7.1 Direct Object Pronouns

Direct object pronouns in Spanish are as follows:

Singluar Plural
me (me) nos (us)
te (you-fam. s.) os (you-fam. pl. [Spain only])
lo, la (him, her, it, you-form. s.) los, las (them, you-form. pl.)

Direct object pronouns are routinely placed immediately before a conjugated verb:

Victor me ve en la plaza todos los días. Victor sees me on the square every day.
–¿Tu cuaderno? No lo veo. “Your notebook? I don’t see it.”

Direct object pronouns agree in number and gender with the noun to which they refer:

No sé dónde están tus anteojos. Yo no los tengo. I don’t know where your glasses are. I don’t have them.
¿La chica? No la conozco. “The girl? I don’t know her.”

Direct object pronouns may be attached to the infinitive or precede the conjugated verb. “I am going to see her,” for example, may be seen as Voy a verla or La voy a ver. 

Note about le and les as direct object pronouns

The third-person indirect object pronouns le and les mean “him” and “them” (masc.) and refer only to male persons. They tend to be more common as direct objects in speech and texts from Spain, but are now seen in the entire Spanish-speaking world.

No le veo en el cuarto. I don’t see him in the room.
–¿Les llamaste? “Did you call them?”

Vocabulario básico 

Verbos:

aguantar- to stand, to tolerate
asar- to roast
cambiar- to change
cenar- to dine, to have supper (the evening meal)
costar (ue)- to cost
desayunar(se)- to eat breakfast
hervir (ie)- to boil

Sustantivos:

el aduana- customs (at international borders, airports, etc.)
el almuerzo- lunch
el arroz- rice
la carne- meat
la cena- dinner, supper, evening meal
la cocina- kitchen, cuisine, cooking
la comida- food, meal, evening meal
la costumbre- custom
el desayuno- breakfast
el disfraz- costume
el flan- pudding, custard
el/la gitano- Gypsy, Romany
el helado- ice cream
el huevo- egg
el jamón- ham
el jugo- juice
la leche- milk
la legumbre- vegetable
la manzana- apple
la moneda- currency; coin
la naranja- orange
la patata- potato (Sp.)
el pescado- fish
el pollo- chicken
el postre- dessert
el queso- cheese
el refresco- soft drink, refreshment
la verdura- vegetable

Adjetivos:

dulce- sweet
fresco- fresh, cool (weather)
frito- fried
fuerte- heavy (meal, food); strong
lento- slow
ligero- light
picante- spicy, hot
sabroso- tasty, good-tasting

Preposiciones:

a la derecha de- to the right of
a la izquierda de- to the left of
al lado de- next to, alongside of
debajo de- underneath
delante de- in front of
detrás de- behind
encima de- on top of
hasta- until, up to, as far as; even (adv.)
junto a- next to
según- according to

Expresión:

de vez en cuando- from time to time

Last revised on June 16, 2021.

7.2 Comparatives and Superlatives

Comparisons of Equality

In comparisons of equality, one find tan (“as”) + adjective or adverb, or a form of tanto + noun. The adjective, adverb or noun is followed by como (“as”):

Virginia es tan simpática como Teresa. Virginia is as friendly as Teresa.
Manolo canta tan mal como Federico. Manolo sings as badly as Federico.
Los Castillo tienen tantos coches como los Duarte. The Castillos have as many cars as the Duartes.

Tanto como, with no word in between, simply translates as “as much as” or “as many as.”

Uds. hablan tanto como nosotros. You talk as much as we do.

Tan, when it is not used in a comparative sentence, and when coming before an adjective or another adverb, translates as “so”:

Antonio es tan simple. Antonio is so simple.

If a noun follows or precedes the adjective, tan translates as “such”:

Antonio es una persona tan simple. Antonio is such a simple person.

Comparisons of Inequality

To form a comparison of inequality with an adjective, adverb or noun, place más (“more”) or menos (“less”) before the adjective or adverb and place que after it:

California tiene más habitantes bilingües que Florida. California has more bilingual inhabitants than Florida.
Uruguay tiene menos gente que Paraguay. Uruguay has fewer people than Paraguay.

Comparing actions is done using a verb plus más que or menos que: 

Sandra duerme más que Ángela. Sandra sleeps more than Angela.
¿Por qué hablas menos que antes en la clase? ¿Pasó algo? Why do you speak less than before in class? Did something happen?

