Top Training: 6 Prime Ways to Practice Spanish Grammar as an Advanced Learner
If you want to get stronger, you’ve gotta train regularly.
Whipping your Spanish grammar into shape is no different.
That’s why I’ve put together a workout you can trust with six mighty ways you can efficiently practice trickier Spanish grammar topics.
- Why Grammar Practice Is Important for Advanced Spanish Learners
- Spanish Grammar Topics Where Anglophones Need the Most Practice
- 6 Powerful Ways to Practice Advanced Spanish Grammar
- And One More Thing…
Why Grammar Practice Is Important for Advanced Spanish Learners
- The language becomes logical. When you understand grammar rules, Spanish turns into a mathematical operation because if the straightforward rules are properly followed, you will have clean sentences. You can become so good that you eventually start playing around with the language, inventing your own expressions with grammatical precision.
- It encourages reflection and improves speaking. A strong grammatical base in Spanish will encourage you to reflect and get closer to the language, which in turn will help you speak correctly.
- It will improve your writing. Grammar practice may not make your accent sound native, but it sure will make you an excellent writer—or at least one that doesn’t make typical mistakes, like the three we’ll see below.
Spanish Grammar Topics Where Anglophones Need the Most Practice
From my own personal experience, there are perhaps three areas that pose the most difficulty for Anglophones, and therefore are naturally the ones that need to be reviewed with utmost vigor. These three topics are surely ones you have struggled with at some point, so let’s do a little review before getting to our practice resources.
Por and Para
The difference between por and para is subtle yet logical. The first thing you need to forget is the misleading English translation of “for” for both of these words, as it limits your understanding and produces incorrect usage.
Perhaps the best explanation to keep in mind is that por is the way in which you do something and para is the reason, desired end result, or simply the final destination of an action. Take a look at the sentences below to get an idea, and then check out this site if you have remaining doubts:
Voy para casa por este camino.
(I am going home via this route.)
Para is used here to represent the final destination, and por is used to describe the way you will get home.
Voy a estudiar por mi cuenta para obtener mi diploma de español.
(I am going to independently study Spanish in order to obtain a diploma.)
Para is used here as a desired end result, and por is used to describe how you will perform the studying.
Use of the Subjunctive
The subjunctive is difficult for English speakers simply because neither its logic nor conjugation exists in the English language. However, invest time in understanding the subjunctive because it exists in every language derived from Latin, and it is most heavily used in Spanish.
It is impossible to do a complete review of the subjunctive in this little space (you can use this complete guide for that, and review the imperfect subjunctive here), but it is useful to have a few practical adverbial phrases that always, without a doubt, require the subjunctive. Let’s take a look at a few below:
Para que (so that)
para que seas feliz
(so that you are happy)
Con tal de que (provided that/as long as)
con tal de que vengas
(provided that you come along)
Sin que (without)
sin que estés cansado
(without you being tired)
En caso de que (in the event that/in case)
En caso de que se produzca un fallo, llámame
(in the event that a failure occurs, call me)
Gender for Irregular Nouns
There is no logical explanation for noun gender, so don’t rationalize this aspect of grammar, because you will get frustrated quickly. Therefore, the sooner you memorize this aspect of grammar, the better off you will be in the long run.
In Spanish you are in luck, however, because generally nouns ending in o are masculine whereas those ending in a are feminine. But, of course, there are exceptions to this rule for very basic words used in everyday speech, like the ones listed below (along with many more so make sure to fully review). At the advanced level, you should have all these exceptions memorized.
- la mano (hand)
- el planeta (planet)
- el sofá (couch)
- el día (day)
- la radio (radio)
- el idioma (language)
Take note of the three aspects above, as they are sections that would serve you well to focus on while you are practicing your advanced Spanish grammar. And how exactly should you practice? Let’s take a look!
6 Powerful Ways to Practice Advanced Spanish Grammar
1. Read Rules and Reference Material Online
Rules are your best friend when it comes to Spanish grammar, so it is important to read and reference these rules as much as possible to make them stick. Below are three handy sites where you can review grammar rules and find answers to your advanced grammar kerfuffles.
SpanishDict’s Grammar Rules
The best thing about SpanishDict is that it provides straightforward review of the use of advanced uses of por and para, seven articles about the subjunctive (including irregular forms) and the difference between pedir and preguntar.
All the explanations on this organized site are in English, along with examples and a quick practice quiz to test your knowledge.
Spanish Institute of Puebla’s Gramática Española
This grammar guide is a user-friendly website that covers 28 topics for advanced learners. Some of the sections most pertinent to your learning may be possessives, ser/estar (yes, keep reviewing this) and important connectors.
