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spanish past tense conjugation

How to Conjugate Verbs in the Spanish Preterite (Past Tense)

Past Tense (Preterite) Conjugation: How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs

Spanish past tense conjugation is necessary for describing situations and events that have already happened. Once you learn these conjugations, you’ll be able to talk about so much more with friends and family!

[This is Part 3 of a guide to conjugating Spanish verbs. In previous posts, we’ve reviewed the basics of conjugating Spanish verbs, as well as how to conjugate stem-changers].

Next, we’re going to take your verb conjugation skills to an even higher level. This involves learning Spanish past tense conjugation, so that you aren’t restricted to only describing actions in the present tense.

How to Conjugate Verbs in the Spanish Preterite

It’s important to note that Spanish has two types of past tenses: the preterite and the imperfect. Here, we’ll start with Spanish preterite conjugations and review the imperfect in a future post.

The Spanish preterite tense is a way to express the past, and it breaks down verbs into five different endings. Keep reading to learn how to change a verb into its past tense form.

Conjugating -AR Verbs in the Spanish Preterite

Here is an example using the Spanish verb mirar (to watch). First, shave off the -ar ending. Then…

  • If you are referring to Yo or ‘I,’ add the letter é to end the conjugated verb, forming miré.
  • If you are referring to  or ‘you,’ use the ending –aste, to form miraste.
  • If you are referring to él or ella or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use the ending –ó to form miró.
  • If you are referring to nosotros or ‘we,’ use the ending –amos to form miramos. (This is the same as present tense conjugation!)
  • If you are referring to ellos or ‘they,’ use the ending –aron, to form miraron.

SEE ALSO: 46 Spanish Adjectives to Describe All Your Friends

Conjugating -ER Verbs in the Spanish Preterite

Now let’s use comer (to eat), as an example. First, shave off the -er ending. Next…

  • If you are referring to Yo or ‘I,’ use the ending –í, (instead of é) to form comí.
  • If you are referring to  or ‘you,’ use the ending –iste, to form comiste.
  • If you are referring to él or ella or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use the ending –, to form comió.
  • If you are referring to nosotros or ‘we,’ use the ending –imos, to form comimos.
  • If you are referring to ellos or ‘they,’ use the ending –ieron, to form comieron.

Conjugating -IR Verbs in the Spanish Preterite

Conjugating -ir verbs shares the same rules as conjugating -er verbs. See the following chart as an example.

Vivir (to live):
Yo viví
Tú viviste
Él/Ella/Usted vivió
Nosotros vivimos
Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes vivieron

SEE ALSO: 75 Most Helpful Spanish Cognates

Ready for some Spanish past tense conjugation practice? Fill out the following chart:

Spanish Conjugation Chart - Preterite

12 Irregular Spanish Preterite Endings

There are 12 core verbs in Spanish that have irregular past tense conjugations in the preterite tense. Fortunately their main endings are similar to what we’ve already learned in this post: –é, –iste, , –imos, –isteis, –ieron/*eron. Here are the 12 verbs, also known as “the dirty dozen.”

Spanish Dirty Dozen - Irregular Past Tense Conjugations

Let’s conjugate estar as an example:

Estar (to be):
Yo estuve
Tú estuviste
Él/Ella/Usted estuvo
Nosotros estuvimos
Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes estuvieron

Now that you know how to conjugate Spanish past tense verbs, you’re once step closer to becoming fluent in Spanish! As always, it’s a great idea to work with a Spanish tutor who can help you work through these concepts and provide extra guidance as needed.

You can also take online Spanish classes to get even more practice conjugating verbs in everyday conversation. Buena suerte!

Jason N width=Post Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

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Spanish Language Infographic - 500x300

50 Fascinating Facts About the Spanish Language [Infographic]

Interesting Facts About the Spanish Language - 720x300

Calling all linguaphiles, trivia buffs, students, teachers, and world travelers — you probably already know that a country’s language carries many clues about its history, culture, and values. Understanding the intricacies can often make it easier to learn a language, also, since you’ll likely recognize patterns, or how certain language relate to each other.

The Spanish language in particular is really cool to learn about, as you’ll see in this post! We got help from our tutors to compile a list of a whopping 50 interesting facts about the language of Spain, as a way to test your own knowledge.

But first, a few FAQs you should definitely know…

Where is Spanish used?

When you think about Spanish speakers, you likely think about Spain and Mexico. But actually, Spanish is the offical language for more than 20 countries — including Cuba, Argentina, Chile, and Nicaragua.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not the ONLY language spoken in Spain. Other official languages of Spain are Galician, Basque, and Catalan.

Who else speaks Spanish?

It’s no wonder that many students, business professionals, and travelers choose to learn Spanish — it’s estimated that almost 400 million people worldwide speak the language! Moreover, being bilingual has tons of benefits.

Not only that, but it’s becoming one of the most widely-spoken second languages in the world.

Ok, now test your knowledge!

The infographic below showcases the most interesting facts we found. See how many of them you already know, and then scroll down to learn even more about the Spanish language!

Interesting Facts About the Language of Spain - infographic


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Interesting Facts - Spanish Grammar and Syntax

Spanish Grammar & Syntax

  1. If taken literally, the word la persona (person) is feminine, even though it may refer to a man or a woman.[1]
  2. Nouns that end in -a are usually feminine, but if they start with an a, they take the masculine article el to avoid the combination of the two same vowels (i.e. Spanish speakers say el alma instead of la alma). Still, the word remains being feminine.[2]
  3. Many words have completely different meanings depending on what syllable is stressed. For example, la ma (stressed on the second syllable: the mother), la mama (stressed on the first syllable: the breast).
  4. Spanish has two different verbs that mean “to be” in English: ser and estar. The first one is for permanent states (such as personality features of a person; Yo soy alto [I am tall]) and the second one is for temporary states (such as the location of something; Yo estoy en casa [I am at home]).
  5. Even though nouns ending in -o are usually masculine, la mano is a feminine word.
  6. Many nouns are spelled the same but change meanings if they’re used with a different grammatical gender. For example, el cometa (the comet) and la cometa (the kite); el cura (the Catholic priest) and la cura (the cure); el pendiente (the earring) and la pendiente (the slope).[3]
  7. Different from English, Spanish has a relatively free word order, and variations of the Subject-Verb-Object order occur much more often than in English. For example, the sentence “Juan wrote a book” can be said like “Juan escribió el libro,” “El libro escribió Juan,” “Escribió Juan el libro,” and even “Juan el libro escribió,” or “El libro, Juan escribió” for some literary effect.[4]
  8. In most parts of the Spanish-speaking world, there’s a familiar-informal 2nd person singular pronoun (usually ) and a formal 2nd person singular pronoun for unknown, older, or important people (usted).
  9. In the Rioplatense variety, the pronoun is never used; vos is used instead as the informal-familiar 2nd person singular. In some other countries, such as Ecuador, both and vos coexist, but the second one has a social connotation and is considered a highly uneducated (and even lowly) way of addressing others.[5]
  10. Exclamations and questions in Spanish need to begin with an “opening” exclamation mark (¡) or question mark (¿). These punctuation marks do not exist in other languages, except some minority languages in Spain.
  11. Considering the three moods (Indicative, Subjunctive, and Imperative), there are 17 tenses in Spanish.[6]
  12. Spanish has two different versions of the imperfect subjunctive that coexist in modern Spanish (Pretérito Imperfecto del subjuntivo), one with -ra endings and one with -se. Most native speakers use either form interchangeably. For instance, the words amara or amase ([if I] loved).

