Wednesday Vine – la maldición de la calculadora

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beginner / objects / present tense / questions / Spain

Today’s Vine is by Dante Caro, from Madrid, Spain.

The caption is: La maldición de la calculadora.  (The curse of the calculator)

The Vine


  • Calculadora: Hey.
  • Estudiante: ¿Mmm?
  • Calculadora: ¿Te ayudo?
  • Estudiante: No, es fácil.
  • Calculadora: ¿Seguro?
  • Estudiante: Sí.
  • Calculadora: ¿SEGURO?
  • Estudiante: [nervously reaches for calculator to type 2+2=4]


  • Calculator: Hey.
  • Student: ¿Mmm?
  • Calculator: Can I help you?
  • Student: No, it’s easy.
  • Calculator: You sure?
  • Student: Yeah.
  • Calculator: YOU SURE?
  • Student: [nervously reaches for calculator to type 2+2=4]

This Vine is a great illustration of [the way we translate from English] vs. [the way a native speaker actually says things].

I might translate “Can I help you?” to “¿Te puedo ayudar?”  That would be a grammatically correct, literal translation.  However, it is far more common and natural-sounding to say,

¿Te ayudo? = I help you?

Side note:  I find this so helpful in understanding Spanish speakers who are learning English.  Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “I help you?” (te ayudo) or “Now I go” (ya voy) or “I like.” (me gusta)  It sounds simplistic – maybe we even assume the speaker is unintelligent or poorly-educated.  However, they are actually translating literally from their mother tongue, and sound no more awkward than we do when we translate literally from English into Spanish.

Another example is asking, “are you sure?”  The literal translation is “¿estás seguro?” (or if we’re talking to a woman, “¿estás segura?”)  However, in Spanish it’s more common to simply say,

¿Seguro? / ¿Segura? = Sure?

The phrase, “¿estás seguro?” is also correct, but it tends to be reserved for formal contexts, such as a doctor asking, “Are you sure you would like to embark on this treatment plan?”

Slow-Mo Version

Useful Phrases

  •  ¿te ayudo? = Can I help you? / Let me help you!
    • In formal contexts, say ¿le ayudo? for usted.
    • literal translation: “I help you?”
  • Es fácil = It’s easy.
  • ¿Seguro? = Are you sure?
    • If talking to woman, say ¿Segura?
    • full, though less frequently used, version: ¿estás seguro/a?
  • ¡Seguro! / ¡Segura! = I’m sure!  
    • full, though less frequently used, version: ¡estoy seguro/a!

Verb Tenses in this Vine

I’ll point out the verbs and tenses, and link to places where you can read more about each tense.

  • ¿te ayudo? = I help you?
    • this is the present tense of ayudar (to help)
    • conjugated for yo (first person).
  • es fácil = it’s easy.
    • this the present tense, of ser (to be).
    •  conjugated for “it” (third person)
    • in this Vine, “it” refers to el problema, the problem he is working on.

Objects in this Vine

  • In ¿te ayudo? that tiny word te is an IO (indirect object).
  • It goes immediately before the conjugated verb, ayudo.
  • For more about objects, visit the OBJECTS page.


See if you can identify these words/phrases in English.

  • te ayudo.
  • ¿te ayudo?
  • ¿te ayudamos?
  • Seguro.
  • fácil
  • No es fácil.
  • La maldición
  • La calculadora

If you’re still reading this, watch the Vine again!  Then try to speak the words of the Vine out loud again, as slowly as you need to.

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