Escuchar: Listen to Some Meanings

¡Oye! ("Hey!") -from the verb oír ("to hear")- and ¡Escúchame! ("Listen to me!") -from the verb escuchar ("to listen")- mean approximately the same thing. Kind of like the modern "Listen up!"and the old fashioned "Hear ye! Hear ye!" in English. And now that we've got your attention, let's look more closely at the two auditory verbs.


Escuchar generally means "to listen" in the sense of paying attention to what's heard. In contrast, oír means "to hear" in the sense of using your ears. Escuchar is a deliberate act, while oír can be passive. So, note that escuchar música usually means "to listen to music" while oír música is "to hear music." In other words, you might hear a band's latest album without really listening to the lyrics. Got that?

So, have you heard or listened to Antes que ver el sol by Coti? The refrain goes like this:


Antes que ver el sol... prefiero escuchar tu voz

Before seeing the sun... I prefer to listen to your voice

Caption 9, Coti - Antes que ver el sol

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In our video's subtitles, we translate escuchar the traditional way, as "listen to". But because the lyrics in this song are a little, um, opaque -as rock lyrics so often are- one could also argue that escuchar could be translated as "hear" here. You see, in popular usage, the dictionary definitions of escuchar and oír can be blurred, especially in various Latin American countries.

Case in point: In our video clip, Coti urges his vocal audience to sing louder by saying:


¡No se escucha!

I can't hear you!

Caption 24, Coti - Antes que ver el sol

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So are escuchar and oír losing their distinctive definitions? Native Spanish speakers and observant English speakers argue the point on various message boards. See, for example: > Escuchar / Oír
Tomí > Oír vs. Escuchar

But the authoritative Real Academia Española upholds the difference in its Diccionario de la Lengua Española and we think Spanish students should listen to that.


As a final note, the instrument that does all of our listening and hearing can also be confusing for non-native speakers of Spanish. You see, "ear" is translated into Spanish as oído, which specifically means "the inner ear," -i.e., the part used for hearing. Meanwhile, "the outer ear" -i.e., the body part Vincent Van Gogh famously chopped off- is translated as oreja.

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Pitufresa: Remember the Smurfs?

Remember The Smurfs? Los Pitufos -as they are known in Spanish- are referenced among the trippy Liquits lyrics in this featured music video now on Yabla Spanish:


Pastel de pitufresa mezclado con peyote natural y mora

Smurfberry pie mixed with natural peyote and blackberry

Caption 10, Liquits - Jardín

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Huh?, you might ask. What's a pitufresa? Well, fresa translates as "strawberry." Adding the made-up prefix pitu[f]- in front of the word for this sweet, red fruit is akin to manipulating the English word "strawberry" to create the fictional food "smurfberry." (Remember this red-fruited cereal spun off from the cartoon?)

Like "Smurf," Pitufo is a made-up word in Spanish. But in both English and Spanish, the Smurf world -that is, Pitufolandia- follows some basic language rules that can be illuminating for students to note. For example:

"Smurf" + the suffix "-ette" = "Smurfette"
Pitufo + the suffix -ina = Pitufina

In both cases, the made-up root word is paired with a real-world suffix to name the cute, female character in the cartoon.


So, the Liquits' loopy reference to fictional pitufresas can help shed light on other pop culture references. Bonus points for anyone who can figure out how to say "Smurftastic!" en español....

For more, see:

Wikipedia >
The Smurfs in other languages

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Encantar: Another Way to Love

How do you say "love" in Spanish? Let us count the ways...

  1. There's the verb amar ("to love"), which is pretty easy to remember because it shares Latin roots with the English words "amorous" and "enamored."
  2. There's the verb querer, which means both "to love" (someone) or "to want" (something). You've probably heard:
    Te quiero = "I love you" +
    Yo quiero Taco Bell = "I want Taco Bell"
  3. Then there's the verb encantar ("to love," or "to enchant"), which is used to express "love" in the sense of liking something a whole heck of a lot (i.e., gustar mucho). It is used with objects, not people. For example:
    Me encanta esta ciudad = "I love this city."
    Me encantan esos pantalones = "I love those pants."


