Lezioni Spagnolo


Reventar: Exploding, Annoying, and Riding Horses to Death

transitive verb
1. (a un caballo) "to ride to death"
2. (una propuesta, huelga) "to break"
3. (molestar mucho, enfadar) "to annoy, bother": Le revienta que le lleven la contraria, "he hates it when people cross him"
4. (un globo, las costuras) "to burst"
Courtesy of


As you see in the definitions above, reventar is quite a loaded verb. Depending on the context, it can mean "to ride a horse [or some other beast of burden] to death." It can also mean "to break a strike" or "to burst a seam." But the definition we're interested in here is #3, when Muñeca Brava's housebound matriarch gives her poor son the third degree. Her son responds:


Me revienta que me digas "te lo dije."

I hate it when you say "I told you so."

Caption 35, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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You see, he hates it when his mother says, "I told you so." Really, who doesn't? And guess what mother says right after that? Te lo dije. Them's fighting words.

(As an aside: Did you notice that the same actress plays another cranky and bossy matriarch in Provócame? Yes, in our new clip this week she has choice words for just about everyone who enters her sight.)

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Desbordar: While Playing Soccer

Tratá siempre a desbordar y mandar centro, desbordar y mandar centro ¿eh?

Try to always overtake and kick it to the center, overtake and send it to the center, eh?

Captions 2-3, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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If you clicked on the word desbordar in caption 2 while watching the 10th installment of Muñeca Brava, you saw the most common definition -"to flood"- pop up first from our Spanish-English dictionary. But desbordar doesn't only mean to flood. Not on the soccer field, for example. It also means "to surpass; to overwhelm" -or, even more sports-specifically, "to outplay." Looking at Latin American papers' sports pages (always filled with fútbol), you'll see desbordar is a favorite verb among sportswriters. For example: Desbordar a sus rivales means "to outplay their rivals."

Back to our first scene in Muñeca Brava, the good Father/coach is directing a young player to "always try to overtake your opponent and send the ball to the center, overtake him and send it center, eh?" Sounds easier said than done.

Note: Even our native speakers aren't 100% in agreement if the priest is talking about overtaking the ball, overtaking the player, or simply "outplaying" the opposing player.
One native thought he was talking about "faking" a move, but we can't come to an agreement on that -- the distinction probably wasn't important to the tv writers, who perhaps just were aiming for some "coach talk."



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Despiole, Pavadas, and Tomarse el Olivo: A Mess of Olives and Turkeys?

At the estancia in Provócame, there's an obvious and deep class divide between the wealthy landowners and the support staff that takes care of all their horses and messes. Toti, the goofy stablehand sporting a gaucho cap, is definitely of the lower class. He speaks in a way they don't teach you in school. When Toti gossips with a fellow staffer and her daughter, some knowledge of local slang is needed.


¿Lo dejó plantado a Mariano? -Sí, se tomó el olivo.

She stood Mariano up? -Yes, she took off.

Caption 22, Provócame - Piloto

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No sabés el despiole que hay en esa casa... ¡Impresionante!

You have no idea what a mess there's in that house... impressive!

Caption 23, Provócame - Piloto

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So, what did he say? Se tomó el olivo literally means "She took the olive," but the slangy significance, which is made clear to all in the context, is that the would-be bride "took off--skedaddled".

Toti calls the resulting scene a despiole, which is a slangy way of saying "mess" (lío or desorden). [Note Toti also uses this distinctly Argentine word in Part 6, so it might be a favorite of his.]


Buah, era esa pavadita que venía a contar... Chau.

Well, it was that little silliness I came to tell... Bye.

Caption 24, Provócame - Piloto

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Pavo, you may have discovered one Thursday in late November (if you're a Yank), is "turkey," a pavero is a "turkey farmer" and a pavada is a "flock of turkeys," but figuratively una pavada is "a silly thing." So when Toti says "era esa pavadita venia a contar..." he is telling Marisol and Julieta "that was the silly little thing I came to tell." [Che, there's contar again!]



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The Verb Contar in Spanish

Are you familiar with the verb contar and its meanings in Spanish? Beyond its most common translations, which we'll be sure to reveal, this extremely useful verb is used in many additional ways. Let's take a look at some of them. 




Contar for Telling 

One of the most common meanings of contar is "to tell." Let's see this in action:


Abuelo, te voy a contar un secreto.

Grandpa, I'm going to tell you a secret.

Caption 9, Guillermina y Candelario Mi Primer Tesoro

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Soy Rosa Chaparro y os voy a contar la historia de Mika.

I'm Rosa Chaparro, and I'm going to tell you the story of Mika.

