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 irrelevant.

Grammar however is an inseparable part of any language and cannot be avoided.

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 nightmare!

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- The school language education still uses outdated methods (grammar-translation method) which are heavily grammar oriented.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 techniques”).

-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 conversation.

-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 trabajan

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 irregular.

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 efforts.

-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 drills.

• 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 adapt.

- 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 with vocabulary.

Then it is learnt in rather an efficient way, without any need for doing and repeating endless grammar drills.