This article first describes the most formal and standard rules of modern Spanish, and then goes on to detail idioms and colloquialisms.
Formal differences between Peninsular and American Spanish are remarkably few, and someone who has learned the dialect of one area will have no difficulties using reasonably formal speech in the other. However, pronunciation does vary. Spanish Grammar is somewhat complex.
In some senses, employing Spanish verbs correctly is difficult for native speakers of English. There are seven indicative tenses with more-or-less direct English equivalents; for example present tense (I walk, I do walk), preterit (-ed or did, ie. I walked or I did walk), the imperfect (was, were, or used to), perfect (I have _____), future (will) and conditional (would). What is difficult in this area are the six different spellings for each tense; English grammar, in this respect, is simpler--in English, eat has two forms in the present tense (eat and eats), while in Spanish eat has six forms. In Latin American Spanish, Vosotros is usually replaced with Ustedes and the conjugation of that pronoun is the same as the third-person plural (i.e, ustedes comen, "You (plural) eat"). In Argentina, tú is generally replaced with vos, and is conjugated by replacing the infinitive -ar, -er, -ir with -ás, -és, -ís
|(Yo) Como||(Nosotros) Comemos|
|(Tú) Comes||(Vosotros) Coméis|
|(Él, Ella, Ud.) Come||(Ellos, Ellas, Uds.) Comen|
Generally speaking, Spanish uses adjectives in a similar way to English and most other Indo-European languages. However, there are three key differences between English and Spanish adjectives
See the main article for further information.
Spanish uses determiners in a similar way to English. The main difference is that they "agree" with what they refer to in terms of both number (singular/plural) and gender (masculine/feminine).
|ARTÍCULOS||Definidos Singular||Definidos Plural||Indefinidos Singular||Indefinidos Plural|
|DEMOSTRATIVOS||Corta (short)||Media (middle)||Larga (long)|
|POSESIVOS||1ª persona singular||2ª persona singular||3ª persona singular||1ª persona plural||2ª persona plural||2ª persona plural/3ª persona plural|
|Masculino||Mi(s), el mío/los míos||Tu(s), el tuyo/los tuyos||Su(s), el suyo/los suyos||Nuestro(s), el nuestro/los nuestros||Vuestro(s), el vuestro/los vuestros||Su(s), el suyo/los suyos|
|Femenino||Mi(s), la mía/las mías||Tu(s), la tuya/las tuyas||Su(s), la suya/las suyas||Nuestra(s), la nuestra/las nuestras||Vuestra(s), la vuestra/las vuestras||Su(s), la suya/las suyas|
Cardinals: un (one/a, an), dos (two), tres (three)...
Ordinals: primero (first), segundo (second), tercero (third)...
Interrogative (¿): qué (what), cuándo (when), cómo (how), quién (who), dónde (where), por qué (why), cuál (which).
The cardinal numbers greater than un and the interrogatives (except cuál) are indeclinable. The indefinite quantifiers, ordinals, un, and cuál are declined as adjectives.
See the main article for further details.
Spanish has a range of pronouns that in some ways work quite differently from English ones. They include: yo, tú, usted (vos), él, ella, ello, nosotros, vosotros, ustedes, ellos, ellas, esto, eso, aquello etc. Personal pronouns are usually omitted due to context, but it is not rare to see one in written text or in the spoken language, whether be for emphasis or in cases where there may be some confusion between conjugations.
See the main article for further details.
A, ante, bajo, cabe, con, contra, de, desde, durante, en, entre, hacia, hasta, mediante, para, por, pro, según, sin, so, sobre, tras.
Lately, two new prepositions have been added: "durante" and "mediante", usually placed at the end.
This list includes two archaic prepositions (so and cabe), but leaves out two new Latinisms (vía and pro) as well as a large number of very important compound prepositions.
Prepositions in Spanish do not, as in English, change a verb's meaning. For example, to translate "run out of water" "run up a bill" "run down a pedestrian" "run in a thief" into Spanish requires competely different verbs, and not simply the use of "correr" ("run") plus the corresponding Spanish prepositions.
