Thanks to many years of colonization, Spanish is one of the most useful languages to know when residing or travelling in the Western Hemisphere. I have discovered that in Spanish-speaking nations people are instantly friendlier if you even make an attempt to communicate in their language. You will also find it possesses a simplicity and directness that makes it fun to learn.
Before we launch into a quick survey of Spanish grammar, remember that when it comes to languages nearly every rule has an exception, and I am only including some of those here. My intention is to provide an introductory summary that can serve as a supplement to a phrase book if you're travelling in a Spanish-speaking country and might perhaps inspire you to study the language more extensively, in which case you should take a language course or find a good textbook. Also note that vocabulary, usage, and pronunciation vary according to region. I will try to point out some of the most significant differences between the language as spoken in Spain and in Latin America, but be aware that there are numerous others.
2. Nouns, singular and plural
3. Definite articles
4. Indefinite articles
5. Personal pronouns
6. Indicative tense verbs
7. Irregular indicative tense verbs
8. "Ser" and "estar," two verbs for "to be"
11. Descriptive adjectives
13. Direct object pronouns
14. Indirect object pronouns
15. Combining direct and indirect object pronouns
16. Possessive adjectives
17. Possessive pronouns
18. Demonstrative adjectives
19. Demonstrative pronouns
21. Disjunctive pronouns
22. Reflexive pronouns
23. Infinitive verbs
25. Time expressions
26. Pronoun review
27. "Gustar" and similar verbs
28. Idiomatic expressions with "tener"
29. Special verb form "hay"
30. Special verb "acabar"
31. Weather expressions
32. Interrogative pronouns
33. Comparisons of adjectives
34. Other comparisons
35. Diminutive endings
36. Present progressive verb tense
37. Relative pronouns
38. Negative expressions
40. Preterite verb tense
41. Expressing time with "hacer"
42. Imperfect verb tense
43. Future verb tense
44. Days and months
46. Special use of "al" and an infinitive verb
47. Conditional verb tense
48. Polite commands
49. Past participle
50. Present perfect verb tense
51. Other perfect tenses
52. Subjunctive mood
53. Past subjunctive verb tense
Spanish pronunciation is very regular, and once you know a few simple rules you should be able to pronounce any word with authority. Of course if you really want to get down the sound of the language you should listen to a native speaker or use an audio study tool. You can assume that any letter not listed below is pronounced very much like its English counterpart.
A: Like the "a" in "father."
B: Like the English "b" except without closing the lips all the way. The sound is thus half-way between the English "b" and the English "v."
C: Before "a," "o," or "u," pronounced like the hard "c" of "cat."
Before "e" or "i," pronounced like the English "s" in "sat." Speakers in Spain may say this letter more like the soft "th" in "bath."
CH: Like the "ch" in "chair."
D: Like the English "d" except with the tip of the tongue against the back of the top front teeth to produce a softer sound that is more like a "th."
E: Like the "e" of "bet."
G: Before "a," "o," or "u," pronounced like the "g" of "glass" though softer, without the back of
the tongue pressed fully against the palate.
Before "e" or "i," pronounced like "h" but more like the "ch" in the Scottish pronunciation of "loch."
H: Always silent.
I: Like the "e" of "bee."
J: Like an "h" but more like the "ch" in the Scottish pronunciation of "loch."
LL: Like the "y" of "year."
Ñ: Like the "ny" of "canyon."
O: Like the "o" of "no."
QU: Like the "k" of "keel." Note that "q" always appears in combination with "u," with the "u" being silent.
R: Between vowels, "r" is pronounced with a tap of the tongue on the gum ridge behind the upper front teeth as in the "t" of "butter." When "r" appears in other positions, particularly as the first letter of a word or as a double "rr," it is pronounced with the tip of the tongue vibrating strongly against the gum ridge behind the upper front teeth.
S: Like the "s" of "sit" but softer.
U: Like the "oo" of "too."
V: Prounounced half-way between the English "b" and the English "v." Note that this pronunciation is identical to that of "b," and the two letters sound the same when spoken.
X: In borrowed words like "taxi," "x" is pronounced like the English "x." In other cases, it is pronounced like the Spanish "j." In Spain, it is pronounced more like an "s."
Y: Like the "y" of "yet" except in some cases when it is pronounced like the "ee" in "seat" (as when it appears alone as the word for "and").
Z: Like a soft version of the English "s" in "sat." Speakers in Spain may say this letter more like a soft version of "th" in "them."
Syllable stress in Spanish is very regular and can be mastered by remembering three simple rules. Note that two vowels in a row are generally considered a single syllable unless one has an accent mark above it, as in the word "filosofía" ("philosophy").
1) For words that end in "n," "s," or a vowel, the stress is on the second-to-last syllable. Again keep in mind that two vowels in a row generally constitute a single syllable, so the word "agua" ("water") would be pronounced with the stress on the first "a."
2) Words ending in any other letter have the stress on the last syllable.
3) All exceptions to the above two rules are indicated with an accent mark over the stressed syllable. The accent mark can also be used to distinguish otherwise identical words, like "sí" ("yes") and "si" ("if").
Let's start at the beginning with the simple noun. The first point about Spanish nouns is that, like the other romance languages, Spanish has two genders for nouns: masculine and feminine. You should definitely not get too caught up with these terms as they're fairly arbitrary.
To determine a noun's gender, you need to look up the word in a dictionary. However, some
helpful guidelines apply in most cases:
Feminine nouns generally end in "-a," "-ie," "-umbre," "-dad," "-tad," "-tud," "-ción," and "–sión."
Masculine nouns generally end in "-o," "-i," "-u," accented vowels, "-ama," "-ema," "-ota," "-eta," and consonants such as "-r," "-l," "-s," "-z," "-j," and "-n."
Nouns ending in "-e" can be either masculine or feminine.
Most nouns are easy to form plurals from. For nouns ending in unaccented vowels or the
accented vowel "-é," add an
"-s." For nouns ending in consonants or accented vowels (with the exception of "é"),
add "-es." For nouns ending in "z," change the
"z" to a "c" before adding "-es."
Some examples should clarify matters:
Libro ("book") → libros ("books")
Canción ("songs") → canciones ("songs") (note that the accent mark is not needed over the "o" in the plural
Café ("cafe") → cafés ("cafes")
Mango ("mango") → mangos ("mangos")
Rubí ("ruby") → rubíes ("rubies")
Actriz ("actress") → actrices ("actresses")
To put a definite article, or "the," in front of a noun, you need to take into account gender and whether a noun is singular or plural, as in the chart below:
El libro ("the book") → los libros ("the books")
La letra ("the letter") → las letras ("the letters")
However, if a feminine noun begins with a stressed "a" or "ha" in the singular, it takes the
"el" definite article:
El alma ("the soul") → las almas ("the souls")
La almohada ("the pillow") → las almohadas ("the pillows")
The indefinite article, "a" or "an" in English, is equally simple. The plural forms listed in the chart are usually translated into English as "some" or "a few":
El libro ("the book") → un libro ("a book")
La letra ("the letter") → una letra ("a letter")
Los vasos ("the glasses") → unos vasos ("some glasses")
Las botellas ("the bottles") → unas botellas ("a few bottles")
The same exception we encountered with the stressed "a" or "ha" feminine singular nouns for
the definite article applies to the indefinite article:
Un alma ("the soul") → unas almas ("the souls")
Una almohada ("the pillow") → unas almohadas ("the pillows")
The personal pronoun is a useful form of noun to learn at this point as it will allow us to talk about ourselves and other people. Note that Spanish has both a formal way of saying "you" and a familiar way. Generally, it is best to use the formal form when first meeting someone, but conventions vary from country to country. Also note that these are the pronouns for the subject, or nominative, case, denoting the "doer" of a sentence. I promise I'll throw plenty of other pronouns at you as we go on. Note that the "vosotros" and "vosotras" forms, which informally address more than one person, are generally only used in Spain.
|First person||I||yo||we||nosotros (masculine or mixed)
|Second person||you (familiar)
|vosotros (masculine or mixed)
|they||ellos (masculine or mixed)
Now let's learn how to say simple declarative sentences like "yo hablo" ("I speak"). In the indicative tense, most verbs fall into three broad classifications according to their infinitives. In English the infinitive form consists of the verb preceded by "to" as in "to speak" and "to run." In Spanish the infinitive form consists of a single word, and infinitives end in "-ar," "-er," or "-ir." The chart below shows the complete conjugations for three sample verbs, each with one of the three infinitive endings. To conjugate another verb with the same ending, simply remove the infinitive ending and replace it with the appropriate conjugation ending. Thus, to conjugate another "-ar" verb like "cantar" ("to sing"), follow the pattern shown by "hablar" in the chart: "yo canto," "tú cantas," "él canta," "nosotros cantamos," "vosotros cantáis," and "ellos cantan."
The indicative tense is used for making simple statements about the present. For example, the phrase "yo hablo" can be translated into English as either "I speak" or "I am speaking." In practice, the personal pronoun is usually omitted if context makes the pronoun obvious. For example, one would generally say simply "hablo" ("I am speaking") instead of "yo hablo," but the full form might be used for emphasis.
|él, ella, usted||habla||corre||vive|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||hablan||corren||viven|
We can now combine our pronouns, indicative verb tenses, and nouns with definite or indefinite
articles to make
Tenemos el vino ("we have the wine")
Escribo una letra ("I am writing a letter")
Although most verbs can be conjugated using the chart above, many of the most common verbs are irregular. Some of these just require changes to the "stem" of the verb. For example, the verb "pensar" ("to think") requires a change from "pens-" to "piens-" but not in the first and second plural cases. Let's summarize the conjugation of "pensar" and other common stem-changing verbs in a chart so you can take a look at the pattern.