Did you note in our examples above that the verb encantar (like gustar) agrees with the object of affection (la cuidad / los pantalones), instead of the speaker? The construction, if expressed in English, might be "Those pants enchant me."

In the newest video content currently featured on Yabla Spanish, we interview Jesús Baz, the director of studies at the don Quijote Spanish-language school in Salamanca.


Be assured, long-time teacher Jesús knows his Spanish -- and he loves his hometown of Salamanca, Spain. Here's how he expresses his affection:


Yo soy salmantino, y me encanta mi ciudad porque me parece una de las ciudades más bonitas del mundo.

I am from Salamanca, and I love my city because I think it's one of the nicest cities in the world.

Captions 42-45, Escuela Don Quijote - Jesús Baz

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So, feel confident about following Jesús's example and describing the love you feel for your own favorite place in the world with the verb encantar.


For further discussions on "love," see:
ThoughtCo. >
Te quiero vs. te amo > Encantar / amar >
Querer / amar


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Tantos: Points

Tú... -Nada, entonces nada. -tantos para allí para la sota.

You... -Nothing, then nothing. -points for the jack.

Caption 28, Jugando a la Brisca - En la calle

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Spanish learners quickly pick up the word tanto in its widely used sense of "so much" or "so many." In this meaning the word is used both as an adjective, tanto dinero (so much money), and adverb, no deberías apostar tanto (you shouldn't gamble so much).

However un tanto is also "a point," and tantos can mean "points," as in points in a game or a competition. In our video example the speaker is referring to points in a card game.

El jugador marcó dos tantos y su equipo ganó el partido.
The player scored two points and his team won the match.

Este equipo tiene dos tantos a su favor.
This team is up by two points.

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Animarse: Would You Dare?

¿Y se animará Sebastián Estebanez a comer cucarachas?

Will Sebastian Estebanez dare to eat cockroaches?

Caption 1, Factor Fobia - Cucarachas - Part 2

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In Argentina, the reflexive verb animarse is frequently used to mean "to dare," as we see throughout our Factor Fobia series.


¿Se animará o no se animará Sebastián Estebanez en el Factor Fobia?

Will Sebastian Estebanez dare or not dare in Fear Factor?

Caption 26, Factor Fobia - Cucarachas - Part 2

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Animarse a más
Dare for more
(Pepsi slogan)

¿Te animás a saltar desde el puente?
Do you dare jump from the bridge?

Some parts of the Spanish speaking world are less likely to use animarse when they want to speak of "daring", but would more likely be using another reflexive verb,

For example Marley could have equally well have said:

¿Se atreverá Sebastián Estebanez a comer cucarachas?
Will Sebastian Estebanez dare to eat cockroaches?

Here's an interesting headline we
¿Se atreverá alguien a comprar Youtube?
Will someone dare to buy Youtube?

(The answer to that is now clear.)


Another use of animarse found throughout most of the the Spanish-speaking world is in the sense of infusing oneself with ánimo (spirit, life, energy). This can mean cheering oneself up or gaining courage/motivation.

¡Animate! Vamos a la fiesta.
Cheer up! Let's go to the party.

Al final me animé
a lanzarme al agua helada.
In the end I got up the courage to jump into the freezing water.


Ambos lo deseábamos, pero alguien tenía que animarse y decirlo.

We both wanted it, but someone had to have the guts and say it.

Captions 35-36, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2 - Part 7

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Poder Soñar: Dream About

...vestía la ropa con la que tú sólo puedes soñar

...she wore clothes that you can only dream about

Caption 15, La Mala Rodriguez - La Niña

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In caption 10 of María's song La Niña we are told that the protagonist wore clothes "con la que tú sólo puedes soñar," (that you can only dream about). Soñar is the infinitive "to dream" and of course is related to the word for dreams themselves, sueños. The tilde (~) over the n tells us that this n is pronounced with the "palatal nasal sound" or [ny], like what we hear when we say the English word "canyon" (which is, appropriately, cañón in Spanish). Soñar, therefore, is pronounced [sonyar].

Being a rapper and therefore a poet, it's no surprise that a few lines later she ends another line with a very similar looking infinitive.