Caption 2, Rosa La perrita Mika

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Contar for Counting 

We also use the verb contar when we want to quantify, or "count," things:


Y vamos contando cuántas hierbas tenemos, ¿sí?

And we're counting how many herbs we have, right?

Caption 47, Otavalo Proyecto familiar Kawsaymi - Part 7

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That said, we hope it is now clear that it's one thing contar los números (to count numbers) and another, very different thing contar historias (to tell stories). Context, however, should make it perfectly clear which meaning is meant, which we can see in these two clips from our friend Luis Guitarra:


Para contar los números, podemos usar los dedos de nuestras manos.

To count the numbers, we can use the fingers on our hands.

Captions 5-6, Luis Guitarra Aprendiendo a contar

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Con él, yo aprendí a contar historias.

With him, I learned to tell stories.

Caption 71, Luis Guitarra Influencias musicales - Part 1

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Contar con as an Alternative toTener (to Have)

Rafael, the speaker in the following clips, consistently uses the verb contar coupled with the preposition con where we might have expected to hear tener (to have). Let's take a look:


Cuando uno ya cuenta con familia...

When you already have a family...

Caption 11, Rafael T. - Viaje al norte

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Yo cuento con una... con una farmacia, con una mini-farmacia.

I own a... a pharmacy, one mini-pharmacy.

Caption 18, Rafael T. - Viaje al norte

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Although its literal meaning is "to count with," when Rafael uses contar con to talk about a family, he means when one "has" a family, while this same verb has been translated as "own" in the example regarding the pharmacy. Let's check out another clip from our friend Fermín:


Por supuesto, tenemos la suerte de contar con una señora británica que se encarga de controlar que los gatos callejeros que viven aquí

Of course, we are lucky enough to have a British lady who's in charge of making sure that the alley cats who live here

Captions 20-21, Fermín y los gatos Mis gatas vecinas

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So, we see that "to have" or "to own" are both acceptable translations for contar con.  


Contar con in a Different Context

On the other hand, if someone asks "¿Puedo contar contigo?" they don't want to know if they can "have" you, but rather whether they can "count on" you. Let's look at a couple of examples of contar con with this meaning.


cuente con mi apoyo y con la embajada para lo que se le ofrezca.

count on my support and on the embassy for whatever you need.

Caption 42, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 4 - Part 4

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sabes que puedes contar conmigo, ¿sí? -Bueno.

you know that you can count on me, OK? -OK.

Caption 71, Muñeca Brava 36 La pesquisa - Part 6

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Sin Contar con (Something)

And finally, sin contar or sin contar con, which literally mean "without counting (with)," can be utilized to express the idea of "not to mention" or "without taking into account." Let's look at a couple of clips from our series Confidencial: El rey de la estafa:


Eso sin contar los lujos que te debes dar

That's not to mention the luxuries you must give yourself

Caption 21, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 8

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Eso, sin contar con la publicidad que vais a recibir

That, without taking into account the publicity that you're going to get

Captions 52-53, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 5 - Part 5

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That's all for today. We hope you've enjoyed this lesson on some of the many uses of the Spanish verb contar, and don't forget to send us your suggestions and comments




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Nena: Not Just for Babies

Nena, nena, nena, nena, nena, yo me voy

Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, I'm leaving

No te puedo mentir, no me puedo callar

I can't lie to you, I can't shut up

Captions 10-11, Bloque - Nena

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Anyone who sees the video Nena by the Colombian band Bloque, even once, will be quite certain that the word nena means "baby." It can also be translated "babe," as in, "hey babe, get me a beer." Nena is the feminine form of nene, which has the same meaning but is used when referring to a male. Try these out next time you encounter an actual bebé (or when you need un trago.)

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Estudiantil: Catching Authentic Spanish Mistakes

Remember, amigos, we present you with authentic Spanish here at Yabla, and Taimur is a second grader auténtico, which means our young friend is entitled to make a grammatical mistake or two himself, ¿verdad? (Not to mention that Spanish is also his second language.)


No y... soy muy estudiantil.

No and... I study a lot. ["estudioso" (studious) would be more correct.]

Caption 18, Taimur - Taimur canta

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In caption 18 of the video "Taimur canta" he says Soy muy estudiantil, and, similarly, you may have noted that in "Taimur habla" he states yo soy muy estudiante. It's clear that Taimur enjoys school and studies hard, and no doubt his teachers and parents notice that él es un estudiante muy estudioso ("He is very studious student").

The word estudiante is the noun for "student," so Taimur probably should have said Soy un buen estudiante, "I'm a good student." Or he might have chosen to tell us Yo soy muy estudioso, "I am very studious."

