Ser vs Estar

November 11th, 2007

I received this question about ser vs estar 

Hello Marcus,
I am trying to teach my junior high students the difference between SER and ESTAR. As you know, that is not so easy, so I am looking for ways of making it as compresible as possible.
So, when using the question words cómo and dónde can I tell the students always to use ESTAR and not SER? Or are there so many exceptions to this home made rule of mine, that I am better off not even mention it to them?
Hope you have time to answer me!

Here’s my reply

I wouldn’t use your rule with cómo.
Generally, it will work with dónde, however beginners might get confused by ¿De dónde es? or informally ¿De dónde eres?
Here’s the thing, I think it’s wrong to isolate Ser and Estar. Instead, it’s better to make learning to use them part of an overall approach to Spanish.

That is, they are part of lessons in general, not in isolation. You’ll
see what I mean in the new follow up course to Synergy Spanish.

Good question though, and if you can give students an easy rule that works, it’s worth investigating.
One last comment, my daughter gets ser and estar wrong all the time. It’s about 50/50 whether she get’s it right. She’s 4 1/2 and Spanish is her native language.
Yet, nobody seems bothered by her errors. Just like when kids in English say “I putted on my shoes” most parents don’t say, “oh that’s an irregular verb you need to conjugate it differently.” Instead they just say “you put on your shoes, well done”. And in time the children aquire the correct usage.
I think we can do the same with ser and estar by using it in context rather than over analysis.

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Bonus Spanish conversation lessons for members

June 27th, 2007

I had a couple of complaints about “Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 2”, that stopped me in my tracks.

I get plenty of praise, like these examples. The praise always outweighs complaints by at least 100 to 1 so I don’t usually pay attention to complaints.

Usually the complaints that I get are pretty easy to dismiss;

“I don’t really like Spanish, I just wanted to know how to say jorge is hot so stp mailing me or i am calling the cops.”

Easy to decide what to do there…


Then I get some complaints like this;

“you just ended your last sentence with a preposition, you’d fail my class”.

Oh sorry… I should have written,

“that’s for what the delete key is”


But the complaints about “Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 2” were from people whose opinions I care about…

my students.

Before I tell you what they said, I should point out there were only two complaints, however they made the same point, so they really caught my attention.

Here’s what they said, in a nutshell.

“There’s nothing new in Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 2, it’s just a reworking of Shortcut to Spanish level 2  in the informal form.”

My first reaction was; well yes, that’s the idea.

But then I thought about it a little,

“Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 1”, does have a lot of unique material. I guide people to use extra Spanish that doesn’t fit into the structure of the main “Shortcut to Spanish course”. 

Maybe they have a point.

Perhaps, “Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 1”, does need to offer more.

So, I sat down and created extra lessons. I concentrated on the most useful informal conversational Spanish. Spanish you’ll hear everyday.

Walk around any crowd of Spanish speakers, and you’ll notice structures from the extra lessons almost immediately.

It’ll help you understand more Spanish, tune in better when they speak fast, and give you more ways of expressing yourself.

They build upon the foundation from Shortcut to Spanish level 2 and the first 16 lessons of Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 1 in even more ways. Yet it always maintains the informal conversational tone you’ll want to use to speak with your amigos.

For all the people who ordered “Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 2″… a bonus for you.

A new CD worth of Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 2…

And it’s yours for free

Just for not complaining… just kidding.

My thanks to the two students who spoke up and expressed their thoughts.

It helped me make the course better.

If you’re a member all you need to do us go to the member’s page and login to get access to your extra Shortcut to Informal Spanish Conversations level 2 lessons…

Muchos Saludos 

Marcus Santamaria 

Is Spanish lesson 101 making you sound demanding?

April 18th, 2007

Personal pronouns are needed much less in Spanish than English. Yet, In most courses personal pronouns are lesson 101.

In Synergy Spanish  we use them very little. Here’s why it’s best not to use them as much as in English.

Personal pronouns are used for emphasis, for example;

Quiero ir – I want to go

Yo quiero ir – I really want to go

So, if you use them the way you do in English, you will sound like a very insistent person.

In Synergy Spanish we only use them only to clarify if there is any ambiguity.

for example;

Quieren encontrar un hotel.

