Glossary of grammatical terms

Abbreviation (Abreviatura)

A shortened form of a word or phrase: c/c = cuenta corriente (current account), pág. = página (page), Bs. As. = Buenos Aires, FF AA = Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces).

Accent (Acento)

In Spanish the written accent (always an acute accent) is only used when the stress falls unpredictably in a word. Stress normally falls on the last syllable when the word ends in a consonant other than n or s (as in comer, reloj, delantal, complot) or on the penultimate syllable if the word ends in a vowel, n or s (as in gato, virgen, atlas). If the word is stressed unpredictably (i.e. not following these rules), it has a written accent: dicil, álbum, parchís, espléndido, prepáremelo. See also Stress.

Active (Activo)

In the active form the subject of the verb performs the action: la policía halló el vehículo en la localidad de San Roque ( the police found the vehicle in the town of San Roque).

Adjectival phrase (Frase adjetival)

A phrase that functions as an adjective: a ultranza = out-and-out, fanatical; es nacionalista a ultranza = he's a fanatical o out-and-out nationalist, he's a nationalist through-and-through.

Adjective (Adjetivo)

A word describing a noun or pronoun: un lápiz rojo (a red pencil), los míos están sucios (mine are dirty).

Adverb (Adverbio)

A word that modifies a verb, and adjective, another adverb or a sentence: lo leyó rápidamente (she read it quickly), muy respetado (highly respected), habla español bastante bien (she speaks Spanish quite o pretty well), honestamente , no sé qué puedes hacer (to be honest, I don’t know what you can do).

Adverbial phrase (Frase adverbial)

A phrase that functions as an adverb: motu proprio: lo hizo (de) motu proprio = he did it on his own initiative

Agent (Agente)

The person or thing performing the action of the verb: la bala le atravesó el corazón ( the bullet went through her heart), fue armado caballero por el Rey (he was knighted by the King ). See Active and Passive.

Agreement (Concordancia)

Morphological correspondence between an adjective and the noun it modifies, a verb and the subject of the sentence, etc. In Spanish most adjectives agree with the noun they modify in gender and number: un abrigo negro (a black coat), una falda negra (a black skirt), pantalones negros (black trousers), botas negras (black boots). Verbs agree with the subject of the sentence: Pedro habla japonés (Pedro speaks Japanese), mi marido y yo hablamos japonés (my husband and I speak Japanese), tú tenías frío (you were cold), los niños tenían frío (the children were cold).


See Stress

Apocope (Apocopé)

The omission of the final sound or sounds of a word in certain contexts; malo becomes mal before a noun: llegas en mal momento (you’ve come at an awkward o a bad moment), tanto becomes tan before an adjective or an adverb: vamos, no es tan difícil (come on, it’s not that difficult).

Article (Artículo)

Word that precedes a noun or noun phrase and indicates whether the referent is already known (definite article: el, la, los, las = the) or not (indefinite article: un, una = a/an). In Spanish the article agrees with the noun in gender and number.

Attributive (Atributivo)

An adjective is attributive when it is used to describe a noun: a black coat (un abrigo negro). Nouns are often used attributively in English: age difference (diferencia de edad), kitchen unit (módulo de cocina). In English grammar ‘attributive’ implies that the adjective or noun precedes the noun it modifies. See Predicative.

Augmentative suffixes (Sufijos aumentativos)

The most common augmentative suffixes in Spanish are -ón, -azo, -ote and -udo. These are sometimes used to indicate large size, as in perrazo (huge dog), but very often express things other than size, such as a pejorative attitude, as in ricachón (stinking rich person), simplón (sucker, dope) or admiration as in ¡vaya cochazo se ha comprado! (that’s some car he’s bought himself!). Another common use of augmentative suffixes in Spanish is in nouns meaning “a blow with something”: paraguazo (blow with an umbrella), darle un codazo a alguien (to nudge somebody/to elbow somebody). See Diminutive suffixes.

Auxiliary verb (Verbo auxiliar)

In Spanish grammar, a verb used with another verb to form the compound tenses, the Passive voice and other verbal constructions. Haber is an auxiliary verb in no he terminado (I haven’t finished), ser is an auxiliary verb in el vehículo fue hallado (the vehicle was found), estar is an auxiliary verb in estaba trabajando (he was working), ir is an auxiliary verb in ¡te vas a caer! (you are going to fall!).

