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A Quick Overview of Spanish Grammar

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As you know, grammar is an important part of any language, and Spanish is no exception. Spanish grammar has many similarities with other Romance languages, including many features that are comparable to English. 

In this article, we’re going to briefly explain the basics of Spanish grammar. We’ll also provide links to other articles and lessons on our website, where you’ll be able to find more detailed information on crucial Spanish grammar topics. In addition, we’ll explain some of the differences and similarities between the grammar rules of Spanish and English.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Spanish Table of Contents
  1. General Rules
  2. Verbs
  3. Nouns
  4. Adjectives
  5. Negation
  6. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Master Spanish

1. General Rules

To begin, we’ll look at some of the similarities between Spanish and English. 

a) Verbs

Spanish verbs have tenses and undergo conjugations. While English does have a few conjugations, Spanish, like any Romance language, definitely has more. We have an article on Spanish conjugations where you’ll find all the information you need on the topic. 

That said, the tenses are quite similar to those in English. There are only a few exceptions of tenses that exist in Spanish but aren’t specified in English. 

We’ll explain verbs a little further in the next section.

b) Word Order

As we explained in our article about Spanish word order, Spanish has the same basic word order model as English: S + V + O (Subject + Verb + Object). There are a few differences when it comes to adverb and adjective placement, but to create a basic sentence, you just need to follow the same order you would in English. Here’s an example of a simple sentence that translates word for word:

Example: Mi padre canta una canción.
Translation: “My father sings a song.”

Easy, right?

c) Vocabulary

While vocabulary isn’t actually a grammatical component, we thought we would briefly mention it as well, since it shares many similarities with English.

It’s interesting to know that a lot of the vocabulary in English and Spanish share the same root. While English is not a Romance language, and is in fact a Germanic language, it has been highly influenced by French and Latin in the past. 

In fact, English is often jokingly referred to as being nothing more than a mix of other languages. Considering it has been heavily influenced by other Germanic languages, Latin, French, and many others, this association should come as no surprise. English hasn’t been influenced too much by Spanish, but its influence from other Romance languages gives it many similarities with Spanish.

There are many words that look similar in both English and Spanish, but we’ll only give you a couple here:

Example: nación
Translation: “nation”

We’ve chosen to include this word because there are actually dozens of Spanish words that end in the suffix -ación, the equivalent of “-ation” in English. Información (“information”), decoloración (“discoloration”)…we could keep going. 

This suffix comes from Latin, and that’s why it ended up being used in Spanish and English, as well as other languages. In all of the examples we’ve provided, English and Spanish share both the origin of the stem (which is also Latin) and the origin of the suffix. That’s why they’re all so similar!

Example: animal
Translation: “animal”

This second example actually shares the same spelling, but they’re pronounced a bit differently. This is another example of a word that comes from Latin, explaining its similarity to the Spanish counterpart.

Turtle

2. Verbs

As we explained, Spanish verbs have many more conjugations than those in English. Basically, while you could pretty much count English conjugations on one hand, Spanish verbs have a different conjugation for each person in the singular and plural forms, in all tenses and moods. In all verb conjugations, every person shares the same stem but has a different ending. Let’s look at how the verb comer (“to eat”) would conjugate:

  • Yo como → “I eat”
  • Tú comes → “You eat”
  • Él / ella come → “He / she eats”
  • Nosotros comemos → “We eat”
  • Vosotros coméis → “You eat” (plural)
  • Ellos / ellas comen → “They (masculine / feminine) eat”

Each form has the stem com, but there is a different ending for every person. Once again, if you would like to learn more about conjugations, remember to check out our dedicated article.

Family Eating Ice Cream

Just like English, Spanish has regular and irregular verbs. However, English verb irregularities are pretty much only obvious in the past and participle forms. In Spanish, because verbs need to conjugate for every person, these irregularities become much more obvious. As explained in our article about verbs, irregularities can occur at different times. Sometimes, a verb might only be irregular in a specific person in the present simple, for example. Other times, a verb can be fully irregular in every tense and conjugation.

