Looking for Accelerated Spanish? We've rebranded!

Click here to learn more.

Carta vs. Tarjeta

Why does Spanish have two different words for “card”? And how do you know which one to use? Let’s explore the words carta and tarjeta. We’ll also learn some other fun Spanish nouns, including the words for “camera”, “company”, and “gift”.

Full Podcast Episode


Te doy un regalo.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to learn some fun new nouns, including the words for “company”, “letter”, and “gift”.

To start with, let’s learn the word for “camera”, which is cámara, spelled almost like the English word except all the vowels are the letter A, and there’s an accent mark on the first A. Cámara. So for example:

I can’t find the camera on my phone.

No puedo encontrar la cámara en mi teléfono.

Something interesting about cámara is that this is also the word for “chamber”. For example, “the chamber of secrets” is la cámara de secretos. This use is not super common, just like the word “chamber” is not super common in English, but it’s worth practicing just a little bit. Try it yourself in this next example:

There were four boxes in the first chamber.

Había cuatro cajas en la primera cámara.

Next let’s learn a few nouns that refer to groups of people or institutions. The word for “government” is gobierno, spelled g-o-b-i-e-r-n-o. Gobierno. So for example:

I would never want to work in the government.

Nunca quisiera trabajar en el gobierno.

The word for “army” is ejército. This is a long word, but remember that the stress is on something that sounds like “hair”. Ejército. So it’s spelled e-j-e-r-c-i-t-o, with an accent on the second syllable. Ejército. Here’s an example:

My uncle was in the army during the fifties.

Mi tío estuvo en el ejército durante los años cincuenta.

And the word for “company” is compañía. This word is spelled in a funny way: c-o-m-p-a-ñ-i-a, with an accent on the I. So the Ñ is followed by an accented I, making a “ñi” sound. Compañía. So for example:

There are many more women than men in my company.

Hay muchas más mujeres que hombres en mi compañía.

Something interesting is that this word can also mean “company” in the sense of companionship or visiting. So just like the English word, it has these multiple meanings. For example:

You can come with me; I would like to have company.

Puedes venir conmigo, me gustaría tener compañía.

And the idiom for “keeping someone company” is hacerle compañía. For example:

I keep her company while she works.

Le hago compañía mientras trabaja.

Let’s practice gobierno, ejército, and compañía.

If I change, I can go to the army.

Si cambio, puedo ir al ejército.

My company works for the government.

Mi compañía trabaja para el gobierno.

You have to stay, you can’t go to the army.

Tienes que quedarte, no puedes ir al ejército.

I changed my mind, I would like a little bit of company.

Cambié de idea, me gustaría un poco de compañía.

She works for the government and you have to keep her company.

Ella trabaja para el gobierno y tienes que hacerle compañía.

Next, let’s learn some nouns for more physical items. The word for “gift” or “present” is regalo. For example:

They gave me nine presents for my birthday.

Me dieron nueve regalos para mi cumpleaños.

Next, the word for “paper” is papel. So for example:

I need some paper.

Necesito algo de papel.

One reason you might need paper is to write a letter, at least if you’re old-fashioned. The word for “letter” is carta. This refers specifically to a written document, not a letter of the alphabet. So for example:

There were three letters, but none were for me.

Había tres cartas, pero ninguna era para mí.

But carta can also mean “card” in some senses. For example:

We want to play a card game.

Queremos jugar un juego de cartas.

But Spanish also has another word for “card”, the word tarjeta. This word is most commonly used to refer to a credit or debit card. So for example:

Do you have cash or a card?

¿Tienes efectivo o una tarjeta?

So in this case, tarjeta refers to a card that’s made of plastic. But carta tends to refer to cards that are made of paper, including playing cards. However, there’s one case in which tarjeta refers to a card made of paper, and that’s for a greeting card. For example:

He gave me a very nice card with my present.

Me dio una tarjeta muy bonita con mi regalo.

Let’s practice regalo, papel, carta, and tarjeta.

We stayed for the gifts.

Nos quedamos por los regalos.

Do you have paper? I want to make a letter.

¿Tienes papel? Quiero hacer una carta.

Both gifts were really nice.

Ambos regalos fueron muy buenos.

Can you give him a card with that gift?

¿Le puedes dar una tarjeta con ese regalo?

They’re making three gifts, but I’m not in on it.

Hacen tres regalos, pero no estoy en ello.

I haven’t changed anything in the letter.

No he cambiado nada en la carta.

You can make a Christmas card with this paper.

Puedes hacer una tarjeta de Navidad con este papel.

Our next word is bolsa, which can mean “bag”. For example:

How many things do you have in your bag?

¿Cuántas cosas tienes en tu bolsa?

The word for “style” is estilo. For example:

I don’t like that style of clothes.

No me gusta ese estilo de ropa.

Notice that this word is pretty similar to tipo, because you can use it to refer to what category something is in, although it changes the meaning. If we said no me gusta ese tipo de ropa, it wouldn’t be clear what we meant by “that type of clothing”. But with the word estilo we’re being more specific that it’s the style that we don’t like.

Our final two words are kind of off-the-wall: The word for “sword” is espada, and the word for “meat” or “flesh” is carne. Both of these nouns are feminine. So for example:

Does the army still have swords?

¿El ejército todavía tiene espadas?

I’ll be at the dinner, but I don’t eat meat.