Interesting Facts - Spanish Pronunciation

Spanish Pronunciation

  1. Spanish is a very phonetic language. If you know how a word is spelled, you can surely know how it’s pronounced.
  2. If you know how a word is pronounced, you cannot be sure of how it’s spelled.
  3. Letters b and v sound the same in Standard Modern Spanish (this simplification took place between the 15th and 17th century). Between vowel sounds, they’re pronounced like a soft b, in which the lips don’t touch. This last sound doesn’t exist in English.[7]
  4. Until the early 18th century, the letter x was used to represent the x sound, like the Scottish word “loch.” After that, it was replaced with the letter j to represent the same sound. For example, the word caja (box) used to be spelled like caxa.[8]
  5. The letter c, when it appears before the letters e and i, is pronounced differently by speakers in Latin America and Spain. The former pronounce it like an s, whereas the latter pronounce it like th in “the.”
  6. There are plenty of homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently) in Spanish that cause native speakers difficulties in learning how to write. Popular examples are hacia (towards) and Asia (Asia), and hola (hello) and ola (wave).
  7. Even though the letters y and ll sound slightly different in most parts of Spain and Latin America, in Rioplatense Spanish, the variety spoken in the most populated areas of Argentina and Uruguay sound like “sh” in English. For example, baya (berry) and valla (fence) sound like bah-shah.
  8. Despite being one of the most common words in the language, the word yo (I) can be pronounced in at least four different ways depending on the location of the speaker.
  9. The letter y can behave as a consonant at the beginning of syllables (onset), or as a vowel at the ending of syllables (nucleus). For example, yo (y is a consonant), hoy (y has a vowel sound).[9]

Interesting Facts - Spanish Vocabulary

Spanish Vocabulary

  1. There are words in Spanish that cannot be translated in one word in English. An example is empalagarse (to feel sick because of too much sweetness in food, but also figuratively, as in romantic situations).[10]
  2. Another word that cannot be translated in one word is sobremesa (after-dinner conversation).[11]
  3. Around 8% of Spanish vocabulary is of Arabic origin.[12] Within numerous expressions of casual Spanish conversation, there often exists a strong likeness to Arabic expression. Probably most well-known is the interjection ¡Ojalá!, which is derived from the phrase law šá lláh, meaning “if Allah wills [it].”[13]
  4. There are 30,500 words that contain all of the vowels (a, e, i, o, u).[14]
  5. New verbs can be easily created by adding the suffix -ear at the end of the words. This is how modern technology-related words have been invented from English words; for example, escanear (to scan)[15] and tuitear (to send tweets).[16]
  6. A very common phrase in Spanish that’s literally translated into “holding someone’s hair” (tomarle el pelo a alguien) means to mock someone with false compliments or promises.[17]
  7. In Argentina, there’s a group of slang words called vesre. They come from the Spanish word for “reverse” (revés) after moving around a few letters. Just as the word vesre, other words are made by switching around letters. These words are now so common in Argentina that they may be used more than the “real” word. For example, garpar (Standard Spanish: pagar, English: to pay) or toga (Standard Spanish: gato, English: cat).[18]
  8. Many English words have been adapted to Spanish in the 20th century and have become everyday vocabulary. For instance, fútbol (football), suéter (sweater), pulover (pullover), and overol (overall).[19]
  9. There are two phrases in Spanish that can be translated to “I love you”: Te amo and te quiero. The first one is said between lovers or closely-related family members. The second one is mostly friendly and typically not romantic.
  10. There isn’t a verb in Spanish that can be literally translated to “like.” Me gusta la pizza can be literally translated to the approximation: “The pizza is pleasing to me.”
  11. English and Spanish share plenty of similarly-written words that don’t mean the same. They’re called “false friends” and learners of Spanish should be aware of them to avoid difficulties. For example, embarazada means “pregnant” in English and not “embarrassed.”

Interesting Facts - Spanish Culture and History

The Language of Spain – Culture and History

  1. Spanish is the 2nd most-spoken language as mother tongue. The number of speakers of Spanish as a first language is almost 399 million.[20] The language with the highest number of native speakers is Chinese with 1.2 billion people.[21]
  2. Spanish is the 3rd most-used language on the Internet, with 256.8 million users.[22]
  3. The use of Spanish on the Internet has grown 1,312.4% from 2000 to 2015.[23]
  4. Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.[24]
  5. Spanish is the official language in 22 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.[25]
  6. Spanish is expected to be the first language of 50% of the population of the United States within 50 years.[26]
  7. There’s a Spanish-based creole language spoken in the Philippines called Chabacano (poor taste, vulgar). It’s the sole and most extensive Spanish-based creole language that still exists in Asia or Oceania.[27]
  8. Based on estimates from Census data, the Hispanic population in the US will grow to 132.8 million in 2050.
  9. People who speak Spanish may call it español (meaning: it comes from Spain), or castellano (meaning: it comes from Castilla, Spain), and many people use both words interchangeably.[29]
  10. In 1492, the same year when Columbus arrived in America, the first grammar of Spanish was published by Elio Antonio de Nebrija.[30]
  11. Spanish was the major diplomatic language until the 18th century.[31]
  12. In 1713, the Real Academia Española was founded. It established authoritative criteria for the sanctioning of neologisms (newly coined words) and the incorporation of international words. Spanish grammar was formalized during this period.[32]
  13. In present-day Spanish, September may be spelled septiembre or setiembre. However, the latter is considered a vulgar or informal version of the earlier one because of the dropping of sounds. Contrary to popular belief, the word setiembre is the “originally Spanish” word, since until the 17th century there was no agreement in spelling and the “p” was not pronounced.[33]
  14. Some words that begin with “f” in other Romance languages, begin with “h” in Spanish. This makes such difference a unique development for the Spanish language. For example, ferrum (Latin: iron) and hierro (Spanish: iron); falar (Portuguese: to speak) and hablar (Spanish: to speak); figlio and fumo (Italian: son and smoke) and hijo and humo (Spanish: son and smoke).[34]
  15. The letter ñ is the only Spanish letter of Spanish origins.[35]
  16. Beginning in about the 12th century, Spanish scribes (whose job it was to copy documents by hand) used the tilde placed over letters to indicate that a letter was doubled. This resulted in the Latin word annus to be spelled año in Spanish.[36]
  17. The first written records in Spanish are the Glosas Emilianenses and they date back to 964 A.C.[37]
  18. The first Literary piece that was fully written in Spanish was “El Cantar de Mio Cid,” which dates back to the 13th century and whose author is unknown.[38]

