugated versions of to be. However, what can follow any of those constructions could be any number of really quite different concepts. For instance: “I am happy”, and “I am tall” both use the same construction “I am…”, yet clearly what we are referring to are conceptually very different things. One being an emotional state, and the other being a physical characteristic. Yet, we use the same verb to associate these very different things to subjects. So, in English “to be” functions as a bit of a catch-all verb for associating or linking many different concepts.

As mentioned, in Spanish we have two versions of the verb to be. This is because, unlike English, a clear distinction is made between concepts like being tall and being happy.

This is one of the few cases where Spanish appears to have more precise vocabulary than English. Normally, we are used to individual Spanish verbs having multiple English meanings, not the other way around.

So how do we know when to use ser and estar?

Very loosely speaking. Ser is used when we are talking about permanent or persisting attributes, whereas estar is used to indicate temporary states or conditions.

Let’s look in a little more detail at both verbs and see some examples of when it is appropriate to use each.

Ser
Ser is used when talking about permanent or persisting attributes. Examples of such attributes might include: Descriptions (physical or otherwise), names, occupations, roles, origins, relationships, characteristics and even time itself.

Before we look at some examples of ser, lets quickly see the verb conjugated into the present tense.

ser (to be) | present indicative tense
Singular Plural
1st Person soy somos
2nd Person eres sois
3rd Person es son

The first thing we will notice about ser, is that it is highly irregular. This is often the case with the most important verbs. However, as an essential verb, our exposure to this verb will be high and should mean plenty of opportunity to practice and learn its various forms.

Let’s see a few examples of sentence constructions using ser, so we begin to understand when it is appropriate to use it:

Spanish Meaning Attribute
"Soy David" I am David Name
"Él es bajo" He is short Description
"Somos ingleses" We are English Description
"¿Eres budista?" Are you buddhist? Description
"Ella es profesora de español" She is a Spanish teacher Occupation
"David y María son muy buenas personas" David and María are very nice people Characteristics
"Ella es de españa" She is from Spain Origin
"Son mis padres" They are my parents Relationship
"Hoy es sábado" Today is Saturday Time
"Son las cuatro en punto" It's 4 o'clock Time

All of the above examples show attributes that are permanent or persisting. Of course, one can argue that we can change our name, grow taller, change our job, our relationship etc, but nonetheless they are not going to change regularly and are thus deemed persistent if nothing else.

Time itself might seem like a strange concept to consider permanent, as it’s always changing from moment to moment, right? But really, when we are asking about the time, we are referring to that specific moment in time. So, if it 4 o’clock right now, then it will always be 4 o’clock right now and that will never change. The fact you can ask the same question moments later and get a different answer, doesn’t change its permanency at that point in time.

Estar
Estar is used when referring to temporary states and locations.

Notice that with estar, we are referring to states and not attributes.

“La televisión es negra” (the television is black) and “la televisión es enorme” (the television is huge), but “la televisión está encendida” (the television is on).

In the above examples, we only use estar when referring to a state rather than a physical attribute. This is the main conceptual difference between ser and estar, the difference between attributes and states.

Before we look at some more examples, let’s remind ourselves how estar looks in the present tense. Again, we may notice that estar is a little irregular.

estar (to be) | present indicative tense
Singular Plural
1st Person estoy estamos
2nd Person estás estáis
3rd Person está están

Estar is used when talking about temporary states or locations. Examples of temporary states include: positions, ongoing actions, conditions, emotions and so on. Let’s see some examples of such states and how we might use estar in a sentence construction.

Spanish Meaning State
"Estoy sentado aquí" I'm sitting here Position
"Él está limpiando el coche" He is washing the car Ongoing action
"Estamos llegando ahora" We are coming now Ongoing action
"¿Estás cansado?" Are you tired? Condition
"¿Estáis bien?" Are you all okay? Condition
"Ella está triste" She is sad Emotion
"Están encantados" They are delighted Emotion
"Estamos aquí" We are here Location
"¿Dónde está?" Where is it? Location
"Madrid está en españa" Madrid is in Spain Location

The above examples all reference concepts that are temporary states, rather than permanent attributes.

One of the example types that may cause and commonly does cause problems for native English speakers is location. Let’s take the last example: “Madrid está en españa” (Madrid is in Spain).

