- July 24, 2015 at 2:36 pm #243
Spanish is a beautiful, historic language with over 500 million speakers worldwide. It is one of the easier languages for speakers of English to learn, due to both languages’ shared Latin roots. Although learning any new language requires time and dedication, the satisfaction you’ll feel after having your first proper conversation with a Spanish-speaker will make it totally worth the effort! Here are some great ideas on how to learn to speak Spanish – and have fun in the process!
Part II- Study Basic Grammar
1. Learn how to conjugate regular verbs.
Learning how to conjugate verbs is a major part of learning how to speak Spanish correctly. Conjugation means taking the infinitive form of a verb (to talk, to eat) and changing its form to indicate who is performing an action and when that action is being performed. When learning how to conjugate verbs in Spanish, the best place to start is with regular verbs in the present tense. Regular verbs in Spanish all end in either “-ar”, “-er” or “-ir”, and how each verb is conjugated will depend on its ending. An explanation of how each type of regular verb is conjugated in the present tense follow below:
• Verbs ending in “-ar”. Hablar is the infinitive form of the Spanish verb “to speak.” To change the verb into the present tense, all you need to do is drop the “-ar” and add a different ending, which varies depending on the subject pronoun. For example:
• “I speak” becomes yo hablo
• “You speak (informal)” becomes tú hablas
• “You speak (formal)” becomes usted habla
• “He/she speaks” becomes él/ella habla
• “We speak” becomes nosotros/as hablamos
• “You all speak (informal)” becomes vosotros/as habláis
• “You all speak (formal)” becomes ustedes hablan
• “They speak” becomes ellos/ellas hablan
• As you can see, the six different endings used are -o, -as, -a, -amos, -áis and -an. These endings will be the same for every single regular verb that ends in “-ar”, such as bailar (to dance), buscar (to look for), comprar (to buy) and trabajar (to work).
• Verbs ending in “-er”. Comer is the infinitive form of the Spanish verb “to eat.” To change the verb into the present tense, drop the “-er” and add the endings -o, -es, -e, -emos, -éis or -en, depending on the subject pronoun.For example:
• “I eat” becomes yo como
• “You eat (informal)” becomes tú comes
• “You eat (formal)” becomes usted come
• “He/she eats” becomes él/ella come
• “We eat” becomes nosotros/as comemos
• “You all eat (informal)” becomes vosotros/as coméis
• “You all eat (formal)” becomes ustedes comen
• “They eat” becomes ellos/ellas comen
• These six endings will be the same for every regular “-er” verb, such as aprender (to learn), beber (to drink), leer (to read) and vender (to sell).
• Verbs ending in “-ir”. Vivir is the infinitive form of the Spanish verb “to live”. To change the verb into the present tense, drop the “-ir” and add the endings -o, -es, -e, -imos, -ís or -en, depending on the subject pronoun. For example:
• “I live” becomes yo vivo
• “You live (informal)” becomes tú vives
• “You live (formal)” becomes usted vive
• “He/she live” becomes él/ella vive
• “We live” becomes nosotros/as vivimos
• “You all live (informal)” becomes vosotros/as vivís
• “You all live (formal)” becomes ustedes viven
• “They live” becomes ellos/ellas viven
• These six verb endings will be the same for every regular “-ir” verb, such as abrir (to open), escribir (to write), insistir (to insist) and recibir (to receive).
• Once you have mastered the present tense, you can move on to conjugating verbs in other tenses, such as the future tense, the preterite and imperfect past tenses and the conditional tense. The same basic method used to conjugate the present tense is also used for each of these tenses – you simply take the stem of the infinitive verb and add a particular set of endings, which vary depending on the subject pronoun.
