The word “them” may seem like a basic word, but it has multiple translations in Spanish! Today we’ll learn two Spanish words for “them”, as well as the word for “what”. We’ll also get lots of spoken practice with all of our essential Spanish vocabulary.
Let’s get some good spoken practice with our first 20 words.
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 the last three words from our list of 20 words that by themselves make up 30% of the Spanish language. Congratulations on sticking through it this far — I know this has been a lot of abstract grammatical work, but believe me, it will pay off very soon. As I mentioned in episode 1, what we’re doing here is taking a shortcut through the hard stuff. Once we’re learning the fun stuff, like action verbs and cool nouns and adjectives, you’ll be using them effortlessly in Spanish sentences, with a Spanish voice, thanks to the foundation we’ve laid in these last two weeks.
Let’s start this episode by doing some more work with direct objects. To do this, we’re going to revisit the memory palace that we built on Wednesday.
So once again, imagine you’re walking through a peaceful countryside. Then you come up on a hill where people are singing hymns.
Can you remember what’s here? First, what things and people are in each position? And then what words do the different parts of the memory palace represent?
So we have the girl singing to represent the word la on the left, then in front of you we have the guy with tea to represent te. On the right side we have the low stump representing lo, and then at the bottom of the image, we have me.
Today, we’re going to add some things to this scene.
So imagine that sitting around the girl on the left side are a bunch of little girls. They’re students of hers, and they’re all sitting cross-legged. And they’re singing “la” as well, but they’re singing it fast, over and over: lalala-lalalala-laaa. And the word that these little girls represent is las.
On the right side, around the big lo stump, there are little baby stumps springing up around it. And these little “low” things represent the word los.
So basically, we still have la and lo to represent “her” and “him”, but each of them is also surrounded by a bunch of smaller repeats of themselves.
These new words, las and los, are both direct objects, just like everything else in this scene. But they have an s at the end because they’re plural, which is a technical way of saying that these words both mean not “him” or “her”, but “them”. So las and los can be used as “them” when used as a direct object right before a verb. Los is used for a group of masculine nouns, and las is used for a group of feminine nouns. And if it’s a mixed group of both masculine and feminine, you’ll generally use los.
Let’s put this into some immediate practice by playing the potato head game with one sentence. I’m going to randomize our direct objects, and make sure you can pick the right one.
First of all:
They found me.
They me found.
In this next one, imagine that the “them” is masculine.
They found them.
They los found.
They found you.
They te found.
They found him.
They lo found.
In this next one, imagine that the “them” is feminine.
They found them.
They las found.
Now let’s learn some new articles as well. As we went over on Wednesday, articles are little words that go before nouns, such as “the” or “a”, as in “the book” or “a dog”. Let’s recall what articles we’ve already learned.
So what article would you use in the phrase “the man”? … that would be el man.
How about “a girl”? … that would be una girl.
How would you say “the girl”? That’s la girl.
And then “a guy”? … that would be un guy.
Let’s learn two new articles. To say “the girl” singular, you say la girl. But to say “the girlS”, plural, you say las girls.
Wait a minute. We just learned that the word las means “them”, as a direct object! But just like the word la, this word has two completely different meanings; in fact, it’s really two different words. When you see the word las right before a verb, you can tell that it’s a direct object, meaning “them”. But when you see it right before a noun, you know that it’s an article, meaning “the”. And you use this specifically when you’re talking about more than one thing, such as “the ladies” or las ladies.
And then we have the same thing with the word los. “The man”, singular, is el man. But “the men”, plural, is los men.
And incidentally, it’s because of little things like this that thousands of our students have had enormous breakthroughs by using memory palaces. There are actually quite a few very important words in Spanish that have multiple completely distinct meanings, but if you can keep them straight, using a mental filing cabinet, with each word in its proper place, you can keep track of all the different versions of each word and its multiple uses.
The best way to solidify this now is to start practicing with these words right away. So here’s a little quiz, and we’re going to mix up the different uses of both los and las. I’m going to present some imaginary contexts, and you should see if you can come up with the right words based on what you’ve learned so far.
First of all, let’s imagine that I have two brothers who live together, and they were recently visited by a friend. I might ask the question, “Who visited them?” In this case, what would you do with this sentence, “Who visited them”?
We would say, “Who los visited?”
¿Quién los visitó?
And then let’s say that the answer is, “the girls visited them.” How would this be phrased?
It would be Las girls los visited.
Las chicas los visitaron.
OK, new scenario. Imagine that you’re at a concert where a group of three ladies are performing. A friend recognizes them and tells you, “I know them!” How would you translate this sentence, “I know them”?
This would be, “I las know!”
Yo las conozco.
Now imagine that instead of saying “I know them”, your friend says “the boys know them.” How would you translate that?
This would be, “Los boys las know.”
Los niños las conocen.
Here’s a tricky one. In this one, “them” in feminine.
The man doesn’t see them.
El man no las sees. (remember that in cases where you have both a no and a direct object, the direct object goes right before the verb, and the no goes right before the direct object) So here it is entirely in Spanish:
El hombre no las ve.
Here’s a similar one. In this one, “them” is masculine.
We won’t have them at the table.
We no los will have en the table.
Nosotros no los tendremos en la mesa.
Our final word to learn is yet another pronoun, in ANOTHER category that we haven’t learned yet. It’s kind of like eso, because it can be used all over the place where a noun could be used… but it tends to be used specifically in questions.
The word is qué. It’s spelled just like the word que that we already learned, except this new word has an accent mark over the letter E. That accent mark doesn’t change how it’s pronounced. It sounds exactly like the word que and looks almost exactly like it. But it’s an entirely different word, meaning “what”. Generally when you use this word you’re also going to use question marks.
