Spanish Grammar Tips: Why the Devil Is Never As Black as Pictured
Many people who want to learn conversational Spanish think that mentioning grammar is
Grammar however is an inseparable part of any language and cannot be
The point is both to learn grammar rules and to apply them in practice without
being aware of.
This goal is pretty easy achievable while not turning the learning process a
Why are so many people afraid of Spanish grammar?
The answer is to be searched back long time ago still in the school years. Let’s
summarize all the reasons:
- The school language education still uses outdated methods
(grammar-translation method) which are heavily grammar oriented. Eventually most of the students have rather poor
conversational skills and in their impression it’s the grammar to blame.
What is more, they start hating it and avoid any grammar by all means.
- It’s generally thought that grammar rules are just to be learnt, while
learning words and phrases can be made much more interesting through associations (the so called “awesome memory
-Most of people relate grammar with reading and writing, so they think grammar has
no place in a conversation.
What is the most important to learn
Spanish grammar can be turned into science and can be made impossible for a common
person to learn. But it can also be boiled down to a couple of things you need to participate in a normal
-Verb conjugations – the forms of a given verb for a certain tense.
I work We work Yo trabajo Nosotros trabajamos
You work You work Tu trabajas Vosotros trabajais
He/She works They work El/ella trabaja Ellos/ellas
Conjugated verb forms can be learnt implicitly, by means of conversation - listening
and speaking – without the need for making any long lists of grammar drills.
According to their mode of conjugation, verbs can be regular and
The regular verb conjugated forms are easy to remember as they have standard
endings. As to the irregular verb forms, they are so common and widely used that you learn them in practically no
-Noun gender – there are two kinds of gender – masculine and feminine
el caballo (m) – a horse la vaca (f) – a cow
el libro (m) – a book la revista (f) – a magazine
el padre (m) – a father la casa (f) – a house
el tomate (m) – a tomato la ventana (f) – a window
Gender is not present in English language but it is easy to learn as most of words
in Spanish have standard endings and you and almost always you can guess the gender of a word, so that you make no
mistakes when using it in a conversation.
Here comes the good news:
• Unlike vocabulary which is learnt, maintained and expanded within a lifetime
period, grammar is learnt once. You are unlikely to forget most of the grammar rules – for example what a verb
tense is used for. You could really forget some tiny details but they can quickly be brought back to mind
implicitly just by listening for some time to a Spanish speech
• Grammar can be taught implicitly, without a learner being aware of. After
so many years training in grammar-centered methods, people cannot believe that grammar can be successfully learnt
without laying the main stress on it and without inevitably performing multitude of grammar exercises and
• In a conversation you normally need only a small portion of Spanish grammar
to be able to express yourself adequately and to be understood. The most sophisticated grammar issues, such as
condicional (conditional sentences) and modo subjuntivo (subjunctive mood), as well as gerundio (gerund) and voz
pasiva (passive voice) (the latter two are typical for a scientific written texts) are not used, unless of course
you are eager to show off your grammar skills in front of a Spanish grammar guru.
Practical tips and advices
- Don’t search any relation between Spanish and English grammar. Be tolerant,
don’t make investigations why this is like this and that is like that. Don’t try always to search some logical
explanation for anything different.
Grammar tinkering or theorizing will help you neither learn grammar rules faster
nor apply them successfully. Just accept the fact that some things are different than others and try to
- Grammar is most effectively learnt by talking, by repeatedly listening and
reading your lesson over and over and by asking and answering questions to it.
Grammar exercises and drills are just for reference though they play main part in
school education and are common for most of the “traditional” language study books.
- Buy yourself a grammar book with concise grammar explanations and enough
exercises, clearly structured by grammar items – likewise Murphy’s grammar for English language study.
Use this book however only if you feel unsure about a certain grammar issue. You
don’t need it for every single lesson of your program and you must not read it like a normal book!
Spanish grammar is not easy to learn, especially when embedded in a language book
full of various grammar exercises.
Audio and software Spanish learning programs however, treat the matter
differently. In those methods where language immersion is used grammar is not taught, it’s learnt implicitly in
quite a smooth way – through vocabulary and conversations.
In audio-lingual methods (e.g. the Pimsleur approach), grammar is taught along
Then it is learnt in rather an efficient way, without any need for doing and
repeating endless grammar drills.