Have you ever dreamed of being a superhero?
Do you wonder what it would be like to have some kind of superpower?
Dream and wonder no more!
I cannot promise you invisibility, the ability to control fire or even super-strength, but I can show you some tricks for being a real Spanish grammar superhero.
It sounds quite nerdy, I know, but I love being a little of a nerd from time to time.
Imagine being able to master advanced Spanish grammar to the point where you can use it to “protect” yourself (i.e., survive those uncomfortable situations our friend Michael could have avoided just by knowing how to use por and para).
Imagine being the center of attention because of your fluency in Spanish. All those boys and girls admiring you, wanting to get to know you.
Finally, imagine yourself as a Spanish superhero, capable of carrying out seemingly impossible feats of Spanish grammar.
That could be you, if you want.
You are already on the right track by reading this. If you are reading this, you are most likely way past “Spanish Grammar for Beginners,” Spanish Grammar for Dummies,” “100 Spanish Words You Will Be Using Every Day” or “Spanish 101.”
Now, wouldn’t you like to be able to speak Spanish like a native speaker?
If you have 15 minutes a day, you are closer to this goal than you may think.
Why Advanced Spanish Grammar? Why Miniature Lessons?
The fact that you have ended up reading this post means you were probably looking for some advanced Spanish grammar stuff.
As a teacher of English as a second language, I consider myself an advanced user of English, and I guess you may find yourself more or less at the same point I was some years ago.
When I was still a student, I used to work in the evenings. I had almost no time to actually study. It was then that I came up with a little game I started using on a daily basis, and which, 15 years later, I still use when I need to.
I call that game the “Miniature Lessons.”
Very often I would come home past midnight, having to wake up at around 7 a.m. the next morning. I literally had 30 free minutes every day when I could do whatever I pleased, and I used that time for studying English.
I designed the Miniature Lessons so that they would last between 10 and 15 minutes, rarely more than that, and I was able to finish 2 whole lessons in that half hour.
What I really did was to classify content by big topic, and then I divided each big topic into smaller ones.
At the end of the day, I ended up having some 250 mini topics instead of 25, but by using the Miniature Lesson technique I was able to save myself time and actually learn more efficiently!
I am telling you all this because I just want you to know the Miniature Lessons are something proven. This technique really works, and you can use it any time you need to, not only when you study Spanish.
If it worked for me, it will certainly work for you. Now you have no excuses. You cannot say “I haven’t got any time to study Spanish.” If you have 10 minutes every day, you can learn some pretty awesome advanced stuff every day. Simple as that.
In the next paragraphs, I will show you 7 Miniature Lessons that you can use yourself and that can serve as an example for you to create you own.
I have tried to choose topics that are relevant to the advanced stages of learning, but you will realize very soon that having them divided into smaller units makes them a lot easier altogether.
So get ready to spend your first 10 minutes learning advanced Spanish grammar. I hope you enjoy the journey to becoming a grammar superhero!
Advanced Spanish Grammar on the Run: 7 Miniature Lessons for Heroes in a Hurry
1. Comparison with a number and a clause
Comparison in Spanish is easy, right?
You use más/menos…que and you are ready to go:
Tengo más libros que Teresa. (I have more books than Teresa.)
But what happens when you want to compare a number? Have a look at the following sentence, which is an example of a very common mistake among students of Spanish:
que 9 personas en la cola. (There were more than 9 people in the line.)
It may seem this sentence has everything it needs in order to be correct, but it doesn’t!
When dealing with comparisons with a number, forget about que and use de instead!
Había más de 9 personas en la cola.
Estuve esperando que volviera más de 3 meses. (I was waiting for him to come back for more than 3 months.)
And now comes the funny part.
You can say no más que + [number], meaning “only [number].”
However, although no más que and no más de may have a quite similar meaning, there is definitely a difference between them, so try not to mix them up!
No quiero tener más que un hijo. (I only want to have one child.)
No quiero tener más de un hijo. (I don’t want to have more than one child.)
No necesito más que 5 huevos. (I only need 5 eggs.)
No necesito más de 5 huevos. (I don’t need more than 5 eggs.)
No tengo más que 50 euros. (I only have 50 euros.)
No tengo más de 50 euros. (I don’t have more than 50 euros.)
When it comes to comparing with a clause, what we need to bear in mind is whether we have a noun or pronoun to compare or not.
If we have one, just use más/menos + del/de la/de los/de las + que, depending on the noun you are referring to:
Tengo más dinero del que necesito. (I have more money than I need.)
Corro menos kilómetros de los que solía correr antes. (I run fewer kilometers now than I used to.)
If you don’t have any noun or pronoun to compare, use más/menos de lo que:
Eres más alto de lo que pensaba. (You are taller than I thought.)
Estoy más cansado de lo que imaginas. (I am more tired than you imagine.)
