Spanish Essentials For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Chapter 1: Brushing Up on the Basics

Counting Down

Using cardinal numbers

Using ordinal numbers

Dealing with Dates

Expressing the days of the week

Naming the months of the year

Making a date

Telling Time

Focusing on Parts of Speech

Using nouns

Substituting pronouns

Acting with verbs

Describing with adjectives

Clarifying with adverbs

Joining with prepositions

Chapter 2: Closing the Gender Gap

Being Specific with Definite Articles

Identifying the definite articles

Using definite articles

Omitting the definite articles

Contracting with definite articles

Being General with Indefinite Articles

Identifying the indefinite articles

Omitting indefinite articles

Being Demonstrative with Adjectives

Clarifying Gender

Determining the gender of nouns

Reversing gender

Using the same noun for both genders

Changing the meaning of nouns

Understanding special nouns

Forming Plural Nouns

Showing Possession

Using de

Employing possessive adjectives

Substituting with Object Pronouns

Dealing with direct object pronouns

Understanding the personal a

Coping with indirect object pronouns

Choosing the proper pronoun

Doing an about face with gustar

Positioning object pronouns

Doing double duty

Chapter 3: It’s Happening in the Present

Identifying Types of Verbs

Selecting Subject Pronouns

Using subject pronouns

Omitting subject pronouns

Communicating in the Present Tense

Defining regular verbs

Changing verb stems

Changing the spelling of verbs

Double or nothing: Verbs with two changes

Using irregular verbs

Expressing yourself with irregular verbs

Recognizing reflexive verbs

Making Progress with the Present Progressive

Understanding present participles

Using estar to form the present progressive

Chapter 4: Spicing Up Your Descriptions with Adjectives, Adverbs, and Prepositions

Adding Color with Adjectives

Making adjectives agree

Positioning adjectives

Shortening certain adjectives

Describing Actions with Adverbs

Forming adverbs

Positioning of adverbs

Making Comparisons

Expressing equality

Comparisons of inequality

Best of all: The superlative

Irregular comparatives

The absolute superlative

Linking with Prepositions

Selecting the correct preposition

Using prepositions with verbs

Using the right pronoun after a preposition

Chapter 5: Making Inquiries

Posing a Yes/No Question


The tags “¿No es verdad?” and “¿Está bien?”


Responding to a Yes/No Question

Being positive

Being negative

Obtaining the Facts

Using interrogative adjectives

Getting information with interrogative adverbs

Employing interrogative pronouns

Providing Information

Chapter 6: Revealing the Past

Living in the Past

Forming the preterit of regular verbs

Forming the preterit of spelling change verbs

Verbs with stem changes

Forming the preterit of irregular verbs

Using the preterit

Looking Back with the Imperfect

Forming the imperfect of regular verbs

Forming the imperfect of irregular verbs

Using the imperfect

Choosing the Preterit or the Imperfect

Signaling the preterit

Signaling the imperfect

Creating the Present Perfect

Forming the present perfect

Using the present perfect

Chapter 7: Looking to the Future

Talking about the Future without Using the Future Tense

Using the present to express the future

Expressing the near future

Mastering the Future Tense

Forming the future of regular verbs

Forming the future of irregular verbs

Using the Future to Foretell, Predict, and Wonder

Chapter 8: Identifying Verb Moods

Giving Commands with the Imperative Mood

Forming commands with Ud. and Uds.

Forming commands with tú and vosotros

Forming the let’s command

Forming the Present Subjunctive

Creating the present subjunctive of regular verbs

Working with verbs irregular in the yo form

Tackling verbs with spelling changes

Coping with stem changes

Understanding verbs with both spelling and stem changes

Conjugating irregular verbs

Using the Present Subjunctive

Expressing your desires, needs, or doubts

Demonstrating feelings or emotions

Employing impersonal expressions

Using relative clauses

Playing with the Present Perfect Subjunctive

Making Actions Conditional

Forming the conditional of regular verbs

Exploring verbs with irregular conditional forms

Using the conditional

Chapter 9: Ten Important Verb Distinctions

Ser versus Estar

Saber versus Conocer

Tomar versus Llevar

Deber versus Tener Que

Preguntar versus Pedir

Jugar versus Tocar

Gastar versus Pasar

Dejar versus Salir

Volver versus Devolver

Poder versus Saber

Appendix: Verb Charts

Regular Verbs

Stem-Changing Verbs

Spelling-Change Verbs

Irregular Verbs

Spanish Essentials For Dummies®

by Gail Stein, MA, and Cecie Kraynak, MA


About the Authors

Gail Stein, MA, is a retired language instructor who taught in New York City public junior and senior high schools for more than 33 years. She has authored many French and Spanish books, including CliffsQuickReview French I and II, CliffsStudySolver Spanish I and II, 575+ French Verbs, Webster’s Spanish Grammar Handbook, and Intermediate Spanish For Dummies. Gail is a multiple-time honoree in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

