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Archive for July, 2008

Using Connecting Words In Spanish

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Even though the connecting words “and’, “or”, “the”, and “of” may occupy very little room in a sentence, it’s important to make sure that you use them in their proper context. The better you are at replicating the syntax of the Spanish language, the easier it will be to communicate with others. In many cases, you’ll find that these words perform similar functions as their English counterparts, making your transition to Spanish fluency easier.

“And”

Regardless of whether you’re reading, writing, or speaking Spanish, the word “and” is represented by the letter “y”. As in English, the word “and” is meant to form a conjunction, as well convey a sense of addition or gain. For example, “I speak German, English and Spanish” would be written in Spanish as “Yo hablo aleman, ingles, y espanol.”

“Or”

In Spanish, “or” is written simply as the letter “o”. As with English, the word “or” in Spanish is used to convey that the reader or listener has a choice between one item or another. Because “and” and “or” are both expressed with just one letter, it’s important to make sure that you don’t confuse them. In addition, when you’re working with verbal Spanish, it’s important to make sure you know which word is being used to be sure your meaning is clear.

“The”

Even though the word “the” has no meaning, it gives a great deal of structure to a sentence. While it’s only represented by one word in English, you’ll find it has four different spellings in Spanish. As with nouns, you will need to match “the” based on gender and the number of items involved. Male nouns would be preceded by “el” if singular and “los” if plural. On the other hand, singular female nouns are preceded by “la”, while plural nouns are preceded by “las”. As an example, “the book” would be “el libro” while “the jigsaw puzzle” would be “la rompecabeza.

“Of”

As you may know, the word “of” is translated to “de” in Spanish, which is often used to indicate ownership. In many cases, you’ll find that “de” is used instead of an apostrophe and often results in the enormous difference between the syntax of an English and Spanish sentence. For example, in English we might write “Tom’s book is on the table”. On the other hand, in Spanish we would say “El libro de Tom esta en la tabla”. This does take some getting used to, but with practice you’ll find yourself constructing sentences this way out of habit.

Chances are, when you start studying Spanish, you’ll come across a number of basic words that help form the structure of a well defined sentence. While these words and their usage are no more complicated than their English versions, it’s important to be aware of them. Because Spanish is verbalized at such a high speed, you’ll often have to listen carefully for these words. The last thing you want to do is confuse words like “y” and “o”, and translate something entirely different from your original meaning!

Spanish Verb Conjugation

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

As you may be aware, Spanish verb conjugations are based on three criteria including when an action occurs and who is taking the action. In addition, when conjugating verbs, the suffix that is substituted is often spelled differently depending on the last two letters of the root verb. The chart at the end of this article is designed to give you a key to the verb endings that you will need to conjugate the majority of words in Spanish.

First Person Singular

Typically, the first person singular refers to action that is being taken, was taken, or will be taken by the speaker. For example, communicating about my personal act of writing a letter can be accomplished in a number of ways depending on the time frame. Since the root word for the verb “to write” is “escribir”, my conjugation choices would be narrowed down to the set of suffixes for verbs ending in “–ir”.

For example, for the verb “escribir”, I would remove the “-ir” ending, and add an “o” (”escribo”) to represent the first person singular in the present. If I were currently writing the letter, I would say “Yo escribo” – “I write”. On the other hand, if I wanted to convey that I’ll be writing a letter tomorrow, I would leave the verb root intact, and add é, creating the word “escribiré”.

Second Person Singular

Just like English, the second person singular refers to you as the subject. For example, “You were very thoughtful to send me flowers”. In Spanish, when the subject of the sentence refers to “you”, it will require the usage of verb endings dedicated to conveying this information. Follow the conjugation rules listed in the chart at the end of this article to modify these verbs properly.

Third Person Singular

Typically, when you see “him”, “her”, or a person’s name, this is an indication that you’ll be conjugating verbs based on reference to a third person. For example, in the sentence, “Mary opened the box yesterday”, the root form for “to open” is “abrir”. Since Mary refers to a third person performing a specific past action, “abrir” would be conjugated to “abrío”. In addition, if you are addressing someone in a formal or polite way, you would use the third person singular instead of the second person.

First Person Plural

The first person plural is often indicated by saying “we”, or “our” signifying a group of people of which you are a member. Typically, this type of verb is conjugated with the ending “-amos” or “-emos”. The phrase, “We go” would be conjugated to “Nos vamos”. As with other types of verb conjugation in Spanish, you’ll need to select from this category of suffixes in order to convey the subject to verb relationship.

Second Person Plural

The second person plural might be most often heard when addressing an audience. As an example, a teacher addressing a class of students might say “Yesterday, you learned ten new vocabulary words”. In Spanish, the second person plural can also be replaced by the third person formal to denote a formal or polite address.

Third Person Plural

Typically, the third person plural is associated with words like “they”, or “them”. For example, “They went to the store” would be translated to “Ellos van a la tienda.” It’s also appropriate to use the third person plural verb conjugation for the sentence “Mary and her brother went to the store”, since you could also use the term “they” to describe Mary and her brother.

Even though it’ll take some time before you’re able to correctly conjugate Spanish verbs on the fly, you’ll eventually find the multiple levels of meaning very useful. Among other things, as you listen to native speakers, you may well find that they will eliminate words that are already indicated by the conjugations. Once you learn to replicate this pattern, you’ll be able to understand verbal Spanish much more easily.