Surely Madrid is in Spain and always will be in Spain? This suggests a permanent and enduring situation. It’s highly unlikely that Madrid will up sticks and move from Spain. So at a first look, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that we use estar over ser.

However, if we consider the concept of location from the perspective of people: Then it starts to make more sense, as our personal locations change all the time.

Nevertheless, for many newcomers to Spanish, confusing ser with estar when referring to locations is an all too common problem and a hard habit to break.

“Madrid es una ciudad” (Madrid is a city) “Madrid es la capital” (Madrid is the Capital), “Madrid está en españa” (Madrid is in Spain).

Notice that in the above three examples, only the last uses estar. The first two statements are describing attributes of Madrid, whereas only the last refers to it as a location.

Using Ser and Estar
Some situations will clearly warrant whether you should use ser or estar. For instance, you wouldn't say “Estoy David” as that really doesn’t make much sense.

However, there are plenty of examples of where either verb could apply, and sometimes resulting in a subtle yet important difference in meaning.

Using ser Meaning Using estar Meaning
"Él es aburrido" He's boring "Él está aburrido" He's bored
"Son listos" They are clever "Están listos" They are ready
"Él es seguro" He is safe "Él está seguro" He is sure
"Ella es buena" She's good "¡Ella está buena!" She's hot! (good looking)

Another example of were either ser or estar could apply is price. Usually we consider the price of an item an attribute, therefore we use ser: “Son 20€” (They are 20 euros).

However, when the price is variable, like at a market, then we could use estar: “Hoy está a 15€ el kilo” (Today it’s 15 euros per kilo).

Conclusion | En conclusión
Being able to correctly use ser and estar is certainly a big challenge for any newcomer. But don’t worry if you make mistakes. I still do, regularly! It will take a while.

Making a clear distinction between attributes and states, with practice, shouldn’t take too long before becoming second nature. It is at this point, we begin to go beyond just translating, and starting to really think in Spanish.

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NI
 08 FEB 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #31
 3 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Exploring a tiny little word that deserves a proper explanation.

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EL DÍA DE SAN VALENTÍN
 12 FEB 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #32
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Dissecting six “romantic” phrases in time for St. Valentine’s Day.

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RELATIVE PRONOUNS
 19 FEB 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #33
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Continuing our look at fiddly Spanish grammar with relative pronouns.

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CONJUNCTIONS
 26 FEB 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #34
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

A brief look at linking words with some interesting alternative forms.

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SPANISH FITNESS AND EXERCISE CLASSES
 07 MAR 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #35
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

How keeping fit in groups can improve our Spanish.

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OBJECT PRONOUNS
 14 MAR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #36
 20 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Furthering our look at Spanish pronouns with direct and indirect object pronouns.

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REFLEXIVE VERBS
 20 MAR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #37
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Actions where we act upon ourselves

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¿POR O PARA?
 26 MAR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #38
 15 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Explaining two easily confused prepositions.

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YA
 30 MAR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #39
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

A word every newcomer should know "already".

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O SEA
 03 APR 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #40
 2 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

An expression not only reserved for young people.

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THE FUTURE SUBJUNCTIVE TENSE
 05 APR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #41
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Ideas for the future that have been left in the past.

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THE PERSONAL “A”
 09 APR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #42
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Explaining a very Spanish preposition.

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COMPOUND VERB TENSES
 18 APR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #43
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Describing actions completed and on-going.

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THE PASSIVE VOICE
 26 APR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #44
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Focusing on the action rather than the subject.

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NEGATIVES
 29 APR 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #45
 7 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Learning how to form negative sentences.

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SPANISH CAFÉ CULTURE
 09 MAY 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #46
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Beyond just ordering a coffee.

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¿ESTE O ESTO?
 12 MAY 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #47
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Is it really this one?

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“ACABAR DE...”
 21 MAY 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #48
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

How to express having just done something.

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FILLER WORDS | MULETILLAS
 25 MAY 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #49
 9 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Muletillas: words that offer us a little support through conversations.

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“AL + INFINITIVE” CONSTRUCTIONS
 05 JUN 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #50
 4 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

An alternative way to describe when things are occurring.

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HABER
 13 JUN 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #51
 7 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Expressing existence.

