If you’re just starting out with Spanish, it’s super important to understand the grammar so you can build a solid base.
While grammar won’t help you speak fluently right away (I explain why and what to focus on instead in this article), it will give you a much-needed framework to understand the language.
Whether you want to get better at Spanish or talk like a native, you have to master these grammar rules.
Mariana from Spring Languages (a project I’m a co-founder) explains the 5 must-know Spanish grammar rules in this video. Make sure to check it out!
We’ll break down each concept and explain it in simple terms. By the end, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to make your Spanish learning journey even better.
1. Introduction to Spanish Grammar Rules
So, what is Spanish Grammar?
Essentially, it is the set of rules that govern how words are formed, how sentences are built, combined, and used in Spanish.
And why is it important for beginners?
Because these grammar rules are the building blocks of Spanish, mastering them will enable you to read, write, speak, and understand Spanish more effectively.
Your language learning journey starts with these fundamental rules!
Disclaimer: While Conversation Based Chunking offers a unique and refreshing approach to language learning, it’s essential to understand that it diverges from traditional methods. Reading this article you should be open-minded and prepared for a journey that emphasizes real-world communication over textbook-style learning. As you listen to live conversations, pay attention to recurring chunks or sentence structures. These chunks and structure already have grammar built into them: learning them as whole units, instead of only focusing on separated words and grammar definitions, you bypass the need to break them down and build them back up using grammar rules.
2. Understanding Spanish Verbs and Conjugation
Verbs are the essence of language!
Verbs allow us to express our actions, thoughts, and emotions. A verb is a word that shows action or state of being.
Spanish verbs are no different, and mastering them is key to becoming fluent.
In the present tense, Spanish verbs can be divided into two categories:
Regular Spanish Verb Conjugation: -AR, -ER, -IR Verbs
Conjugating a regular verb in the present tense is as easy as removing the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir) and adding the appropriate ending.
Check out this table for the correct conjugation endings:
|Pronoun||-ar verbs||-er verbs||-ir verbs|
|Él / Ella / Usted||-a||-e||-e|
|Nosotros / Nosotras||-amos||-emos||-imos|
|Vosotros / Vosotras||-áis||-éis||-ís|
|Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes||-an||-en||-en|
Now that we’ve covered the endings, let’s take an in-depth look at some of the regular verb conjugations:
-AR VERB (CANT-AR)
|Vosotros/Vosotras||cantáis||You all sing|
-ER VERB (CORR-ER)
|Vosotros/Vosotras||corréis||You all run|
-IR VERBS (VIV-IR)
|Vosotros/Vosotras||vivís||You all live|
As you can see, Spanish regular verbs consist of a root (cant-; corr-; viv-;) and an ending (-o; -as/-es; -a/-e; -amos/-emos/-imos; -áis/-éis/-ís; -an/-en).
The root of the verb tells you what the word means. The ending tells you when and how the action is happening in the sentence. When you’re speaking Spanish, the subject pronouns (yo, tú etc.) often get dropped: this is because the verb endings already indicate who the subject is.
So, instead of saying Nosotros vivimos en Madrid., you could also say Vivimos en Madrid. The meaning remains the same but you can indicate emphasis when pronouns are used. If you want to emphasize that we live in Madrid, you would say Nosotros vivimos en Madrid. If you don’t want to pay special attention to that, you could just say Vivimos en Madrid.
Irregular Spanish Verbs: the most commonly used words
Irregular Spanish verbs are verbs that don’t follow the standard rules of conjugation.
Unlike regular verbs, they undergo changes in their stem (the part of the verb that remains after removing the ending -ar, -er, -ir) or in their endings when conjugated.