"to be able to"
|él, ella, usted||piensa||quiere||puede||vuelve|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||piensan||quieren||pueden||vuelven|
Other irregulars are more complicated and need to be memorized. common ones are included in the charts below.
|él, ella, usted||va||da||ve||sabe||dice|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||van||dan||ven||saben||dicen|
"to go out"
"to be acquainted with"
|él, ella, usted||tiene||viene||sale||hace||conoce|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||tienen||vienen||salen||hacen||conocen|
Both forms of the verb "to be" are irregular, so first let's learn the conjugations:
|él, ella, usted||es||está|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||son||están|
The tricky part is knowing when to use each form, which can seem difficult at first for the English speaker but can become second nature once you learn the basic guidelines.
"ser" is used to indicate a noun's essential qualities or conditions and applies in the following
1) Inherent nature: Fernando es hombre ("Fernando is a man").
2) Profession: ella es abogada ("she is a lawyer").
3) Ideology: él es demócrata ("he is a democrat").
4) Religion: ella es católica ("she is Catholic").
5) Nationality: mi amigo es venezolano ("my friend is Venezuelan").
6) Inherent characteristics: Roberto es bajo ("Roberto is short").
7) Price: el desayuno es barato ("the breakfast is cheap").
8) Origin: ella es de Madrid ("she is from Madrid").
9) Ownership: el libro es de María ("the book is Maria's").
10) Material: la chaqueta es de cuero ("the jacket is made of leather").
11) Identification: el mesero es él ("the waiter is he").
12) With the infinitive: comer es vivir ("to eat is to live").
13) Time expressions: hoy es doce de enero ("today is January 12").
14) Quantity expressions: una manzana es bastante ("one apple is enough").
15) Impersonal expressions: es bueno para la salud beber agua ("drinking water is good for the health").
16) Expressions of place: la boda es en el restaurante ("the wedding is in the restaurant").
In contrast, "estar" is used to describe temporary qualities and applies in the following
1) Temporary characteristics: Nosotros estamos cansados ("we are tired").
2) Subjective characteristics: José está loco ("José is crazy").
3) Location: Madrid está en España ("Madrid is in Spain").
Let's go through these to make sure they're clear. "Ser" would be used to say "Antonio es alto" ("Antonio is tall") because Antonio's height is an essential and unchanging characteristic, but "estar" would be used to say "Antonio está cansado" ("Antonio is tired") because tiredness just happens to be Antonio's state at the moment. Also, if I were to say "Antonio está loco" ("Antonio is crazy") I need to use "estar" because, although I am describing what appears to me to be an essential characteristic of Antonio, the description is a subjective one. Interestingly enough, the expression "él está muerto" ("he is dead") also uses "estar" despite the permanent nature of this characteristic.
Although you could argue one's profession, religion, and ideology are not essential qualities as they can and frequently do change, "ser" is still the appropriate verb form to describe these characteristics as they are at least semipermanent, so you would say "Antonio es ingeniero" ("Antonio is an engineer") and "Juan es católico" ("Juan is a Catholic").
Likewise, origin is considered an essential quality and is expressed with "ser," so one would say "Antonio es de México" ("Antonio is from Mexico"), but "estar" is used to describe Juan's location at a particular moment: "Antonio está en Argentina" ("Antonio is in Argentina"). However, note that "estar" also indicates a permanent location: "el estación está en el centro" ("the station is downtown").
One final point to keep in mind is the use of "ser" and "estar" with the adjectives "bueno" ("good") and "malo" ("bad") and the adverbs "bien" ("well") and "mal" ("badly"). The adjectives are generally used with "ser": "la película es bueno" ("the film is good"). The adverbs are always used with "estar": "estoy muy bien" ("I am very well").
At this point, we can make some pretty useful declarative sentences, but what if we want to ask a question instead? It's a simple matter of switching the verb and the subject. So "usted tiene el pan" ("you have the bread") becomes "¿tiene usted el pan?" ("do you have the bread?"). Note that written Spanish begins a question with an inverted question mark to indicate that a question is coming.
The basic way to express a negative sentence in Spanish is very straight-forward. Simply add
"no" to the beginning:
No tenemos el pan ("we don't have the bread")
No escribo una letra ("I am not writing a letter")
Now that we have the basic sentence structure down, we can start adding modifiers. We have already been introduced to adjectives in our discusson on "ser" vs. "estar" and can now examine them in more detail. In Spanish, adjectives are a little trickier than they are in English because the endings change according to gender and number of the noun modified, but the rules are not that complicated and can be summarized in a chart:
|Modifying a masculine noun||-o||-os|
|Modifying a feminine noun||-a||-as|
The chart only applies to adjectives that end in "-o" and "-a." Adjectives that do not end in "-o" or "-a" do not change with gender. Such adjectives take the "-es" ending in the plural. However, adjectives that end in "-l," "-n," "-r," or "-s" and that refer to national or geographic origin take an "-a" ending with feminine nouns.
El vino blanco ("the white wine")
Los hombres altos ("the tall men")
Una casa blanca ("a white house")
Playas blancas ("white beaches")
Un chico joven ("a young boy")
Los chicos jóvenes ("the young boys")
Una chica joven ("a young girl")
Un hombre alemán ("a German man")
Una mujer alemana ("a German woman")
Note that most descriptive adjectives come after the noun, but in some cases they are placed before the noun. An adjective that describes the essential quality of a thing tends to come before the noun. For example, the phrase "la dulce miel" ("the sweet honey") has the adjective before the noun because sweetness is an inherent quality of honey.
Adjectives that indicate quantity or sequence also go before the noun:
¿Cuándo llega el primer tren? ("when does the first train arrive?")
Todos los hoteles son llenos ("all the hotels are full")
The common adjectives "mucho" ("a lot"), "poco" ("a little"), "bueno" ("good"), and "mal" ("bad") generally also appear before the noun: "es una buena idea" ("it's a good idea").
Some adjectives can go either before or after the noun but change meaning according to their position. The meaning of an adjective tends to be less literal when it is placed before the noun. Three of the most common adjectives belong in this category:
Before noun: "compro un nuevo coche" ("I am buying a new car," as in a car that is new to me but not necessarily one of recent manufacture).
After noun: "¿está un coche nuevo?" ("is it a new car?," as in a new model car).
"Grande" ("great" or "big")
Before noun: "ella es una gran mujer" ("she is a great woman")
After noun: "usted vive en una casa grande" ("you live in a big house")
Before noun: "Ronaldo es un viejo amigo" ("Ronaldo is an old friend," as in a friend one has had for a long time).
After noun: "Ronaldo no es un hombre viejo" ("Ronaldo is not an old man," as in old in years).
You may have noticed in the examples above that some of the adjectives that come before the noun
have been truncated. The following adjectives all take shorter forms when they come before
singular masculine nouns, with the exception of "grande" ("big"), which takes the short form
before both masculine and feminine singular nouns:
bueno ("good") → buen
malo ("bad") → mal
alguno ("some") → algún
ninguno ("none") → ningún
primero ("first") → primer
tercero ("third") → tercer
santo ("holy") → san
grande ("big," "great") → gran (before a masculine or feminine singular noun)
Adverbs are used to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs are easily formed from adjectives by adding "-mente" to the "-a" (feminine form) ending. For example, "lenta" ("slow") becomes "lentamente" ("slowly"). Adjectives that end in "-e" or consonants (like "fácil" ("easy")) also add "-mente" ("fácilmente" ("easily")). An adverb usually follows the verb it modifies: "él habla lentamente" ("he speaks slowly"). When two or more adverbs come in a row, only the last one has the "-mente" ending: "él habla lento y correctamente" ("he speaks slowly and correctly").
A number of adverbs are irregular and don't have the "-mente" ending. Some of the most common
Bien ("well"): Mercedes habla bien el inglés ("Mercedes speaks English well")
Mal ("poorly"): cantamos mal ("we sing badly")
Nunca ("never"): ella nunca come arroz ("she never eats rice")
Jamás ("never ever"): él jamás va al museo ("he never ever goes to the museum")
Casi ("almost"): estoy casi listo ("I am almost ready")
Muy ("very"): la estación está muy cerca de aqui ("the station is very close to here")
Siempre ("always"): el tren llega siempre tarde ("the train always arrives late")
También ("also"): Elvira habla también el francés ("Elvira also speaks French")
Mucho ("a lot"): ellos trabajan mucho ("they work a lot")
Todavía ("still"): el hotel está todavía lleno ("the hotel is still full")
Ya ("already"): ¿salís ya? ("are you already going out?")
Note that both "nunca" and "jamás" mean "never," but "jamás" is more emphatic. To express an even stronger negation, the two can be used together: "Fernando nunca jamás bebe vino" ("Fernando never ever ever drinks wine").
The adverb "ya" ("already") combines with "no" to express "anymore": ya no jugan al fútbol" ("they no longer play soccer").
A direct object pronoun replaces a noun. In Spanish, direct objects are placed before the verb that act upon them rather than after. The chart below summarizes both direct object pronouns that replace inanimate nouns and personal pronouns:
|First person||me||me||us||nos||Second person||you (familiar)
you (masculine formal)
you (feminine formal)
lo or le (masculine formal)
la (feminine formal)
you (masculine formal)
you (feminine formal)
los or les (masculine formal)
las (feminine formal)
|Third person||him / it
her / it
|lo or le (for "him" only)
|los or les (for "them" only)
Note that in Spain, the direct object for "him" and masculine formal "you" is "le" and the direct object for masculine "them" or masculine formal plural "you" is "les." The direct objects "lo" and "los" are only used for inanimate objects in Spain.
