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Essential Spanish Grammar

Essential Spanish Grammar

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by Seymour Resnick

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This Spanish grammar has been designed specifically for the adult with limited learning time. It covers the most important points of Spanish grammar in the clearest possible way, concentrating on the expressions that you would be most likely to use. All rules are illustrated with common phrases, and hints are included throughout the book on how to replace difficult


This Spanish grammar has been designed specifically for the adult with limited learning time. It covers the most important points of Spanish grammar in the clearest possible way, concentrating on the expressions that you would be most likely to use. All rules are illustrated with common phrases, and hints are included throughout the book on how to replace difficult constructions with simpler ones.
All the major aspects of Spanish grammar are presented in logical order: vocabulary and vocabulary building; word order; how to turn a positive sentence into a negative one; how to form questions; nouns; pronouns; adjectives; adverbs; how to conjugate verbs in the major tenses; how to use auxiliary verbs; prepositions and infinitives; useful expressions; and vocabulary tips. One section is devoted to the definition of all grammatical terms used throughout the book.
Not a simplified grammar, this is a selected grammar for adult use. It can be used alone, either as an introductory course or as a refresher, or as a supplement to a record course. Its cognate list of more than 2500 words which are either the same or nearly the same in Spanish and English offers probably the easiest way for you to build your vocabulary, for you will discover that you have already been using very many words that with a slight change in pronunciation are already good Spanish. This is the only place where this useful teaching device is available.

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Dover Language Guides Essential Grammar
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Essential Spanish Grammar

By Seymour Resnick

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1964 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11342-5


Vocabulary and Vocabulary Building

The following suggestions may be helpful to you in building your vocabulary:

1. Study words and word lists that answer real and preferably immediate personal needs. If you are planning to travel in the near future your motivation and orientation is clear cut and Listen and Learn or any good phrase book gives you the material you will need. Select material according to your personal interests and requirements. If you don't plan to motor, don't spend time studying parts of the car. If you like foreign foods, study the supplementary foreign food list. Even if you do not plan to travel in the near future, you will probably learn more quickly by imagining yourself in a travel or real life situation.

2. Use the mnemonic technique of association. For the most part, Listen and Learn or a phrase book gives you associated word lists. If you continue to build your vocabulary by memorization don't use a dictionary for this purpose. Select such grammars or books that have lists of associated words.

3. Study the specialized vocabulary of your profession, business or hobby. If you are interested in real estate learn the many terms associated with property, buying, selling, leasing etc. An interest in mathematics should lead you to a wide vocabulary in this science. Words in your specialty will be learned quickly and a surprising amount will be applicable or transferable to other areas. Although these specialized vocabularies are not readily available in book literature, an active interest and a good dictionary are all you really need.

Word Order

Word order in Spanish is frequently the same as in English. Since many words in Spanish are obviously related in appearance and derivation to English words, it is often a simple matter to understand a Spanish sentence if you know only a minimum of grammar.

Madrid está en el centro de la península Madrid is in the center of the Iberian
ibérica. peninsula.

Los turistas generalmente visitan los
The tourists generally visit the points of
puntos de interés. interest.

How to Turn a Positive Sentence into a Negative Sentence

You can convert any of the sentences in your phrase book or records into negative sentences by simply placing no (which means both no and not) before the verb of the sentence.

Esta ciudad no es muy grande. This city is not very large

Yo no hablo muy bien.
I do not speak very well.

How to Form Questions

There are three very easy ways to turn ordinary statements into questions. You can take almost any sentence out of your phrase book, and by treating it in one of these three ways make it a question.

1. It is possible to form a question in Spanish without changing the original word order at all, simply by raising your voice. We sometimes do this in English, too. In written Spanish you are warned that a question is coming by an inverted question mark at the beginning of the sentence.

¿Usted habla inglés? Do you speak


2. We may also form questions by placing the predicate in front of the subject of the sentence. This same construction is used in English.

¿Es importante el primer capítulo? Is the first chapter important?

¿Habla usted inglés?
Do you speak English?