This site was created by the Spanish Language School in Puebla, Mexico, so all the explications are provided to you in Spanish—arguably the best option for advanced learners.
This is a comprehensive grammar rule website that provides short explanations—rich with examples—on topics from prepositions to advanced verb functions. An especially handy tool on LivingSpanish.com is their glossary of advanced grammar terminology.
2. Think, Create, Write
As an English speaker, one of the hardest parts of grammar to master in Spanish, or any Latin-derived romance language, is the proper use of both the subjunctive and conditional tenses in hypothetical situations.
A useful way to get the hang of things is to think of common hypothetical situations you encounter in your daily life. If you can’t think of many, simply create a few that may apply to the lives of friends and family.
Write your hypothetical sentences out in English first, and then translate into Spanish using both the subjunctive and conditional tenses when required. Here are two examples:
If I had a million dollars, I would buy a house.
Si tuviera/tuviese un millón de dólares, compraría una casa
I didn’t want you to go there.
No quería que fueras/fueses allí.
Si clauses are important for advanced learners, as they add a rich layer of expertise to your writing and speaking. These formulas will become natural once you create and write out examples relevant to your life and experiences.
3. Print and Read
Print out a newspaper or magazine article and choose a grammar topic to focus on. Highlight all the parts of the article where you see examples of that particular topic. For example, you might search for uses of the subjunctive, por and para, genders for irregular nouns, prepositions or any other advanced topic relevant to you.
Start simple, choosing just one grammar topic and solely look for examples of that. For example, if you are still struggling with por and para, highlight sentences that use either and then figure out why each was used. It is so important that you go through the final step of analyzing why a particular word or element was used, turning to reference materials whenever necessary.
If you’re ever unsure, mark it with a red question mark and ask your language exchange partner or tutor during your next lesson. Reading is the all-time method to nail down grammar and make it intuitive, so 15 minutes daily is such a worthwhile investment of your time.
Below are online versions of a few major Spanish-language newspapers and magazines to get you started. Note that there are even more resources in the newspaper/magazine links at the start of this section.
If you live in a Spanish-speaking country, though, buy your newspaper/magazine from the nearest quiosco, grab a café con leche and get to reading and highlighting!
A fun variation of this activity is to print out a transcript from a video—like an interview with the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar—and write/highlight/analyze as described above.
And if you use a program like FluentU, where you can watch videos like the one I just mentioned, you’ll have access to Spanish videos with interactive subtitles and full, accurate transcripts to help you along.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
By using both articles and real-world videos as the text sources for this activity, you should begin to notice grammatical differences between spoken and written Spanish—which is definitely something appropriate to learn at this level.
4. Buy an Advanced Spanish Grammar Workbook and Reference Book
Investing in a high-quality grammar book is one of the best things you’ll ever do for your language learning. Not only do books have detailed explanations of top grammar rules, but they also provide practical activities to train you to write and understand the language more in depth. Here are some great books to choose from:
“Ortografía y gramática para dummies”
This book is a part of the “Dummies” series and covers Spanish grammar, in addition to some writing and spelling rules. This book was designed for native Spanish speakers who need a grammatical base, making it a good investment for bilingual Spanish-English speakers.
Although it wasn’t made specifically for Spanish learners, the book is still a great tool for learning to speak and write correctly in the Spanish language.
“Las 500 dudas más frecuentes del español”
This textbook was designed by the holy grail of Spanish learning and teaching, Instituto Cervantes, as a guide to provide practical explanations and responses to 500 hesitations and doubts a foreign speaker may encounter in the Spanish language.
This book answers the more nitty-gritty questions of Spanish usage, such as whether it’s necessary to write last names in quotation marks in academic essays and if we say horas extras or horas extra (overtime hours). The book also covers the updated accentuation rules for nouns and verbs and has a section where you put your acquired knowledge to practice.
“Gramática práctica en español”
The title says its all—this is your practical guide to Spanish grammar rules, also published by the Instituto Cervantes, and is designed for both native speakers and advanced learners alike.
The book is quite simple, providing short, clear explanations with several practical examples that you can use in everyday Spanish.
“El Subjuntivo: Valores y usos”
Still struggling with the subjunctive tense? I hear you, and so do the authors of this book. This book solely covers the subjunctive tense in all its uses in order to make your Spanish all that bit more colorful through several practice activities.
“Practice Makes Perfect: Advanced Spanish Grammar”
The Practice Makes Perfect series has awesome workbooks for self-study, and this one covers useful and pertinent aspects of Spanish grammar such as modal constructions, problematic prepositions, advanced adjectives and idiomatic expressions.
