Spanish (español), also called Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in Castile, a region of Spain. Approximately 414 million people speak Spanish as a native language, making it second only to Mandarin in terms of its number of native speakers worldwide. There are more than 500 million Spanish speakers as a first or second language, and 20 million students of Spanish as a foreign language. Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and it is used as an official language by the European Union and Mercosur.

Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages, which evolved from several dialects of common Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century.

Spanish is the primary language of 20 countries worldwide.

In Europe, Spanish is an official language of Spain, the country after which it is named and from which it originated. It is widely spoken in Gibraltar, although English is the official language. It is also commonly spoken in Andorra, although Catalan is the official language. Spanish is also spoken by small communities in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Spanish is an official language of the European Union. In Switzerland, Spanish is the native language of 2.2% of the population.

Most Spanish speakers are in Latin America; of all countries with a majority of Spanish speakers, only Spain and Equatorial Guinea are outside the Americas. Nationally, Spanish is the official language—either de facto or de jure—of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Spanish is also the de facto and official language in Puerto Rico.





Every Spanish verb belongs to one of three form classes, characterized by the infinitive ending: -ar-er, or -ir—sometimes called the first, second, and third conjugations, respectively.

A Spanish verb has ten indicative tenses with more-or-less direct English equivalents: the present tense ('I walk'), the preterite ('I walked'), the imperfect ('I was walking' or 'I used to walk'), the present perfect ('I have walked'), the past perfect ('I had walked'), thepluperfect ('I have been walking' or 'I had walked'), the future ('I will walk'), the future perfect ('I will have walked'), the conditional simple ('I would walk') and the conditional perfect ('I would have walked').

Each tense has seven forms, six of them vary for first, second, or third person and for singular or plural number. The seventh form is a derivation of the second-person plural and is used in voseo for second-person singular (vos hablás is a derivation of vosotros habláis). The second-person formal pronouns (ustedustedes) take third-person verb forms.

In Latin American Spanish, the second-person familiar plural vosotros is replaced by ustedes and uses the corresponding verb forms (e.g. ustedes comen, 'you (plural) eat'). In other words, in Latin America, the familiar/formal distinction in the second person is not maintained in the plural.

In many areas of Latin America (especially Central America and southern South America), the second-person familiar singular  is replaced by vos, which frequently requires its own characteristic verb forms, especially in the present indicative, where the endings are -ás-és, and -ís for -ar-er-ir verbs, respectively. See "voseo".

In the tables of paradigms below, the (optional) subject pronouns appear in parentheses.


Present indicative


The present indicative is used to express actions or states of being in a present time frame. For example:

Yo soy alto (I am tall).

Ella canta en el club (She sings in the club).

Todos nosotros vivimos en un submarino amarillo (We all live in a yellow submarine).

Son las diez y media ([It] is ten thirty).


Present indicative forms of the regular -ar verb hablar ('to speak'):

Present indicative of




First person

(yo) hablo

(nosotros/-as) hablamos

Second person familiar

(tú) hablas

(vosotros/-as) habláis

Second person familiar

(vos) hablás


Second person formal

(usted) habla

(ustedes) hablan

Third person

(él, ella) habla

(ellos, ellas) hablan


Present indicative forms of the regular -er verb comer ('to eat'):

Present indicative of




First person

(yo) como

(nosotros/-as) comemos

Second person familiar

(tú) comes

(vosotros/-as) coméis

Second person familiar

(vos) comés


Second person formal

(usted) come

(ustedes) comen

Third person

(él, ella) come

(ellos, ellas) comen


Present indicative forms of the regular -ir verb vivir ('to live'):

Present indicative of




First person

(yo) vivo

(nosotros/-as) vivimos

Second person familiar

(tú) vives

(vosotros/-as) vivís

Second person familiar

(vos) vivís


Second person formal

(usted) vive

(ustedes) viven

Third person

(él, ella) vive

(ellos, ellas) viven


Past tenses


Spanish has a number of verb tenses used to express actions or states of being in a past time frame. The two that are "simple" in form (formed with a single word, rather than being compound verbs) are the preterite and the imperfect.



The preterite is used to express actions or events that took place in the past, and which were instantaneous or are viewed as completed. For example:

Ella se murió ayer (She died yesterday)

Pablo apagó las luces (Pablo turned the lights off)

Yo me comí el arroz (I ate the rice)

Te cortaste el pelo (You had your hair cut)


Preterite forms of the regular -ar verb hablar ('to speak'):

Preterite of hablar



First person

(yo) hablé

(nosotros/-as) hablamos

Second person familiar

(tú, vos) hablaste

(vosotros/-as) hablasteis

Second person formal

(usted) habló

(ustedes) hablaron

Third person

(él, ella) habló

(ellos, ellas) hablaron


Preterite forms of the regular -er verb comer ('to eat'):

Preterite of comer



First person

(yo) comí

(nosotros/-as) comimos

Second person familiar

(tú, vos) comiste

(vosotros/-as) comisteis

Second person formal

(usted) comió

(ustedes) comieron

Third person

(él, ella) comió

(ellos, ellas) comieron


Preterite forms of the regular -ir verb vivir ('to live'):

Preterite of vivir



First person

(yo) viví

(nosotros/-as) vivimos

Second person familiar

(tú, vos) viviste

(vosotros/-as) vivisteis

Second person formal

(usted) vivió

(ustedes) vivieron

Third person

(él, ella) vivió

(ellos, ellas) vivieron


Note that for -ar and -ir verbs (but not -er), the first-person plural form is the same as that of the present indicative; and -er and -ir verbs share the same set of endings.


Imperfect or "copretérito"

The imperfect expresses actions or states that are viewed as ongoing in the past. For example:

Yo era cómico en el pasado (I was comical in the past)

Usted comía mucho (You ate a lot - literally, this sentence is saying "You used to eat a lot", saying that in the past, the person being referred had a characteristic of "eating a lot")

Ellos escuchaban la radio (They were listening to the radio)

All three of the sentences above describe "non-instantaneous" actions that are viewed as continuing in the past. The characteristic in the first sentence and the action in the second were continuous, not instantaneous occurrences. In the third sentence, the speaker focuses on the action in progress, not on its beginning or end.


Imperfect forms of the regular -ar verb hablar ('to speak'):

Imperfect of hablar



First person

(yo) hablaba

(nosotros/-as) hablábamos

Second person familiar

(tú, vos) hablabas

(vosotros/-as) hablabais

Second person formal

(usted) hablaba

(ustedes) hablaban

Third person

(él, ella) hablaba

(ellos, ellas) hablaban


Imperfect forms of the regular -er verb comer ('to eat'):

Imperfect of comer



First person

(yo) comía

(nosotros/-as) comíamos

Second person familiar

(tú, vos) comías

(vosotros/-as) comíais

Second person formal

(usted) comía

(ustedes) comían

Third person

(él, ella) comía

(ellos, ellas) comían


Imperfect forms of the regular -ir verb vivir ('to live'):

Imperfect of vivir



First person

(yo) vivía

(nosotros/-as) vivíamos

Second person familiar

(tú, vos) vivías

(vosotros/-as) vivíais

Second person formal

(usted) vivía

(ustedes) vivían

Third person

(él, ella) vivía

(ellos, ellas) vivían


Note that for all verbs in the imperfect, the first- and third-person singular share the same form; and -er and -ir verbs share the same set of endings.


Using preterite and imperfect together

The preterite and the imperfect can be combined in the same sentence to express the occurrence of an event in one clause during an action or state expressed in another clause. For example:

Ellos escuchaban la radio cuando oyeron un ruido afuera. (They were listening to the radio when they heard a noise outside.)

Yo estaba en mi cuarto cuando usted entró. (I was in my room when you came in.)

Era un día muy tranquilo cuando eso pasó. (It was a very peaceful day when that happened.)

In all three cases, an event or completed action interrupts an ongoing state or action. For example, in the second sentence, the speaker states that he was in his room (expressed through the imperfect to reflect the ongoing or unfinished state of being there) when the other person "interrupted" that state by entering (expressed through the preterite to suggest a completed action).


Present progressive and imperfect progressive


The present and imperfect progressive both are used to express ongoing, progressive action in the present and past, respectively. For example:

Estoy haciendo mi tarea. (I am doing my homework)

Estamos estudiando. (We are studying)

Estaba escuchando la radio. (I was listening to the radio)

Él estaba limpiando su cuarto. (He was cleaning his room)

The present progressive is formed by first conjugating the verb estar or seguir, depending on context, to the subject, and then attaching a gerund of the verb that follows. The past (imperfect) progressive simply requires the estar or seguir to be conjugated, depending on context, in imperfect, with respect to the subject.