Sources

[1] http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=persona
[2] http://www.spanishgrammargenius.com/why_do_i_use_masculine_article_with_feminine_word.htm
[3] http://spanish.about.com/od/nouns/a/double_gendered.htm
[4] http://spanish.about.com/od/sentencestructure/a/word-order-in-spanish.htm
[5] http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/86107/Ennis.pdf
[6] http://www.rae.es/diccionario-panhispanico-de-dudas/apendices/modelos-de-conjugacion-verbal
[7] Lapesa, R. (1981). Historia de la lengua española (9th ed.). Madrid: Gredos. pp. 422.
[8] Lapesa, R. (1981). Historia de la lengua española (9th ed.). Madrid: Gredos. pp. 423.
[9] http://clas.mq.edu.au/speech/phonetics/phonology/syllable/syll_structure.html
[10] http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=empalagar
[11] http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=sobremesa
[12] http://people.math.sc.edu/rorabaug/docs/ArabicInfluence.pdf
[13] http://people.math.sc.edu/rorabaug/docs/ArabicInfluence.pdf
[14] http://www.solosequenosenada.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/palabras_con_todas_las_vocales_sin_qu_ni_gu.txt
[15] http://dle.rae.es/?id=G9JTupB
[16] http://dle.rae.es/?id=asr6h3K
[17] http://lema.rae.es/drae/srv/search?id=9sxZRrtuiDXX2EHANeeY
[18] http://www.speakinglatino.com/argentine-slang-in-reverse-vesre/
[19] Lapesa, R. (1981). Historia de la lengua española (9th ed.). Madrid: Gredos. pp. 458.
[20] http://www.ethnologue.com/language/spa
[21] http://www.ethnologue.com/language/zho
[22] http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm
[23] http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm
[24] http://www.un.org/en/sections/about-un/official-languages/
[25] http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/countries_by_languages.htm
[26] http://artsandscience.usask.ca/languages/languages/spanish/
[27] https://www.academia.edu/5922616/Chabacano_The_Case_of_Philippine_Creole_Spanish_in_Cavite
[28] http://www.census.gov/data/tables/2013/demo/2009-2013-lang-tables.html
[29] http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=castellano
[30] http://www.optimnem.co.uk/learning/spanish/language-history.php
[31] http://www.optimnem.co.uk/learning/spanish/language-history.php
[32] http://www.optimnem.co.uk/learning/spanish/language-history.php
[33] Lapesa, R. (1981). Historia de la lengua española (9th ed.). Madrid: Gredos. pp. 390.
[34] http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/staff/letchfoa/comparison/comparison2
[35] http://spanish.about.com/cs/historyofspanish/f/tilde_origins.htm
[36] http://spanish.about.com/cs/historyofspanish/f/tilde_origins.htm
[37] http://www.mecd.gob.es/dctm/ministerio/educacion/actividad-internacional/consejerias/reino-unido/tecla/2005/mayo/20-05-05b.pdf?documentId=0901e72b80b7eb9c
[38] http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/portales/cantar_de_mio_cid/

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Spanish Vocabulary: Intro to Spanish Prepositions

Intro to Spanish Prepositions

It’s tough learning a new language, but have no fear — an easy lesson is here! Here, Spanish tutor Jason N. shows you how to use prepositions to connect words together and create simple sentences…

A Look at Prepositions in Spanish

Luckily, prepositions are pretty straightforward when it comes to learning to speak Spanish. Prepositions in Spanish are not too different from ones in English. Just like in English, prepositions connect words together and often focus on direction, place, or time. They usually precede the word or words they connect. There are simple prepositions, which are usually one word, and compound prepositions, which are typically multiple words. Here, I focus on simple ones.

Let’s go over the three most important prepositions:

  • a: meaning to, at in English
  • de: meaning of, from in English
  • en: meaning in, on, at in English

Prepositions in Spanish are mostly used the same way in Spanish as they are in English. Once you get comfortable with memorizing the vocabulary, it should feel like common sense, except for a few (almost all rules have exceptions).

Now let’s take a closer look at these three Spanish prepositions.

Prepositions in Spanish - a

The first preposition is a, which allows you to discuss topics such as movement, actions, and time. Below are some examples of the uses of a.

Movement or motion (to)

– Vamos a Atlanta el viernes (We go to Atlanta on Friday)
– Fuimos a San Francisco (We went to San Francisco)

Connect one verb to an infinitive (not translated directly)

– Voy a jugar (I’m going to play)
– Aprendí a escribir (I learned to write)

Show how to do something (on, by, with)

– Fue a pie (She went on foot)
– Lo hacen a mano (They do it by hand)
– Escribían a lápiz (They used to write with a pencil)

Introduce a person – the “personal a” in Spanish, which has no direct English translation

– ¿Conociste a Tim? (Did you meet Tim?)
– Observé a Michael Jordan (I observed Michael Jordan)

State the time (at, is)

– Cenamos a las seis (We eat dinner at six o’clock)
– Estamos a martes (It is Tuesday)

Prepositions in Spanish - de

The second proposition is de, which lets you say where something is from, how something compares, and descriptions of things. Below are some examples of the uses of de.

Demonstrate possession (of)

– Atlanta es la capital de Georgia (Atlanta is the capitol of Georgia)
– La clase de Jason (Jason’s class)

Address cause (from, with)

– Están cansados de manejar (They are tired from driving)
– Estamos contentos de nuestro hijo (We are happy with our son)

State the origin (from, of)

– Él es de México (He is from Mexico)
– Soy es el más inteligente de mi clase (I am the most intelligent of my class)

Describe a noun with another noun or infinitive (of)

– Una taza de café (A cup of coffee)
– El jugo de toronja (Grapefruit juice)

Compare (than)

– Sara es la más alta de todos los alumnos del sexto grado
(Sara is the tallest of all 6th grade students)
– Hay menos de cinco personas en la clase del profesor Angel
(There are less than five in professor Angel’s class).

Bonus: Learn more about Spanish comparisons here!

Idioms/phrases/sayings

De pie (Standing)
De ahora en adelante (From now on)

Prepositions in Spanish - en

The third proposition is en, which tells you where something is, how something is done, and when something occurs. Below are some examples of the uses of en.

Specify location (in, on, at)

– Están en mi casa (They are in my house)
Mira la pintura en la pared (Look at the painting on the wall)
Ellas están en la habitación (They are in the room)

Designate time (in)

Iban a Los Angeles en el otoño (They used to go to LA in the Fall)
Viene en una semana (She is coming in a week)

Show how to do something (on, by, with)

Vamos a Washington en avión (We go to Washington by plane)
Te vas al doctor en Uber (You go to the doctor in an Uber)

Idioms 

En serio (Seriously)
En broma (As a joke)
En vivo (Live)

There’s more where that came from! Here’s a handy Spanish prepositions list:

Spanish prepositions list

Final Note

If you’re comfortable with these already, try tackling Spanish transition words. There are a lot of prepositions at your disposal, but don’t let that scare you! A consistent schedule for practicing Spanish will help you improve at a steady rate. Sooner than later, these prepositions will be second nature in your vocabulary. Dedicate yourself to learning, but most importantly, have fun!

Need more Spanish preposition practice? Find a Spanish tutor near you!

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Athens, GA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. He is currently attending the University of Georgia. Learn more about Jason here!  

 

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Masculine vs. Feminine Nouns in Spanish

Masculine & Feminine Spanish Nouns | Test Yourself!

Masculine vs. Feminine Nouns in Spanish

In English, every noun has a neutral gender. This makes it easy to learn, so you really only need to learn the new word and the learning stops there.

In Spanish, on the other hand, every single noun is either masculine or feminine. This means that every time you learn a new Spanish vocabulary word, you need to learn its accompanying gender as well. This may appear confusing for beginners, but bear with me!

Here are the general rules for determining masculine and feminine Spanish nouns:

masculine and feminine spanish nouns

  • Nouns that are feminine often (but by no means always) end in -a.
  • By contrast, nouns that are masculine often (but by no means always) end in -o, or many other consonants.
  • When a noun is masculine, we use the el definite article for a singular noun, and the los article for a plural noun, (both mean “the” in English) to represent the noun’s masculinity.
  • When a noun is feminine, we use the la definite article for a singular nouns and the las article for a plural noun (both also mean “the” in English) to represent the noun’s femininity.

For example, el carro (the car) and la casa (the house).

Using a noun’s gender correctly also depends on differentiating plural nouns to singular nouns.

For example, los carros
By contrast, las casas

If you want to say “a,” the indefinite instead of the definite article “the,” you use un or unos, or una and unas respectively.