Te llaman, te llaman, tu teléfono no deja de sonar

They call you, they call you, your phone doesn't stop ringing

Caption 19, La Mala Rodriguez - La Niña

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By dropping the ~ over the n in soñar we get sonar, which means "to sound" and also, as in this case means "to ring." Because there is no tilde over the n, the word is pronounced with the standard [n] sound we are used to in English. As so often happens, in this case the infinitive sonar is best translated into English using the present participle ("ing") form of the verb, which gives us "ringing."



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Trato: Deal

Tengo un trato, lo mío pa' mi saco...

I have a deal, what's mine is mine...

Caption 3, La Mala Rodriguez - Entrevista

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In her rap, María Rodríguez tells us Tengo un trato, "I have a deal," and lo mío pa' mi saco, which literally means "mine for my bag," but which is a figurative way to say "what's mine is mine."


Por eso te quiero ofrecer un trato.

That's why I want to offer you a deal.

Caption 31, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 5

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¡Es un trato hecho! Te paso a buscar a las ocho.
It´s a done deal! I'll pick you up at eight.

Hagamos un trato: tú vas a la reunión y yo cuido a los chicos.
Let´s make a deal: you'll go to the meeting and I'll look after the children.

As in English, a deal, un trato, is related to but not exactly the same as un contrato, a contract, which usually implies a more formal, legal agreement, usually written.

We can informally make a deal, un trato, but whenever we are talking about more serious and legal matters, we´ll use
contrato, contract.


Algunos clientes bajo contrato, le pre-maduramos la fruta para que llegue apta para comer.

[For] some customers under contract, we pre-ripen the fruit so that it arrives ready to eat.

Captions 99-100, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 18

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El abogado está redactando el contrato de mantenimiento.
The lawyer is drawing up the maintenance contract.

El contrato que firmé me obliga a trabajar dos sábados al mes.
The contract that I signed requires me to work two saturdays a month.

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Tras: After

Y tras la pausa, vamos a ver si se anima Sebastián Estebanez...

And after the break, we'll see if Sebastian Estebanez dares...

Caption 56, Factor Fobia - Cucarachas

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Tras la guerra con Napoleón, el Rey Fernando Séptimo inició su reconstrucción.

After the war with Napoleon, King Ferdinand the Seventh began his reconstruction.

Captions 64-65, Marisa en Madrid - Parque de El Retiro

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The word tras can be used to mean "after" in terms of the timing of a sequence of events.

Tras hablar con su padre, Ana dijo que no volvería a la casa.
After speaking with her father, Ana said she would never return home.

Note that tras can also operate as a preposition used to indicate "behind."


La azafata acabó de salir del hotel y Zárate va tras ella.

The flight attendant has just left the hotel and Zarate is behind her.

Caption 21, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 4

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Tu hermano está tras la puerta.
Your brother is behind the door.

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Atrás: Ago, Backwards

In the program Factor Fobia, Marley uses two words that are very similar sounding, atrás and tras.


Tuve un... hace unos meses atrás, me he ido a China.

I had a... some months ago, I've been to China.

Captions 28-29, Factor Fobia - Cucarachas

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As is evident, atrás can be used to indicate "ago," as in time past.


Yo empecé hace tres años atrás en el grupo Guamanique,

I started three years ago in the Guamanique group,

se llama Ballet Folklórico Guamanique, que es de Puerto Rico.

it's called the Guamanique Folk Ballet, which is from Puerto Rico.

Captions 3-4, Baile Folklórico de Puerto Rico - Los Bailarines

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Muchos años atrás, él fue general.
Many years ago, he was a general.

La última vez que nos vimos habrá sido unos seis años atrás.
Last time we met may have been some six years ago.


Of course, atrás is also commonly used to indicate "backwards" or "towards the back."


Si eso era un primer paso, había sido un paso atrás.

If that was a first move, it had been a move backwards.

Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2

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Ella fue atrás.
She went backwards.

Vaya hacia atrás, por favor.
Go backwards, please.

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Llevar y Pasar: Spending Time and Time Spent


Llevo ocho años en Estados Unidos.

