Dialogue - Formal Spanish


Vocabulary (Review)

cuadra block
barato (a) inexpensive, cheap
caro expensive, dear
hay there is, there are
unos some

Lesson Notes


Lesson Focus

The Focus of This Lesson Is Existence.
¿Hay algún bar por la zona?
"Is there any bar in the neighborhood?"

In Spanish, we use the verb haber to talk about existence. In the present tense, there is a special form hay, which is equivalent to the impersonal expression "there is" or "there are." This form is invariable, regardless of number.


For Example:

  1. Hay mucha azúcar en mi café.
    "There's a lot of sugar in my coffee."
  2. Hay varias huellas en la arena.
    "There are several footprints in the sand."

Note that as in English, we use hay impersonally: it takes no grammatical subject.

Key Vocabulary & Phrases

hay ("there is," "there are") This is the impersonal present tense form of the verb haber, meaning "to have." We use it exclusively to indicate existence.

unos ("some") This word can be an adjective when it modifies a noun (e.g., comí unos tacos ("I ate some tacos") It can also be a pronoun when it stands alone (e.g., ya me comí unos, meaning "I already ate some").

la cuadra ("block")

caro ("expensive," "dear")

barato ("inexpensive," "cheap")

Cultural Insights

Remember Your Manners in Spanish!

Disculpe ("excuse me"), perdone ("pardon me"), and perdón ("sorry") are all common polite ways to get a stranger's attention. Note that we conjugate the command forms, disculpe and perdone, in the formal register. Perdón, of course, is not a verb, so we do not conjugate it at all. Another common, polite way to get someone's attention is with oiga ("listen"), the formal register command form of the verb oír ("to hear").


To ask someone to move aside, or to ask politely to enter or exit a room, you may use con permiso ("excuse me").



Below is a list of the grammar points introduced or used in this lesson. Click for a full explanation.

Existencia y el verbo haber
Existence and the verb haber
Adjetivos - género y número
Adjectives: Gender and Number

