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SPANISH GRAMMAR GUIDE: BEGINNER-INTERMEDIATE
Introduction to the Guide:



If the goal is to be able to communicate in Spanish, then it is important to know the general rules for the main parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.). The general rules and all of the exceptions to these general rules are explained in this guide, although an imperfect use of the rule and making mistakes, especially with the exceptions, will not likely impede your ability to function in Spanish. Mistakes can, and will likely occur, such as in the following examples:


  • using a feminine article for a masculine noun

  • using adjectives before nouns

  • mixing up direct and indirect object pronouns

  • speaking in the present tense when another tense is more appropriate


This guide is meant to be simple and easy, yet thorough and inclusive. Inclusive means that there is no information left out that you would have to search for elsewhere. You will find all the grammar necessary (and more!) to be prepared for a level 3 high school Spanish class. The concepts are briefly explained and there are always examples. The guide is in a suggested order in which the grammar should be taught in a beginner/intermediate class that has the goal to start communicating in the first days of class. Although, the order of the topics can certainly be changed. Actually, this manual includes ALL Spanish grammar topics, except for por vs. para and the subjunctive mood. These are generally treated as advanced concepts, usually only taught in 3rd level or higher Spanish classes, and even then it takes a lot of practice to master. The subjunctive is usually learned last, because it will not have much effect on your ability to communicate and function in Spanish.

The guide is color coded to make it easier to find what you are looking for:
New Concept

Key Words and Mnemonic Devices

Category

Example

Table of Contents
Pronunciation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Punctuation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Typing Spanish Symbols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Subject Pronouns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Present Tense Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Future Tense: Ir + a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Noun/Article Agreement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Use of the Definite Articles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Use of the Indefinite Articles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Nouns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Noun/Adjective Agreement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

Comparisons of Equality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Comparatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Superlatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Irregular Comparatives and Superlatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Number: Singular -> Plural . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Reflexive Object Pronouns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

The Personal “a” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

Question Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

The Progressive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

Present Participles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

Conditional . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Short Form of Possessive Adjectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Prepositional Pronouns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Long Form of Posessive Adjectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Possessive Pronouns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

Demonstratives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

Adverbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Negative Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Simple Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23

Direct Object Pronouns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Indirect Object Pronouns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

Reflexive, Indirect, and Direct Object (RID) Pronoun Placement . . . . . . . .24

Gustar and Similar Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

Prepositions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

To Be: Ser vs. Estar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

The Perfect Tenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

Past Participles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

The Past: Formation of the Preterite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30

The Past: Formation of the Imperfect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

The Past: Preterite vs. Imperfect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

APPENDIX A. High Frequency Little Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

APPENDIX B. Present Tense Verb Categories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

Pronunciation
In English, there are no visual cues (accents) to show how to pronounce words. English pronunciation must be learned through practice and repetition. In Spanish, there are accents and 2 rules that reveal how to correctly pronounce words.
Stress the part of the word with the accent.

Example: inglés
Many words do not have accents. Only vowels can be accented. Words can only contain one accent. To know how to pronounce words without accents, follow the rules:
1. Every Spanish word (if there isn’t a written accent mark) that ends in a vowel, “n,” or “s” has the stress on the second-to-last syllable.

Remember the saying: "Vowel, n, or s, the second-to-last is stressed."

Example: manzana, hablan, problemas
2. All other Spanish words without a written accent, those that end in consonants other than “n” or “s,” stress the last syllable.

Example: hablar, azul
In Spanish, the vowels “i” and “u” are considered weak vowels. When there are 2 vowels in a row and 1 or both are weak vowels, then it is pronounced as a single syllable, known as a diphthong.

Example: 2 weak vowels: ciudad -> pronounced “zyoo-dad”

1 weak, 1 strong vowel: bien -> pronounced as 1-syllable “byen”

2 strong vowels: caer -> pronounced “caw-air”
When there is an accent on one of the vowels in what would otherwise be a diphthong (1-syllable), then the word breaks into 2 syllables.

Example: país -> pronounced “paw-eese”
Many singular words with accents lose the accent when they are plural, because the “s” moves the stress to the second-to-last syllable, which required an accent in order to stress the syllable in the singular.

Example: canción -> canciones, violín -> violines
In other cases, the plural gains an accent in order to preserve the accent that is NOT on the last syllable.

Example: examen -> exámenes, joven -> jóvenes, orden -> órdenes
Sometimes an accent changes the meaning of a word that is spelled the same way. This is true of question and answer words. (See section on Question Words).