2. Feelings and tener expressions
Have you ever gotten into trouble because you said “estoy caliente“ instead of “tengo calor” (see below)?
Don’t worry! This is a very common error among learners of Spanish.
In Spanish, we like to “have” a feeling rather than “being” it. Just remember to use tener in front of this kind of expression and you will not have to feel embarrassed anymore.
The most common tener expressions are…
Tener calor (to be hot):
Ayer tuve mucho calor. (I was very hot yesterday.)
Tener cuidado (to be careful):
Ten cuidado con lo que deseas. (Be careful what you wish for.)
Tener experiencia (to be experienced):
Tom tiene experiencia en la venta de televisores. (Tom is experienced in selling TVs.)
Tener frío (to be cold):
¿De verdad tienes frío? (Are you really cold?)
Tener hambre (to be hungry):
Al volver a casa tenía mucha hambre. (He was very hungry when he came back home.)
Tener miedo (to be afraid):
Tengo miedo a las arañas. (I am afraid of spiders.)
Tener prisa (to be in a hurry):
Por favor, haz la compra que yo tengo prisa. (Please, do the shopping. I am in a hurry.)
Tener razón (to be right):
Creo que ella tiene razón porque aún no hemos recibido nada. (I think she is right because we haven’t received anything yet.)
Tener sed (to be thirsty):
Yo nunca tengo sed. (I am never thirsty.)
Tener sueño (to be sleepy):
Siempre tengo mucho sueño después de almorzar. (I am always very sleepy after lunch.)
So, what do you “have”?
3. The imperative with object and reflexive pronouns
Reflexive and object pronouns are added to the end of the imperative form when we have a positive imperative. This shouldn’t be difficult for an advanced learner to grasp, since we have seen this already happening in infinitives and gerunds.
Bear in mind that we normally keep the accent in the same place after adding the pronoun or pronouns, so you will have to add an accent mark if the final word needs it.
Have a look at some examples:
Come (Eat!) → Cómelo (Eat it!)
Besa (Kiss!) → Bésala (Kiss her!)
Da (Give!) → Dámelo (Give it to me!)
If we need to add two pronouns, remember the rule IO — DO (Indirect Object — Direct Object), or as we colloquially say in Spanish, Primero las personas y luego las cosas (People first, then things):
Devuelve → Devuélveme → Devuélvemelo (Give it back to me!)
Explica → Explícale → Explícaselo* (Explain it to him.)
Enviemos → Enviémosle → Enviémoselas* (Let’s send them to him.)
*Remember that pronouns le and les become se when they have a second pronoun after them.
Another thing to take into account is the fact that in reflexive verbs, the vosotros imperative loses its final –d before adding the ending –os:
Afeitarse (to shave) → Afeitad → Afeitaos
Ducharse (to shower) → Duchad → Duchaos
Levantarse (to get up) → Levantad → Levantaos
There is only one exception to this rule! The verb ir (to go) keeps the –d: ¡Idos!
When we have a negative imperative, the pronouns precede it. Remember that the le → se rule also applies here:
No comas (Don’t eat!)
No lo comas (Don’t eat it!)
No le des (Don’t give to her!)
No se lo des (Don’t give it to her!)
4. Uses of the infinitive
Infinitives can fulfill many different functions both in Spanish and English. However, we Spaniards love to use our infinitives probably as much as English speakers love to use their gerunds (just kidding!).
Here you have some of the most important uses of the infinitive in Spanish.
a. We use infinitives after adjectives.
Es imposible saber la verdad. (It is impossible to know the truth.)
Es bonito ver el atardecer contigo. (It is beautiful to see the sunset with you.)
Considero interesante leer ensayos. (I consider it interesting to read essays.)
b. We use the infinitive as a noun in Spanish.
It happens that in English you would use an –ing form in these cases:
Me gusta correr. (I like running.)
Fumar es malo para la salud. (Smoking is bad for your health.)
Detestamos comer pizza. (We hate eating pizza.)
c. When we have two verbs one after another, the second one will always be in its infinitive form.
Two examples of this can be found above. Here you have some more:
Quiero comprar un coche. (I want to buy a car.)
¿Te apetece ir al cine? (Do you feel like going to the cinema?)
No necesito estudiar más. (I don’t need to study more.)
d. We use infinitives after prepositions.
Fui a España para visitar a mi familia. (I went to Spain in order to visit my family.)
Sueña con volar. (He dreams of flying.)
Acabo de terminar de trabajar. (I have just finished working.)
e. We normally use the infinitive with instructions (especially in recipes) and warnings.
Añadir el azúcar y mezclar. (Add the sugar and mix.)
No tocar. (Don’t touch.)
Manipular con cuidado. (Handle with care.)
5. The personal a
The Spanish preposition a has a lot of uses and tends to be one of those prepositions that appear in many students’ nightmares. What a lot of learners don’t know is that, apart from its normal uses as a common preposition, a has another very important function: marking the personal object pronoun.
