Lextin Academy of Classical

Understanding Spanish Grammar


spanish grammar tipsDid you click on this post with a reluctant sigh?

And there’s no need to lose any more sleep over grammar, either, it’s really not something you should stress about. In fact, you could become friends with the beast you’ve built it up to be in your mind.

Don’t believe us? Here’s why:

Why You Shouldn’t Stress About Spanish Grammar

Do you know all the ins and outs of your first language’s grammar? Do you know exactly why you use one verb over the other, or what the rules are for talking about uncertain situations?

Unless you’re a language teacher, the answer is probably a bit fat “no.” That’s because you learned the rules of your own language without studying them at all.

Well… not quite, but you should be comforted that learning the grammar of another language is totally possible. If you did it for one language without even thinking, you can definitely do it for another, even if there is some thinking involved.

You should also remember that the aim of learning a language is to communicate. And if you’re aiming for communication, not perfection, then there really is no need to stress out about grammar. As you probably know, you can communicate a lot without any verbs at all. Go into a shop and say “bread, ” and you’ll likely end up being given some bread; no one will care that you didn’t use verbs to communicate this need.

That said, in some situations grammar is essential. It can be near impossible to figure out some sentences without it. If you go up to a friend and say “shop, ” your friend may be confused about whether you want to go shopping, whether you are simply pointing out the shop nearby, whether you went shopping yesterday or whether you want to go shopping in three days time and are inviting your friend to join you.

All in all, it depends on the context. If you’re standing outside a shopping center, your friend may get what you mean. But wouldn’t it be easier if you could master those Spanish niggles that are holding you back?

That’s where our tips come in:

1. Realize that grammar is everywhere.

Many students (and even teachers) make the mistake of dividing up Spanish language into strict categories or “skills” (reading, and it’s in the radio show you’re listening to. If all you do to learn grammar is do isolated grammar practice, without putting what you’ve learned into context or practicing it in real-world situations, you won’t improve your communication skills.

Try thinking about grammar while you’re practicing other skills too. So when you’re reading, you can focus on the sentence structure of the words you’re reading, and also jot down any new vocabulary. You could even underline structures you’re unsure of to look up later, or make a note of any unusual or irregular verbs you come across.

You can do the same when you’re listening to a Spanish song, watching TV or having a conversation. It’s all grammar practice if you want it to be.

2. Learn phrases, and then analyze them.

Just as grammar isn’t isolated, nor are words. Long lists of vocabulary are great, but then again, they don’t tend to aid communication. Phrases or “chunks” of words are the way to go. And with chunks or phrases, there is grammar.

Sound confusing? Let’s take the phrase “¿Dónde está el banco?” and deconstruct it.
We know dónde is a question word. So that must mean that question words in Spanish come at the start of a question, just like in English. Easy.

Está is our equivalent to “is” in our English phrase “Where is the bank?, ” and is only used to talk about he/she/it/you (singular formal). If we want to ask about the location of several banks instead of just one, we would have to say “¿Dónde están los bancos?, ” changing the verb estar into a different form.

If you don’t know to manipulate the verb in this situation and not The el is the masculine article, which tells us that banco is a masculine noun. As we saw above, when we want to talk about more than one bank, we have to change both our article and our noun, to make them plural (los bancos). To find out more about gender in Spanish, see this post.

Perhaps that example was a bit simple for you, but you get the idea about how a sentence can be broken down and analyzed, and this exercise can be really useful to get your head around how Spanish sentences work.

Another simple sentence, such as “Ella tiene ojos azules muy lindos” can also help us with the word order of adjectives. It can help us remember that we need to put the noun ojos before the adjective azules in Spanish, for example.

One fun way to analyze grammar—while learning new vocabulary and improving your listening and pronunciation skills at the same time (didn’t we say that all skills are related?)—is to analyze song lyrics. Here’s how to get started on this.

3. Study little and often, and use a variety of resources.

It’s not how many hours you study that counts, it’s how you study. If you learn best by cramming in hours and hours at a time, then go for it, but most people learn best when they break up their studying. So remember to take frequent breaks, and that studying for half an hour each day is proven to be better than trying to study for four hours at a time on the weekends.

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