Forming gerunds

To form gerunds in an -ar verb, replace the -ar in the infinitive with -ando i.e.: jugar, hablar, caminar --> jugando, hablando, caminando

For -er, or -ir verbs, replace the -er or -ir ending with -iendo i.e.: comer, escribir, dormir --> comiendo, escribiendo, durmiendo - note that dormir also has a stem change, since it is an irregular verb.

Verbs that end with two vowels and a consonant such as leer, traer, creer have a special exception: i.e.: leer, traer, creer --> leyendo, trayendo, creyendo

Verbs that end with -eir, such as reír and sonreír have yet another exception i.e.: reír, freír --> riendo, friendo




The subjunctive of a verb is used to express certain connotations in sentences such as a wish or desire, a demand, an emotion, uncertainty, or doubt.


Present subjunctive

Normally, a verb would be conjugated in the present indicative to indicate an event in the present frame of time.

Yo soy muy ambicioso (I am very ambitious)

Marta trae la comida (Marta brings the food)


If the sentence is trying to express a desire, demand, or emotion, or something similar, in the present tense, the subjunctive is used.

Quiero que seas muy ambicioso (I want you to be very ambitious)

Literally, the sentence above is saying I want that you be very ambitious

Me alegro de que Marta traiga la comida (I am happy that Marta brings the food)

Es una lástima que llegues tarde (It is a shame that you arrive late)


The subjunctive is also used to convey doubt, denial, or uncertainty.

Busco un amigo que sea simpático (I search for a friend who will be likable or I search for a likable friend)

No hay ningún autor que lo escriba. (There are no authors who write that.)

Es posible que ella sepa mucho (It is possible that she knows a lot.)

No parece que tengan mucho dinero (It does not seem that they have much money.)


In the first two examples, the ideally likable friend has not yet been found and remains an uncertainty, and authors "who write that" are not known to exist. In the third, possibility is not certainty, but rather a conjecture, and the last expresses clear doubt. Thus, subjunctive is used. Some of the phrases and verbs that require sentences to have subjunctive formation include:

Dudar, negar, esperar, alegrarse de, temer, sentir, pedir, aconsejar, exigir, desear, querer, mandar

Es necesario que, conviene que, no parece que, es dudoso que, es probable que, no creo que, importa que, parece mentira que


Some phrases that require the indicative instead, because they express certainty, include:

Es verdad que, es obvio que, es seguro que, parece que, es evidente que, creo que


To form the subjunctive, first take the present indicative first-person ('yo') form of a verb. For example, the verbs hablar, comer, and escribir (To talk, to eat, to write) --> Yo hablo, yo como, yo escribo

Then, replace the ending 'o' with the "opposite ending".

The way this works is in the following:

If the verb is an -er or -ir verb such as comer, poder, escribir, or compartir, replace the ending o with an 'a' i.e. : Yo como; yo puedo; yo escribo --> Yo coma; yo pueda; yo escriba

If the verb is an -ar verb such as caminar, or hablar, replace the ending o with an 'e' i.e. : Yo hablo; yo camino --> Yo hable, yo camine


This forms the first-person conjugation. The others are as follows:

Yo -> Yo hable; yo coma; yo escriba

 -> Tú hables; tú comas; tú escribas

Él/Ella/Usted -> Él hable; él coma; él escriba

Nosotros -> Nosotros hablemos; nosotros comamos; nosotros escribamos

Vosotros -> Vosotros habléis; vosotros comáis; vosotros escribáis

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes-> ellos hablen; ellos coman; ellos escriban


Since the vos forms are derived from vosotros the following would be expected (and used in Central America)

Vos -> Vos hablés; vos comás; vos escribás


However, the Spanish Royal Academy, based in Argentinian usage recommends to use the same forms used for :

Vos -> Vos hables; vos comas; vos escribas


Imperfect subjunctive

Today, the two forms of the imperfect subjunctive are largely interchangeable. The "-se" form derives (as in most Romance languages) from the Latin pluperfect subjunctive, while the "-ra" form derives from the Latin pluperfect indicative. The use of one or the other is largely a matter of personal taste and dialect. Many only use the -ra forms in speech, but vary between the two in writing. Many may spontaneously use either, or even prefer the rarer -se forms. The imperfect subjunctive is formed for basically the same reasons as the present subjunctive, but is used for other tenses and time frames.





The Spanish language has nouns that express concrete objects, groups and classes of objects, qualities, feelings and other abstractions. All nouns have a conventional grammatical gender. Countable nouns inflect for number (singular and plural). However, the division between uncountable and countable nouns is more ambiguous than in English.




All Spanish nouns have one of two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine (mostly conventional, that is, arbitrarily assigned). Most adjectives and pronouns, and all articles and participles, indicate the gender of the noun they reference or modify.

In a sentence like "Large tables are nicer", the Spanish equivalent, Las mesas grandes son más bonitas, must use words according to the gender of the noun. The noun, mesa ("table"), is feminine in Spanish. Therefore, the article must be feminine too, and so la instead of el, is required. However, mesas is plural here, so we need las rather than la. The two adjectives, whether next to the noun or after the verb, have to "agree" with the noun as well. Grande is a word which is invariable for gender, so it just takes a plural marker: grandesBonito is a word that can agree for both gender and number, so we say bonitas to go with mesas. A student of Spanish must keep in mind all these features when making sentences.


Noun gender

In general, most nouns that end in -a-ción / -sión and -ad are feminine; the rest of the nouns, which usually end in -o or a consonant, are masculine.

Nouns can be grouped in the following categories:

Applied to persons and most domesticated animals:

  • Declinable nouns. The feminine form adds a or replaces the final vowel by a, e.g. el profesor/la profesora, el presidente/la presidenta, el perro/la perra. Often, nouns that refer to positions that are traditionally held by men are declinable.
  • Invariant nouns (in Spanish, sustantivos de género común). The feminine form and the masculine form are identical: el artista/la artista, el testigo/la testigo, el estudiante/la estudiante.
  • Nouns with a unique grammatical gender. The noun has a fixed gender, regardless of the sex of the person it describes: el personaje, la visita.

Applied to wild and some domesticated animals:

  • Nouns where the two sexes of animals have different words to describe them: el toro/la vaca, el caballo/la yegua.
  • Epicene nouns. The gender of the noun is fixed and sex is indicated by macho (male) or hembra (female). Examples: la jirafa machola jirafa hembrael rinoceronte machoel rinoceronte hembra.

Applied to things:

  • Masculine, e.g. el pan.
  • Feminine, e.g. la leche.


Vacillant nouns (called sustantivos ambiguos in Spanish) accept either gender, e.g. linde ('boundary') and testuz ('animal's forehead'). Internet causes speakers to hesitate between making it masculine like other loanwords from English, or making it feminine to agree with red, 'net'. Meanwhile, azúcar ('sugar') can be masculine with el, feminine with la, or (oddly) feminine with el (perhaps as a carry-over from Old Spanish, in which the singular definite article was invariably el before nouns beginning with a-, regardless of gender and regardless of stress). Spanish is predominantly a masculine-based language. As such, the determiner seems to go in the masculine in standard use: el, este, ese, tanto, especially when referring to cases where gender is not specified. Any adjectives agreeing with it are usually masculine in Spain and feminine in Latin America: el azúcar moreno o blanco / el azúcar negra o rubiaMar ("sea") is normally masculine, but in poetry and sailors' speech it is feminine. Arte is masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural, though it can be feminine in the singular when it means "art-form" and masculine in the plural in the expression los artes de pesca, "fishing gear".

There is a pattern with words with an initial stressed /a/ sound, such as agua ("water"), that makes them seem ambiguous in gender, but they are not. Such words take the masculine article, both definite (el) and indefinite (un), in the singular form; they also take the singular modifiers algún (instead of alguna) and ningún (instead of ninguna) when those modifiers precede the nouns. Similar words include el alma / un alma ("soul"), el ala / un ala ("wing"), el águila / un águila ("eagle"), and el hacha / un hacha ("ax"). Still they are feminine and, as such, they take feminine modifiers (except those cases previously mentioned) in both singular and plural forms, and they take feminine articles in the plural form as in las aguas frías.

Sometimes, two homonyms will differ in gender, e.g. el capital ("funds") and la capital ("capital city"); el cura ("the priest") and la cura ("the cure").


