St. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and whether you’re a hopeless romantic or consider the whole concept a commercial invention, it’s certainly a day that is recognised and celebrated throughout the Spanish speaking world.
So even if affairs of the heart aren’t of much interest, this topic still gives us an excellent opportunity to reinforce a lot of our recent learning, and to remind ourselves of some subtle yet important differences between English and Spanish.
Let's take a look at six love-focused phrases and relate them back to what we've learnt so far on Spectrum Monkey: 1. Te amo | te quiero Meaning: "I love you"
Word by word: te (to you), amo (I love)
Word by word: te (to you), quiero (I want/love)
is the Spanish verb "to love". Thus, “te amo” is the closest literal translation of “I love you”.
On the other hand, the Spanish verb querer
means "to want", but can also mean "to love" depending how it is used. “Te quiero” literally means “I want you”, but idiomatically means “I love you” as well.
Because of this, one needs to be a little careful when trying to express things like “I want you to…”, as without forming this correctly, one may inadvertently form something pertaining to love rather than a desire for something to happen. To avoid this, always consider using the construction “Quiero que tú…” (I want that you…) rather than “Te quiero…” (I want you…) when requesting or expressing a desire from someone.
As you might imagine, because both Te amo
and Te quiero
mean “I love you”, they are subtly different in how they are interpreted. Te amo
is considered the stronger statement. 2. Quiero estar contigo siempre Meaning: "I want to be with you always"
Word by word: Quiero (I want), estar (to be), contigo (with you), siempre (always)
Here we have another construction using querer. This time, its use means “to want”, rather than “to love”.
Despite this phrase seemingly describing a desire that is permanent or persisting. We are in fact describing being with someone, which ultimately is a location. Therefore we use the verb estar to mean “to be”, instead of ser which also means “to be”. 3. ¡Estás buena! Meaning: "You’re hot!"
Word by word: Estás (you are), buena (good-looking)
Perhaps not the most romantic statement, but certainly a complement that many will be delighted to receive.
Notice again, we are using estar
in this construction. We are commenting about how we perceive someone’s state right now, rather than a persisting attribute.
Of course, we might consider their “hotness” a persisting quality too, but in a construction using ser, we would need to use alternative vocabulary; perhaps: “Eres muy guapa” (you’re very good looking).
As we are using adjectives in these constructions, they must agree. Therefore if the recipient of the compliment is male, then we would say: “¡Estás Bueno!” 4. Qué hermosa estás esta noche cariño Meaning: "How beautiful you look tonight darling"
Word by word: Qué (How), hermosa (beautiful), estás (you are), esta (this), noche (night), cariño (darling)
Here we have a classic “Qué...” construction. Qué usually means “what”, but also functions to mean “how” in constructions such as this. Again, the adjective must agree with the recipient of the compliment. So, “Qué hermoso estás esta noche cariño” would be said to a male recipient.
Cariño means “darling”, and as a noun has a common form. So for the avoidance of doubt, “cariña” is not
the female form, we still use cariño.
An alternative word for cariño is “querido”. This does
have a feminine form in “querida”.
You may have already realised, querido is derived from the verb querer, and is in fact the past participle. This is quite a common occurrence in Spanish, whereby the past participle of a verb may be in used as either a gender specific adjective or noun.
Take care when using such words though. Querida could mean a little more than just “darling”. In some instances it implies “lover” or “mistress”, which might not be what you meant! But as with English, it boils down to context, and how you say it. 5. Solo quiero que seamos amigos Meaning: "I just want to be friends"
Word by word: Solo (just), quiero (I want), que (that), seamos (we are), amigos (friends)
Here we see another construction using to want
and to be,
but this time relating to a persisting attribute: friendship.
Notice that, because we want
something, it forces the subjunctive mood. 6. Eres el amor de mi vida Meaning: You are the love of my life
Word by word: Eres (You are), el (the), amor (love), de (of), mi (my), vida (life)
Another example of to be.
Again using ser and not estar, as we are making a statement that describes a persisting attribute.
Here we also see the noun form of “love” (amor). You might guess that this is a common form from the spelling. But love is in fact a masculine noun (hence the article “el”), and remains masculine even when referring to a female object. Conclusion | En conclusión
Today we've covered examples of how ser and estar are employed to convey the important difference between the two forms of to be.
We’ve also seen how the verb querer
functions to mean different things, and how at times, nouns and adjectives can be derived from the same verb.
Whilst it can be tempting to simply review the usual list of “love” related vocabulary based around St. Valentine’s Day; I’m sure you’ll agree, by dissecting phrases, it gives us an excellent opportunity to think a little harder and reinforce aspects of what we’ve recently learnt, using topical real world examples.