Lezioni Spagnolo


Primero, Segundo and Tercero: Ordinal Numbers in Spanish

Let’s talk about numbers today. Ordinal numbers such as "first," "second," and "third," express position, order or succession in a series. Let's take a look at some of the rules that you need to keep in mind when using ordinal numbers in Spanish.


The first ten ordinals are very often used in spoken Spanish so let’s take a moment to review them: Primero (first), segundo (second), tercero (third), cuarto (fourth), quinto(fifth), sexto (sixth),

séptimo (seventh), octavo (eighth), noveno (ninth) and décimo (tenth).
Generally speaking, the ordinal numbers in Spanish go before the noun and agree in gender and number with the noun they are describing:

Las primeras imágenes que veo son impactantes, la verdad,

The first images that I see are shocking, truthfully,

Caption 34, Iker Casillas - apoya el trabajo de Plan

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A very important rule regarding the ordinals primero (first) and tercero (third) is that they drop the final ‘o’ before a masculine noun:


Y por ejemplo este nuevo disco es vuestro tercer disco creo... tercero o cuarto.

And for example this new record is your third record I believe... Third or fourth.

Caption 65, Bajofondo Tango Club - Mar Dulce - Part 1

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Ordinal numbers can be simple or compound. Simple ordinals have their own form while compound ordinals are made by joining simple numbers. The ordinal numbers “eleventh” and “twelfth” are unique in Spanish because they can have both simple and compound forms. For example, we could write the ordinal “twelfth” as a simple number (duodécimo) or as a compound one (décimo segundo):

En el dos mil diecisiete, El Real Madrid ganó su décima segunda '"Champions".

In two thousand seventeen, Real Madrid won its twelfth championship.

Caption 39, Carlos explica - Los Números: Números Ordinales

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Also, let’s remember that we use ordinal numbers for sovereign figures like kings, queens and popes. In this case, the ordinals are placed after the noun they describe:

Fuimos a la beatificación del Papa Juan Pablo Segundo.

We went to the beatification of Pope John Paul the Second.

Caption 9, Latinos por el mundo - Chilenas en Venecia

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That's it for now. Remember to memorize and practice the first 10 ordinals as they are commonly used in everyday language! And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Pena / Dar pena

Pena frequently refers to "sorrow" or "grief," as you may have discovered when listening to the melancholic lyrics of Frente a Frente by Enrique Bunbury:

Y así ahogar las penas

And like that drown our sorrows

Caption 15, Bunbury - Frente a frente

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Pena also can refer to "shame" or "pity," as used by Spanish soccer star Iker Casillas when discussing catastrophes, such as the earthquake in Haiti.

La... la pena es que siempre suceden en... en los sitios más desfavorecidos.

The... the shame is that they always go on in... in the most disadvantaged places.

Caption 27, Iker Casillas - apoya el trabajo de Plan

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It’s no surprise, then, that the common expression ¡Qué pena! is used to express "What a shame!" or "What a pity!"

Pena is often preceded by a form of the verb dar (to give), giving us the expression "dar pena." It can be used to express sorrow or sadness.

Me da pena verlos sufrir así.
It makes me sad to see them suffer like that.

In much of Latin America, dar pena is also commonly used to express a sense of feeling ashamed or embarrassed. We hear this in the worldwide hit Fuego from Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo.

Vamos hasta abajo, a mí no me da pena

Let's get down, I don't feel ashamed

Caption 25, Bomba Estéreo - Fuego

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Along the same lines, many Latin Americans also use dar pena to express feeling shy. When we visit Fonda Mi Lupita for lunch in Mexico City, the manager, José, tells us why Carmen, the cook, is doing her best to hide from the camera:

Ella se llama Carmen, que le da un poquito de pena.

That's Carmen, who is a little shy. [She feels a little embarrassed.]

