spanish-grammar

The Complete Guide to Core Spanish Grammar Topics

Looking to learn Spanish grammar but don’t know where to start?

Don’t worry—if you take it bit by bit, you too will be able to navigate the intricacies of Spanish grammar!

In this post, we’ll go over all the essential elements of Spanish grammar, and provide resources where you can learn them in depth. It’s like our very own Spanish grammar Wiki.

Ready to get started?

Contents

Nouns

Nouns are essentially the name for any person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea or action.

As with English, Spanish nouns have several classifications. There are nine different types of nouns in total, and understanding them is complicated by the simple fact that you probably aren’t familiar with noun classifications in English, either (guilty). 

Gender

If you only speak English, it may take some time to get your head around the concept of gender in Spanish grammar. But just go with it! 

Put simply, every noun in Spanish is classified as either masculine or feminine. 

And, while there are some rules regarding gender, whether a word is masculine or feminine is not always obvious. That’s why it’s important to learn the gender of a noun at the same time you learn its translation. 

Plurals 

Plural nouns—as opposed to singular nouns—are relatively easy to form in Spanish. More often than not it’s as straightforward as adding “s” or “es” to the end of a word (just like in English!).

However, there are situations where the spelling of a word may change or the word is kept the same and only the article changes, and you’ve got to take into account the gender of the word. 

Placement

The subject of a sentence (the word for whatever is performing an action, usually a noun) is typically placed first in a sentence, followed by a verb and then an object (if the verb actually has an object).

This structure often changes, though: the noun can be placed differently in order to emphasize different parts of the sentence, and you’ll often find that adjectives come before a lot of nouns. 

Prefixes and Suffixes 

Prefixes and suffixes are additions to the beginning and end of a word (respectively) which modify its meaning.

For example, adding the suffix -ito / -ita to the end of a word conveys smallness or endearment. If you take the word gato (cat) and add -ito it becomes gatito, which means “little kitten/cat.”

Knowing prefixes and suffixes will help you understand the meaning of a word even if it’s unfamiliar to you!

 

Pronouns

Pronouns are words which are used in the place of a noun (e.g. using “he,” “she” or “they” in place of using someone’s actual name). 

Spanish however has a few more pronouns than we’re used to in English. There are five ways of saying “you”, and to use them we must consider things like the formality of the situation and even what area of the world you’re in.

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are short words which replace the names of people, things or places in order to make a sentence shorter and more concise—for example, instead of repeating a person’s name over and over in a conversation, we could substitute it with the word “they.” 

They are split into “subject pronouns” and “object pronouns,” depending on the role the word takes in a sentence.  

Subject Pronouns

The subject pronouns replace the name of the subject in a sentence: whoever is performing the action. Spanish has 12 subject pronouns, which are:

Object Pronouns

Next we have object pronouns, which replace the “object” of the sentence: the person or thing that receives the action of a verb. We split these into “direct object” and “indirect object.”

Direct object pronouns

Direct object pronouns receive the action of the verb directly. For example, in the phrase su papá la quiere (her dad loves her), the direct object is “her,” because she is receiving the action of the verb “love”.

Spanish direct object pronouns are:

  • Me  — me
  • Te  — you
  • Lo , la him, her, it, you (formal)
  • Los , las them, you all (formal in Spain)
  • Os  — you all (informal in Spain)
  • Nos  — us

Indirect object pronouns

Indirect object pronouns are indirectly affected by the action of the verb.

For example, consider the phrase le escribo una carta. (I write him a letter). In this case, le (him or her) is the indirect object, as the verb is not directly affecting them.

They’re almost the same as direct object pronounsjust with lo and la becoming le, and los and las becoming les:

  • Me  — me
  • Te  — you
  • Le  — him, her, it, you (formal)
  • Les them, you all (formal in Spain)
  • Os  — you all (informal in Spain)
  • Nos us

Possessive Pronouns

Like the rest of the pronouns we’ve seen, possessive pronouns are also words which replace nounsbut also indicate ownership.

They’re often confused with possessive adjectives, which are different because possessive adjectives merely describe nouns and do not actually replace them.  

Here are the possessive pronouns in Spanish:

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are used to point out specific people or things. They change depending on the distance of the speaker, and of course the gender of whatever is being referred to.