2. Learn how to conjugate common, irregular verbs.
Once you get the hang of conjugating regular verbs, you are off to a very good start. However be aware that not all verbs can be conjugated using the normal rules – there are many irregular verbs, each with their own unique conjugations which follow no rhyme or reason. Unfortunately, some of the most common, everyday verbs – such as ser (to be), estar (to be), ir (to go) and haber (to have (done)) – are irregular. The best thing to do is simply to learn these verbs by heart:
• Ser. The verb “ser” is one of two verbs in Spanish which can be translated as “to be”. “Ser” is used to describe the essential characteristics of something – for example, it is used for physical descriptions, for time and dates and for describing characters and personalities, amongst other things. It is used to describe what something is. The present tense of the verb is conjugated as follows:
• “I am” becomes yo soy
• “You are (informal)” becomes tú eres
• “You are (formal)” becomes usted es
• “He/she is” becomes él/ella es
• “We are” becomes nosotros/as somos
• “You all are (informal)” becomes vosotros/as sois
• “You all are (formal)” becomes ustedes son
• “They are” becomes ellos/ellas son
• Estar. The verb “estar” also means “to be” but is used in a different context from “ser”. “Estar” is used for states of being – for example, it is used to describe conditional states such as feelings, moods and emotions, as well as a person or thing’s location, amongst other things. It is used to describe how something is.The present tense of the verb is conjugated as follows:
• “I am” becomes yo estoy
• “You are (informal)” becomes tú estás
• “You are (formal)” becomes usted está
• “He/she is” becomes él/ella está
• “We are” becomes nosotros/as estamos
• “You all are (informal)” becomes vosotros/as estáis
• “You all are (formal)” becomes ustedes están
• “They are” becomes ellos/ellas están
• Ir. The verb “ir” means “to go”. It is conjugated in the present tense as follows:
• “I go” becomes yo voy
• “You go (informal)” becomes tú vas
• “You go (formal)” becomes usted va
• “He/she goes” becomes él/ella va
• “We go” becomes nosotros/as vamos
• “You all go (informal)” becomes vosotros/as vais
• “You all go (formal)” becomes ustedes van
• “They go” becomes ellos/ellas van
• Haber. The verb “haber” can be translated as either “I have” or “I have done”, depending on context. The present tense of the verb is conjugated as follows:
• “I have (done)” becomes yo he
• “You have (done)(informal)” becomes tú has
• “You have (done) (formal)” becomes usted ha
• “He/she has (done)” becomes él/ella ha
• “We have (done)” becomes nosotros/as hemos
• “You all have (done) (informal)” becomes vosotros/as habéis
• “You all have (done) (formal)” becomes ustedes han
• “They have (done)” becomes ellos/ellas han
3. Learn Spanish gender rules.
In Spanish, like many other languages, every noun is assigned a gender, either masculine or feminine. There is no surefire way to tell whether a noun is masculine or feminine from sound or spelling, so it’s necessary to learn the genders as you learn the words.
• For people it is possible to make an educated guess as to whether a noun is masculine or feminine. For instance, the word for “girl” is feminine, la chica, while the word for “boy” is masculine, el chico. This is called natural gender.
• Very few words for people have a grammatical gender. For example, el bebé(the baby) is masculine and la visita (the visitor) is feminine. This is also valid for female babies and male visitors.
• In addition, nouns that end in the letter “o”, like el libro (book), are usually masculine and words that end in the letter “a”, like la revista (magazine) are usually feminine. However, there are many nouns that do not end in either “a” or “o”, so this is not always helpful.
• Any adjectives used to describe nouns must also agree with the gender of the noun, so adjectives will change their form depending on whether a noun is masculine or feminine.
4. Learn how to use the definite and indefinite articles.
In English, there is only one definite article “the”, and three indefinite articles “a”, “an” or “some”. In Spanish, however, there are four of each. Which one a speaker uses depends on whether the noun they are referring to is masculine or feminine, plural or singular.
• For example, to refer to “the male cat” in Spanish, you would need to use the definite article “el” – “el gato”. When referring to “the male cats”, the definite article changes to “los” – “los gatos”.
• The definite article changes again when referring to the feminine form of cat. “The female cat” uses the definite article “la” – “la gata”, while “the female cats” uses the definite article “las” – “las gatas”.
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