Determining gender from endings

Nouns ending in -o are masculine, with the only notable exception of the word mano ("hand"); -a is typically feminine, with notable exceptions; other vowels and consonants are more often than not masculine, but many are feminine, particularly those referring to women (la madre) or ending in -ción/sión-dad/tad-ez (la nación, la televisión, la soledad, la libertad, la vejez).

A small set of words of Greek origin and ending in -ma, "-pa", or "-ta" are masculine: problema ("problem"), lema ("lemma, motto"), tema ("theme, topic"), sistema ("system"), telegrama ("telegram"), mapa ("map"), poeta ("poet"), planeta ("planet"), etc.

Words ending in -ista referring to a person can generally be either gender: el artista, la artista, "the artist, the female artist". The same is true of words ending in -ante or -ente, though sometimes separate female forms ending in -a are used.

Words taken from foreign languages may:

  • take the gender they have in that language, with neuter taken to be the same as masculine (so English nouns are made masculine)
  • take the gender it seems to be (e.g. la Coca-Cola because it ends in -a)
  • take the gender of the closest-related Spanish word (e.g. la Guinness because of la cerveza)


Gender of proper nouns (names)


Names of people

People's names agree with the sex of the person, even if they appear to be the opposite:

  • Chema es guapo
  • Amparo es guapa


Names of settlements

Usage for places varies. You can choose between making them:

Feminine if they end in -a, otherwise masculine:

  • la Barcelona de Gaudí
  • el Londres de Dickens

Agree with the underlying noun el pueblo or la ciudad

  • Nueva York (city)
  • la antigua Cartago (city)
  • Fraga es pequeño (village/small town)

Always masculine: (this usage may seem wrong to some speakers)

  • Barcelona no es pequeño
  • Londres no es pequeño

With examples like New York, the Nueva is a fixed part of the name and so cannot be made masculine, but New Mexico is translated as Nuevo México and considered masculine, since México is a masculine noun.



Rivers are masculine because of the underlying masculine noun río. The ancient Roman belief that rivers (amnes) were male gods may also influence this. Locally, a few rivers may be feminine, but the masculine is always safe and correct.

el [río de la] Plata = "The River Plate" (literally "the River of Silver")

el [río] Támesis = "The River Thames"

el [río] Tajo = "The River Tagus"

el [río] Colorado = "The Colorado River" (literally "the Red River")

el [río] Cinca / la Cinca = "The River Cinca" (in the Aragonese Pyrenees)


Vestiges of a neutral gender

While Spanish is generally regarded to have two genders, its ancestor, Latin, had three. The transition from three genders to two is mostly complete; however, vestiges of a neuter gender can still be seen. This was noted by Andrés Bello in his work on the grammar of Latin American Spanish.

Most notably, this is seen in pronouns like estoesoaquello, and ello, which are the neuter forms of esteeseaquel, and él, respectively. These words correspond with English "this", "that", "that" (more common than aquello), and "it". Additionally the word lo, while usually masculine, can be considered neuter in some circumstances. It can also be used in the place of el to be a neutral form of the article "the", as in lo mismo, "the same". Bello also notes that words such as nadapocoalgo, and mucho can be used as neuters in some contexts.

Neuter forms such as esto were preserved because unlike most nouns in Latin, the difference between masculine and neuter for these pronouns did not depend on a final consonant. For example, most second declension Latin neuter singulars in the nominative caseended in -um, the non-neuter counterpart often ending in -us. When the final consonants in these endings are dropped, the result is -u for both; this became -o in Spanish. However, a word like Latin iste had the neuter istud; the former became este and the latter became esto in Spanish.

Another sign that Spanish once had a grammatical neuter exists in words that derive from neuter plurals. In Latin, a neuter plural ended in -a, and so these words today in Spanish get interpreted as singular feminine, and take singular verb forms; however, they do express some notion of a plural. For example, la física corresponds to English "physics", a plural.




There are two grammatical numbers: singular and plural. The singular form is the one found in dictionaries (base form). The plural is indicated in most words by adding -s (if the base form ends in a vowel) or -es otherwise. Note that final y in words like rey, though phonetically a vowel, counts as a consonant (rey → reyes). The addition of -es to certain nouns produces changes in the placement of stress, thereby affecting the presence of accent marks (canción → canciones), and may cause a spelling change in a stem ending in -z (lápiz → lápices).

The masculine gender is used for plural forms of mixed sexes (it is inclusive): los niños, grammatically masculine, may mean "the children" or "the boys". The feminine gender is exclusive in the plural: las niñas = "the little girls". When male sex needs to be shown exclusively in the plural, phrases such as los niños varones are used. Feminists (and their satirists) try to reverse the pattern with phrases such as las personas humanas jóvenes varones = "the young male human people".

Some words are formally always grammatically plural: pantalones "trousers", tijeras "scissors". In many dialects, however, these words are taken to be semantic plurals, and their singular forms are used instead: pantalóntijera.

In expressions with an indefinite determiner, singular forms are used (unlike English, where "some" and "any" tend to modify plural nouns).

Si hay algún árbol, lo derribaremos = "If there is any tree, we will tear it down"

Por cualquier medio = "By any means"

Forms of ninguno ("no") always take singular noun phrases, even where plurality might be intended:

Ningún obstáculo se interpone = "No obstacle is in our way", "There are no obstacles in our way"

No vi a ninguna mujer = "I saw no women", "I did not see any women"

The determiner cualquiera has a plural form (cualesquiera), but it is never used outside formal or technical contexts.


Diminutives, augmentatives and suffixes


A very productive set of suffixes can be added to existing nouns and adjectives to form new Spanish nouns. This usually just slightly modifies the meaning, but sometimes it creates something new entirely.

The most common subset of such suffixes are the diminutives, which convey the idea of smallness, delicateness, etc. (also for endearing terms). The most common diminutive in Spanish is -it-. It is added to the root of the noun, and in actual usage, it takes the proper agreement for gender and number.

planta → plantita / plantota ("plant" → "little plant" / "big plant")

vaso → vasito / vasote ("glass" → "little glass" / "big glass")

niño → niñito / niñote ("small boy" → "little tiny boy" / "Big (little tiny) boy")

In other cases, this ending can be pejorative or belittling.

señor → señorito ("Sir/Mister" → "little sir/mister" (mockingly) compare (señora → señorita ("Madame/Mrs." → "Miss/Ms."))

When the word does not end in a vowel, -it- becomes -cit- for diminutives if the word ends in something other than an unstressed "-o" or "-a". Agreement marks are added to it according to the gender and number:

botón → botoncito / botonote

Carmen → Carmencita

mamá → mamitamamacita

madre → madrecita

This is slightly modified when the base word ends in z. Because z and soft c are the same sound in Spanish, an epenthetic e is inserted (notice the orthographic change): pez → pececito / pecezote. There is nothing fixed when the base ends in other consonants:azúcar → azuquítar or azuquita / azucota.

When words end in -s or -te, there are varied approaches.


Idiomatic diminutives

The choice of diminutive is often a mark of regional dialects and influence of coexistent Romance languages. Educated speakers who would use -ito / -ita or no diminutive at all in more formal speech may use local forms when they want a friendlier or more colourful way of expressing themselves, sometimes borrowing another region's diminutive.

So, instead of the standard -ito, you could find:

-illo / -illa especially in Andalusia ('quillo for chico is a typical Cádiz interjection).

-ico / -ica in Aragon, Navarra, Murcia, eastern Andalusia, parts of the Valencian Community, La Mancha ...

a variant of this diminutive is used in many latinamerican countries, but only for nouns ending in -to-ta or -te, while in other nouns -ito / -ita is used.

-ín / -ina or -ino / -ina in the Spanish spoken in Asturias, as in Asturian or Bable - this form is also present in the Rioplatense variety of Spanish spoken in Argentina and Uruguay, famously in the lyrics of the argentinian tango Cafetín de Buenos Aires by Enrique Santos Discépolo ("De chiquilin te miraba de afuera...")

ín / -ina in Spanish spoken in Extremadura or León, as in Leonese.

-iño / -iña in the Spanish spoken in Galicia, as in Galician.

-uco / -uca in Cantabria.

-eto / -eta in Aragon.

-ete / -eta, possibly from Catalan, in much of eastern Spain.

-uelo / -uela.

In fossilised forms, these can be found in standard words, such as puerta → portilloburro → borricoVenecia → Venezuelapaño → pañuelocalle → calleja → callejuela etc.

Sometimes different suffixes are used for variety when more than one is used at once:

chico → chiquito → chiquitillo etc.


