Tag Archives: spanish grammar

Impersonal vs passive “se”

Once again the Spanish language is offering us something confusing, this time I am talking about the word “se”. The two constructions, impersonal se and passive se look quite similar and it is not that easy to tell them apart. As usual, you should get prepared, take a pen, pencil, or whatever writing tool you want, a piece of paper or a notebook and let’s get started. Oh, not to forget, also arm yourself with optimism and you will surely succeed.

Impersonal se in Spanish

As its name states it, this kind of “se” does not refer to a specific person. It is actually used to refer to something that should be done, without specifying who should be in charge of it. This is what makes the statement impersonal.

We normally use impersonal expressions in order to say how things are usually done, whether we are referring to custom, rule, or general consensus. We also use impersonal expressions when we make general statements.

So now you know when we use impersonal expressions. However, there is still one question that has probably crossed your mind. How do we form “se ”constructions? Do not panic, because it is actually quite simple.

To from an impersonal se construction we use “se” + a verb in the third person singular. Below are a few examples that will help you have a better understanding of the concept.

  • Se habla español. ( = Spanish is spoken here.)
  • Se usa el reloj para saber la hora. ( = The clock is used to know the hour.)
  • No se permite hacer fotos aquí. ( = It is not permitted to take photos here.)
  • Se dice que antes vivía una bruja aquí. ( = It is said that before there lived a witch here.)
  • En Francia se come mucho queso. ( = In France they eat a lot of cheese.)

Passive se in Spanish

We usually use the passive voice in order to talk about an action that happened to an object, but without specifying who or what did that thing to it. Passive se constructions are formed using transitive verbs, which are those that require a direct object. Below are a few examples that will help you have a better understanding of the concept.

  • Se ha roto la puerta. ( = The door has been broken.)
  • Se te ha acabado el dinero. ( = Your money has run out.)
  • Se busca profesor de inglés. ( = English teacher wanted.)
  • Aquí se alquilan coches. ( = Cars are rented here.)
  • Se ha quemado la comida. ( = The food was burnt.)

I guess that by now you get the difference between impersonal and passive se. If not, you should read more. However, there are more problems that people face when learning Spanish, so you should definitely refresh my blog every few days and something new might appear. Sooner that you know it your Spanish skills will improve.

How to make plurals in Spanish

For English speakers, Spanish plurals aren’t too bad. Like in English, you generally just add an “s” to the end. Unfortunately, nothing is ever quite that simple. As always, there are a few differences. But don’t worry – this post will walk you through the whole process.

  1. Forming Basic Plural Nouns

Let’s get a few things clear first. A noun, as you may know, is the person, place, or thing being talked about. A plural noun is when there is more than one person, place, or thing. In English, when we want to show that we’re talking about more than one noun we add an “s” to the end of it:

  • I have a dog. 
  • I have three dogs.

For Spanish nouns that end in vowels, it’s exactly the same:

  • Tengo un perro.
  • Tengo tres perros.

And it doesn’t matter if the noun is feminine or masculine:

  • Juan tiene una manzana.
  • Juan tiene cuatro manzanas.

However, for nouns that don’t end in vowels, it’s a little different.

  1. Nouns That End with Consonants

For nouns that end with consonants, like televisión or avión, we need something a little different. Try saying “televisions” with a Spanish accent. Pretty hard, right? It just sounds like English. That’s because in Spanish nouns that end with consonants need an “es” at the end.

  • Tengo una televisión.
  • Tengo unas televisiones.

Don’t forget that the accent in television gets taken off when it becomes plural!

  1. Exceptions

There are no rules without exceptions, especially in grammar. Luckily, there’s only one exception to plural nouns in Spanish: nouns that end with “z,” like la voz or el lápiz. In the plural they’re spelled with a “c”:

  • la voz
  • las voces

 

  • el lápiz
  • los lápices

Luckily, lapis keeps its accent, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Bu the next question is: what about that el and la?

  1. Pluralising Articles and Adjectives

This is where things get a little trickier. Unlike English nouns, in Spanish not only does the noun become plural, but so do its article and its adjective, if it has them. If you’re not sure what an article is, see my post on articles. In Spanish, the definite articles are el for masculine nouns and la feminine nouns. In the plural they look like this:

  • Mira al perro.  (al comes from a + el)
  • Mira los perros.

 

  • Mira la televisión.
  • Mira las televisiones.

Indefinite articles in Spanish are uno for the masculine and una for the feminine.

  • Quiero un libro
  • Quiero unos libros.