The word estudiantil is the adjective for "student," so a student run organization is an organización estudiantil, students who travel are engaging in turismo estudiantil, between classes young scholars might relax in a sálon estudiantil, and students who protest, if they have an effective leader, might create a full-fledged movimiento estudiantil.

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"Se"+Indirect Object+Verb+Direct Object: Accidental Grammar


Se te acabó el tiempo, Milagros.

You've run out of time, Milagros.

Caption 37, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Is there anything scarier than finding an angry nun in your room late at night? In this installment of Muñeca Brava, our heroine Milagros encounters a stern Mother Superior back in her room at the orphanage after sneaking out for some night-clubbing. The nun disregards the girl’s flimsy excuses and says ominously: "Se te acabó el tiempo, Milagros."

-The declaration means: "You’ve run out of time, Milagros." But if you look at the construction "se te acabó" -from the reflexive verb acabársele (to run out of)- it more literally means "Time has run out on you."

We find something similar going on in caption 19 of Taimur habla.


Pero esos se me echaron a perder y se los llevaron pa' llá.

But they got destroyed and they took them over there.

Caption 19, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Our friend-for-life Taimur is tellling us "they got destroyed (on me)" or "they got wrecked (on me)." Like the good monja above, he might have put the subject last, had he wanted to: Se me echaron a perder mis cosas ("My things got wrecked").

These are examples of a special se construction used to describe unplanned or accidental occurences in Spanish. As a rule, the se + me, te, le, les or nos (indirect object) + verb construction describes occurrences that happen "to someone" (a alguien). The verb agrees with what in English is the thing acted upon (the direct object) because in Spanish that thing becomes the subject, that which is doing the action. No need to get mired in grammar, just have a look at these other examples and it should start to soak in.


Se nos está acabando el pan. (acabársele)
We’re running out of bread. / The bread is running out on us.


Se me rompieron los anteojos. (rompérsele)
I (accidently) broke my glasses. / My glasses broke on me.



De repente, a Pablo se le ocurrió una idea. (ocurrírsele)
Suddenly, an idea ocurred to Pablo.


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Tirarse todo el ropero encima: Overdressed

Se tiró todo el ropero encima....

She threw everything in the closet on her...

Caption 37, Provócame - Piloto

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The scene is a high society wedding. Two women are talking conspiratorially. A third woman walks by, they say "Hi" but then quickly comment and giggle to each other. You know they just said something catty, but what was it? Here's the replay: "¿Está Loca? Se tiró todo el ropero encima.("Is she crazy? She threw on her whole wardrobe.") In all likelihood the victim of this verbal assault was not wearing everything she owned. However, with her estola ("stole"), joyas de oro ("gold jewelry") and vestido sin tirantes ("strapless dress"), the gossips want to say that she is overdressed.


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Pa': A Shortcut for "Para"

Y como yo no soy de este país, me vine pa' cá.

And since I'm not from this country, I came here.

Caption 11, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Ya yo voy pa' allá y me voy pa' mi país otra vez.

I'm going there soon and I'm going to my country again.

Caption 23, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Outside a Spanish classroom -say, on the streets or on the radio- it's very common to hear pa' in place of para ("for, towards, to a destination"). Interviewing young Taimur in a middle class neighborhood of Coro, Venezuela, a whole series of pa' pa' pa's are heard to drive home the point. "Vine pa' 'cá" ("Vine para acá") means "I came [to] here." "Voy pa' allá" means "I'll go [to] there." In both cases, pa' indicates the destination.

Looking for other examples? In the intro to Shakira's ubiquitous song La Tortura, "pa' ti" is the fast way to say "for you." In fact, if you search for "pa' 'cá," "pa' allá" or "pa' ti" on the Internet, you'll be inundated with letras (song lyrics) from the Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean down to the tip of Chile and even over in Spain.

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Casting: A Word as Spanish as English

Entonces siempre hacía de alguna manera castings, lo que hoy llamamos castings.

So somehow he always used to do castings, what we call today castings.

Captions 25-26, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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In this chapter of the life of actress Natalie Oreiro, the English word "casting" or plural "castings" is heard not once, but four times. (Note that casting's "i" follows its Spanish pronunciation rules and is pronounced like a long "e" in English, kind of like "casteeng.") In our Spanish-to-Spanish dictionary, casting (noun) is defined as "selección de personas para actuar en una película, un anuncio publicitario, etc." In other words, it's similar to its Hollywood meaning.