Other suffixes

As well as being an Andalusian (especially Seville) alternative to -ito, the suffix -illo is also a special diminutive with a nuance of "a funny sort of...". It is also used to create new nouns:

palo "stick" → palillo "toothpick"

bolso "handbag" → bolsillo "pocket"

guerra "war" → guerrilla "hit-and-run warfare"

An example of the same phenomenon, but using an augmentative, is -ón:

soltero "bachelor" → solterón "confirmed bachelor"

soltera "single woman" → solterona "spinster"

puerta "door" → portón "gate" / "large door"

Another suffix that can either denote a blow with or be an augmentative is -azo:

puerta ("door") → portazo ("slam of a door")

mano ("hand") → manotazo ("a hit with the hand")

cacerola ("saucepan") → cacerolazo (both "a blow with a saucepan" or "a big saucepan", also a form of protest)

Bogotá (Bogotá, capital of Colombia) → Bogotazo (the "Bogotazo", the riots on April 9, 1948)

Caracas (Caracas, capital of Venezuela) → Caracazo (the "Caracazo", the violent protests of 27 February 1989)

derecha ("right hand") → derechazo (either a "right-hander" when slapping someone, or a "right-handed pass with the cape" in bullfighting)

flecha ("arrow") → flechazo ("arrow shot" / "arrow wound", or figuratively "love at first sight")





The Spanish language uses adjectives in a similar way to English and most other Indo-European languages. Spanish adjectives usually go after the noun they modify, and they agree with what they refer to in terms of both number (singular/plural) and gender (masculine/feminine).

Spanish adjectives are very similar to nouns, and often interchangeable with them. A bare adjective can take an article and be used in the same place as a noun (where English would require nominalization using the pronoun one(s)). For example:

El rojo va aquí/acá, ¿no? = "The red one goes here, does it not?"
Tenemos que tirar las estropeadas = "We have to throw away the broken ones."




Adjectives in Spanish can mostly be divided into two large groups: those that can be found in the dictionary ending in o, and the others. The former typically agree for number and gender; the latter typically agree just for number. Here are some examples:

frío means "cold". This is the dictionary form, and it corresponds to the masculine singular form. When it agrees with a feminine noun, it becomes fría. When it agrees with a plural noun, it becomes fríos. When it agrees with a noun that is both feminine and plural, it becomes frías. Here is a list of a few common adjectives in their four forms:

frío = "cold"; → frío, fría, fríos, frías

pequeño = "small"; → pequeño, pequeña, pequeños, pequeñas

rojo = "red"; → rojo, roja, rojos, rojas


Here are a few common adjectives that agree only in number:

caliente = "hot" → caliente, caliente, calientes, calientes

formal = "formal" → formal, formal, formales, formales

verde = "green" → verde, verde, verdes, verdes

The division into these two groups is a generalisation however. There are many examples such as the adjective español itself which does not end in o but adds an a for the feminine and has four forms (español, española, españoles, españolas). There are also adjectives that do not agree at all (generally words borrowed from other languages, such as the French beige (also Hispanicised to beis)).


Adjectives that change meaning


Some adjectives change meanings depending on their position: either before or after the noun.


Before noun


After noun




certain (particular)


certain (sure)



lucky, happy

great, impressive

grande (gran)

large (physically)



middle, average



(the thing) itself

another, different


brand new













former, long-standing


old, aged


Comparative and superlative constructions


Comparatives are normally expressed with the adverbs más ("more") and menos ("less") followed by the adjective; the object of comparison is introduced with the particle que ("than"). For example, X es más grande que Y ("X is bigger/greater than Y"). Superlatives (in the cross-linguistic, semantic sense) are also expressed with the adverbs más and menos, but this time with a definite article preceding the noun: la persona más interesante ("the most interesting person"); the object of comparison is introduced with the preposition de("of"). An exception from these rules is found in the adjectives bueno ("good") and malo ("bad"), which have the special comparative and superlative forms mejor ("better") and peor ("worse"), taking a plural in -es. These precede the nouns they modify: el peor libro ("the worst book").


The superlative


Instead of putting muy, "very" before an adjective, one can use a special form called the superlative to intensify an idea. This consists of the suffix -ísimo. This form derives from the Latin superlative, but no longer means "the most ...", which is expressed in the ways explained above. Nevertheless, the name is retained for historical reasons.


Regular forms

muy rápido → rapidísimo

muy guapas → guapísimas

muy rica → riquísima

muy lento → lentísimo

muy duro → durísimo


Irregular forms

muy antiguo → antiquísimo

muy inferior → ínfimo

muy joven → jovencísimo

muy superior → supremo

muy bueno → óptimo (buenísimo is more common, and there is the unusual bonísimo)

muy malo → pésimo (malísimo is more common)

muy grande → máximo * (grandísimo is more common)

muy pequeño → mínimo * (pequeñísimo is more common)

(*) These two forms keep the original meaning of the superlative: not "very" but "the most".


Forms that are irregular in high literary style, and regular normally

muy amigo → amicísimo / amiguísimo

muy áspero → aspérrimo / asperísimo

muy benévolo → benevolentísimo / not used

muy célebre → celebérrimo / not used

muy cruel → crudelísimo / cruelísimo

muy fácil → facílimo / facilísimo

muy fiel → fidelísimo / fielísimo

muy frío → frigidísimo / friísimo

muy íntegro → integérrimo / integrísimo

muy libre → libérrimo / librísimo (familiar)

muy magnífico → magnificentísimo / not used

muy mísero → misérrimo / not used

muy munífico → munificentísimo / not used

muy pobre → paupérrimo / pobrísimo

muy sabio → sapientísimo / not used

muy sagrado → sacratísimo / not used


Forms no longer considered superlative

muy agrio ("very bitter") → acérrimo ("strong, zealous, fanatic")


Applying -ísimo to nouns is not frequent, but there is the famous case of Generalísimo.


As in English and other languages influenced by it, a teenspeak superlative can be formed by the prefix super-, or sometimes hiper-ultra-re- or requete-. They can also be written as adverbs separate from the word.

Superlargo or súper largo = "super-long", "way long"





Spanish uses determiners in a similar way to English. The main difference is that they "agree" with what they refer to in terms of both number (singular/plural) and gender (masculine/feminine).




Definite articles: equivalent to "the". Indefinite articles: equivalent to "a/an, some."






















The "neuter article" lo is used before a masculine singular adjective to form an expression equivalent to an abstract noun, e.g. lo interesante 'the interesting thing, the interesting part'. Lo may also be used adverbially before an adjective that shows agreement with a noun, being equivalent to the relative adverb 'how', as in lo buenas que son 'how good they (f.pl.) are'.

When the article el follows either of the prepositions a or de, the sequence of two words forms a contraction, al ('to the') or del ('of the, from the') respectively. Examples: Vamos al parque ('We're going to the park'). Él regresa del cine ('He returns from the movie theater'). One never says a el or de el in Spanish.

The feminine singular definite article la is replaced by el when directly before a noun that begins with a stressed sound (with or without silent h). Thus el aguael hambre. The noun remains feminine, as shown by el agua fría. Likewise, the feminine indefinite articleuna is usually replaced by un in the same circumstances, thus un águila mexicana. When these words are in plural, the feminine articles are used. Example: el agua, las aguas.




Spanish has three kinds of demonstrative, whose use depends on the distance between the speaker and the indicated thing/person. The demonstrative equates to the English terms "this" and "that", although in Spanish the word used must agree for number and gender.






Masculine singular




Masculine plural




Feminine singular




Feminine plural




Neuter singular





NOTE: When standing before the noun they qualify - i.e., when used as adjectives - demonstratives never take an accent: esta casa (this house)esos días (those days).

But demonstratives may also stand on their own, instead of the noun they refer to - i.e. as demonstrative pronouns. In that case, they usually carry a written accent: Quiero éste (I want this one).

Neuter demonstratives have the meaning of "this (or that) thing, concept or idea": Eso está bien (That is okay). In certain cases, neuter demonstratives can convey a pejorative connotation: Quita eso de ahí (Take that out of there).

Neuter demonstratives, because of their use, are never used as adjectives, which makes it unnecessary for them ever to take an accent. Moreover, for their indefinite meaning they do not have plural forms.




The possessive words agree in gender and number with the thing possessed. The possessive pronoun is formed by putting the agreeing definite article before the "long form" of the possessive adjective. Each cell in the table below shows the indicated adjective, followed by the corresponding pronoun. When the possessor is usted or ustedes, the third-person (possessor) form is used.



