A natural enough way to introduce new ideas into English conversations is with the expression “the [x] thing” – as in: “the good thing”, “the ridiculous thing”, “the weird thing”, “the crazy thing” etc.
But how can we do the same in Spanish?
Quite easily, it turns out.
Where we would say “the [x] thing” in English, a Spanish speaker would instead say lo [x].
Apply this rule to the examples above, and in Spanish they’re transformed into: lo bueno, lo ridículo, lo extraño, and lo loco.
Let’s turn our attention a moment to our helpful volunteer below to see how she (over)uses this expression while regaling a short anecdote:
“The good thing is that I don’t have to work tomorrow”.
“The bad thing is that I won’t get paid now [lit: ‘they won’t pay me anymore’]”.
“The strange thing is that I’m past caring”.
Primero, lo primero
The above are just a few examples of a whole universe of genius ways you can employ this little construction.
One popular other circumstance that springs to mind is when making points in arguments, or talking about the order of things.
So, if you want to say, “the first thing we have to do is [whatever]”, you could go for the literal translation of la primera cosa que tenemos que hacer es….
That’s all well and good, but more often than not, a native speaker would probably choose a more streamlined version:
To further show off your expert Spanish knowledge, you can even work into conversation the slightly tweaked version of this phrase: primero lo primero.
This literally means: “first, the first thing” (though we think the contextualised translation of “first things first” is rather more snappy).
It may not be immediately obvious what lo nuestro, or “our thing”, might mean in Spanish.
It’s an important turn of phrase when it comes to talking about your romantic relationships — most commonly heard in delicate conversations between couples of the “where is this all going?” sort.
Here’s a quick example by way of illustration:
Translation: “if this thing of ours is going to work out then you’re gonna have to treat me better”. Best buck your ideas up if you hear this one.
The above, Spanish for “the only thing”, is a life saver when speaking about potential problems or difficulties. To wit:
In other words, “I’d love to go. The only thing is I’m not sure when I’ll get back from the meeting”.
All things considered, this whole lo business is rather useful, no?
But before you get irritated that you hadn’t been taught it earlier, remember that faithful and most appropriate of Spanish maxims: todo lo bueno se hace esperar.
“Good things come to those who wait”.
Comments or questions about how to lo like a pro? Please share them below…