Diminutives in Spanish: STOP Making Mistakes with 1 Simple Trick

If you’re here chances are that you’re still not sure how to use words that end con -ito or -ita en español: el diminutivo. So, today I’m going to show you how you can learn the 1 simple trick to learn the diminutives in Spanish!

STOP Making Mistakes with Diminutives in Spanish, Use This SIMPLE TRICK 🧐

This way of speaking is used in English too. It’s made by adding a little sound at the beginning or at the end of a word. For example, mini skirt (we’re using the prefix mini), or the word doggy, where we add the suffix -y to make the diminutive of the word dog. 

I’m going to explain to you in what cases diminutives in Spanish are used and how to transform words into their diminutive form. The best part is that I will share with you some Spanish chunks (specifically, two Mexican sayings) that you can use in your Spanish.

1. The diminutive in Spanish

In Mexico we tend to use el diminutivo bastante (a lot)… too much, perhaps…  

One of the reasons why is because of the influence of the indigenous Nahuatl language on Spanish. Did you know that the word TOMATO comes from the Nahuatl Tomatll?

In this article we will talk about the most common form of the diminutivo, that is, the -ito / -ita ending, the one you’ve heard in songs like Despacito.

2. How to form and recognize the diminutive in Spanish?

In most cases, you create a diminutive by adding:

  • -ito, -cito, -ecito for singular masculine words
  • -itos, -citos, -ecitos for masculine plural words
  • -ita, -cita, -ecita for feminine singular words
  • -itas, -citas, -ecitas for feminine plural words

Now, I’m going to give you some rules and examples for which one you should use when, but rules are always annoying to think about in conversations. 

So, the BEST way to get these to roll off the tongue in conversations is… by memorizing the actual examples entirely. This truly is the best and easiest way. There’s no way around it and we’ll practice this today.

diminutives in spanish explained by female teacher

Anyway, just to help you understand where this all comes from, here are some basic rules (again, don’t learn the rules by heart, just memorize the examples):

  1. If a word ends in a vowel that’s not an E, you drop the vowel and add -ito
  • Vela (candle) >> velita
  • Hermano (brother) >> hermanito
  • Ahora (right now) >> ahorita —This is a tricky one and it’s used in Mexico ALL the time!
  1. For words with only ONE syllable, you add -ecito or -ecita
  • Flor (flower) >>  florecita
  • Tos (cough) >> tosecita
  1. Words with more than one syllable that end in E, N, R or end with a stressed vowel you add -cito or -cita
  • Motor (motor) >> motorcito
  • Corazón (heart) >> corazoncito
  • Pobre (poor) >> pobrecito

There are some other rules and confusing things about spelling. For example, banco (bank) becomes banquito with a QU, but honestly, you’ll never be able to use these rules while speaking quickly enough. It’ll just slow you down and make you falter. 

So, what’s the solution? Try to listen to a lot of Spanish, so you get used to these diminutives, and learn as many as possible by heart, so you don’t have to think of the rules while speaking Spanish!

By the way, learning “chunks” is an excellent way of speaking Spanish without having to think about any grammar rules. Check out our free Spanish Chunking Training if you’d like to learn more and get a demo on how this works.

✔️ Cheat Sheet with 54 essential Spanish Chunks you’ll hear and use yourself in ANY Spanish conversation (and example sentences). Taken from our YouTube Teacher’s most popular videos!

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✔️ A Spanish Chunking Tutorial showing you the 1 technique that’ll help you make 100% of the Spanish from our videos roll off the tongue in just 5 minutes a day (you’re probably only using 50% of our lessons’ potential right now…)

3. How and when to use diminutives in Spanish 

We use the diminutive in the following cases:

  1. To reference the small version of something: vela (candle) >> velita
  2. To express affection

To say a word in its “smaller” version is something we Mexicans do a lot to express endearment, to talk about something que nos causa ternura (to denote cuteness). 

For the vast majority of Mexicans, their grandmother (their abuela) is never their abuela, but their abuelita. I call my sisters hermanitas, even though they’re not younger than me.

Aún más (moreover), in Latin America, it’s very common to refer to Dios (God) as “Diosito”, which sounds weird if you think of it in English: “little God”… Of course, if you’re a believer, there’s nothing small about God, but when we say Diosito, we want to convey our love and familiarity with that entity.

  1.  To reduce the importance of a situation. 
  • Perdón, pero no voy a poder llegar: tengo un problemita en casa. (I’m sorry! I won’t be able to make it because I have a little problem at home.) 

In Mexico, we often use this way of speaking when we talk about all caloric food that perhaps we shouldn’t be eating. 

We say that we’re gonna have unos taquitos, un pozolito, unas quesadillitas … when really there’s nothing little about them! …scratch that I hate diet culture!

We also use the diminutive in Spanish to reduce the magnitude of something. For example,. when we say that something or someone is feito o feita

  1. To convey sarcasm or a negative vibe

You definitely know from the context that the word amiguita may be used in different ways:

  • Hola, amiguita! ¿Cómo estás? ¡Qué gusto escucharte! (Hello, little friend! How are you? It’s so great to hear from you!) 
  • Dile a tu amiguita que no te llamé después de las 10, ¡¿eh?! (Tell your little friend not to call after 10, okay?)

4. Mexican saying: perfect chunks to learn the diminutive in Spanish 

Y lo prometido es deuda…

Here at Spring Spanish, our linguists and expert polyglots have put together a proven method to acquire the Spanish language.

It’s called Conversation Based Chunking, and it’s built around the use of chunks, that is, premade phrases or word combinations that you hear native speakers use all the time… and if you use them yourself, you instantly sound more natural when speaking Spanish. 

Since the key here is premade, proverbs and sayings) are amazing ways to learn Spanish, because they not only never change, but they also allow you to communicate in the right cultural key!

  1. ¿Qué tanto es tantito?  (How much is just a little bit?)  

We use this one when we want to be cheeky:

  • Oh! I’m full! Pero ¡mira qué delicioso se ve esto! (But this looks delicious!) ¡Ay, ya! Me lo voy a comer… ¿Qué tanto es tantito?... (Whatever! I’ll just eat it! It’s not that much!)
  1. Todo cabe en un jarrito sabiéndolo acomodar. (Everything fits in a little jar if you know how to organize it.)

Even if we mention a jarrito (a little mug), this refrán is pretty straight forward. Basically: everything will fit! 

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