Chapter 3: Foundational Spanish Grammar

[First Half: Fundamental Spanish Grammar Structures]

3.1: Noun-Adjective Agreement

In Spanish, adjectives must agree with the nouns they modify in both gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural). This means that the adjective must take on the same grammatical form as the noun it is describing.

Gender Agreement:

  • Masculine nouns take masculine adjectives (e.g., el libro grande, los libros grandes)
  • Feminine nouns take feminine adjectives (e.g., la mesa grande, las mesas grandes)

The general rule is that masculine adjectives end in -o, while feminine adjectives end in -a. However, there are some exceptions, such as adjectives that end in a consonant (e.g., fácil libro, fácil mesa).

Number Agreement:

  • Singular nouns take singular adjectives (e.g., el libro grande, la mesa grande)
  • Plural nouns take plural adjectives (e.g., los libros grandes, las mesas grandes)

The plural form of most adjectives is created by adding -s to the singular form (e.g., grande -> grandes).


  • el niño alto (the tall boy)
  • la niña alta (the tall girl)
  • los niños altos (the tall boys)
  • las niñas altas (the tall girls)
  • el vestido azul (the blue dress)
  • la blusa azul (the blue blouse)
  • los pantalones azules (the blue pants)
  • las faldas azules (the blue skirts)

Key Takeaways:

  • Adjectives must agree with nouns in gender and number
  • Masculine adjectives typically end in -o, while feminine adjectives end in -a
  • Plural adjectives are formed by adding -s to the singular form

3.2: Definite and Indefinite Articles

In Spanish, articles are used to indicate the definiteness or indefiniteness of a noun. There are two types of articles: definite articles and indefinite articles.

Definite Articles:

  • The definite articles in Spanish are: el (masculine singular), la (feminine singular), los (masculine plural), and las (feminine plural).
  • Definite articles are used to refer to specific, known, or previously mentioned nouns (e.g., el libro, la casa, los perros, las flores).

Indefinite Articles:

  • The indefinite articles in Spanish are: un (masculine singular) and una (feminine singular).
  • Indefinite articles are used to refer to general, non-specific nouns (e.g., un libro, una casa).
  • There is no indefinite article for plural nouns in Spanish.


  • El perro está dormido. (The dog is sleeping.)
  • Quiero comprar una camisa. (I want to buy a shirt.)
  • ¿Ves los árboles en el parque? (Do you see the trees in the park?)
  • Necesito unas tijeras. (I need some scissors.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Definite articles (el, la, los, las) are used for specific, known nouns
  • Indefinite articles (un, una) are used for general, non-specific nouns
  • There is no indefinite article for plural nouns in Spanish

3.3: Subject Pronouns and Verb Conjugations

Subject Pronouns: In Spanish, subject pronouns are used to indicate the person or thing performing the action of the verb. The Spanish subject pronouns are:

  • yo (I)
  • tú/usted (you, informal/formal)
  • él (he)
  • ella (she)
  • nosotros (we)
  • vosotros (you, plural, informal)
  • ustedes (you, plural, formal)
  • ellos (they, masculine)
  • ellas (they, feminine)

Verb Conjugations: Verbs in Spanish must be conjugated to agree with the subject pronoun. This means that the verb form changes to indicate who is performing the action. For example, the verb "hablar" (to speak) is conjugated as follows in the present tense:

  • yo hablo (I speak)
  • hablas (you speak)
  • él/ella habla (he/she speaks)
  • nosotros hablamos (we speak)
  • vosotros habláis (you [plural] speak)
  • ellos/ellas hablan (they speak)


  • Yo estudio español. (I study Spanish.)
  • ¿ vienes al parque? (Are you [informal] coming to the park?)
  • Ella canta muy bien. (She sings very well.)
  • Nosotros leemos los libros. (We read the books.)
  • Vosotros sois mis amigos. (You [plural, informal] are my friends.)
  • Ellos juegan al fútbol. (They [masculine] play soccer.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Subject pronouns indicate who is performing the action
  • Verbs must be conjugated to agree with the subject pronoun
  • Verb conjugations change based on the subject pronoun used

3.4: Ser vs. Estar: The Two Forms of "To Be"

In Spanish, there are two verbs that translate to "to be" in English: ser and estar. Understanding the differences between these two verbs is crucial for accurately describing people, things, and situations.

