1.1 Abbreviations

You may see the following abbreviations used in this text. Their meanings are as follows:

        • adj. – adjective
        • C.A. – Central America
        • coll. – colloquial
        • def. art. – definite article
        • dem. adj. – demonstrative adjective
        • d.o. – direct object
        • esp. – especially
        • f. – feminine
        • fam. – familiar (informal)
        • fig. – figurative
        • form. – formal
        • gram. – grammar term
        • ind. art. – indefinite article
        • inf. – infinitive
        • i.o. – indirect object
        • lang. – language
        • lit. – literary, literature
        • m. – masculine
        • neut. – neuter
        • n. – noun
        • pl. – plural
        • p.p. – past participle
        • poss. adj. – possessive adjective
        • prep. – preposition
        • prep. obj. pron. – prepositional object pronoun
        • pron. – pronoun
        • refl. pron. – reflexive pronoun
        • s. – singular
        • L.A. – Latin America
        • Sp. – Spain
        • sub. pron. – subject pronoun
        • v. – verb


Last revised on December 7, 2020.

1.2 Syllabication

A word is divided into as many syllables as it has vowels or diphthongs (ai, ei, eu, ie, io, ia, ue, uo, etc.). Single consonants are pronounced in the same syllable as the vowel that follows. Note that the capitalized syllables are the ones that are stressed when said aloud.

CA-sa house
za-PA-to shoe
su-pe-RIOR superior
si-len-CIO-so silent

Two consonants are usually divided into different syllables except in combinations of a consonant and l, a consonant and r, and the inseparable sounds ch, ll, and rr:

es-pa-ÑOL Spanish
a-BRIR to open
con-CEP-to concept
cons-TRUIR to construct
ex-pli-CAR to explain
ba-TA-lla battle

Last revised on December 7, 2020.

1.3 Accentuation

Rule 1

When a word ends in a vowel, s, or n, the stress falls on the second-to-the-last syllable:

MA-no hand
MA-dre mother
HA-blan they speak
HOM-bres men

Rule 2

When a word ends in a consonant, except s or n, the stress falls on the final syllable. All infinitives fall into this category.

pa-RED wall
re-LOJ watch (timepiece)
ca-PAZ capable
be-BER to drink

Rule 3

All words with a stress on the third-to-last syllable require an accent mark. These words are called palabras esdrújulas.

es-DRÚ-ju-la accented on the third-to-last syllable
SÁ-ba-do Saturday
a-ca-DÉ-mi-co academic
pa-RÉN-te-sis parenthesis


Exceptions to the above rules are indicated by a written accent mark on the stressed vowel. That means that if a word does not follow the rules above, an accent mark must be written in on the stressed vowel.

ÁR-bol (ends in an -l, but breaks rule 2) tree
in-GLÉS (ends in an -s, but breaks rule 1) English
si-LLÓN (ends in an -n, but breaks rule 1) armchair
a-ZÚ-car (ends in an -r, but breaks rule 2) sugar

Accent Marks to Distinguish Homonyms

Written accent marks are also used to differentiate between otherwise identical words. This can end up being of importance for reading comprehension in some situations. Note the following pairs:

el- the él- he
si- if sí- yes
mas- but más- more, most
mi- my mí- me (prepositional object pronoun)
tu- your tú- you
aun- even aún- still, yet
solo- alone, lonely sólo- only

As you progress through the text and study the different verb tenses, various cases will be pointed out in which the absence or presence of a written accent mark is the only distinction between two otherwise identical forms of different persons or verb tenses of several verb tenses.

Last revised on June 16, 2021.

1.4 Punctuation and Capitalization

A. An inverted question mark is placed at the beginning of a sentence to indicate intonation:

  • ¿Estás listo?
  • Are you ready?

B. An inverted exclamation is placed before exclamations for the same reason:

  • ¡Qué bien hablan!
  • How well they speak!

C. An initial dash is usually used instead of quotations marks to indicate dialogue:

  • -¿Vas o no vas?
  • “Are you going or not?”
  • -No, me quedo aquí.
  • “No, I’m staying here.”

D. Spanish does not use capital letters in the following cases in which English does:

1. Days of the week:

      • Hoy es viernes.
      • Today is Friday.

2. Months of the year:

      • Mañana comienza abril.
      • April begins tomorrow.

3. Adjectives of nationality:

      • Hugo es uruguayo.
      • Hugo is Uruguayan.

4. Names of languages:

      • El húngaro no es fácil.
      • Hungarian is not easy.

5. Titles:

      • El señor Sotomayor vino hoy.
      • Mr. Sotomayor came today.

Last revised on December 8, 2020.

1.5 Cognates

Cognates are words that are recognizable in form and meaning. Conversely, words identical or similar in form but which have a different meaning are “false friends.” These words can present particular problems when trying to deduce meaning, and are indicated throughout the text and also appear in a list at the end of the textbook (see section 18.2). One example is pariente, which means “relative” and not “parent” (padre).

A. Words identical or almost identical in spelling and meaning:

ideal, hospital, final, mental, federal, altar, popular, superior, error, doctor, noble, acceptable, terrible, hotel. unión, televisión, ocasión, radio, comercial, imposible, región, remoto

B. Most words ending in -ción correspond to the English suffix -tion:

perfección perfection
nación nation
ambición ambition
construcción construction

C. Many words ending in -tad or -dad correspond to the English suffix -ty:

libertad liberty
estabilidad stability
entidad entity
dificultad difficulty

D. Many words ending in -ez correspond to the English suffix -ity or –ness:

sencillez simplicity
escasez scarcity, scarceness
timidez timidity, timidness
vejez oldness, old age

E. Spanish words ending in -oso, and their feminine and plural forms, almost always correspond to the English suffix -ous:

industrioso-a industrious
supersticioso-a superstitious (fem.)

F. Many Spanish nouns ending in -cio or -cia correspond to the English suffix –nce:

inocencia innocence
silencio silence

G. Spanish words ending in -mento or -miento usually have the same meaning as their English counterpart:

movimiento movement
parlamento parliament
Last revised on December 8, 2020.