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Encyclopedia > Spanish grammar
Spanish language
The letter Ñ on a Spanish keyboard
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Spanish (Español) is a language originating in North-Central Spain which is spoken throughout Spain, most countries in the Americas, the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea. This article is about the international language known as Spanish. ... Image File history File links Please see the file description page for further information. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Note: This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... Note: This page or section contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... Note: This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... The Spanish language has nouns that express concrete objects, groups and classes of objects, qualities, feelings and other abstractions. ... The Spanish language has a range of pronouns that in some ways work quite differently from English ones. ... The Spanish language uses adjectives in a similar way to English and most other Indo-European languages. ... The Spanish language has a relatively large number of prepositions. ... Spanish verbs are one of the most complex areas of Spanish grammar. ... Main article: Spanish verbs This is a paradigm of Spanish verbs, that is, a set of conjugation tables, for the model regular verbs and for some of the most common irregular verbs (see the article on Spanish irregular verbs for common patterns of irregularity that may help understanding this paradigm). ... Spanish verbs are a complex area of Spanish grammar, with many combinations of tenses, aspects and moods (up to fifty conjugated forms per verb). ...


It is an inflected language, with a two-gender system and about fifty conjugated forms per verb, but without noun declension and simplified pronominal declension. This article is in need of attention. ... In linguistics, grammatical gender is a morphological category associated with the expression of gender through inflection or agreement. ... In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection (regular alteration according to rules of grammar). ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... In English, a noun or noun substantive is a lexical category which is defined in terms of how its members combine with other grammatical kinds of expressions. ... In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns and adjectives to indicate such features as number (typically singular vs. ... In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a word that usually takes the place of a noun or noun phrase that was previously mentioned (such as she, it) or that refers to something or someone (I, me, you). Pronouns are often one of the basic parts of speech of the...


Spanish was the first Romance language to have a grammar, written in 1492 by the Andalusian linguist Antonio de Nebrija. Statue of Antonio de Nebrija, outside of the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid. ...


The Real Academia Española traditionally dictated the rules of the Spanish language, but since the 1960s its prestige has declined. Among the educated, the RAE's decisions are viewed as suggestions; among the uneducated, they are largely unknown. This article first describes the most formal and standard rules of modern Spanish, and then goes on to detail idioms and colloquialisms. The Real Academia Española (Spanish for Royal Spanish Academy, RAE) is the institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. ... This article is about the international language known as Spanish. ... The 1960s decade refers to the years from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1969, inclusive. ...


Formal differences between Peninsular and American Spanish are remarkably few, and someone who has learned the dialect of one area will have no difficulties using reasonably formal speech in the other. However, pronunciation does vary, and idiomatic usage can cause amusing difficulties. In particular, many verbs common in the Peninsula need to be avoided in America. In Spain, for instance, coger simply means "to catch", whereas in South America it has an explicit sexual meaning.

Contents

Verbs

Main articles: Spanish verbs, Spanish conjugation and Spanish irregular verbs. Spanish verbs are one of the most complex areas of Spanish grammar. ... Main article: Spanish verbs This is a paradigm of Spanish verbs, that is, a set of conjugation tables, for the model regular verbs and for some of the most common irregular verbs (see the article on Spanish irregular verbs for common patterns of irregularity that may help understanding this paradigm). ... Spanish verbs are a complex area of Spanish grammar, with many combinations of tenses, aspects and moods (up to fifty conjugated forms per verb). ...


At first, verbs are one of the trickier areas of Spanish for speakers of English. There are three main conjugations, and over fifty conjugated forms per verb. However, the three conjugations are similar, and there are relatively few irregular verbs (and only a very small number of verbs which are wildly irregular).


Nouns

Main article: Spanish nouns The Spanish language has nouns that express concrete objects, groups and classes of objects, qualities, feelings and other abstractions. ...