Here are some of the most commonly used irregular Spanish verbs:
Ir (to go)
Ir completely changes its stem when conjugated.
|él/ella/usted||va||he/she/you (formal) go(es)|
|vosotros/vosotras||vais||you all go|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||van||they/you all go|
Tener (to have)
Tener has a stem change from ‘ten-’ to ‘tien-’ in the 2nd person singular, the 3rd person singular and plural.
|él/ella/usted||tiene||he/she/you (formal) has|
|vosotros/vosotras||tenéis||you all have|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||tienen||they/you all have|
Hacer (to do/make)
Notice the irregularity in the 1st person singular.
|él/ella/usted||hace||he/she/you (formal) make|
|vosotros/vosotras||hacéis||you all do/make|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||hacen||they/you all do/make|
Decir (to say/tell)
The verb decir undergoes an e – i stem change when conjugated in the present tense (except for 1st and 2nd person plural).
|él/ella/usted||dice||he/she/you (formal) say(s)|
|vosotros/vosotras||decís||you all say|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||dicen||they/you all say|
Ver (to see)
Ver is a short verb so you have to pay extra attention to the 1st person singular conjugation where the main irregularity of the verb lies.
|él/ella/usted||ve||he/she/you (formal) see(s)|
|vosotros/vosotras||veis||you all see|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||ven||they/you all see|
Poder (to be able to/can)
Poder changes its stem from -o to -ue in all forms except for 1st and 2nd person plural.
|él/ella/usted||puede||he/she/you (formal) can|
|vosotros/vosotras||podéis||you all can|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||pueden||they/you all can|
Venir (to come)
Venir undergoes an e-to-ie stem change and is also irregular in 1st person singular. Pay special attention to this verb!
|él/ella/usted||viene||he/she/you (formal) go(es)|
|vosotros/vosotras||venís||you all go|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||vienen||they/you all go|
Querer (to want/love)
This verb also has a stem change that represents an e-to-ie change except for 1st and 2nd person plural.
|él/ella/usted||quiere||he/she/you (formal) want(s)|
|vosotros/vosotras||queréis||you all want|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||quieren||they/you all want|
These irregular verbs are essential to learn and master as they frequently appear in daily Spanish conversations.
SER vs ESTAR
In Spanish, the two of the most common irregular verbs are:
While both verbs generally translate to “to be” in English, they have distinct meanings and uses.
Ser is mainly used to express permanent traits and qualities, to identify someone or something. Ser is also used when you’re talking about times and dates.
Estar is used for expressing temporary physical and emotional conditions, and locations.
If you want to learn more about ser vs estar, check out our dedicated article on Effortless Conversations.
SER is used to describe permanent characteristics, such as nationality, jobs, and physical attributes.
Here’s the present tense conjugation of “ser”:
Here are some simple Spanish sentences using the verb “ser”, along with their English translations:
- Yo soy profesor. – I am a teacher.
- Tú eres alto. – You are tall.
- Él es mi hermano. – He is my brother.
- Nosotros somos estudiantes. – We are students.
- Vosotros sois españoles. – You all are Spanish.
- Ellas son amigas. – They are friends (feminine).
ESTAR is used to describe temporary conditions, such as location, feelings, and physical states.
Here’s the conjugation of the irregular verb “estar” in present tense:
Here are some simple Spanish sentences using the verb “estar”, along with their English translations:
- Yo estoy en la casa. – I am at the house.
- Tú estás cansado. – You are tired.
- Ella está en el parque. – She is at the park.
- Nosotros estamos contentos. – We are happy.
- Vosotros estáis en el cine. – You all are at the cinema.
- Ellos están ocupados. – They are busy.
3. Learn Spanish Nouns: feminine (ending -a) and masculine (ending -o)
Nouns (sustantivos) in Spanish can be categorized into two types:
- common (comunes) nouns refer to general things, like: manzana (apple) or perro (dog).
- proper (propios) nouns are specific names, like: María, España.
It’s important to note that, unlike in English, all Spanish nouns have a gender.
They are either masculine, OFTEN ending in ‘o’:
feminine nouns, OFTEN ending in ‘a’:
There are also many-many exceptions, so it’s important to learn the gender of each noun.
Pluralization of nouns in Spanish: regular and irregular forms
Similar to English, forming plurals for nouns in Spanish is a simple process.
