Leçons Espagnol


Nena: Not Just for Babies

Nena, nena, nena, nena, nena, yo me voy

Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, I'm leaving

No te puedo mentir, no me puedo callar

I can't lie to you, I can't shut up

Captions 10-11, Bloque - Nena

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Anyone who sees the video Nena by the Colombian band Bloque, even once, will be quite certain that the word nena means "baby." It can also be translated "babe," as in, "hey babe, get me a beer." Nena is the feminine form of nene, which has the same meaning but is used when referring to a male. Try these out next time you encounter an actual bebé (or when you need un trago.)

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Estudiantil: Catching Authentic Spanish Mistakes

Remember, amigos, we present you with authentic Spanish here at Yabla, and Taimur is a second grader auténtico, which means our young friend is entitled to make a grammatical mistake or two himself, ¿verdad? (Not to mention that Spanish is also his second language.)


No y... soy muy estudiantil.

No and... I study a lot. ["estudioso" (studious) would be more correct.]

Caption 18, Taimur - Taimur canta

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In caption 18 of the video "Taimur canta" he says Soy muy estudiantil, and, similarly, you may have noted that in "Taimur habla" he states yo soy muy estudiante. It's clear that Taimur enjoys school and studies hard, and no doubt his teachers and parents notice that él es un estudiante muy estudioso ("He is very studious student").

The word estudiante is the noun for "student," so Taimur probably should have said Soy un buen estudiante, "I'm a good student." Or he might have chosen to tell us Yo soy muy estudioso, "I am very studious."

The word estudiantil is the adjective for "student," so a student run organization is an organización estudiantil, students who travel are engaging in turismo estudiantil, between classes young scholars might relax in a sálon estudiantil, and students who protest, if they have an effective leader, might create a full-fledged movimiento estudiantil.

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"Se"+Indirect Object+Verb+Direct Object: Accidental Grammar


Se te acabó el tiempo, Milagros.

You've run out of time, Milagros.

Caption 37, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Is there anything scarier than finding an angry nun in your room late at night? In this installment of Muñeca Brava, our heroine Milagros encounters a stern Mother Superior back in her room at the orphanage after sneaking out for some night-clubbing. The nun disregards the girl’s flimsy excuses and says ominously: "Se te acabó el tiempo, Milagros."

-The declaration means: "You’ve run out of time, Milagros." But if you look at the construction "se te acabó" -from the reflexive verb acabársele (to run out of)- it more literally means "Time has run out on you."

We find something similar going on in caption 19 of Taimur habla.


Pero esos se me echaron a perder y se los llevaron pa' llá.

But they got destroyed and they took them over there.

Caption 19, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Our friend-for-life Taimur is tellling us "they got destroyed (on me)" or "they got wrecked (on me)." Like the good monja above, he might have put the subject last, had he wanted to: Se me echaron a perder mis cosas ("My things got wrecked").

These are examples of a special se construction used to describe unplanned or accidental occurences in Spanish. As a rule, the se + me, te, le, les or nos (indirect object) + verb construction describes occurrences that happen "to someone" (a alguien). The verb agrees with what in English is the thing acted upon (the direct object) because in Spanish that thing becomes the subject, that which is doing the action. No need to get mired in grammar, just have a look at these other examples and it should start to soak in.


Se nos está acabando el pan. (acabársele)
We’re running out of bread. / The bread is running out on us.


Se me rompieron los anteojos. (rompérsele)
I (accidently) broke my glasses. / My glasses broke on me.



De repente, a Pablo se le ocurrió una idea. (ocurrírsele)
Suddenly, an idea ocurred to Pablo.


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Tirarse todo el ropero encima: Overdressed

Se tiró todo el ropero encima....

She threw everything in the closet on her...

Caption 37, Provócame - Piloto

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The scene is a high society wedding. Two women are talking conspiratorially. A third woman walks by, they say "Hi" but then quickly comment and giggle to each other. You know they just said something catty, but what was it? Here's the replay: "¿Está Loca? Se tiró todo el ropero encima.("Is she crazy? She threw on her whole wardrobe.") In all likelihood the victim of this verbal assault was not wearing everything she owned. However, with her estola ("stole"), joyas de oro ("gold jewelry") and vestido sin tirantes ("strapless dress"), the gossips want to say that she is overdressed.


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Pa': A Shortcut for "Para"

Y como yo no soy de este país, me vine pa' cá.

And since I'm not from this country, I came here.

Caption 11, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Ya yo voy pa' allá y me voy pa' mi país otra vez.

I'm going there soon and I'm going to my country again.