Examples of nouns replaced by direct object pronouns:
Tengo el plato ("I have the plate") → lo tengo ("I have it")
Escribes la letra ("you are writing the letter") → la escribes ("you are writing it")
Ella compra los muebles ("she is buying the furniture") → ella los compra ("she is buying them")
Comemos las peras ("we are eating the apples") → las comemos ("we are eating them")
Examples of direct object personal pronouns:
Usted me ayuda ("you are helping me")
Te oigo ("I hear you")
Lo/le conocemos ("we know him")
Él la ama ("he loves her")
La ven ("they see you")
Nos dices ("you tell us")
Ella os cree ("she believes you")
Los/les llames ("you call them")
Usted las mostra ("you show them")
Indirect object pronouns are similar to direct object pronouns as they stand in for a noun, but they are used in an indirect sense. For example, in the sentence "I am writing him a letter," the letter is the direct object as it is being written, and "him" is the indirect object as "he" is an indirect recipient of the action of the verb.
In English, indirect objects are often indicated by the prepositions "for" or "to," which can serve as a useful guide as to when an indirect object is required in Spanish. Just be aware that this guideline does not apply in many cases. For example, in English one would more likely say "I am serving her the lunch" than "I am serving the lunch to her." In Spanish the pronoun would be in the indirect object case and be rendered as "le sirvo el almuerzo" because "she" is the indirect recipient of the action.
The following chart lists the indirect object pronouns, and you should note that many are identical to direct object pronouns.
|First person||me||me||us||nos||Second person||you (familiar)
|Third person||him, her, it||le||them||les|
Examples of indirect object personal pronouns:
Me envias un mensaje ("you send me a message")
Te doy el vaso ("I am giving you the glass")
Él le escriba una letra ("he is writing you a letter")
Le servimos el jamón ("we are serving him the ham")
Nos compran el vino ("they are buying us the wine")
Ella os mostra el coche ("she is showing you the car")
Les digo la verdad ("I tell them the truth")
The prepositional phrase beginning with "a" is frequently used to clarify the indirect object "le," which as you can see can mean many different things: "le doy el vaso a él" ("I am giving him the glass"), "le doy el vaso a ella" ("I am giving the glass to her"), etc. One curious quality of indirect object pronouns is that they are used even when the indirect object is specified. Thus, you could say "le doy el vaso" ("I am giving her the glass"), but if you specify the "her" in this case you still use the indirect object: "le doy el vaso a Josefina" ("I am giving the glass to Josefina").
Now that we have our direct and indirect pronouns down, let's learn how to combine them in a single sentence. To do so, you just need to remember two simple rules. First, the indirect object pronoun always comes before the direct object pronoun. Second, when a third person direct object pronoun and a second person formal or third person indirect object pronoun ("le" or "les") are put together in a sentence, the indirect object pronoun changes to "se."
Me lo offres ("you offer it to me")
Se lo offres ("you offer it to him")
Te la damos ("we give it to you")
Se la damos ("we give it to her")
Él nos los compra ("he buys them for us")
Él se los compra ("he buys them for you")
Os las mostro ("I show them to you")
Se las mostro ("I show them to them")
Possessive adjectives are used to indicate possession of a noun, as in the word "mi" in the sentence "busco mi maleta" ("I'm looking for my suitcase"). Possessive adjectives come in two forms, a short form and a long form. The first table shows the short form, which is used before the noun. You might notice that "su" and "sus" seem to show up a lot. To avoid confusion, the preposition "de" plus the pronoun is sometimes used after the noun instead of "su" or "sus," so instead of saying "busco su maleta" ("I'm looking for his/her/your/their suitcase"), you can say "busco la maleta de ella" ("I'm looking for her suitcase").
|Masculine singular||Masculine plural||Feminine singular||Feminine plural|
|Your (familiar singular)||tu||tus||tu||tus|
|Your (formal singular)||su||sus||su||sus|
|His, her, its||su||sus||su||sus|
|Your (familiar plural)||vuestro||vuestros||vuestra||vuestras|
|Your (formal plural)||su||sus||su||sus|
The long form, shown in the table below, is used after the noun: "busco la maleta mía" ("I'm looking for my suitcase"). Note that the long forms all need to agree with gender, whereas only some of the short forms do. In practice, the long form is not as common as the short form.
|Masculine singular||Masculine plural||Feminine singular||Feminine plural|
|Your (familiar singular)||tuyo||tuyos||tuya||tuyas|
|Your (formal singular)||suyo||suyos||suya||suyas|
|His, her, its||suyo||suyos||suya||suyas|
|Your (familiar plural)||vuestro||vuestros||vuestra||vuestras|
|Your (formal plural)||suyo||suyos||suya||suyas|
Possessive pronouns are similar to possessive adjectives except that they replace nouns used in a possessive sense instead of modifying them, as in the pronoun "mía" in the sentence "la maleta es mía" ("the suitcase is mine"). If the possessive pronoun is used after any verb except "ser," the definite article must be included: "La maleta es mía. ¿dónde está la tuya?" ("The suitcase is mine. Where is yours?"). As the table below indicates, possessive pronouns are identical to the long form of the possessive adjectives we have already learned:
|Masculine singular||Masculine plural||Feminine singular||Feminine plural|
|Yours (familiar singular)||tuyo||tuyos||tuya||tuyas|
|Yours (formal singular)||suyo||suyos||suya||suyas|
|His, hers, its||suyo||suyos||suya||suyas|
|Yours (familiar plural)||vuestro||vuestros||vuestra||vuestras|
|Yours (formal plural)||suyo||suyos||suya||suyas|
The demonstrative adjectives "este" and "ese" are the equivalents of the English words "this" and "that," respectively. "Este" is used to indicate something close, whereas "ese" is used for things farther away. Spanish has an additional form, "aquel," that indicates something even farther away. The table shows how the forms vary by gender and number:
|Masculine singular||Masculine plural||Feminine singular||Feminine plural|
|That (farther away)||aquel||aquella||aquellos||aquellas|
Este pasaporte es mío ("this passport is mine")
Esa manzana es muy roja ("that apple is very red")
Aquel hotel es caro ("that hotel down there is expensive")
A demonstrative pronoun replaces a noun phrase containing a demonstrative adjective. For example, the phrase "este vaso" in the sentence "quiero este vaso" ("I want this glass") can be replaced by "éste": "quiero éste" ("I want this one"). As the table below shows, the forms are nearly identical to the demonstrative adjectives and are only distinguished by the use of accent marks.
|Masculine singular||Masculine plural||Feminine singular||Feminine plural|
|That one (farther away)||aquél||aquélla||aquéllos||aquéllas|
If the pronoun doesn't replace a specific noun, the neuter form of the demonstrative pronoun is used, which consists of "esto," "eso," and "aquello." Example: "eso es verdad" ("that is true").
We have a lot going on at this point. I've got us eating and drinking and coming and going, all in Spanish. But where are you going to and where are you coming from? To express those ideas, we need to learn prepositions.
One of the most common prepositions in Spanish is "a" ("to," "at," "on"), which is most commonly used
in the following ways:
1) To indicate direction or termination of movement: voy a la ciudad ("I am going to the city").
2) To indicate the position of an object in relation to another object: el hotel está a dos calles de aquí ("the hotel is two streets from here").
3) To indicate manner: escribo a pluma ("I am writing with pen").
4) To indicate time: vengo a las once ("I am coming at 11:00").
5) Before a direct object that is a person rather than a thing: "veo a Diego" ("I see Diego"), but "veo el tren" ("I see the train").
6) As we have already seen, to specify an indirect object: le doy un regalo a Montserrat" ("I am giving a present to Montserrat").
7) To connect certain verbs with an infinitive, including the common verb "ir": voy a bailar ("I am going to dance"). Other verbs that use "a" in this manner include "aprender" ("to learn"), "comenzar" ("to begin"), "ayudar" ("to help"), and "decidirse" ("to decide").
Another common verb is "en" ("in," "on," "by"). Like "a," "en" is frequently used to describe location, but
notice that it is used in a slightly different sense in the following cases:
1) To indicate local or temporary location: el tenedor está en la mesa ("the fork is on the table").
2) To indicate location in the sense of being inside a place: entro en la casa ("I am entering the house").
3) To indicate means of transportation: vamos en tren ("we are going by train"). However, some means of transport use "a," including going by foot: voy a pie ("I'm going by foot").
4) To indicate form or manner: hablo en serio ("I am speaking seriously").
The preposition "de" ("of," "from," "about") is also very common and is used in the following instances:
1) To indicate possession: ese vaso es de mi padre ("that glass is my father's").
2) To indicate contents: una botella de vino ("a bottle of wine").
3) To indicate material: la silla es de madera ("the chair is made of wood").
4) To indicate a subject: es una película de suspenso ("it's a suspense film").
5) To indicate a part of a whole: compro un kilo de queso ("I'm buying a kilo of cheese").
6) To indicate origin: ella es de Argentina ("she is from Argentina").
7) To indicate time: salgo de noche ("I go out at night").
8) With certain common expressions: ella está de pie ("she is standing").
9) With certain common verbs such as "tratar" ("to try"): trato de hablar español ("I'm trying to speak Spanish"). Other similar verbs include "quajarse" ("to complain"), "acordarse" ("to remember"), and "alegrarse" ("to be happy").
In some of these examples you will notice the word "del," which is a contraction of the preposition "de" with the definite article "el." The only other contraction of this kind is "al," which combines the preposition "a" with the definite article "el."
Other prepositions to describe location include:
Bajo ("under"): el libro está bajo la almohada ("the book is under the pillow").
Entre ("between"): la estación está entre el parque y el banco ("the station is between the park and the bank").
Sobre ("on," "above"): el cuadro está sobre la silla ("the picture is above the chair").
Cerca de ("close to"): el hotel está cerca de la farmacia ("the hotel is close to the pharmacy").
Lejos de ("far from"): su casa está lejos del aeropuerto ("your house is far from the airport").
Al lado de ("next to"): el bar está al lado del restaurante ("the bar is next to the restaurant").
Enfrente de ("in front of"): el taxi está enfrente del hotel ("the taxi is in front of the hotel").
