intermediate spanish practice

3 Major Targets to Hit with Your Intermediate Spanish Practice

It’s always exciting when a native speaker says, “Wow, your Spanish is really good!”

You’re immediately like, “Who’s awesome? I’m awesome.”

It feels like you’ve gotten a big thumbs up from the Spanish-speaking world.

Until the dreadful ending of “…for an American” comes along to burst your bubble.

Welcome to the awkward midland of Intermediate Spanish—where you’re beyond the beginners, but not quite yet accepted by the natives.

Ordering in a restaurant and reading street signs is a breeze, but you still can’t quite keep up with the natives in conversation. Especially when they talk at an average rate of 10,000 words/minute!

At this point, you don’t really know where you belong.

Intermediate Spanish is definitely one of the toughest stages to get through. But don’t lose confidence just yet—it won’t last forever (especially if you use the techniques we’ve got in store for you here) and you’re probably a lot farther than you realize.

At this level, you should already know all about gender, syntax, tenses, accents and pronouns. Even if you’re still making mistakes or second guessing yourself, you know what’s going on. You’ve already got most of the building blocks in your hands, and now you just have to put them together. At this point you’ll be learning a few quirks, add in some vocabulary and familiarize yourself more with everything.

See? Fluency is already in your sights. Now the most important thing is practice, practice and more practice. And what better time to start than now?

Let’s get to it! Here we’ll cover a few topics in Intermediate Spanish that will help earn you some credibility with the natives.

So take a deep breath and saca un lápiz y papel (take out a pencil and paper) because there’ll be a practice test for you at the end of each topic. When you’re done taking the quizzes and reading the article, there’s an answer key below for you to check if your answers match up.

And if you’re wondering why sacar is conjugated like that in the above sentence, it’s because the imperative mood is being expressed.

What in the world does that mean?

Keep reading and you’ll find out!
 


 

3 Intermediate Spanish Practice Strategies to Get You Ahead of the Game

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1. Learn to Determine the Mood of a Sentence

So how does the tone of the sentence sound? Objective? Doubtful? Bossy?

In Spanish, there are 3 different moods that exist. This may sound familiar if you’re keen on English grammar because it’s a very similar concept.

In Spanish, it’s important to determine what the mood of a sentence is because you may have to make slight changes in the verb as a result of it.

So, you know what that means. Just what you wanted—it’s time to learn more conjugations!

…Not so fast. Don’t exit out of the tab yet. As I said, there are some slight variations here that you’ll need to know.

a. The Indicative Tone

You’ll be relieved to know that you’ve already beat one of the moods to death in good ol’ Introductory Spanish. This mood, that you should be a master at by now, is known as the indicative tone.

This is the mood that’s used most frequently. To make it distinct, we use this tone when we want to say general, objective statements.

Ejemplos:

El restaurante está abierto. (The restaurant is open.)

Ella lleva un vestido bonito. (She wears a pretty dress.)

Fuimos a la fiesta ayer. (We went to the party yesterday.)

b. The Subjunctive Mood

Next, we have the subjunctive mood. This is the one that usually gives Spanish learners the most trouble.

While the indicative mood reflects facts or confident feelings about something, the subjunctive is used when there’s doubt, uncertainty or a hypothetical situation involved.

Even though this mood is used far less frequently in English than in Spanish, recognizing the parallels will help with understanding what it is exactly.

Here’s an example of the subjunctive mood in English:

If I were in New York, I would have called you.

Typically the verb “was” would be used in the first person (I was in New York) but, in this case, since the statement about being in New York reflects a hypothetical/non-reality, the verb “were” is used in its place.

In Spanish, the subjunctive is used more frequently and covers a broader range of circumstances. We’ll give a few examples in a second, but first let’s take a look at the conjugations of the present tense subjunctive for regular verbs.

For verbs that end in –ar:

-e, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en

For verbs that end in –er and –ir:

-a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an

To make things very simple, take a note how the only difference compared to the indicative tense is that the conjugations for ar and -er/-ir are swapped, and the first person conjugation uses the same as the third person.

And if you need to conjugate an irregular verb to this mood, you just conjugate the verb to its first person tense, drop the o and follow the formula from there.

See, it’s not so hard. The hardest part is knowing when to use this tense.