Example: si vs. sí = if vs. yes

el vs. él = the vs. he

hablo vs. habló = I talk vs. he/she/you/it talked



Punctuation
Questions and Exclamations = inverted (upside-down) marks are placed at the beginning and end of the question or exclamation. The first inverted mark can be in the middle of the sentence if the first part of the sentence is not part of the question or exclamation. The word after the inverted question or exclamation mark is NOT usually capitalized if it is in the middle of the sentence.

Example: Marta, ¿quieres comer? = Marta, do you want to eat?

Quieres comer, ¿verdad? = You want to eat, right?

Sin embargo, ¡tengo hambre! = However, I am hungry!
Quotation Marks = use angular brackets (Spain), dashes (Latin America) or double quotation marks as used in English. Commas and periods are placed outside of the quotation marks.

Example: «Quiero comer», dijo Olga. = “I want to eat,” Olga said.

–Quiero comer–dijo Olga.

“Quiero comer”, dijo Olga.
Numbers = commas and periods are used in the opposite way from English usage. In other words, decimal points are commas in Spanish. Publications in Mexico and Puerto Rico often use the same style as the United States.

Example: 3.000 = 3,000

$2,50 = $2.50

1.300,25 = 1,300.25
Capital letters = do NOT capitalize days, months, religions, nationalities, languages, “I,” or personal titles.

Example: lunes, enero, cristiano, hondureño, español, yo, doctor Ochoa.

= Monday, January, Christian, Honduran, Spanish, I, Doctor Ochoa
Typing Spanish Symbols
1. Change to Spanish keyboard.

a. Go to System Preferences (Mac) or Control Panel (Windows). 

b. Select "Keyboard" and click "Input Sources" (Mac) or select “Regional and Langauge Options” and click “Languages” (Windows).

c. Check the box that says "Spanish" (Mac) or click “Add” and select “Spanish” (Windows).

d. Make sure the box is checked that says “Show Input menu in menu bar” (Mac) or that says “Enable Indicator on Taskbar.” In the menu bar/taskbar at the top of your desktop screen you now have the option to change to a Spanish keyboard.
Mac

“[” then vowel = á, é, í, ó, ú

; = ñ

Shift(hold down) + 1 = ¡

Shift(hold down) + 2 = !

Shift(hold down) + < = ¿

Shift(hold down) + > = ?

Windows

“[” then vowel = á, é, í, ó, ú

; = ñ

+ = ¡

Shift(hold down) + 1 = !

equals key= = ¿

underline key_ = ?
2. Use U.S. keyboard

Mac

Option(hold down) + e, then vowel = á, é, í, ó, ú

Option(hold down) + n, then “n” = ñ

Option(hold down) + 1 = ¡

Option(hold down) + Shift(hold down) + ? = ¿
Windows

Ctrl(hold down) + ‘ then vowel = á, é, í, ó, ú

Ctrl(hold down) + Shift(hold down) + ~ then n = ñ

Ctrl(hold down) + Alt(hold down) + Shift + ! = ¡

Ctrl (hold down) + Alt(hold down) + Shift + ? = ¿
Subject Pronouns
Pronouns = words that take the place of a noun

Subject Pronouns = pronouns that are the subject of the sentence





singular

plural

1st person

I

we

2nd person

you

you all

3rd person

he, she

they




singular

plural

1ra persona

yo

nosotros/nosotras

2da persona



vosotros/vosotras

3ra persona

él, ella, usted

ellos, ellas, ustedes


1. In Spanish there are 3 ways to say “you.”

-Tú is familiar/informal and used with friends

-Usted is formal and used to show respect

-Vos is used instead of tú in many Latin American countries
2. Vosotros is only used in Spain and is the plural form of the familiar/informal “tú.”
3. In Spanish, subject pronouns are not as important as in English. In Spanish, the verb ending gives away the doer of the action, thus the subject pronoun is not necessary, except for in the 3rd person.
4. When referring to a group of mixed gender, than use the masculine plural

Example: ellos y ellas -> ellos

Verbs
Verbs = words that show action or state of being

Infinitive = the verb before conjugation

Conjugation = changing the verb to agree with the subject pronoun

(subject/verb agreement)

Example:

Infinitive: hablar = to talk

Conjugation: hablo, hablas, etc. = I talk, you talk, etc.
Verbs have 2 parts:

Stem = the first part of the word that does not change

Ending = all verbs end in “ar”, “er”, “ir.” When conjugated the ending is replaced

with an ending that agrees with the subject pronoun

Example:

habl

ar

ending

stem

Like in English, when there are 2 consecutive verbs (not including progressive and perfect tenses), the second verb is stated in the infinitive.

Example: Me gusta comer. = I like to eat. NOT Me gusta como.

Quiero tener un gato. = I want to have a cat. NOT Quiero tengo un gato.
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