Caption 23, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Outside a Spanish classroom -say, on the streets or on the radio- it's very common to hear pa' in place of para ("for, towards, to a destination"). Interviewing young Taimur in a middle class neighborhood of Coro, Venezuela, a whole series of pa' pa' pa's are heard to drive home the point. "Vine pa' 'cá" ("Vine para acá") means "I came [to] here." "Voy pa' allá" means "I'll go [to] there." In both cases, pa' indicates the destination.

Looking for other examples? In the intro to Shakira's ubiquitous song La Tortura, "pa' ti" is the fast way to say "for you." In fact, if you search for "pa' 'cá," "pa' allá" or "pa' ti" on the Internet, you'll be inundated with letras (song lyrics) from the Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean down to the tip of Chile and even over in Spain.

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Casting: A Word as Spanish as English

Entonces siempre hacía de alguna manera castings, lo que hoy llamamos castings.

So somehow he always used to do castings, what we call today castings.

Captions 25-26, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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In this chapter of the life of actress Natalie Oreiro, the English word "casting" or plural "castings" is heard not once, but four times. (Note that casting's "i" follows its Spanish pronunciation rules and is pronounced like a long "e" in English, kind of like "casteeng.") In our Spanish-to-Spanish dictionary, casting (noun) is defined as "selección de personas para actuar en una película, un anuncio publicitario, etc." In other words, it's similar to its Hollywood meaning.

"Casting" is but one of the many English words creeping into Spanish dictionaries these days. In Natalie's native Uruguay, one may go to el shopping (the shopping center, or, mall) to buy un smoking (a smoking jacket) to wear for el casting (the casting call). In each of these cases, the "-ing" word is considered a masculine noun in Spanish, even if it's English equivalent started as an adjective modifying another noun.


Porque esos terrenos los vamos a conseguir, y vamos a hacer el shopping ahí.

Because those plots of land, we're going to get them and we're going to build the mall there.

Captions 8-9, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza

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—azo: A Painful Suffix

Además, si estás enamorado y no te dan bolilla...

Besides, if you're in love and the other one doesn't give you a second thought...

es como un piedrazo en la cabeza.

it's like getting hit on the head with a rock.

Captions 29-30, Verano Eterno - Fiesta Grande

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That's gotta hurt. In Spanish, the suffix azo can signify a blow by the object at the root of the word. So, piedrazo means a blow by a piedra, or stone. By this logic:

Bala -> "bullet"
Balazo -> "blow by a bullet; a gunshot wound."

Codo -> "elbow"
Codazo -> "blow by an elbow; nudge

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Por y Para: Learning through Love

One way to make a TV theme song irresistibly catchy is through repetition. In Chayanne's theme song for Provócame, it works. Take these two lines:

Por amor. Por amar.

For love. For loving.

Captions 9-10, Provócame - Piloto

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The straightforward translation is: "For love / For loving." Amor is a noun meaning "love." Meanwhile, change one letter and amar is the infinitive "to love." In Spanish, the infinitive is often used the way we in English use the gerund (with the -ing ending). For example, "I like singing" is translated as Me gusta cantar in proper Spanish.

Ok. You probably figured out quickly that the repeated por here means "for" in English. But it's a little more complicated than that. You see, there are two words that both mean "for" in Spanish: Por and para. Por can mean "for the sake of, in the cause of, or, by means of," while para can mean "with the destination of, or, in order to." In Chayenne's lyrics, por amor can be translated as "for love" in the sense of "for the sake of love" [like we saw in last week's newsletter, with por amor, usa forro ("for the sake of love, use a condom")]. That's straightforward. But some might argue Chayenne is taking a little bit of poetic license when he says por amar ("for the sake of loving") in instead of para amar, ("in order to love"), which is a more common construction with the infinitive of a verb. But, really, it works both ways - and it certainly sounds catchier with the repeated por.


Hablar por hablar.
To talk for the sake of talking.

Aprender español para hablarlo.
To learn Spanish in order to speak it.

You want more? See Por y Para at https://www.thoughtco.com/taking-confusion-out-of-por-para-3078140


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Forro: A Word as Useful as a Lifesaver

Bueno dale sí... ¿pero te ponés otro forro?

OK sure... but will you put on another rubber?

Caption 47, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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But can you put on another what?

Many of you would be more familiar with the word condón or preservativo, two synonyms for forro in this context. In a dictionary, you'll find that forro more innocently means "cover, case or interior lining" of a ski jacket or waterproof luggage, say. But in an Argentine bedroom, forro usually refers to a "condom," as it does in this line from the show Disputas.