Delante de ("in front of"): estoy delante de su casa ("I am in front of your house").
Detrás de ("behind"): el vaso está detrás de la botella ("the glass is behind the bottle").
Dentro de ("inside of"): el coche está dentro de la garaje ("the car is in the garage").
Fuera de ("outside of"): Graciela está fuera de la oficina ("Graciela is outside of the office").
Hacia ("towards"): camino hacia el museo ("I am walking towards the museum").
"With" or "without" are expressed with the following:
Con ("with"): él viaja con usted ("he is traveling with you").
Sin ("without"): ella viene sin usted ("she is coming without you").
Still other prepositions are useful for talking about time:
Antes de ("before"): ellas vienen antes de la cena ("they are coming before dinner").
Después de ("after"): como después de la leccion ("I am eating after the lesson").
Durante ("during"): silencio durante el examen, por favor ("quiet during the exam, please").
Hasta ("until"): leo hasta las ocho ("I am reading until 8:00").
Two other common prepositions, "para" and "por," are frequently both translated as "for" and can be difficult for English speakers to keep separate.
"Para" is generally used in the following circumstances:
1) To express "in order to": estoy en Costa Rica para aprender español ("I am in Costa Rica in order to learn Spanish").
2) To indicate purpose: necesito su pasaporte para fines oficiales ("I need your passport for official purposes").
3) To indicate intended recipient: este vino es para usted ("this wine is for you").
4) To indicate time: debo estudiar para mañana ("I must study for tomorrow").
5) To indicate a destination or "towards": voy para Quito ("I am going to Quito").
6) To express "considering" as a contrast to what is expected: es caro para una copa de vino ("it's expensive considering it is a glass of wine" or "it's expensive for a glass of wine").
7) To indicate capacity: tengo una mesa para ocho personas ("I have a table for eight people").
Por is used in the sense of "by," "by means of," "through," and "on behalf of" and applies in
the following cases:
1) To indicate cause, reason or motive: no voy por la lluvia ("I'm not going because of the rain").
2) To indicate where things are going through, around, or along: camino por las calles ("I am walking through the streets").
3) To indicate means: hablo por teléfono ("I am speaking by phone").
4) To indicate "in place of": pago por ella ("I am paying for her").
5) To indicate exchange: compro el libro por diez euros ("I'm buying the book for 10 euros").
6) To express "for the sake of": lo hago por usted ("I am doing it for you (for your sake)).
7) Duration when something occurs: estoy en Bolivia por una semana ("I am in Bolivia for a week").
8) To express gratitude: gracias por tu ayuda ("thank you for your help").
9) To express frequency: voy a la escuela tres veces por semana ("I go to the school three times a week").
Disjunctive pronouns come after instead of before a verb and are most commonly used after prepositions, as in the sentence "este postre es para ti" ("this dessert is for you"). Note in the table below that most of these pronouns are identical to the subject pronouns.
|First person||me||mí||us||nosotros||Second person||you (familiar)
|Third person||him, it
The neuter "ello" form is used when the pronoun is not replacing a specific noun, as in the sentence "no estoy listo para ello" ("I'm not ready for this").
The preposition "con" ("with") combines with the disjunctive pronouns "mí" and "ti" to form the words "conmigo" and "contigo," respectively: "vamos contigo" ("we are going with you").
Some prepositions, including the common ones "como" ("like"), "entre" ("between"), excepto ("except"), and "incluso" ("including"), take subject pronouns instead of disjunctive pronouns: "Alejandro no es como yo" ("Alejandro isn't like me").
Finally, when two pronouns appear in a row after a preposition, subject pronouns are used instead of disjunctive pronouns: "el viene con tú y yo" ("he is coming with you and me").
Reflexive pronouns are equivalent to the English "myself," "yourself," etc. and appear in phrases
like "me lavo" ("I am washing myself"). However, the reflexive is used more often
in Spanish than in English. The following list includes the most common reflexive verbs.
Note that the ending "se" is added
to the infinitives of reflexive verbs:
Preocuparse ("to worry"): ¿se preocupa usted? ("are you worried?")
Sentarse ("to sit down"): él se sienta en la banca ("he is sitting on the bench")
Preguntarse ("to wonder"): me pregunto si él viene ("I wonder if he is coming")
Vestirse ("to get dressed"): me visto temprano ("I get dressed early")
Sentirse ("to feel"): él se siente mejor ("he feels better")
The reflexive pronouns should be easy to remember as they are forms we have seen before:
|First person||myself||me||ourselves||nos||Second person||yourself (familiar)
The third person singular reflexive pronoun is also used in an impersonal sense to express
the concept of "one" or "people" as in the following examples:
No se puede fumar aquí ("One cannot smoke here")
Se dice que Barcelona es bella ("people say that Barcelona is beautiful")
The verb "ir" ("to go") is very commonly used in the reflexive form to express the act of going away: "me voy ahora" ("I'm going now").
Reflexive pronouns can be added to verbs that are not normally reflexive to show reciprocal actions, as in the sentences "me habla" ("I am talking to myself") and "se ven todos los días" ("they see each other every day").
Reflexive pronouns can also be added to emphasize that an action has been completed. For example, the sentence "él bebe la cerveza" states simply "he is drinking the beer," but adding the reflexive pronoun to make "él se bebe la cerveza" adds emphasis and translates more like "he is drinking up the beer."
The reflexive comes in especially handy when you want to tell someone your name. The most common way of doing so uses the verb "llamare" ("to call") with a reflexive pronoun: "me llamo el leopardo" ("my name is the Leopard"), which literally means "I call myself the Leopard."
If a reflexive pronoun is required after a preposition, a disjunctive pronoun is used instead: "hago para mí" ("I'm doing it for myself"). However, if the preposition "con" ("with") is used with "él," "ella," "usted," "ellos", "ellas," or "ustedes" in a reflexive sense, the word "consigo" is used, as in the sentence "él lleva el libro consigo" ("he is taking the book with him"). Note that in this case the "him" refers to the subject of the sentence, but in the sentence "he is going with her," the "her" does not refer to the subject, so the sentence would be rendered "él va con ella."
In the section on prepositions, you may have noticed the use of the verb "ir" with the infinitive form of the verb. This type of construction is very common and can be used just as in English to express intention, as in the sentence "voy a comer ahora" ("I'm going to eat now") and future actions, as in the sentence "voy a salir esta noche" ("I'm going to go out tonight").
The first person plural form of "ir" can be used with an infinitive to express "let's," as in the sentence "vamos a comer" ("let's eat").
Some verbs frequently found with the infinitive are
modal verbs like "poder" ("to be able to"), "querer" ("to want"), and "deber" ("should").
All of these are extremely useful and don't use prepositions between them and the
infinitive. Take a look at these examples:
Ella puede hablar español ("she can speak Spanish")
¿Quiere usted venir conmigo? ("do you want to come with me?")
Debo estudiar ahora ("I should study now")
Other verbs use prepositions to link with infinitive verbs. The following verbs all require the
preposition "a" when linking with an infinitive:
Venir ("to come"): vengo a ayudarte ("I am coming to help you")
Comenzar ("to begin"): él comienza a entender ("he is beginning to understand")
Empezar ("to begin"): empiezan a cantar ("they are starting to sing")
Aprender ("to learn"): aprendo a hablar español ("I am learning to speak Spanish")
The following verbs require the preposition "de" when linking with an infinitive:
Alegrarse ("to be glad"): me alegro de salir ("I am happy to go out")
Dejar ("to stop"): ella deja de hablar con él ("she stopped talking with him")
Olvidarse ("to forget"): siempre te olvidas de cerrar la puerta ("you always forget to close the door")
Direct and indirect object pronouns can be attached to the end of the infinitive in these cases, so both "debo hacerlo" and "lo debo hacer" are correct ways to say "I should do it." If both a direct and indirect object pronoun are used, the direct object comes first as usual: "te los quiero dar" or "quiero dártelos" ("I want to give them to you"). Note that in the latter case, an accent mark needs to be added to the "a" to preserve the stress on the first syllable.
Of course, few things are as essential as numbers as even if other words fail you, many situations in a foreign land can be resolved simply by pointing and stating a number. The table lays out the numbers from 1 to 100. Note that all you really need to memorize are the numbers 1 to 20 and every 10 after that as the others are fairly regular.
|1: uno||21: veintiuno||41: cuarenta y uno||61: sesenta y uno||81: ochenta y uno|
|2: dos||22: veintidos||42: cuarenta y dos||62: sesenta y dos||82: ochenta y dos|
|3: tres||23: veintitrés||43: cuarenta y tres||63: sesenta y tres||83: ochenta y tres|
|4: cuatro||24: veinticuatro||44: cuarenta y cuatro||64: sesenta y cuatro||84: ochenta y cuatro|
|5: cinco||25: veinticinco||45: cuarenta y cinco||65: sesenta y cinco||85: ochenta y cinco|
|6: seis||26: veintiséis||46: cuarenta y seis||66: sesenta y seis||86: ochenta y seis|
|7: siete||27: veintisiete||47: cuarenta y siete||67: sesenta y siete||87: ochenta y siete|
|8: ocho||28: veintiocho||48: cuarenta y ocho||68: sesenta y ocho||88: ochenta y ocho|
|9: nueve||29: veintinueve||49: cuarenta y nueve||69: sesenta y nueve||89: ochenta y nueve|
|10: diez||30: treinta||50: cincuenta||70: setenta||90: noventa|
|11: once||31: treinta y uno||51: cincuenta y uno||71: setenta y uno||91: noventa y uno|
|12: doce||32: treinta y dos||52: cincuenta y dos||72: setenta y dos||92: noventa y dos|
|13: trece||33: treinta y tres||53: cincuenta y tres||73: setenta y tres||93: noventa y tres|
|14: catorce||34: treinta y cuatro||54: cincuenta y cuatro||74: setenta y cuatro||94: noventa y cuatro|
|15: quince||35: treinta y cinco||55: cincuenta y cinco||75: setenta y cinco||95: noventa y cinco|
|16: dieciséis||36: treinta y seis||56: cincuenta y seis||76: setenta y seis||96: noventa y seis|
|17: diecisiete||37: treinta y siete||57: cincuenta y siete||77: setenta y siete||97: noventa y siete|
|18: dieciocho||38: treinta y ocho||58: cincuenta y ocho||78: setenta y ocho||98: noventa y ocho|
|19: diecinueve||39: treinta y nueve||59: cincuenta y nueve||79: setenta y nueve||99: noventa y nueve|
|20: veinte||40: cuarenta||60: sesenta||80: ochenta||100: cien|
Numbers in the twenties can only be stated with a "y" ("and") like the others: "veinte y uno" ("21"), "veinte y dos" ("22"), etc.
