Learning the basic grammar of a new language is important — even if you’re studying abroad in an immersion program and also hanging out at the beach or hiking in the rainforest. A language’s grammar is the glue that sticks everything together, ensuring clear communication and smooth navigation through social situations. So read on to find out about the five most important rules of grammar in the Spanish language.
1. There are several ways of saying “you” (second person).
Standard forms across the board in any Spanish-speaking country include: tú (you singular, informal); usted (you singular, formal) and ustedes (you plural, formal). All these forms are used when addressing both males and females. There also some regional forms of “you” as well.
- You may hear vos in Costa Rica, Argentina, and other countries as an alternative to the second person singular tú.
- In addition, you’ll hear vosotros/vosotras in Spain to represent the informal plural of “you” (think: “y’all” or “you guys.”)
2. Nouns are assigned genders and reflect number.
For instance, the beach is “la playa,” To visit the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica, though, you would say “las playas de Costa Rica.” The word for beach is assigned a feminine gender, which holds true both in the singular and plural. So there are four ways to say “the” in Spanish — el libro, los libros, la playa, las playas. The definite article “the” merely changes to agree in gender and number with the noun.
3. The verb form reflects the subject of the sentence.
This means that bailo, from bailar (to dance), means “I dance.” Baila, also from bailar, means “you dance” (formal, singular), “he dances,” or “she dances.” The -o or -a at the end of the verb forms here reflect the subject and the number (first person singular and third person singular, respectively), but not gender.
4. Subject pronouns are optional.
They’re used for emphasis or clarity only, since the verb ending at the end of the verb form is doing all the work. For example, a friendly tico may tell you, “Bailas bien.” Notice the tú is not used here, because it’s clear the person’s talking to you.
5. Not all phrases translate word for word.
Idiomatic expressions, arguably the most exciting part of a language, reflect historical and social circumstances — and they’re a lot of fun to pick up when you’re participating in a Spanish immersion program. The English expression “When pigs fly” is translated into a number of ways in Spanish depending upon the region. One way of translating this common saying is “when frogs grow hair.” And the Spanish proverb “No hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oír” translates word by word as “there is not a worse deaf person than the one who doesn´t want to hear” although the correct expression in English is “There is none so blind as he who will not see”.
Learn the essentials of grammar at CRLA, Costa Rica’s most trusted international language school with over 25 years experience! CRLA provides:
- Expert teachers from the country’s top universities, trained in CRLA’s own proven teaching methodology
- Flexible, customized classes
- Homeschool program with highly vetted families
- Cultural courses in dancing and cooking
- Local excursions
- Assistance with making independent travel plans
- Service learning and volunteering options
- Diverse international student body
For more information on how you can learn the basics of Spanish while you go to the beach, travel, and embrace all that Costa Rica has to offer, please contact us. And if you are a teacher, be sure to enroll in a special CRLA language immersion course designed just for teachers.