When our object or pronoun refers to a definite person or beloved animal, the preposition a precedes it:
Estoy buscando a mi hermana. (I am looking for my sister.)
Voy a darles de comer a las tortugas. (I am going to feed the turtles.)
Esta mañana he visitado a mi abuela. (I visited grandma this morning.)
Notice this doesn’t happen if we have an indefinite object or thing:
Estoy buscando un profesor de francés. (I am looking for a French teacher.)
Voy a comer sopa. (I am going to eat some soup.)
Esta mañana he visitado un museo. (I visited a museum this morning.)
Necesito una novia. (I need a girlfriend.)
Also, use the personal a when alguien, nadie, algún (-o,-a, -os, -as), ningún (-o, -a, -os, -as) or quién function as direct objects:
Mi primo ha ido a visitar a alguien. (My cousin has gone to visit someone.)
No quiero ver a nadie. (I don’t want to see anybody.)
¿Has visto a alguno de los invitados? (Have you seen any of the guests?)
No, no he visto a ninguno. (No, I haven’t seen any of them.)
¿A quién llamas? (Who are you calling?)
And that’s it! Now you will not need a nadie correcting your mistakes!
6. Augmentatives, diminutives and pejoratives
Augmentatives, diminutives and pejoratives are formed by adding suffixes at the end of a word. There are many suffixes in Spanish that can be used in order to change the meaning of a word, but the following are the ones most often used.
Augmentative suffixes often make the noun bigger. However, very often an augmentative suffix can be used to add a sense of gawkiness and clumsiness. The most common augmentative suffixes are:
casa (house) → casona
mueble (furniture) → mueblazo
This is normally used with parts of the body as in cabezudo, or “large-headed.”
Diminutive suffixes are used for two main purposes. Firstly, we use diminutive suffixes to make the noun smaller.
Have a look at the most common ones:
This is probably the most usual, as in:
casa → casita
plato (plate) → platito
libro (book) → librito
pájaro (bird) → pajarillo
teléfono (telephone) → telefonillo
lente (lens) → lentilla
pequeño (young/small) → pequeñín
pillo (mischievous, rascal) → pillín
hombre (man) → hombrecico
puerta (door) → puertica
mesa (table) → mesica
ladrón (thief, robber) → ladronzuelo
Secondly, we use diminutive suffixes to imply endearment:
Francisco → Francisquito
Papá → Papito/Papaíto
Hermano → Hermanillo
José → Joselín
Pejoratives are used to imply grime, ugliness, etc. Spanish people are masters in creating pejoratives from almost any word. There are, however, a couple of suffixes that tend to appear more often than others. Have a look at them:
libro → libraco
mueble → mueblaco
hilo (thread) → hilacho
rico (rich man) → ricacho
cama (bed) → camucha
cuarto (room) → cuartucho
palabra (word) → palabreja
calle (street) → calleja
And now take that libraco and go study!
7. Reflexive verbs with change in meaning
Normally, the difference between a non-reflexive verb and its reflexive counterpart is nonexistent, or at least very, very slight. Some examples of this are:
comer (to eat) → comerse
beber (to drink) → beberse
tomar (to take) → tomarse
leer (to read) → leerse
Note: Generally, while the change in meaning may in fact be very slight, the reflexive form intensifies the meaning of the verb. For instance, in the first two examples above, the reflexive form can also mean to “eat up” or to “drink up.”
However, there are some verbs in Spanish that have different meanings (sometimes not related at all) depending on whether we are using them as reflexives or non-reflexives.
Writing down a complete list would be outside the time and space scope of this post, but there are some commonly used verbs worth mentioning:
acostar (to put to bed) → acostarse (to go to bed)
cambiar (to change) → cambiarse (to change clothes)
dormir (to sleep) → dormirse (to fall asleep)
encontrar (to find) → encontrarse (to be located)
levantar (to lift up) → levantarse (to get up, to stand up)
llevar (to carry) → llevarse (to take)
negar (to deny) → negarse (to refuse to)
parecer (to seem like) → parecerse (to look physically like)
perder (to lose) → perderse (to get lost)
referir (to refer) → referirse (to concern)
reunir (to collect) → reunirse (to assemble)
I hope that no te has dormido reading this post!
Bonus: Use FluentU to push your advanced skills toward fluency
Visual learners, rejoice! We have some great video mini-lessons for you thanks to FluentU.
It’s an entertaining method to immerse yourself in Spanish the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary. You can check out FluentU in your browser or take it on the go with the mobile version. Happy learning!
As you can see, by using the Miniature Lesson technique, you just need some 10 minutes a day in order to learn something new.
Start using this technique on a day-to-day basis, and you will very soon realize you have been making excuses not to study, because it is not simply a matter of time.
Remember, it is the little things that count, so try to make the most of these Spanish Miniature Lessons!
Hope you enjoyed the post. See you soon!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.