An Introduction to Spanish Nouns and Genders

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Much like other Romance languages, the Spanish language has a number of different ways to denote whether the subject of a sentence is male or female. In some cases, this information is conveyed by the changing the ending of a particular noun. While learning to denote gender correctly in your nouns isn’t as difficult to learn as Spanish verbs, it’s still important to make sure that you follow Spanish gender syntax correctly when forming sentences.

Spanish Nouns

Just like in English, Spanish nouns include the names of people, places, and things. If the noun refers to the specific name of an individual or location, it will be capitalized irregardless of its location in the sentence. Typically, the hardest part of learning Spanish nouns is just learning the meaning of each word as part of your vocabulary studies. Of course, you’ll likely find this to be the case in any language you study.

Denoting Gender in People

Typically, you’ll find that nouns describing male and female individuals will end in “o” for males, and “a” for females. This also applies to family relationships. As an example, “chico” and “chica” are boy and girl respectively. At the same time, “hermano” and “hermana” translate to brother and sister. In the plural form, the ending “-as” represents two or more women. On the other hand, the “-os” ending can represent males or females within the group. As an example, “hermanos” can represent brothers, or a group of siblings that also includes sisters.

Denoting Gender in Objects

Even though you may not think of a book or jigsaw puzzle as having a gender, most Spanish nouns are either male or female. Strangely enough, most words representing animals follow this gender pattern, but doesn’t change in order to specify the gender of a particular animal. For example, a jigsaw puzzle (”rompecabeza”) is considered a feminine noun because it ends with the letter “a”. On the other hand, the word for cat is “gato”. While a cat is a living organism, this Spanish noun does not change to “gata” in order to represent a female cat.

Nouns in Sentences

In some cases, you’ll find that the syntax of Spanish sentences is fairly different from what you will find in an English sentence. Among other thing, the lack of an apostrophe in Spanish often changes the way ownership is communicated. As an example, in English, we might say “Paul’s cat” in order to convey the fact that Paul owns a specific cat. On the other hand, in Spanish the sentence phrase would actually be formed as “the cat of Paul”, or “el gato de Paul”. This can take some getting used to for new Spanish speakers.

When learning Spanish, you may find that nouns are some of the most enjoyable parts of the language to work with – mostly since they don’t change in the complicated ways that the verbs do! Once you get the hang of some of the nuances of Spanish nouns, you’ll likely enjoy the fact that they adhere fairly well to the basic rules of the Spanish language. In addition, you may even find that you like the sound or spelling of a Spanish noun more than words used to represent the same object in your own language!

Learning Spanish Numbers

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Just like in English, Spanish numbers follow a set pattern of names. While these patterns aren’t difficult to learn, you’ll still need to practice them often so that you’re familiar enough to use them properly. For example, even though you might know the numbers in Spanish from 1 to 10, it’s also important to know how to refer to different number positions, such as first place or second in line.

Cardinal Numbers

As with English, the first twelve numbers in Spanish all have unique names. That said, where English begins appending the suffix “teen” for numbers thirteen through nineteen, Spanish does not apply a prefix, “diece” until the number fifteen. As a result, cardinal numbers in Spanish for one to nineteen are as follows:

1

 

Uno

 

11

 

Once

 

2

 

Dos

 

12

 

Doce

 

3

 

Tres

 

13

 

Trece

 

4

 

Quatro

 

14

 

Catorce

 

5

 

Cinco

 

15

 

Quince

 

6

 

Seis

 

16

 

Dieciseis

 

7

 

Siete

 

17

 

Diecisiete

 

8

 

Ocho

 

18

 

Dieciocho

 

9

 

Nueve

 

19

 

Diecenueve

 

10

 

Dies

 

   

Numbers from tweny forward are characterized by a prefix attached to the first nine numbers of the system. For example, the name for twenty is “veinte”, while twenty-one is “veintiuno”. You’ll also find that some numbers include a “y” (which translates to “and”) between the two numbers. For example, “thirty-one” is written as “treinta y uno”. Unfortunately, there are no specific rules for when this will occur. On the other hand, you should not have many problems with translating written numbers if you keep their basic names in mind. The prefixes for twenty through ninety are as follows:

 

20

 

Veinte

 

30

 

Treinta

 

40

 

Cuarenta

 

50

 

Cinquenta

 

60

 

Sesenta

 

70

 

Setenta

 

80

 

Ochenta

 

90

 

Noventa

 

It is important to note that “cero”, the word for “zero” isn’t appended to the names of numbers such as twenty, thirty, forty and so on. Even though numerals are written in the same way as in English, the zero is written to denote a difference in factors of ten. You’ll also find that zero is used as a placeholder, just as it is in English.

Ordinal Numbers

In some cases, you may want to denote the position of an object, or an event in relation to another one – for example, “She was the first person to complete the exam”. As in English, even though “first” has a numerical connotation, it also has a different spelling and meaning from “one”. In addition, ordinal numbers are also gender specific. Therefore, you will need to change the letter “o” for an “a” when composing sentences that include female nouns. The ordinal numbers in Spanish for first through tenth positions are as follows: primero, segundo, tecero, cuarto, quinto, sexto, septimo, octavo, noveno, decimo.

Even though mathematical formulas and calculations are very similar in English and Spanish, you’ll still need to know the name of each number and how it is used. Among other things, when you’re speaking Spanish, you’ll have to use these names in order to express information about quantities, as well as the location of one item in relation to another. Of course, if you can’t remember a specific numerical name, you can always write out the cardinal numerals exactly as you would in English to get your point across.