Spanish has nouns that express concrete objects, groups and classes of objects, qualities, feelings and other abstractions. As in English, all nouns are either countable or uncountable (not to imply that the distinction is always clear-cut) and, unlike English, also have a conventional grammatical gender (masculine or feminine). The gender is sometimes obvious (chica En. 'girl' is feminine) while others seem strange (mesa En. 'table' is feminine). Countable nouns inflect for number (singular and plural). See the main article for further information. In English, a noun or noun substantive is a lexical category which is defined in terms of how its members combine with other grammatical kinds of expressions. ...


Adjectives

Main article: Spanish adjectives The Spanish language uses adjectives in a similar way to English and most other Indo-European languages. ...


Generally speaking, Spanish uses adjectives in a similar way to English and most other Indo-European languages. However, there are three key differences between English and Spanish adjectives

  • In Spanish, adjectives usually go after the noun they modify. The exception is when the writer/speaker is being slightly emphatic, or even poetic, about a particular quality of an object (rather than the mundane use of using the quality to specifiy which particular object they are referring to).
    • Mi casa roja could either mean that there are lots of red houses in the world but I wish to talk about the one that I happen to own, or that I have many houses but am referring to the red one. Mi casa roja = My house, the red one.
    • Mi roja casa means that I am stressing how red is the house of mine that I am referring to (probably the only house I have). Mi roja casa = My house, which is obviously red.
  • In Spanish, adjectives agree with what they refer to in terms of both number (singular/plural) and gender (masculine/feminine). Eg mano (hand) is feminine, so "the red hand" is la mano roja.
  • In Spanish, it is perfectly normal to let an adjective stand in for a noun or pronoun—with (where people are involved) no implication of condescencion or rudeness. eg los altos means "the tall ones" or "the tall men". El grande means "the big one" or "the big man".

See the main article for further information. In languages, agreement is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. ...


Determiners

Main article: Spanish determiners This article does not cite its references or sources. ...


Spanish uses determiners in a similar way to English. The main difference is that they "agree" with what they refer to in terms of both number (singular/plural) and gender (masculine/feminine). For the function in NP structure, see Determiner (function). ...


Articles

Definite ones: used instead of "the". Indefinite ones: used instead of a/an, some.

ARTÍCULOS Definidos Indefinidos
Masculino El, los un, unos
Femenino La, las Una, unas

mucho (mucha, muchos, muchas); poco (poca, pocos, pocas); otro (otra, otros, otras)...


Demonstratives

Spanish has three kinds of demonstrative, whose use depends on the distance beetwen the speaker and the described thing/person. The demonstrative equates to the English terms "this" and "that", although in Spanish the word used must agree for number and gender.

DEMOSTRATIVOS Corta (short) Media (middle) Larga (long)
Masculino singular Este Ese Aquel
Masculino plural Estos Esos Aquellos
Femenino singular Esta Esa Aquella
Femenino plural Estas Esas Aquellas

Possessive

Those are quite difficult, because of the gender and number. The first one in the table is a possessive adjective, the second is a possessive pronoun. Headline text hjvhwhatsgm,Possessive adjectives modify nouns. ... A possessive pronoun is a part of speech that attributes ownership to someone or something. ...

POSESIVOS 1ª persona singular 2ª persona singular 3ª persona singular 1ª persona plural 2ª persona plural 3ª persona plural
Masculino Mi(s), mío(s) Tu(s), tuyo(s) Su(s), suyo(s) Nuestro(s), nuestro(s) Vuestro(s), vuestro(s) Su(s), suyo(s)
Femenino Mi(s), mía(s) Tu(s), tuya(s) Su(s), suya(s) Nuestra(s), nuestra(s) Vuestra(s), vuestra(s) Su(s), suya(s)

Other determiners

Indefinite quantity: poco (little), mucho (a lot), bastante (enough)...


Cardinals: un (one/a, an), dos (two), tres (three)...


