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Spanish, or Castillian, is the world's second most spoken language, after Mandarin Chinese. It originated in northern Spain, where it was picked up by the Kingdom of Castile, which then carried it to Spanish colonies in Africa, Asia Pacific, and the Americas.
The following countries have Spanish as an official or co-official language:
It is also spoken by many people in the following countries:
Despite its dominance abroad and at home, Castillian is not the only language spoken in Spain. Galician, Basque and Catalan are three other languages spoken in regions of Spain.
The Spanish alphabet has 29 letters (although w is only used in foreign words). Besides the regular 26 of the English alphabet, Spanish has ñ, ch and ll: a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.
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Most consonants are pronounced very similarly to the way they are in English, but there are several exceptions:
Note: There is no "it' in Spanish. Spanish merely leaves the subject out of the sentence all together rather than using a special pronoun.
The difference in use between the informal you (tú) and the more formal you (usted) is cultural and varies from country to country. Understanding of it's use comes with time and context. If you're not sure which to use to address someone, it's best to use the more formal pronoun (usted) which is more polite, especially if you don't know the person you're speaking to well. If they in turn address you informally (tú), you can then switch to the more informal pronoun (tú).
Spanish uses a different conjugation of the verb depending on who performed the action (you, I, she, they) and when it was done (future, past, present). For English speakers, this can make life quite complicated. Included below are the basic conjugation rules for regular verbs.
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For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar - to buy): compr| ~o, ~as, ~a, ~amos, ~áis, ~an
Example: Yo (no) compro, tu compras, el/ella/usted compra, nosotros compramos, vosotros compráis, ellos/ellas/ustedes compran
For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber - to drink): beb| ~o, ~es, ~e, ~emos, ~éis, ~en
Example: Yo bebo, tu bebes, el/ella/usted bebe, nosotros bebemos, vosotros bebéis, ellos/ellas/ustedes beben
For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir - to live): viv| ~o, ~es, ~e, ~imos, ~ís, ~en
Example: Yo vivo, tu vives, el/ella/usted vive, nosotros vivimos, vosotros vivís, ellos/ellas/ustedes viven
For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar): comprar| ~é, ~ás, ~á, ~emos, ~éis, ~án
Example: Yo compraré, tu comprarás, el/ella/usted comprará, nosotros compraremos, vosotros compraréis, ellos/ellas/ustedes comprarán
For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber): beber| ~é, ~ás, ~á, ~emos, ~éis, ~án
Example: Yo beberé, tu beberás, el/ella/usted beberá, nosotros beberemos, vosotros beberéis, ellos/ellas/ustedes beberán
For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir): vivir| ~é, ~ás, ~á, ~emos, ~éis, ~án
Example: Yo viviré, tu vivirás, el/ella/usted vivirá, nosotros viviremos, vosotros viviréis, ellos/ellas/ustedes vivirán
Past tense: Imperfect
The imperfect is used when referring to actions in the past which form a context. It is descriptive in nature.
For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar): comprar| ~aba, ~abas, ~aba, ~ábamos, ~abais, ~aban
Example: Yo compraraba, tu comprarabas, el/ella/usted compraraba, nosotros comprarábamos, vosotros comprarabais, ellos/ellas/ustedes compraraban
For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber): beber| ~ía, ~ías, ~ía, ~íamos, ~íais, ían
Example: Yo bebería, tu beberías, el/ella/usted bebería, nosotros beberíamos, vosotros beberíais, ellos/ellas/ustedes beberían
For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir): vivir| ~ía, ~ías, ~ía, ~íamos, ~íais, ~ían
Example: Yo viviría, tu vivirías, el/ella/usted viviría, nosotros viviríamos, vosotros viviríais, ellos/ellas/ustedes vivirían
Past tense: Preterite
The preterite is used when referring to actions in the past which form an event. It is narrative in nature.
For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar): compr| ~é, ~aste, ~ó, ~amos, ~asteis, ~aron
Example: Yo compré, tu compraste, el/ella/usted compró, nosotros compramos, vosotros comprasteis, ellos/ellas/ustedes compraron
For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber): beb| ~í, ~iste, ~ió, ~imos, ~isteis, ~ieron
Example: Yo bebí, tu bebiste, el/ella/usted bebió, nosotros bebimos, vosotros bebisteis, ellos/ellas/ustedes bebieron
For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir): viv| ~í, ~iste, ~ió, ~imos, ~isteis, ~ieron
Example: Yo viví, tu viviste, el/ella/usted vivió, nosotros vivimos, vosotros vivisteis, ellos/ellas/ustedes vivieron
Negatives and questions
To make a sentence negative in Spanish, simply add the word "no" in front of the verb.
To make a question, you reverse the subject and the verb (like is often done in English)
You can also make a statement, and follow it with sí? or no? When you do this, you say sí? or no? with a rising intonation.
To make life even more difficult, there are many irregular verbs which don't conform to these patterns.
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Nouns are gender specific. The basic rule of thumb is that a word ending in a is feminine, while a word ending in o is masculine.
Pronouns, adjectives and adverbs change according to the gender of the noun as well.
A couple of notable exceptions are: el día (day), and el mapa (map)
Plurals are generally created by adding an s or es to the end of a noun. Note that if a noun is plural, the accompanying pronoun and any adjectives are also plural.
About.com has a great section devoted to learning Spanish. Lots of grammar lessons for beginners and more advanced speakers.
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