Quieren could mean;

1) They want to find a hotel. (a group of men, men and women, or all women)

2) You (all) want to find a hotel.

So, we use the pronouns to clarify who is being talked about.

Ellas quieren encontrar un hotel – they (all females) want to find a hotel

Ellos quieren encontrar un hotel – they (all males or mixed group) want to find a hotel

Ustedes quieren encontrar un hotel - you (all) want to find a hotel

In spoken Spanish it will mostly be obvious who is being talked about. So, even in the above example, more often than not, the pronouns won’t be necessary.

Watch out for bad advice

April 7th, 2007

It pays to be careful where you get your advice about speaking Spanish.

I have seen this happen so many times, native speakers giving bad advice about Spanish.

I’m not sure why it happens, some people like to criticize to make themselves sound big I guess.

You know, although native Spanish speakers will always speak better than someone who learned as an adult, they often have no idea how to teach it.

In fact, native speakers often have a disadvantage as teachers.


They have never had to learn the language as an adult and so they never really had to think about it.

This is true with me, I am a much better Spanish teacher than an I am as an English teacher, because I have been through the learning process.

one of my students got some horrible advice from some friends. Here’s his email to me.


I have questions about something in Lesson 2.


Method 1: Lo quiero ver

Method 2: Quiero verlo

You recommend using Method 2.  I have some Spanish speaking friends that disagree.  They say that it is not correct and much better to use Method 1.

I am sure that you have considered this before making your recommendation of Method 2.  And, as this occurs so close to the beginning, I am sure that it must be fundamental and the subsequent lessons build on it.  My questions are:

1) Is there a significant difference between the two methods and can someone, at a later date, easily unlearn what might be considered a convenient, but “incorrect” or “not preferred” gramatical structure?

2) Will there be other similiar situations – Method 1 (preferred) v Method 2 (convenient) – throughout the course?



Hi Wilf

Frankly, I don’t get why your friends would tell you that.

Both methods are grammatically correct and used every day by Spanish speakers.

Here’s a way to prove it.

Type into google

“Lo quiero ver”

then type in

“Quiero verlo”

Make sure it’s in parenthesis, that way Google will only give you the hits on the exact phrase.

I did it out of curiosity and this is the result I got.
“Lo quiero ver”
Resultados 1 – 10 de aproximadamente 45,900 de “Lo quiero ver”. (0.15 segundos

“Quiero verlo”
Resultados 1 – 10 de aproximadamente 107,000 de “quiero verlo”. (0.08 segundos

45000 vs 107000, method 2 wins in real world use.

That’s why we use method 2 in Synergy Spanish, it’s easier for a beginner to use and and it’s how people speak.



Two ways to learn more Spanish easily

April 2nd, 2007

Sometimes, Spanish can get confusing. That’s why I created both an audio course and a step by step action guide with Synergy Spanish.

Frankly, I could create my course in about 20% of the time if I made them just audio, but that wouldn’t be as effective.

Yes, I know people sell courses and use catch phrases like, no books, just audio as if that makes it better.

Sure, I think it’s more fun to listen to audio, and we all know how dull textbooks can be. Just because textbooks are dull, doesn’t mean a step by step action guide has to be dull.

If it helps you discover how to use more Spanish and get more from the audio lessons, all the better.

Here’s a question from a student. You’ll see that if I didn’t have an action guide for her to refer to she could get overwhelmed.



Hola Marcus,

My question is this:  If “mos” in spanish means “we” and its placed at the end of the word such as in podemos and queremos then why is “nos”  placed at the beginning of the word in gusteria and gusta when it’s usual place seems to be at the end of the word.  I can understand the “nos” placement at the end of the word because (us) is usually a sentence ender like in ayudarnos (help us) but to put it in front of a word such as in gusta, and gusteria it’s like saying “us like and us would like rather than we (mos) like. If “mos” means “we” then why isn’t “mos” placed at the beginning of gusteria and gusta instead of “nos?”  How would you know when to use mos in front of a word versus using nos in front?