Ordinals: primero (first), segundo (second), tercero (third)...


Interrogative (¿): qué (what), cuándo (when), cómo (how), quién (who), dónde (where), por qué (why), cuál (which).


The cardinal numbers greater than un and the interrogatives (except cuál) are indeclinable. The indefinite quantifiers, ordinals, un, and cuál are declined as adjectives.


See the main article for further details.


Pronouns

Main article: Spanish pronouns The Spanish language has a range of pronouns that in some ways work quite differently from English ones. ...


Spanish has a range of pronouns that in some ways work quite differently from English ones. They include: yo, tú, vos, usted, él, ella, ello, nosotros, vosotros, ustedes, ellos, ellas, ésto, eso, aquéllo etc.


See the main article for further details.


Prepositions

Main article: Spanish prepositions The Spanish language has a relatively large number of prepositions. ...


Spanish has a relatively large number of prepositions, and does not use postpositions. The following list is traditionally recited: It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with adposition. ... A postposition is a type of adposition, a grammatical particle that expresses some sort of relationship between a noun phrase (its object) and another part of the sentence; an adpositional phrase functions as an adjective or adverb. ...


A, ante, bajo, cabe, con, contra, de, desde, durante, en, entre, hacia, hasta, mediante, para, por, pro, según, sin, so, sobre, tras.


Lately, two new prepositions have been added: "durante" and "mediante", usually placed at the end.


This list includes two archaic prepositions (so and cabe), but leaves out two new Latinisms (vía and pro) as well as a large number of very important compound prepositions.


Prepositions in Spanish do not (as they do in English) convert a verb into a completely different one. Therefore to translate "run out of water" "run up a bill" "run down a pedestrian" "run in a thief" into Spanish requires competely different verbs, NOT simply the use of "correr" ("run") plus the corresponding Spanish prepositions.


See the main article for further information.


Miscellaneous

Conjunctions

The conjunctions y ("and") and o ("or") change form depending on the first syllable sound of the word they precede:


Y is replaced by e if the next word begins with an i or hi (generally any i sound). Thus, Fernando y Isabella becomes Fernando e Isabella. [Note the cacophony in the i sound if y is used]


O is replaced by u if the next word starts with an o or ho (again, generally any o sound). Thus, Sujeto o objeto becomes Sujeto u objeto. [Note the cacophony in the o sound if o is used]


In a purely pragmatic construction, o takes an accent (ó) only when placed between two numbers so as to clarify between the conjuction o and the number zero. So, Desean 2 ó 3 más instead of Desean 2 o 3 más.


Cleft sentences

A cleft sentence is one formed with the copular verb (generally with a dummy pronoun like "it" as its subject), plus a word that "cleaves" the sentence, plus a subordinate clause. They are often used to put emphasis on a part of the sentence. Here are some examples of English sentences and their cleft versions: A cleft sentence is a sentence formed by a main clause and a subordinate clause, which together express a meaning that could be shown using a simple sentence, but focusing on a particular constituent. ... A dummy pronoun (or more formally expletive pronoun or pleonastic pronoun) is a type of pronoun used in non-pro-drop languages, such as English, when a particular argument of a verb (or preposition) is nonexistent, unknown, irrelevant, already understood, or otherwise not to be spoken of directly, but a...

  • "I did it." → "It was me/I who/that did it."
  • "You'll stop smoking through willpower." → "It's through willpower that you'll stop smoking."

Spanish does not usually employ such a structure in simple sentences. The translations of sentences like these can be readily analyzed as being normal sentences containing relative pronouns. Spanish is capable of expressing such concepts without a special cleft structure thanks to its flexible word order.


For example, if we translate a cleft sentence such as "It was John who lost the keys", we get Fue Juan el que perdió las llaves. Whereas the English sentence uses a special structure, the Spanish one does not. The verb fue has no dummy subject, and the pronoun el que is not a cleaver but a nominalising relative pronoun meaning "the [male] one that". Provided we respect the parings of "el que" and "las llaves", we can play with the word order of the Spanish sentence without affecting its structure - although each pemutation would, to a native speaker, give a subtly different shading of emphasis.


