Basic Spanish for the Virtual Student- Section 1
Learn elementary Spanish grammar rules in this free online course.
- This page has been checked by a native speaker for mistakes.
- This does not mean the page is 'mistake-free.' (It means a lower probability of errors.)
- We advise that for everything you learn here, you also find it elsewhere!
SHORT ACHIEVABLE GOALS:
- ability to pronounce the words
- The vowels are easy; each vowel has just one sound
- Many consonants are similar. A few consonant rules will be included, but this list will not be comprehensive. One-on-one tutoring with an expert is highly recommended; this list will get you started
- ability to put the emphasis on the correct syllable
- knowledge of the subject pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we, you people, they
- ability to conjugate the present tense of the three types of regular verbs
- ability to write a pronoun verb sentence. ( I drink.)
- ability to use nouns to make an article/noun/verb sentence
- The gender of a noun is masculine or feminine
- You have to know it. General rules exist, and there are exceptions.
- knowledge of which adjectives agree with noun gender, and which agree with singular/plural status of the noun
- knowledge of possessive adjectives: my car, your house, his ring, etc.
- knowledge of possessive pronouns: you are wearing my t-shirt, and I'm wearing yours
Basic Rules of Accentuation
- Words ending in a vowel, or n or s, the next to last syllable is stressed.
- For words ending in a consonant other than n or s stress falls on the last syllable.
- If the word has an accent mark, then that syllable is stressed, ignoring the rules above.
Syllable division involving two vowels
The vowels a, e, and o are "strong" vowels, and i and u are "weak". Where two vowels fall together, the following rules affect syllable division and accentuation:
- A weak + strong combination belongs to one syllable with the stress falling on the strong vowel. aceite, cierra, causa.
- A weak + weak combination belongs to one syllable with the stress falling on the second vowel. viuda, fuimos, diluir
- A strong + strong combination is divided into two syllables. bom-be-ar, po-le-a, em-ple- o
- If the word has an accent mark, then that syllable is stressed. flúido, día, encías
a -- like the a in father
e -- for a syllable ending in a vowel, like the e in they; for a syllable ending in a consonant, like the e in get
i -- like the i in machine
o -- for a syllable ending in a vowel, like the o in vote; for a syllable ending in a consonant, like the o in pot
I've been told that the o in vote actually corresponds to the ou sound
u -- like the u in rule; silent after q and in the groups gue and gui
y -- When used as a vowel, such as in the words y and voy, it is pronounced like the Spanish i.
ai, ay -- like the i in side
au -- like the ou in found
ei, ey -- like the ey in they
eu -- like the vowel sounds in may-you
the vowel sounds in may-you is actually closer to eiu, but I can't find anything better for eu
thanks to Agustin for the help!
oi, oy -- like the oy in boy
i, y -- like the y in yes. Examples: bien, hielo
u -- like with w in well. Examples: huevo, fuente, agua
b, v -- When found at the beginning of a word or following a consonant, these are pronounced like a b. Otherwise, they have a sound which falls somewhere inbetween the English b and v sounds.
c -- before a consonant or a, o, or u, like the c in cat; before e or
i like an s
ch -- like the ch in church.
Historically, the Spanish ch has been treated as a separate letter although this has recently been changed. Therefore, many dictionaries list words beginning with ch after the c's and before the d's.
d -- like the English d except between vowels and following
l or n where pronounced like the th
f -- like the f in for
g -- before e or i, like the Spanish
j; otherwise like the g in get
h -- silent
j -- like an h but stronger; silent when at the end of a word
k -- like a k
l -- like an l
ll -- like the y in you
m -- like an m
n -- like an n; except where it appears before a v, like an m
ñ -- like the n in onion
p -- like a p
q -- like a k; always followed by a silent
r -- pronounced with a strong trill at the beginning of a word and following an l, n, or s; very little trill when at the end of a word; and medium trill in other positions
rr -- strongly trilled
s -- before consonants b, d, g,
n, like a z; otherwise like an s
t -- like a t
v -- see b, v
w -- usually like a v
x -- when between vowels, like the x in
box; before a consonant, like an s
y -- like the y in yes
z -- like an s
SYLLABLE OF EMPHASIS
- If the last letter is a vowel, stress the second to last syllable.
- If the last letter is a consonant, stress the last syllable,
- Unless the last letter is an 'n' or an 's'.
- If the word carries an accent mark, stress the syllable with the accent mark.
- First person singular- I
- Second person singular- you
- Third person singular- he, she, it, or the formal (you) "Madame President!"
- First person plural- we
- Second person plural- you people
- Third person plural- formal you people
|you (formal) Our example: "Madame President!"
||nosotros (guys or guys + girls)
||vosotros (guys or guys + girls)
The vosotros form is not used in Latin America
||ellos (guys or guys + girls)
- Often the subject pronoun isn't used because the conjugation of the verb (the next topic) tells who did the action.
