The Spanish Inquisition Part 3

I need to re-emphasize that I am NOT a native speaker and I am not truly fluent. But as a student I am passing along some things that I learned that may help YOU learn Spanish.

Verbs: This is where Spanish is trickiest. You can do it wrong and still be understood, assuming what you are saying isn’t complicated, but doing it right will make you sound less like Tarzan with an accent and more like an intelligent gringo.

Spanish verbs change their endings (and sometimes beginnings too) depending on who is performing the action. English is much simpler. Lets take an example in the present tense.

English: I walk
Spanish: Yo camino

English: You walk
Spanish: Tu caminas

English: He/She/It walks
Spanish: El/Ella/Usted camina

English: We walk
Spanish: Nosotros caminamos

English: They walk
Spanish: Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes caminan

Notice that in English there is only one time that the verb ending changes, with he/she or it. In Spanish, each time the subject changes, the verb ending changes. Just to make things even more fun, the subject is often not even spoken or written. Instead of saying ‘tu caminas’ they will say ‘caminas’ since it is understood that ‘tu’ is the subject that agrees with ‘caminas.’ As a gringo with occasionally shaky Spanish, I generally put the ‘tu’ there as well, in case I screw up the verb ending (an easy thing to do).

Rather than conjugate 501 Spanish verbs here in all the verb tenses and moods, I will refer you to the book ‘501 Spanish Verbs’

Another simple thing that confuses English speakers is the placement of adjectives. Rather than say a ‘blanca vaca’ (white cow) you say ‘vaca blanca’ (cow white). There are some exceptions to this rule. For more detail, click the following link:

And one last thing, gender. All nouns in Spanish have a gender, masculine or feminine. Where we use ‘the’ in English for everything, Spanish divides into ‘el/los’ (masculine, singular/plural) and ‘la/las (feminine, singular/plural). ‘The table’ is ‘la mesa.’ ‘The tables’ are ‘las mesas.’ ‘The floor’ is ‘el piso.’ ‘The floors’ are ‘los pisos.’ Most adjectives change endings too, depending on gender and number. ‘La mesa blanca’ means ‘the white table.’ ‘Las mesas blancas’ means ‘the white tables.’ ‘El piso blanco’ is ‘the white floor.’ ‘Los pisos blancos’ is ‘the white floors.’ There are exceptions, naturally. For more detail check the link below.

So now you speak perfect Spanish, right? Of course not. But I hope I have explained a few of the common things that English speakers find most puzzling. As I said in the first post of this series, you have to put in the time to study and practice. No matter how well marketed a software program is, it will not do your thinking for you. So do the work and reap the benefits. You’ll be glad you did.

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  1. Bill Copper says:

    NorCal…Thanks so much for your blog…I'm enjoying reading about your experiences in CR. We will make our first visit in May to experience Costa Rica for ourselves…until then….keep on bloggin!

  2. No. Cal. Refugee says:

    Thanks Bill, I intend to keep on keepin' on!

  3. very good…your post reminded me to get back to studying for our next mission trip to CR. You are correct when you said that unless you speak w/verbs, can be left out of many conversations; let alone have a hard time keeping up. I found this to be true this past December. If I’m with a group that speaks fluently, I have the bad habit of letting them speak for me. My new years resolution is to learn Spanish; and so for your post I say, “Moooo chas Gracias.”
    Vaya Con Dios,

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