All you need to do is make two changes: replace the article “el” with “los” or “la” with “las,” and modify the noun to its plural form.
For most nouns, simply add -s to the end of the singular form and you already made the noun plural:
Certain nouns have irregular plural forms and do not follow the typical rule of adding ‘-s’ or ‘-es’ at the end.
These irregular plural forms usually arise when the singular noun ends in ‘-z’, ‘-s’, or ‘-ís’.
Here are a few examples:
francés (French [adj.])
franceses (French [pl. adj.])
4. Pronouns in Spanish: 9 types to keep in mind
In Spanish, pronouns are words used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases. They play a crucial role in avoiding repetition and maintaining a smooth flow in communication.
The nine types of Spanish pronouns are as follows:
Subject pronouns in Spanish are words that refer to people or things performing the action of a sentence.
In the sentence, Yo vivo en Madrid. (I live in Madrid.), ‘Yo’ is the subject pronoun. In Spanish, verbs often tell us who is doing the action, so we don’t always need to use subject pronouns in a sentences. Vivo en Madrid also indicates the use of 1st person singular.
|Él / Ella||He / She|
|Nosotros / Nosotras||We|
|Vosotros / Vosotras||You (plural)|
|Ellos / Ellas||They|
Direct Object Pronouns
Spanish direct object pronouns are words that replace the nouns to which they refer in sentences. These pronouns are used when the action of the verb affects someone or something directly.
Let’s take a look at the following example:
In this example, ‘el libro’ is the direct object and in the second sentence ‘lo’ is the direct object pronoun that replaces it.
|Direct Object Pronoun||English|
|Lo / La||Him / Her / It|
|Los / Las||Them|
Indirect Object Pronouns
Spanish indirect object pronouns are used to refer to people or things indirectly in a sentence.
They are placed before the verb and combine with it to form a single unit.
The original sentence
In the second sentence, ‘le’ is the indirect object pronoun.
|Indirect Object Pronoun||English|
|Le||To him / To her / To you (formal)|
|Os||To you all (plural)|
|Les||To them / To you all (formal plural)|
Spanish reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and object of a verb are the same.
Reflexive pronouns can be used to express emotions or actions that the subject does to itself:
|Se||Himself / Herself / Itself / Yourself (formal)|
|Se||Themselves / Yourselves (formal plural)|
Spanish possessive pronouns show who owns something when we talk about a person or thing.
(It’s Ana’s car. → It’s hers.)
|Pronoun||Masculine (Singular)||Feminine (Singular)|
|His / Hers / Yours (formal)||suyo||suya|
|Yours (informal, plural)||vuestro||vuestra|
|Theirs / Yours (formal, plural)||suyo||suya|
Spanish demonstrative pronouns are used to indicate the location of something in relation to the speaker.
|Demonstrative Pronoun||Masc. sing./Fem. sing.||Masc. sing./Fem. sing. (Farther Away)|
Spanish relative pronouns are used to connect two phrases together in a sentence:
(The woman who lives there is my aunt.)
(I don’t know which one of the two to choose.)
|que||that / which|
Indefinite pronouns are words that refer to an unknown person, place or thing.
(Is there someone at the door?)
(Nobody came to the party.)
Spanish prepositional pronouns are a special type of pronoun used to refer to people and things. They come before the noun they modify and usually indicate to whom or about whom something is being said.
(That gift is for me.)
(The party is for us.)
|él / ella / ello||Him / Her / It|
|nosotros / nosotras||Us|
|vosotros / vosotras||You (plural)|
|ellos / ellas||Them|
5. Adjectives in Spanish
Adjectives in Spanish are words used to describe or modify a noun, hence they are also known as “describing words”:
- El coche rojo – the red car (the adjective ‘rojo’ is used to describe the noun ‘coche’)
- La casa grande – the big house (the adjective ‘grande’ is used to describe the noun ‘casa’)
- El perro amigable – the friendly dog (the adjective ‘amigable’ is used to describe the noun ‘perro’)
They play a key role in Spanish grammar. In most cases, they also match to the gender and number of the noun they modify. Spanish adjectives typically come after the noun but the meaning of some adjectives can change based on their position to the noun.