Lesson Transcript

Fernando: “Is there a bar around here?” I am Fernando and I am joined by JP. Hey JP!
JP: Hola Fernando. Welcome everyone to the new spanishpod101.com. We are studying Spanish with some fun and effective lessons for listening comprehension and we are hoping to provide you with some cultural insights and tips that you might not find in a textbook. Now Fernando, what’s going to happen in this lesson?
Fernando: In this lesson, you will learn about the existence verb “hay.” The conversation takes place at a Taco truck on the street and the conversation is between Paco and a Taco vendor. They will be using the formal register.
JP: Let’s listen to this conversation now.
Paco: Disculpe, ¿hay algún bar por la zona?
Vendedor: Sí, joven. Hay unos a dos cuadras de aquí.
Paco: ¿Y son caros?
Vendedor: Hay de todo... baratos y caros.
Paco: Excuse me, is there a bar in this neighborhood?
Vendor: Yes, young man, there are some a few blocks from here.
Paco: And are they expensive?
Vendor: There are all kinds...cheap and expensive.
JP: So Paco was going out tonight.
Fernando: Yes, but apparently he doesn’t even know the neighborhood. So he asks the Taco guy for some bar advice.
JP: Right, now the Taco guy is probably well informed, right? From serving all the people when they come out of the bars.
Fernando: Exactly. So he asks, “¿hay algún bar por la zona?”
JP: “¿Hay algún bar?”, “Is there any bar?” and then “por la zona” this is “around the neighborhood.” We use that word “por” for in the location of or around.
Fernando: Yes and the answer is “Sí, joven”.
JP: Right. In Mexico, you can call guys “joven”. It’s like saying “young man” and it’s a form of respect.
JP: “Sí, joven. Hay unos a dos cuadras de aquí”.
Fernando: “Hay unos…”, “there are some…”, “a dos cuadras de aquí”, “two blocks away”, “two blocks from here”, right? Now look how he says “a dos cuadras”. We use “a” to talk about distances. “A dos cuadras”, “two blocks away.”
JP: “Hay unos a dos cuadras de aquí”, and then Paco has a follow up question, “¿y son caros?”
Fernando: “¿Y son caros?”, “So are they expensive?”
JP: “Hay de todo”, “there is all kinds.” He says “baratos y caros”.
Fernando: “Baratos”, “cheap ones” and “caros”, “expensive ones.” All right, now let’s take a look at the vocabulary in this lesson. First we are going to hear them in isolation.
JP: “Hay”.
Fernando: “There is”, “there are.”
JP: “Hay”, “hay”.
Fernando: Okay, next.
JP: “Unos”.
Fernando: “Some.”
JP: “U-nos”, “unos”.
Fernando: All right, what’s next?
JP: “La cuadra”.
Fernando: “Block.”
JP: “La cua-dra”, “la cuadra”.
Fernando: Okay, two more to go.
JP: “Caro”.
Fernando: “Expensive” or “dear.”
JP: “Ca-ro”, “caro”.
Fernando: All right, and the last one.
JP: “Barato”.
Fernando: “Inexpensive”, “cheap.”
JP: “Ba-ra-to”, “barato”.
Fernando: Okay, now that we’ve heard this vocabulary in isolation, let’s talk about them. What are we going to do first?
Fernando: Let’s look at this word, “hay”.
Fernando: “Hay”. Okay, this is a very special word in Spanish. It’s a verb, “hay”. It says that something exists. Now in English, we say “there is” or “there are.” Now we are going to talk about “hay” in the grammar section. So let’s move on to the next word.
JP: Okay. “Unos”.
Fernando: “Unos” means “some.” It looks like the plural of “uno”.
JP: Yes, “unos” means “some.”
Fernando: So when he says “there are some a couple of blocks from here”...
JP: “Hay unos”, “there are some”, “a dos cuadras de aquí”.
Fernando: Okay, “unos”. Now shall we look at the word for blocks?
JP: “Cuadras”.
Fernando: Right. Now singular is “la cuadra” but since we want to say two blocks away, we say “a dos cuadras”.
JP: Right. The singular is “la cuadra”. Next we have two adjectives and they are opposites. The first one is “caro”.
Fernando: “Caro”, “expensive”, “caro”.
JP: And the opposite is “barato”.
Fernando: “Barato”, “cheap” or “inexpensive.”
JP: Sí, “caro”, “barato”.

Lesson focus

Fernando: All right, the grammar point. Now as promised, we are going to take a closer look at the existence verb “hay”. It’s actually the present tense of the verb “haber” and it’s impersonal. So no subject. So just like in English when we say “there is” or “there are”, we don’t give it a subject. Right, it just means that something exists. For example, we can say “there is a bar.”
JP: “Hay un bar”.
Fernando: Perfect, “hay un bar”. “There is a bar”, it exists, a bar exists. Now in our dialogue, it was a question, right?
JP: “¿Hay algún bar por la zona?”
Fernando: “¿Hay algún bar?”, “is there any bar?”, “por la zona”, “around the neighborhood.” And then the answer is “there are some.”
JP: “Hay unos”.
Fernando: Right. “Hay unos”. Now we hear it again when Paco asks if they are expensive and the Taco guy answers, “there are expensive ones”...
JP: “Hay caros”...
Fernando: “And inexpensive ones”...
JP: “Hay baratos”.
Fernando: Okay, so “there is all kinds.”
JP: “Hay de todo”.
Fernando: All right. So “hay” it’s our verb of existence. Now notice in English, you say “there is” if a singular thing exists and “there are” if a plural thing exists but in Spanish, it’s always “hay”, “hay un taco”, “hay dos tacos”, “hay muchos tacos”, always “hay”.


JP: I think that just about does it for today JP.
Fernando: ¡Hasta luego!
JP: ¡Adiós!