Cardinal number (Número cardenal)

A whole number representing a quantity: uno, veinte, ciento cuarenta (one, twenty, a hundred and forty). See Ordinal number.

Clause (Cláusula)

A self-contained section of a sentence that contains a subject (which can be omitted in Spanish) and a verb: sería una pena que (tú) no pudieses venir (it would be a pity if you couldn’t come ).

Collective noun (Sustantivo colectivo)

A noun that is singular in form but refers to a group of individual persons or things: realeza (royalty), gente (people).

Collocate (Colocación)

A word that regularly occurs with another. In English the the noun success is a frequent collocate of the adjective resounding. In Spanish the adjective clamoroso -a often accompanies nouns like éxito (success) and ovación (applause). In the Oxford Spanish Dictionary, subject collocates are shown in double angled brackets and object collocates are shown in single angled brackets.

Comparative (Comparativo)

The form of an adjective or adverb that expresses more or less in amount, degree or quality. Mejor (better) is the comparative of bueno -a (good), más/menos claramente (more/less clearly) are comparative forms of claramente (clearly). See Superlative.

Compound (Compuesto)

A unit of two or more words with its own specific meaning: zona cero (ground zero), cirugía estética (cosmetic surgery).

Compound tense (Tiempo compuesto)

In Spanish grammar, a tense made up of the auxiliary verb haber and the past participle of the main verb in the sentence: no han/habían llegado (they haven’t/hadn’t arrived).

Conditional tense (Tiempo condicional)

A tense that tells us what would happen if a certain condition was fulfilled: lo compraría si tuviera dinero (I’d buy it if I had the money) or expresses the future in reported speech sentences: dijo que me llamaría apenas llegara (she said she would phone me as soon as she arrived). (What she actually said was “Te llamaré apenas llegue.”).

Conjugation (Conjugación)

1. Group of the different forms of a verb that show person, tense and mood: canto, cantas…, canté, cantastecantaba, cantabas… are part of the conjugation of the verb cantar. 2. Group of verbs that conjugate in the same way. In Spanish there are three conjugations, distinguished by the vowel in the final syllable of the infinitive: -ar, -er and -ir. Cantar belongs to the first conjugation, comer to the second one and vivir to the third.

Conjunction (Conjunción)

A word used to join words, phrases or sentences together or to introduce a clause: azul y blanco (blue and white), en coche o en tren (by car or by train), me gustaría ir pero creo que no voy a poder (I would like to go but I don’t think I’ll be able to), ¿puede demostrar que estuvo allí? (can you prove that you were there?).

Consonant (Consonante)

1. A speech sound made by completely or partly stopping the flow of air being breathed out through the mouth. 2. Any of the letters of the alphabet used to represent this type of sound. See Vowel.

Contraction (Contracción)

A shortened form of a word or words: in Spanish al is the contraction of a + el, del is the contraction of de + el. The only exception to the use of these contractions is when ‘el’ is part of a proper name: un artículo de El País, su viaje a El Cairo. In English we’ve is a contraction of we have, I’m is a contraction of I am.

Copula or Linking verb (Verbo copulativo)

A verb such as ser, estar (to be) or parecer (to seem, to look, etc.) that connects the subject with the adjective or noun that describes it: estoy cansado (I’m tired), parece mucho mayor de lo que es (she looks much older than she is).

Countable (count) noun (Sustantivo contable)

A noun that can take the indefinite article or be preceded by a number and has a plural: un barco (a ship), tres manzanas (three apples). Nouns can be countable in Spanish and uncountable in English: un mueble (a piece of furniture), un consejo (a piece of advice). See Uncountable (uncount) noun.

Definite article (Artículo definido)

See Article

Demonstrative adjective (Adjetivo demostrativo)

An adjective used to identify the person or thing that is being referred to: este chico ( this boy), esta gente ( these people), por esa época (at around that time), en aquellos tiempos (in those days).

Demonstrative pronoun (Pronombre demostrativo)

A pronoun used to identify the person or thing that is being referred to: esta o ésta es mi hermana (this is my sister), ese o ése es el tuyo (that one is yours), aquellos o aquéllos fueron momentos difíciles (those were difficult times)


(diaeresis mark) Mark placed over the letter u in the sequences güe and güi to indicate that the u must be pronounced, as in nicaragüense or pingüino (as opposed to guerra or águila, where the u is not pronounced).