Superlatives

In the superlative you see the same construction as in comparisons of inequality, with the difference that a definite article agreeing with the subject will precede más or menos. The superlative phrase takes the preposition de, though the English translation is often rendered by “in”:

En el año 2011 Nuevo México todavía tenía el porccentaje más alto de hispanos de todos los estados del país. In the year 2011 New Mexico still had the highest percentage of Hispanics of all the states in the country.
Este es el vino más caro del restaurante. This is the most expensive wine in the restaurant.
En el hemisferio norte, el 21 de diciembre es el día más corto del año. In the northern hemisphere, December 21st is the shortest day of the year.

In the superlative, grande does not shorten to gran before an adjective and may retain the meaning of “biggest” or “largest”:

Es el más grande error de todos. It’s the biggest error of all.

As in English, there are various irregular comparatives and superlatives:

grande large
pequeño small
poco little, few
bueno good
malo bad
mayor larger, largest, older*, oldest*, greater, greatest
menor smaller, smallest, younger*, youngest*
menos less, least, fewer, fewest
peor (cognate: pejorative) worse, worst

*This meaning refers only to people.

The comparatives más bueno and más malo are used occasionally, but with a different meaning that refers to inherent moral qualities:

La señora Cavazos es más buena que las otras. Mrs. Cavazos is kinder than the others.
Aquel hombre es más malo que nadie. That man is more wicked (evil) than anyone.

Más bueno and más malo may also be used in exclamations and denote an absolute superlative (See sections 11.5 and 11.8)

¡Qué vino más malo! What awful (extremely bad) wine!
¡Qué profesor más bueno! What a kind (an extremely kind) teacher!

“Older” and “oldest” may also be expressed by más viejo while más pequeño means not only “younger” and “youngest,” but “smaller” or “smallest.” Nonetheless the irregular forms mayor and menor are more frequently seen.

¡Ojo! Be careful in reading not to confuse mayor and mejor:

Es la mayor ciudad del país. It’s the largest city in the country.
Es la mejor ciudad del país. It’s the best city in the country.

Long Comparative Forms

There also exists “long” comparative forms that are used when referring to ideas as well as to specific objects. When referring to an idea, thought or notion, Spanish routinely uses de lo que: 

El urdu es más difícil de lo que piensas. Urdu is more difficult than (what) you think.
La ciudad es menos peligrosa de lo que era en el pasado. The city is less dangerous than (what) it was in the past.

Other times the comparatives agree with the specific noun:

Le ofrecen un sueldo menor del que* puede aceptar. They’re offering him a lower salary than (what) he can accept.
Siempre compra más carne de la que pueden comer. She always buys more meat than (what) they can eat.
Hay más testigos de los que necesitamos. There are more witnesses than we need.
Nos daba más tareas de las que podíamos hacer. He used to give us more homework than (which) we could do.

*The del is the contraction of deel, the el referring to the noun el sueldo. 

Also be aware that before a number que changes to de and the meaning is still “than”:

Los Olivares tienen más de cuatro hijos. The Olivares have more than four children.

Vocabulario básico

Verbos:

alegrar(se)- to make happy, to become happy, to be happy
arreglar- to fix, to repair, to arrange
asustar(se)- to frighten, to scare, to be frightened
atender (ie)- to pay attention to, to take care of, to look after (false friend)
calentar (ie)- to heat (up), to warm (up)
coger- to take hold of, to catch*
escoger- to choose*
esconder(se)- to hide
exigir- to demand
experimentar (ie)- to experiment, to experience (false friend)
proteger- to protect
resolver (ue)- to solve, to resolve
temer- to fear (cognate: timorous)

Sustantivos:

la calificación- grade, qualification
la cuenca- river basin

Adjetivos:

alegre- happy
bello- beautiful
bonito- pretty
casado- married
hermoso- beautiful
lindo- pretty
lujoso- luxurious
sencillo- simple
soltero- single, unmarried

*All verbs ending in e or i-ger or -gir change the g to before a and o for phonetic reasons, for example, cojo, escojo, proteja (see section 11.2)

Last revised on June 16, 2021.

7.3 Negatives, Positives and Indefinite Words

The following are the Spanish negative words and their logical opposites:

nada nothing
algo something
nadie no one, nobody
alguien someone, somebody
nunca, jamás* never
siempre always
ninguno** no (adjective)
alguno** some, a few
tampoco neither (not…either), nor
también also
ni…ni neither (not…either), nor
o…o either…or

*These two words are synonymous, but jamás is the slightly stronger and less frequent of the two.