For example, un carro or unos carros
By contrast, una casa or unas casas

The noun’s gender follows it when it’s being described with adjectives. If the adjective is describing a masculine word, it most likely end in -o, whereas an adjective describing a feminine word most likely ends in -a. Its plurality or singularly continues into the noun’s corresponding description, unlike English!

For example, el/un carro bonito or los/unos carros bonitos
By contrast, la/una casa bonita or unas casas

Translations: the/a beautiful car, the/some beautiful cars

However, if only it were that simple…

Nouns that end in -a that have Greek origins go against the natural assumption and are actually masculine nouns.

Some examples of this are:

  • El problema instead of la problema (problem)
  • El tema instead of la tema (theme)
  • El dilema instead of la dilema (dilemma)

There are also a few feminine nouns that end in -o, such as la mano (hand).

Test Yourself!

Think you’ve got it? Take this quiz to test your knowledge of masculine and feminine Spanish nouns!

[playbuzz-item url=”//www.playbuzz.com/takelessons12/how-well-do-you-know-masculine-and-feminine-nouns-in-spanish”]

 

The bottom line here is to start paying attention to a noun’s gender immediately when you learn the noun, so you can start identifying patterns. When I first began learning Spanish, I glossed over this crucial distinction which made it much more difficult for me later on.

So start early, and start learning with a private Spanish tutor! It’s not too difficult once you internalize that learning a noun’s gender is indispensable to learning Spanish vocabulary.

Let’s end by being grateful that Spanish only has two genders, whereas German, and many other languages also have neutral nouns, making three genders possible! Now that’s really confusing!

Editor’s Note: Want even more tips? We like this article about memorizing genders from the 5-Minute Language blog. 

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Athens, GA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. He is currently attending the University of Georgia. Learn more about Jason here! 

 

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Spanish Grammar: Comparisons, Superlatives, & More

Intro to Spanish Comparisons, Negation, and Superlatives

As you learn to speak Spanish, you’ll need to be able to put together a variety of phrases. Here, Spanish teacher Jason N. shows you how to describe nouns in relation to each other…

Spanish Comparisons

In English, as in every language, we compare people, places, and things regularly. Spanish comparisons aren’t too different, there are just new formulas to learn. The good news is they’re very basic and you can learn them for the long-run in a couple of hours!

Here’s the most important one:

Formula for Spanish Comparisons

Here are some examples:

– Obama es más alto que Clinton (Obama is taller than Clinton)
– Mi carro es más rápido que el carro de Juan (My car is faster than Juan’s)

Now it’s your turn to practice! (The answer key can be found at the bottom of the article)

1) Jim is smarter than Alex.
2) Alison is stronger than Brook.
3) The office at TakeLessons is nicer than the office I previously worked in.

Equal Comparisons

Sometimes one thing isn’t better or worse than the other. For that, we’re able to compare things that are the same. Here’s another important formula:

MO - Formula for Equal Spanish Comparisons

There are also endless combinations that can go in the blanks. For example:

– Obama es tan alto como Clinton (Obama is as tall as Clinton)
– Mi carro es tan rápido como el carro de Juan (My car is just as fast as Juan’s)

Negative Expressions in Spanish

It’s especially easy to make things negative in Spanish — just add a ‘no’ in front of whatever you’d like to negate.

Formula for Spanish Negations

For example:

– No es chistoso Daniel (Daniel isn’t funny)

Negation in Spanish can also be redundant and emphatic, in that sometimes it repeats itself. While double-negatives in English cancel themselves out logically, in Spanish double-negatives are frequently used to convey negation. Check out this example:

– No tengo nada (I have nothing)

The direct translation in English is “I don’t have nothing,” which sounds odd and would imply the speaker has something. In Spanish, however, this is correct and simply means you have nothing. Once you practice your Spanish some more, these nuances will become second nature to you.

Superlatives in Spanish

If you want to isolate one person, place, or thing as being the most something (a superlative), you just put the definite article (el, la, los or las) before the given phrase.

Formula for Spanish superlatives

For example:

– Esta mujer es la más guapa (This woman is the prettiest)
– Florida es el estado más hermoso de los Estados Unidos (Florida is the most beautiful state in the United States)

You may be surprised to realize that the word ‘most’ doesn’t exist in Spanish. There is also no way to add the superlative suffix ‘est’ at the end of words. It may seem odd that it just translates to ‘the more,’ but it works because using the definite article and context help readers and listeners understand what you mean.

Practice translating these sentences (again, answer key is at the end of the article!):

1) Jim is the smartest man alive.
2) Alison is the strongest woman alive.
3) The office at TakeLessons is the nicest office in the United States.

Bonus Words: Irregulars

Wait — there’s more! Here are other Spanish comparison words including confusing irregulars:

– Mayor vs. menor (older vs. younger)
– Alto vs. bajo/a (in Mexican Spanish it’s often ‘chaparro/a’)
– bueno (good) becomes mejor (better)
– malo (bad) becomes peor (worse)
– Viejo (old) becomes mayor (older)
– joven (young) becomes menor (younger)

Your Spanish tutor can help you better understand double- (and sometimes triple-) negatives in Spanish! My advice is to explore the language through movies, music, and books, and work with a good tutor. It’s also a good idea to make sure you know how to pronounce Spanish words before you start practicing them. Happy learning!

Answer Key

Comparisons
1) Jim es más inteligente que Alex.
2) Alison es más inteligente que Brook.
3) La oficina de TakeLessons es más bonita que la oficina en la que trabajaba.

Superlatives
1) Jim es el hombre más inteligente del mundo.
2) Alison es la mujer más fuerte del mundo.
3) La oficina TakeLessons es la oficina más bonita de los Estados Unidos.

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Athens, GA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. He is currently attending the University of Georgia. Learn more about Jason here!  

 

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Spanish Vocabulary: When to Use Usted vs. Tú

What's the Difference Between Tú & Usted

Every language has its own intricacies that take time and practice to master. In this article, we’ll discuss the distinction between the formal and informal use of the word ‘you’ in Spanish.

But first, here’s a quick summary of the difference between  and usted.

Usted vs. Tú – What’s the Difference?

 in Spanish is ‘you’ in English — but what about usted? In English, there’s not a great translation for usted. So what exactly does it mean?

In English, when we want to convey respect to someone, we use formal and polite language, such as ‘sir’ and ‘madam,’ and refer to people in authority positions with their titles, such as ‘doctor,’ or ‘professor,’ followed by their last name (e.g. Dr. Smith).

Spanish-speakers adhere to similar parameters when speaking to members of status or authority, but there’s also another common way to convey respect without calling someone by their professional titles. This is what usted in Spanish is all about.

When to Use Usted

Spanish is a language that highly values communicating respect and deferring to authority, therefore it makes a distinction that does not exist in English. Spanish-speakers use another word, usted, instead of tú, to address people of status or authority, the elderly, sometimes someone older than you, and often someone you just met, in order to convey respect to them. In romantic Spanish movies and novels, lovers will always refer to each other using usted to convey respect and appreciation.

Usted vs. Tú in the Real World

As your Spanish improves and you speak to people of all the different 24 Latin American countries, you’ll see that the use of usted varies considerably, not only from country to country, but from region to region within the same country.

By tuning in and observing each relationship, you can be more informed about whether to use  or usted. As you travel to destinations that speak Spanish, you’ll see the practical uses of these formalities yourself. When I lived in Costa Rica, I was surprised to notice that friends often refer to each other using usted, even if they have a very close and informal relationship.

