Stowaways, the subjunctive, and filler words

November 13, 2023

Hello friend,

We dig into the Radio Ambulante archives for this week's featured story about stowaways on a journey from Peru to New York. After you listen to the tale, flex your grammar skills on the Spanish subjunctive, learn how to buy time with filler words, or flip through our picks from around the web.

Illustration of two men sitting in the cargo hold of a wooden ship, surrounded by barrels and crates

Featured story
Los polizones

In Radio Ambulante's first recorded story, Mayer Olórtegui tells how he and his best friend survived several weeks as stowaways from Peru to New York. Soundbites from Los polizones will help you practice identifying the subjunctive, learn a new phrase for when you reunite with an old friend, and discover a Spanish word that has two genders.

Want to listen to the full story? Subscribe to unlock our entire catalog of Stories and Soundbites. 

Artwork by Rocío Urtecho

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Language learning tip of the week
Spanish subjunctive

When it comes to spotting the Spanish subjunctive, you’ve got to look beyond the verbs themselves — after all, the subjunctive only changes the word slightly (ex. tú miras > tú mires). To recognize the subjunctive more easily, look for patterns instead. There are a handful of situations and expressions that always trigger the subjunctive:

Wishes: You don’t always need a genie to get your wishes granted.

  • Quiero que me invites a la fiesta. = I want you to invite me to the party.

Emotions: Make yourself heard with emotional verbs + que (that).

  • Me alegra que ustedes se lleven bien. = I’m glad that you guys get along.

Impersonal Expressions: Describe a situation with the verb ser (to be) + an adjective of your choice.

  • Es interesante que tengamos tanto en común. = It’s interesting that we have so much in common.

Recommendations/Requests: For when you just can’t keep your two cents to yourself.

  • Recomiendo que vayas a otro doctor. = I recommend that you go to another doctor.

Doubt: Sometimes you’re just not sure, and that’s okay.

  • Dudo que venga mañana. = I doubt that he’ll come tomorrow.

OjaláThis Arabic-rooted word (lit. “God willing”) is used to mean something like “I hope.”

Recognizing patterns is a huge part of mastering the subjunctive. If you find yourself slowing down to remember whether to use it or not, don’t worry, with enough practice it’ll become second nature!

ICYMI: Filler words, en español

Do you use words like "um," "uh," "you know," or "I mean..." when speaking? Most of us do. These are known as "filler" words and can be used to stall for time, connect thoughts, or even lessen the impact of a statement. Filler words exist in Spanish too and can be quite useful for language learners. Watch this video and learn how to use words like este, pues, and more to buy yourself time in conversations.

Preview image for a YouTube video on Spanish filler words - click it to play the video

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