Sometimes, though, you’ll find yourself in situations where you don’t actually know the gender of the object you’re referring to: in these cases, you’ll want to use neuter demonstrative pronouns.

Reflexive Pronouns

When the object of a verb refers to the same noun as the subject of that verb, we use reflexive pronouns. 

Here are the reflexive pronouns alongside their English translations:

  • Me  — myself
  • Te   yourself
  • Se   himself, herself, themselves 
  • Se yourself (formal), yourselves (formal in Spain)
  • Os   yourselves (informal in Spain)
  • Nos   ourselves

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are words or phrases which refer back to a noun that was used earlier in communication. In English, they’re often words like “who,” “whose,” “that” and “which.” 

For example, in the phrase “the food that I bought,” the relative pronoun is “that.”

The following words and phrases are used as relative pronouns in Spanish:

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are words which don’t actually refer to anything in particular—that is, they aren’t specific to any person, amount, or thing. In English we would use words like “anything,” “everybody,” “none,” “several” and “some.”

Here are a few of common indefinite pronouns you’ll come across in Spanish:

Interrogative Pronouns

Finally, we have interrogative pronouns: these are pronouns which are used to ask questions (hence the name “interrogative”). 

Here are some of the most common interrogative pronouns in Spanish:

Articles

An article is a word which identifies a part of a speech as a noun, without actually describing it.

It sounds complicated but it all makes sense when you see what the English equivalent would be: in this case, articles in English are “the,” “a” and “an.” For example:

The baby started to cry, so I gave him a bottle”

Articles can also be classified as “definite” and “indefinite” articles, which are explained below. 

Definite Articles

The definite article is used when the noun being referred to is already known to the speaker or reader. It refers to a specific, defined object.

In Spanish it has four forms, depending on the gender and number of the noun in question:

Indefinite Articles

In contrast, definite articles are used when the noun being referred to is general, or is not known to the speaker or reader. 

Like definite articles, indefinite articles in Spanish also reflect the gender and number of the noun. These are:

Verbs

Verbs are words used to describe an action, state, or occurrence.

Using verbs in Spanish is a bit more complex than in English—the following section has a run down of the most important things you should know. 

Infinitive Verbs

An infinitive is the form of a verb which states nothing but an action—that is, they tell us nothing about who is actually performing the action, and when it’s being (or was) performed.

The English equivalent would be when we use verbs with “to” in front, such as: “to go,” “to sleep” or “to think.”

While in English our infinitive verbs begin with the word “to” in Spanish we identify them by their endings: -ar, -er and -ir

Verb groups

Spanish verbs are split into three groups based on whether they end in -ar, -er, or -ir.

Each group is conjugated differently, so it’s important to know where the verb belongs so that you can conjugate them accordingly.

Verb Conjugation

Verb conjugation is what we call it when a verb is changed to reflect a person, tense, number and mood.

In Spanish, we start with the infinitive verb and modify its ending according to who we’re talking about and how.

Let’s say that I want to say “I speak.” Here are the basic steps:

  1. Identify the verb you want to conjugate. In this case it would be hablar (“to speak”)
  2. Decide who is performing the action (aka the subject). In this case, I am the subject
  3. Find the appropriate ending. Use a verb conjugation table to find the ending that corresponds with “I” in the present tense. This will be -o
  4. Conjugate the verb. Remove -ar from hablar and add -o. This gives us hablo (“I speak.”).

Regular and Irregular Verbs

While most verbs in Spanish are regular and so follow the usual conjugation pattern, a large portion of them—42%, to be exact—are actually irregular verbs.

This means that they (unhelpfully) don’t always follow standard conjugation patterns, so you’ll have to learn their conjugations individually!

Essential Verbs

To learn Spanish you need to work smarter, not harder.

So instead of learning everything you possibly can when you first start out, stick to what will get you the most results—you need to learn the essential, most common verbs before you get into the more complex ones. 

Ser and Estar

Whether to use ser or estar (which both mean “to be”) is probably one of the most Googled questions by us Spanish learners. 

In general, I like to remember that ser is for more permanent states, whereas estar is used for more transient states. 

Of course, it would be no fun if the rules were that simple, so check out our post for a full run down!