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FALSE FRIENDS
 23 JUN 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #52
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Words that aren't what they seem.

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5 TIPS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR SPANISH
 01 JUL 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #53
 9 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Some simple tips that will help us remain on the right path.

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ADJECTIVES: PART 1
 10 JUL 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #54
 12 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Taking a closer look at describing words.

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ADJECTIVES: PART 2
 18 JUL 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #55
 17 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Continuing our look at describing words.

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DO YOU LIKE IT OR DOES IT PLEASE YOU?
 23 JUL 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #56
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Demystifying so-called back to front verbs.

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SORRY / FORGIVE ME / EXCUSE ME
 26 JUL 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #57
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Looking at different ways to apologise in Spanish.

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WHEN TO USE ARTICLES
 10 AUG 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #58
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Mastering when to include or omit articles in Spanish.

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“POR LO…” EXPRESSIONS
 11 AUG 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #59
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Dissecting six useful constructions that use por and lo.

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5 IDIOMATIC EXPRESSIONS USING DAR
 22 AUG 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #60
 7 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Continuing our look at some more idiomatic expressions.

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WHAT
 26 AUG 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #61
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Distinguishing between the different ways to express what in Spanish.

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WHEN TO USE THE PERFECT TENSE
 03 SEP 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #62
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Describing recently completed actions.

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SWEARING IN SPANISH
 07 SEP 2019 | BEGINNER | NSFW | POST #63
 7 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

How to curse using a few choice Spanish words.

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COGNATES
 14 SEP 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #64
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Words that are the same or similar in both English and Spanish.

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THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE TENSE
 25 SEP 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #65
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Describing on-going actions that are happening right now.

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VERBS OF CHANGE
 07 OCT 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #66
 12 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Looking at different ways to express becoming.

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5 WAYS TO USE “ACUERDO”
 15 OCT 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #67
 10 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Exploring different ways to use an essential word based around agreement.

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DECONSTRUCTING 5
SPANISH PROVERBS

 18 OCT 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #68
 7 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Comparing a few wise words across both English and Spanish.

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PORQUE, POR QUÉ, PORQUÉ O POR QUE
 25 OCT 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #69
 6 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Four similar constructions with somewhat different meanings.

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WHEN SÍ DOESN'T MEAN YES
 05 NOV 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #70
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Explaining a meaning of sí that can go unnoticed by “itself”

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5 DIFFERENT WAYS TO EXPRESS “LET'S”
 13 NOV 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #71
 6 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Allowing ourselves and making suggestions.

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“A PARTIR DE”
 22 NOV 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #72
 4 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Beginning to expand our knowledge of idiomatic phrases.

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“ECHAR DE MENOS”
 30 NOV 2019 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #73
 4 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

How to say "I miss you" in Spanish.

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“MUY, PERO QUE MUY”
 11 DEC 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #74
 3 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Emphasising and intensifying a statement.

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“PERO BUENO”
 18 DEC 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #75
 2 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Expressing incredulity, surprise and acceptance.

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PREPOSITIONS
 26 DEC 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #76
 20 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

How people or things relate to others.

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ARROBA
 29 DEC 2019 | BEGINNER | POST #77
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Using @ (the at symbol).

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QUEDAR
 09 JAN 2020 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #78
 8 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Expanding our knowledge of this essential Spanish verb.

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TENER QUE / HABER DE
 13 JAN 2020 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #79
 3 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Alternative ways of expressing obligation or need.

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SPANISH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS
 25 JAN 2020 | BEGINNER | POST #80
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Learning a few catchy phrases that are almost identical across both English and Spanish.

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“ME DA” + NOUN VS
“ME PONE” + ADJECTIVE

 30 JAN 2020 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #81
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Two different constructions that help us describe how we feel.

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3 SPANISH NOUNS WITH AMBIGUOUS GENDER
 12 FEB 2020 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #82
 5 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Nouns that can be both male and female.

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5 SIMPLE PHRASES STARTING WITH "EN..."
 19 FEB 2020 | INTERMEDIATE | POST #83
 7 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Expanding our knowledge with these useful phrases.

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¿TRANQUILO O TRANQUILA?"
 20 FEB 2020 | BEGINNER | POST #84
 3 MINS | by Spectrum Monkey

Two commonly used interjections that offer reassurance.

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