Diminutive suffixes (Sufijos diminutivos)

The most common diminutive suffixes in Spanish are -ito and -illo. There many regional variations, however, with diminutives in general being more common in Latin America than in Spain. Diminutives are sometimes used to indicate small size, as in vasito (little glass) and cajita (small box), but very often express an affectionate attitude: pobrecito, tiene hambre (poor little thing, he’s hungry), dame un beso, Raquelita (Raquel, darling; give me a kiss). Sometimes they are used to make a statement less harsh: es más bien gordita (she’s quite plump), to minimise the importance of something: cualquier problemita la agobia (the slightest problem overwhelms her), etc. See Augmentative suffixes.

Direct object (Objeto directo)

The noun, noun phrase or pronoun that refers to the person, people or thing(s) directly affected by the action of the verb: estando allí conoció a Micaela (he met Micaela while he was there), dejó a los niños en el colegio (she dropped the children off at school), estudiaba inglés en una academia (I used to study English at a language school). In Spanish the direct object is preceded by a when it designates a particular person or people. See Indirect object.

Direct speech (Habla directa)

A speaker’s actual words or the use of these in writing: –estoy de acuerdo –terció Andrés (I agree, Andrés interjected). (“Estoy de acuerdo” was what Andrés actually said.) See Indirect Speech.

Elliptical (Elíptico)

Having a word or words omitted, especially where the sense can be guessed from the context.

Ending (Terminación)

Letters added to the stem of a word to show a change. In the form cantábamos -ábamos is the ending added to the stem of the verb cantar (cant) to form the first person plural of the imperfect indicative tense; a is the feminine ending in profesora.


See Stress

Feminine (Femenino)

One of the genders in Spanish grammar. See Gender.

Future tense (Tiempo futuro)

The future tense is used to refer to things that will happen in the future: seremos diez comensales (there will be ten of us for dinner). In colloquial language, however, the present tense and the form ‘ir a + infinitive’ are very often used instead: empiezo a trabajar mañana (I start work tomorrow), se lo voy a comprar para su cumpleaños (I’m going to buy it for his birthday). In Spanish the future tense is very frequently used to express conjecture or supposition: tendrá unos 35 años o por ahí (he must be 35 or so), ¿este pescado estará bueno? (do you think this fish is all right?).

Gender (Género)

Each of the classes into which nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles are divided. In Spanish grammar nouns are either feminine (casa, moto, frente) or masculine (periódico, actor, puente). In addition, Spanish uses the neuter pronouns esto, eso and aquello and the neuter article lo.

Gerund (Gerundio)

In English grammar a gerund is a noun in the form of the present participle of a verb (i.e. the form ending in -ing):

drinking wrecked her health (la bebida le arruinó la salud), her love of reading (su amor por la lectura). In Spanish grammar “el gerundio” is the present participle of the verb (the impersonal form ending in -ando, -iendo or -yendo): sigo pensando que deberíamos haber ido (I still think we ought to have gone), estaba sufriendo tanto (he was in such pain), se pasa horas enteras leyendo (she reads for hours on end). It can also be used as an adverb: bajó la cuesta corriendo (she ran down the hill).


See Stress

Imperative (Imperativo)

See Mood

Imperfect tense (Tiempo imperfecto)

The imperfect tense in Spanish is used to refer to uncompleted actions in the past, often in descriptions: brillaba el sol (the sun was shining), tenía cinco años (she was five years old). It is also used to refer to habitual actions in the past: a las nueve nos mandaban a la cama (they used to send us to bed at nine o’clock), si hacía sol salíamos a pasear (if it was sunny we used to go for a walk). Another use of the imperfect is in polite requests or questions:, sólo quería darle las gracias (I just wanted to thank you), ¿qué deseaba? (may I help you?).

Impersonal verb (Verbo impersonal)

In Spanish grammar, a verb used without a subject, present or elliptical: está nevando (it’s snowing). The Spanish sentence llaman a la puerta (there’s someone at the door) contains an impersonal use of the verb llamar.

Indefinite article (Artículo indefinido)

See Article

Indefinite pronoun (Pronombre indefinido)

A pronoun that does not identify a specific person or object: uno, alguien = one, someone

Indicative (Indicativo)

See Mood

Indirect object (Objeto indirecto)

The noun, noun phrase or pronoun that refers to the person, people or thing(s) indirectly affected by the action of the verb: le escribió una carta a

su padre (he wrote a letter to his father , he wrote his father a letter), les compré caramelos a los niños (I bought the children some candy, I bought some candy for the children ). Una carta and caramelos are the direct objects of the verbs in the above sentences. See Direct object.