Verbs Like Gustar

While verbs like gustar (to like) appear complicated at first, the good news is that if you take a bit of time to understand them they really do make sense. 

With these verbs the object of the sentence becomes the subject, and the subject becomes the indirect object.

For example, to say “I like you” in Spanish is me gustas—directly translated this would be something like “to me, you are pleasing.”

With the verb gustar “you” becomes subject (where it would normally be the object), and is therefore conjugated from gustar into gustas. “I” then becomes the indirect object (instead of the subject), which necessitates the indirect object pronoun me.

Stem-Changing Verbs

Stem-changing verbs are verbs which do not only change their endings while being conjugated, their “stem”, or the beginning of the verb, also changes. 

There are three main types of stem changing verbs:

  1. E to ie stem-changing verbs
  2. E to i stem-changing verbs
  3. O to ue stem-changing verbs

Pronominal Verbs

This is a type of verb which requires a reflexive pronoun (the me, te, se etc. pronouns that I mentioned earlier in the post). They’re easy to identify as they end in -se instead of the regular -ar, -er or -ir infinitive ending. 

There are several types of pronominal verbs, but purely pronominal verbs cannot exist without a reflexive pronoun. 

Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are a type of pronominal verb. They too end in -se, and refer to an action that a subject performs on itself—in contrast to a regular verb, where the subject performs the action on someone or something else. 

For example:

Phrasal Verbs

Next on the list of grammar terms you never knew existed we have phrasal verbs! These are verbs which actually change their meaning when you add an adverb or preposition to them. 

They’re on the advanced side, but learning them will help you to express yourself better—and also make your Spanish sound pretty flash. 

Modal Verbs

These verbs indicate meanings such as likelihood, ability, suggestion, or advice. 

In English, these verbs include words like “can,” “would,” “should” or “might.” Here are a few common ones in Spanish:

Active and Passive Voice

The active voice is what we use to communicate the vast majority of the time. It’s a form of a verb in which the subject is performing the action, while the passive voice is where the subject undergoes the action of the verb.

By contrasting these examples, you should get a better idea of what they are:

  • Active: You broke the glass
  • Passive: The glass was broken by you

In Spanish, the passive voice is formed with the formula subject + ser + past participle.

Tenses

You’re probably aware what a tense is, but just for those of us who appreciate more formal explanations: tense indicates the time of an action in relation to the time of utterance.

There are 14 tenses to explore in Spanish, each with different conjugations depending on the subjectso buckle up!

Present Tense

The present tense in Spanish is the most basic tense, and what you’ll start off learning. It’s used to express actions which:

  • Are happening now
  • Are habitually performed
  • Generally exist

Present participle

The present participle comes after another verb and expresses a continuous action. Think of them as the “-ing” words in English. 

To form the present participle in Spanish, remove the -ar, -er and -ir from the infinitive verb and simply add -ando (for an -ar verb) and -iendo (for -er and -ir verbs). 

Past Tense

At first glance, the past tense seems just as straightforward as the present tenseexcept that it’s actually not. 

There are several types of past tenses in Spanish, and we’ll explain the main ones below. 

Preterite 

This verb tense expresses an action which took place at a specific point in the past. Specifically actions or events which:

  • Are completed
  • Occurred on specific times/dates or during a specific time period
  • Have specific beginnings or endings
  • Took place in a sequence

Past imperfect

In contrast, the past imperfect expresses an action in the past which was ongoing or didn’t have a defined beginning/end. Here are some of its uses in Spanish:

  • Repeated or habitual actions in the past 
  • Something that was in progress in the past
  • Descriptions of people/things in the past
  • People’s ages in the past
  • Times and dates in the past 

Past participle

The past participle is a form of a verb used as a noun, an adjective, or to make “perfect tenses.”

For example, consider the sentence: I have eaten. “Eaten” is the past participle of “to eat.”

To form the past participle in Spanish, we just remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er and -ir) and add -ado (for -ar verbs) or -ido (for -er and -ir verbs).

Future Tense

To talk about the future in Spanish, we have a few options—which thankfully have some pretty close equivalents in English. Note that the first two options are most commonly used.

  • Simple future. Hablaré con ella. (I’ll talk to her).
    This tense is formed by conjugating a verb with a specific ending.