For example, let’s say you want to ask the question, “what is that?” You would use this word qué. And the sentence would sound like this:
¿Qué is eso?
¿Qué es eso?
Also note that in written Spanish, when writing a question, you need to put an upside-down question mark at the beginning of the question as well as a regular question mark at the end. You can see a bunch of examples of written questions that use our vocabulary from these first two weeks on the podcast at LCSPodcast.com/10.
Now let’s talk about some fun, creative ways you can use this new word, qué. In general, you can simply take a sentence that would have a noun in it, replace the noun with qué, and turn it into a question. For example, we can take the sentence “He ate food”, and then we can turn it into “He ate what?” or “¿He ate qué?
So just like the word eso, qué is a pronoun, but it’s not in the hymn scene, so it doesn’t have to move before the verb when it’s used as a direct object.
Let’s practice with a few more simple examples.
They worked with what?
¿They worked con qué?
¿Ellas trabajaron con qué?
What hit him?
¿Qué lo hit?
¿Qué lo golpeó?
In this next one, “them” is feminine.
You found them with what?
¿You las found con qué?
¿Tú las encontraste con qué?
In this last example, we put qué right after the preposition con. Since this word functions as a noun, we’re generally allowed to use it after prepositions like this.
Some particularly interesting things happen if we put either para or por before qué.
First let’s see how you might use para qué. Let’s say that you come home one day and a family member or roommate has used crafting materials to make some sort of ornate decoration, as if for a party. You look at the decoration and you can’t figure out what it’s for. So you want to ask, “what is that for?” The word “for” here is going to be para, because we’re asking what the purpose or end goal of something is.
But there’s something weird about the structure of the English question “what is that for?” It kind of seems like the Spanish version should be “Qué is eso para…” but remember the rule about Spanish prepositions: They always have to have a noun right after them. So we can’t end a sentence with a preposition in Spanish like people typically do in English. Instead, we have to make sure that the thing functioning as a noun is right after the preposition. So we reword it as “for what is that?”
So in Spanish, the question would be:
¿Para qué is eso?
¿Para qué es eso?
So in general, when you ask para qué, you’re asking “for what purpose” or “for what intended use”.
Now let’s try using por with qué. This is much, much more common. When you ask por qué, it literally means “because of what”? And THAT’S how you ask the question “why?” in Spanish.
In fact, Spanish doesn’t HAVE a single word for “why”. Instead, whenever the word “why” in a question is translated into Spanish, it’s translated as the two-word idiom por qué. I kind of hinted at this in yesterday’s episode — the word por very often hints at why something is the case. And it turns out you can’t even ask why something is the case without using por!
So let’s say you want to ask “why is the man at the store?” You would literally ask “because of what is the man at the store?”
¿Por qué is el man en the store?
¿Por qué está el hombre en la tienda?
Let’s do our final quiz for the week to practice EVERYTHING that we’ve learned. Remember to try to make a guess and speak out loud as much as possible. This quiz is pretty long and it’s going to be challenging, but if you can master this stuff, you’ve mastered the foundation of Spanish. And of course, remember that you can always get more practice with this using the free materials at LCSPodcast.com/10.
This is for the guys.
This is para los guys.
Esto es para los chicos.
I didn’t see a girl at 2:00.
I no saw una girl a 2:00.
Yo no vi a una chica a las 2:00.
You need to be in the car at 1:00.
You need to be en the car a 1:00.
Tienes que estar en el coche a la 1:00.
¿But por qué?
¿Pero por qué?
I left something for my boss at the office.
I left something para my boss en the office.
Dejé algo para mi jefe en la oficina.
This was created by the girls.
This was created por las girls.
Esto fue creado por las chicas.
On what did he put it?
¿En qué he lo put?
¿En qué lo puso?
The ladies saw her.
Las ladies la saw.
Las damas la vieron.
What isn’t here yet?
¿Qué no is here yet?
¿Qué no está aquí todavía?
In the next one, imagine that “them” is a group of boys.
I saw them near the park.
I los saw por the park.
Yo los vi por el parque.
In the next example, “it” is masculine.
I found it because of the smell.
I lo found por the smell.
Yo lo encontré por el olor.
I have loved you for many years.
I te have loved por many years.
Yo te he amado por muchos años.
In the next example, “them” is a group of men.
A man confronted them.
Un man los confronted.
Un hombre los confrontó.
In the next example, “it” is feminine.
What did you eat it with?
¿Con qué you la ate?
¿Con qué lo comiste?
In the next example, “them” is a group of girls.
I left them with their parents.
I las left con their parents.
Yo las dejé con sus padres.
Don’t bother the men with that.
No bother los men con eso.
No molestes a los hombres con eso.
I’m on the list; that’s why he knows me.
I’m en the list, por eso he me knows.
Estoy en la lista; por eso él me conoce.
In the next example, “them” is a group of ladies.
I can’t see them.
I no las can see.
Yo no las puedo ver.
All right. Great work getting through that, and through these two weeks of foundational Spanish.
You should really celebrate what you’ve accomplished so far. You’ve laid the groundwork for understanding Spanish parts of speech. You’re starting to use the most important prepositions correctly, including por and para. And perhaps most importantly, by mastering direct object pronouns, you’re now just one step from understanding how to structure your sentences like a native Spanish speaker.
The last step for doing this is mastering how Spanish verbs work, which we get to start tackling next week as we explore the top verb in the Spanish language, Ser.
This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. Our music was provided 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.