Here are a few examples of the present tense subjunctive in use:

Yo no pienso que Sebastián viva lejos. (I don’t think Sebastian lives far.)

Yo espero que mi familia hable más. (I hope that my family talks more.)

Estoy buscando una persona que hable inglés. (I am searching for a person who speaks English.)

Can you see uncertainty is expressed through the underlined verbs?

Here are a few terms that you can look for to help you identify when the subjunctive mood is needed:

Dudar que… (To doubt that…)

Es posible que… (It is possible that…)

Esperar que… (To hope that…)

Recomendar que… (To recommend that…)

Prohibir que… (To prohibit that…)

c. The Imperative Mood

This mood is used when giving directions, orders or requests. The conjugations aren’t too far off from the indicative form and rather simple to remember.

One thing to note is that the conjugations are slightly different depending on who you’re bossing around. There are both formal and informal conjugations in this mood.

Another thing that makes this mood even easier is that, for informal conjugation, it’s mostly only used with and vosotros and for the formal with usted and ustedes.

When speaking informally with tú, the indicative third person conjugation is used. Here’s an example:

Usa este lápiz para el examen. (Use this pencil for the exam.)

When speaking formally with usted, it’s similar, except the standards ending are swapped. If the verb ends in an –ar, it’ll be conjugated with an –er and vice-versa. Here’s an example:

Beba el agua. (Drink the water.)

Now for the plural tenses.

There’s a difference to note when conjugating with vosotros. To conjugate this one, you should first take the infinitive of the verb, then remove the r and add a d. For example:

Escribid más. (write more, y’all)

Lastly, when conjugating ustedes, use the same concept as usted, except add an n. For example:

Esperen unos minutos, damas y caballeros. (Wait a few minutes, ladies and gents.)

Now that we’ve got it all covered, it’s time for your first quiz. Write down which mood you think is expressed in each of the following.

Quiz #1:

1. Por favor, no hable en el cine. (Please, don’t talk in the cinema.)

2. La niña va al mercado en las mañanas. (The girl goes to the market in the mornings.)

3. Dudo que él entienda la broma. (I doubt that he understands the joke.)

Need some more help getting the hang of the Spanish moods—or any other grammar concept? FluentU can help.

FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.

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—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:

FluentU App Browse Screen

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.

FluentU Videos with Interactive Captions

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

Interactive Transcripts on FluentU

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.

FluentU Has Quizzes for Every Video

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video. 

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the App from iTunes or the Google Play store and bring FluentU’s innovative language-learning experience to your iOS and Android device.

2. Perfect the Perfected Tenses

Hope that last one didn’t put you in too stressed of a mood. Next, we’ll take a look at the perfected tenses, which means—that’s right—even more fun conjugations!

These tenses are another topic that often gives learners more trouble than it should, so we’ll try to keep it simple and succinct.

People often get confused with these tenses because not only one verb, but two are used in combination.

To make it easier, remember that the second verb to be used is going to be the same with all three perfected tenses. It will be used as the past participle with each, and only the first verb will change accordingly.

Let’s start with the present perfect tense. This tense demonstrates an action that has been done, but is not too far in the past and may still be actively occurring. Here’s an example:

Yo he abierto la puerta. (I have opened the door.)

The past perfect tense demonstrates an action that has been done, but has already been completed and is in the more distant past. Here’s an example:

Yo había abierto la puerta. (I had opened the door.)

The future perfect tense demonstrates something that will definitely happen by a certain point in the near future.

Yo habré abierto la puerta a las ocho de la mañana. (I will have opened the door by eight in the morning.)

Notice how the verb abierto stays the same in all three, and only the first verb changes from he (have) to había (had) to habré (will have).

Here’s a more complete list of the conjugations:

Present perfect

hehas, ha, hemos, habéis, han (+ past participle of verb)

Past perfect

había, habías, había, habíamos, habíais, habían (+ past participle of verb)

Future perfect

habré, habrás, habrá, habremos, habréis, habrán (+ past participle of verb)

Time for another quick test! Write down which tense you think is used in each of the following sentences. Try to do so without peeking at the lists above!