Some Spanish-speaking nations have high denominations of currency (the Colombian Peso and the Venezuelan Bolivar come to mind), so you might have to know higher numbers such as "mil" ("thousand"). You might even need to know "millón" ("million," plural "millones"). "Millón" is followed by the preposition "de": "tres millones de pesos" ("three million pesos"). How do you say the current year? "Dos mil siete."
The number "cien" ("100") becomes "ciento" when followed by other numbers: "ciento dos" ("102"). However, the "cien" form is used before "mil": "cien mil" ("100,000"). Numbers of two hundred or more use "ciento" in the plural: "dos cientos" ("200"), and a few of these are irregular: "quinientos" ("500"), "setecientos" ("700"), and "novecientos" ("900"). Also, all numbers in the hundreds change ending in the feminine: "cientos plátanos y cientas naranjas" ("a hundred bananas and a hundred oranges").
For the number "one," use "un" before a masculine noun and "una" before a feminine noun, just as with the indefinite article, but use "uno" when a masculine noun is omitted and "una" when a feminine noun is omitted: "un tren está temprano pero uno está tarde" ("one train is early but one is late").
Ordinal numbers ("primero," "segundo," "tercero," "cuarto," "quinto," "sexto," "séptimo," "octavo," "noveno," "décimo") agree in gender and number with nouns like adjectives: "voy por el segundo tren" ("I am taking the second train"). Note that the final "o" of "primero" and "tercero" drop when these ordinals precede a masculine noun.
Now that we have learned our numbers, we might as well learn how to talk about the time. Frequently, train schedules, open hours, and such are listed in 24-hour time, but in conversation people are likely to express time in a more casual way.
The equivalent of "it's one o'clock" is simply "es la una," but for every hour after that the plural form of "ser" is required: "son las dos" ("it's two o'clock"). To say "at two o'clock," use the preposition "a": "a las dos."
The Spanish equivalents of a.m. and p.m. are "de la mañana" ("in the morning"), "de la tarde" ("in the afternoon/evening"), and "de la noche" ("in the night"). "De la tarde" is generally used from noon to 6:00 p.m. and "de la noche" from 6:00 p.m. to midnight.
"A quarter after" is expressed as "y cuarto," the half hour as "y media," and "a quarter to" as "menos un quarto." Noon is "mediodía" and midnight is "medianoche."
If you expect punctuality, use the word "en punto": "vamos a las siete en punto" ("we're going at 7:00 sharp"). To keep it casual, use "más o menos" or "como": "son como las diez" ("it's about ten").
Let's put them all together with some examples:
Son las siete de la mañana ("it's 7:00 a.m.")
Son las once y cuarto ("it's 11:15")
Es mediodía ("it's noon")
Es más o menos la una y media ("it's around 1:30")
Son las tres de la tarde ("it's 3:00 p.m.")
A las seis menos cuarto ("at 5:45")
Son las diez menos diez de la noche ("it's 9:50 p.m.")
Es medianoche ("it's midnight")
Now that we have met all of the pronoun forms, let's put them all together in one table to make it easy to compare. To save space, only the masculine singular form of the possessive pronouns are included.
|Second person||tú (familiar)
lo/le (masculine formal)
la (feminine formal)
|Third person||él (masculine)
|First person||nosotros (masculine)
|Second person||vosotros (familiar masculine)
vosotras (familiar feminine)
los/les (masculine formal)
las (feminine formal)
|Third person||ellos (masculine)
The verb "gustar" ("to be pleasing") is invaluable for expressing likes and dislikes and is very common, but its construction is a bit odd. For example, the simplest way to say "I like this wine" in Spanish is "me gusta este vino," but notice that the verb is in the third person instead of the first person conjugation and the personal pronoun is in the indirect object instead of the subject form. In fact, the sentence literally says "this wine is pleasing to me."
Once you get the hang of it, the construction becomes second nature, but you especially need to be careful about expressing like or dislike of plural objects as the verb has to be in the third person plural, as in the sentence "no me gustan estas tapas" ("I don't like these tapas").
Other useful verbs work the same way:
Encantar ("to enjoy"): le encanta a él ir al cine ("he enjoys going to the cinema")
Apetecer ("to like" with food or drink): nos apetece esta comida ("we like this food")
Faltar ("to lack"): me falta el dinero ("I lack money")
Interesar ("to interest"): ¿te interesa esta película? ("does this film interest you?")
Parecer ("to seem"): nos parece que usted es cansada ("it seems to us that you are tired")
Doler ("to hurt"): me duele la cabeza ("my head hurts")
Importar ("to matter"): no me importa ("it doesn't matter to me")
Now that we're on common but odd constructions, we may as well discuss some unusual
expressions using the verb "tener." For example, in English one would say "I am hungry" using
the verb "to be," but in Spanish the verb "to have" is used instead: "tenemos hambre" ("we are
hungry"). Other similar constructions include:
Tener razón ("to be right"): tienes razón ("you are right")
Tener prisa ("to be in a hurry"): tengo prisa ("I'm in a hurry")
Tener sed ("to be thirsty"): bebemos agua porque tenemos sed ("we are drinking water because we are thirsty")
Tener sueño ("to be sleepy"): no corro ahora porque tengo sueño ("I'm not running now because I'm sleepy")
Tener calor ("to be hot"): estoy bien pero él tiene calor ("I'm fine but he's hot")
Tener frío ("to be cold"): tengo frío en el invierno ("I feel cold in the winter")
Tener cuidado ("to be careful"): necesita tener cuidado cuando viaja ("you have to be careful when you travel")
Tener ganas de (followed by an infinitive) ("to feel like"): tenemos ganas de dormir ("we feel like sleeping")
Tener que (followed by an infinitive) ("to have to"): tengo que irme ("I have to leave")
You can add the adjectives "mucho" and "poco" to the nouns in these expressions, as in the sentence "tengo mucha hambre" ("I am very hungry"). Note that "mucho" agrees with the feminine noun.
"Tener" is also used to indicate age, so if someone asks you the question "¿cuantos años tiene?" ("how old are you?"), subtract the appropriate number from your actual age as I always do and respond "tengo treinta y tres años" ("I am thirty-three years old").
The verb "haber" is another way to say "to have" but is not equivalent to the verb "tener." Instead, it is used in an auxiliary sense that we will learn soon, but for the moment we will concentrate on a special conjugation of this verb in the third-person indicative tense: "hay."
"Hay" is a versatile word that translates to "there is" or "there are" depending on context. Yes, the same word is conveniently used for both singular nouns as in the sentence "hay un hotel a la esquina" ("there is a hotel at the corner") and plural nouns as in the sentence "hay muchos vasos en la cocina" ("there are many glasses in the kitchen"). The word can also be used to ask and answer questions: "¿hay un hotel cerca de aquí?" "sí, hay" ("is there a hotel near here?" "yes, there is").
The expression "hay que" can also be used to express the need to do something. We have just learned that "tener que" can be used in this sense, and the expression "hay que" is similar but is used in a more general sense, as in the sentence "hay que comer muchas verduras" ("one has to eat lots of vegetables").
Another verb that can be used in a convenient idiomatic sense is "acabar" ("to finish"). when used with the preposition "de" and a verb in the infinitive, the verb indicates that an action has just taken place, as in the sentence "acabo de comer" ("I have just eaten"). Note that English uses the past participle of the verb, whereas Spanish uses the infinitive.
While we're covering idiomatic phrases, let's learn to talk about the weather.
Why? Small-talk is universal, and weather seems to be one of the universal staples of
Many weather phrases use the verb "hacer" ("to do") in an idiomatic
sense, as in these examples:
¿Qué tiempo hace? ("how's the weather?")
Hace calor ("it's hot")
Hace frío ("it's cold")
Hace fresco ("it's cool")
Hace sol ("it's sunny")
Hace viento ("it's windy")
Hace buen tiempo ("the weather is nice")
Hace mal tiempo ("the weather is bad")
The adjectives "mucho" and "poco" can be combined with the nouns in these expressions:
Hace mucho calor ("it's very hot")
Hace poco viento ("it's a little windy")
Other weather expressions are less idiomatic:
Está nublado ("it's cloudy")
Está lloviendo ("it's rainy")
llueve ("it's raining")
Está novando ("it's snowing")
Nieva ("it's snowing")
replace nouns or noun phrases and are very useful for posing questions. Some of the
most common ones include the following:
Qué ("what," "which"): ¿qué hora es? ("what time is it?"); ¿qué tren viene? ("which train is coming?")
Cuál ("which one"): ¿cuál es el mejor de los dos? ("which is the best of the two?") - note that "qué" is used for "which" before a noun and "cuál" is used for "which" in the absence of a noun.
Cuáles ("which ones"): ¿cuáles quiere usted? ("which ones do you want?")
Cómo ("how"): ¿cómo está usted? ("how are you?")
Dónde ("where"): ¿dónde está el aeropuerto? ("where is the airport?")
Adónde ("to where"): ¿adónde va usted? ("where are you going to?")
