See below for links to the various Spanish content sections.
Along with a pronunciation and ‘basics’ guide, here you’ll find entries organised a little differently. Each entry deals with either a theme (e.g. meetings), an area of vocabulary (e.g. numbers/time) or grammar (e.g. the future).
Food, drink, nutrition
Prepositions – in, out, above, etc.
Imperative – instructions and orders
If, but and maybe
Connection and comparison
Goodbyes and Gratitude
Introducing Spanish with InternationalEyes
An important characteristic of Spanish (español) is the phonetic nature of the language. This means that a word sounds as it’s written, following the comparatively simple rules set out below for the alphabet. The letters are similar to English, coming mainly from the same Latin root but without having as many variations as we see in our own native language.
Spain’s geography, and its fascinating history of conquest and occupation have also influenced the language, as well as different langues and dialects from region to region. This results in some words with a more Arabic root, and words with subtly different meanings from place to place, as well as words drawn from other languages including English and French.
The Alphabet and Pronunciation
a (a) in common with the other Spanish vowels is pronounced in a shortened form as in the English ‘ant’. Unlike in English, ‘a’ is never pronounced as a lengthened sound such as the English words ‘part’ or ‘hate’.
b (bay) in Spanish is pronounced similarly to English, but is sometimes heard like a soft ‘v’
c (thay) is the soft lisping c characteristic of Spanish, although this varies regionally.
ch (chay) in Spanish is a discrete sound pronounced like the English ch sounds in ‘church’.
d (day) is like the English ‘d’ in dog. k, l, m, n, p, and t are also all pronounced the same as in English.
e (eh) as in España is a shortened vowel sound like in ‘egg’. It is never pronounced like ‘ee’ as this sound comes from the letter ‘i’ in Spanish.
f (effay) in Spanish is like the English consonant ‘f’ in ‘from’.
g (hhay) generally has a soft guttural sound in Spanish when before e or i – a little like the English ‘h’. This is made by raising the back of the tongue slightly against the palate (a little like gently clearing the throat!). Before a, o or u, the Spanish g is hard like in the English garden.
h (achay) is frequently silent in Spanish (e.g. hermano – brother, where every letter is sounded except the h) but sometimes changes the sound of another letter. The English ‘h’ sound has no direct equivalent, and the Spanish sound of ‘j’ is closest.
i (ee) in Spanish is actually again shortened as in the English ‘it’ (so is more ‘clipped’ than the English word ‘bee’) . Like other vowels, a, e, o and u, you may see a mark above the letter (í ), which highlights that this is where the stress lies in the word. The mark is added only when stress deviates from the general stress rule. Normally WORD STRESS is on the second last syllable if the word ends in a vowel, s or n; while if a word ends in a consonant other than s or n, the last syllable is stressed.
j (hota) is perhaps the closest sound to ‘h’, though not as soft, for example in the name Juan (sounding like hwan).
l (ellay) sounds like the English l, but ll (elyay) as in paella or llamar is generally pronounced rather like the ‘llia’ in palliative or the ‘ly’ in halyard, but in both cases a little shorter – it takes practice and listening to native Spanish speakers to get the sound right.
ñ (enyay) as in mañana or Español is another characteristically Spanish sound of ‘ny’ as the ‘ni’ in the English ‘onion’.
o (o) is spoken with the mouth open and rounded as in the English ‘dog’ but never like the first ‘o’ in onion, the ‘o’ in bowl’ or as an ‘oo’ sound like ‘food’.
p (pay) in Spanish is similar to the English but a little less vigorously and precisely pronounced – not as much air is released explosively in Spanish.
q (coo) has the hard ‘k’ sound, including when followed by u (que – prounounced like ‘kay’). It is never pronounced like ‘kw’.
r (airay) is ‘rolled’ rather than the quieter or softer English equivalent. It also occurs as a double letter where the ‘rolling is even more evident.
s (essay) is pronounced as the ss in sound in English, but never like ‘z’ (frogs).
u (oo) is a short, phonetically pure ‘oo’ sound with the tongue a little further back in the mouth than the English equivalent. It is never pronounced like ‘you’.
v (oovay) sounds in Spanish like the English equivalent ‘v’ but at times you may notice it sounds more like a soft ‘b’. The difference between these two letters is hardly noticeable at all in some regions.
w (oovay doblay – literally double ‘v’) is not a common letter in Spanish but when used it sounds broadly the same as the w in the English ‘we’.
x (aykis) has a ‘ks’ sound in Spanish as in Luxemburgo.
y (ee griega) literally means ‘Greek I’ and is pronounced as a slightly longer sound than the Spanish ‘i’ and frequently sounds like a gentle English j at the beginning of a word (e.g. in yo – ‘I’ )
z (theta) is another lisping sound like the Spanish ‘c’, and again the lisping is not generally heard in the Latin American countries or Southern Spain.
Spanish, in common with many other languages, gives gender to nouns – in this case either feminine or masculine. It pays to remember that this gender is a linguistic character rather than an intrinsic one. So you’ll see objects with a gender that seems to make sense, whilst others less so – these are simply rules to follow that have evolved over time.
Masculine nouns most often end in o or a consonant or refer to a male. There are exceptions like el dia, or el problema, which you simply need to learn.
Feminine nouns usually end in a or clearly relate to a female. You’ll also find words ending ~dad, ~ion, or ~tad are feminine – these broadly relate to the English endings ~ity, ~ion and ~ty, e.g. city, information, faculty. Like the masculine exceptions, feminine has these too, sometimes because they are shortened forms of a feminine noun like la tele (televisión) or la foto (fotografía). These often have a Greek origin.
Some words have a masculine and feminine equivalent, e.g. un profesor, una profesora, while others have a single gender regardless of the ‘reality’ – una / un turista. Note the article changes but not the noun itself.
Plurals are fairly straightforward, with the simple addition of an s or es at the end. A few ‘surprises’ exist where, for example feminine nouns ending in a consonant still end ~es , a z changes to a c (luz / luces) or the stress changes between singular and plural.
To be or not to be
It’s essential to recognise that there are two verbs ‘to be’ , depending largely on position and permanence, but with other key rules to note as follows:
ser is used for more or less permanent conditions such as colour, size, but also for professions (soy profesor) and place of origin (soy de inglaterra)
estar is used for location and temporary conditions, such as estoy aquí (I’m here), está bien (it’s fine), or estoy triste (I’m sad).