What's more, graffiti all over Buenos Aires declares: Por amor usá forro -- "For love's sake, use a condom" -- as part of a grassroots campaign promoting safe sex. Another slogan in the fight against AIDS -- No seas forro, usá forro -- points to an alternate meaning of forro in local slang: "idiot."

An aside: X Amor is short for por amor because "x" is familiar to us all as the multiplication sign, and when you multiply in Spanish, you say dos por dos for "2 x 2." In a similar vein, Lo+Tv works for us because "2 + 2" is dos más dos. Keep your eyes open and you may notice lo+ used casually in place of lo más throughout the Spanish speaking world.

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Atinar: Attaining the Right Meaning

With Germaín de la Fuente's old-style crooning in the song "Como Quisiera Decirte," you just know he's gotta be singing about heartache. But what is he saying exactly?


Y así va pasando el tiempo

And thus, time goes by

Sin atinar a decirte

Without my being able to tell you

Lo que a diario voy sintiendo

What I'm feeling daily

Captions 18-20, Los Tetas - Como Quisiera Decirte

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You see, the verb atinar is translated as "being able to" / "to be able to." But there's an added dose of longing and frustration attached to atinar, compared to, say, poder or even ser capaz de. Atinar often appears as part of the phrase atinar a decir and suggests the need to speak up to resolve a pressured situation -una situación de presión. One synonym is lograr, in the sense of "to manage to." Dictionaries also suggest: acertar [a], dar [en el blanco], conseguir, hallar and encontrar.

It has been suggested that atinar shares roots with the verb adivinar, "to divine or guess correctly." However, most linguists would agree that there's no easy direct translation into English for this verb, which takes on many meanings and variations that non-natives will tend to absorb naturally as they encounter them in context.


Se fue tan rápido que no atiné a decirle que se olvidó sus maletas.
He left so fast that I didn't have the chance to tell him he forgot his suitcases.


Esta fue una inversión atinada, ganamos mucho dinero.
This was a good (smart) investment; we earned a lot of money.


El examen es "multiple choice." Espero poder atinar las respuestas.
The exam is multiple choice. I hope I can guess the right answers.



An aside: This is not Germaín de la Fuente's first brush with rap. The Chilean singer's romantic warbling has also appeared in songs by the Beastie Boys and Jay-Z.

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Agradecer: "Thanks" as a Verb

Te lo agradezco.

Thank you.

Caption 16, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Little doubt one of the things you say frequently when you have the occasion to speak Spanish is gracias (thanks) and muchas gracias (many thanks), but have you ever tried using the verb agradecer (to thank)? When Federico is explaining to his secretary-cum-sous-chef about how much she brings his groove back, she does not say simply gracias but rather (and somewhat cynically, we might add) "te lo agradezco" or "I thank you (for it)." It's slightly more formal, but not radically so.


Agradecemos a todos los presentes por asistir a esta reunion.
We thank all present for attending this meeting.


Les agradezco su ayuda.
I thank you all for your help.

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Arrancar: An Alternative to "Empezar"

Y así arrancaba, y ahí la vi

And this is how it was starting, and there I saw it

Caption 13, Los Pericos - Complicado

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If we speak English, it's easy to remember that comenzar means to "to start" because it sounds like "to commence." Empezar (to begin, to start) is so commonly used that most people learn it early on in their studies. But what about arrancar (which also means "to uproot", "to pull up")? Did you realize that this verb can mean "to start" as well? If so, you may have heard it used in reference to starting the engine of a car, but it also can be found in a variety of contexts related to "starting." In the lyrics of the song Complicado we find the line y así arrancaba, "and this is how it was starting..."

Ya volvimos de las vacaciones pero ahora nos cuesta arrancar.
We´ve just returned from vacation and now it´s hard for us to start working.


Vamos, Cata, la rueda ya va a arrancar.

Let's go, Cata, the wheel's going to start now.

Caption 52, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8

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Arrancá, el semáforo ya está en verde.
Go, the light has now turned green.

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Hacer Pata: To Cover for Someone

Vení, haceme pata con la amiguita.

Come, cover her little friend for me.

Caption 28, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Pata can signify "paw" or "leg," but in this case hacer pata is an expression that means "to support someone" or "to cover for someone." So when Facundo Arana says haceme pata con la amiguita, his friend "covers" (diverts) the other girl while he tries to make his move on Natalia Oreiro. Note that the diminutive of amiga is not amigita, but rather amiguita, just as the diminutive of hormiga is hormiguita.


Haceme la pata con el jefe, porque hoy no puedo ir a trabajar.
Cover for me with the boss, because I can't go to work today.


Haceme pata con Juan, ¡él es perfecto para mí!
Put in a good word for me with Juan, he is perfect for me!