1st-person singular (possessor)

2nd-person singular (possessor)

3rd-person singular (possessor)

1st-person plural (possessors)

2nd-person plural (possessors)

3rd-person plural (possessors)

Masculine singular
(thing possessed)

el mío

el tuyo

el suyo

el nuestro

el vuestro

el suyo

Masculine plural (things possessed)

los míos

los tuyos

los suyos

los nuestros

los vuestros

los suyos

Feminine singular
(thing possessed)

la mía

la tuya

la suya

la nuestra

la vuestra

la suya

Feminine plural
(things possessed)

las mías

las tuyas

las suyas

las nuestras

las vuestras

las suyas


Notice particularly that the gender here refers to that of the thing possessed, rather than to the possessor. Therefore, if a man has a house (Spanish "casa", which is a feminine noun) we can say that "La casa es suya" (The house is his), with a feminine possessive, according to the gender of the object this man possesses.

Similarly, if a woman has a dog (in Spanish, "perro", a masculine noun), then we can say that "El perro es suyo" (The dog is hers), with a masculine possessive to agree with the noun "perro".


Other determiners


Indefinite quantity: poco ('little'), mucho ('a lot'), bastante ('enough')...

Cardinals: un/una ('one'), dos ('two'), tres ('three')...

Ordinals: primero ('first'), segundo ('second'), tercero ('third')...

Cardinal and ordinal numbers are adjectives of amount (like mucho and poco) and precede nouns (dos animales = 'two animals', primera persona = 'first person'). Primero and tercero drop their final -o before a masculine singular noun, thus el primer libro ('the first book'), el tercer año ('the third year').

Interrogative: qué ('what'), cuál ('which').

The cardinal numbers greater than un/una and the interrogative qué are indeclinable. The indefinite quantifiers, ordinals, un, and cuál are declined as adjectives.





The Spanish language has a range of pronouns that in some ways work quite differently from English ones. In particular, subject pronouns are often omitted, and object pronouns usually precede the verb.


Personal pronouns


The table below shows a cumulative list of personal pronouns from Peninsular, Latin American and Ladino Spanish.

Ladino or Judaeo-Spanish, spoken by Sephardic Jews, is different from Latin American and Peninsular Spanish in that it retains rather archaic forms and usage of personal pronouns.

With regard to pronouns, Latin American Spanish differs from Peninsular Spanish mainly in the usage of vos in some areas and in the absence of vosotros, among other things. Note that Ladino and Latin American Spanish (like most other "colonial" speech) tend to be conservative in its structural changes compared with that of the country of origin. The next section explains their usage.

Subject personal pronouns are usually omitted in both spoken and written language, as the grammatical person and number of the subject are explicit in the verb form. For this reason Spanish is considered a "pro-drop language". Nevertheless, subject pronouns can be used for emphasis or contrast, or to avoid ambiguity.


Table of personal pronouns























vos (*)

te/a vos

te/a vos



con vos






con usted


él, ella, ello

lo, la

le, se


sí, él, ella, ello

con él/ella/ello



nosotros, nosotras




nosotros, nosotras

con nosotros/nosotras


vosotros, vosotras (**)




vosotros, vosotras

con vosotros/vosotras






con ustedes


ellos, ellas

los, las

les, se


sí, ellos, ellas

con ellos/ellas

(*) Only in countries with voseo

(**) Only in Spain



Consigo can also be translated as "I get", from the Spanish verb "conseguir". However, consigo is only used reflexively, unlike conmigo and contigo.

Se is used only as a reflexive pronoun as in "Él se lava" (He washes himself), the subject of an indefinite construction of the passive voice as in "Se dice" (It is said), and as an indirect object if the same sentence contains a direct object pronoun as well: "Se lo di" (I gave it to him/her).


Nominative case (subject, stressed)

yo, tú, vos, usted/vusted (archaic), él/ella/ello, nosotros/nosotras, vosotros/vosotras, ustedes/vustedes (archaic), ellos/ellas


Accusative case (direct object, unstressed, but see below for direct objects preceded by preposition "a")

me, te, lo/la, se, nos, os/vos, los/las


Dative case (indirect object, unstressed, but see below for indirect objects preceded by preposition "a")

me, te, le/se, nos, os/vos, les/se


Prepositional case (objects and complements preceded by prepositions, except for preposition "con", stressed)

mí, ti, vos, él/ella/ello/sí, nosotros/nosotras/nos, vosotros/vosotras/vos, ellos/ellas/sí

Observe that for direct and indirect objects, when they are preceded by the preposition a the pronoun will be in the prepositional case instead of in the accusative or dative. Thus, "I saw her" becomes La vi a ella and "He gave it to me" becomes Me lo dio a mí (see also clitic doubling for the use of reduplicated pronouns).


Comitative case (prepositional complement preceded by the preposition "con" (with), stressed)

When the preposition is con, the first, second and third person singular take the following forms:

*con mí → conmigo = "with me"

*con ti → contigo = "with you"

*con sí → consigo = "with yourself(formal)/himself/herself/itself" (reflexive)

The other persons do not have distinct comitative case forms and simply take the prepositional case preceded by "con" (e.g., con nosotroscon vosotrascon ellacon ellos...). The plural first and second person forms, connosco and convosco, are archaic forms no longer in use but some vestiges may be found in Ladino variants.


Genitive case (possessive)

Adjectival forms (cf. English myyour), unstressed:

  • mi / mis
  • tu / tus
  • su / sus
  • nuestro / nuestra / nuestros / nuestras
  • vuestro / vuestra / vuestros / vuestras
  • su / sus

Pronominal forms (cf. English mineyours), stressed:

  • mío / mía / míos / mías
  • tuyo / tuya / tuyos / tuyas
  • suyo / suya / suyos / suyas
  • nuestro / nuestra / nuestros / nuestras
  • vuestro / vuestra / vuestros / vuestras
  • suyo / suya / suyos / suyas


The unstressed accusative and dative pronouns are attached as enclitics to the end of the infinitive, gerund and imperative (including the subjunctive forms used as imperative in positive commands): decirlo, besándose, hazlo, traelo, dígaselo, amémonos, repartíos, pónganse. In the combination -mos + nos the s is dropped, as is the d in the sequence -d + os. The acute accent is written according to the general accentuation rules. In modern Spanish, these clitic pronouns usually precede the rest of verb forms (me lo dasse lo pondránsi se lo creyeran), including compound and passive ones (se lo ha comidonos habían sido impuestas) and all forms of subjunctive in negative commands (no lo hagas, no lo traigas, no se lo diga, no nos amemos, no os repartáis, no se pongan). In some periphrastic constructions, the pronouns may go either before the main (or auxiliary) verb of after the dependent infinitive or gerund (te lo voy a decir or voy a decírtelose las estaban repartiendo or estaban repartiéndoselasno me lo intentes ocultar or no intentes ocultármelo).

The clitic pronouns, whether enclitic or proclitic, normally cluster in the same order: dative clitics precede accusative clitics, se is in the front always, then follow second persons, then first persons and third persons are always last; furthermore, in a sequence of two third-pronominal object clitics, the dative one must always be se (e.g. Juan se lo mandó "Juan sent it to him").


Old forms


Formal vos

In the past, the pronoun vos was used as a respectful form of address, semantically equivalent to modern usted. This pronoun used the same conjugations as modern vosotros (see below) and also the oblique form os and the possessive vuestro/-a/-os/-as. However, unlike vosotros which always refers to more than one person, vos was usually singular in meaning. The modern voseo of several countries (see below) derives from this old form, but has become a generic form of address instead of a specifically respectful form. Vosand its related forms are still used in literature, cinema, etc. when trying to depict the language of past centuries.


Regional variations



The pronoun "vos" is used in some areas of Latin America, particularly in Central America, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, the state of Zulia in Venezuela, and the Andean regions of Colombia, Bolivia, Perú, and Ecuador.

In some areas, like the River Plate region, vos has become the only generic form of address for singular second person, that is, it has the same meaning that  has elsewhere (informal and intimate). In other areas, like Chile, it persists as a fairly stigmatized form along the more prestigious . In some other areas, it is employed among equals but not for very close people (couples or family) or to inferiors (children, animals etc.), where the pronoun  would normally be used.

Ladino speakers use vos as well, except that they employ it as in Old Spanish (see above), that is, as a respectful form of address, equivalent to how usted is used elsewhere. In fact, Ladino speakers do not use usted at all because vos implies the same respect that it once had in Old Spanish. In Ladino,  is used towards anyone in an informal manner.