PRESENT TENSE VERBS
- Verbs can be separated into three groups, depending on the last two letters of the infinitive of the verb. The categories are -ar, -er, and -ir verbs.
- amar- to love
- correr- to run
- vivir- to live
- You can strip off the last two letters to determine the stem
- The table below shows the conjugation for the first person present for the above three verbs: amar (to love), correr (to run), and vivir (to live)
- for -ar verbs you see the endings -o, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an
- for -er verbs you see the endings -o, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en
- for -ir verbs you see the endings -o, -es, -e, -imos, -ís, -en
- you will notice an overall similarity for all three verbs
- you will notice even more similarity between -er and -ir verbs
- for the remainder of your verb conjugation, you will be looking for as many generalizations as you can find to simplify memorization efforts
- The verb 'beber' means to drink. From the above conjugation for -er verbs, we strip off the (er), giving us 'beb' and then we add 'o' for 'bebo.'
- When refering to a verb, we refer to the infinite form, which makes it easy to see if it is an -ar verb, an -er verb, or an -ir verb.
- Have your verbs conjugated with Comp-jugador. Just enter a verb and it will do the work for you.
- Our compliments to Daniel M. Germán, and whoever else may have helped to build this tool which conjugates 10,000 verbs!
NOUNS- SINGULAR VS. PLURAL
- If the noun ends in a vowel, add s
- If the noun ends in a consonant, add es
- Masculine nouns take the article 'el' for singular and 'los' for plural
- Feminine nouns take the article 'la' for singular and 'las' for plural
- Many nouns that end in -o are masculine
- Many nouns that end in -a are feminine
- Some nouns are exceptional (Noun verb sentence)
- La chica nada.
- The girl swims.
- nadar means to swim, and to float
- A Spanish word may apply to several similar (but not identical) English words
- Both swim and float put us in the water but one has arm and leg motions, and the other doesn't. All nadar tells us is that person is in the water. Of course, you can argue that most of the time swimming takes place when a person is in the water, so there is a probability aspect to consider. Can you think of English expressions that don't really explain what is happening, so we make assumptions?
- So far my favorite is 'lanzar', the multipurpose war verb that can be used to throw stones and launch intercontinental ballistic missles. In your dictionary you may find as many as ten entries for this verb.
- Sometimes the Spanish conjugation of a verb may be identical to a different word or words in Spanish:
- The word 'nada' may also be 'la nada', the nothingness, the void; a pronoun meaning 'nothing'; an adverb meaning 'not very' or 'not at all', or it could be part of the expression 'de nada' which means "you're welcome, don't mention it."
- Don't panic though. My computer translater program has problems with this but I don't, and I think that is because you and I can develope a feel of if the next word we read should be a noun or a verb, etc.
- Many adjectives agree with the gender of the noun
- If the dictionary lists an adjective with an -o ending (rojo, bajo, alto, corto, rubio, moreno, etc.) it probably fits the catergory
- adjectives can go in front of or after the noun; usually they go after
- la casa blanca
- the white house
- el perro rojo
- the red dog
- If the noun is plural, the adjective will agree with it
- las cervezas morenas
- A native speaker once asked someone on the web "Do you like your beer blonde (rubio) or brunette (moreno) referring to light or dark." I thought it was funny. Anyhow.
- The guy was making a joke. Dark beer is translated 'las cervezas negras'
- los perros rojos
- For an adjective that is not a/o, like grande (large/huge), the noun agrees with the singular/plural status of the noun
- la casa grande
- las casas grandes
- mi hombre (my man)
- tu hombre (your man)
- su hombre (her man, his man, Madame President--your man!)
- nuestro hombre (our man)
- nuestra mujer (our woman)
- nuestros hombres (our men)
- nuestras mujeres (our women)
- el mío
- la mía
- los míos
- las mías
- el tuyo
- la tuya
- los tuyos
- las tuyas
- el suyo
- la suya
- los suyos
- las suyas
- Tú tienes mi lápiz y yo tengo el tuyo.
- You have my pencil and I have (the) yours.
- el nuestro
- la nuestra
- los nuestros
- las nuestras
- el vuestro (only in Spain)
- la vuestra (only in Spain)
- los vuestros (only in Spain)
- las vuestras (only in Spain)
- el suyo
- la suya
- los suyos
- las suyas
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Special thanks to JOHNNY (Johnny Nahui-Ortiz),
PEPE (José Humberto Pinzon Peraza)
and OZZIE (Osvaldo Suarez) for their assistance!
I used purely semantic html for this entire course. That means that you should be able to save this to a palm pilot or other PDA, and view it with any browser. The only problems might be the tables, and the images at the top, the only images used. If anyone tries this, I'd love to hear feedback about how well it works, or tips that I could give others.