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Write Spanish

Once you know how to pronounce the Spanish language, writing becomes easier. But this does not mean it is a piece of cake. There are many rules to keep in mind.

Writing individual words in Spanish is easier than in English because the sounds are more straightforward. A great example in English is “bear” and “dear”, written almost the same but pronounced \’ber\ and \’dir\. In Spanish the letters usually correspond to one sound so “lea” (you read) and “vea” (you see) are very similar in pronunciation and writing.

To even things out, writing whole sentences in Spanish is not so easy. Spanish grammar and orthography can be a nightmare. Yes, even for Spanish native students who have spent all their school years struggling with the language. But this is no reason to feel discouraged, here you will find a set of the most important rules that will not make you write like Cervantes, but will polish your style!

  1. Words that start with letter h. You will need to remember these, because there is no specific rule and since this letter is silent, there is no pronunciation hint. Hielo (ice), hierro (iron), huevo (egg), hambre (hunger), etc.

  2. Letter c, s or z. Pronunciations regarding the “ce-ci”, “se-si” and “ze-zi” are similar and can be confusing even to native speakers. Again, you just need to remember. Zeta (letter z), seta (mushroom), zoquete (dimwit, insult), soquete (short sock), necesitar (to need).

  3. Letter ñ. Sounds like a “ni” but the tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth. Niño (child), año (year), moño (bow tie or lace), demonio (demon).

  4. Letter q. If the sound is \ke\ or \ki\ remember there should be a silent “u” between them. The syllables “qua” and “quo” are not used. If you want the sound \ku\ most probably you will need to write “cu”. Queso (cheese), quince (fifteen), quemar (to burn), cuello (neck), casa (house), etc.

  5. Letter g. Similar to q for the sounds \ge\ and \gi\ there should be a silent u in between. In this way you have gato (cat), guerra (war), guiño (wink), goma (eraser) and gusto (taste). You want to write the sound \wue\, the letter u should have the strange umlaut “ü”, here you have agua (water), vergüenza (shame), pingüino (penguin) and ambiguo (ambiguous).

  6. Letter j. For the syllables je and ji (which sound very similar to ge and gi), just learn by heart. Also for v and b. Gente (people), jefe (boss), gitano (gypsy), jirafa (giraffe), vaca (cow), burro (donkey).

  7. Accents. “Where and when should I write the accent??”, you might wonder, especially for a feature that is completely inexistent in the English language. Do not panic, there is a rule. In Spanish language, words that end in vowel, “n” or “s” are stressed in the next to last syllable, for example ciudades (cities). When they end in other letters they are stressed in the last syllable, for example ciudad (city). Any word that does not follow these premises should have a written accent mark on it, for example jamón (ham), inglés (English), árbol (tree), acar (sugar), grimas (tears, from the eyes).

  8. Questions. In Spanish there is no inversion of auxiliary verb or other clue to a question. In English we might read “Dad went out.” or “Did dad go out?”. To mark a question in Spanish we use two marks, one at the beginning and one at the end “Papá salió.” or “¿Papá salió?”. Exclamation marks follow this rule too ¡Que hermoso! (How beautiful!).

  9. Sentences. Sentences usually have two parts, one is the subject and in English this cannot be omitted. If we say “Dad went out. He took the car”, we cannot omit the “he” in the second sentence. In Spanish, we can omit it because it is clear who we are taking about, “Papá salió. Se llevó el auto”. If we say “Papá salió. Él se llevó el auto.” is understandable, but it is redundant. Verbs also give the clue about the subject, for example “Nosotros estamos comiendo.” (we are eating) or “Ellos están comiendo.” (they are eating). In English you have to mention the subject because the rest of the sentence is the same “are eating”. The verb in Spanish changes according to the person, so the subject can clearly be omitted: “Estamos comiendo.” and “Están comiendo.” is good enough.

  10. Use the correct capitalization. Capital letters should be used with proper names (people, places, countries) and for the first letter in a title or sentence. And that is enough. For example “Mi perro Bilbo fue un regalo de un amigo inglés; nació un sábado de junio.” (My dog Bilbo was a present from an English friend; he was born on a Saturday in June.) “Mi hermano es católico, y ahora está de vacaciones en el mar Mediterráneo.” (My brother is a Catholic, and he is on holidays now, in the Mediterranean Sea).


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