The use of vusted and vuestra merced

The variant vusted/vustedes is mostly a regionalism of some South American countries. It is common to hear it in isolated areas of Colombia and Venezuela. Other speakers consider it archaic because it is an older form of a contraction of vuestra merced. In Colombia, it is not unusual to hear people use "su merced" interchangeably with usted. It can be used as a vocative as well, e.g. when speaking to an older person, as in "Su merced, ¿por qué no vienen vusted y sus nietos a mi casa esta tarde?"

Vuestra merced (literally 'your mercy') is the origin of ustedusarcé and similar forms that govern third-person verb forms with a second-person function. They are mostly confined to period works now.

It is unlikely that similar-sounding Arabic ustādh ('professor') was involved in the formation of Spanish usted, given the weakness of the semantic link and the fact that usted is not documented before 1598 (see the online Corpus del Español) — over a century after the fall of Moorish Granada.


The use of vosotros

The pronoun vosotros is completely absent in Latin America, except sometimes in written legal language, in countries like Venezuela, Curaçao, Cuba, Mexico, or Argentina. It is also uncommon in the Canary Islands.

Among the former colonies of the Spanish Empire, only in the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea is the use of vosotros and its normal conjugations retained.

It is used as the second person, familiar plural for most people in Spain, except in some southwestern regions and in most of the Canary Islands, and is the only form used by the Sephardic Jews that speak Ladino.



Forms based on vosotros and vos are used in many Spanish-based creole languages.

In Chavacano, spoken in the Philippines, vo is used alongside tu as a singular second-person pronoun in Zamboangueño, Caviteño, and Ternateño. In Zamboangueño, evos is also used. For the plural, Zamboangueño has vosotros while Caviteño has vusos.Papiamento, spoken in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, maintains boso (singular) and bosonan (plural). Since it was used with slaves, the forms that seemed disrespectful in the rest of America were common.



Menda is the equivalent of I in Caló, where it is concords in first person singular. In Spanish slang, el menda / la menda can be used as an emphatic I, concording with a third person verb, but its use is receding.


The use of le/les


The pronouns le (singular) and les (plural) are used to replace the indirect object of a sentence. In some dialects, le can be used for the plural, too. As an exception, when the direct object is also replaced by a pronoun (lo/los, la/las) the indirect object is replaced by the pronoun se, in both singular and plural.

Le di el libro. = "I gave the book to her/him."

Se lo di. = "I gave it to her/him/them."


Direct-object le/les

Generally, the unstressed third-person object pronouns in Spanish are lo, la, los, las. This is the current position of the Real Academia Española. This is a reasonable generalisation given that it is true in over ninety percent of cases in the Spanish-speaking world. However, it is helpful to take note of the various exceptions to this general rule whereby le/les rather than lo, la, los, las are used. Note however that this use is rather modern and often found only in part of Spain whereas the use of lo, la, los, las is considered more traditional.


The use of direct-object le/les

There are various diachronic and synchronic reasons for the use of le/les for direct objects. To understand why there is vacillation and hesitation in usage, it is helpful to understand these often-conflicting linguistic forces.


a) Masculine e

There is a strong tendency in Spanish, inherited from Latin, for pronouns and determiners to have a set of three different endings for the three genders. These are: -e or ∅ for masculine pronouns, -a for feminine pronouns and -o for neuter pronouns.

Thus, éste, ésta, estoése, ésa, esoaquél, aquélla, aquelloel, la, loél, ella, ello.

In this context, it would make sense to say le vi "I saw him" for any masculine noun, la vi "I saw her/it" for any feminine noun, and lo vi "I saw it" when no noun is being referred to. The use of "le" as the direct object pronoun is only used in Spain and it can only mean "him" Le vi. Use "lo" for things. ¿Tienes tu libro? Sí, lo tengo. This gives us a set like the above: le, la, lo.


b) Indirectness for humans — general

Spanish has a tendency, discussed at Spanish prepositions, to treat as indirect objects those direct objects which happen to refer to people. In this context, it would make sense to say le/les vi "I saw him/her/them" when referring to people and lo/la/los/las vi "I saw it/them" when referring to things.

b 1) Indirectness for humans — respect for the interlocutor

The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when the speaker wishes to convey respect. The third person in Spanish can be used as the second person to mean "you". In this context, it would make sense to use lo/la/los/las vi "I saw him/her/it/them" when one is speaking about a third party or an object, but le/les vi "I saw you" when the pronoun is intended to represent usted/ustedes.

b 2) Indirectness for humans — contrast with inanimate things

The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when the subject of the sentence is not human, thus creating a contrast in the mind of the speaker between the human and the thing. In this context, it would make sense to say la halagó "he flattered her" when the subject is "he" referring to a person, but le halagó "it flattered her" when the subject is "it", a thing.

b 3) Indirectness for humans — humanity otherwise emphasised

The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when the humanity of the person who is the object of the sentence is emphasised by the way the verb is used. In this context, it would make sense for a subtle distinction to be made between lo llevamos al hospital "we took/carried him to the hospital" when the patient is unconscious and le llevamos al hospital "we took/led him to the hospital" when the patient is able to walk.

b 4) Indirectness for humans — with impersonal se

The general tendency to use indirect objects for people is intensified when impersonal se is used instead of a real subject. This is to avoid the misinterpretation of the se as being an indirect object pronoun. In this context, it would make sense to say se le lee mucho"people read him/her a lot" if "se" means "people" and "le" means "him/her", and reserve se lo/la lee mucho "he/she reads it a lot for him/her" for sentences in which the "se" is not impersonal.


Prepositions with multiple personal pronouns


In some cases, if the object of a preposition is more than one pronoun, the preposition has to be repeated or a plural pronoun must be used.


With para

Not normative: Este vino es solamente para mí y tú.


Este vino es solamente para mí y para ti. = "This wine is only for me and (for) you."

Este vino es solamente para nosotros. = "This wine is only for us."


Demonstrative pronouns


Near the speaker ("this"): éste, ésta, esto, éstos, éstas (from the Latin ISTE, ISTA, ISTVD)

Near the listener ("that"): ése, ésa, eso, ésos, ésas (from the Latin IPSE, IPSA, IPSVM)

Far from both speaker and listener ("that (over there)"): aquél, aquélla, aquello, aquéllos, aquéllas (from the Latin *ECCVM ILLE, *ECCVM ILLA, *ECCVM ILLVD)

N.B.: According to a decision of the Real Academia from the 1960s, the accents on these forms are only to be used when necessary to avoid ambiguity with the demonstrative determiners. However, the normal educated standard is still as above. Foreign learners may safely adhere to either standard.

Note also that there is never an accent on the neuter forms estoeso and aquello (which do not have determiner equivalents).


Relative pronouns


The main relative pronoun in Spanish is que. Others include el cualquien and donde.



Que covers "that", "which", "who", "whom" and the null pronoun in their functions of subject and direct-object relative pronouns.

La carta que te envié era larga = "The letter [that] I sent you was long" (restrictive relative pronoun referring to direct object)

La carta, que te envié, era larga = "The letter, which I did send you, was long" (non-restrictive relative pronoun referring to direct object)

La gente que no sabe leer ni escribir se llama analfabeta = "People who cannot read or write are called illiterate" (relative pronoun referring to subject)

Esa persona, que conozco muy bien, no es de fiar = "That person, whom I know very well, is not to be trusted"


El que

When the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition, the definite article is added to que, and this agrees for number and gender, giving us el quela quelos quelas que and the neuter lo que. Note that in English there are two options: the preposition can go to the end of the sentence, or it can go right before the relative pronoun "which" or "whom".

Ella es la persona a la que le di el dinero = "She is the person [that/whom] I gave the money to" / "She is the person to whom I gave the money"

Es el camino por el que caminabais = "It is the path [that] you were all walking along" / "It is the path along which you were all walking"

In some people's style of speaking, this definite article may be omitted after acon and de, particularly when the antecedent is abstract or neuter:

La aspereza con [la] que la trataba = "The harshness with which he treated her"

No tengo nada en [lo] que creer = "I have not anything to believe in" / "I have nothing in which to believe"

After en, the article tends to be omitted if precise spatial location is not intended.

Lo hiciste de la misma forma en que lo hizo él = "You did it [in] the same way [that/in which] he did it" (note also how "in" with the word forma is translated as de when used directly, but then changes to en when used with the relative pronoun)

La casa en que vivo = "The house in which I live" (as opposed to the following:)

La casa en la que estoy encerrado = "The house inside which I am trapped"


Lo que

Lo que has a slightly different meaning from el que, and is usually used as the connotation of "that which" or "what".

