Spanish Pronto!: Basic Study Reference

The essentials of the Spanish language, to give you a quick start on learning Spanish. Please feel free to print this page for your own Spanish studies.

[Pronunciation] Spanish pronunciation basics.
[Vocabulary] Twenty-four very useful Spanish phrases.
[Gender] How to tell if a word is masculine or feminine.
[Regular verbs] Emphasis on patterns, to make learning easier.
[Irregular verbs] Six very useful irregular verbs, most with special powers!

For more Spanish information and resources, see the Spanish Pronto! main page.

[Top] [Pronunciation] [Vocabulary] [Gender] [Regular verbs] [Irregular verbs]
PRONUNCIATION/ALPHABET  Pronunciation similar to English except as noted.
a "ah" e as day or den j "h" n r quick trill v
b f k ñ "ny" rr almost purred w
c g "h" before e & i l o "oh" s "s" (never "z") x sometimes "h"
ch h silent! ll "y" in Mexico p t y "ee"
d i "ee" m q u "ooh" z "s"
(For more information about the Spanish alphabet, please see Spanish Pronto!: Spanish Alphabet.)

"E," when it is at the end of a syllable, is pronounced like the ay in the English word day (as are all the e's in the Spanish words de, e-le-fan-te, and bue-no); otherwise, it is pronounced like the e in the English word den (as are the e's in the Spanish words sien-to, es-tá, and bien). If in doubt, look up the word in the Spanish side of your dictionary to see how it is divided into syllables. (The American Heritage Spanish Dictionary provides syllabication of every word, though most other dictionaries do not. On the question of words containing "tl," the AH gets it wrong, choosing "At-lán-ti-co" for example (the way it would be pronounced in most of Spain, except the Canary Islands) instead of "A-tlán-ti-co" as it would be pronounced in the Latin American Spanish the AH emphasizes.)

Emphasis is on the syllable with a written accent. If there is no written accent, then the emphasis is on the next-to-last syllable in words ending in s, n, or any vowel, and on the last syllable in words ending in any other consonant. To remember that "s" and "n" are the only final consonants that do not force the word (in the absence of any written accent) to be emphasized on the last syllable, it may help to realize that these are the final consonants most often used in conjugating verbs and that, for example, "HA-blo," "HA-blas," "HA-bla," and "HA-blan" are all accented on the next-to-the-last syllable. In contrast, here are some consonant-final words (but not -s or -n words, of course) that have spoken emphasis on the final syllable: sa-LUD (health), re-LOJ (clock), al-gua-CIL (sheriff), mu-JER (woman), ha-BLAR (to talk), and ju-DIT (Judith).

Diphthongs/Triphthongs When two or three vowels occur together, any unaccented i or y is pronounced like the y in "yes," and any unaccented u is pronounced like an English w.
(For example, Buenos días. = BWAY-nohs DEE-ahs. (Good morning.), and Adiós = ah-DYOHS (Goodbye.))

Regional differences (Spanish, like English, has many regional accents, each with slightly different pronunciations and a slightly different vocabulary, but someone from one region can still understand someone from another, at least most of the time!):

[Top] [Pronunciation] [Vocabulary] [Gender] [Regular verbs] [Irregular verbs]
VOCABULARY  The top twenty-four. You can use these to practice the pronunciation information presented above.

¡Hola!  Hi!
Me llamo _______.  My name is _______.
¿Cómo se llama usted?  What is your name?
Mucho gusto.  Pleased to meet you.
¿Cómo está usted?  How are you?
Bien, gracias.  ¿Y usted?  Fine, thanks.  And you?
¡Hasta luego!  See you later!
Adiós.  Good-bye.
Por favor.  Please.
(Muchas) gracias. (Muy amable.)   (Many) thanks. (Very kind.)
De nada.  You're welcome.
Lo siento.  I'm sorry.
¿Me permite?  May I?
Disculpe.  Excuse me. (To get someone's attention.)
Con permiso.  Excuse me. (For leaving or passing through.)
Perdón.  Excuse me. (For sneezing, arriving late, etc.)
¡Salud!  Gesundheit! (When someone sneezes.) Cheers! (For toasting with drinks.)
¿Me pasa _______ por favor?   Could you please pass me _______?
Sí.  Yes.
No.  No.
¿Dónde está el baño?  Where is the bathroom?

Estimado, a  Dear (e.g., Estimado Juan:, Estimada Sra. García:, Estimados señores:, Estimada amiga:)
Atentamente  Sincerely, Yours truly, etc.
P.D.  P.S.

