STOP Making Mistakes Against Diminutives in Spanish With This 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.
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.
En este artículo vas a aprender lo que necesitas saber para usar el diminutivo como un experto (In this article you will learn what you need to know to use El Diminutivo like an expert).
Te voy a explicar (I’m going to explain to you) en qué casos se utiliza (in what cases it is 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 to incorporar diminutivos (incorporate diminutives) into your Spanish. ¡Super facilito! (Super easy!)
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?, pero eso sería materia de otro artículo (but we can cover that in another article).
En este artículo vamos a ver la forma más común del diminutivo (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.
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.
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):
- 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!
- For words with only ONE syllable, you add -ecito or -ecita
- Flor (flower) >> florecita
- Tos (cough) >> tosecita
- 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.
Alright, so like I said, you just need to hear, read and memorize as many examples of diminutives as possible. So, in the rest of this article, I’ll show you how native speakers use the diminutive with examples that you can just copy… without thinking about rules!
El diminutivo se usa en los siguientes casos (We use the diminutive in the following cases):
- To reference the small version of something: vela (candle) >> velita
- 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.
- 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.)
En México usamos bastante el diminutivo de esta forma (in Mexico, we often use this way of speaking) when we talk about all hyper 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! Eat what you want to eat, mi gente!
We also use el diminutivo to reduce the magnitude of something. For example,. when we say that something or someone is feito o feita…
- 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?)
MEXICAN SAYINGS: PERFECT CHUNKS to learn the diminutive
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.
Se llama (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,los dichos y refranes (proverbs and sayings) are amazing ways to learn Spanish, pues no solo (because they not only) never change, sino que, además, te permiten comunicarte (but they also allow you to communicate) in the right cultural key!
- ¿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!)
- 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!
I love sayings, they’re my favorite kind of Spanish chunks. To learn about how you can use the method Conversation Based Chunking to learn Spanish the easy way, check out our Free Spanish training to find out how you can use this method to learn Spanish way faster than you think.
¡Muy bien! Ahora ya sabes lo más importante sobre el diminutivo y aprendiste a usar refranes mexicanos (now you know the most important aspects of the diminutive and you learned a couple of Mexican sayings). I promise, when you use them you’re going to surprise your Mexicans friends!