  • Ir + a + infinitiveVoy a hablar con ella. (I’m going to talk to her).
    This is formed by using the present simple conjugation of the verb ir (in this case voy) plus a (meaning “to”) plus hablar (the infinitive form of the verb “to talk)

  • Future perfect. Habré hablado con ella. (I will have talked to her).
    To form this, we conjugate haber in the simple future tense (habré) and add the past participle of the main verb (hablado)

Conditional Tense

The conditional tense is incredibly useful for conversation and for forming advanced phrases, and once I discovered it it opened up a whole new world of expressing myself. 

In layman’s terms, the conditional indicates degrees of possibility in the present, future and past—like when we’re talking about something that might happen in the future, something that didn’t happen in the past or something that will probably never happen.

Perfect Tense

This tense is used to talk about actions or events that have occurred in the recent past, started in the past and continues to the present day, or when something has happened a certain number of times. For example: 

“They have been waiting for you”

In Spanish it’s formed by using the verb haber (to have) and the past participle.

Present perfect 

Present perfect is formed by conjugating haber (to have) in the present tense, and pairing it with the past participle. 

He querido verte. (I have wanted to see you)

Future perfect

Future perfect is formed by conjugating haber (to have) in the—you guessed it—future tense, and pairing it with the past participle. 

¿Habrás terminado mañana? (Will you have finished tomorrow?)

Pluperfect Tense

The pluperfect tense has several uses, the main one being to indicate that an action took place before another action in the past. 

We form it by conjugating haber (to have) in the past imperfect tense, and again, pairing it with the past participle. 

Habías dicho que sí. (You had said yes)

Progressive Tense

Progressive is a type of tense that expresses an incomplete action at a specific time. 

In order to form the progressive tense in Spanish, we use the formula estar (to be) + present participle (finally, we’re moving away from the past participle!). 

Estoy saliendo. (I’m leaving)

Present progressive 

The present progressive tense is pretty self explanatory: it’s a progressive tense, used in the present.

Following the same formula as above, we conjugate estar in the present tense and add the present participle. 

Estamos intentando. (We’re trying)

Past progressive

Again, past progressive is a progressive tense which is used in the past. 

Following the same formula estar + present participle, we conjugate estar in the past imperfect tense and add the present participle. 

Estábamos intentando. (We were trying)

Mood

Mood in Spanish grammar isn’t what it first appears—it doesn’t have to do with your state of mind. 

In the context of grammar, it’s a category of verb form which expresses whether something is:

  1. A fact (indicative mood)
  2. A condition (subjunctive mood) 
  3. A command (imperative mood)

Verb conjugations change depending on which mood you’re speaking in, so it’s important to understand when and how to use each one.

Indicative Mood

The indicative mood is the mood we use most often to communicate. Simply put, it’s used to express anything that we consider to be fact.

Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood can be trickier to understand and use. This is due in part to the fact that the subjunctive in English is pretty vague, so we aren’t very familiar with it. 

Where the indicative mood is objective, the subjunctive is subjective—it’s used to express something that is wished, imagined or possible.

Imperative Mood

The imperative mood is used to form commands or requests. 

While ordering someone around may sound impolite, you’d be surprised how often this mood comes up in our day to day lives: e.g. “come here” or “take the next right turn.” 

Negative commands

In contrast to affirmative commands (where you tell someone/something to do something), negative commands are where you tell someone/something not to do something. 

In addition to the no (no) that you’ll add to the start of the verb, the verb itself is also conjugated differently—so it pays to learn the conjugations for both affirmative and negative commands. 

Adjectives

You may remember from your elementary school days that adjectives are “describing words.” While this is true, more formally they’re defined as “a word which names an attribute of a noun.” 

Like many things in Spanish, adjectives usually have to reflect the number and gender of the noun (or pronoun) it’s describing. Let’s have a deeper look at them.