I've spent eight years in the United States.

Caption 18, Maestra en Madrid - Nuria y amigo

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As we've mentioned, the verb llevar is used not only for "to carry," but also to speak about a duration of time.

Llevar is often used to imply that an action continues (or will continue in the future). In this case, Nuria tells us that she has spent eight years living in the USA (and she will continue to do so).

We might be tempted to translate the present tense conjugation llevo by also using the present tense in English -- "I spend" or "I am spending" -- but, to retain the same meaning as the Spanish, we use the present perfect, "I have spent..."


Llevo cinco horas viendo la televisión.
I've spent five hours watching television.
(I've been watching television for five hours.)

Ana lleva cinco días estudiando español para su próximo examen.
Ana has spent five days studying spanish for her next exam (and she continues studying).


Shortly thereafter Nuria informs us:


Pero pasé casi diez años en Madrid haciendo mis estudios...

But I spent nearly ten years in Madrid doing my studies...

Caption 22, Maestra en Madrid - Nuria y amigo

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The verb pasar, like llevar, can take on the meaning "to spend (time)", but pasar gives us the impression that the action is completed and does not continue. Nuria spent nearly ten years in Madrid, but she is no longer living there full time.


Ana pasó cinco días estudiando español.

Ana spent five days studying spanish (and then she stopped).

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Trucos: Useful Tricks

Strolling down the historic streets of Burgos, Carlos and María Angeles (who goes by Angeles) tell us about their local nightspots. Pubs, they say, manage to circumvent local laws and keep customers through the night -- until about 8 AM -- by briefly closing and then opening again. Angeles explains:


Sí, son trucos, pequeños truquitos de la picaresca española.

Yes, they're tricks, little tricks of Spanish wiliness.

Captions 78-79, Burgos - Caminando

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Trucos are "tricks." And, as we've explained before, the ending -ito is diminutive, so truquitos are "little tricks." Saying pequeños truquitos is merely repetitive, for effect. It emphasizes that we're talking about "little, harmless tricks." Also: note that truquitos is spelled here with a 'qu' to preserve the hard 'c' sound in Spanish (like 'k' in English).


Hace todo... es muy inteligente, hace todo lo que le pides, se sabe un montón de trucos.

He does everything... he's very smart, he does everything you ask him, he knows a ton of tricks.

Captions 55-56, Rosa - La perrita Mika

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Deberíamos decirle que nos enseñe unos truquitos.

We should tell him to teach us some little tricks.

Caption 5, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 4

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A related word in the first quote of this lesson is the adjective picaresca, which means "rascally" or "picaresque" in the literary sense. Remember, picaresque literature was founded in Spain, "flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and continues to influence modern literature," according to Wikipedia's entry (in English) on the subject. The genre usually features the adventures of a roguish hero (un pícaro), living by his wits. You might note that Angeles -a Spanish history fan herself- utters the term picaresca with a giggle and a knowing appreciation of the form.

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Dolobu: Playing "al vesre"

To introduce this popular song, singer Marciano Cantero of Argentina's Los Enanitos Verdes ("The Green Dwarfs") shares the story of an encounter in Denver:


Me acerqué, así como haciéndome el dolobu.

I came closer, pretending to be a fool.

Caption 12, Enanitos Verdes - Luz de día

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Here is another example, this time from the Argentinian telenovela Muñeca Brava.


Y tuvieron un hijo juntos pero después el señor Federico se hizo el dolobu.

And they had a son together but afterwards Mr. Federico played the fool.

Caption 66, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa

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¿DolobuTry to find that word in a formal dictionary. You can't. That's because dolobu is an inverted slang form of the slang word boludo -- which we wrote about some weeks backFor Argentines like Marciano and many of his fans, boludo ("jerk" or "fool") is such a popular taunt that they have little trouble recognizing dolobu as a scrambled version of it.

There's a term for this sort of scrambling slang in Spanish: Al vesre--which is al reves ("in reverse") in al vesre. Got that? Think of it as a form of Pig Latin.

