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I am studying Spanish with the Michel Thomas Method.

As I understand it, es means it's

Here are some sentences:

  1. No vale mucho – It’s not worth much
  2. No, no vale la pena – No, it’s not worth it
  3. No es lo mismo – It’s not the same
  4. Es todo lo que necesito – It's all I need

Why do some sentences use es for it's and other omit es altogether. How do I know when to use es?

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    FWIW, "es" translates in most cases as "it's" but es doesn't mean it's. "Es" is an inflected form of the verb "ser", and would literally translate as "is". In Spanish, the subject can (and generally is) dropped, so "it's" becomes just "is". Besides that, "valer" means "to be worth", so the "es" part is already included in the meaning of the verb. Adding "es" would be just as nonsensical as English "to be be worth" or something like that. But as Ustanak said, in some cases (like this one) it doesn't make much sense to translate things literally because that's just not how languages work. – Yay Jan 31 '16 at 12:54
  • I've proposed an edit to make your question title more specific. You can roll it back if you disagree. – Yay Jan 31 '16 at 13:06
  • @Yay, So as a rough rule of thumb (which may not always be correct) if the verb implies a subject (like vale), you would normally drop the es? – big_smile Jan 31 '16 at 15:11
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    Nope. All conjugated verbs imply a subject; that's why we generally drop the pronoun. A verb itself cannot be dropped, except for some expressions like ¡Quieto! (stand still!). But my point was that here you aren't dropping the "es" because you didn't need it to start with. "Valer" is a verb with no one-word equivalent in English. "To be worth" translates to "valer", so "it is worth X" translates to "ello vale X", where ello is dropped. It follows that "it is not worth it" = "[ello] no vale la pena", where "la pena" is idiomatic and ello is virtually always dropped. – Yay Jan 31 '16 at 15:52
  • Can you post this as an answer, so I can mark it as correct. – big_smile Jan 31 '16 at 16:32
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It's also about the context:

It's all I need => **It** is all I need => **Esto/eso** es todo lo que necesito

Is all I need => Es todo lo que necesito

In Spanish you can omit the Subject or the Objeto directo if the context makes clear what you're talking about.

In the case of the Subject this is called "Sujeto Eliptico" meaning the subject can be derived from the context:

He's coming tomorrow => Él viene mañana => Viene Mañana.

Those flowers are beautiful => Esas flores son bonitas => Son bonitas (when you talking about las flores)
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    FYI, this is a feature of languages like spanish which lead them to be classified as "pro-drop" languages. – roberto tomás Feb 1 '16 at 19:58
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Because some constructions in English can't be literally translated into Spanish. (Also converse.)
The classic it's not worth it = no vale la pena is not translated with the es.

Some other expressions can also be translated with or without the es, like it's true = es cierto or just cierto.

Mostly, you'll learn how to remove the es as a part of phrases.

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  • however "it's not worth it" can be translated as "esto/eso no vale la pena". You can omit the subject or not depending on what you want to make emphasis on. – DGaleano Feb 1 '16 at 13:01
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All languages have different ways to express things, influenced especially by people culture, so you cannot translate literally from one language to another. You need to add cultural variable.

For example, "It’s not worth much" may be literally translated as "No es mucho valer". This could be understood, however, correct translation should be "No vale la pena".

Other classic example that comes to my mind is:

"The more you read, the better your vocabulary becomes". Literally, "lo más que tú lees, lo mejor tu vocabulario es". That does not have any sense in Spanish. For that English construction, the correct translation would be: "Mientras más leas, mejor será tu vocabulario".

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Why do some sentences use es for it's and other omit es altogether. How do I know when to use es?

Because the meaning is different. The meaning of "es" is "is", not "it's"

No es lo mismo = (eso/esto/aquello, etc) no es lo mismo = It is not the same. This is not the same. That is not the same.

Note the meaning of "is" in this case.

But in: No vale mucho = It has not much value.

There is not "is" in the strict meaning. The expression "it’s not worth much" is a common way to say that someting has not much value, what is the way of saying it in spanish.

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  • But It/That/This is not the same aren't equivalent. – Alejandro Feb 3 '16 at 15:25

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