Spanish Grammar Glossary

acronym When the first letter of each word is used to help you remember a list of words or phrases.

adjective A word that describes (modifies) a noun or pronoun. A Spanish adjective usually follows the noun or pronoun it modifies and matches its gender and number.

adverb An adverb can be used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs generally tell how, when, or where something happened.

agreement There are many situations where the number and gender of a word must "match" another word. If a noun is singular and feminine, any word that modifies that noun must be in a singular, feminine form. Another aspect of agreement is the necessity to use the correct form of a conjugated verb to match the subject that is responsible for the action of the verb.

apocopated adjectives If placed in front of a singular, masculine noun, some adjectives must be in a shortened form. These are called apocopated adjectives.

clarification The indirect object pronouns are very vague. When it is unclear what noun an indirect object is used to replace, a clarification is written using the preposition a plus a noun or pronoun.

cognate A word that is similar in both Spanish and English. A cognate will either look similar or sound similar but not both.

command When you tell someone to do something you use a form of the verb called a command. In Spanish there are different command forms depending on whether you are addressing someone as tú, vosotros, or ustedes.

compound word A word that is composed of a verb in its él form and a plural noun combined in that order. Compound nouns are always masculine and can be singular even though they end in -s.

compound preposition A compound preposition is a expression made up of two or more words ending in a simple preposition.

conjugation The categorizing of verbs according to the forms used for each subject and in each tense.

conjunctions Two words or phrases are joined by conjunctions such as and (y), but (pero), or (o).

consonant All letters of the alphabet except a, e, i, o and u are consonants.

definite articles The four specific adjectives used in front of a noun to indicate a specific person or thing are el, la, los, and las. The Spanish definite article must match the gender and number of the noun it modifies and is equivalent to the English word "the."

demonstrative An adjective or pronoun that points out the relative distance of an object or person. "This" and "that" are singular demonstratives in English and "these" and "those" are plurals.

diphthongs A combination of two vowels to form one syllable. This is caused by a strong vowel (a, e, o) combined with a weak vowel (i, u) or the combination of two weak vowels.

direct object The noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb.

first person Indicates that the subject of the verb is I (yo) or we (nosotros).

formal The forms of pronouns and verbs used when addressing someone in a respectful manner are called formal.

gender All nouns in Spanish have gender. Each noun is either masculine or feminine and all words that modify a noun will be in a form that matches the gender of the noun.

idiomatic expression A group of words that have a specific meaning different from the translation of each individual word making up the expression.

imperfect tense The imperfect tense is one of the two past tenses in Spanish and is used to describe and narrate ongoing or repetitive actions in the past.

indefinite articles There are four specific adjectives that are used in front of a noun to indicate that it refers to an indefinite person or thing. The singular forms un and una are equivalent to the English word "a." The plural forms unos and unas are equivalent to the English word "some." Spanish indefinite articles must match the noun they modify.

informal When addressing someone in a friendly manner, informal forms of pronouns and verbs are used.

indirect object Tells for whom (what) or to whom (what) something is done.

infinitive The form of the verb that has not been conjugated will end in -ar, -er, or -ir. This is called the infinitive form of the verb and is what you find when you look up a verb in the dictionary.

interrogative pronouns A question word (such as who?, what?, where?, and when?) is called an interrogative pronoun.

irregular verbs A verb that does not follow the normal patterns of conjugated forms is called irregular.

mnemonic devices Techniques that help you remember something.

modify A word that describes or provides more information about another word modifies that word. An adjective modifies a noun, and an adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

neutral demonstrative pronoun The pronoun lo is used to represent a generality or abstract concept that does not have gender, or when the antecedent is unclear.

noun A word that names a person, place, thing, animal or idea.

number Reference to whether something is singular or plural. You must consider number with Spanish nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs.

object case The pronouns used as the direct object, indirect object, and object of a preposition are all the same in English. They are called the object case pronouns.

object of a preposition The noun or pronoun that follows a preposition is called the object of a preposition.

past participle The past participle form of the verb generally ends in -ado or -ido unless it is irregular. It can be changed into an adjective or used with a helping verb.

person The pronoun and form of verb that indicates the person involved.

personal a The preposition a is placed in front of any word that refers to a person or people that serves as the direct object of the sentence.

possessive An adjective or pronoun that shows ownership.

preposition Prepositions are words that are used in front of nouns, pronouns, or the infinitive of a verb to form phrases that typically describe a relationship of time or space.

preposition pronoun In Spanish there is a specific group of pronouns that must be used to replace a noun after a preposition. Any pronoun that you use immediately following a preposition must be from the prepostion pronoun case called tónicos in Spanish.

present progressive tense The present tense of the verb estar (to be) is used with the present participle (-iendo, -ando) form of the verb to indicate an ongoing action in the present.

preterit tense The preterit tense is used in Spanish to focus on a specific instance, a single occurrence, or the beginning or completion of an action in the past.

preterit indicators To determine which of the two Spanish tenses is appropriate in a sentence, look for specific words called preterit indicators that indicate that the preterit tense should be used.

pronoun A word that takes the place of a noun. A pronoun functions as the same part of speech and has the same person, number, and gender as the noun it replaces.

reflexive Indicates that the subject and the object of the sentence is the same.

reflexive pronoun Specific pronouns used with reflexive verbs to indicate that the subject and the object are the same

reflexive verb A verb that has a reflexive pronoun used with it to indicate that the subject and the object of the verb is the same, or to indicate reciprocity between members of the subject.

second person Indicates that the subject of the verb is you ( or usted).

stem The stem of a verb is what is left when you remove the -ar, -er, or -ir. This is also called the base of the verb.

stem-changing verbs A verb that changes the stem from e > ie, o > ue, or e > i in all forms except nosotros/nosotras and vosotros/vosotras.

stress There are very specific rules that govern the syllable that is pronounced most strongly. This is called the natural stress of a word. A written accent mark indicates a vowel is stressed that would not be according to the rules that govern the natural stress of a word.

subject The person, place, or thing responsible for the action of the verb.

subject case Pronouns are grouped in cases. The pronouns used to replace a noun that is the subject of the sentence must come from the subject case.

subject pronoun To replace a noun that is the subject of the sentence with a pronoun, you must use one of the pronouns from the subject pronoun case.

suffix The ending of a word that often determines the part of speech of the word.

superlative The extreme form of an adjective in English often ends in -est. Or they can be irregular: the most, least, best, worst. In Spanish there are also a few irregulars but most superlatives are created with the suffix -ísimo or created by using an idiomatic expression.

tense The time indicated by the verb of a sentence.

third person In English, third person indicates that the subject of the verb is he, she, or it in the singular or they in the plural. The third person form of the verb in Spanish is used with the singular pronouns él (he), ella (she) or usted (you), and the plural pronouns ellos (they, masculine), ellas (they feminine), ustedes (you).

transitive verbs A verb that requires a direct object is called transitive.

umlaut A symbol over the letter ü that indicates the u is pronounced in situations when it normally would not be pronounced.

verb A word expressing an action or a state of being.

verb conjugation chart To indicate what form of the verb is used with each subject pronoun there is a conjugation chart for each tense of the verb. A verb conjugation chart has the pronouns in a specific order and the correct form of the verb to use with that subject in that tense.

vowel In both Spanish and English, the vowels are the letters a, e, i, o, u, and, sometimes, y.