Lo que hiciste era malo. - What you did was bad.

Lo que creí no es correcto. - What I believed is not right.

Splitting "lo que" and adding an adjective in between changes the meaning slightly.

Lo importante es que tenemos un hogar. - What is important is that we have a home.

Lo mejor es que pierdas peso. - The best thing is that you lose weight (for the time being).


El cual

The pronoun el cual can replace [el] que. It is generally more emphatic and formal than [el] que. Note that it always includes the article.

It has the following forms: el cualla cuallos cualeslas cuales and the neuter lo cual.


For subjects and direct objects

It can be used as a formal, emphatic replacement for que in non-defining clauses, for either subjects or direct objects. The fact that it agrees for gender and number can make it clearer to what it refers. The fact that it cannot be used for defining clauses also makes it clear that a defining clause is not intended.

Los niños y sus madres, las cuales eran de Valencia, me impresionaron = "The children and their mothers, who were from Valencia, impressed me" (los cuales would have referred to the children, too, and not just their mothers)

When used for direct objects, the personal a is required if the antecedent is human.

Esa persona, a la cual conozco yo muy bien, no es de fiar = "That person, whom I know very well, is not to be trusted"


As the object of a preposition

It can be used as a formal, emphatic replacement for el que, usually in non-defining clauses, as the object of a preposition (including a representing the indirect object). This happens in three main situations.

First, it can be purely a matter of high style. This is used sparingly in Spanish, and so foreigners should avoid over-using it.

Es el asunto al cual se refería Vd. = "It is the matter to which you were referring"

In more everyday style, this might be phrased as:

Es el asunto al que te referías = "It is the matter to which you were referring"

Second, el cual is often preferred after propositions of more than syllable (paracontraentremediante...) and after prepositional phrases (a pesar dedebajo dea causa defrente aen virtud degracias apor consecuencia de...).

Un régimen bajo el cual es imposible vivir = "A régime under which it is impossible to live"

Estas cláusulas, sin perjuicio de las cuales... = "These clauses, notwithstanding which..."

Third, el cual is preferred when it is separated from its antecedent by intervening words. The more words that intervene, the more the use of el cual is practically obligatory.

Es un billete con el que se puede viajar [...] pero por el cual se paga sólo 2€ = "It is a ticket with which you can travel with [...] but for which you pay just €2"



It too can replace [el] que in certain circumstances. Like the English pronouns "who" and "whom", it can only be used to refer to people.

It is invariable for gender, and was originally invariable for number. However, by analogy with other words, the form quienes was invented. Quien as a plural form survives as an archaism that is now considered non-standard.


For subjects

It can represent a subject. In this case, it is rather formal and is largely restricted to non-defining clauses.

Unlike el cual, it does not indicate gender, but it does indicate number, and also specifies that a person is referred to.

Los niños con sus mochilas, quienes eran de Valencia, me impresionaron = "The children with their rucksacks, who were from Valencia, impressed me" (The use of quienes makes it clear that los niños is referred to. Que could refer to the rucksacks, the children, or both. Los cuales would refer to either the children or both. Las cuales would refer only to the rucksacks.


As the object of a preposition

Quien is particularly common as the object of a proposition when the clause is non-defining, but is also possible in defining clauses.

Ella es la persona a quien le di el dinero = "She is the person to whom I gave the money"

José, gracias a quien tengo el dinero, es muy generoso = "José, thanks to whom I have the money, is very generous"


Dondea dondecomo and cuando


Location and movement

Donde can be used instead of other relative pronouns when location is referred to. Adonde is a variant that can be used when motion to the location is intended.

El lugar en que / en el que / en el cual / donde estoy = "The place where I am" / "The place in which I am"

Voy a[l lugar] donde está él = Voy al lugar en el que está él = "I am going [to the place] where he is"

Iré [al lugar] adonde me lleven = Iré al lugar al que me lleven = "I will go wherever they take me" / "I will go to whatever place to which they take me"



Como can be used instead of other relative pronouns when manner is referred to.

La forma/manera en que / en la que / como reaccionasteis = "The way that / in which / how you reacted" (En que is the most common and natural, like "that" or the null pronoun in English; but como is possible, as "how" is in English.)

Note that for some reason mismo tends to require que:

Lo dijo del mismo modo que lo dije yo = "She said it the same way [that] I did"



Cuando tends to replace the use of other relative pronouns when time is referred, usually in non-defining clauses.


En agosto, cuando la gente tiene vacaciones, la ciudad estará vacía = "In August, when people have their holidays, the town will be empty"


Sólo salgo los días [en] que no trabajo = "I only go out the days that I am not working"

Note that just que, or at the most en que, is normal with defining clauses referring to time. En el que and cuando are rarer.



"Cuyo" is the formal Spanish equivalent for the English pronoun "whose." However, "cuyo" is inflected for gender and number (cuyos (m. pl.), cuya (f. sing.), or cuyas (f. pl.)) according to the word it precedes. Observe the following example:

Alejandro es un estudiante cuyas calificaciones son siempre buenas. = Alejandro is a student whose grades are always good."

We can see in the above example that the gender and number of "cuyo" have changed to "cuyas" in order to match the condition of the following word, "calificaciones" (f. pl.)

In Old Spanish there were interrogative forms, cúyocúyas, and cúyos, no longer used.

In practice, cuyo is reserved to formal language. A periphrasis like Alejandro es un estudiante que tiene unas calificaciones siempre buenas. is more common.


Note on relative and interrogative pronouns

Note that relative pronouns often have corresponding interrogative pronouns.

For example:

"¿Qué es esto?" - "What is this?"

"Ese es el libro que me diste." - "That is the book that you gave me."

In the second line, que was helping to answer for what Qué was asking, a definition of "this".


Below is a list of interrogative pronouns and phrases with the relative pronouns that go with them.

  • Qué - what/que - that
  • Quién - who/quien - who
  • A quién - whom/a quien - whom
  • De quién - whose, of whom/cuyo - whose, of whom


Reflexive pronouns and impersonal se


The reflexive pronoun is used with pronominal verbs, also known as reflexive verbs. These verbs require the use of the reflexive pronoun, appropriate to the subject. The forms are as follows:








Nosotros / Nosotras


Tú / Vos



Vosotros / Vosotras


Él / Ella / Usted



Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes



Some transitive verbs can take on a reflexive meaning, such as lavar (to wash) and lavarse (to wash oneself). Other verbs have reflexive forms which do not take on a reflexive meaning, such as ir (to go) and irse (to go away). Some verbs only have reflexive forms, such as jactarse (to boast).





Spanish has a relatively large number of prepositions, and does not use postpositions. The following list is traditionally recited:

A, ante, bajo, cabe, con, contra, de, desde, en, entre, hacia, hasta, para, por, según, sin, so, sobre, tras.

Lately, two new prepositions have been added: "durante" and "mediante", usually placed at the end to preserve the list (which is usually learnt by heart by Spanish students).

This list includes two archaic prepositions (so and cabe), but leaves out two new Latinisms (vía and pro) as well as a large number of very important compound prepositions.

Prepositions in Spanish do not change a verb's meaning as they do in English. For example, to translate "run out of water" "run up a bill" "run down a pedestrian" "run in a thief" into Spanish requires completely different verbs, and not simply the use of "correr" ("run") plus the corresponding Spanish prepositions. This is more due to the nature of English phrasal verbs rather than an inherent function of Spanish verbs or prepositions.





The Spanish conjunctions y ('and') and o ('or') alter their form in both spoken and written language to e and u respectively when followed by an identical vowel sound. Thus, padre e hijo ('father and son'), Fernando e Isabel ('Ferdinand and Isabella'), sujeto u objeto('subject or object'), vertical u horizontal ('vertical or horizontal').

The change does not take place before the (h)i of a diphthong, as in acero y hierro ('steel and iron'). Nor does the conjunction y change when initial in a question (where it serves to introduce or reintroduce a name as a topic, rather than to link one element with another), as in ¿Y Inés? ('What about Inés?').

When the conjunction o appears between numerals, it is usually spelled with an accent mark (ó), in order to distinguish it from zero (0); thus, ó 3 ('2 or 3') in contrast to 203 ('two-hundred three').



Syntactic variation


Cleft sentences


A cleft sentence is one formed with the copular verb (generally with a dummy pronoun like "it" as its subject), plus a word that "cleaves" the sentence, plus a subordinate clause. They are often used to put emphasis on a part of the sentence. Here are some examples of English sentences and their cleft versions:

"I did it." → "It was I who did it." or colloquially "It was me that did it."

