More Words / Más palabras

August 2004 ~ Spanish that Works

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nombre y apellido (name & surname) La palabra del mes

These words are very handy, both in customer service and social situations.  Watch pronunciation, especially of the Spanish "ll."

  • nombre / NOHM-b’ddeh (name, or given name)

  • y / ee (and)

  • apellido / ah-peh-YEE-thoh (surname)

NOTE:  The “dd” in the pronunciation guide is a tapped “r,” similar to the fast “dd” of the word “buddy,” and the “th” in the guide is the voiced “th” of “brother.” The “eh” of the guide is like the Canadian “eh?”, similar to the “a” of “gate.”  You should stress the syllable written in all caps.


About names

The concept of first name/ last name does not have an exact equivalent in Spanish.  

Spanish speakers may have several given names, and for formal purposes, may use the mother’s maiden name, which is written last, but is not what an English speaker would consider the “last name.”  This can cause confusion if you need to enter a Spanish speaker’s name into a computer program set up under the English system.  

To simplify things, you may find it helpful to use the phrase nombre y apellido (name and surname) when asking for someone’s name.

By using the singular forms of nombre and apellido (which implies one of each!), you are asking the Spanish speaker to choose his or her main names, which are probably not the “first” and “last” words of the complete name.  

(Note: unless the Spanish speaker is aware of and understands the English system of names, it may be confusing to try to work in a middle initial.)


If all else fails

Another technique you may use in a customer service situation is to trust that the folks at motor vehicle or the state identification office have figured things out correctly, and just ask for a driver’s license or ID card, and then copy the information from there.  

In this case, the following words may be helpful to you:

  • su / soo (Your – polite)

  • licencia de manejo / lee-SEHN-s’yah theh mah-NAY-hoh (driver’s license)

  • credencial / k’ddeh-then-s’YAHL (ID card)

  • identificación / ee-then-tee-fee-cah-s’YOHN (identification)

  • para comprobar / PAHddah cohm-p’ddoh-BAHRR (in order to verify) su nombre


For more information

You can read more about how to talk about names, numbers (phone, ID, etc.), and addresses in Unit 8 (Lesson 15) of Spanish that Works.

©2004 Elizabeth Almann


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