Sunday, November 1, 2009

¿Me explico? vs ¿Me entiendes?

Today I'm going to ir al grano, or as we say in English, get to the point.

¿Me entiendes?

A really simple Spanish sentence, that means notthing more than "Do you understand (me)? So what's the big deal you ask?

Well, in Spanish this seemingly innocent phrase potentially carries a very negative connotation. As one person put it...

Es como llamarte bruta en tu cara, (Its like calling you ignorant to your face)

Ouch! I know I've used this in the past, and I certainly had no intention of conveying that message!

So then what should we say?

That's where ¿Me explico? comes in. It translates to "Am I explaining myself?", which is considered more polite, or at least by some.

Needless to say, as I was trying to process all of this, I decided I needed a little more expertise, and decided to ask my maestra about this.

Here's what she told me....

Definitivamente te recomiendo que digas "Me explico?" estoy de acuerdo!

"Comprende?" es lo peor que puedes decir! Ademas muchos gringos lo usan de manera racista y para hacerte sentir como un idiota e idiota.

Here's the translation, in case you need it:

I definitely recommend that you say "Me explico?".

"Comprende" is the worst thing you can say. A lot of gringos use this as a racist way of making you feel like an idiot.

Although I never use comprende, I certainly had no idea it might carry a negative connotation. Incredibly this is something textbooks leave out.

So, how did I hear about this? From another very useful blog (Voices en Español), and here's the link:

I also found several other interesting links:

This article is in Spanish, and discusses this topic as well as other annoying phrases

Another discussion (in English) of this topic

An interesting discussion in Yahoo Respuestas (In Spanish)

Me imagino (I imagine) that some of what is considered annoying or offensive is subjuctive, but it's certainly something to keep in mind, especially as you become more and more proficient in the Spanish language, because when people see that you have a good command of the language, it's very difficult for them to determine whether or not you made a mistake due to language or cultural misunderstandings vs you potentially just being a jerk.

Espero que te sirva (I hope this helps),

Hasta Luego!


  1. Rodney,
    This is an excellent post. I sometimes use "Me entiendas" when I should be using "Me explico". Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Good Post! These are the kinds of things that I want to know! Gracias

  3. great post, but can you actually read blue on grey?

  4. When you use me entiendes you are assuming that your interlocutor may have problem to understand. So you are charging the responsibility to him of been clear of your own words. When you use me explico the responsibility of been clear is yours, the speaker.

  5. Nice job Rodney :). Just one little sp. 'subjEctive'. Saludos de Nicaragua - Kiwi Girl

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