Note: Because the video discussed is Argentine, these examples contain the "voseo" form of the affirmative imperative conjugation of the verb hacer.

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Atar y Desatar: Fasten, Unfasten, and Relieve

Primero me lo voy a atar...

First, I'm going to tie them up...

Caption 22, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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...porque después lo vamos a desatar.

...because we'll untie them later.

Caption 23, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Sentí el sudor, y desaté mi alivio

I felt the sweat, and I unleashed my relief

Caption 15, Los Pericos - Complicado

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Atar and desatar are two nicely opposing verbs which mean "to fasten" and "to unfasten." They can be very useful, but are often unknown by Spanish learners. This week in part 10 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, when Majo and Gloria's new friend says me lo voy a atar..., he is referring to his pants, "I am going to fasten them." (Note that he uses the singular el pantalón to refer to a single pair of "pants"?) Likewise in the next caption we find después lo vamos a desatar "later we will unfasten them" (still referring to his pants).

The verb desatar shows up again in the music video Complicados from the band Los Pericos. Here it takes on a more of a figurative meaning, "to unleash," as in "unleashing an emotion." Caption 15 of the song contains the line desaté mi alivio, which is "I unleashed my relief." It is a bit unusual to speak of "unleashing relief," but we can chalk this up to artistic license. As in English, it is usually anger that one "unleashes."


Desaté mi furia, y, después, tuve alivio.
I unleashed my anger, and, later, I was relieved.

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Agarrarte: Grab Some New Spanish Knowledge

The verb coger (to take / to grab) is commonly used in Spain, but, in Latin America, the same verb often has sexual connotations. To avoid confusion and any possible misunderstanding, Latin Americans tend to use the verb agarrar, not coger, when they wish to express "to take" or "to grab" (likewise elegir, not escoger, for "to choose" and levantar, not recoger, for "to pickup").



Agarrate el vinito que está en la cocina.

Grab the wine that's in the kitchen.

Caption 45, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Had her new actor friend told Gloria Cógete el vinito que está en la cocina, she would have understood it properly, "Grab the wine that's in the kitchen," but it would have sounded a bit odd to her, as she is South American, not a Spaniard. Note that her host appends the reflexive te to his command agarra, "grab." Had he not done so and said Agarrá el vino... instead of Agarrate el vino, the meaning would have been the same, "Grab the wine...," but it may have come across as rude and bossy as opposed to inviting and playful. He also softens his tone by using the diminutive vinito (little wine) instead of simply vino.


No, en serio te lo digo, Gloria, porque te agarra un psicópata...

No, seriously, I tell you, Gloria, because [if] you're stuck with a psychopath...

Caption 11, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Literally, porque te agarra un psicópata... is "because a psychopath grabs you..." but this is not exactly what Majo is expressing. What Majo is saying is more like "because [if] you're stuck with a psychopath" as in "if you had the bad luck of getting a psycho as a client...."


Si te agarra un profesor listo, vas a aprender la lección.
If you get a clever professor, you are going to learn the lesson.


Que esa mano si te agarra te puede dejar preñao

Because if that hand grabs you, it can get you pregnant

Captions 39-40, Trabuco Contrapunto - Mano Muerta Feat. Budú

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Me agarré un resfrío.
I caught a cold.


Entonces, agarré el gusanito del rock and roll desde los ocho años, te digo.

So, I've got the rock and roll bug since I was eight, I tell you.

Caption 27, Arturo Vega - Entrevista

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Si Juan se entera que le fuiste infiel, ¡agarrate!
If Juan finds out you cheated on him, watch out!


Cuando lo agarre, lo mato.
When I put my hands on him, I'll kill him.
(It is uncertain, hence the use of the subjunctive [yo] agarre.)


Si te agarra sueño, acostate temprano.
If you get sleepy, go to bed early.


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Dios Santo: "Holy God" and Other Ways to Talk to the Man Upstairs

Dios Santo qué bello abril

Holy God what a beautiful April

Caption 19, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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Fotografía must have slipped away from proper procedure in our rush to get it up, as we have a coterie of bilingual native speakers checking and tweaking the captions before they "go live" (and sometimes continuing to do so after). For example, we'd at first translated Dios Santo as "Dear God," as it seemed a good fit in the context of the song, but then decided to go with the more literal "Holy God." Querido Dios is "Dear God," but not so much as used in prayer, but rather if you were writing the big guy a letter. Addressing God as if in a prayer it is common to find simply Dios alone, Señor, or sometimes, Padre.

This tune, "Bello Abril" is dedicated, in the liner notes of the album Naturaleza Sangre, to none other than Dolores Fonzi. We know her better as Gala, and she's featured prominently in this video (dancing on the bed).