Indirect speech (Habla indirecta)

A report of what someone has said which does not reproduce his or her exact words: Andrés dijo que estaba de acuerdo (Andrés said that he agreed). (Andrés’s exact words were: “Estoy de acuerdo.”) See Direct Speech.

Infinitive (Infinitivo)

The base form of a verb: cantar (to sing), saber (to know), vivir (to live).

Inflection (Inflexión)

Variation in the form of a word, particularly the ending, according to its grammatical function in a sentence. Inflections of the verb express person, number, time, etc.: canto, cantábamos, cantarán, etc. are inflections of the verb cantar. Inflections of the noun and adjective show number and gender in Spanish: maestro, maestra, maestros, maestras (teacher/teachers); rojo, roja, rojos, rojas (red).

Interjection (Interjección)

A sound, word or phrase spoken suddenly to express an emotion, attract attention, etc.: ¡ay! (ow!, ouch!, etc.), ¡eh! (hey!, etc.).

Interrogative (Interrogativo)

That asks a question: ¿adónde vamos? (where are we going?) is an interrogative sentence, ¿quién? (who?) is an interrogative pronoun, ¿cuánto? (how much?) is an interrogative adverb.

Intransitive verb (Verbo transitivo)

A verb used without a direct object: buscar is intransitive in busca en el cajón (look in the drawer). See Transitive verb.

Invariable adjective (Adjetivo invariable)

An adjective that has the same form regardless of whether it modifies a singular, plural, masculine or feminine noun. Adjectives are invariable in English but Spanish adjectives normally agree with the noun they modify both in gender and number: un lápiz roj

o (a red pencil) una mancha roj a (a red stain), pantalones roj os (red pants), luces roj as (red lights). Pastel (pastel) and tabú (taboo) are invariable adjectives in Spanish: colores pastel (pastel colors), temas tabú (taboo subjects).

Invariable noun (Sustantivo invariable)

A noun that has the same form in the singular and the plural. Crisis (crisis) is an invariable noun in Spanish: una de las peores crisis que ha conocido el país (one of the worst crises the country has known). Sheep (oveja) is an invariable noun in English: to count sheep (contar ovejas).

Irregular verb (Verbo irregular)

A verb that does not follow the set pattern in some of its forms and has to be learnt individually: ser (to be), saber (to know) and salir (to go out, etc.) are irregular verbs in Spanish. To sing (cantar) and to buy (comprar) are irregular verbs in English. See Regular verb.

Linking verb (Verbo copulativo)

See Copula


See Stress

Masculine (Masculino)

One of the genders in Spanish grammar. See Gender.

Modal verb (Verbo modal)

In English grammar, a verb used with another verb to express possibility, permission, intention, etc., like can, may, will, must, etc.

Mood (Modo)

One of the sets of verb forms used to express the attitude of the speaker with respect to what is stated by the verb in a sentence. The imperative mood expresses orders:

quédate aquí (stay here), the indicative mood expresses facts: quedó viuda muy joven (she was widowed when she was very young) the subjunctive mood expresses, among other things, wishes: prefiero que te quedes aquí (I’d rather you stayed here), conditionality: si fuera más barato vendría más gente (if it was o were cheaper, more people would come), emotional reactions: siento que no sea de su agrado (I’m sorry that it’s not to your liking), hope: espero que hayan disfrutado de la travesía (I hope you have enjoyed the crossing), etc.

Negative (Negativo)

That expresses denial or refusal: no sabe cuidar el dinero (he’s not good at looking after his money).

Neuter (Neutro)

One of the genders in Spanish grammar, limited to the pronouns esto, eso and aquello and the article lo. See Gender.

Noun (Sustantivo)

A word that refers to a person, a place, a thing, an animal, a quality or an activity: dentista (dentist), parque (park), vaso (glass), pato (duck), inteligencia (intelligence), surf (surfing). See also Proper noun.

Number (Número)

The form of a word showing whether one (singular) or more than one (plural) person or thing is being talked about. The word mujer (woman) is singular in number, its plural is mujeres (women).

Object (Objeto)

The word or words naming the person or thing acted on by a verb: John estudia geografía = John studies geography. Object collocates are shown in single angled brackets.