I know many people who always address their parents using usted. This often signifies a more formal relationship between parent and child. That said, this also widely varies. For example, my ex-girlfriend was very close to her mother and spoke to her using always. In fact, her mother told me that she would be offended if her daughter spoke to her using usted, because it would make her feel not only old, but also distant to her daughter. On the other hand, many other Spanish-speaking mothers would invariably feel offended by their son or daughter if they did not address them in usted.

Another caveat is that in most of Central America and South America, Spanish-speakers use vos instead of , but this doesn’t matter as much, as they will always understand you in A Spanish tutor can help you learn more about vos if you are interested.

Got it? Here’s a handy graphic to reference:

When to Use Usted

Final Note

The good news is that Spanish-speakers will be so happy to hear you speak Spanish that they most likely won’t be offended if you fail to use the more appropriate one. The key here is not to worry much about it, as this can interrupt you from practicing. My best tip? Use usted when you’re in doubt, and tune into how Spanish speakers respond to you! As always, a Spanish tutor can help you if you’re confused!

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Athens, GA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

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Photo by Josep Ma. Rosell

Spanish Vocabulary: When to Use Usted vs. Tú

What's the Difference Between Tú & Usted

Every language has its own intricacies that take time and practice to really nail down. Here, Spanish tutor Jason N. clears up the distinction between the formal and informal use of the word ‘you’ in Spanish…

 

Usted vs. : What’s the Difference?

 in Spanish is ‘you’ in English — but what about usted? In English, there’s not a great translation for usted. So what exactly does it mean?

In English, when we want to convey respect to someone, we use formal and polite language, such as ‘sir’ and ‘madam,’ and refer to people in authority positions with their titles, such as ‘doctor,’ or ‘professor,’ followed by their last name (e.g. Dr. Smith).

Spanish-speakers adhere to similar parameters when speaking to members of status or authority, but there’s also another common way to convey respect without calling someone by their professional titles. This is what usted in Spanish is all about.

When to Use Usted

Spanish is a language that highly values communicating respect and deferring to authority, therefore it makes a distinction that does not exist in English. Spanish-speakers use another word, usted, instead of tú, to address people of status or authority, the elderly, sometimes someone older than you, and often someone you just met, in order to convey respect to them. In romantic Spanish movies and novels, lovers will always refer to each other using usted to convey respect and appreciation.

Usted vs. Tú in the Real World

As your Spanish improves and you speak to people of all the different 24 Latin American countries, you’ll see that the use of usted varies considerably, not only from country to country, but from region to region within the same country.

By tuning in and observing each relationship, you can be more informed about whether to use  or usted. As you travel to destinations that speak Spanish, you’ll see the practical uses of these formalities yourself. When I lived in Costa Rica, I was surprised to notice that friends often refer to each other using usted, even if they have a very close and informal relationship.

I know many people who always address their parents using usted. This often signifies a more formal relationship between parent and child. That said, this also widely varies. For example, my ex-girlfriend was very close to her mother and spoke to her using always. In fact, her mother told me that she would be offended if her daughter spoke to her using usted, because it would make her feel not only old, but also distant to her daughter. On the other hand, many other Spanish-speaking mothers would invariably feel offended by their son or daughter if they did not address them in usted.

Another caveat is that in most of Central America and South America, Spanish-speakers use vos instead of , but this doesn’t matter as much, as they will always understand you in A Spanish tutor can help you learn more about vos if you are interested.

Got it? Here’s a handy graphic to reference:

When to Use Usted

Final Note

The good news is that Spanish-speakers will be so happy to hear you speak Spanish that they most likely won’t be offended if you fail to use the more appropriate one. The key here is not to worry much about it, as this can interrupt you from practicing. My best tip? Use usted when you’re in doubt, and tune into how Spanish speakers respond to you! As always, a Spanish tutor can help you if you’re confused!

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Athens, GA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. He is currently attending the University of Georgia. Learn more about Jason here! 

Photo by Josep Ma. Rosell

 

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Learn Spanish Grammar: Present Perfect Conjugations

Spanish Present Perfect Conjugations

Ready for your next lesson in Spanish grammar? Here, tutor Jason N. explains what you need to know about present perfect conjugations…

 

Mastering verb conjugation is crucial to learning Spanish. It’s all about knowing patterns and formulas, as I’ve reviewed in some of my earlier posts about Spanish grammar.

If you’re reading this now, it probably means you are well aware of the importance of conjugating verbs to describe situations and events. Conjugations also enable us to form coherent sentences that specify the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘when’ of a particular action.

By now, you have come a long way. You know how to conjugate basic verbs in the present tense (such as beber, hablar, and escribir), stem-changing verbs in the present tense (such as pedir, poder, and querer), irregular verb conjugations in their ‘yo’ form (such as vengo for the verb venir), and how to conjugate Spanish verbs in the past tense, the imperfect, and the conditional and future tenses.

Next up? The present perfect!

What is the Present Perfect Tense?

While the preterite tense refers to a one-time, isolated event in the past, and the imperfect tense describes past events that occurred in a habitual or routine manner, the present perfect refers to past actions, events, thoughts, or beliefs that are still happening or are in progress, and are likely to continue into the present (i.e. ‘something has happened’).

All we need to do now is learn a new formula that will make present perfect conjugations so easy that they will become second nature. The present perfect is conjugated by using the following formula: haber (in the present tense) + the past participle of a given verb.

Forming the Past Participle

To form the past participle for an -ar verb, there are two simple steps:

  1. Remove the last two letters of infinite form of the -ar verb (e.g. tomar→tom).
  2. Add –ado to the end of the verb (e.g. tomado). In this case, tomado translates to the word “taken” in English, which is the past participle of the verb “to take.”

To form the past participle of -er or -ir verbs, you simply add –ido (instead of –ado) to the end of the word, after removing the last two letters of the verb’s ending in the infinitive form (e.g. comer→com→comido).

Forming the Present Perfect

Now that you know how to conjugate the past participle in Spanish, we can add this to the present perfect formula (present tense of haber + past participle of a given verb) to create the present perfect tense. As a reminder, haber is conjugated like this:

How to conjugate haber chart

As we move on to the next step,  let’s start with the example of the verb tomar.

Conjugating -ar Verbs in the Present Perfect

  • Create the correct participle. (tomar→tom→tomado = ‘taken’)
  • If you are referring to yo or ‘I,’ use he, forming he tomado. (I have taken)
  • If you are referring to or ‘you,’ use has to form has tomado. (You have taken)
  • If you are referring to él or ella or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use ha to form ha tomado. (He/she has taken)
  • If you are referring to nosotros or ‘we,’ use hemos to form hemos tomado. (We have taken)
  • If you are referring to ellos or ‘they,’ use the ending han to form han tomado. (They have taken)

Conjugating -er and -ir Verbs in the Present Perfect

As an example, let’s use comer (to eat).

  • Create the correct participle. (comer→com→comido = ‘eaten’)
  • ‘Yo’ would be he comido. (I have eaten)
  • If you are referring to  or ‘you,’ it would be has comido. (You have eaten)
  • If you are referring to él or ella or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use ha comido. (He/she has eaten)
  • If you are referring to nosotros or ‘we,’ use hemos comido. (We have eaten)
  • If you are referring to ellos or ‘they,’ use han comido. (They have eaten)

Spanish Present Perfect

Ready for some practice? Conjugate the following in the present perfect tense:

Spanish Conjugation Chart - Present Perfect Tense

Irregular Past Participles

There are several verbs that have irregular past participle forms. Unfortunately, memorizing these verbs’ past participles is the best way to learn them.