There are 12 chapters in total, each beginning with a few pages of thorough (and super clear) explanations, followed by practical exercises whose answers appear in the back of the workbook.
5. Do Advanced Spanish Grammar Exercises Online
The Internet has loads of grammar exercises available for free. The activities below correct your mistakes and never take longer than 10 minutes to complete, meaning that this is a practical learning habit you can easily incorporate into your life.
Todo Claro provides quick activities for seven different advanced (C1/C2) grammar subjects, including the subjunctive and prepositions. If you find these activities too difficult, you can drop down on the menu and do a few upper intermediate (B2) exercises on the present subjunctive or the conditional.
If you get stuck, don’t be shy to hit the hint button, and of course check all your answers and use the results to improve.
Herramientas de Español Online Textbook
This online textbook is composed of 54 chapters with full on explanations of each grammar aspect, accompanied by various practice exercises. A bonus is that you get a score/grade at the end of your review exercises, so you can track your learning progress.
Start with the introduction, and also be sure to check out their bilingual map of the Spanish-speaking world to get inspired!
Ver Taal offers multi-level interactive grammar activities, but as an advanced learner, focus your attention on the links with two to three stars, such as this one on ordinal numbers, this one on este/ese.aquel or this audio exercise on advanced uses of the past tense.
The best feature of Ver Taal is that in addition to the grammar section, advanced learners can also access interactive activities using movie trailer, news reports, culture and publicity to learn and perfect their Spanish.
6. Start Talking and Make Many Mistakes
The five strategies above will get grammar rules inscribed in your head over time, but all of that individual grammar practice may go to waste if you don’t apply our final practice method: speaking. You need to talk, and while you are at it, make many mistakes.
There are countless advanced level Spanish-language students that have spent years perfecting grammar and can rightfully produce precise written material, but are unfortunately incapable of producing the same level of precision orally. What a shame!
So as much as grammar can feel like an individual step-by-step mathematical equation, it comes to life when you speak. You will make mistakes over and over, and hopefully whoever you speak with will correct you so that you’re aware of the error, until one glorious day when you catch yourself and correct it on your own. That, my friends, is when you will have fully internalized a grammar concept: when you use it correctly in everyday speech without thinking.
To get there, obviously, you’re going to need to find someone to practice with. Here are some lovely people who you might turn to for Spanish practice:
- Spanish-speaking friends and loved ones.
- A language exchange partner. (They help you practice Spanish, and in return you help them practice English.)
- Meetup group attendees. (Especially in larger cities, you can find Spanish language conversation groups. Meetup is the perfect site for tracking one down.)
- A Spanish tutor.
Now, the best option on that list might just be the Spanish tutor. Unfortunately, it’s the only one that costs money—but that money is a worthwhile investment in your personal advancement with Spanish.
The free options (acquaintances, friends, family and language exchange partners) are also not under any obligation to constantly correct you, and they may even get tired of paying close attention and teaching you lessons. They may feel uncomfortable about speaking out all the time when you mess up in Spanish. Oh, and they’re not professionally trained to guide you through Spanish grammar, like a Spanish tutor always is.
So, go ahead and get yourself a Spanish tutor if you’re serious about getting corrections and making improvements. When it comes to tutors, you’ve got one big choice to make: online or local.
For an online Spanish tutor, you’ll want to start with Verbling. This is perhaps the most well-known and reputable website for matching language tutors and students. You’ll easily be able to spot a professional Spanish tutor who checks all the boxes on your “important things” list: price, availability, experience, education, regional dialect and teaching style. See who's out there on Verbling now!
Want to go local? That’s always a fun option, as you can hook up at the local library or cafe to have a Spanish study session. You might be hesitant to meet somebody from the internet in real life, but hesitate no more. Wyzant is a polished, professional, safe and trusted online resource which matches students with local tutors. Check out Wyzant today to see who's teaching Spanish near you!
Once you’ve got someone to speak Spanish with, get bold about speaking Spanish. If you currently avoid them, make a point to start using complicated speech patterns—such as si clauses to give your opinion, the subjunctive to express your feelings and various verbal tenses to describe life events.
So if you’re not already speaking in Spanish on the regular, find a native language buddy, join a Spanish language meetup or get an online Spanish-language conversation teacher today and start gabbing away. Never shy away from potentially making mistakes, as each mistake is a golden learning opportunity. And be sure to proactively ask native speakers to correct you, otherwise you may never know when you’re making a mistake.
Now that you’re armed with these six awesome ways to practice, your Spanish grammar workouts will become incredibly effective. You can really become a pro, as honing your grammar skills will turn the language jumble in your brain
And One More Thing…
If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
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