Spanish Grammar: 5 MUST-KNOW RULES

Spanish Grammar: 5 MUST-KNOW RULES

In today’s lesson we will cover the five most important grammar topics for Spanish in a very easy and fun way!

1. Verb conjugation in Spanish

Spanish grammar can be tricky! But in this article you will learn some of the most important things you should bear in mind to be able to master it like native speakers do! 

Verb conjugation, for example, might seem quite challenging… y, sí, lo es (and yes, it is!), pero la conjugación en inglés es aun más difícil (but verb conjugation in English is even trickier!).

Si superaste ese reto cuando eras bebé (if you were able to tackle that challenge as a baby) and now speak perfect English, you’re more than capable of learning Spanish! To do that, keep this in mind:

  1. Verbs in Spanish end in either -ar, -er, or -ir when they are in the unconjugated form.

For example:

  • hablar (to talk)
  • beber (to drink)
  • dormir (to sleep)
  1. Verbs in Spanish may be regular or irregular.

Regular verbs follow a pattern when conjugated, but irregular verbs don’t. 

Now, the key here is that when it comes to regular verbs, such as hablar and beber, the stem will always be the same.

What’s the stem? Well, the portion of the verb that’s left when you delete the relevant ending (remember: -ar, -er, -ir).

If you take those endings out, you’re left with habl- and beb-. Those are your stems!

  1. Verb conjugation changes depending on the point in time when an action was performed.

I have prepared a video about Spanish verb conjugations in the present tense, but just to give an idea about how regular verbs work, we’ll go over two examples:

  • Yo no hablo en clase. (I don’t speak in class.)
  • Yo bebo cerveza en Navidad. (I drink beer on Christmas Eve.)

Did you notice the pattern? Yes, an O has been added to the stem… and that will always be the case if you are speaking in the first person singular (yo) in the present tense.

Now, as regards dormir, you might think the conjugation is yo dormo, but that’s Italian! 

Dormir is an irregular verb, therefore, the stem “dorm-” will change when conjugated in the present tense. For example: 

  • Yo duermo mucho los fines de semana. (I sleep a lot on weekends.)

But, if you conjugate it in the past tense, you should use the stem!

  • Dormí solo cuatro horas anoche. (I slept only four hours last night.)

Learn through chunks!

Sé que esto se ve confuso. (I know this looks confusing.) That’s why it’s easier to learn chunks instead of conjugation tables! Chunks are word combinations that native speakers use; therefore, you may be 100% sure that they are right every time you say them! AND you don’t even have to think about grammar!

If you want to know more about our Conversation-based Chunking method —which bypasses grammar rules and vocabulary lists, sign up to a free Spanish training, where you’ll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish. Additionally, you’ll get free sample Spanish lessons!

2. Personal pronouns may be dropped

Since verb conjugation in Spanish clearly indicates who did what and when, you don’t need to use personal pronouns all the time like you do in English.

Personal pronouns are these little words such as I, you, he, she, it and so on, that indicate who you are talking about. In Spanish, personal pronouns are: yo, tú, él, ella and so on. 

You might’ve noticed there was no personal pronoun in the example: 

  • Dormí solo cuatro horas anoche. (I slept only four hours last night.)

In English, you have to say “I slept”; in Spanish, however, if you only say dormí, the other person will know you are talking about something you did in the past.

You may, however, use the pronoun if you want to emphasize who performed the action.

3. Spanish is a gendered language

Nouns in Spanish are either feminine or masculine. If they are feminine, they will use the article la and if they are masculine, they will use el. Both are the equivalent of “the”.

¿Cómo saber si un sustantivo es femenino o masculino? (How can you tell whether a noun is feminine or masculine?)

Well, when it comes to people or animals, it’s pretty straightforward (in general): 

  • la abogada (the female lawyer) or el abogado (the male lawyer)
  • la gata (the female cat) or el gato (the male cat)

As regards inanimate objects, usually:

  1. Feminine nouns include:
    1. la manzana (apple) —ends with an A
    2. la ciudad (city) —ends with a D
    3. la emperatriz (empress) —ends with a Z
    4. la estación (station) —ends in -ción
    5. la costumbre (custom) —ends in -umbre
  1. Masculine nouns include:
    1. el libro (book) —ends with an O
    2. el equipaje (luggage) —ends with an E
    3. el café (coffee) —ends with a vowel with an accent mark
    4. el amor (love) —ends with a consonant

Find out more about noun gender in Spanish in Maria Fernanda’s video!

4. Spanish Plural

What should you do si hay más de una manzana (if there’s more than one apple) o si tienes más de un libro (or if you have more than one book)?

First, la will turn into las and el will turn into los. Then, you should an S or ES at the end of the relevant noun. For example:

  • la manzana >> las manzanas
  • el libro >> los libros

If the noun ends with a vowel, all you have to do is add an S at the end. But if the noun ends with a consonant, you should add ES. For example: 

  • la ciudad >> las ciudades
  • la emperatriz >> las emperatrices —notice how letter Z turned into letter C
  • la estación >> las estaciones —notice how the accent mark disappeared
  • el amor >> los amores

5. The verb to be

The verb ‘to be’ has two equivalents in Spanish: ser and estar.

¡Ya sé, ya sé! (I know, I know!) Estás pensando que vas a perder la cabeza (You’re thinking you’re going to lose your mind!)… But I actually prepared another article to explain the differences between ser and estar!

Also, I invite you to sign up to our free Spanish training! You will find out how to learn Spanish without having to study all these complicated grammar rules!

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