When learning a new language one of the first things to master is its grammatical construction. And Spanish is no different to become a Spanish speaker you must begin with grammar!
There are some 25,000 words in the Spanish vocabulary, but don’t let that scare you. According to the Pareto principle, learning just 7% of the Spanish vocabulary means you’ll be able to understand around 90% of spoken Spanish.
Here are Some Spanish Grammar Points to Help you Form a Sentence.
The order and nature of words in the Spanish sentence
To learn to speak Spanish it is essential to assimilate grammar and syntax.
In syntactic typology, we say that Spanish is an "SVO" language, in which sentences follow a "subject-verb-object" order.
For example, you would write: “Pedro trabaja en la biblioteca”, “Peter works at the library ”
This order is found in most phrases and prepositions, for example:
- Holà! Cuanto cuesta viajar en America Latina?: Hello! How much does it cost to travel in South America?
- Maria toca la guitarra muy bien: Marie plays the guitar really well,
- A qué hora podemos comer acquí?: What time can we eat here?
Now that you know the general word order, it’s time to learn where to place adjectives.
Adjectives - possessive, qualifying, demonstrative – agree with the gender of the noun and whether it is singular or plural, eg:
- A beautiful woman : una mujer guapa,
- A handsome man : un hombre guapo,
- Two lovely apples : dos manzanas guapas.
Comparisons in Spanish
In Spanish, the comparative superiority or inferiority is expressed by adding "less" or "more" in front of the adjective:
- más fuerte (stronger),
- más rápido (faster),
- más alto (bigger),
- menos guapo (less pretty),
- menos inteligente (less intelligent).
With this, you can then form simple sentences with the order : subject + verb + comparative + adjective + que (that) + noun.
For example, “Julio es menos rápido que su hermana” (Julio is slower than his sister).
This step requires knowledge of Spanish conjugation tables, irregular verbs, the termination of all commonly used verbs, and time concordance.
Note that there are no personal pronouns in Spanish as we have in English (I, you, he, she, us, they). Instead, the ending of the verb changes to indicate whether it is in 1st person 2nd person etc.
Types of Spanish Sentences and Their Grammatical Construction
Granted, grammar is not the most fun part of learning a language, it takes time to grasp.
To master the Spanish sentence, you have to learn the different types:
In an affirmative sentence, the subject-verb-complement order is followed, except if there is a direct or indirect object complement, the direct object is placed in front of the indirect:
Pedro ha tocado el piano con sus amigos (Peter played piano with his friends) : subject + verb + direct object + indirect object.
But if the direct object is accompanied by a relative pronoun, the order is reversed: Pedro ha tocado con sus amigos el piano que tenga en su casa (Peter played with his friends on the piano that he has at home).
To form a sentence in the negative, the negation ‘no’ goes before the conjugated verb.
For example : Pedro no ha tocado el piano con sus amigos.
But when the object (le piano) is replaced by a pronoun (in order to not repeat the word piano for example) the word order changes: Pedro no lo ha tocado (Peter didn’t play it).
This grammar rule is useful mostly for shortening the sentence, for the sake of clarity, both in oral expression and in the written expression: "Lo hice sin saber si estabas allí" (I did it without knowing if you were there).
To use negation you need to learn a few pronouns:
- Nadie: no one,
- Ningún: none,
- Nunca/jamás: never,
- Tampoco: neither,
- Nada: nothing.
These pronouns are used especially to express double negation: when we want to build a negative sentence with nobody, nothing, never, etc., we must also use the adverb no: No veo a nadie en la calle: I don’t see anyone in the street
- No hay nada mas bonito: there’s nothing better,
- Yo no lo sé tampoco: I don’t know either,
- Yo no he ido nunca a Sudamérica: I’ve never been to South America.
The interrogative sentence
As in English, there are several types of interrogative sentences: the closed interrogation (which demands a yes or no answer) and the open interrogation that requires a verbal sentence in response.
You will have also seen the punctuation "¿" in writing: in Spanish this upside question mark marks the beginning of a question and is followed by a regular “?” at the end of the question (same rule for the exclamation point).
Here are some useful pronouns to use in an interrogative sentence:
- Quién/quiénes: who,
- Qué: what,
- Dónde, a dónde: where,
- Cuándo: when,
- Cuál/cuáles: which,
- Cuánto/cuánta/ cuántos/cuantas: how many,
- Por qué, para qué: why,
- Cómo: how.
Some example sentences:
- ¿ A dónde vive José ? Vive en Colombia: Where does José live? He lives in Colombia
- ¿ Desde cuánto tiempo juegas la guitarra ?: How long have you played the guitar for?
- ¿ A qué hora necessitamos llegar ?: What time do we need to arrive?
With these grammar basics, you’ll easily get by in South America or Spain. Now you just need to work on your vocabulary!
Courses and Exercises to Improve Spanish Grammar
When you want to get better acquainted with the Spanish language, you can try one of a few things: take a trip to Spain, take private Spanish lessons online with a Superprof teacher or learn Spanish online with the wealth of apps and websites.
There are plenty of sites to do grammar drills and exercises online. Among them is the site of the University of Austin in Texas. The site includes a colossal database of grammar, vocabulary, exercises, videos and podcasts to deepen your knowledge according to your level (beginner, intermediate, advanced, superior).
If you can, you really can’t do better than travelling to a Spanish speaking country to learn the language. You’ll experience a different culture whilst being completely immersed in Spanish!
Alternatively – and we’ve kept the best for the end! – find a Superprof tutor near you who will take you through exercises at your own pace and will also teach you to how to pronounce Spanish words.
Discover more about Spanish accents.
What is a Spanish diphthong?
Some spanish lessons will teach you all you need to know.