Ordinal number (Número ordenal)

A number that refers to the position of something or somebody in a series: el quinto aniversario (the fifth anniversary), su tercera película (his third movie). See Cardinal number.

Part of speech (Categoría gramatical)

One of the classes into which words are divided according to their grammatical function such as noun, verb, adjective, etc.

Passive (Pasivo)

In the passive form the subject of the verb does not perform the action. Instead, it is affected by it: el vehículo fue hallado en la localidad de San Roque ( the vehicle was found in the town of San Roque). (See Active). The passive voice constructed with the verb ‘ser’, as in the previous example, is used mostly in formal language in Spanish. In less formal language the English passive is translated using either the impersonal construction with ‘se’ (la pasiva refleja): the motion was defeated (no se aprobó la moción), it was published under a different title (se publicó con otro título) or an active sentence with the verb in the third person plural: the baby was found abandoned (encontraron al bebé abandonado), he was pulled from the rubble alive (lo sacaron vivo de entre los escombros).

Pasiva refleja

See Passive.

Past participle (Participio)

The impersonal form of the verb used in compound tenses and in the passive: no lo he visto en todo el día (I haven’t seen him all day), los heridos fueron trasladados al hospital (the injured were taken to hospital). Past participles can also function as adjectives: examen escrito ( written exam).

Perfect tense (Tiempo perfecto)

In Spanish the perfect tense or pretérito perfecto is used, like the English present perfect, to refer to events that have happened in a period of time which extends into the present or events which have consequences in the present: este año ha faltado a clase diez veces (this year he’s missed ten classes), hoy no me ha favorecido la suerte (luck hasn’t been on my side today), este mes he tenido muchos gastos (this has been an expensive month for me). However, there are regional variations in the use of the perfect, which is often replaced by the preterite in many areas of Latin America.

Person (Persona)

Any of the three groups of personal pronouns and forms taken by verbs. In Spanish each person has a singular and a plural form. The first person singular (yo, I) refers to the person speaking, the first person plural to a group which includes the person speaking (nosotros -as, we). The second person singular refers to the person spoken to (the formal usted and the colloquial and, in some areas of Latin America, also vos, all you [sing] in English), the second person plural to a group which includes the person(s) spoken to (ustedes and, in Spain, also the colloquial vosotros, all you [pl] in English). The third person singular refers to the person or thing spoken about (él, ella, ello, he, she, it), the third person plural to the people or things spoken about (ellos, ellas, they). The verb forms used with usted and ustedes are the same as the forms used for the third persons: él tiene (he has), usted tiene (you [sing] have), ellas tienen (they have), ustedes tienen (you [pl] have).

Personal pronoun (Pronombre personal)

A word that refers to a person or thing. In Spanish the subject pronouns are the ones listed above under Person. These are often omitted. The object pronouns are me, te, lo, la, le, nos, os (used only in Spain), los, las, les and se. The third person object pronouns (lo, la, le, los, las, les and se) are used for usted and ustedes. In addition, there is a partial set of pronouns used after prepositions: , ti and .

Phrasal verb (Verbo preposicional)

In English grammar, a verb combined with an adverb or a preposition, or both, to give a new meaning: to give up, to go in for, to put up with .

Phrase (Frase)

A group of words that form a unit with a particular syntactical function. An adjectival phrase functions as an adjective: de rigor (usual); los saludos de rigor (the usual greetings), an adverbial phrase functions as an adverb: motu proprio: lo hizo (de) motu proprio (he did it on his own initiative), etc.

Pluperfect tense (Tiempo pluscuamperfecto)

The tense that refers to something that happened before a particular point in the past: a esas alturas ya había perdido las esperanzas (by that stage he had already lost all hope).

Plural (Plural)

See Number

Possessive adjective (Adjetivo posesivo)

An adjective that shows possession, belonging to someone or something. In Spanish possessive adjectives agree with the noun possessed in number. The forms ending in o also agree in gender: mi casa (my house), mis padres (my parents), nuestro coche (our car), nuestras cosas (our things).

Possessive pronoun (Pronombre posesivo)

A pronoun that shows possession, belonging to someone or something. In Spanish possessive pronouns agree with the noun possessed in number and gender: el mío refers to a masculine singular noun, las nuestras refers to a feminine plural noun.