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Siento: I Feel or I Sit

Y de nuevo siento enfermo este corazón

And once again I feel a heartache

Caption 19, Juanes - Fotografía

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Cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver

When your photos... I sit down to see.

Caption 22, Juanes - Fotografía

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We thought we were smart to ask the moderator of Delphi's Beyond Basic Spanish forum if we could give a quick mention to Yabla Spanish. Forum users showed us who was smart when they pointed out a mistake in our translation of the Juanes song Fotografía, which is found in our "Free Demo" section, as well as in the "Music Videos" channel under "Videos." Can we say huevo en nuestra cara? (No, probably not!) Let's take a look at what they found:

In caption 19 Nelly Furtado sings siento enfermo este corazón. In this case we had it right, siento here signifies "I feel," it is derived from the verb sentir, and she is referring to feeling an ache in her heart. The usage, by the way, is a bit poetic; a less embellished, more common, way to express the same thing is me duele el corazón.

In caption 22, and throughout the song, Nelly Furtado and Juanes sing the refrain cuando tus fotos... me siento a ver. The translation we had here was "when your photos... I feel like seeing." Siento, as you may know, is also the yo form of sentar, and so can alternately mean "I sit." That is indeed the proper meaning in this case: "when your photos... I sit down to see." Sentir is not used in the sense of "feeling like doing something," for that they would have perhaps sung cuando tengo ganas de ver tus fotos, "when I feel like seeing your photos."

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Ahora / Ya: Learning "Now"

Amelia: ¡Entonces vamos!

Amelia: Then let's go!

Gala: ¿Ahora?

Gala: Now?

Amelia: Sí, sí, sí.

Amelia: Yes, yes, yes.

Caption 33, Disputas - La Extraña Dama

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A viewer wrote to ask if we could look at ahora and ya.

If we take the example above, which comes from the latest installment of the La Extraña Dama episode of Disputas, Gala could have replaced ¿Ahora? with ¿Ya? and the meaning would have been the same: "Now?"

In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Gala might have used the colloquial diminutive ahorita, especially to emphasize immediacy, "right now." Another way to stress immediacy is to place the word mismo after either ahora or ya. Ya mismo might be considered slightly stronger, but it also largely depends on the speaker's intonation and the context in which it is said.

Venga para acá ahora mismo.
Come here right now.

Venga para acá ya mismo.
Come here right now.


Cuando era chico quería ser como Superman

When I was little, I wanted to be like Superman

pero ahora ya quiero ser diputado del PAN

but now I want to be a representative of the PAN

Captions 1-2, Molotov - Hit Me

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In the music video Hit Me, Molotov combines both ahora and ya, most likely for emphasis, to indicate "now" in the sense of "these days" or "currently." In the same vein, it's not at all unusual to find ahora (without ya) where we might have expected to see hoy día (hoy en día), "nowadays."

En los años '20, las comunicaciones eran precarias. Ahora todo es diferente, la telefonia e internet se han vuelto de uso comun en casi todos los hogares.
In the twenties, communication was precarious. Now (nowadays) it's different, the telephone and internet have come into common use in almost all homes.

The combination of ya and ahora together in Hit Me comes across to some native speakers as very colloquial and a bit unusual, though of course popular music is always fertile ground for innovative, regional and less common usage. There are instances when the combination ahora and ya does sound natural to most native speakers; one is the case when ya is used to indicate "already."

Ahora, ya nos conocemos mejor.
Now, we already know each other better. (action completed)


Marisol: Tendrías que preguntarle a los peones.

Marisol: You should ask the farmhands.

Pedro: Uy, ya lo hice.

Pedro: Uy, I already did so.

Captions 12-13, Provócame - Piloto

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We find ya used to indicate action completed in this Provócome example. Pedro has "already" done what Marisol suggests.

In the case of a negative statement, where in English we would expect to see "yet," we do not use ya but rather todavía. This is a convention, like many "rules," that non-natives quite often pick up subconciously, through exposure.

¿Ya llamaste al médico?

Did you already call the doctor?

No, todavía no he llamado.

No, I haven't yet.

Sometimes ya can take on a meaning that encompasses both "now" and "already" ("finally"). This and some other important ya concepts que todavía no discutimos ("that we didn't discuss yet") can be found here: https://www.thelearninglight.com/ya.htm

A few more examples of interest:

Entonces ganaba más que ahora.
I was earning more then than (I am) now.

¡Ahora me lo dices!
Now you tell me!

Ahora que lo pienso...
Now that I come to think of it...


Another suggested quick read:

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