[Top] [Pronunciation] [Vocabulary] [Gender] [Regular verbs] [Irregular verbs]
GENDER  How to tell them apart.
el niño the boy la niña the girl
los niños the boys or the boys and girls las niñas the girls
nosotros we (all male) or we (male and female) nosotras we (all female)
el vicepresidente la vicepresidente
un artista an artist una artista an artist
el cuerpo the body (always masculine, even if the body is not) una persona a person (always feminine, even if the person is not)
la naturaleza nature
la canción the song
la humanidad humanity, mankind
la libertad liberty
la juventud youth, young people

NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS: la mano (the hand), el día (the day), el problema, el programa, el planeta

[Top] [Pronunciation] [Vocabulary] [Gender] [Regular verbs] [Irregular verbs]
REGULAR VERBS  I hope this presentation method will help you see the patterns easily.
Regular verb conjugations: Present (when it is happening now)
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
yo  I -o hablo  I talk; I am talking como vivo
 you (friend/child) -s hablas comes vives
él, ella, usted
he, she, you
- habla come vive
nosotros, nosotras
-mos hablamos comemos vivimos*
vosotros, vosotras
you (friends/children)
-(i)s habláis coméis vivís
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all
-n hablan comen viven
*NOTE: Except for this present tense conjugation for nosotros (we), -ir verbs and -er verbs are both conjugated in exactly the same way in common Latin-American Spanish. It is almost as if there were just two kinds of regular verb conjugations to learn instead of three!

If you want to learn Spanish as it is spoken in Spain, however, you will need to learn the vosotros conjugation, too. Even this conjugation, though, is the same for -er verbs and -ir verbs, except for the present (present indicative) conjugation and the imperative conjugation.

Regular verb conjugations: Imperfect (when it was happening or used to happen)
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
yo  I - hablaba  I was talking;
I used to talk
comía vivía
 you (friend/child) -s hablabas comías vivías
él, ella, usted
he, she, you
- hablaba comía vivía
nosotros, nosotras
-mos hablábamos comíamos vivíamos
vosotros, vosotras
you (friends/children)
-is hablabais comíais vivíais
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all
-n hablaban comían vivían

Regular verb conjugations: Preterit (when it happened)
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
yo  I - hablé  I talked comí viví
 you (friend/child) -ste hablaste comiste viviste
él, ella, usted
he, she, you
- habló com viv
nosotros, nosotras
-mos hablamos comimos vivimos
vosotros, vosotras
you (friends/children)
-steis hablasteis comisteis vivisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all
-ron hablaron comieron vivieron

Regular verb conjugations: Future (when it will happen)
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
yo  I hablaré  I will talk comeré viviré
 you (friend/child) -ás hablarás comerás vivirás
él, ella, usted
he, she, you
hablará comerá vivirá
nosotros, nosotras
-emos hablaremos comeremos viviremos
vosotros, vosotras
you (friends/children)
-éis hablaréis comeréis viviréis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all
-án hablarán comerán vivirán

Regular verb conjugations: Conditional (when it would happen)
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
yo  I -ía hablaría  I would talk comería viviría
 you (friend/child) -ías hablarías comerías vivirías
él, ella, usted
he, she, you
-ía hablaría comería viviría
nosotros, nosotras
-íamos hablaríamos comeríamos viviríamos
vosotros, vosotras
you (friends/children)
-íais hablaríais comeríais viviríais
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all
-ían hablarían comerían vivirían

Regular verb conjugations: Imperative (Command form): ("Happen!")
For most commands, you can use the present subjunctive conjugation to give the command (for example, addressing ustedes, "¡Coman!" = "Eat!", "¡No coman eso!" = "Don't eat that!"). The only commands which cannot be made with the present subjunctive are the informal, affirmative commands (telling your friends, children, etc. what to do):

For affirmative commands addressing "tú," drop the "-s" from the present-tense form (change "comes" to "come" to say "Eat!").

In countries where "vos" is used instead of "tú," drop the "-r" from the infinitive, keeping the accent in the same place (change "comer" to "comé").

For affirmative commands addressing "vosotros," change the "-r" of the infinitive to a "-d" (change "comer" to "comed").

Please note, though, that the informal, negative commands (telling your friends, children, etc. what not to do) still use the present subjunctive. ( and vos: "¡No comas!" Vosotros: "¡No comáis!")

The "vos" and "vosotros" affirmative commands have no irregularities. There are eight verbs, however, with irregular forms of the "tú" affirmative command: decir (di), hacer (haz), ir (ve), poner (pon), salir (sal), ser (sé), tener (ten), and venir (ven).