Adjective Endings

  • Adjectives that end in –o make up the majority of adjectives in Spanish. They have four possible endings, each which reflects gender and number 
    • -o — masculine singular
    • -os masculine plural
    • -a feminine singular
    • -as feminine plural
  • Adjectives that end in -e or -ista do not change for gender, only for number:
    • -e — masculine/feminine singular
    • -es — masculine/feminine plural
    • -ista — masculine/feminine singular
    • istas — masculine/feminine plural
  • Adjectives that end in a consonant also do not change for gender, only for number. To change these adjectives from singular to plural we usually just add -es to the end, however there are several exceptions to this rule

Adjective Placement

You may already be aware that adjectives are placed differently in Spanish than in English: the majority of the time, the adjective is placed after the noun it modifies. 

But there are a couple of exceptions, so be aware of these cases where the adjective actually goes in front:

  • Proper nouns
  • Nouns/relations that we only have one of
  • Inherent qualities that are always associated with that noun
  • When you already know the noun that the adjective is referencing

Adjective Clauses

You know we’re getting deep when we start talking about clauses. 

A clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. In the case of an adjective clause, it’s essentially a group of words—including a subject and a verb—which functions much the same as a regular adjective. 

Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives are adjectives which indicate a relationship of possession—whether it be strict ownership or other types of ownership to a lesser degree. 

They’re words like “my,” “mine,” “ours” and “theirs.”

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

These two sorts of adjectives help describe relationships between two (or more) objects.

Comparative adjectives compare the quality of two things (“she is taller than him”), while a superlative expresses the highest degree of the quality (“she is the tallest“).

Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives identify the relative position of someone or something in time or space. 

Demonstrative adjectives in Spanish express three types of distance:

  • Este — this
  • Ese — that
  • Aquel — that (over there)

And because they’re adjectives—don’t forget that they’ll change to reflect number and gender!

Adjectives as Nouns

By now we know what an adjective is, and what a noun is. But what about using an adjective as a noun?

There are a couple of ways that adjectives can be altered to function as a noun:

1. Adding an article

2. Modifying an adjective with a demonstrative adjective

3. Using the article lo

4. Using the personal a

Relative Adjectives

These are adjectives which show relation in a sentence—hence the nomenclature. They introduce new information about something or someone that has been previously mentioned in the form of a relative clause. 

For example, in English we use the word “whose.” In Spanish, we would use cuyo, cuya, cuyos and cuyas (depending on the gender and number of whatever you’re referring to).

Adverbs

Adverbs are a word or phrase which modifies other words in a sentence (usually an adjective, verb or another adverb) to further describe details such as place, time, manner or degree. 

Because they don’t modify nouns, adverbs don’t change according to gender or number like other classes of words do—that’s one less thing to worry about, at least!

Types of Adverbs

Adverbs can be placed into several categories depending on the sort of information they provide. Let’s have a look at the main ones and some examples:

  • Adverbs of place give information about a place or location that something is happening, answering the question “where?”. For example aquí (here) and cerca (close)
  • Adverbs of frequency describe how often an action is performed. For example a veces (sometimes) and siempre (always)
  • Adverbs of manner express the way in which an action is performed by answering “how?” or “in what way?”. For example juntos (together) and bien (well)
  • Adverbs of degree modify adjectives, and answer the question “how much/many?”. For example mucho (much), peor (worse)
  • Adverbs of time as the name suggests, these adverbs describe the time and duration of something. They answer questions like “when?” and “how long?”. For example ya (already) and pronto (soon)

Adverb Placement

Adverbs in Spanish are usually placed either right before or right after the word they are modifying, and the type of word determines this placement. As a general rule, we can assume that they are usually:

  • Placed after verbs
  • Placed before adjectives
  • Flexible if modifying the meaning of a sentence

Adverb Endings

Many adverbs in Spanish end in -mente, which is like the equivalent of words ending in “-ly” in English (like “slowly,” “quickly,” or “regularly”).

We can form an adverb by using almost any singular feminine adjective and adding -mente. 

Rápida (quick, fem. sing.) + –mente = rápidamente (quickly)

Prepositions

Prepositions play a huge role in the meaning of sentences, but are often overlooked by those studying Spanish. 

Prepositions are words—or a group of words—used before nouns, pronouns or noun phrases to link them to other words in a sentence.

They communicate things like direction, time, location, spatial relationship, or introduce an object. 