Cuándo ("when"): ¿cuándo abre el museo? ("when does the museum open?")
Por qué ("why"): ¿por qué estás aquí? ("why are you here?")
Quién ("who," singular): ¿quién es un estudiante? ("who is a student?")
Quiénes ("who," plural): ¿quiénes vienen? ("who are coming?")
Con quién ("with whom"): ¿con quién quieres hablar? ("with whom do you want to speak?")
A quién ("to whom"): ¿a quién va usted a ver? ("whom are you going to see?")
De quién ("whose"): ¿de quién es esta copa? ("whose glass is this?")
Cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, cuántas ("how much," "how many"): ¿cuánto dinero tienes? ("how much do you have?"); ¿cuántas uvas quiere usted? ("how many grapes do you want?")
Note that these words also appear without the accent mark in other forms.
Comparisons and contrasts are essential to good conversation, particularly when offering critiques on all the food and drink you are sure to try when travelling. To express equality between two adjectives, use the expression "tan . . . como": "este vino es tan delicioso como ese vino" ("this wine is as delicious as that wine").
To express one adjective as greater in quality, use "más . . . que": "este vino es más seco que ese vino" ("this wine is drier than that wine").
To express one adjective as lesser in quality, use "menos . . . que": "este vino es menos caro que ese vino" ("this wine is less expensive than that wine").
To express the superlative degree of an adjective, as in the best, the greatest, the strongest, etc., use the definite article with "más" or "menos": "este vino es el más caro del restaurante" ("this wine is the most expensive in the restaurant"). In this case, note the use of the preposition "de" to denote the group being compared to.
The absolute superlative expresses the idea of "very" and can be easily formed by adding the adverb "muy": "el hotel es muy caro" ("the hotel is very expensive"). Another way of forming the absolute superlative is adding "-ísimo," "-ísima," "-ísimos," or "-ísimas" to the end of an adjective after removing the final consonant: "el hotel es carísimo" ("the hotel is very expensive").
A few adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms. In the case of "grande" and "pequeño" below, the irregulars only apply when referring to age: "Juan es mayor que su hermano" ("Juan is older than his brother").
|buono, -a ("good")||mejor||el/la mejor|
|malo, -a ("bad")||peor||el/la peor|
|grande ("big")||mayor (más grande)||el/la mayor|
|pequeño ("small")||menor (más pequeño)||el/la menor|
Adverbs, verbs, and nouns can be compared using the same expressions as adjectives. Take a look
at these examples:
Adverbs: él corre más rápidamente que yo ("he runs faster than I do").
Verbs: ella trabaja más que yo ("she works more than I do").
Nouns: Hay más coches que autobuses en la ciudad ("there are more cars than buses in the city").
When creating superlatives for adverbs, the neuter article might have to be used. For example, in the sentence "Plácido trabaja lo mas rápidamente" ("Placido works the fastest"), the neuter article "lo" is used.
The adjective "tanto" ("as much," "as many") is used with "como" to
express equality when comparing nouns
and agrees with gender and number. Examples:
Tengo tanto leche como usted ("I have as much milk as you do")
Hay tantas manzanas como naranjas en la mesa ("there are as many apples as oranges on the table")
We just learned that you can create a superlative of a word by adding an "-ísimo" ending. The
same can be done to create a diminutive using an "-ito" or "-ita" ending. The diminutive can
indicate small size, affection, and general emphasis. Take a look at these examples:
Poco ("little") → poquito ("very little")
Ahora ("now") → ahorita ("right now")
Hermano ("brother") → hermanito ("dear little brother")
So far, we've been translating the present indicative verb tense in two ways and using phrases like "bebo jugo de naranja" to express both "I drink orange juice" and "I am drinking orange juice." But in Spanish a different tense is used to more accurately express the latter type of phrase and to specify that someone or something is involved in an activity at a specific moment.
As in English, the present progressive is a compound tense that consists of the verb "to be" plus a gerund (a verb ending in "-ing" and used as a noun). To form the gerund, which in Spanish is also the present participle, add "-ando" to the stems of "-ar" verbs and "-iendo" to the stems of "-er" and "-ir" verbs. Thus, we would say "estoy bebiendo jugo de naranja" to express that I am drinking orange juice at this specific moment.
For stem-changing verbs like "pedir" ("to ask") and "dormir" ("to sleep"), change the "e" to "i" and the "o" to "u" in the gerund to form "pidiendo" and "durmiendo." If the verb stem ends in a vowel (as in the verbs "creer" ("to believe") and "leer" ("to read")) use the ending "-yendo" instead of "-iendo": "creyendo" and "leyendo."
Direct objects can either precede the present progressive or attach to the gerund: "lo estoy bebiendo" or "estoy bebiéndolo" ("I am drinking it"). The same holds true for indirect objects: "le estoy hablando" or "estoy hablándole" ("I am talking to you"). Note that we have to place accent marks in these examples to maintain the stress on the proper syllable. Direct and indirect objects together can also precede or be tacked on at the end: "te la estoy dando" or "estoy dándotela" ("I am giving it to you").
Just when you thought we were done with pronouns for good, let's learn just one more type. Relative pronouns replace nouns, but unlike the other types, which stand in for nouns not present, they refer to nouns mentioned in other places. For example, in the sentence "the hotel that you are looking for is downtown" the word "that" is a relative pronoun that refers to the noun "hotel." The Spanish equivalent of this sentence is "el hotel que usted busca está en el centro," in which "que" is the relative pronoun that refers to "hotel." If the relative pronoun needs to specify among more than one noun, the definite article is added, as in this sentence: "hay dos hoteles; el que está en el centro es menos caro" ("there are two hotels; the one downtown is less expensive").
The relative pronoun "que" refers to both people and things. The relative pronouns "quien" and "quienes" are used to refer to people when preceded by a preposition, as in the following sentence: "mi amigo, con quien viajo, está en el tren" ("my friend, with whom I'm traveling, is on the train."
The relative pronoun "cuyo" signifies "whose" and agrees with the thing that is possessed, as in the sentence "¿donde está la mujer cuyo esposo está en el baño?" ("where is the woman whose husband is in the bathroom?"
We've already learned how to create a simple negative sentence simply by adding "no," but we
can also use other negative words for more varied negative sentences. Some pronouns,
adjectives, and adverbs have negative counterparts. For example, the pronouns "alguien"
and "algo" stand for "someone" and "something," respectively. The two have the negative
counterparts "nadie" ("no one") and "nada" ("nothing"). The following examples should
¿Viene alguien? No, nadie viene. ("Is someone coming? No, no one is coming.")
¿Necesita usted algo? No, no necesito nada. ("Do you need anything? No, I don't need anything.")
"Algo" and "nada" can also be used before uncountable nouns to indicate quantity or lack of quantity: "¿Tiene algo de dinero? No tengo nada de dinero." ("Do you have any money? I don't have any money.")
Similarly, the adjective "alguno" ("some") has a counterpart in "ninguno" ("none"). Recall
that both of these adjectives are among those that have the shortened forms
"algún" and "ningún"
before a masculine
¿Tiene usted algún pan? No, no tengo ninguno ("Do you have any bread? No, I don't have any.")
¿Desea usted algunas uovas? No, no deseo ninguna uova ("Do you want any grapes? No, I don't want any grape.")
Note in the last example that the negation appears in the singular, which is standard as "ninguno" rarely appears in plural form.
Finally, a few adverbs have negative counterparts:
Affirmative: "siempre" ("always") → Negative: "nunca" ("never")
Example: ¿Siempre bebe usted cerveza? No, nunca bebo cerveza. ("Do you always drink beer? No, I never drink beer.")
Affirmative: "o . . . o" ("either . . . or") → Negative: "ni . . . ni" ("neither . . . nor")
Example: ¿Quiere usted o un libro o una revista? Quiero ni un libro ni una revista. ("Do you want a book or a magazine? I want neither a book nor a magazine.")
Affirmative: "también" ("too") → Negative: "tampoco" ("neither")
Example: ¿Viene Xavier también? Xavier no viene, y yo tampoco. ("Is Xavier coming too? Xavier is not coming, and I'm not coming either.")
We've already met the simple conjunctions "y" ("and") and "o" ("or"), but both have exceptions. If the "and" conjunction is followed by a word that begins with "i" or "hi," use "e" instead of "y": "primavera e invierno" ("summer and fall"). If the "or" conjuction is followed by a word that begins with "o" or "ho," used "u" instead of "o": "verano u otoño" ("summer or fall").
The conjunction "but" is translated with one of three words depending on the context:
"Pero" is used in most situations: "estoy comiendo carne pero mi esposa está comiendo verduras" ("I am eating meat but my wife is eating vegetables").
"Sino" is used when the first part of the sentence is negative and the two parts are parallel: "Rodrigo no es alto sino bajo" ("Rodrigo isn't tall but is short").
"Sino que" is similar to "sino" in that it is used when the first part of the sentence is negative, but both parts contain a subject and a verb: "Alba no bebe cerveza sino que bebe vino" ("Alba doesn't drink beer but she does drink wine").
Though we have learned a lot so far, all of our sentences have been limited to the present tense. Of course, you may want to be able to tell someone what you did earlier or what you intend to do later, so we will start to learn other verb tenses. The first is the preterite verb tense, which is used to indicate an action that both began and ended in the past. For example, the sentence "yo hablé" is generally translated as either "I spoke" or "I did speak."
Let's begin by detailing the regular forms of the preterite tense. Note that the first person plural forms are identical in the indicative and preterite tenses:
|él, ella, usted||habló||corrió||vivió|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||hablaron||corrieron||vivieron|
Naturally, there are many irregular forms, including these common ones. Note that the irregular forms of "ir" ("to go") and "ser" ("to be") are identical and are made clear by context:
|Personal pronoun||ser "to be"
ir "to go"
|él, ella, usted||fue||dio||vino||dijo||estuvo|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||fueron||dieron||vinieron||dijeron||estuvieron|
Other irregulars include the following:
|él, ella, usted||durmió||tuvo||hizo||quiso||supo|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||durmieron||tuvieron||hicieron||quisieron||supieron|
The preterite of the special verb form "hay" is "hubo": "hubo mucha gente aquí anoche" ("there were lots of people here last night").
