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estar

Estar is the seventeenth most frequently used word in the Spanish language.

Estar is a verb and, to boot, it is irregular (that is to say that it does not follow the normal regular -ar verb formations) and causes no end of trouble to most learners of the Spanish language, especially to maternal English tongue speakers.

So, what’s all the trouble about? To be or not to be, to quote Shakespeare, is the problem. Estar means “to be”. But the attentive to this series of posts and podcasts will know that we have already dealt with a monosyllabic powerhouse verb meaning to be, ser. See post on high frequency word in Spanish number 8 (click here http://wp.me/p3mW5k-3v)

Estar means to be. That definition is simply stated, but flowing from that is a whole grammar book’s worth of scholarly debate. However, for our purposes here, to be will do.

Examples of use:

Madrid está en España – Madrid is in Spain. (Está is indicating geographic position).

Estoy cansado – I am tired (a temporary state – I am not always tired … if this was the case you would say soy cansado)

Well, it is not easy.

Ser or no ser? Estar or no Estar. I’ll leave it there – the discussion could go from grammatical to philosophical.

So, there you have it – estar the seventeenth most common word in the Spanish language.

como

Como is the sixteenth most common word in the Spanish language.

Como is defined grammatically as an adverb. The two syllable word has some eight different shades of meaning according to my dictionary, and therefore can present something of a challenge to a student who is starting to learn Spanish.

In the spirit of this series of posts, I am going to keep the definition simple and fairly restricted. Como means like in English or such as.

Here are a couple of examples of the use of como

Luis Suárez juega como un idiota – Luis Suárez plays like an idiot.

(a reference to a recent event when Liverpool striker Suárez bit the ear of an opponent).

Luis Suárez no tiene ventajas como la paciencia y autocontrol – Luis Suárez has no advantages such as patience and self-control

(sorry to go on about it!)

To conclude, como, a a crsip two syllable adverb, meaning like or such as is the sixteenth most frequently used word in the Spanish language.

su

Su is the fourteenth most common word in the Spanish language, and, as such, it really is a “no-brainer” (an expression I have heard in the past some of my students say) – you have to know it because it crops up so often.

Su is a possessive adjective.

The dictionary definition of su is:-

his

her

your

one’s

its (not it’s.. but that is an English grammatical can of worms, which I will not open!)

their

A long, and potentially very confusing list of words there. Of course, the specific meaning all depends on the context, that is to say the words and meanings surrounding the word su.

In the spirit of these podcasts, I will Keep It Simple. The most frequent meaning is his or her.

Here are some examples:-

Juan tiene su camisa – Juan has his shirt

Juanita tiene su camisa – Juanita has her shirt

“¡Tenga, su camisa, señor!” – “Here you are, your shirt, sir!”

el perro y su cachorro – the dog and its puppy

Juan y Juanita tienen su casa cerca de la playa – Juan and Juanita have their house near the beach.

Well su, for its diminutive size, certainly packs a punch!

So, there we have it – su is the 14th most common word in the Spanish language. It is a “no brainer” for the Spanish language learner, you simply have to know it!

 con with

Con is the 13th most frequent word in the Spanish language. Con is a preposition.

Con in its simplest meaning is with in English, but, as ever, with these little Spanish monosyllables, there is a whole range of shades of meaning. My dictionary, for example, comes up with a whole range – 12 to be precise.

To the English speaker’s ear, this word is slightly odd. No – it has nothing to do with con, or con artists, or, come to that, the mafia. No con is a much more friendly and cosy word than that!

Here are some examples of the use of con.

Voy a ir al teatro con mi amigo – I am going to the theatre with my friend.

¡Vamos a la playa con tus amigos ingleses! – Let’s go to the beach with your English friends!

One of my favourite uses of con is in the following example:-

Sueño con mi mujer – I dream about my wife. I simply love the fact that in Spanish you dream with your wife. It struck me forcefully when I was a young romantic Englishman getting to grips with Spanish. That feeling is still with me today!

Well, there it is number 13 in the top one hundred Spanish words. Not unlucky at all!

por

Coming in at number 12 in the top 100 Spanish High Frequency Word list is the Spanish word por.

The word has lots of different meanings in the dictionary. Por is a defined grammatically as a preposition.

Here are the three main meanings:-

because of

for

by

Shades and subtleties of meanings are many – my dictionary lists up to 21 various nuances in meaning. But for the beginner, for and because of and by more than suffice.

This monosyllable, lurking in the undergrowth of grammatical complexity, can be the bane of Spanish learners’ lives. Why? Because there are two words in Spanish for the word for in English, the other being para. And, from this simple fact flows a plethora of difficulties, misconceptions, and keeps Spanish teachers in a job!