Ser (to be):

  • Used to express permanent or inherent characteristics, such as nationality, occupation, or physical/personality traits.
  • Examples: Ella es alta. (She is tall.) Él es médico. (He is a doctor.)

Estar (to be):

  • Used to express temporary or changeable states, such as location, emotions, or conditions.
  • Examples: Ella está en la biblioteca. (She is in the library.) Él está cansado. (He is tired.)

Key Differences:

  • Ser is used for permanent, inherent qualities, while estar is used for temporary, changeable states.
  • Ser is often used with adjectives describing personality, origin, or occupation.
  • Estar is often used with adjectives describing location, emotions, or physical conditions.


  • Mi amigo es alto y está feliz. (My friend is tall and is happy.)
  • La mesa es de madera, pero está sucia. (The table is made of wood, but it is dirty.)
  • Yo soy estudiante, pero ahora estoy enfermo. (I am a student, but now I am sick.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Ser is used for permanent, inherent qualities
  • Estar is used for temporary, changeable states
  • Ser is often used with adjectives describing personality, origin, or occupation
  • Estar is often used with adjectives describing location, emotions, or physical conditions

[Second Half: Constructing Basic Spanish Sentences]

3.5: Word Order and Sentence Structure

The basic word order in Spanish follows the subject-verb-object (SVO) pattern, similar to English. However, there are some important differences to note:

Subject-Verb-Object (SVO):

  • In a simple declarative sentence, the subject comes first, followed by the verb, and then the object.
  • Example: Yo (subject) hablo (verb) español (object).

Flexibility in Word Order:

  • Spanish allows for more flexibility in word order compared to English, as long as the subject-verb agreement is maintained.
  • Example: Español hablo (yo). (I speak Spanish.)

Placement of Adjectives:

  • In general, adjectives in Spanish follow the noun they modify, unlike in English where they precede the noun.
  • Example: la casa grande (the big house), el niño inteligente (the intelligent child)

Exceptions to Adjective Placement:

  • Some adjectives, such as possessive and demonstrative adjectives, precede the noun.
  • Example: mi casa (my house), este libro (this book)


  • La estudiante (subject) estudia (verb) el libro (object). (The student studies the book.)
  • Hablo (verb) español (object). (I speak Spanish.)
  • Este (adjective) vestido (noun) es (verb) bonito (adjective). (This dress is beautiful.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Spanish follows the basic SVO word order
  • Spanish allows for more flexibility in word order compared to English
  • Adjectives generally follow the noun they modify
  • Some adjectives, like possessive and demonstrative, precede the noun

3.6: Interrogative and Negative Sentences

Interrogative Sentences: To form questions in Spanish, you can use the following strategies:

  1. Inversion of Subject and Verb:

    • Example: ¿Hablas (verb) (subject) español? (Do you speak Spanish?)
  2. Use of Interrogative Words:

    • Common interrogative words in Spanish include: ¿qué? (what?), ¿quién? (who?), ¿dónde? (where?), ¿cuándo? (when?), ¿por qué? (why?), ¿cómo? (how?).
    • Example: ¿Qué (interrogative word) estudias (verb) en la escuela? (What do you study at school?)
  3. Raising Intonation at the End of the Sentence:

    • Example: ¿Tú hablas (verb) español?

Negative Sentences: To negate a statement in Spanish, you can use the following strategies:

  1. Adding "no" before the Verb:

    • Example: No (negative) hablo (verb) español. (I don't speak Spanish.)
  2. Using Negative Words:

    • Common negative words in Spanish include: nunca (never), nadie (no one), nada (nothing), tampoco (neither/nor).
    • Example: Yo nunca (negative) voy (verb) al parque. (I never go to the park.)