The third person singular form of the verb "hacer" ("to do") combined with a span of time, the word "que," and a verb in the present tense provides a simple way of talking about time past. The verb phrase can either come after the time phrase, as in the sentence "hace dos semanas que estoy en Venezuela" ("I've been in Venezuela for two weeks"), or before the time phrase as in the sentence "ella desea estudiar español hace un año" ("she has been wanting to study Spanish for a year"). The preterite tense can also be used: "hace un mes que fui a Costa Rica" (I went to Costa Rica a month ago").
The other common past tense is the imperfect, which is used to describe past actions that occurred over an extended period of time, actions that did not have a definite beginning or end, actions that took place often or habitually, and conditions that existed in the past.
In contrast to the preterite verb statement "yo hablé," which as we learned expresses "I spoke" or "I did speak," the imperfect verb sentence "yo hablaba" is generally translated as "I was speaking," "I used to speak," or "I spoke" in a habitual sense. First take a look at the regular conjugation of this tense, and then you can see some examples that contrast the imperfect with the preterite. Note that the first and third person singular forms are identical, so personal pronouns are commonly used with these tenses.
|él, ella, usted||hablaba||corría||vivía|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||hablaban||corrían||vivían|
And now take a look at these irregulars:
|él, ella, usted||iba||era||veía|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||iban||eran||veían|
Examples to contrast the two tenses:
Preterite used to indicate single action: "fui a Buenos Aires" ("I went to Buenos Aires")
Imperfect used to indicate action over extended period of time: "yo vivía en Buenos Aires" ("I was living in Buenos Aires")
Preterite used to indicate single action: "hablé español ayer" ("I spoke Spanish yesterday")
Imperfect used to indicate habitual action: "yo hablaba español todo el tiempo" ("I used to speak Spanish all the time")
Imperfect used to describe a condition in the past: "nuestra casa era muy grande" ("our house was very big")
The preterite and the imperfect can also be used in the same sentence. The imperfect will often express what was going on when something else happened in the preterite to interrupt it, as in the sentence "yo leía cuando ella llegó" ("I was reading when she arrived").
The imperfect form of the verb "estar" can be used in conjunction with the present participle to create the past progressive tense, a past tense version of the present progressive we already learned. Try out this example of its use: "yo estaba viviendo en Chile durante varios años" ("I was living in Chile for several years").
The imperfect form of the verb "hacer" ("to do") can be used with expressions of time in a similar way as the indicative form. In the imperfect form, the verb describes an action begun in the past that continues into the more recent past, as in the sentence "hacía dos años que yo vivía en Colombia" ("I had been living in Colombia for two years").
Now that we have the present and the past covered, it is time to look to the future. We have already seen that the verb "ir" ("to go") can be used just as in English to talk about the immediate future, as in the sentence "voy a estudiar mañana" ("I am going to study tomorrow"). The indicative tense itself can be used to talk about the future in some cases, as in the sentence "el tren llega esta noche" ("the train arrives tonight").
The other way to express the future is to use the future tense of the verb, which is more common in Spain than in Latin America, where speakers tend to use the "ir" + infinitive construction more. The future tense is fairly regular and easy to learn. In the chart below, notice that unlike the other tenses we have learned so far, which involve adding endings to the stems of verbs, with the future tense we add endings to the infinitive forms of verbs.
|él, ella, usted||hablará||correrá||vivirá|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||hablarán||correrán||vivirán|
Some verbs are irregular in the future tense. Because only the stems change and
the endings are still consistent in
the different conjugations of these verbs, I will only show the first person singular
tener ("to have") → tendré
hacer ("to do") → haré
decir ("to say") → diré
poder ("to be able to") → podré
querer ("to want") → querré
saber ("to know") → sabré
salir ("to go out") → saldré
venir ("to come") → vendré
Lo haremos mañana ("we will do it tomorrow")
Él vendrá la proxima semana ("he will come next week")
Ustedes comerán en el restaurante al fin de semana ("you will eat in the restaurant on the weekend")
The future tense can also be used to express speculation or probability at the present time.
Look at these examples:
Estará enferma ("she is probably sick")
¿Qué hora será? ("I wonder what time it is")
Serán las cuatro ("it must be four o'clock")
The future form of the verb "hay" ("there is," "there are") is "habrá ("there will be"): "habrá mucha comida mañana" ("there will be lots of food tomorrow").
Now that we can talk about the future and the past, we should learn the days
of the week and the months of the year. First, the days:
El domingo ("Sunday")
El lunes ("Monday")
El martes ("Tuesday")
El miércoles ("Wednesday")
El jueves ("Thursday")
El viernes ("Friday")
El sábado ("Saturday")
Now the months:
To express a regular action on a particular day, use the plural definite article with the plural form of the day. The plural form is identical to the singular except with "sábado" and "domingo," which have the plural forms "sábados" and "domingos" respectively: "trabajo los lunes y estudio los sábados" ("I work on Mondays and study on Saturdays").
Need to express the complete date? Here's an example: "hoy es el tres de enero del año dos mil siete" ("today is January 3, 2007"). For the first of the month, "primer" ("first") is used instead of "uno." Note that the verb "ser" is used to express the date.
Now back to some more verb tenses. The imperative is used to issue commands. Because different conjugations are formed in different ways, we will encounter them one-at-a-time.
For the informal second person singular ("tú" form), the affirmative version of the
imperative is identical to the third person singular of the present indicative.
Confused? It's actually very simple:
Hablar ("to speak") → él habla ("he speaks") → habla ("speak")
Correr ("to run") → él corre ("he runs") → corre ("run")
vivir ("to live") → él vive ("he lives") → vive ("live")
However, the negative imperative of the informal second person singular is different. In
this case, "-ar" verbs add the ending "-es" to the stem of the infinitive
and "-er" and "-ir" verbs add the
ending "-as" to the stem:
Hablar ("to speak") → no hables ("don't speak")
Correr ("to run") → no corras ("don't run")
vivir ("to live") → no vivas ("don't live")
All stem-changing irregular verbs have the same stem changes in the imperative as in
the indicative tense. For example, the informal imperative forms of "pensar" ("to think") are
"piensa" ("think") and "no pienses" ("don't think"). Other irregulars are unique to
the imperative form, including these common ones:
decir ("to say") → di ("say") → no digas ("don't say")
hacer ("to do") → haz ("do") → no hagas ("don't do")
salir ("to go out") → sal ("go out") → no salgas ("don't go out")
ser ("to be") → sé ("be") → no seas ("don't be")
tener ("to have") → ten ("have") → no tengas ("don't have")
venir ("to come") → ven ("come") → no vengas ("don't come")
To form the informal second person plural imperative, simply remove the "-r" of the
infinitive form and add "-d":
Hablar ("to speak") → hablad ("speak")
Correr ("to run") → corrad ("run")
vivir ("to live") → vivid ("live")
To form the negative of the informal second person plural, add "-éis" to the stems of
"-ar" verbs and "-áis" to the stems of "-er" and "-ir" verbs:
Hablar ("to speak") → no habléis ("don't speak")
Correr ("to run") → no corráis ("don't run")
vivir ("to live") → no viváis ("don't live")
To form the formal second person singular imperative, start with the first person indicative,
the "-o" ending and replace it with "-e" for "-ar" verbs and "-a" for "-er" and "-ir"
verbs. For the formal second person plural imperative, replace the "-o" with "-en" for
"-ar" verbs and "-an" for "-er" and "-ir" verbs. Again, you'll see how simple it is if we
lay out all the forms:
Hablar ("to speak") → hablo ("I speak") → hable usted ("speak") → hablen ustedes ("speak")
Correr ("to run") → corro ("I run") → corra usted ("run") → corran ustedes ("run")
vivir ("to live") → vivo ("I live") → viva usted ("live") → vivan ustedes ("live")
With the formal imperatives, the negative forms are identical to the affirmative forms:
hable usted ("speak") → no hable usted ("don't speak")
corra usted ("run") → no corra usted ("don't run")
viva usted ("live") → no viva usted ("don't live")
The first person plural imperative is the equivalent of "let's" as in "let's go." The
imperative (both affirmative and negative)
is formed by adding "-emos" to the stem of "-ar" verbs and "-amos" to the stem
of "-ir" and "-er" verbs:
Hablar ("to speak") → hablemos ("let's speak")
Correr ("to run") → corramos ("let's run")
Vivir ("to live") → vivamos ("let's live")
Irregulars abound. One of the most common is "ir" ("to go"), which is unusual in that it has a different form in the affirmative and the negative: "vamos" ("let's go"); "no vayamos" ("let's not go").
Direct and indirect object pronouns are attached to the ends of affirmative commands: "dime" ("tell me"). However, object pronouns precede negative commands: "no me diga" ("don't tell me"). Note again that attaching an object pronoun to the end of a verb may involve adding an accent mark.
The preposition "al" (which you will remember combines the preposition "a" with the definite article "el") plus the infinitive verb has an idiomatic meaning of "upon" doing something. The construction is particularly helpful in giving directions when combined with the imperative, as in the sentence "al salir, gire usted a la derecha" ("upon getting out, turn to the right").