Prepositions of Place

These prepositions describe the position of something (or someone) in relation to something else. There are a few to learn, but here are some of the most common ones to get you started:

The Personal A

Even after many years of learning Spanish, the “personal a” still trips me up a bit—probably because there is no equivalent in English.

It’s a preposition that is placed between the verb and the direct object of a sentence when the direct object is a person or a pet. It doesn’t translate to anything, but we need to use it nonetheless!

Llamo a mi novio — I call my boyfriend

Por and Para

Like ser and estar, whether you should use por or para is another great conundrum of the Spanish learner.

They both loosely translate to “for”—however they’re pretty versatile in their meanings—so it can be pretty challenging figuring out when to use one over the other.

Here are some basic points to remember:

  • Por is used to mean “by” someone, while para is “for” someone

  • Por is used for reason, while para is for purpose
  • Por is for traveling around or through somewhere, para is for the destination

Verbs and Prepositions

There are a whole lot of Spanish verbs which either must be used with a preposition, or change their meanings when paired with a preposition.

Unfortunately there isn’t a specific rule to help you learn them—you’ll have to pick them up as you use them!

Here are a couple of common examples:

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words used to connect other words and sentences, and they’ll help you bridge from beginner to intermediate and advanced by allowing you to make more complex sentences. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common Spanish conjunctions:

  • Y — and
  • O or
  • Pero — but, yet
  • Aunque — though, even though, but
  • Para que — so that, so, in order to/for
  • Porque — because
  • Así que — so
  • Si — if

They seem basic, but don’t underestimate them—you’d be surprised what knowing them will do for your Spanish!

Contractions

A contraction is a shortened version of a word or phrase, created by the omission of letters and sounds. 

In English you’ll see contractions with an apostrophe: “I’m” (from I am), “couldn’t” (from could not), “you’ll” (from you will). 

I’m happy to tell you that in Spanish, there are only two contractions to remember:

1. A + el = al

2. De + el = del

Sentences

So you’ve learned a bunch of Spanish words, now you need to string them together to make a coherent sentence—luckily, it’s not super complicated! 

Let’s have a look at some of the main components of sentences in Spanish.

Sentence Structure

The sentence structure in Spanish usually follows the same formula we use for English:

Subject + verb + object

It would be great if we could just say it’s the same as in English and leave it there, but there a couple of other important points regarding sentence structure:

  • It’s not always necessary to add a subject (like we must do in English)
  • Pronouns are placed directly before the verb, not after it
  • The verb can sometimes be placed in front of the subject

Negation

Negation is where we insert a word or phrase to express the opposite meaning of a word or sentence.

In Spanish, it’s usually as straightforward as adding no before the verb in a sentence.

No quiero irme. (I don’t want to go).

It gets a little trickier when it comes to the “double negative,” which is considered incorrect (or non-standard) in English but is used often in correct Spanish.

We do this by using “negative words”—such as nada (nothing) or nunca (never)—either on their own or in conjunction with no. 

1. Negative word used alone before the verb
Nunca veo películas. (I never watch movies).

2. No before the verb and negative word after the verb
No veo películas nunca. (I never watch movies).

Transition Words

Transition words are easy to confuse with conjunctions. The difference is that transition words indicate the relationship between sentences or paragraphs, and removing them won’t actually affect grammatical correctness. 

There are a ton of different types for various situations—such as for explanations, results, emphasis and summaries—and knowing them will really help your Spanish flow. 

Trust me, take some time to learn them and you’ll thank me later!

Comparisons

We use a specific type of language to compare and contrast things, whether you realize it or not. Here are some formulas for making simple comparisons in Spanish:

  • To compare two things: más/menos + adjective + que
  • To compare nouns: más/menos + noun + que
  • To compare numbers: más/menos + de + number
  • To describe a difference in how something is done: más/menos + adverb + que 

Check out the post below to find out how to use superlatives and make comparisons of equality!

Reported Speech 

You might actually live your whole life as a Spanish learner and never come across this term, but since we’re here we may as well get the run-down. 

Reported speech is a type of speech that tells you what someone said, but doesn’t actually use the person’s words. 

Mi hermana dice que está cansada. (My sister says she is tired).

To use this type of speech you’ll need to learn “reporting” or “communication” verbs, such as decir (to say, to tell), querer saber (to want to know) and pedir (to ask)

Questions

Learning to ask questions in Spanish is super important—in fact, you could argue that it’s one of the most important things to learn! 