As a general rule, scrambling syllables a la al vesre will shade a word with more negative connotations than its original meaning. For example, while boludo may be a friendly greeting between friends (as we noted in this space previously), dolobu is more often a straight-up insult. Here are some more examples:

Hotel ("hotel") becomes telo (with the silent "h" dropped to preserve its pronunciation) when it's a seedy, rent-by-the-hour, love motel.

A sifón ("siphon") becomes a fonsi to describe the sort of hooked nose reminiscent of a siphon.

The already vulgar verb cagar ("to defecate") becomes garcar (with an "r" added to keep it recognizably a verb in the infinitive), with roughly the same crude meaning.


There are countless other examples. For further discussions of al vesre slang, see these web pages:

Wikipedia > Vesre (in Spanish)
Wikilibros > Diccionario de Vesre
(in Spanish)

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Se trata: What It's About

This week we also offer the eighth installment of De Consumidor a Persona ("From Consumer to Person"), from Spain, a probing look at tough environmental questions. In this clip, we hear:


Es decir, se trata de vincular la misma actividad que uno tiene pues para...

That is, it is about linking the same activity that one has, well, to...

trabajar por la abolición de la deuda externa.

to work for the abolition of the foreign debt.

Captions 37-38, De consumidor a persona - Short Film - Part 8

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We've discussed the versatile verb tratar ("to treat" or "to attempt to") in this space before. But we didn't yet touch on the common construction tratarse de [algo] ("to be about [something]"), which is seen in the phrase above.

Here's a common question:

¿De que se trata?
What is it about?

And one possible answer:

Yabla Spanish se trata de gente interesante.
Yabla Spanish is about interesting people.


Got that? Have a look at an interesting discussion of the phrase, found here.

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Farandulera: A Party Girl

When quizzed further on the subject of diversión ("having fun"), the highly educated Patricia uses more colloquial and informal terms, as appropriate. After reventones, another one that caught our eye was farandulera -- as in:


Y yo realmente soy muy poca así... farandulera.

And actually, I am not really that way... a party girl.

Caption 7, Patricia Marti - Diversión y Ejercicio

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According to our Yabla dictionary, a farandulera is formally "a trickster, a person who plays tricks" or "a rogue, crook, swindler or cheat." It comes from the noun farándula, which traditionally means "the theater world." But note that in common usage in Latin America, la farándula is more like a group of people who are always out late at night, dancing and having fun. Latino paparazzi may follow la farándula to supply photos for magazines such as ¡Hola! and Caras (roughly equivalent to the US's People or Us Weekly). Many LatAm newspapers and websites have sections devoted to farándula (such as MSN Latino).

So, Patricia tells our cameras not to bother following her like some paparazzi. She's not una farandulera ("a party girl").

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Reventón: A Big Blowout!

Venezuelan Patricia Martí tells us about her home town of Coro, compared to other parts of the world:


Así como en otros países, que hay muchas discotecas y reventones y fiestas...

The way [it is] in other countries, there are a lot of discotheques and big blowouts and parties...

Caption 4, Patricia Marti - Diversión y Ejercicio

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Look up reventones -- plural of reventón -- and you'll see it's "a flat tire" or "a blowout." As you can see, Patricia uses the word in a looser sense to mean a sort of big social event, which, in English, we might also call a blowout.

To further build up your vocab, note that reventón is a noun related to the verb reventar, which means "to burst." The verb form can also be used in formal and informal speech. For example, to be formal:


Reventó un caño.
A pipe burst.

And, in a looser, more figurative sense:

Su padre reventaba de orgullo.
Her father was bursting with pride.


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—ote, —ota, and Encajar: Too Big to Fit?

We learn many things in the sixth installment of actress Natalia Oreiro's biography. One is that she's not a Tom Cruise- or Winona Ryder-sized wee thing. She's tall -- for an actress. And that was actually a worry at first, her friend Rosa tells us. Here's a snippet of the interview:


E incluso le dijeron que, que para ser acá así de actriz era muy alta...

They even told her that, that to be an actress here she was too tall...

que era como muy grandota y que no encajaba...

that she was like too huge and would not fit...