3. A third common way of making an ordinary statement into a question is by adding ¿no? or ¿verdad? or ¿no es verdad? to the end of the statement. These correspond to the English phrases Isn't it? Don't you? Aren't you? Didn't they? etc.

Usted habla inglés, ¿verdad?
You speak English, don't you?

El primer capitulo es important, ¿no? The first chapter is important, isn't it?

Study the following sentences, which contain the most important interrogative words. For the written language, note that all these interrogative words bear a written accent.

¿Qué desea usted? What do you wish?

¿Cómo puedo ir al centro? How can I go down-town?

¿Cuándo sale el último tren? When does the last train leave?

¿Dónde está la estación? Where is the station?

¿Cuál prefiere usted? Which one do you prefer?

¿Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?

¿Cuántos necesita usted? How many do you need?

¿Por qué está usted tan cansado? Why are you so tired?

¿De quién es este reloj? Whose watch is this?

¿Quién sabe? Who knows?


All nouns in Spanish are either masculine or feminine. Almost all nouns ending in -o are masculine, while those ending in -a, or -d, or -ción are usually feminine. (Two important exceptions are la mano, the hand, and el día, the day, which are respectively, feminine and masculine.) With other endings you have to learn the gender when you learn the noun. The easiest way of doing this is by learning the word the along with the noun. The masculine singular form is el, masculine plural is los; feminine singular is la, feminine plural is las.

To form the plural of nouns just add -s to words ending with a vowel, and -es to words ending with a consonant. Study the following examples:

el profesor the teacher la mujer the woman

los profesores the teachers las mujeres the women

el libro the book la camisa the shirt

los libros the books las camisas the shirts

el guante the glove la lección the lesson

los guantes the gloves las lecciones the lessons

Many masculine nouns ending in -o, referring to persons, have a feminine equivalent in -a.

el hijo the son el amigo the friend (M.)

la hija the daughter la amiga the friend (F.)

el chico the boy el hermano the brother

la chica the girl la hermana the sister

The word for a or an is un, masculine, and una feminine.

un traje a suit una playa a beach

un edificio a building una luz a light


In Spanish, adjectives have to agree in number and gender with the nouns they accompany. We have nothing comparable to this in English. In most cases, also contrary to English usage, adjectives follow their nouns.

If the masculine form of the adjective ends in -o, the feminine form ends in -a, and the plurals are -os and -as respectively.

el señor simpático the charming gentleman

la señora simpática the charming lady

los señores simpáticos the charming gentlemen

las señoras simpáticas the charming ladies

If the masculine singular of the adjective ends in -e, the feminine singular is the same as the masculine, and the plural for both genders is formed by adding s.

un país importante an important country

una familia importante an important family

países importantes important countries

familias importantes important families

If the masculine adjectival form ends in a consonant, there is no change for the feminine singular, and we form the plural of both genders by adding -es.

un juego difícil a difficult game

una lengua difícila difficult language

juegos difíciles difficult games

lenguas difíciles difficult languages


In English we often form adverbs by adding -ly to an adjective, as in clear, clearly, new, newly. In Spanish many adverbs are formed similarly by adding -mente to the feminine form of the adjective.

absoluto absolute
absolutamente absolutely
claro clear
claramente clearly
rápido rapid
rápidamente rapidly

Usted debe hablar más You ought to speak

claramente. more clearly.

Two common adverbs that do not end in -mente are: despacio, slowly anddemasiado, too much.

Expressing Possession

The English way of expressing possession by apostrophe s, teacher's book, is not used in Spanish. Instead, forms comparable to the other English style, the book of the teacher, are used.

el palacio del rey the palace of the king
(the king's

palace)las casas de mi padre the houses of my
father (my father's houses)

Note that in Spanish the definite article can often be used to indicate possession with parts of the body and articles of clothing.

Déme la mano.
Give me your hand.

Me quité los zapatos.
I took off my shoes.