For example, we can say Juan fue el que perdió las llaves ("Juan was the one who lost the keys") or El que perdió las llaves fue Juan ("The one who lost the keys was Juan"). As can be seen from the translations, if this word order is chosen, English stops using the cleft structure (there is no more dummy "it" and a nominalising relative is used instead of the cleaving word) whilst in Spanish no words have changed.


Here are some examples of such sentences:

  • Fue Juan el que perdió las llaves. = "It was John who lost the keys."
  • Son sólo tres días los que te quedan. = "It is only three days that you have left."
  • Seré yo quien se lo diga. = "It will be I/me who tells him."
  • Son pocos los que vienen y se quedan. = lit. "It's not many who come and stay"

Note that it is ungrammatical to try to use just que to cleave such sentences as in English, but using quien in singular or quienes in plural is grammatical.

  • *Fue Juan que perdió las llaves. (incorrect)
  • Fue Juan quien perdió las llaves. (correct)

When prepositions come into play, things become complicated. Structures unambiguously identifiable as cleft sentences are used. The verb ser introduces the stressed element and then there is a nominaliser. Both of these are preceded by the relevant preposition. For example:

  • Fue a mí a quien le dio permiso. = "It was me that he gave permission to", lit. "It was to me to whom he gave permission.")
  • Es para nosotros para quienes se hizo esto. = "It's us that this was made for", lit. "It's for us for whom this was made"
  • Es por eso por lo que lo hice. = "That's why I did it", more literally: "It's because of that that I did it", or completely literally: "It's because of that because of which I did it."
  • Es así como se debe hacer = "It's this way that it must be done", lit. "It's this way how it must be done" (como replaces longer expressions such as la forma en que)

This structure is quite wordy, and is therefore often avoided by not using a cleft sentence at all. Emphasis is conveyed just by word order and stressing with the voice (indicated here within bolding):

  • Me dio permiso a . = "He gave permission to me"
  • Se hizo esto para nosotros. = "This was done for us"
  • Por eso lo hice. = "I did it because of that"
  • Se debe hacer así = "It must be done this way"

In casual speech, the complex cleaving pronoun is often reduced to que, just as it is reduced to "that" in English. Foreign learners are advised to avoid this.

  • Es para nosotros que se hizo esto.
  • Es por eso que lo hice.
  • Fue a mí que le dio permiso. (preferred: a quien)
  • Es así que se debe hacer (preferred: como)

In the singular, the subordinate clause can agree with either the relative pronoun or with the subject of the main sentence, though the latter is seldom used. However, in the plural, only agreement with the subject of the main sentence is acceptable. Therefore:

Singular
  • Yo fui el que me lo bebí = "I was the one who drank it" (agreement with subject of main sentence)
  • Yo fui el que se lo bebió (preferred form with same meaning, agreement with el que)
  • La que lo soy yo = "I'm the one who knows" (agreement with subject of main sentence)
  • La que lo sabe soy yo = (preferred form with same meaning, agreement with la que)
Plural
  • Somos los únicos que no tenemos ni un centavo para apostar = "We're the only ones who don't even have a cent to bet" (agreement with subject of main sentence) (from dialogue of Gabriel García Márquez novel)
  • Vosotras sois las que lo sabéis = "You girls are the ones who know" (agreement with subject of main sentence)

This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...

External links

  • English false friends and common mistakes

References

  • A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish — ISBN 0-340-58390-8
  • Diccionario esencial Santillana de la lengua española — ISBN 84-294-3415-1
  • Manual de dialectología hispánica — ISBN 84-344-8218-5
  • Cassell's Contemporary Spanish — ISBN 0-02-595915-8

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