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Spanish Language Grammar

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Spanish Grammar

Spanish grammar is quite different than English grammar. Here we will review some aspects that constitute the basics, so you can keep it for future reference.

Articles in Spanish, as well as nouns, have gender and number. A word is feminine or masculine, single or plural. The articles in English are the universal “the” and “a/an”. In Spanish, the feminine articles are “la/las” and “una/unas”, while the masculine are “el/los” and “uno/unos”.  The general rule is “a word that ends in a is feminine, in o is masculine”, but as usual, there are exceptions.
Adjectives and verb conjugations also respect the gender and number. Let’s see some examples:

¿Dónde está la camisa blanca?” = where is the white shirt? (camisa - shirt = fem., s.)
Está aquí, con las camisas blancas.” = It is here, with the white shirts.
¿Dónde está el calcetín blanco?” = where is the white sock? (calcetín - sock = masc., s.)
¿Dónde están los calcetines blancos?” = where are the white socks? (calcetines = masc. p.)
Encontré unos libros viejos.” = I found some old books. (libro - book = masc., p.)
Haré una pizza.” = I will make a pizza. (pizza = fem., s.).

Pronouns are the same as in English, except for the second person, “you”. The second person has an informal and a formal figure (similar to the old English “thou” and “you”).  The “” is used in informal settings, to address a friend, family, a coworker, an unknown person that is younger, etc. The formal “usted” is used to address a boss, a teacher, an unknown person that is older or anyone that inspires respect.
Let’s see the pronouns and the verb to be (“ser”) conjugation in the present tense:

Single                                                                                                   Plural
Yo soy. (I am)                                                                                    Nosotros somos. (We are)
eres./Usted es. (You are)                                                        Vosotros sois. (You are)
Él es./Ella es. (He/She is)                                                              Ellos son./Ellas son. (They are)

 

To make matters worse, the Latin American dialect does not use the “vosotros” pronoun. They use “ustedes”. The “Río de la Plata” dialect has yet another extra pronoun. They use “vos” instead of “”. You will not need these unless you specifically go there. And even if you do go and speak of “” or “vosotros”, everyone will understand! Spanish is that versatile.

The other important verb we will see here is another form of the verb to be. In Spanish we have the one we just saw: “ser”, which indicates the nature of a noun. In the figure, the little guy is stating the nature of Salma and Gael (in green), they are a man and a woman, and this is not likely to change. That is why he says “Salma es mujer./Gael es hombre.” (Salma is a woman./Gael is a man.).

The verb “estar” also means “to be”, but indicates the current state of a noun. If I say that Salma is happy, I mean that she is happy right now, but this fact could change in the future. So instead of “ser” we have to use “estar” and the conjugation for the present tense is:

Single                                                                                                   Plural
Yo estoy. (I am)                                                                                Nosotros estamos. (We are)
estás./Usted está. (You are)                                                 Vosotros estáis. (You are)
Él está./Ella está. (He/She is)                                                     Ellos están./Ellas están. (They are)

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