Also, if mos stands for we than why isn’t it placed in front of the word such as:   mos pode rather than podemos the way nos gusteria is placed in front – why is one word meaning “we”placed in front and another word meaning “we” placed in the body of the word yet they both stand for “we”? This is my confusion – Help!



Hi Penny

Actually, it is covered in easy steps throughout the Synergy Spanish action guide Synergy Spanish

However, here is a quick overview

When you say, nos gustaria,

what you are literally saying is

to us = nos

it would be pleasing = gustaria

to us it would be pleasing = nos gustaria

However, we use nos gustaria as, we would like, because that is closer to the way it really is used.

Hope this helps

Best regards

Tips on keeping up with Spanish spoken quickly

March 19th, 2007

A lot of people have a problem with Spanish spoken quickly.

Dave sent me some feedback and thoughs. See my answer below to Dave’s letter to me.

I really like the Synergy course.  So far I have the following thoughts. First of all, I am a retired Electrical Engineer and therefore analyze everything, and so I am interested in the language learning process.  That is what drew me to your Synergy approach.

I have been taking lessons for over 2 years now from a wonderful lady from Columbia, but from the very first I thought that grammar was not the way to go.  I believe like you that students ought to be given a limited vocabulary sheet and then they should make all kinds of sentences from the words in order to become comfortable with speaking.  By the way, every student that started with me and joined later classes has dropped because it was too hard.

Besides taking the lessons with La Senora, I have also finished the Pimsleur course.  I wish that I had found you first, however, it would have been a lot less expensive.  I do feel, though, that I learned a lot from the Pimsleur course.

I listen to Spanish radio and TV almost every day.  So, as you can see, I am determined to become as fluent as is possible at this stage of my life.  Synergy is one part of the puzzle.  Another part would be to be able to understand Spanish in the media.  I think that the key is to know numbers cold (because they are used so often) and to not even think about helper verbs like “tenemos” etc.  Whenever I hear “tenemos” now, I don’t translate it, I just know it.  But, there are a lot of other helper verbs, that I still translate.  The less translating one has to do, the easier it is to understand Spanish spoken quickly because in that split second that you are translating a verb like “tenemos” you are missing the infinitive verb after it and the content of the sentence is lost.  So, you might think about a way of getting students to acquire this “knowing” skill.  I think that hearing it over and over again from different speakers is a possibility.

By the way, I feel that if I can understand Spanish media, then I will pick up patterns and improve my spoken Spanish as well.  One of my “fears” in speaking is to say something and then have the native speaker come back rapidly with something that I do not understand.  I know that I can say “repita por favor” pero I would rather not have to do that.  Listening and understanding a lot of Spanish, even if I can’t speak it, would be the key for me.



Hola Dave

Thanks for taking the time to write me, I appreciate your comments.

I would recommend you include in your daily practice reading in Spanish. Reading gives you more time to decipher the language and this will help with understanding Spanish spoken very quickly.

You will find that over time reading gives you the ability to understand Spanish words in a split second. After you have read and understood a word several times, you start to recognize it instantly on paper. Then you find the next time you hear it you also recognize it. After you hear it a few times you start to recognize it instantly.

So, even though reading is not a listing skill it will play a big part in building you listening skills and understanding Spanish at the fast speed that native speakers often use.

I am actually working on some material to also help understand Spanish spoken quickly. I have been researching the project for almost 2 years. I’ll let you know when I have material.

For more tips on understanding Spanish spoken  quickly go to this page of tips


Marcus Santamaria

Phrases in Spanish

February 9th, 2007

Sometimes phrases in Spanish vary, just like they do in English

I received this question today about one of the most commonly used phrases in Spanish.

“I hear the word entrada in a sentence “la semana entrada”.  However in your lessons you say “la semana proximo”?

Hi Joan
Just like in English we could say either;
next week
the coming week
the following week

In Spanish there are also several ways to say next week.

The phrase that you are probably hearing is one of the following.

la semana entrante

la semana que entra

One of the phrases in Spanish used frequently in the Synergy Spanish audio lessons is
la próxima semana
as I have found that it is used more often in more places than either;

la semana entrante

la semana que entra

In Synergy Spanish you learn the most useful Spanish first. Check out these amazing success stories to see how well it works.