"Casting" is but one of the many English words creeping into Spanish dictionaries these days. In Natalie's native Uruguay, one may go to el shopping (the shopping center, or, mall) to buy un smoking (a smoking jacket) to wear for el casting (the casting call). In each of these cases, the "-ing" word is considered a masculine noun in Spanish, even if it's English equivalent started as an adjective modifying another noun.


Porque esos terrenos los vamos a conseguir, y vamos a hacer el shopping ahí.

Because those plots of land, we're going to get them and we're going to build the mall there.

Captions 8-9, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza

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—azo: A Painful Suffix

Además, si estás enamorado y no te dan bolilla...

Besides, if you're in love and the other one doesn't give you a second thought...

es como un piedrazo en la cabeza.

it's like getting hit on the head with a rock.

Captions 29-30, Verano Eterno - Fiesta Grande

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That's gotta hurt. In Spanish, the suffix azo can signify a blow by the object at the root of the word. So, piedrazo means a blow by a piedra, or stone. By this logic:

Bala -> "bullet"
Balazo -> "blow by a bullet; a gunshot wound."

Codo -> "elbow"
Codazo -> "blow by an elbow; nudge

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Por y Para: Learning through Love

One way to make a TV theme song irresistibly catchy is through repetition. In Chayanne's theme song for Provócame, it works. Take these two lines:

Por amor. Por amar.

For love. For loving.

Captions 9-10, Provócame - Piloto

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The straightforward translation is: "For love / For loving." Amor is a noun meaning "love." Meanwhile, change one letter and amar is the infinitive "to love." In Spanish, the infinitive is often used the way we in English use the gerund (with the -ing ending). For example, "I like singing" is translated as Me gusta cantar in proper Spanish.

Ok. You probably figured out quickly that the repeated por here means "for" in English. But it's a little more complicated than that. You see, there are two words that both mean "for" in Spanish: Por and para. Por can mean "for the sake of, in the cause of, or, by means of," while para can mean "with the destination of, or, in order to." In Chayenne's lyrics, por amor can be translated as "for love" in the sense of "for the sake of love" [like we saw in last week's newsletter, with por amor, usa forro ("for the sake of love, use a condom")]. That's straightforward. But some might argue Chayenne is taking a little bit of poetic license when he says por amar ("for the sake of loving") in instead of para amar, ("in order to love"), which is a more common construction with the infinitive of a verb. But, really, it works both ways - and it certainly sounds catchier with the repeated por.


Hablar por hablar.
To talk for the sake of talking.

Aprender español para hablarlo.
To learn Spanish in order to speak it.

You want more? See Por y Para at https://www.thoughtco.com/taking-confusion-out-of-por-para-3078140


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Forro: A Word as Useful as a Lifesaver

Bueno dale sí... ¿pero te ponés otro forro?

OK sure... but will you put on another rubber?

Caption 47, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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But can you put on another what?

Many of you would be more familiar with the word condón or preservativo, two synonyms for forro in this context. In a dictionary, you'll find that forro more innocently means "cover, case or interior lining" of a ski jacket or waterproof luggage, say. But in an Argentine bedroom, forro usually refers to a "condom," as it does in this line from the show Disputas.

What's more, graffiti all over Buenos Aires declares: Por amor usá forro -- "For love's sake, use a condom" -- as part of a grassroots campaign promoting safe sex. Another slogan in the fight against AIDS -- No seas forro, usá forro -- points to an alternate meaning of forro in local slang: "idiot."

An aside: X Amor is short for por amor because "x" is familiar to us all as the multiplication sign, and when you multiply in Spanish, you say dos por dos for "2 x 2." In a similar vein, Lo+Tv works for us because "2 + 2" is dos más dos. Keep your eyes open and you may notice lo+ used casually in place of lo más throughout the Spanish speaking world.

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Atinar: Attaining the Right Meaning

With Germaín de la Fuente's old-style crooning in the song "Como Quisiera Decirte," you just know he's gotta be singing about heartache. But what is he saying exactly?


Y así va pasando el tiempo

And thus, time goes by

Sin atinar a decirte

Without my being able to tell you

Lo que a diario voy sintiendo

What I'm feeling daily

Captions 18-20, Los Tetas - Como Quisiera Decirte

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You see, the verb atinar is translated as "being able to" / "to be able to." But there's an added dose of longing and frustration attached to atinar, compared to, say, poder or even ser capaz de. Atinar often appears as part of the phrase atinar a decir and suggests the need to speak up to resolve a pressured situation -una situación de presión. One synonym is lograr, in the sense of "to manage to." Dictionaries also suggest: acertar [a], dar [en el blanco], conseguir, hallar and encontrar.

