Welcome to the fourth of Hablarama’s Basic Spanish Classes.
In this lesson, our fantastic, bilingual teacher, Aurora Ielpi, takes us through the Spanish we need if we want to talk about work and studies.
Now that you can talk a little about yourself in Spanish, let’s have a look at how to talk about what you do.
Whether you’re still in university, working like a slave for an ungrateful boss, or are about to retire, it’s always nice to share information about yourself with others.
What do you do?
There are several ways of asking this. Here are three from the most formal to the most colloquial.
- ¿A qué se dedica?
- ¿A qué te dedicas?
- ¿Qué haces?
If you look at the first two questions closely, you’ll see that they are very similar. The difference is in how you address the speaker.
The first is used when you refer to your speaker as usted. In Spain, Usted is used with elderly people, in more formal situations -e.g. a job interview-, or in a situation where the speakers do not really know each other and so there is no real bond between them. For instance, at the doctor’s or at the bank. The verbs and pronouns we use for usted are the same as for él and ella.
The second question is the same as the first but with the form tú. This is the form you would use in Spain when talking to somebody of your own age, for example. It shows that you and your speaker are on the same level. The conjugation of the verb and the pronoun change to agree with the second person singular.
For a more detailed look at the different uses of tú and usted in both Spain and Latin America, visit our class on basic Spanish questions.
The last question is the most colloquial or informal. It shows a little more familiarity with your speaker. Note, however, that this questions can also mean “What are you doing?”, and is used when the speaker wants to know what the other person is up to at that moment in time.
So, what is it that you do? There are as many answers as there are people, and they can all start in the same way. Whether applying for a mortgage, at the beach or having dinner with your partner’s parents, you can always answer by starting with Soy… (“I am…”)
- Soy profesor de inglés.
- Soy policía.
Let’s look at some common words for jobs.
Have you noticed anything about the entries with two words? That’s right, many of the nouns for jobs and occupations have a masculine and a feminine form. That’s because Spanish comes from Latin, so some words -mainly nouns and adjectives- distinguish between masculine and feminine.
Sometimes this can seem a bit arbitrary, but there are some rules which can help you figure out which is which. For starters, masculine nouns and adjectives typically finish in a consonant (diseñador) or in the vowel o, like abogado. The feminine of these words is made by adding an -a to the word: diseñadora, abogada.
The words on the right-hand column have the same form for both masculine and feminine. In other words, they never change the ending, no matter if they refer to a man or a woman.
Soy un dentisto – A common error
Imagine you’re at a social gathering and somebody asks you “¿Qué haces?” So, of course, you answer something like “Soy un dentisto.” You’re a man and you’re a dentist, so the word should be in the masculine form, right? Wrong! Words that finish in -sta never change the ending. That goes for dentista, futbolista, and tenista among others. Don’t worry, when you’re talking to someone, people can see you. There won’t be any confusion!
Also, when talking about what you do, don’t add an article before the noun. Soy un dentista should be Soy dentista. There’s only one of you, no need to count!
So, make sure you remember:
Right: Soy dentista
Examples from Social media
I’m a musician:
Alguien: ¿Y a qué te dedicas?
Yo: Bueno, soy músico. Se supone que es… mi profesión… *ríe a carcajadas mientras llora*.
— Reverendo (@Depricher) August 18, 2017
I’m a singer:
-Y a que te dedicas?
– Mmm, y de eso vas a vivir?
Si, por? pic.twitter.com/U2b5JtOhm2
— Bri López (@BrissaLop) August 18, 2017
A video to finish with…
Here’s a song by the Spanish group Café Quijano, “La taberna del buda”. How many jobs from this lesson do they mention?
Free classes and resources for learning Spanish
As well as this Basic Spanish course, Hablarama also publishes free, downloadable materials for improving your Spanish vocabulary. And we have a section on Spanish phrases with videos of real-life native Spanish speakers.