Estaré en la cena, pero no como carne.

Let’s practice bolsa, estilo, espada, and carne.

Any one of them eats meat.

Cualquiera de ellos come carne.

She is always changing style.

Siempre está cambiando de estilo.

I don’t like swords as weapons.

No me gustan las espadas como armas.

There’s a sword in that bag.

Hay una espada en esa bolsa.

I changed my lifestyle and now I don’t eat meat.

Cambié mi estilo de vida y ahora no como carne.

She wants me to change what's in the bag.

Ella quiere que yo cambie lo que hay en la bolsa.

To wrap up this episode, let’s learn a new idiomatic use of our verbs. Check out this sentence in English:

We need to go help him.

So the weird thing about this English sentence is that we put two verbs in a row: “go help”. The sense is that we’re going to go and help him, or maybe go for the purpose of helping him. It happens with the English verb “to go” all the time. But we also do this with the verb “to come”. For example:

They should come change this.

There are a couple of ways that we could reword these sentences in order to work in Spanish, by adding words in between “go” and “help”, or between “come” and “change”. For example:

We need to go in order to help him.

Necesitamos ir para ayudarlo.

So here we added “in order to”, which equates to para in Spanish. Another option is to put the conjunction y in between. For example:

They should come and change this.

Deberían venir y cambiar esto.

But these modifications are actually not necessary. There is a way to translate phrases like “go help” and “come change”. What we do is we put the preposition a in between. So here are the phrases in Spanish:

We need to go help him.

Necesitamos ir a ayudarlo.

They should come change this.

Deberían venir a cambiar esto.

So this specifically happens when the meaning is somewhere in between y and para; we’re basically saying “go and help” or “come and change”, but there’s sort of an insinuation that the first action is done for the purpose of helping the second action.

Now, so far we’ve been putting this a in between two infinitives, like ir a ayudar and venir a cambiar. But note that this construction also works even if the first verb is conjugated. For example:

Come see this thing!

¡Ven a ver esta cosa!

So what we’ve done is we’ve conjugated the first verb, then used a, then used the infinitive. Try it yourself in this next one:

They go do those things sometimes.

Van a hacer esas cosas a veces.

Also note that Ir and Venir aren’t the only verbs that can be used this way. Another verb that you can use as the first verb in this construction is Salir. So here’s an example in Spanish:

Van a salir a hacer eso.

But this doesn’t translate very well into English, except simply as “They're going out to do that.” In our quizzing, by default, when we say English sentences like “they’re going out to do that”, you’ll generally expect to put para in there. But sometimes “going out to do something” simply uses a.

Let’s get some practice with this new use of a between verbs, which you can expect in all the examples in this mini-quiz.

They are going to come eat.

Van a venir a comer.

Both are going out to work.

Ambos salen a trabajar.

I’m going out to eat with my friends.

Voy a salir a comer con mis amigos.

She went to exchange money, but she left without it.

Fue a cambiar dinero, pero salió sin él.

Some of my friends are coming to play; the others are going to watch a movie.

Algunos de mis amigos vienen a jugar, los demás van a ver una película.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/199. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

There is nothing left in the bag, only paper.

No queda nada en la bolsa, solo papel.

The rest came to eat, but she came to work.

Los demás vinieron a comer, pero ella vino a trabajar.

Stay, we can talk about it.

Quédate, podemos hablar de ello.

I don’t like cameras, so I don’t want to stay.

No me gustan las cámaras, así que no quiero quedarme.

Change, so that every person you meet gives you a gift.

Cambia, para que toda persona que conozcas te dé un regalo.

She doesn’t have to stay anymore, she has stayed for a long time.

Ya no tiene que quedarse, se ha quedado por mucho tiempo.

She always exchanges the gifts we give her.

Siempre cambia los regalos que le damos.

I like this style of paper; you can make cards with it.

Me gusta este estilo de papel, puedes hacer tarjetas con él.

I’m going to send a letter to the government about the army.

Le voy a enviar una carta al gobierno sobre el ejército.

There wasn’t anything left after the government left.

No quedó nada después de que el gobierno se fue.

You (all) can stay here and help her find her style.

Pueden quedarse aquí y ayudarla a encontrar su estilo.

There are only three things left in the bag because he changed it.

Solo quedan tres cosas en la bolsa porque él la cambió.

If you stay in the army, maybe I’ll stay too.

Si te quedas en el ejército, quizás yo también me quede.

You have to stay, even if you don’t eat meat.

Tienes que quedarte, aunque no comas carne.

She wants me to change my sword for money.

Ella quiere que cambie mi espada por dinero.

There will be only one letter left after this.

Solo quedará una carta después de esto.

I gave a letter to the company about their cameras.

Le di una carta a la compañía sobre sus cámaras.

She wants me to stay to eat meat with them.

Quiere que me quede a comer carne con ellos.

We stayed until nine in the evening at the company.

Nos quedamos hasta las nueve de la noche en la compañía.

I want to change this card, I don’t like it.

Quiero cambiar esta tarjeta, no me gusta.

They are exchanging their sword for something safe.

Cambian su espada por algo seguro.

I never stay at the company until late.

Nunca me quedo en la compañía hasta tarde.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/199, or tune in tomorrow for a big quiz to practice everything we’ve learned this week.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

Get the Free Podcast Materials
Sign up for instant access to the free course that goes with the podcast!
Access the Free Materials