See the main article for further information.
Y is replaced by e if the next word begins with an i or hi (generally any i sound). Thus, Fernando y Isabella becomes Fernando e Isabella. In this way Spanish avoids having to insert a hiatus between the two otherwise identical vowel sounds. However, there are two enmiends:
1) The word beginning with i or hi has a diphthong at beginning -- for instance, Leche y hierro.
2) Such y has emphasis ("acento fónico"). For instance: ¿Y Inés?
O is replaced by u if the next word starts with an o or ho (again, generally any o sound). Thus, Sujeto o objeto becomes Sujeto u objeto. [Note the cacophony in the o sound if o is used]
In a purely pragmatic construction, o takes an accent (ó) only when placed between two numbers so as to clarify between the conjunction o and the number zero. So, Desean 2 ó 3 más instead of Desean 2 o 3 más. However, if it's clear due to typography used, there's no need to put such a graphic accent.
Spanish does not usually employ such a structure in simple sentences. The translations of sentences like these can be readily analyzed as being normal sentences containing relative pronouns. Spanish is capable of expressing such concepts without a special cleft structure thanks to its flexible word order.
For example, if we translate a cleft sentence such as "It was John who lost the keys", we get Fue Juan el que perdió las llaves. Whereas the English sentence uses a special structure, the Spanish one does not. The verb fue has no dummy subject, and the pronoun el que is not a cleaver but a nominalising relative pronoun meaning "the [male] one that". Provided we respect the parings of "el que" and "las llaves", we can play with the word order of the Spanish sentence without affecting its structure - although each permutation would, to a native speaker, give a subtly different shading of emphasis.
For example, we can say Juan fue el que perdió las llaves ("Juan was the one who lost the keys") or El que perdió las llaves fue Juan ("The one who lost the keys was Juan"). As can be seen from the translations, if this word order is chosen, English stops using the cleft structure (there is no more dummy "it" and a nominalising relative is used instead of the cleaving word) whilst in Spanish no words have changed.
Here are some examples of such sentences:
Note that it is ungrammatical to try to use just que to cleave such sentences as in English, but using quien in singular or quienes in plural is grammatical.
When prepositions come into play, things become complicated. Structures unambiguously identifiable as cleft sentences are used. The verb ser introduces the stressed element and then there is a nominaliser. Both of these are preceded by the relevant preposition. For example:
This structure is quite wordy, and is therefore often avoided by not using a cleft sentence at all. Emphasis is conveyed just by word order and stressing with the voice (indicated here within bolding):
In casual speech, the complex cleaving pronoun is often reduced to que, just as it is reduced to "that" in English. Foreign learners are advised to avoid this.
In the singular, the subordinate clause can agree with either the relative pronoun or with the subject of the main sentence, though the latter is seldom used. However, in the plural, only agreement with the subject of the main sentence is acceptable. Therefore:Singular
Depending on the region, Latin Americans may also replace the singular tú with usted or vos. The choice of pronoun is a tricky issue and can even vary from village to village. Travellers are often advised to play it safe and call everyone usted.
A feature of the speech of the Dominican Republic and other areas where syllable-final /s/ is completely silent is that there is no audible difference between the second and third person singular form of the verb. This leads to redundant pronoun use, for example, the tagging on of ¿tú ves? (pronounced tuve) to the ends of sentences, where other speakers would say ¿ves?.
Whereas vos was lost in standard Spanish, some dialects lost tú, and began using vos as the informal pronoun. The exact connotations of the use of vos depend on the exact dialect. In most places it is associated with low socio-economic levels. In Argentina, however, it is used by everyone and is fully accepted. Argentinian voseo uses the pronoun vos for tú, but maintains te as an object pronoun and tu and tuyo as possessives. Verbs corresponding to vos are formed by removing the final R from the infinitive and adding an S, while maintaining the stress on the final syllable: vos hablás, vos temés and vos partís. There are only two irregular verbs in the vos form: ir (vos vas) and ser (vos sos).
Other combinations are possible. Chileans may use standard vosotros endings for vos.
Ladino has gone further with hablates.