But, let’s keep it simple. There is a ton of resources on the net that pick through this grammatical minefield, if you need it. http://spanish.about.com/cs/grammar/a/porpara.htm is as good place to start.

Examples of use:-

lo haces por gusto – you do it for pleasure

hago mis deberes por temor – I do my homework because of fear(!) (does this bring back school memories?)

mando la carta por correo – I send the letter by post (or by mail, for our American cousins)

So, there it is – number 12 in the Spanish most frequently used words list.

It’s simply a “you have to know it” word.

haber

Haber is the eleventh most frequently used word in the Spanish language.

The two syllable word (and this is the first two syllable word we have had in the top 100 list).

Haber is defined as an auxiliary verb and an impersonal verb.

The dictionary has a number of differing meanings for haber.

Its key meaning is to have as in I have eatenhe comido (he meaning I have is from haber)

As a teacher I know that this verb can cause all sorts of problems, the main one being the confusion with another verb meaning “to have”, tener. The way to avoid the confusion is to think of using haber only in its use as an auxiliary verb, that is when you have done something.

The other meanings is with the use of haber de giving the idea of obligation, of having to do something, as in

hemos de hacer los deberes (we have to do the homework)

an example of the use of haber as an impersonal verb is

hay que tener cuidado – you have to be careful.

So there it is a bright and breezy look at the eleventh most frequent word in the Spanish language.

no wordfoto

NO is the tenth most common word in the Spanish language.

Perhaps in this occasionally negative world, it is on the tongues of Spanish speakers a too often.

The word NO is defined as an adverb in the dictionary.

It is given three shades of meaning in my dictionary.

Here are some examples of the use of NO

No gracias – no, thank you

No voy al cine – I am not going to the cinema

La economía española no es muy fuerte – The Spanish economy is not very strong.

Et voilà, as they say in French, on a slightly negative note the tenth most frequent word in the Spanish language.

se wordfoto

SE is the ninth most common word in the Spanish language.

This monosyllable has a varied and flexible life, and is very frequently on the tongues of Spanish speakers.

SE means (to) him, (to) her, (to) them, (to) you and also himself, herself, themselves, yourself and yourselves.

Well, that is quite a selection and I didn’t say it would be easy, did I?

SE is defined in various ways in the dictionary, but its main definition is a personal pronoun and as a reflexive pronoun.

When I say varied, it certainly is. There are some 5 differing shades of meaning indicated in the dictionary, but below I will give the key ones.

voy a dárselo – I am going to give it to him (or her, or you, or them – depending on the context.

Juan se lava – Juan washes (himself)

So there we have the busy bee life of the ninth most common word in the Spanish language – SE.

ser

Ser is the eighth most used word in the Spanish language.

I must admit I approach this word with some trepidation. This monosyllabic verb, for yes, ser is a verb, is the bane of the lives of all learners of Spanish.

Ser means “to be”. Said, or written like that, it seems quite easy. However, there is another verb meaning “to be”, that is estar. And this is where the fun (or problems) start. Moreover, the problems arise, obviously, because of the frequency with which this verb (these verbs in Spanish) occur.

However, we need to bash on in the interests of brevity.

To add to the mix, el ser (a noun) means being.

Here are some examples of the use of ser (but this list is not exhaustive in any way, shape or form. Click here for the “big daddy” and authoritative source (in Spanish – http://lema.rae.es/drae/). Pop “ser” into the top right hand box, and, hey presto, all of the different meanings of ser are on display (in Spanish, of course).

Es muy alto – he is very tall

Hola, soy yo – Hi, it’s me (literally I am I).

And, to boot, ser is an irregular verb. Click here for the way it breaks down into its differing parts

http://www.verbix.com/webverbix/Spanish/ser.html

Note, if you are an anorak on verbs (I am!), http://www.verbix.com/ is a great site (and not just for Spanish).

So, there we have it, the eighth most common word in Spanish, ser = to be.

Un is the seventh most used word in the Spanish language. The robust and sturdy monosyllable means a or an or one.

The dictionary and grammatical definition is that un is an indefinite article and its meaning as one is given as a numeral. To be more precise, un is used before masculine singular nouns.

This frequently occurring word has 3 differing shades of meaning.

Here are some examples:-

1. un chico – a boy

2. un paraguas – an umbrella

3. sólo necesito un coche – I only need one car.

So, there we have it, un meaning a or an or one is the seventh most used word in the Spanish language.

For an audio version of this post, please click below.