The possessive adjectives are as follows:


mi mis my

su sus your (SING.), his, her, its our

nuestro (M.) nuestros (M.)

nuestra (F.) nuestras (F.)

su sus your (PL.), their

Observe that these words, like other adjectives, have to agree in number and gender with the noun that they accompany.

Necesito mi pasaporte.
I need my passport.

¿Dónde están nuestras maletas? Where are our valises?

¿Cuál es su dirección?
What is your address?

After the verb ser, to be, we use special forms to express ownership.


mío (M.), míos mine

mía (F.) mías

suyo (M.), suya (F.) suyos, suyas yours, his, her, its

nuestro (M.) nuestros, ours

nuestra (F.) nuestras

suyo (M.), suya (F.) suyos, suyas yours, theirs

These forms, too, must agree with the nouns they accompany, even though the noun is separated from them by forms of the verb, to be.

Este coche no es mío.
This car isn't mine.

Los papeles blancos son nuestros. The white papers are ours.

Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns

This and that, these and those, are translated as follows:

este hombre this man esta mujer this woman

estos hombres these men estas mujeres these women

ese hombre that man esa mujer that woman

esos hombres those men esas mujeres those women

That may also be translated as aquel (M.), aquella (F.), aquellos (M.PL.), aquellas (F.PL.), when it refers to something in the distance.

Mire usted aquellas montañas. Look at those mountains.

The neuter demonstrative pronouns are esto and eso for this and that respectively.

¿Qué es esto? What is this?

Eso es. That is it; that is right.

If you are referring to specific objects, and are differentiating between two or more things in a series, the adjectives above serve as pronouns, They then take a written accent (which does not affect pronunciation).

No quiero éste; déme ése, por favor.
I don't want this one; give me that one, please.

¿Cuáles prefiere usted, éstos o aquéllos? Which ones do you prefer, these or those?


In English we make comparative forms by adding -er to the end of some adjectives, and by placing more in front of adverbs, nouns, and other adjectives. (Example: John is richer and more influential than Peter.) In Spanish you form such comparatives and superlatives by placing the word más (more) before the noun, adjective, or adverb concerned. The word than in such cases is translated by que.

Mi prima tiene más discos que nadie.
My cousin has more records than anyone.

Este paquete es más ligero que el suyo. This package is lighter than yours.

Son más inteligentes que sus vecinos.
They are more intelligent than their neighbors.

Repitalo más despacio.
Repeat it more slowly.

Los cubanos hablan más rápidamente
Cubans speak more rapidly than
que los mexicanos.

Usted pronuncia mejor que yo.
You pronounce better than I.

Es la chica más hermosa del pueblo.
She is the prettiest girl in town.

Most adjectives and adverbs form their comparatives regularly, as above. A noteworthy exception, however, is bueno, (good), which has mejor, (better) as its comparative. Mejor is also the comparative for the adverb bien, (well).

Comparisons of equality (as ... as) are translated tan ... como with adjectives and adverbs, and tanto, -a, os,-as ... como with nouns.

Soy tan alto como mi hermano.
I am as tall as my brother.

Hable tan despacio como yo.
Speak as slowly as I do.

No tengo tanto dinero como ustedes. I don't have as much money as you.

Nadie tiene tantas tarjetas como yo. No one has as many cards as I do.


In Spanish, as in English, pronouns have different forms according to their use or position in a sentence.


Excerpted from Essential Spanish Grammar by Seymour Resnick. Copyright © 1964 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Essential Spanish Grammar 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Other than a dictionary, this is the only book you'll need to learn to communicate in Spanish. I used this book 15 years ago when I went to Mexico to work on a construction project. Within weeks I was able to construct sentences using a wide variety of tenses, Now fluent, I still refer back to this book for some of the more dificult tenses. I have recommended it to many of my friends and am now going to buy if for my boss, who is just beginning to study spanish. The book contains countless meaningful examples and hints that simply do not appear in other texts, and that teachers too often overlook. Resnick continually demonstrates the English equivalence of commonly used verb tenses. You don't need to be a grammatical expert in English to use this book. For $4.50, this is probably the besst deal anywhere.