Fortunately it’s relatively simple, especially because in Spanish we don’t need to use auxiliary verbs (like “do” or “does”). Often a question mark and a rising intonation will do just fine, but we can also utilize “question words” to better elicit information.

Question Words

While they aren’t always essential, we do often need “question words” to form questions. 

We actually covered many of these words earlier under “Interrogative Pronouns,” but these words are so important that it won’t hurt to give this list another read! 

Por Qué v Porque

If you used to think it was enough to know the difference between por qué and porque, you’re not alone (and, unfortunately, you’re also incorrect).  

Spanish is already bursting with pors and ques, but we’re going to add some variations to the list in the form of por qué, por que, porqué and porque. 

Don’t get too worried, though—here are their basic meanings in a nutshell:

Question Marks

No doubt you’ve seen the curious upside down question mark that’s unique to the Spanish language. 

There’s no secret to it—this inverted question mark is used along with a regular question mark to indicate a question, just like in English. If a sentence is long, just use the question marks immediately before the question:

No he probado jamón serrano, ¿cómo es(I haven’t tried jamón, what’s it like?)

It’s used mostly in formal settings these days, so you definitely don’t worry about it if you’re chatting with your Spanish-speaking friends on WhatsApp!

Exclamations and Interjections

Exclamations and interjections are both used to express strong feelings and emotions.

An exclamation is usually a phrase or clause used with exclamation marks, whereas interjections are usually single words and are used with commas and question marks in addition to exclamation marks.

Interjections can also be sounds, and are grammatically unrelated to the sentence. 

These not only let you express emotion in just a word or two, they show that you understand what’s going on and they’ll make you sound really fluent!

Check out the posts below to learn some really useful ones. 

Numbers

It might feel like you’re going back to elementary school by learning numbers from scratch again, but it’s well worth your while! You’ll need to learn numbers in Spanish for everything from telling the time to making transactions. 

Let’s have a look at numbers one to ten:

And then some ordinal numbers:

Writing Mechanics

Writing mechanics are just rules of a written language—things like punctuation, capitalization, spelling and abbreviations. 

You may have already picked up on a couple (such as the quirky “upside down” question mark), but we’re going to go over a few differences between Spanish and English that are important to know. 

Punctuation

For the most part punctuation is pretty straightforward in Spanish. If you’re unsure about something can usually assume that it’s the same as in English, but here are the main things to look out for:

  • Question marks. As mentioned earlier, in more formal writing you need to add an inverted question mark at the beginning of the question as well as the end.
  • Exclamation marks. Similarly, inverted exclamation points are also used at the beginning and end of the exclaimed word or phrase in Spanish. 
  • Writing numbers. There are a few differences between English and Spanish when it comes to writing numbers. In Spanish, when writing numbers with four or less numerals, the numerals are written together. For example, where in English we would write “4,500,” in Spanish you would see “4500.”

    If there are more than four numerals in a number, a space is supposed to be used to separate the groups of numerals—instead of the comma which we would use in English. For example, in English we would write “1,500,00,” in Spanish the same number would be written as “1 500 000.” In saying this, you may well see numbers of this size written as “1.500.000” in many places.

    The last point to remember is that in many Spanish-speaking countries it’s common to see a comma used as a decimal separator, instead of a period like in English. For example the number “20.50” in English is often written in Spanish as “20,50.” 

  • Writing scripts/dialogue. You’ll probably come across this difference while reading more so than while writing, and that’s the use of the em-dash (—) in dialogue instead of speech marks. Here’s an idea of what you might see:

    —¡Hola! —dijo la señora. (“Hello!” said the lady).
    —Hola, ¿cómo está? —contestó el niño. (“Hello, how are you?” answered the boy).

Capitalization

Spanish doesn’t capitalize words as often as we do in English, so unfortunately we can’t apply the same rules!

The following types of words are not capitalized in Spanish unless it’s the first word in a sentence:

  • Months and days of the week
  • Book and movie titles (only the first word is capitalized)
  • Places (excluding countries and cities)
  • Religions
  • Languages
  • Nationalities
  • The personal pronoun yo (I)

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