Captions 13-15, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 6

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Rosa has a colorful way of speaking. The first of the two words we highlight above --grandote-- is formed from the adjective grande ("big, large") and the augmentative suffix -ote, which amplifies the meaning of grande, making our best translation "huge." Adding -ote or -ota "often adds a note of contempt to the idea of bigness," according to The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice (published by Passport Books).

Note that augmentative suffixes can be applied to pretty much any noun or adjective. Some augmented words merit their own dictionary entries, especially if they take on a special meaning, while others don't. For example, consulting a few sources, we found entries for:

ojotes (root word: ojos, "eyes"): "bulging eyes, goggle eyes"

palabrota (root word: palabra, "word"): "swear word, dirty word"

animalote (root word: animal, "animal"): "big animal; gross, ignorant person"

In Spanish, augmentative suffixes are not quite as popular as diminutive ones (-ito, -ita, -cito, -cita), but you will hear them peppering the language for emphasis. (For some more on diminutives, review our previous discussion of poquitito some weeks back. To learn more about suffixes in general, ThoughtCo. has a helpful list.)


Moving on to the second word we highlighted above: It's encajaba, from the verb encajar. It, too, is a compound word, formed from the prefix en- ("in") and root word caja ("box"). The verb encajar means "to fit." It can suggest a physical fit (e.g., pieces of a puzzle fitting together), or a more thematic one (e.g., a transfer student fitting in to his new school). Rosa is using the second sense of the word, when she describes the fears that her friend wouldn't fit in to the acting world in Buenos Aires.

For more on compound words in Spanish, see: ThoughtCo.'s Colorful Combinations.

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Por, Para: Forever Complications

The title of this week's new music video is the common phrase Para Siempre, meaning "forever." Take a look at how the phrase is used in the lyrics:


Puedo esperar para siempre

I can wait forever

Caption 5, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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Puede durar para siempre

Can last forever

Caption 7, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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Quiero vivir para siempre

I want to live forever

Caption 13, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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Tiene que ser para siempre

It has to be forever

Caption 15, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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Para here means "for." Para + an expression of time will indicate a point in time for which something is intended--or, a deadline. In the examples above, our singer is intending something to go on forever. Here are two less poetic examples of para in action:


Tengo tarea para mañana.
I have homework for tomorrow.

Tengo que terminar este informe para la semana que viene.
I have to finish this report for next week.


But astute listeners will catch that there's another way to say "for" in Spanish, also used in this song. Look at this line of our featured song:


O por toda una eternidad -Si me lo pides

Or for all eternity -If you ask me

Caption 4, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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You see, por + an expression of time usually indicates the duration of something. For example:


Él trabajó por tres horas.

He worked for three hours.


Por la semana que viene, vamos a tener clases en el edificio porque acá hay una reunión.

(Just) for next week, we are having classes in the old building because there is a meeting here.


The difference is subtle when we're talking about the intention "forever" (para siempre) vs. the duration "forever" (por siempre). It's no wonder por and para take a lot of practice to get right for non-native Spanish speakers. But here's a hint to help you along: The phrase 'para siempre' is much more common than 'por siempre' in romantic song lyrics and on Valentine's cards. And even native Spanish speakers debate the por / para divide.


So, if you want to tell someone that "it has to be forever"--and you want to sound like a native Spanish speaker in the process-- remember this catchy tune to remind you to say "tiene que ser para siempre."

(Final note: We've touched on por and para before, specifically looking at what happens when each is paired with the infinitive of a verb.)
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Nomás: Not Only or No More?

How might a new airport affect the families living off the farming land of Atenco, Mexico? Listen to the interviews in this documentary for some strongly held opinions.

In the introduction, a listener might think they're hearing double:


A no nomás al estado de México.

And not only to the state of Mexico.

Caption 9, ¡Tierra, Sí! - Atenco - Part 1

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No nomás ("not only") is not to be confused with no, no más ("no, no more"). In Mexico and parts of Central America, nomás as a single word can mean solamente or sólo (in English: "only"). It's distinguished from the two words 'no más' by their context.

But note that
'no nomás' probably sounds a little odd to someone from Spain, who would say "No sólo el estado de México," instead. (Loyal readers may recall we
previously discussed why sólo takes an accent mark when it means "only.")

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