For example, un hombre grande means big man, while un gran hombre translates to a great man.
There are also some exceptions where adjectives remain the same across genders (eg. joven) or where the adjective only changes in number but not in gender (eg. grande).
The essential characteristics of Spanish adjectives:
- Gender Agreement: Spanish adjectives must agree with the gender of the nouns they modify.
- “niño pequeño” (small boy)
- “niña pequeña” (small girl).
- Number Agreement: Adjectives also agree in number with the nouns:
- “niños pequeños” (small boys)
- “niñas pequeñas” (small girls).
- Placement: Unlike English, Spanish adjectives usually come after the noun they modify:
- “casa grande” (big house).
However, there are some instances when the adjectives come before the nouns they modify. For example, if adjectives are used for specific grammar purposes rather than describing the state of the nouns they refer to, they come before the nouns. You can also use adjectives before nouns if you want to show an emotional quality to the noun:
Generally, we can group Spanish adjectives in the following 4 types:
- Descriptive Adjectives: The most common type of adjectives in Spanish. They provide details or describe a noun’s qualities. They can refer to color, size, shape, mood: rojo (red), grande (big), feliz (happy).
- Relational Adjectives: These adjectives can help specify the origin, material, purpose, or relation of the noun: marino refers to anything related to the sea (mar).
- Adverbial Adjectives: These adjectives function more like adverbs. They typically end in “-mente” (similar to “-ly” in English). For example: rápidamente (quickly), which comes from the adjective rápido (quick); claramente (clearly), which comes from the adjective claro (clear).
- Adjectives that serve as nouns: Sometimes, adjectives can replace nouns, especially when the context is clear. When we say los ricos (the rich) or las jóvenes (the young ones), the adjectives ricos and jóvenes are acting as nouns, referring to rich people and young people, respectively.
6. Basic Spanish sentence structure
The structure of sentences in Spanish, like English, relies on the correct use of subject, verb, and object.
Spanish offers a greater degree of flexibility than English when it comes to word order.
The simplest sentence structure in Spanish is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) just like in English.
The subject often can be, and frequently is, excluded if it’s clear from context who the subject is.
This is because Spanish verb endings change to match the subject so the verb itself often tells us who the subject is.
7. Spanish questions: how to use the question words
Spanish questions have a slight difference compared to English.
One notable distinction is the use of two question marks. Spanish questions end with a regular question mark. However, they also start with an upside-down question mark! (And the same goes for the exclamation mark.)
Spanish questions often start with a question word such as:
- “¿Qué?” (What?)
- “¿Quién?” (Who?)
- “¿Cuándo?” (When?)
- “¿Dónde?” (Where?)
- “¿Por qué?” (Why?)
- “¿Cómo?” (How?)
These question marks are followed by the verb, and then the subject if necessary.
Below is a table with some fundamental Spanish questions:
|Spanish Question||English Translation|
¿Qué hora es?
|What time is it?|
¿Dónde está el baño?
|Where is the bathroom?|
¿Cómo te llamas?
|What is your name?|
¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños?
|When is your birthday?|
¿Por qué estás triste?
|Why are you sad?|
¿Quién es él?
|Who is he?|
8. Practice section – Fill in the blanks!
I. Fill in the blanks with the correct conjugation of the given regular verbs in the present tense:
If you want to learn more about Spanish grammar, make sure to check out our Full Practice Worksheets by clicking the button below!
You can also download the PDF version of this long article and save it somewhere on your PC, so you can come back to it anytime!
9. Learn more about Spanish with Conversation Based Chunking
If you’re looking to learn Spanish more efficiently, consider Conversation Based Chunking.
This method involves learning Spanish by focusing on lexical chunks or commonly used phrases, rather than isolating individual words.
By doing so, you grasp Spanish grammar naturally, without needing to learn a lot of complex rules.
Conversation Based Chunking offers real-world examples so you can learn how these chunks are used in everyday conversation.