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Disculpar, Ayudar, Significar

Let’s learn the verbs Disculpar, Ayudar, and Significar, including all of their commonly used conjugations. We’ll also get lots of practice using all these verbs in real sentence contexts.

Full Podcast Episode


¿Qué significa esto?

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 three new verbs. That may seem like a lot, but all of these verbs are pretty easy to use, and they’re all conjugated exactly like Hablar.

Let’s begin with Significar, which means “to mean”. You’ll use this any time you say that something means something. Here’s an example:

This word means “problem”.

Esta palabra significa “problema”.

Here’s another way this word is used:

This situation means we can’t eat yet.

Esta situación significa que no podemos comer aún.

So in the first sentence we were referring to what a word means, and in the second sentence we talked about what an entire situation means for us. In both cases, we used the conjugation significa, which is the most common by far.

In fact, not many other forms are really ever used. For example, you’ll almost never encounter significamos, because… when would you ever say something like “we mean” something? Well, in English, we sometimes say things like this:

What we mean to say is…

However, in Spanish, you wouldn’t use the verb “to mean” that way; you’d instead use Querer and then Decir. So in this case we’d say:

Lo que queremos decir es…

So the verb Significar doesn’t mean “meaning to say” something. Instead, it’s used specifically to reference that something has a particular meaning.

So in Spanish, in general, only third-person forms of this verb tend to be used. That does include the plural third person. For example:

These words together mean something different.

Estas palabras juntas significan algo diferente.

Let’s go ahead and practice using this verb in a variety of ways. In this first example, to say that something means something “to me”, we say that it means something para mí. The preposition para is very often used with the verb Significar. Try to predict the Spanish:

Those things mean a lot to me.

Esas cosas significan mucho para mí.

What occurred doesn’t mean anything.

Lo que sucedió no significa nada.

Your honor didn’t mean anything to them.

Tu honor no significaba nada para ellos.

That can’t mean what you’re thinking.

Eso no puede significar lo que estás pensando.

He feels hatred and on top of that he says it doesn’t mean anything.

Siente odio y encima dice que no significa nada.

What you did had meant something to me.

Lo que hiciste había significado algo para mí.

Our next verb is Ayudar, which means “to help”. As you can probably tell, this is related to the word ayuda, which is the noun version of help. Here’s a simple example of Ayudar:

We’re going to help them.

Los vamos a ayudar.

In this sentence, Ayudar took a direct object. Here’s another example:

He helps me with this every morning.

Me ayuda con esto todas las mañanas.

When you talk about helping someone do something, you’ll typically use Ayudar with a direct object, as we’ve been doing, and then also use the preposition a and then the infinitive of what you’re helping them do. For example:

She helps him do that.

Ella lo ayuda a hacer eso.

Try it yourself in this next example, which uses Llevar.

Can I help you carry that?

¿Te puedo ayudar a llevar eso?

Let’s go ahead and get a variety of practice with Ayudar.

Help your sister! Don’t you see she needs you?

¡Ayuda a tu hermana! ¿No ves que te necesita?

She wants me to help her because she is cold.

Ella quiere que yo la ayude porque tiene frío.

Help me! I always try to help you.

¡Ayúdame! Yo siempre trato de ayudarte.

It seems like he’s very hot, can you help him?

Parece que tiene mucho calor, ¿puedes ayudarlo?

He wants me to help them because they are hungry.

Quiere que los ayude porque tienen hambre.

She helps him every day with what’s behind the house.

Lo ayuda todos los días con lo que está detrás de la casa.

You don't want to help me, but you have time to help your friend.

No quieres ayudarme, pero tienes tiempo de ayudar a tu amigo.

Our last verb for today is Disculpar, which means something like “to forgive” or “to excuse”. For example:

Can you forgive me?

¿Me puedes disculpar?

So in that example, the direct object is the person who did something wrong. The interesting thing about Disculpar is that you can use it either to forgive a person or to excuse their behavior. And either the person or the behavior can be the direct object. In this next example, we’re using the behavior as the direct object:

I’m never going to excuse that type of thing.

Nunca voy a disculpar ese tipo de cosas.

Now what if you want to mention both the person AND the behavior? For example:

Can you forgive her for arriving late?

In this case, which one becomes the direct object, “her”, which would be la, or “arriving late”, which would be llegar tarde? Well, when both the person and the behavior are mentioned, you’ll typically make the person the direct object and then put the behavior after por, as in por llegar tarde, indicating that “arriving late” is why we have to forgive this person. So here’s the example in Spanish:

¿La puedes disculpar por llegar tarde?

It’s pretty common to use an imperative with this verb, in which case you’ll typically use a contraction with the person who’s being excused. For example:

Please excuse me for that.

Por favor discúlpame por eso.

Let’s practice Disculpar.