It has been suggested that atinar shares roots with the verb adivinar, "to divine or guess correctly." However, most linguists would agree that there's no easy direct translation into English for this verb, which takes on many meanings and variations that non-natives will tend to absorb naturally as they encounter them in context.


Se fue tan rápido que no atiné a decirle que se olvidó sus maletas.
He left so fast that I didn't have the chance to tell him he forgot his suitcases.


Esta fue una inversión atinada, ganamos mucho dinero.
This was a good (smart) investment; we earned a lot of money.


El examen es "multiple choice." Espero poder atinar las respuestas.
The exam is multiple choice. I hope I can guess the right answers.



An aside: This is not Germaín de la Fuente's first brush with rap. The Chilean singer's romantic warbling has also appeared in songs by the Beastie Boys and Jay-Z.

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Agradecer: "Thanks" as a Verb

Te lo agradezco.

Thank you.

Caption 16, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Little doubt one of the things you say frequently when you have the occasion to speak Spanish is gracias (thanks) and muchas gracias (many thanks), but have you ever tried using the verb agradecer (to thank)? When Federico is explaining to his secretary-cum-sous-chef about how much she brings his groove back, she does not say simply gracias but rather (and somewhat cynically, we might add) "te lo agradezco" or "I thank you (for it)." It's slightly more formal, but not radically so.


Agradecemos a todos los presentes por asistir a esta reunion.
We thank all present for attending this meeting.


Les agradezco su ayuda.
I thank you all for your help.

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Arrancar: An Alternative to "Empezar"

Y así arrancaba, y ahí la vi

And this is how it was starting, and there I saw it

Caption 13, Los Pericos - Complicado

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If we speak English, it's easy to remember that comenzar means to "to start" because it sounds like "to commence." Empezar (to begin, to start) is so commonly used that most people learn it early on in their studies. But what about arrancar (which also means "to uproot", "to pull up")? Did you realize that this verb can mean "to start" as well? If so, you may have heard it used in reference to starting the engine of a car, but it also can be found in a variety of contexts related to "starting." In the lyrics of the song Complicado we find the line y así arrancaba, "and this is how it was starting..."

Ya volvimos de las vacaciones pero ahora nos cuesta arrancar.
We´ve just returned from vacation and now it´s hard for us to start working.


Vamos, Cata, la rueda ya va a arrancar.

Let's go, Cata, the wheel's going to start now.

Caption 52, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8

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Arrancá, el semáforo ya está en verde.
Go, the light has now turned green.

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Hacer Pata: To Cover for Someone

Vení, haceme pata con la amiguita.

Come, cover her little friend for me.

Caption 28, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Pata can signify "paw" or "leg," but in this case hacer pata is an expression that means "to support someone" or "to cover for someone." So when Facundo Arana says haceme pata con la amiguita, his friend "covers" (diverts) the other girl while he tries to make his move on Natalia Oreiro. Note that the diminutive of amiga is not amigita, but rather amiguita, just as the diminutive of hormiga is hormiguita.


Haceme la pata con el jefe, porque hoy no puedo ir a trabajar.
Cover for me with the boss, because I can't go to work today.


Haceme pata con Juan, ¡él es perfecto para mí!
Put in a good word for me with Juan, he is perfect for me!


Note: Because the video discussed is Argentine, these examples contain the "voseo" form of the affirmative imperative conjugation of the verb hacer.

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Atar y Desatar: Fasten, Unfasten, and Relieve

Primero me lo voy a atar...

First, I'm going to tie them up...

Caption 22, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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...porque después lo vamos a desatar.

...because we'll untie them later.

Caption 23, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Sentí el sudor, y desaté mi alivio

I felt the sweat, and I unleashed my relief

Caption 15, Los Pericos - Complicado

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Atar and desatar are two nicely opposing verbs which mean "to fasten" and "to unfasten." They can be very useful, but are often unknown by Spanish learners. This week in part 10 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, when Majo and Gloria's new friend says me lo voy a atar..., he is referring to his pants, "I am going to fasten them." (Note that he uses the singular el pantalón to refer to a single pair of "pants"?) Likewise in the next caption we find después lo vamos a desatar "later we will unfasten them" (still referring to his pants).

The verb desatar shows up again in the music video Complicados from the band Los Pericos. Here it takes on a more of a figurative meaning, "to unleash," as in "unleashing an emotion." Caption 15 of the song contains the line desaté mi alivio, which is "I unleashed my relief." It is a bit unusual to speak of "unleashing relief," but we can chalk this up to artistic license. As in English, it is usually anger that one "unleashes."


Desaté mi furia, y, después, tuve alivio.
I unleashed my anger, and, later, I was relieved.

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