Asking ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?) is the type of thing that comes up in a textbook. Sometimes, it can work. Other times, it would make you sound awkward.
Maura, ¿qué hora es?
(Maura, what time is it?)
Son las cinco. Nos tenemos que ir pronto.
(It is 5 o’clock. We have to leave soon.)
Yo soy Maura de Spring Spanish and today we’ll cover 7 of my favorite moments when textbook Spanish falls really short from native, natural, advanced Spanish. ¡Empecemos!
1. ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?)
In that opening dialogue, Carla asked me for the time. She used our good old chunk: ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?) for this. Most Spanish textbooks, especially since they mostly focus on grammar, would be satisfied with this. I wouldn’t. Here’s why:
No encuentro mi teléfono. ¿Qué hora es?
(I can’t find my phone. What time is it?)
No sé, mi teléfono se murió. Vamos a preguntar.
(I don’t know, my phone died. Let’s ask.)
Disculpa, ¿tienes hora?
(Excuse me, “do you have the time”?)
Claro, son las cuatro y media.
(Sure, it’s half past 4.)
Disclaimer: this video is based on generalizations. Obviamente, otros libros, especialmente los centrados en expresiones idiomáticas, profundizarán más en los chunks que presentan. (Obviously, other books, especially those focused on idiomatic expressions, will go more in depth with the chunks they present.) También, como ustedes bien saben (Also, as you well know), Spanish is a huge universe composed of many different countries. What might sound off to me as a Venezuelan, might sound perfectly ok to other Spanish speakers.
So, Carla asked me ¿qué hora es? (what time is it?) and that works perfectly fine. But when she wanted to ask that to a stranger in the streets, she didn’t use the same chunk, did she? No, she said: ¿tienes hora? (do you have the time?) There’s many alternatives to this, things like:
- Disculpa, ¿me puedes decir la hora? (Excuse me, can you tell me the time?)
- Disculpa, ¿sabes qué hora es? (Excuse me, do you know what time it is?)
- Disculpa, ¿me das la hora, por favor? (Excuse me, can you give me the time, please?)
The important thing here is that stopping a stranger on the streets and using the textbook question: ¿qué hora es? (what time is it?) would be quite weird.
Mi teléfono se murió (My phone died) is a very common chunk to use when you have no battery.
Keep this use of “se murió” (it died) in mind so you can use it with any machine that either broke down or is out of battery, as in:
- Mi lavadora se murió y no quiero ni saber cuánto cuesta una nueva. (My washing machine died and I don’t even want to know how much a new one costs.)
- El micrófono se murió, así que ponlo a cargar. (The microphone died, so put it to charge.)
Also, if you don’t know already, know that that link in the little signup box below is a gift for you. Access it and get our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit, which is a curated list of the most common chunks in Spanish that you should already be using.
2. Sí y no (yes and no): it’s as simple as that, right? Not.
First, I know you think you know how to use “y” (and) in Spanish, but you don’t. We’ll get back to this at the end of this video. Right now, let’s talk about “sí” (yes).
Me muero por comer comida coreana. ¿Me acompañas?
(I’m dying to eat Korean food. Will you join me?)
Cien por ciento. Yo amo la comida coreana.
(100%. I love Korean food.)
¿Así estoy bien vestida?
(Am I dressed ok like this?)
Total. Yo voy así también.
(Totally. I’m going like this too.)
There are so many ways to say “sí” (yes), it’s crazy. And “sí” is so basic that you would certainly need more alternatives to this. We actually have a video about that. The thing is, the need to say “sí” comes up way too often. Unlike textbook Spanish, advanced Spanish definitely requires you to have your own set of options for this. Depending on who you listen or talk to, this will change so keep an ear out for it. Some of mine are:
- Cien por ciento (100 %)
- Total (Totally)
- Definitivamente (Definitely)
Now, what’s up with “no” (no)?
¿El otro sitio coreano es tan bueno como este?
(Is the other Korean place as good as this one?)
Lógico, este sitio es demasiado bueno. Yo creo que no he comido mejor comida coreana. ¿Tú sí?
(Obviously, this place is too good. I don’t think I’ve ever had better Korean food. Have you?)
Para nada. Esta ha sido la mejor, sin duda.
(Not at all. This has been the best, without a doubt.)
Similarly, textbooks won’t usually make an effort to give you alternatives. The problem with that becomes very obvious in real life. It will start to sound weird if every time you mean “no” you just say “no”. Incluso podría ser medio brusco (It could even be kind of rough.) Find your alternatives. We also have a video for that! Mine are:
- Ni remotamente (Not remotely)
- Para nada (Not at all)
- En lo absoluto (At all)
3. Textbooks don’t teach you to use “que” enough
I know you’re smart enough to know this, but just to be extra clear: there is nothing wrong with textbook Spanish, being super correct or sounding a bit off. Yo digo cosas raras e incómodas todo el tiempo por otras razones. (I say weird and awkward things all the time for other reasons.)
¿Quieres ver una peli?
(Want to watch a movie?)
Seguro, pero algo bueno. Estoy frustrada de ver películas malas.
(Sure, but something good. I’m frustrated with watching bad movies.)
Como la del otro día. ¿Te acuerdas?
(Like the one from the other day. Remember?)
Qué película tan aburrida. No. Ni me la recuerdes.
(What a boring movie. No. Don’t even remind me of it.)
By learning grammar from a textbook you will surely get to: Esa película fue aburrida (That movie was boring) but I’m not sure you would get to: Qué película tan aburrida (What a boring movie).
Using “qué” (what) like this is far more natural and far more common than having to say something like: Esa película fue aburrida (That movie was boring). This phrasing sounds textbookie to me. I know “textbookie” is not a word. Pero debes reconocer que habla muy bien de mi inglés poder inventar palabras. (But you must admit that it speaks very well of my English to be able to make up words.)
Alright, I’m noticing a pattern here because this time I made a video about this. Prometo que no lo hice a propósito. (I promise I didn’t do it on purpose.) But it goes to show how I really mean it when I say these subjects are important, they make a difference and they are not covered enough in the literature.
4. Textbooks don’t teach you to use “y” enough
O sea, yo no estaba tratando de presionarla. Literal solo le di un consejo.
(I mean, I wasn’t trying to pressure her. I literally just gave her advice.)
Un segundo. ¿Le pongo nueces también?
(Wait a second. Should I add walnuts too?)
Ajá, ¿y entonces?
(Uh-huh, and then?)
Similarly to “que”, advanced Spanish requires you to use “y” more. And I also made a video about this and I’m gonna have to leave now because this is getting embarrassing.
Seriously, I can’t emphasize the importance of knowing how to use “y” in Spanish enough. It does way more than most textbooks let you know.
In this case, though, it is the quintessential way to ask someone to continue with their story. Not the texbookie: “por favor, continua” (please, continue). Not: “puedes continuar” (you can continue). No. Just say: ¿y entonces? (and then?)
Using “y” this way will surely make you sound like a true native. When it comes to someone telling you a story, try things like:
- ¿Y qué te dijo? (And what did he say?)
- ¿Y Mauricio? ¿Él sabe? (And Mauricio? Does he know?)
- ¿Y? ¿A mí qué me importa? (And? What do I care?)
If you’re interested, as you seem to be, in more advanced, natural Spanish, make sure to follow me to my lesson on abbreviations by clicking the image on the screen. ¡Nos vemos allá!