Marcus Santamaria

Spanish success stories

February 7th, 2007

It’s amazing to hear what people are doing with
Synergy Spanish

There are stories of romances that became weddings,
people who moved to Spain or Latin America and now
interact in their new communities.

Others, especially in the USA, are now doing more
business with Spanish speakers and there are many
generous people helping out the poor in Latin America.

One amazing young couple even adopted 5, yes five,
beautiful children from Guatemala.

There are some extraordinary human success stories
with Synergy Spanish. I am inspired and humbled to
have received their unsolicited testimonials.

There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the same
success and even more this year.

You see, if this is going to be your year to
finally speak Spanish, then now is a great time
to get going. 

Firstly, You can succeed even more than my most
successful students.

You see, I am busy working on Synergy Spanish
level 2. After all this fabulous feedback
how could I stop? I hope to release it in
May this year.

It takes the communication power of Synergy
Spanish and multiplies it. You easily speak
Spanish at an even higher level. Yet, you’ll
do it without the stress, confusion and
complexity that usually comes with
learning a language.

I am doing all the hard work for you. All you
have to do is just continue interacting in the
same easy way as in Synergy Spanish level 1.

If you get started on Synergy Spanish now, your
timing will be almost perfect for the first
samples of Synergy Spanish level 2 in April

You’ll enjoy speaking a lot of Spanish by
March. Then you can repeat the course and
speak with extra confidence in April.

Then, if you are like most of my students,
you’ll enjoy learning so much you’ll want
to keep going. Your timing will be perfect
for the release of Synergy Spanish level 2.

Secondly, Unfortunately I have to increase
the price of the hard version of Synergy

If you compare my price with all the other
courses on the market, you’ll see Synergy
Spanish is excellent value. My wish is to
offer the best results and best value
in the world and to allow as many people as
possible to speak Spanish.

Unfortunately, I have to raise the price
this month.

However, you can save by acting now.

Synergy Spanish is available with a book
and 14 CDs here
If you’re comfortable downloading, you can
save even more by choosing the digital
version here
If price is not an issue for you, but
results are what matter, again I draw
your attention to the comments from real
users. I have never asked for a testimonial,
yet they are some of the most amazing
successes you’ll ever see.
If you haven’t tried the samples of
Synergy Spanish yet, you can download
4 chapters here

Plus you can download a full hour of
audio here


Marcus Santamaria
Spanish communication coach

Rosetta Stone review

January 21st, 2007


This is an interactive page to read comments and make comments on Spanish courses.
The first comment about Rosetta Stone is by me. It’s just to get the ball rolling. This page is really for users to offer feedback on courses to other Spanish learners.

So, please feel free to comment by clicking on the “leave a response” link below.

Spanish course reviews

January 21st, 2007

It’s not hard to find Spanish course reviews on the Internet.
The problem is that many of the reviews are fakes. 

In fact, I have seen several reviews in which it is clear to me that the reviewer hasn’t even done the course, perhaps doesn’t even own it.

Why would they do that?

They write course reviews to earn affiliate commissions. The big problem for you is that the review is not based on wanting to share valuable information with others. Far from it, they just create quick, one paragraph, made up reviews.

The course they rate the best is the one that pays the highest commission. Usually Rocket Spanish is rated number 1, Learning Spanish Like Crazy number 2

Me molesta (it bothers me).

Now, if anyone thinks that Rocket Spanish is the best course available that’s fine by me. If people like Learning Spanish Like Crazy , no hay problema. I haven’t bought either course yet, so I really can’t comment, I expect they are both very good courses.

My protest is not about someone prefering another course to mine, (although I am sensitive, Synergy Spanish and Shortcut to Spanish are my babies) my protest is against obviously fake reviews.

So, I set up a home for honest Spanish course reviews. Better yet the reviews are not by the course creators. Instead I am inviting you, the course’s users, to post reviews.

It’s an interactive page. I invite you to read the user comments. You can also add your own comments by clicking on the comments link.

The first course for review is Rosetta Stone, I’ll add more pages soon.

Click here   for the first of the Spanish course reviews with comments on Rosetta Stone.