Caption 31, Fonda Mi Lupita - Encargado

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Dar, in the case of dar pena, falls into the category of "verbs like gustar." The construction is not parallel with the way we usually express the same sentiment in English; a mí no me da pena literally translates to "[it] does not give me shame." This sounds rather awkward, of course, in English, where "I’m not embarrassed" is the common way to express the same sentiment. (In line with typical "verbs like gustar" construction, our Spanish natives agree that José would have been more grammatically correct if he had said a quien le da un poquito de pena.)

Pena can also commonly refer to
"punishment," so it’s not unusual to see it used in phrases like con la pena de muerte (under the punishment of death) or la pena máxima permitida por la ley (the maximum punishment permitted by law).

Vale la pena (
"it’s worth it") to keep an eye out for these and other interesting uses of the word pena!


Related lessons from our archives:

Merecer la pena
Le in "verbs like gustar"; Le in leísmo
Gustar: To like, to please, to taste


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Volcar: Overturn and Other Uses

Hemos volcado nuestra experiencia, nuestros estudios, nuestras investigaciones, nuestros recorridos por selvas, por sitios difíciles a veces...

We have used our experience, our studies, our research, our journeys in the jungles, in difficult places, sometimes...

Captions 9-10, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

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The verb volcar literally means "to overturn," "to dump," "to knock over," etc. It is, however, often used figuratively. In the example above, Señor Doig is talking about those things that he and his fellow archeologists have "used," or "drawn upon." "We have used our experience, our studies, our research, our journeys in the jungle..." The mental image that the use of volcar might create here is that they have figuratively "dumped out" all the things they've learned over the years onto a big table -- sorted through and arranged them -- using them to write their books.

Busca un trabajo en el que pueda volcar toda su creatividad.
She is looking for a job where she can exploit all her creativity.

Volcar can also me "to be engrossed in," or "to be devoted to."

Está completamente volcado a su trabajo.
He is completely devoted to.


Iker Casillas, de la mano de la ONG Plan, con la que colabora, se han volcado en conseguir toda la ayuda posible para Haití.

Iker Casillas, hand in hand with the NGO Plan, with which he collaborates, have thrown themselves into obtaining all the help possible for Haiti.

Captions 2-3, Iker Casillas - apoya el trabajo de Plan

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Darse Cuenta: The Real "Realize"

While there are many words that are identical in Spanish and English (e.g. original, horror, etc.), other words play different tricks on us. This short lesson is about one of those "false friends," or words that are written the same as or similar to words in another language but have very different meanings. 



An age-old mistake among English speakers is to use the verb realizar as a means of conveying "to come to know" or "realize." Of course, most of you know by now that this is a false cognate as realizar usually means "to achieve," "bring to fruition," etc.


In fact, the correct way to say "to realize" is darse cuenta. Let's take a look at a couple of clips in order to see that verb in action:


Eh, darse cuenta que... que hay mucha gente, muchos chavales, que han podido perder una familia en'... a sus padres, se pueden quedar huérfanos.

Um, realizing that... that there many people, many young people, who have managed to lose an [entire] family... their parents; they can end up orphans.

Captions 12-13, Iker Casillas - apoya el trabajo de Plan

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Y de pronto te das cuenta de que... de que no quieres estar con nadie más.

And suddenly you realize that... that you don't want to be with anyone else.

Captions 29-30, Cortometraje - Flechazos

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And now, let's see how the Spanish verb realizar is used throughout this El Aula Azul video:


Entonces voy a coger los datos para realizar la inscripción.

Then I'm going to take down the information to carry out the registration.

Caption 1, El Aula Azul - Conversación: Los cursos de español

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Y ahí tendrá toda la información para realizar el pago.

And there he'll have all of the information to make the payment.

Caption 31, El Aula Azul - Conversación: Los cursos de español

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Y toda la información que pueda necesitar para... para realizar su curso.

And all the information that he might need to... to take his course.

Caption 32, El Aula Azul - Conversación: Los cursos de español

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As you can see, the verb realizar can be used in many different ways, just not in the way in which a native English speaker might initially expect!


That's all for today. We hope this lesson helps you to avoid making this common mistake. And don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.

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