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This is the second in a series of blogposts on how to write an A or A* Spanish controlled GCSE written assessment.

If you missed the first one, then click here.

https://stevenfrenchlanguages.com/2013/10/27/how-to-write-an-a-or-a-piece-for-your-spanish-gcse-controlled-assessment/

In this blog post I will talk about using a key Spanish verb TENER (to have) idiomatically. Idiomatically is defined in the Collins English dictionary as “linguistic usage that is grammatical and natural to the native speakers of a language.” This is why idioms and idiomatic usage are marked highly by GCSE Spanish examiners.

Accordingly, it makes sense to have a good variety of TENER phrases in your written piece. But how can you do this? One of my maxims is to keep things simple, and with this in mind, I suggest that you introduce two or three TENER phrases into your work.

Here are some examples:-

Tengo … años (I am … years old). Notice in Spanish you are actually saying “I have..years”

Even better though, with additional complexity, try:-

Cuando tenga ….. años – this means “when I am …years old”. For the sharp eyed, you will see that “tengo” has changed to “tenga”. For the grammatically minded, “tenga” is a subjunctive. This grammatical feature is highly prized by the GCSE examiners. Use it! It is easy to get into a flowing and well crafted piece.

Tener has lots of idiomatic usages.

Why not work these into your assessment?

tengo hambre – I am hungry

tengo sed – I am thirsty.

tengo razón – I am right

tengo suerte – I am lucky

A real favourite of examiners is a phrase like “si yo tuviera suerte…” meaning “if I was lucky”. Use it in your assessment. See the glint in the examiners’ eyes!

So – use the verb TENER idiomatically in your Spanish controlled written assessments – it’s one of the keys in getting an A or A*.

Steven French Languages is based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and specialises in GCSE and A level tuition in both French and Spanish.

 

TENER is the eighteenth most common word in the Spanish Language and it deserves our attention.

But this is a very special verb, to use its correct grammatical name. It is a verb and, moreover, it is one of those troublesome verbs, or attractive verbs (it depends on your point of view) which is irregular. No, dear Spanish learners, it does not follow the regular -er pattern. Its irregularity comes from its high octane lifestyle being used so frequently, and has therefore it has really got bashed about over the years.

And, standing above all of this grammatical banter, is the magic of its range of meanings.

Oh, by the way, such was my excitement reaching TENER in the top one hundred words in Spanish podcast odyssey, that I forgot to tell you the meaning. It simple terms TENER means “to have”. But, for the English speaker, it has a large range of meanings. Indeed, my dictionary has some eighteen or nineteen meanings and nuances of meaning.

To keep it simple, however, I am just going for two key meanings.

Here are two simple, key uses of TENER with the translations.

Tengo dos hermanos – I have two brothers

Tengo veintisiete años – I am 27 years old. (Literally I have 27 years old.)

So there it is – TENER is the 19th most frequently used word in the Spanish language. A two syllable battle hardened stalwart which is a “must-learn”.

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.