O sea

This is a very popular phrase in Spain and Latin America, also spelled as a single word (oséa or osea). The expression is generally used to introduce a rephrasing of something that you have already said. If you think of it, the meaning is quite literal: The phrase is formed out of the disjunctive conjunction o ("or") and the word sea ("would be"), the third person present subjunctive form of the verb ser ("to be"). Let's see some examples.


*Note: if you see the examples highlighted in blue and you have an active subscription to Yabla Spanish, you can click on the link to watch the video containing the caption.


O sea, vienen muchas personas de todas partes del mundo.

I mean, many people come from all over the world.

Caption 7, Cabarete - Charlie el taxista

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Sometimes the word que ("that") is added after o sea, without altering the meaning:

Y yo nací en un cuartel, o sea que...

And I was born in a barrack, in other words...

Caption 37, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 12

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Be careful: the combination "o + sea" can sometimes have a totally different meaning, so always be observant of the context:


... sea bueno o sea malo.

... whether it's good or whether it's bad.

Caption 34, Club de las ideas - Intuición - Part 1

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An additional use of the phrase o sea is also very popular in Latin America among fresas (pejorative slang used to describe stereotypically superficial upper or middle-class youngsters). In this case, o sea is used as a sarcastic remark that can be translated as "obviously," "duh," "come on," "give me a break," or "I mean," depending of the context. Our Venezuelan teen show NPS uses the expression a lot:


¡Ay pues, obvio que va a querer! ¡Porque nadie le dice que no a una chica popular, o sea!

Oh well, [it's] obvious that he is going to want to! Because no one says no to a popular girl, duh!

Captions 21-22, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 10

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