Predicate (Predicado)

A part of a sentence containing a verb that makes a statement about the subject of the verb. In the sentence la bala le rozó el brazo (the bullet grazed his arm), ‘le rozó el brazo’ is the predicate making a statement about the subject ‘la bala’.

Predicative (Predicativo)

In English grammar an adjective is predicative when it comes after a verb like be, seem, etc.: they are not comparable (no se los puede comparar), she seems friendly (parece simpática). See Attributive.

Prefix (Prefijo)

A letter or letters added at the beginning of a word to change its meaning:

im posible (impossible), a moral (amoral).

Preposition (Preposición)

Invariable word used before a noun or pronoun to show place, position, time or method. Con (with), en (in) and of (de) are prepositions.

Prepositional phrase (Frase preposicional)

A phrase that consists of a preposition and a complement: acerca de = about

Present participle (Gerundio)

In English grammar, the form of the verb ending in -ing: reading (leyendo). In Spanish grammar the equivalent form is generally called gerundio. See Gerund.

Present tense (Tiempo presente)

In Spanish the present tense is used to refer to habitual actions: por lo general los domingos nos levantamos tarde (we usually get up late on Sundays), timeless events: no lleva acento (it doesn’t have an accent on it), states: vas muy desabrigado (you’re not wearing warm enough clothes), present events which are not necessarily in progress: opino igual que tú (I agree with you), events which will happen in the future: dentro de un ratito te llamo (I’ll call you in a little while), ¿qué hago ahora? (what shall I do now?), events which are happening at the moment of speaking: ¿llueve? (is it raining?), and familiar imperatives: tú te vienes conmigo (you’re coming with me). In addition, the present tense has some stylistic uses in literary and journalistic language.

Preterite tense (Tiempo pretérito)

The preterite tense normally describes completed actions in the past: me rompí el tobillo (I broke my ankle), no pudo asistir a la reunión (he was unable to attend the meeting). In some areas in Latin America, the preterite replaces the perfect in certain contexts and sentences like ya llegó (he’s already arrived) can sometimes be heard instead of ya ha llegado.

Pronominal verb (Verbo pronominal)

A verb which is accompanied by an object pronoun (me, te, se, nos and, in European Spanish, os) which is of the same person as the subject. In some pronominal verbs the pronoun does not have a specific syntactical function: the verb just happens to be pronominal in Spanish. This is the case of arrepentirse, as in no me arrepiento de nada (I don’t regret a thing) and caerse as in se cayó de la cama (she fell out of bed). Some pronominal verbs express a reciprocal action, like escribirse in nos escribimos desde hace años (we’ve been writing to each other for years) or mirarse in se miraron extrañados (they looked at each other in surprise). In other cases, the use of a pronominal verb instead of the non-pronominal form emphasizes the surprising quality of an action, its completeness, etc. like beberse in nos bebimos la botella entre los dos (we drank the whole bottle between the two of us), leerse in ¿te lo has leído todo entero? (have you read it all?), or comerse in cómetelo todo (eat it all up). Others have a causative value: the action is performed by someone other than the subject, as in the case of peinarse in siempre me peino en la misma peluquería (I always have my hair done at the same salon). Finally, some pronominal verbs are reflexive. See Reflexive verb.

Pronoun (Pronombre)

A word used instead of a noun or a noun phrase. See also Demonstrative pronoun, Personal pronoun, Possessive pronoun, Relative pronoun.

Proper noun (Sustantivo propio)

The name of a person, place, organization, etc. usually written with a capital letter: San Mateo (St Matthew), Londres (London), Naciones Unidas (United Nations).

Reflexive pronoun (Pronombre reflexivo)

A pronoun that refers back to the subject of the clause in which it is used: myself = me; themselves = se

Reflexive verb (Verbo reflexivo)

A verb whose object is the same as its subject. The subject performs the action to or for himself or herself: se lavó (he washed, he had a wash), me hice un tajo en el dedo (I cut my finger), ponte un delantal para no mancharte (put an apron on so you don’t get dirty). The verbs in the previous examples are lavarse, hacerse, ponerse and mancharse . Reflexive verbs are a relatively small subset of Pronominal verbs.

Regular verb (Verbo regular)

A verb that follows a set pattern in all its forms and does not present irregularities: cantar (to sing), comer (to eat) and vivir (to live) are regular verbs in Spanish. To act (actuar) and to live (vivir) are regular verbs in English. See Irregular verb.