Speaking of irregular verbs, there are two verbs in Spanish we can’t ignore: ser and estar. If you’re already familiar with Spanish, you might know what we’re talking about. But in case you don’t, ser and estar both mean “to be,” and you must use the correct one depending on the context. 

Other Romance languages have equivalents to these verbs—être and avoir in French or essere and stare in Italian, for example—but English doesn’t. Instead, these two verbs, despite having different meanings, share a  translation in English (“to be”). To give you an idea of what differentiates them, ser usually indicates stability, while estar indicates something temporary. Here’s an example of each:

Example: Soy español.
Translation: “I’m Spanish.”

Example: Estoy triste.
Translation: “I’m sad.”

Sad Man

In the first example (featuring ser), we establish something permanent, which is the fact that I’m Spanish. In the second example (featuring estar), we refer to something temporary. Usually, if we say we’re sad, like in the example, we mean that we’re sad in the moment or that we’re sad for a while, but not forever! 

3. Nouns

The main difference between Spanish nouns and English nouns is that Spanish nouns have grammatical gender: masculine and feminine. Honestly, just be thankful we don’t have any more genders (many languages have three or more!). That said, this is a facet of Spanish grammar you really need to know!

We’ll show you an example of a noun for each gender:

  • el horno (“the oven”) is masculine
  • la nevera (“the fridge”) is feminine

You might be wondering what makes an oven masculine and a fridge feminine. Nothing, really. It’s all based on its etymology and the evolution of the language.

For most words, you’ll need to memorize their gender along with their meaning. However, there are words that have more obvious genders. For example, una mujer (“a woman”) is obviously a feminine word, and un hombre (“a man”) is most definitely masculine.

We do have a super-simple tip to help you determine if a word is masculine or feminine: Words that are masculine almost always end with an -o, while words that are feminine almost always end with an -a. This tip isn’t fool-proof, but it will help you out in the vast majority of situations.

Keep in mind that nouns must always agree with the article in gender and number. You might have noticed that in the examples we’ve given you, because they were all accompanied by articles.

There’s a lot more we could explain about nouns in Spanish, but it might be easier for you to read our article on nouns.

4. Adjectives

There are a few basic things that you need to know about adjectives in Spanish. First of all, adjectives must always agree with the noun they accompany in gender and number. We’ll give you some examples using the adjective negro (“black”):

SingularPlural
MasculineCoche negro (“Black car”)Coches negros (“Black cars”)
FeminineCasa negra (“Black house”)Casas negras (“Black houses”)

While looking at these examples, you might have noticed that the noun was placed before the adjective. In Spanish, most adjectives are placed after the noun like this, though there are a few exceptions.

If you feel like you need to learn more about Spanish adjectives, here’s an article that’s perfect for you!

Black Car

5. Negation

Today, we’ll provide a brief overview of Spanish negation. Essentially, what you need to know is that you form basic negative sentences in Spanish by placing the word no before the verb. Here are a couple of examples:

Example: No tengo coche.
Translation: “I don’t have a car.”

Example: Hoy Martín no quiere ir al colegio.
Translation: “Martín doesn’t want to go to school today.”

You may have noticed that while the adverb in the last example was in a different position than in English, the negative word remained in the same location in both versions: between the subject—unless it’s omitted in Spanish—and the verb.

Kid Skipping Class

6. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Master Spanish

This article only provided a brief Spanish grammar overview, but you probably noticed that for every topic, we linked to another article or lesson that went more in-depth. 

Do you feel like you need more Spanish grammar help? Create your free lifetime account on SpanishPod101.com and gain access to tons of lessons on every Spanish-related topic imaginable. Give it a try, and you’ll start learning Spanish like never before!

In the meantime, let us know in the comments which aspect of Spanish grammar is most difficult for you. We look forward to hearing from you, and will do our best to help.

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