 

  • Quiero una manzana.
  • Quiero unas manzanas.

Often, however, words come with descriptions: a strong drink or a green apple. In Spanish, these need to be pluralised to match the noun they describe:

  • Quiero un libro bueno.
  • Quiero unos libros buenos.

 

  • Quiero una manzana verde.
  • Quiero unas manzanas verdes.

This can get tricky when you have an adjective that needs to be changed for gender and number like rojo, or “red.”

  • Busco un coche rojo.
  • Busco unos coches rojos.

 

  • Quiero la manzana roja.
  • Quiero las manzanas rojas.

That said, Spanish plurals really aren’t too scary. Remembering to match the adjective to the noun might take a while but, with a bit of practice, it will soon come naturally!

Ready for a Spanish practice?

Using the Real Academia Española to Learn Spanish

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There are many free resources available to native English speakers who are interested in learning Spanish. The website of the Real Academia Española is a particularly useful page because it contains a plethora of resources that are accurate and helpful to the student of Spanish. In addition to its numerous dictionaries (including a dictionary just for practical, basic communicative skills), this website offers grammar guides, news articles, and an FAQ section on common Spanish language questions, among other resources.

In particular, one of the benefits of using this website is that the learner is exposed to Spanish within realistic contexts. This is practical on multiple levels. It is important for second language learners to be exposed to a variety of language structures so that they will learn the appropriate usage of words, phrases, and expressions. The website of the Real Academia Española includes links to a variety of recent news articles and blogs. Since news articles are generally written on a lower level than academic articles, this resource is useful for students who have not yet reached the proficiency level needed to read more difficult pieces.

Additionally, the website of the Real Academia Española includes information about different textbooks on Spanish writing, grammar, and history. This is an excellent resource for students who are searching for an appropriate text to use for Spanish study. The website includes information about the contents of the texts, the date of publication, and additional information that is relevant when considering a textbook to purchase.

A third benefit of using the Real Academia Espańola is the very thorough section on frequently asked questions about the Spanish language. These questions are categorized into writing questions, grammar questions, and word-level questions. Each question includes an accurate, yet concise explanation to common questions of second language learner. It is an excellent reference for the new learner as well as the seasoned student.

Spanish students who are interested in increasing their proficiency should consider browsing the Real Academia Española to practice their skills within the context of real Spanish writing. The website is easy to navigate, even for those who are somewhat new to the language. Using this website as a resource can really help you to further yourself on your language learning journey and lead you to other useful resources.

Learning Grammatical Gender in Spanish

Grammatical gender is one of the most difficult concepts for a native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish. In Spanish, grammatical gender refers to the masculine and feminine properties of words and phrases.  Although these properties are referred to as ‘gender’ features, they have nothing to do with masculinity or femininity in the way we would generally use gender to describe men and women. Thus, a masculine noun is not any more ‘manly’ than a feminine noun. These arbitrary language features do not exist in English and are very challenging for the native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish.

Look at the spelling

A new Spanish speaker may want to begin by learning some basic Spanish nouns, including the pronunciation and spelling of the words. Some common themes for introductory chapters of textbooks for learning Spanish include foods, classroom items, basic greetings, and clothing. One trick to help you remember the gender of the noun is to look at the spelling, as a majority of feminine nouns end in –a, and the majority of masculine nouns end with an –o; however, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as the masculine word ‘dia,’ meaning ‘day.’

Be careful with your grammar

If you have learned the gender of the noun, you can take the next step and apply the gender features to the rest of the phrase. In Spanish, the gender of the noun also applies to the gender of the determiner (‘la’ for feminine and ‘el’ for masculine, both meaning ‘the’ in English) and the adjective, if there is one. So, if you want to say, ‘the white cat’ in Spanish, you would say ‘el gato blanco.’ Notice that the phrase has all masculine forms the masculine article ‘el,’ the masculine noun ‘gato,’ and the masculine form of the adjective, ‘blanco.’ Since the noun is masculine, the whole phrase should take the masculine form.

Acquiring grammatical gender in Spanish is something that takes a lot of practice and dedication to learning the language. English speakers may become frustrated with this linguistic feature because it seems simple on the surface, but it is difficult to apply in when actually speaking the language. Grammatical gender is a property that can really separate the native speakers of Spanish from the non-native speakers. Don’t worry if you make mistakes sometimes learning a language is hard, especially when there are elements of that language that do not exist in your native tongue!

If you still have problems with this or any other thing, you can send your Spanish texts to proofread!