Cecie Kraynak, MA, earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and secondary education in literature from Purdue University, and also received her master’s degree in Spanish literature from Purdue. After graduating in 1983, Cecie began what was to become a 20-year career teaching Spanish to junior-high and high-school students. She continues to teach and travel and has served as a consultant on several Spanish learning guides, including Teach Yourself Spanish in 24 Hours (MacMillan) and Spanish for Healthcare Professionals (Barron’s). She is the author of Spanish Verbs For Dummies (Wiley).

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

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As someone who’s studying Spanish, you want to write and speak correctly and to master the many different verb tenses and conjugations. Spanish Essentials For Dummies can help you reach your goals painlessly and effortlessly as you enhance your Spanish language skills.

Spanish Essentials For Dummies presents you with all the grammar you need to know to communicate clearly. With the help of this book, you’ll be ready to have a conversation about topics besides your name and the weather! And that’s something to be proud of.

About This Book

Spanish Essentials For Dummies is a reference book for people who have some knowledge of the fundamentals of Spanish. If you want to get up to speed with language structures so that you can communicate comfortably and proficiently, this book is for you.

Each chapter presents a different topic that allows you to practice your communication skills. We include plenty of examples to guide you through the rules so you’re exposed to colloquial, everyday, correct Spanish that native speakers expect to hear from someone using Spanish. For example, the Spanish language has its individual idioms and idiomatic expressions that give it color and flair. Here’s a quick example: To say that it’s sunny outside in Spanish, you remark, Hace sol. The literal English translation of this expression is It is making sun. Even my dear old grandma wouldn’t have spoken English like that! Well, make sure you don’t speak Spanish that way, either.

Conventions Used in This Book

In order to highlight the most important information and to help you navigate this book more easily, we’ve set up several conventions:

Spanish terms and sentences, as well as endings we want to highlight, are set in boldface to make them stand out.

English equivalents, set in italics, follow the Spanish example.

We use many abbreviations throughout the book. Don’t let them throw you. For instance, you may find the following:

fem.: feminine

masc.: masculine

sing.: singular

pl.: plural

Foolish Assumptions

When writing this book, we made the following assumptions:

You have some knowledge of the fundamentals of Spanish grammar. You’re looking for the opportunity to review what you’ve already mastered and are intent on moving forward to new areas of knowledge.

You want a book that’s complete but isn’t so advanced that you get lost in the rules. We try to explain the rules as clearly as possible without using too many grammatical terms.

You’re boning up on Spanish verbs for your own edification, or your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, niece, nephew, or special someone is studying Spanish and you want to help even though you haven’t looked at a verb conjugation for years.

Icons Used in This Book

Icons are those cute little drawings on the left side of the page that call out for your attention. They signal a particularly valuable piece of information. Here’s a list of the icons in this book:

remember.eps Remember icons call your attention to important information about the language — something you shouldn’t neglect or something that’s out of the ordinary. Don’t ignore these paragraphs.

Tip.eps Tip icons present time-saving information that makes communication quick and effective. If you want to know the proper way to do things, check out the Tip icons first.

warning_bomb.eps The Warning icon points out certain differences between English and Spanish that you may find confusing. If you want to know how Spanish constructions differ from those in English, these are the paragraphs you need to consult.

Where to Go from Here

One great thing about For Dummies books is that you don’t have to read them chapter by chapter from the very beginning to the (not-so) bitter end. Each chapter stands on its own and doesn’t require that you complete any of the other chapters in the book. This setup saves you a lot of time if you’ve mastered certain topics but feel a bit insecure about others.

So, jump right in. Get your feet wet. If you’re not sure exactly where to begin, take a good look at the table of contents and select the topic that seems to best fit your abilities and needs. If you’re concerned that your background may not be strong enough, you can start at the very beginning and work your way through the book.

Keep in mind that studying Spanish isn’t a contest. Work at a pace that best suits your needs. Don’t hesitate to read a chapter a second, third, or even a fourth time several days later. You can easily adapt this book to your learning abilities. Remember, too, that you need to have a positive, confident attitude. Yes, you’ll make mistakes. Everyone does — as a matter of fact, many native Spanish speakers do all the time. Your main goal should be to write and speak as well as you can; if you trip up and conjugate a verb incorrectly or use the feminine form of an adjective rather than the masculine form, it isn’t the end of the world. If you can make yourself understood, you’ve won the greatest part of the battle.