**Ninguno becomes ningún and alguno, algún, before a masculine singular noun. (See section 10.3)

Unlike no (when meaning “not” [versus “no,” opposite of “yes”]), the above negatives are all considered “strong” negatives. As such, they have two possibilities of placement: they may be see before the main verb, or after the main verb when no precedes it. Be aware that two negatives (the “double” negative) do not cancel each other out to form a positive statement. The meaning remains the same regardless of position and the only subtlety is that the placement of a “strong” negative before the verb tends to be more emphatic.

Nunca voy. I never go. (I don’t ever go.)
No voy nunca. I never go.
Nada dice. She says nothing. (She doesn’t say anything.)
No dice nada. She says nothing.

Spanish may employ three negatives and, in theory, an infinite number of them, without their ever canceling each other out:

Ella no dice nada nunca. She never says anything.
No va a la playa con nadie tampoco. Nor does he ever go to the beach with anyone.

Note that the English translation of negatives that normally mean “nothing,” “no one” and “never” becomes “anything,” “anyone,” and “ever” when another negative is already present, as English does not permit a double negative without changing the meaning of the sentence.

¡Ojo! Jamás can mean “ever” as well as “never.” In a question it means “ever”; in a declarative statement it means “never”:

¿Jamás va Ud. a esa tienda? Do you ever go to that store?
No voy allí jamás (nunca). I never go there.

 

Alguna vez (literally, “sometime”) is also best translated as “ever” in a question:

¿Vienes alguna vez a la capital? Do you ever come to the capital?

¡Ojo! Be aware that alguno changes meaning when it comes after the noun and when there is a preceding negative in the sentence. It then takes on an opposite, strong negative meaning:

No dejan propina alguna. They don’t leave any tip at all 
¿No tienes dinero alguno? Don’t you have any money at all?

 

Vocabulario básico 

Verbos:

alojarse- to stay, to lodge
contar (ue)- to tell, to count
demorar- to delay
desempacar- to unpack
facturar- to check (baggage)
firmar- to sign
lloviznar- to drizzle
perder (ie)- to miss (public transportation, an event)
revisar- to check, to examine (baggage), to inspect, to revise

Sustantivos:

el ascensor- elevator
el barco- boat
el billete- ticket
el boleto- ticket
la demora- delay
el equipaje- luggage, baggage
la firma- signature, autograph (false cognate)
las gafas (de sol)- (sun) glasses
el/la huésped/-a- guest
el/la invitado/-a- guest
la llave- key
la llegada- arrival
la maleta- suitcase
la piscina- swimming pool
la propina- top
el recuerdo- memory, souvenir
la salida- departure
la tarjeta (de crédito)- (credit) card
la toalla- towel
el viaje- trip
el/la viajero/-a- traveler
el vuelo- flight

Expresiones:

echar una carta (al correo)- to mail a letter
en seguida- right away, immediately
hacer cola- to stand (to wait) in line
hacer las maletas- to pack one’s suitcases

Last revised on June 16, 2021.

7.4 Indirect Object Pronouns

Spanish indirect object pronouns are the same in form as direct object and reflexive pronouns, except in the third persons.

Singluar Plural
me – (to) me nos – (to) us
te – (to) you-fam. s. os – (to) you-fam. pl. [Spain only]
le – (to) him, her, it, you-form. s. les – (to)them, you-form. pl.

Especially in the third persons, you will often see what can be described as a “redundant” indirect object pronoun when a prepositional phrase clarifies (or emphasizes) it. This is because the pronoun, which may refer to an object as well as a person, must be present in the first place so that the prepositional phrase is clarifying or emphasizing it.

Emilio le dice la verdad. Emilio tells her (him, you) the truth.

But:

Emilio le dice la verdad a él. Emilio tells him the truth.
Emilio le dice la verdad a ella. Emilio tells her the truth.
Emilio le dice la verdad a Ud. Emilio tells you the truth.

Likewise:

Simón les cuenta mentiras. Simón tells them/you [pl.] lies.

But:

Simón les cuenta mentiras a ellos. Simón tells them lies.
Simón les cuenta mentiras a Uds. Simón tells you (pl.) lies.

There is also flexibility in the placement of the prepositional phrase. Some of the above examples could also be Emilio le dice a Ud. la verdad and Simón les cuenta a ellos mentiras. 

No clarification is ever needed with the first and second persons, though a prepositional phrase may be used for emphasis. (See section 8.2)

Me dice la verdad. He tells me the truth (tells the truth to me).
Me dice la verdad a mí. He tells me the truth (the truth to me).