Irregular Past Participles

Verbs with the same root as irregular verbs naturally have the same irregularities. Here are a few examples:

  • componer – compuesto
  • describir – descrito
  • devolver – devuelto

Once you memorize the irregulars, which is easier than it sounds (once you practice or study regularly), you’ll be ready to go! Remember: a Spanish tutor can really help if you get stuck!

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

Photo by m00by

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Learn Spanish Grammar: Intro to the Subjunctive Mood

Spanish Subjunctive

You’ve learned about how to conjugate verbs in Spanish, and have a basic command of the language. Next up? Understanding the subjunctive mood! Read on as tutor Jason N. explains…

 

As you’re learning Spanish, it’s a smart idea to keep track of your progress. Your teacher or tutor can help you with this; if you’re learning on your own, try testing your Spanish here.

So, what’s next once you can communicate the basics comfortably and confidently? Advanced students who want to take their knowledge beyond basic communication can now begin learning about the Spanish subjunctive, usually taught in the third, fourth, or fifth year in schools or universities. To speak Spanish well, knowing when to use the Spanish subjunctive is indispensable.

Why the Subjunctive is Important to Learn

  • It’s ubiquitous in the language.
  • Using it makes you sound like you really know how to speak Spanish competently.
  • It enables you to tune into and express beautiful subtleties of the language that aren’t so clear or simply don’t exist in English.
  • It allows you to express your point or opinion with more specificity.
  • It has been referred to as a key indicator that distinguishes a fluent speaker who merely “gets by” learning the language from one who speaks it well.
  • You cannot speak as proficiently as native Spanish speakers without learning it.

So, What is the Spanish Subjunctive?

Although it’s commonly referred to as the subjunctive tense in Spanish, it’s actually more of a mood, which acts as a category of tenses. You’ll know when to use Spanish subjunctive when you’re trying to imply an uncertainty about a given situation (more on this below).

Conjugating the Spanish Subjunctive

Conjugating the subjunctive is similar to forming formal commands in Spanish. The steps are outlined below:

How to conjugate the subjunctive tense in Spanish

Additional Examples

To clarify and provide a reference point, let’s compare subjunctive verb conjugation to present indicative (normal) verb conjugation. Here are some key examples:

hablar (to talk)

Hablar Chart vivir (to live)

Vivir Chart

Here’s another example with the slightly irregular verb llegar, meaning ‘to arrive.’ Here the a turns into ue, instead of just e. (See my previous post on Spanish stem-changing verbs to clarify this.)

llegar (to arrive)

Llegar Chart

When to Use the Present Subjunctive

Llegar will be the example used throughout the following 10 key contexts for using the present subjunctive.

Context #1: When the subordinate clause has elements that express doubt or negation

  • Es difícil que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s hard for them to arrive on time.)
  • No creo que lleguen a tiempo. (I don’t think they’ll arrive on time.)
  • Dudo que lleguen a tiempo. (I doubt they’ll arrive on time.)

Context #2: When the subordinate clause has elements that express desire, fear, judgment, or other emotions/feelings

  • Ojalá/espero que lleguen a tiempo. (I hope they arrive on time.)
  • Temo que lleguen a tiempo. (I’m scared they will arrive on time.)
  • Es triste que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s sad they arrive on time.)
  • Estoy feliz de que lleguen a tiempo. (I’m happy they arrive on time.)
  • ¡Qué bueno que lleguen a tiempo! (It’s good they arrive on time!)
  • Quisiera que llegaran a tiempo. (I would like them to arrive on time.)
  • Es raro/extraño que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s odd they arrive on time.)

Context #3: When the subordinate clause has elements that express possibility

  • Es probable que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s probable they arrive on time.)
  • Es posible que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s possible they arrive on time.)
  • Quizá lleguen a tiempo. (Maybe they arrive on time.)
  • Puede que lleguen a tiempo. (It could be that they arrive on time)

Note: Many competent Spanish-speakers don’t employ the subjunctive in these contexts to consciously or unconsciously communicate less doubt in the possibility.

Context #4: When the subordinate clause has elements that express need

  • Es necesario que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s necessary they arrive on time.)
  • Necesito que lleguen a tiempo. (I need them to arrive on time.)
  • Es preciso que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s essential they arrive on time.)

Context #5: When the subordinate clause has elements that express an expected pattern

  • Es normal que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s normal that they arrive on time.)
  • Es lógico que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s logical that they arrive on time.)
  • Es frecuente que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s frequent they arrive on time.)
  • Es razonable que lleguen a tiempo. (It’s reasonable they arrive on time.)

Context #6: When the subordinate clause has elements that express specificity

  • Quiero una novia que sea guapa. (I want a girlfriend who is pretty.)

Context #7: When the subordinate clause refers to a past event before it occurred [past subjunctive]

  • Ya supe eso antes de que viniera Juan. (I knew that before Juan arrived.)

Context #8: When the subordinate clause introduces depends on the main clause

  • Eso depende de qué hora lleguen. (That depends on what time they arrive.)

Context #9: When the subordinate clause directly causes or affects the main clause

  • El clima hace que no lleguen a tiempo. (The weather makes them not arrive on time.)
  • El clima permite que lleguen a tiempo. (The weather allows them to arrive on time.)

Context #10: In some cases, when the subordinate clause introduces a fact

  • El hecho de que lleguen a tiempo significa que son punctual.
    (The fact that they arrive on time means they are punctual.)

It’s important to note that there are other important contexts where the subjunctive mood is employed that I didn’t mention here. Also, the subjunctive follows a whole new set of rules in the past tense (i.e. the past subjunctive). My goal here was to highlight the most common contexts for using the present subjunctive. A Spanish tutor can really help you master this tricky yet indispensable aspect of the language. If you’ve learned the Spanish subjunctive, you clearly know your Spanish!

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

Photo by Bill Dickinson

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3 Key Word Pairs You MUST Memorize in Spanish

You’ve learned verb conjugations, memorized some basic vocabulary words, and have begun sneaking Spanish practice into your daily life. But before you move on: do you know the difference between ser and estar? There are a few key distinctions that you MUST know to speak well. Here, Fairfax, CA Spanish tutor Jason N. explains…

The Spanish language makes distinctions that do not exist in English. These differences can be especially confusing for native English-speaking when they are learning Spanish, and therefore tend to occupy several chapters in most Spanish textbooks. They also are common class or lecture topics Spanish professors address, especially when transitioning from beginning to intermediate level. While knowing these differences is vital to knowing the language, many Spanish learners get turned off when trying to decipher them.

The purpose of this blog is to make this clearer. The exciting part is that grasping these differences powerfully enriches your command of the language. This will allow you to articulate your experience in unprecedented ways and identify more culture-specific aspects of the Spanish language.

Let’s start with the first three most common distinctions in Spanish that don’t exist in English.

What’s the difference between ser and estar? Why does it matter?

While both these verbs translate in English as ‘to be,’ they refer to different types of being. Ser refers to permanent, stable, non-changing attributes, such as your gender, personality qualities, where you’re from, what you do for a living. Estar, on the other hand, refers to time- and situation-dependent attributes, conditions, and states, such as emotions or behavior. Ser is also used with events.

Interestingly, ser is used with time and estar is used when referring to death, revealing fascinating implications about how most Spanish-speaking cultures regard life and death, stemming for their proclivity toward belief in the after-life and the Spanish language’s Catholic legacy.

Here is a useful example: When you use ser referring to boredom, you are saying, “He is boring,” (referring to a boring person) whereas when you use estar referring to boredom, it means “He is bored.”