The conditional is used to express possibility. For example, the sentence "yo hablaría" can be translated as "I could speak" or "I would speak." Note that the conjugations of the conditional are formed similarly to those of the future tense in that the "stem" is simply the infinitive form of the verb:
|él, ella, usted||hablaría||correría||viviría|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||hablarían||correrían||vivirían|
Naturally, a few common verbs are irregular in the conditional tense. The stem
changes of these verbs are identical to those of the future tense, and again I will
only show the first person singular conjugation as the stem changes are consistent
through the different conjugations:
tener ("to have") → tendría
hacer ("to do") → haría
decir ("to say") → diría
poder ("to be able to") → podría
querer ("to want") → querría
saber ("to know") → sabría
salir ("to go out") → saldría
venir ("to come") → vendría
The conditional of "hay" ("there are") is "habría" ("there would be").
The conditional can also be used to talk about probable past events, as in the sentence "ella llegaría ayer" ("she probably arrived yesterday").
Another very common use of the conditional is to soften a command or request. For example, when ordering in a restaurant you could use the imperative and say "traigame una cerveza" ("bring me a beer"). Yet, you can see that even in the English the order seems a bit abrupt. To soften the command, you could use the conditional form of "poder" ("to be able to") with the infinitive: "¿podría traerme una cerveza?" ("could you bring me a beer?"). You could also use the conditional of the verb "gustar" with the infinitive: "me gustaría una cerveza" ("I would like a beer").
The conditional is frequently used with the preterite to indirectly report what someone has said, as in the sentence: "ella dijo que vendría" ("she said that she would come").
Be careful of expressing a habit in the past as Spanish uses the imperfect rather than the conditional in this case. For example, in English we would say "I would speak Spanish all the time," but in Spanish this sentence would be rendered in the imperfect tense as "yo hablaba español todo el tiempo."
We have just learned how the conditional tense can be used to soften a request or a command. Another way of doing so is using the verb form "quisiera" ("I would like"), which we will soon learn as a conjugation of the subjunctive tense: "quisiera una cerveza" ("I would like a beer"). Also, the expression "favor de" can be used in a command: "favor de traerme una cerveza" ("please bring me a beer").
learned the present participle when we encountered the present progressive tense. The
past participle is similar. For "-ar" verbs, remove the "-ar" ending and add "-ado."
For "-er" and "-ir" verbs, remove the endings and add "-ido":
hablar ("to speak") → hablado ("spoken")
correr ("to run") → corrido ("ran")
vivir ("to live") → vivido ("lived")
Some past participles are irregular, including these common ones:
abrir ("to open") → abierto ("opened")
decir ("to say") → dicho ("said")
escribir ("to write") → escrito ("written")
hacer ("to do") → hecho ("done")
ver ("to see") → visto ("seen")
The past participle is frequently used as an adjective, in which case the ending varies like an adjective: "el hombre perdido busca su casa" ("the lost man is looking for his home"). Frequently, the past participle shows up as part of the perfect verb tenses, which we will meet next.
Despite the name, the present perfect tense is essentially another past tense and is used to indicate actions completed prior to the present, as in the sentence "he hablado" ("I have spoken"). Note that the present perfect is a compound tense in both English and in Spanish, meaning it has two elements. The first element is the verb "haber" ("to have"). Yes, I realize that we have been consistently using the verb "tener" to indicate "to have," but "haber" is not used in the same cases as "tener" is. Instead, "haber" is a helping verb. We encountered it earlier in the forms "hay" ("there is," "there are"), "hubo" ("there was"), "había" ("there were"), "habrá" ("there will be"), and "habría" ("there would be").
Let's begin with the first element of this compound tense and learn the full conjugation of "haber" in the indicative, which is irregular:
|Personal pronoun||Indicative of "haber"|
|él, ella, usted||ha|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||han|
The second element is the past participle of the verb, which we have just learned.
Now we can put the two together to make some present perfect sentences:
La hemos visto ("we have seen her")
Él ha comido la cena ("he has eaten dinner")
Note the use of the direct object in one of these examples, which is placed before the verb "haber."
The present perfect is sometimes used interchangeably with the preterite, though generally the tendency is to use the present perfect for the recent past and the preterite for the more remote past.
As the name implies, the past perfect is similar to the present perfect but is used to indicate an action completed before another past action, as in the sentence "había hablado" ("I had spoken"). To form this tense, use the imperfect form of the verb "haber" with the past participle: "había salido cuando él llegó" ("I had left when he arrived").
The future perfect is similar and specifies an action that will be completed by a specified future time. It is formed with the future form of the verb "haber" and the past participle: "habré hablado" ("I will have spoken").
The conditional perfect indicates what would happen if something else had happened in the past and is formed by the conditional of "haber" and the past participle: "yo habría hablado" ("I would have spoken").
I won't go into too much detail with these tenses as you probably won't use them much in conversation, but here are the full conjugations:
|Personal pronoun||Imperfect of "haber"||Future of "haber"||Conditional of "haber"|
|él, ella, usted||había||habrá||habría|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||habían||habrán||habrían|
The subjunctive mood (which is not quite the same as a tense) is one that we don't encounter very often in English, and when we do we hardly seem to be aware of it. For example, notice the form of the verb "to come" in the sentence "we prefer that he come with us." Normally, the present indicative form of this verb in the third person is "comes," but in this case the subjunctive form "come" is used. The subjunctive is used in similar circumstances in Spanish but tends to appear more often and in situations that are doubtful, possible, opinionated, or contrary to fact.
First let's look at the full conjugation of the present subjunctive:
|él, ella, usted||hable||corra||viva|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||hablen||corran||vivan|
Naturally, we have some irregulars to watch out for:
"to go out"
"to be acquainted with"
|él, ella, usted||salga||conozca||tenga|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||salgan||conozcan||tengan|
I'll include a few other irregulars, but I won't lay out the full forms as the conjugations are
fairly consistent. The first person singular conjugation is included, and you can work out
the rest if you really need to:
dar ("to give") → dé
decir ("to say") → diga
estar ("to be") → esté
hacer ("to do") → haga
ir ("to go") → vaya
saber ("to know") → sepa
ser ("to be") → sea
traer ("to bring") → traiga
venir ("to come") → venga
ver ("to see") → vea
The more complicated issue is when to use the subjunctive. I'll make it as simple as
I can and provide several common instances:
When expressing an indirect command: "quiero que Rodrigo venga con nosotros" ("I want Rodrigo to come with us").
When expressing opinion or emotion: "me alegro que Rodrigo pueda venir con nosotros" ("I'm happy that Rodrigo can come with us").
When the precise time of a future action is uncertain or unimportant: "Rodrigo viene cuando pueda" ("Rodrigo will come when he can").
When expressing that something is uncertain or unlikely: "es posible que Rodrigo venga con nosotros" ("it's possible that Rodrigo is coming with us").
When expressing doubt: "no creo que Rodrigo venga con nosotros" ("I don't think Rodrigo will come with us").
One way to watch out for the subjunctive is to be look out for certain verbs that tend to
express wishes or desires and
often require the subjunctive,
including the following:
Querer ("to wish")
Desear ("to desire")
Insistir ("to insist")
Recomendar ("to recommend")
Sugerir ("to suggest")
Preferir ("to prefer")
Other verbs tend to express emotion and generally require the subjunctive:
Alegrarse ("to be happy")
Estar contento ("to be happy")
Estar triste ("to be sad")
Lamentar ("to regret")
Esperar ("to hope")
Temer ("to fear")
Tener miedo ("to be afraid")
Some verbs express commands or requests and use the subjunctive:
Mandar ("to order")
Prohibir ("to forbid")
Decir ("to tell" as in ordering)
Pedir ("to ask for")
Verbs expressing doubt or denial use the subjunctive, such as:
Dudar ("to doubt")
Negar ("to deny")
The opinion words "pensar" ("to think") and "creer" ("to believe") can take the subjunctive, but only when used in a question or in a negative sense. When used in a positive sense, the indicative mood is used. Compare the usage in the following sentence: "No creo que Lionel esté allií. Pienso que está en el centro" ("I don't believe that Lionel is there. I think he's downtown.").
Certain impersonal expressions that express need, desire, or doubt use the subjunctive:
Es posible ("it is possible")
Es imposible ("it is impossible")
Es preferible ("it is preferable")
The following conjunctions are always followed by the subjunctive:
Para que ("so that")
Sin que ("without")
A menos que ("unless")
The subjunctive is used in instances when someone or something may exist or definitely
does not exist. Compare the
Hay aquí alguien que habla español ("there is someone here who speaks Spanish"): The person exists, so the indicative mood is used.
¿Hay aquí alguien que hable español? ("is there someone here who speaks Spanish?"): A question is posed, so the person may or may not exist and the subjunctive mood is used.
No hay aquí alguien que hable español ("there is nobody here who speaks Spanish"): the person definitely doesn't exist, so the subjunctive mood is used.
In this same sense, the subjunctive is used in clauses that refer to future events as there is no assurance that they will actually occur, as in the sentence "cuando reciba el dinero, voy a comprar unas cosas" ("when I receive the money, I am going to buy a few things").
You might have noticed that certain subjunctive conjugations are identical to imperative forms. This is no accident, and when you use certain commands you are essentially using the subjunctive. The second person formal singular ("usted") and plural subjunctive ("ustedes") forms are identical to the second person formal singular and plural imperative forms, the second person informal singular ("tú") and plural subjunctive ("vosotros") forms are identical to the second person informal singular and plural negative imperatives, and the first person plural subjunctive form ("nosotros") is identical to the first person plural imperative.
Of course, every present tense has its equivalent past tense, and the subjunctive is no exception:
|él, ella, usted||hablara||corriera||viviera|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||hablaran||corrieran||vivieran|
Naturally there are many irregulars, but because the past subjunctive is not that common of a form I won't get into them here.
The imperfect subjunctive is used with a main verb in the preterite, imperfect, past perfect, or conditional tense, as in the sentence "no quería que él viniera" ("I didn't want him to come").
That should about do it for a survey of the basics of the language. E-mail me if you have any questions: email@example.com.
Last update for this page: 6 February 2010