  • ¿Estudias (verb) (subject) español? (Do you study Spanish?)
  • ¿Qué (interrogative word) haces (verb) en tu tiempo libre? (What do you do in your free time?)
  • No (negative) me (indirect object) gusta (verb) la música clásica. (I don't like classical music.)
  • Ella nunca (negative) visita (verb) a su familia. (She never visits her family.)

Key Takeaways:

  • To form questions, you can use inversion of subject and verb, interrogative words, or raising intonation
  • To negate a statement, you can use "no" before the verb or incorporate negative words
  • Understanding how to construct interrogative and negative sentences is crucial for effective communication in Spanish

3.7: Commonly Used Grammatical Constructions

In addition to the core grammar concepts covered so far, there are several other common grammatical constructions in Spanish that students should be familiar with:

Possessive Adjectives:

  • Used to indicate ownership or belonging (e.g., mi libro, tu casa, su coche)

Demonstrative Adjectives:

  • Used to point out or identify specific objects (e.g., este libro, esa casa, aquellos coches)


  • Used to indicate location, direction, or relationship (e.g., en la mesa, a la escuela, con mis amigos)


  • Mi hermano está en la escuela. (My brother is at school.)
  • ¿Quieres ver ese vestido en la tienda? (Do you want to see that dress in the store?)
  • Voy a la biblioteca con mis amigos. (I'm going to the library with my friends.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Possessive adjectives indicate ownership or belonging
  • Demonstrative adjectives point out or identify specific objects
  • Prepositions are used to indicate location, direction, or relationship

3.8: Practicing Sentence Formation and Comprehension

To solidify the concepts covered in this chapter, students will have the opportunity to practice constructing their own Spanish sentences and analyzing sample sentences.

Practice Activities:

  1. Sentence Building: Students will be given a series of nouns, adjectives, and verbs, and will be asked to construct complete, grammatically correct Spanish sentences using these elements.
  2. Sentence Analysis: Students will be presented with sample Spanish sentences and will be asked to identify the subject, verb, object, and any other grammatical elements, as well as explain the overall meaning and construction of the sentences.
  3. Transformation Exercises: Students will take existing Spanish sentences and modify them, such as changing the number (singular to plural or vice versa), the gender (masculine to feminine or vice versa), or the verb conjugation to match a different subject pronoun.

These practice activities will help students apply the foundational grammar concepts they've learned and develop a deeper understanding of how to correctly form and comprehend Spanish sentences.

Key Takeaways:

  • Practicing sentence formation and analysis reinforces the grammar concepts learned
  • Transformation exercises help students internalize the rules of noun-adjective agreement, article usage, and verb conjugations
  • These activities provide valuable opportunities for students to actively engage with the Spanish language and solidify their grasp of the material


In this chapter, we have explored the foundational grammar structures of the Spanish language, including:

  1. Noun-Adjective Agreement: Adjectives must agree with nouns in gender and number.
  2. Definite and Indefinite Articles: The use of el/la/los/las (definite) and un/una (indefinite) articles.
  3. Subject Pronouns and Verb Conjugations: Identifying the correct subject pronoun and conjugating verbs accordingly.
  4. Ser vs. Estar: Distinguishing between the two "to be" verbs and their appropriate usage.
  5. Word Order and Sentence Structure: The basic SVO pattern and flexibility in Spanish sentence construction.
  6. Interrogative and Negative Sentences: Forming questions and negating statements.
  7. Commonly Used Grammatical Constructions: Possessive adjectives, demonstrative adjectives, and prepositions.
  8. Practicing Sentence Formation and Comprehension: Engaging in activities to reinforce the learned concepts.

By mastering these fundamental grammar structures, students will be well on their way to becoming proficient communicators in the Spanish language. The skills and knowledge gained in this chapter will serve as a solid foundation for further language learning and development.