Because Spanish makes this distinction between these ways of being, there is no actual difference between the words ‘bored’ and ‘boring’ in Spanish, underscoring how important it is to learn these distinctions to boost your language skills and accurately convey what you mean. Similarly, if someone tends to be quiet across many contrasting situations, I would use ser, and if they are only being quiet now, I would use estar.

Here’s a great visual representation of the difference between ser and estar:

Difference between ser and estar

Now, practice which to use in the following contexts (don’t scroll down to the answers until you try the practice!):

1) It’s 11 o’clock.
2) I am from San Francisco.
3) I’m feeling happy about my new promotion.
4) The fly is dead.
5) Jim is tired.
6) I’m usually energetic but know I’m lethargic (note the two distinctions present here).

Answer Key:

1) S
2) S
3) E
4) E
5) E
6) S, E

Didn’t score too well on the quiz? This video goes more into detail on the difference between ser and estar. Check it out for some additional pointers!

What’s the difference between por and para? Why does it matter?

While they both refer to the word ‘for’ in English, they are quite distinct. The general distinction is that por tends to emphasize movement, exchange, process and motion, while para emphasizes outcomes, deadlines, goals, results and/or destination. Aside from referring to ‘for,’ in many situations, por can also mean ‘by’ or ‘through’ and para often means ‘in order to.’

difference between por and para

Practice which to use in the following contexts (again, don’t scroll down until you’re ready!):

1) I work to earn a living for my family.
2) The river passes through the valley.
3) The book was by Pablo Neruda.
4) I work for Juan Sanchez.
5) I paid $4 for the soup.
6) Thanks for playing.
7) For example…
8) I’ll bring tomato for the party.

Answer Key:

1) Para
2) Por
3) Por
4) Para
5) Por
6) Por
7) Por
8) Para

What’s the difference between saber and conocer? Why does it matter?

Saber and conocer both mean ‘to know’ in English, but again they’re strikingly different types of knowing. Saber is more about book knowledge, memorization, and procedural skills whereas conocer is about familiarity, ‘knowing of’ things, and when you meet someone and/or know them.

difference between saber and conocer

Practice which to use in the following contexts:

1) I know Mr. Big Boss.
2) I know the lyrics to that song perfectly.
3) I know how to cook.
4) I know that city.

Answer Key:

1) C
2) S
3) S
4) C

Need more help distinguishing between saber and conocer? This quick video lesson helps clear up a lot of the confusion.


Did this article help you grasp word pairs better? A Spanish tutor can help you master these key differences even more. Don’t have a tutor yet? Search for a Spanish tutor near you.

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years, and studied Spanish Literature at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here!

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4 Quick and Simple Rules for Spanish Accent Marks

4 Simple Rules for Using Spanish Accent Marks & Tildes

 

As you learn Spanish, you’ll come across rules that are important for writing. In this article, you’ll learn all about Spanish accent marks and when to use them.

Most beginners ignore accent marks while learning Spanish. They don’t know what they mean, or how to use them correctly. Beginners often assume that their word processor will help place them when typing in Spanish and that accent marks aren’t mandatory to fully understand Spanish.

This isn’t true, and ignoring them only hinders your learning. The good news is that they’re easier to learn than they seem. Understanding Spanish accent marks enables you to appreciate one of the many beautiful aspects of Spanish that makes it unique.

[tl-live.class-carousel]

Why You Should Learn Spanish Accent Marks

If you understand Spanish accents, you’ll not only impress native speakers, but you’ll also know how to pronounce words precisely, and you won’t be confused when you come across a written word with an accent.

An accent mark shows you exactly how a word is supposed to be pronounced, and often times, it even shows you what that word means. It makes Spanish pronunciation and comprehension that much easier.

For pronunciation, if a word does not contain an accent mark, it follows the simple rules below (Rules 2 and 3). If a word DOES contain an accent mark, that mark tells us exactly which letter to put a stress on when we say it aloud.

For comprehension, an accent mark can tell us the differences between two words that sound the same but are spelled differently. (See the “homonyms” chart below).

Now, let’s establish some simple rules…

4 Rules for Spanish Accent Marks

Rule #1:

Spanish accents are called “tildes” in Spanish. In English, a “tilde” refers to the “mustache” that goes over the “n” (ñ), and all other marks are called “accent marks.” However in Spanish, a “tilde” is used for both accent marks and tildes.

Accent marks are only used with five vowels (a, e, i, o, u), and they’re written from lower left to upper right on top:

á, é, í, ó, ú

Rule #2:

When words end in a vowel, “n,” or “s,” and don’t contain an accent mark, the stress falls on the second to last syllable. Words with a stress on the second to last syllable are called “palabras llanas.”

• gente (gen-te) – people – (stress the first “e”)

• bonito (bon-i-to) – pretty – (stress the “i”)

• ponen (pon-en) – they put – (stress the “o”)

• hablas (hab-las) – you talk – (stress the first “a”)

Rule #3:

When words end in a consonant that isn’t “n” or “s” and the words don’t contain an accent mark, the stress falls on the last syllable. Words with a stress on the last syllable are called “palabras agudas.”

• la capital (cap-i-tal) – the capitol – (stress the second “a”)

• tomar (tom-ar) – to take – (stress the “a”)

• la edad (e-dad) – age – (stress the “a”)

• el pudor (pu-dor) – embarrassment – (stress the “o”)

Rule #4:

Add accent marks when the word’s stress doesn’t follow Rule #2 or #3, meaning the stress doesn’t lie where it does normally. This means that when we pronounce words with an accent mark, we put the stress on the letter that is accented instead of basing our pronunciation solely on the last letter of the word.

Sometimes, the accent makes them “palabras llanas” or “palabras agudas.” Sometimes, the accent also makes words “palabras esdrújulas,” a word where the stress falls on the third from the last syllable.

el corazón (cor-a-zón) – heart 

(Rule #2 would say stress the a, but instead, the accent mark shows you to stress the second “o.”)

los jóvenes (jó-ven-es) – young people 

(Rule #2 would say stress the e, but instead, the accent mark shows you to stress the “o.”)

las águilas (ág-uil-as) – eagles

(Rule #3 would say stress the u, but instead, the accent mark shows you to stress the first “a.”)

fácil (fá-cil) – easy 

(Rule #3 would say stress the i, but instead, the accent mark shows you to stress the “a.”)

For more explanation surrounding these rules, check out the following video tutorial.

Accent Marks, or Tildes, in Questions

Accent marks are also used in Spanish with direct or indirect question words:

Tildes Examples - Spanish Accent Marks and rules

Accent Marks in Homonyms

Lastly, what about homonyms in Spanish? Spanish also utilizes accent marks to distinguish between homonyms, words with the same pronunciation but that have different meanings. For example:

Tildes Homonym

The above vocabulary will likely take some practice… but eventually it’ll become like second nature!

Related: Learn and Practice Spanish Verb Conjugations

To Recap…

Spanish Accent Marks - Tildes Rules

When it comes to writing an essay or paper in Spanish, there are a couple different ways to make sure you’re adding accents properly. Many writers choose to use keyboard shortcuts, like the ones you’ll see here. Keep in mind that the commands will be different from Macs to PCs.

An even better option is to download a word processor like Mellel that has multilingual functionality. Mellel allows you to write easily and effectively in the language of your choice, with over 200 different options available.

Still need help knowing when and where to use Spanish accent marks? Find a Spanish teacher online, or near you, for additional one-on-one tutoring!

Spanish Vocabulary: Intro to Spanish Transition Words

 

Once you’ve learned the basics of Spanish, it’s time to make your sentences flow! Here, we’ll explain the importance of transition words.

Intermediate Spanish students frequently ask how they can take their Spanish skills to the next level or sound just a bit more natural. One simple way to do this is to add transitions to your sentences.