He always forgives her for that, including when it’s her fault.

Siempre la disculpa por eso, incluso cuando es su culpa.

Forgive me! You know I didn’t mean to hurt you.

¡Discúlpame! Sabes que no quise hacerte daño.

He wants me to forgive him for what he did.

Quiere que lo disculpe por lo que hizo.

Why don’t you forgive us? Forgive us, please!

¿Por qué no nos disculpas? Discúlpanos, por favor.

I want him to forgive her while they are inside the place.

Quiero que la disculpe mientras están adentro del lugar.

(formal) Excuse me, are you with those people?

Discúlpeme, ¿usted está con esas personas?

(plural) Excuse me, do you see what’s on top of the house?

Discúlpenme, ¿ven lo que está encima de la casa?

Why does he want us to forgive him? Besides, he never said “I’m sorry”.

¿Por qué quiere que lo disculpemos? Además, nunca dijo “lo siento”.

This verb is so frequent that it’s also become a common way to say sorry to a stranger, particularly using the usted imperative disculpe. For example:

Apologies for the wait, sir.

Disculpe por la espera, señor.

This is a little odd because it doesn’t say “excuse me”, or discúlpeme; it almost implies that there is no person to forgive. It’s like instead of actually asking for forgiveness, you’re just saying a general apology for the situation. Here’s another example:

Excuse me, miss, do you know where the hospital is?

Disculpe, señorita, ¿sabe dónde está el hospital?

And there’s one more way this verb is used. The pronominal version, Disculparse, indicates asking for forgiveness or apologizing. Here’s a simple example:

I have to apologize, that was wrong.

Tengo que disculparme, eso estuvo mal.

So this literally seems to say “I have to excuse myself” or “I have to forgive myself”, but in Spanish, when Disculpar is used reflexively, it’s clear that what you’re doing is not forgiving yourself, but actually asking for someone else to forgive you. Here’s another example:

You need to apologize to her.

Te tienes que disculpar con ella.

In this case we used con, because that’s typically what you’ll do with Disculparse if you’re indicating who is being apologized to; in Spanish you literally apologize “with” someone instead of “to” them.

Let’s practice “disculparse” with a few examples.

I don’t want to apologize to her, I know I’m right.

No quiero disculparme con ella, sé que tengo razón.

Why are you apologizing? If you haven’t done anything.

¿Por qué te disculpas? Si no has hecho nada.

He always apologizes, but he’ll probably do it again.

Siempre se disculpa, pero probablemente lo volverá a hacer.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/181. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

Your honor is not going to mean anything if you hurt them.

Tu honor no va a significar nada si les haces daño.

(plural) Please, forgive me!

¡Por favor, discúlpenme!

Besides all of that, she wants me to help her.

Además de todo eso, ella quiere que la ayude.

(formal) Excuse me, I want to tell you it was a pleasure to talk to you.

Disculpe, quiero decirle que fue un placer hablar con usted.

He wants me to forgive him because he knows I’m not going to help him.

Quiere que lo disculpe porque sabe que no voy a ayudarlo.

Those things don’t mean anything, but they have meant something before.

Esas cosas no significan nada, pero han significado algo antes.

I don’t know what’s occurring, but we have lost it around that place.

No sé qué sucede, pero lo hemos perdido alrededor de ese lugar.

It’s a pity you all can’t go because of my fault.

Es una pena que ustedes no puedan ir por mi culpa.

If I eat with them, I’m going to miss the train.

Si como con ellos, voy a perder el tren.

I want him to help you because you’re in a lot of pain.

Quiero que él te ayude porque tienes mucho dolor.

What he was saying didn’t mean anything to us.

Lo que decía no significaba nada para nosotros.

I want him to apologize and them also to apologize.

Quiero que se disculpe y que ellos también se disculpen.

Forgive you friend (f)! She just wanted to help you.

¡Disculpa a tu amiga! Ella solo quería ayudarte.

Are you going to help them? If not, they are going to get lost.

¿Los vas a ayudar? Si no, van a perderse.

I know it doesn't mean anything, but still, can you help me?

Sé que no significa nada, pero igual ¿puedes ayudarme?

Forgive me! What I did last night was wrong.

¡Discúlpame! Lo que hice anoche estuvo mal.

I simply don’t want to eat, so help me do that.

Simplemente no quiero comer, así que ayúdame a hacer eso.

Why don’t you apologize if he always helps you?

¿Por qué no te disculpas si él siempre te ayuda?

Help those people! It’s clear they can’t do it.

¡Ayuda a esas personas! Está claro que no pueden hacerlo.

I don’t want to apologize and that’s why she doesn't forgive me.

No quiero disculparme y por eso ella no me disculpa.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/181.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll learn the Spanish verb that means “to play”.

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.

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