Monday, 10 February 2014

A descriptive way to remember gender

Getting back to basics, you'll probably remember some of the rough-and-ready rules that you learnt, to remind you how to use the correct gender for certain nouns.

Let's do a quick recap:

If it ends in 'o', it's masculine
If it ends in 'a', it's feminine
If it ends in 'ción' it's feminine
If it ends in 'umbre', it's feminine
If it ends in 'ama' it's masculine

You probably know a few more, but you will certainly have found that, while they're useful guidelines, they're not always right.

How about 'la mano'?
and 'Mama' ends in 'ama' but she's not (usually) masculine.

There are other groups of words, too, which share an ending, but seem to have no reason or rhyme to their gender
'el coche'
'la leche'

'la mente'
'la fuente'
'el puente'
'el diente'

So how do you remember the gender?

Thankfully, there's a trick you can use, which works quite well in Spanish, simply because most adjectives must 'agree' with the gender of the noun they describe.

So, if you can remember a combination of a noun and an adjective, it makes it a lot easier to remember the gender of the noun.

Let's take an example.
How about 'nube'? (cloud)
There's no handy rule you can apply to remind you of the gender but I always remember it with the phrase 'las nubes negras'
This just happens to be a phrase from a Gloria Estefan song 'Te tengo a ti' (aren't I always saying music is a great learning tool?) but I won't ever forget that 'nube' is a feminine noun

Another example 'torre'.
My key phrase here is 'las torres gemelas' (the twin towers)
Now, whether that reminds you of the World Trade Center, or the second book of 'Lord of the Rings' is immaterial, but it reminds me that 'torre' is another feminine noun.

So, looking back at the words I mentioned earlier, how about
'manos limpias' (clean hands)
'un coche rojo' ( a red car)
'leche fría' (cold milk)
'una mente aguda' ( a sharp mind)
'una fuente escondida' ( a hidden source)
'un puente largo' ( a long bridge)
'dientes blancos' (white teeth)

So, over to you.
Make a short list of problem nouns and have a go at creating some brief descriptive phrases to remind you of their gender.
I hope you find it useful.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Time to say goodbye

Now, don't panic.
The title doesn't mean I'm winding up the Blog.

Here's a puzzle for you.
I call this picture 'Anna says goodbye to her sister'

So tell me, which of the women is Anna, the one on the train, or the one left behind?
In English, there's no way of knowing.

There's a Spanish verb 'despedir', which means 'to say goodbye'
You may have heard of a 'despedida' or Farewell Party?

We could say 'Ellas se despiden', which simply means 'they say goodbye to each other', but that's no more informative than the English version.

Ah, but Spanish is cleverer than that  ;¬)

Consider 'Anna despide a su hermana'
and 'Anna se despide de su Hermana'

You might have had to look twice to see the difference.

Here's the clever part
'Anna despide A su hermana' means 'Anna says goodbye to her sister' but carries the implicit meaning that her sister is the one who is going away, while Anna remains.

'Anna se despide DE su hermana' has the same literal translation but implies the opposite situation, Anna is gong on the train, while her sister remains behind.

I freely admit, it took me quite a while to get a grip on this one, and I frequently mixed them up, until I came up with a little rhyme to jog my memory

'Yo despido A alguien que se VA' - 'I say goodbye to someone who is leaving' (which means I'm staying)
You only have to remember the meaning of one of the uses, to remember both, after all.

One final word, if you use the verb 'despedir' in its non-reflexive form, the common meaning is to fire, or lay-off someone.
e.g. 'le despidieron por ser constantemente tarde' - 'they sacked him for being constantly late',
rather than
'Le despidieron a él por última vez' - 'they said goodbye to him for the last time'

So, until next time 'tengo que despedirme de ustedes' (me voy)