Relative pronoun (Pronombre relativo)

A pronoun that introduces a subordinate clause relating to something or someone mentioned in the main clause: el disco que le regalé (the record ( which o that ) I gave her); no conozco a nadie que tenga piscina (I don’t know anyone who has a swimming pool), la ciudad donde se conocieron (the city where they met).

Reported speech (Habla indirecta)

Another name for Indirect Speech

Sentence (Frase)

A set of words expressing a statement, a question or an order, usually containing a subject and a verb (which can be elliptical in Spanish). In written Spanish and English sentences usually begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop, a question mark or an exclamation mark.

Singular (Singular)

See Number


See Stress

Stem (Raíz)

The base form of a word to which endings, prefixes or suffixes are added: habl- is the stem in hablar, am- in amante, alt- in altísimo.

Stress (Acento)

Words stressed on the last syllable are called palabras agudas in Spanish. Unless there is a written accent, all words ending in a consonant other than n or s or are agudas: comer, reloj, delantal, complot. Words stressed on the penultimate syllable are called palabras llanas or graves. All words ending in a vowel, n or s are llanas or graves: gato, virgen, atlas. Words stressed on the antepenultimate syllable are called palabras esdrújulas. These always have a written accent: tíralo, sarcófago, luciérnaga. Words stressed on the syllable before the antepenultimate one are called sobresdrújulas. These also need a written accent: tíramelo, esporádicamente. See also Accent.

Subject (Sujeto)

The noun, noun phrase or pronoun representing the person, people or thing(s) that perform(s) the action of the verb: la lluvia interrumpió el juego ( rain stopped play), su cambio de actitud hizo posible el diálogo ( his change of attitude made the talks possible), él no lo va a hacer y yo tampoco ( he ’s not going to do it and neither am I ). The subject is often omitted in Spanish: anoche soñé contigo (I dreamed about you last night). Here the subject, as made clear by the form of the verb, is yo. Subject collocates are shown in double angled brackets.

Subjunctive (Subjuntivo)

See Mood

Subordinate clause (Cláusula subordinada)

A clause which adds information to the main clause of a sentence but cannot be used as a sentence by itself: no quiero que me compadezcan (I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me ).

Suffix (Sufijo)

A group of letters added to the stem of a word to make another word: -mente is added to the adjective claro (clear) to form the adverb claramente (clearly), -ito is added to the noun gato (cat) to form the diminutive gatito (kitten, little cat), -ísimo is added to the adjective caro (expensive) to form the absolute superlative carísimo (extremely expensive).

Superlative (Superlativo)

The form of an adjective or adverb that expresses the most or the least in amount, degree or quality. El peor (the worst) is the superlative of malo -a (bad), la más/menos interesante (the most/least interesting) are superlative forms of interesante (interesting). In Spanish the suffix -ísimo -a often expresses an absolute superlative: pobrísimo -a (extremely poor), temperaturas altísimas (extremely high temperatures). See Comparative.

Syllable (Sílaba)

A sequence of speech sounds pronounced as a single unit, usually with a vowel as its nucleus. The Spanish word espléndido is made up of four syllables: es-plén-di-do.

Tense (Tiempo)

The verb form that can be used to express when an action takes place (in the present, the past or the future) in relation to the moment of speaking or to another action. In hablaba consigo misma (she was talking to herself) the imperfect tense is used to describe something that was happening at a certain moment in the past. In ya había anochecido cuando volvió (it was already dark when he returned) the pluperfect tense is used to express an action that had already taken place when something else happened (when he returned). Tenses are also used to express things other than time. In Spanish, for example, the future tense can be used to express conjecture, as in tendrá unos 35 años o por ahí (he must be 35 or so, he must be around 35).

Transitive verb (Verbo transitivo)

A verb used with a direct object: buscar is transitive in la policía lo está buscando (the police are looking for him). Lo (him) is the direct object of the verb. See Intransitive verb.

Uncountable (uncount) noun (Sustantivo incontable)

A noun that cannot be preceded by the indefinite article or a number and does not have a plural: dinero (money), aire (air). See Countable (count) noun.

Verb (Verbo)

A word or group of words that expresses an action: recoger (to pick up), an event: suceder (to happen) or a state: existir (to exist).

Vowel (Vocal)

1. A speech sound in which the mouth is open and there is no closure or constriction at any point in the vocal tract. 2. A letter that represents a vowel sound: a, e, i, o and u in many languages. See Consonant.