Regular verb conjugations: Present subjunctive (when it might happen)
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
yo  I - hable  (that) I (might) talk coma viva
 you (friend/child) -s hables comas vivas
él, ella, usted
he, she, you
- hable coma viva
nosotros, nosotras
-mos hablemos comamos vivamos
vosotros, vosotras
you (friends/children)
-is habléis comáis viváis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all
-n hablen coman vivan

Regular verb conjugations: Imperfect subjunctive (when it might have happened)
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
yo  I -ra hablara  
(that) I (might have) talk(ed)
comiera viviera
 you (friend/child) -ras hablaras comieras vivieras
él, ella, usted
he, she, you
-ra hablara comiera viviera
nosotros, nosotras
-ramos habláramos comramos vivramos
vosotros, vosotras
you (friends/children)
-rais hablarais comierais vivierais
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all
-ran hablaran comieran vivieran

Regular verb conjugations:
hablar  to talk comer  to eat vivir  to live
Present participle  
-ndo hablando  talking comiendo viviendo
Past participle  
-do hablado  talked comido vivido

For complete conjugations of these, or other, verbs--including perfect tense conjugations (he hablado, había hablado, haya hablado, etc.)--enter the infinitive (-ar, -er, or -ir) form of the verb you wish to conjugate at: Comp-jugador.

[Top] [Pronunciation] [Vocabulary] [Gender] [Regular verbs] [Irregular verbs]
IRREGULAR VERBS  Six of Spanish's most wildly irregular (but also most wildly popular) verbs.
ESTAR  To be. Being or existence in situations or conditions. (I am (here). She is married. The coffee is cold. They are upset.)
yo estoy  I am
estás  you are
él, ella, usted está  he is, she is, you are
nosotros, nosotras estamos  we are
vosotros, vosotras estáis  you are
ellos, ellas, ustedes están  they are, you are
Special power: Estar + present participle = progressive  (Estoy comiendo. = I am eating.)

SER  To be. Being which is characteristic. (She is (a) scientist. He is (a) happy (person). Black coffee is bitter. The pickup is theirs.)
yo soy  I am
eres  you are
él, ella, usted es  he is, she is, you are
nosotros, nosotras somos  we are
vosotros, vosotras sois  you are
ellos, ellas, ustedes son  they are, you are

HABER  To have, but in the auxiliary sense. Also means "there be" when conjugated impersonally. (I have finished. He has decided not to go. There are very few people today.)

yo he  I have
has  you have
él, ella, usted ha  he has, she has, you have
nosotros, nosotras hemos  we have
vosotros, vosotras habéis  you have
ellos, ellas, ustedes han  they have, you have
hay  there is, there are
Special power: Haber + past participle = perfect (has done, had done, would have done, might have done, etc.)  (Han vivido en México tres años. = (They) have lived in Mexico (for) three years.)

TENER  To have in the sense of possession. (We have two dogs. He has hunger. = He is hungry. My son has 20 years. = My son is 20.)
yo tengo  I have
tienes  you have
él, ella, usted tiene  he has, she has, you have
nosotros, nosotras tenemos  we have
vosotros, vosotras tenéis  you have
ellos, ellas, ustedes tienen  they have, you have
Special power: Tener + que + infinitive = have to, must  (Tenemos que hablar con ella. = We must talk with her.)

PODER  Can or may. (To be able to.) (She can play the guitar. You may do what you wish.)
yo puedo  I can, I may
puedes  you can, you may
él, ella, usted puede  he can/may, she can/may, you can/may
nosotros, nosotras podemos  we can, we may
vosotros, vosotras podéis  you can, you may
ellos, ellas, ustedes pueden  they can/may, you can/may
Special power: Poder + infinitive = can, may  (Puedo comer de todo. = I can eat anything. Un gato puede vivir 12 años o más. = A cat may live 12 years or more.)

IR  To go.
yo voy  I go, I am going
vas  you go, you are going
él, ella, usted va  he goes, he is going, she goes, she is going, you go, you are going
nosotros, nosotras vamos  we go, we are going
vosotros, vosotras vais  you go, you are going
ellos, ellas, ustedes van  they go, they are going, you go, you are going
Special power: Ir + a + infinitive = simple future  (Voy a hablar con ella. = I am going to talk with her. Van a comer en Nueva Orleáns. = They are going to eat in New Orleans.)

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Revised -- 2014-09-23