"You will stop smoking through willpower." → "It is through willpower that you will stop smoking."

Spanish does not usually employ such a structure in simple sentences. The translations of sentences like these can be readily analyzed as being normal sentences containing relative pronouns. Spanish is capable of expressing such concepts without a special cleft structure thanks to its flexible word order.

For example, if we translate a cleft sentence such as "It was Juan who lost the keys", we get Fue Juan el que perdió las llaves. Whereas the English sentence uses a special structure, the Spanish one does not. The verb fue has no dummy subject, and the pronoun el que is not a cleaver but a nominalising relative pronoun meaning "the [male] one that". Provided we respect the parings of "el que" and "las llaves", we can play with the word order of the Spanish sentence without affecting its structure – although each permutation would, to a native speaker, give a subtly different shading of emphasis.

For example, we can say Juan fue el que perdió las llaves ("Juan was the one who lost the keys") or El que perdió las llaves fue Juan ("The one who lost the keys was Juan"). As can be seen from the translations, if this word order is chosen, English stops using the cleft structure (there is no more dummy "it" and a nominalising relative is used instead of the cleaving word) whilst in Spanish no words have changed.

Here are some examples of such sentences:

Fue Juan el que perdió las llaves. = "It was John who lost the keys."

Son sólo tres días los que te quedan. = "It is only three days that you have left."

Seré yo quien se lo diga. = "It will be I who tells him."

Son pocos los que vienen y se quedan. = lit. "It is not many who come and stay."

Note that it is ungrammatical to try to use just que to cleave such sentences as in English, but using quien in singular or quienes in plural is grammatical.

Fue Juan que perdió las llaves. (incorrect)

Fue Juan quien perdió las llaves. (correct)

When prepositions come into play, things become complicated. Structures unambiguously identifiable as cleft sentences are used. The verb ser introduces the stressed element and then there is a nominaliser. Both of these are preceded by the relevant preposition. For example:

Fue a mí a quien le dio permiso. = "It was me to whom he gave permission", lit. "It was to me to whom he gave permission."

Es para nosotros para quienes se hizo esto. = "It is us for whom this was made", lit. "It is for us for whom this was made"

Es por eso por lo que lo hice. = "That is why I did it", more literally: "It is because of that that I did it", or completely literally: "It is because of that because of which I did it."

Es así como se debe hacer = "It is this way that it must be done", lit. "It is this way how it must be done" (como replaces longer expressions such as la forma en que)

This structure is quite wordy, and is therefore often avoided by not using a cleft sentence at all. Emphasis is conveyed just by word order and stressing with the voice (indicated here within bolding):

Me dio permiso . = "He gave permission to me"

Se hizo esto para nosotros. = "This was done for us"

Por eso lo hice. = "I did it because of that"

Se debe hacer así = "It must be done this way"

In casual speech, the complex cleaving pronoun is often reduced to que, just as it is reduced to "that" in English. Foreign learners are advised to avoid this.

Es para nosotros que se hizo esto.

Es por eso que lo hice.

Fue a mí que le dio permiso. (preferred: a quien)

Es así que se debe hacer (preferred: como)

In the singular, the subordinate clause can agree either with the relative pronoun or with the subject of the main sentence, though the latter is seldom used. However, in the plural, only agreement with the subject of the main sentence is acceptable. Therefore:


Yo fui el que me lo bebí = "I was the one who drank it" (agreement with subject of main sentence)

Yo fui el que se lo bebió (preferred form with same meaning, agreement with el que)

La que lo  soy yo = "I am the one who knows" (agreement with subject of main sentence)

La que lo sabe soy yo = (preferred form with same meaning, agreement with la que)


Somos los únicos que no tenemos ni un centavo para apostar = "We are the only ones who do not have even a cent to bet" (agreement with subject of main sentence) (from dialogue of the Gabriel García Márquez novel El coronel no tiene quien le escriba).

Vosotras sois las que lo sabéis = "You girls are the ones who know" (agreement with subject of main sentence)



Dialectal variations


Forms of address


The use of usted and ustedes as a polite form of address is universal. However, there are variations in informal address. Ustedes replaces vosotros in much of Andalusia, the Canary Islands and Latin America, except in the liturgical or poetic of styles. In some parts of Andalusia, the pronoun ustedes is used with the standard vosotros endings.

Depending on the region, Latin Americans may also replace the singular  with usted or vos. The choice of pronoun is a tricky issue and can even vary from village to village. Travellers are often advised to play it safe and call everyone usted.

A feature of the speech of the Dominican Republic and other areas where syllable-final /s/ is completely silent is that there is no audible difference between the second and third person singular form of the verb. This leads to redundant pronoun use, for example, the tagging on of ¿tú ves? (pronounced tuvé) to the ends of sentences, where other speakers would say ¿ves?.



Vos was used in medieval Castilian as a polite form, like the French vous and the Italian voi, and it used the same forms as vosotros. This gave three levels of formality:

  • Tú quieres
  • Vos queréis (originally queredes)
  • Vuestra merced quiere (today usted)

Whereas vos was lost in standard Spanish, some dialects lost , and began using vos as the informal pronoun. The exact connotations of this practice, called voseo, depend on the dialect. In certain countries there may be socioeconomic implications. El voseo uses the pronoun vos for , but maintains te as an object pronoun and tu and tuyo as possessives.

In voseo, verbs corresponding to vos in the present indicative (roughly equivalent to the English simple present), are formed from the second person plural (the form for vosotros). If the second person plural ends in áis or éis, the form for vos drops the i:

  • Vosotros habláis - vos hablás.
  • Vosotros tenéis - vos tenés.

Similarly the verb ser (to be) has:

  • Vosotros sois - vos sos.

If the second person plural ends in -ís (with an accent on the í), then the form for vos is identical:

  • Vosotros vivís - vos vivís.
  • Vosotros oís - vos oís.
  • Vosotros huís - vos huís.

In the imperative, the form for vos is also derived from the second person plural. The latter ends always in -d. So for the form for vos this d is removed, and if the verb has more than one syllable, an accent is added to the last vowel:

  • Tened (vosotros) - tené (vos)
  • Dad (vosotros) - da (vos).

The only exception to these rules is in the verb ir (to go), which does not have an imperative form for vos and uses the analogous form of the verb andar, which has a similar meaning, and is regular:

  • Andad - andá.

In the present subjunctive, the same rules as for the present indicative apply, though these forms coexist in Argentina with those for the pronoun :

  • Que vosotros digáis - que vos digás.


  • Que tú digas - que vos digas.

Other tenses always have the same form for vos as for .

Outside Argentina, other combinations are possible. For instance, people in Maracaibo may use standard vosotros endings for vos (vos habláis, que vos habléis).


Vosotros imperative: -ar for -ad

In Spain, colloquially, the infinitive is used instead of the normative imperative for vosotros. This is not accepted in the normative language.

¡Venir! instead of ¡Venid!

¡Callaros! instead of ¡Callaos! (¡Callarse! in some dialects)

¡Iros! or ¡Marcharos! instead of ¡Idos!


non-normative -s on  form

A form used for centuries but never accepted normatively has an -s ending in the second person singular of the preterite or simple past. For example, lo hicistes instead of the normative lo hicistehablastes tú for hablaste tú. This is the only instance in which the form does not end in an -s in the normative language.

Ladino has gone further with hablates.


Third-person object pronoun variation


The third-person direct- and indirect-object pronouns exhibit variation - from region to region, from one individual to another, and even within the language of single individuals. The Real Academia Española prefers an "etymological" usage, namely one in which the indirect object function is carried by le (regardless of gender), and the direct object function is carried by la or lo (according to the gender of the antecedent, and regardless of its animacy). The Academy also condones the use of le as a direct object form for masculine, animate antecedents (i.e. male humans). Deviations from these approved usages are named leísmo (for the use of le as a direct object), and laísmo and loísmo (for the use of la and lo as indirect objects).


Queísmo and dequeísmo


Noun clauses in Spanish are typically introduced by the complementizer que, and such a noun clause may serve as the object of the preposition de, resulting in the sequence de que in the standard language. This sequence, in turn, is often reduced colloquially to justque, and this reduction is called queísmo.

Some speakers, by way of hypercorrection (i.e. in an apparent effort to avoid the "error" of queísmo), insert de before que in contexts where it is not prescribed in the standard grammar. This insertion of "extraneous" de before que — called dequeísmo — is generally associated with less-educated speakers.