Quiz #2:

1. Fernando ya había escrito la carta. (Fernando had already written the letter.)

2. He visto esta película. (I have seen this film.)

3. Julia habrá terminado su tarea en una hora. (Julia will have finished her homework in one hour.)

3. Sort Out Confusing Words

When learning Spanish as a second language, there are a few words that just make you want to punch your dictionary. Then rip it apart. Then throw it out the window. Let’s try to clear up a few of those words so you don’t have to.

Firstly, we’ll take a look at the verbs saber and conocer. Both of these words are used commonly in the Spanish language and are defined as “to know.” But what’s the difference?!

Let’s make it as simple and general as we can.

Saber is used mostly commonly in regard to established, well-known and factual knowledge, while conocer is used in a more personal way.

For example, if you wanted to say, “I know the professor,” conocer would be used. You personally have met the professor and “know” him firsthand, even if you only met him one time for 5 minutes.

If you wanted to say, “I know how to speak English,” saber would be used, since English is a widely-known skill and not a uniquely personal experience.

Ejemplos:

Saber

Yo a dónde ir. (I know where to go.)

Ella sabe cocinar. (She knows how to cook.)

Conocer

Yo conozco el sabor del chocolate. (I know the taste of chocolate.)

Él conoce muchas de las calles de la ciudad. (He knows many of the streets in the city.)

So usually, when trying to distinguish between the two, think of conocer as being familiar or acquainted with, and saber more as with education.

Another set of words that may make you scratch your head are pedir and preguntar, which both are defined as “to ask.”

The easiest, most general way to set these apart is that pedir is used more in the context of making a request, while preguntar is used when asking for information.

If you wanted to ask for a waiter to come and take your order, pedir would be used, but if you wanted to ask what time the restaurant quits serving dinner, preguntar would be used.

Ejemplos: 

Pedir:

La niña pidió un helado. (The girl asked for an ice cream.)

Ellos pidieron hablar con un abogado. (They asked to speak to a lawyer.)

Preguntar: 

Mi madre preguntó dónde era la convención. (My mother asked where the convention was.)

Yo le pregunté cuánto cuesta. (I asked how much it cost.)

So usually, when trying to distinguish between the two, think of pedir as a request for services and preguntar as request for information.

Here’s one last quick test. See if you can figure out which word should be used with the following sentences.

Quiz #3:

1. Yo (sé, conozco) jugar al béisbol. (I know how to play baseball.)

2. ¿(Sabes, Conoces) a mi padre? (Do you know my father?)

3. Ella (pidió, preguntó) más agua. (She asked for more water.)

4. Mi padre (pidió, preguntó): “¿cuál es la capital de Tejas?” (My father asked, “what is the capital of Texas?”)

Quiz Answers

Alright, we’ve reached the end here. Let’s see how you did with your Intermediate Spanish practice quizzes!

Quiz #1:

1. Por favor, no hable en el cine. (Please, don’t talk in the cinema.) The mood of this sentence is imperative since it is expressing a command.

2. La niña va al mercado en las mañanas. (The girl goes to the market in the mornings.) The mood of this sentence is indicative since it is merely stating a fact.

3. Dudo que él entienda la broma. (I doubt that he understands the joke.) The mood of this sentence is subjunctive since it expresses doubt.

Quiz #2:

1. Fernando ya había escrito la carta. (Fernando had already written the letter.) In this sentence, the present perfect tense is used.

2. He visto esta película. (I have seen this film.) In this sentence, the past perfect tense is used.

3. Julia habrá terminado su tarea en una hora. (Julia will have finished her homework in one hour.) In this sentence, the future perfect tense is used.

Quiz #3:

1. Yo (, conozco) jugar al béisbol. (I know how to play baseball.)

2. ¿(Sabes, Conoces) a mi padre? (Do you know my father?)

3. Ella (pidió, preguntó) más agua. (She asked for more water.)

4. Mi padre (pidió, preguntó): “¿cuál es la capital de Tejas?” (My father asked, “what is the capital of Texas?”

How did you do?

Even if you didn’t do great in one section or another, this exercise was still super valuable—now you’ll know exactly where you need to start improving your Spanish.

And the more you practice, the closer you’ll get to fluency. If you’re truly eager to reach fluency now, you can visit the Fluent Spanish Academy which was created by polyglot Olly Richards. This is specifically designed to streamline the process of advancing from the intermediate level of Spanish to a fluent, authentic-sounding level of Spanish.

No matter which path you choose, hop to it!

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