This not only provides a good flow and allows the listener or reader to simply follow along, but it also adds interest.

Why Transition Words Matter in Spanish

Take, for example, this short summary of what I did today:

I did laundry and cleaned the dishes. I tutored a client. I watched TV with my dog. I did some work.

Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? One reason this sounds like no fun at all is because these sentences lack transitions. As native English speakers, we are naturally familiar with adding transitions to our sentences, but many beginner to intermediate-level students tend to forget to add these same transitions when they are writing in or speaking Spanish.

If I had added just a few transitions, the reader would be much more interested and the story would have a better flow:

After waking up, I did laundry and cleaned the dishes. Then I tutored a few clients. After helping all of my clients, I came home and watched TV with my dog. Finally, I sat at my desk and did some work.

Sure, it may still be a little boring, but there’s better flow and progression between the sentences and hopefully you found it at least a little more interesting. This is a prime example of why it’s important to use transitions in Spanish.

Types of Spanish Transitions

There are several different types of transitions, including…

  • transitions for time (first, later, then)
  • transitions for place (above, opposite from)
  • transitions to add an idea (also, furthermore)
  • transitions to explain an idea (for example, in other words)
  • transitions to compare and contrast ideas (although, on the contrary)
  • transitions to show a result (consequently, therefore)
  • transitions to emphasize an idea (above all, in fact)
  • and transitions to summarize (in conclusion, that is)

Time transitions are some of the most common that new Spanish speakers begin with. When you are first using time Spanish transition words, it’s best to place the transitional word at the beginning of the sentence. For example, “Durante el día, yo trabajo con estudiantes” (“During the day, I work with students”). “During the day” or “durante el día” is the transitional phrase that explains when the action takes place.

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Another common type of transition is placement. This type of transition is used within the sentence and tends to come somewhat naturally for students since it is a necessity to explain where something is.

For example, “Mi grapadora está al lado de mi calculadora” (“My stapler is next to my calculator”). In this case, the transition must be within the sentence because it’s relating the stapler to the calculator. It’s also worth noting that the verb used here is estar and not ser because the location of the stapler is temporary. (Editor’s Note: Learn more about estar vs. ser here!)

All of the other transitions are typically either the very first word or phrase in the sentence or come after a break in the sentence (that is, they are the first word or phrase in the second major phrase of the sentence).

For example, I could say, “No tengo leche. Por lo tanto tengo que ir al supermercado” (“I am out of milk. Therefore, I must go to the store”).

Or I could say “No tengo leche, por lo tanto tengo que ir al supermercado” (“I am out of milk, and therefore must go to the store”).

Here you can see that I can place “therefore” either at the beginning of the sentence to explain the result of not having any milk, or I can add a comma or semicolon and place the transition word after the comma or semicolon.

Related: How to use accent marks, Spanish adjectives, Cognates, and Verb conjugation.

More Examples of Spanish Transition Words

Common Spanish Transition Words

We hope this article has helped you realize the importance of adding transitions and transitional phrases to your current Spanish vocabulary! Please don’t be scared to start sprinkling them in whenever you can.

And remember, the only way to really improve at anything is to practice, practice, practice. Take it slow and don’t be afraid to practice Spanish with other people! To get expert help at Spanish, try taking private Spanish lessons, or our Spanish classes at TakeLessons Live.

Spanish Verb Conjugation: Helpful Charts & Tips

A big part of learning to speak Spanish is an understanding of basic grammar rules — and one of the first things you’ll need to know is Spanish verb conjugation.

Let’s start with the most important question: why is it important to learn conjugation? Conjugation enables us to use verbs to describe real live situations and events.

Without knowing how to conjugate verbs we would not be able to form coherent sentences. Just like in English, conjugating verbs (along with other Spanish grammar basics) is essential to learning the language.

Even though most native English-speakers don’t know this, we conjugate verbs all the time in English. Let’s use the example of the verb to watch in English. To conjugate it, we say:                            

  • I watch
  • You watch
  • He/she watches
  • We watch
  • They watch

As you can see, verb conjugation in English is quite simple. Almost all English verbs only have two variants when conjugating (i.e. watch vs. watches), with the exception of the verb to be which has three variants:

  • I am
  • You are
  • He is
  • We are
  • They are

How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs

Spanish, on the other hand, always conjugates verbs into five variants. Let’s use the same example of the verb to watch in Spanish, which is mirar.

  • Yo miro
  • Tú miras
  • Él/Ella/Usted mira
  • Nosotros miramos
  • Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes miran

Again, as you can see, Spanish breaks down verbs into five different ending variants, which can feel overwhelming and confusing. Learning how it works can appear complicated at first, but luckily you can use the formula below that makes it so easy, it will become second nature.

Start with the following three steps to conjugate Spanish verbs:How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs

 

How to Conjugate -ar Verbs in Spanish

Let’s take mirar (to watch), for example:

  • If you are referring to ‘yo’ or ‘I,’ add the letter ‘o’ to end the conjugated verb, forming miro.
  • If you are referring to ‘tú’ or ‘you,’ use the ending ‘as,’ to form miras.
  • If you are referring to ‘él’ or ‘ella” or ‘he or she,’ use the ending ‘a,’ to form mira.
  • If you are referring to ‘nosotros’ or ‘we,’ use the ending ‘amos’ to form miramos.
  • If you are referring to ‘ellos’ or ‘they,’ use the ending ‘an,’ to form miran.

How to Conjugate -er Verbs in Spanish

Let’s take comer (to eat), for example:

  • ‘Yo’ stays the same here, with the ‘o’ ending, just like -ar verbs, to form como.
  • If you are referring to ‘tú’ or ‘you,’ use the ending ‘es,’ to form comes.
  • If you are referring to ‘él’ or ‘ella” or ‘he or she,’ use the ending ‘e,’ to form come.
  • If you are referring to ‘nosotros’ or ‘we,’ use the ending ‘emos,’ to form comemos.
  • If you are referring to ‘ellos’ or ‘they,’ use the ending ‘en,’ to form comen.

How to Conjugate -ir Verbs in Spanish

  • These verbs follow the same rules as with -er verbs, except that in the nosotros (we) form, the ending becomes -imos instead of -emos.

Here’s a great Spanish verb conjugation chart from Spanish411.net that summarizes these rules:

spanish verb conjugation chart

Spanish Conjugation Chart for More Practice

Use a simple chart like the one below, and practice conjugating each of the verbs.

Spanish conjugation chart

It seems easy, right? The formula is straightforward but it does get a little tricky when the verbs are “stem-changers” or irregular, which a Spanish tutor can help you understand in more detail. Additionally, conjugation in Spanish varies significantly when the tense changes to past or future.

What About Vosotros?

As you’re working on your Spanish conjugation practice, you may notice that some charts have a space for vosotros conjugation, while others don’t. Spain is the only Spanish-speaking country that actually breaks down verbs into six variants, not five, which commonly isn’t taught in Spanish classes in the United States. Here, Spain makes a distinction between “they” and “you all,” which is used interchangeably in all other Spanish-speaking countries, as speakers use contextual cues to decipher the difference.

Want Extra Spanish Conjugation Practice?

Check out the CoolJugator, a free online Spanish verb conjugator that makes practicing easy. Search for any verb, and you’ll see all of the conjugations, as well as examples in Spanish along with the English translation.

Of course, your Spanish tutor will also have recommendations for exercises and activities to try. This article will get you started, but a Spanish tutor will be able to really help you conjugate Spanish verbs with mastery!

Photo by The LEAF Project