As with direct object and reflexive pronouns, when a conjugated verb + infinitive is present, the indirect object may either precede the conjugated verb or be attached to the infinitive:

¿Vas a comprarme el boleto? Are you going to buy me the ticket?

Or:

¿Me vas a comprar el boleto? Are you going to buy the ticket for me?

As can be seen in the second English translation above, the indirect object can at times translate as “for” instead of, or as well as “to.” Although the Spanish examples above are synonymous, the English are not necessarily so, though context should clear up the mild ambiguity if needed.

Especially in more literary writing, the indirect object pronoun is at times seen with the verb ser (and occasionally estar and other intransitive verbs) and often translates as “for” + prepositional object pronoun. Study these examples:

Esto le es difícil. (Esto es difícil para ella.) This is difficult for her.
Nos es imposible. (Es imposible para nosotros.) It’s impossible for us.
Estas respuestas me son convincentes. (Estas respuestas son convincentes para mí.) The answers are convincing to (for) me.

The parenthetical sentences are the more common of the two possibilities, and these provide no particular comprehension difficulty, while the ones not in parentheses may pose a problem in understanding.

Last revised on June 16, 2021.

7.5 Preterite Tense of Regular Verbs and Some Stem-Changing Verbs

The imperfect and the preterite are the two simple (not compound) past tenses. Here are the forms of the regular preterite:

tomar beber abrir
yo tomé bebí abrí
tomaste bebiste abriste
él, Ella, Ud. tomó bebió  abr
Nosotros tomamos bebimos abrimos
Vosotros tomasteis bebisteis abristeis
ellos, ellas, Uds. tomaron  bebieron abrieron

¡Ojo! Did you notice the two forms that are identical to the present tense? Hint: look at the nosotros forms…

Helpful Translation Hints

You need to recognize these forms, some of which are very similar, and be able to translate them accurately. Here are some possibly helpful hints to remembering:

  • The yo form still ends in a vowel: accented é or í.
  • The tú form ends in -te, which is identical to the object pronouns you have learned that correspond to tú. 
  • The third person singular still ends in a vowel, always an accented ó (or ).
  • The nosotros form, in all tenses, ends in -mos.
  • You may wish to view the -is of the vosotros form as a plural marker, as tomasteis, for example, is the plural of tomaste (in Spain).
  • The third person plural always ends in an -nin all tenses. The preterite inserts an -r in the ending, between vowels.
  • The nosotros forms of -ar and -ir verbs in the preterite are the same as the present tense. Context will tell you which it is.

¡Ojo! In the third person singular of -ar verbs, the written accent is the only distinguishing feature from the first person singular of the present tense: tomó (he took) versus tomo (I take). Pay special attention, as this is only the first of several such cases. The subject pronouns may be present to help you readily distinguish the meaning, but more often than not they are omitted.

Note on Spelling Changes

Regular -er and -ir verbs that have an e,i or u before the infinitive ending routinely change the i of the third person endings (i.e., -ió and -ieron) to y, giving preterite forms such as leyó and leyeron (for leer) and construyó and construyeron (for construir [“to construct”]).

Preterite Meaning

When you see a preterite tense, it is helpful to know that it is used for actions that happened once and are viewed as completed; sequential actions (one completed before the next begins); a change in mental state; to describe the beginning or the end of an action. (The imperfect narrates the “middle” aspect of an action, that is, one that was ongoing.)

Se acostó a las once. She went to bed at eleven o’clock.
Me levanté, me bañé y salí. I got up, bathed and left.
Por fin decidimos salir. We finally decided to go out.
Comenzó a llover. It began to rain.
Dejé de ir a su casa. I stopped going to his house.

Vocabulario básico 

Verbos:

abrazar- to hug, to embrace
amar- to love (cognate: amorous)
besar- to kiss
casarse (con)- to get married (to)
decretar- to decree
derrotar- to defeat
enamorarse (de)- to fall in love (with)
fracasar- to fail
fumar- to smoke
luchar- to fight (a war, for a cause)
mudarse- to move (residence)
nacer- to be born (cognate: nascent)
odiar- to hate (cognate: odious)
pelear(se)- to fight
probar (ue)- to prove, to taste
reunir- to get together, to reunite
unir- to unite

Sustantivos:

el bautizo- baptism
la boda- wedding
la búsqueda- search
el/la cantante- singer
el cariño- affection
el/la judío/-a- Jew; (adj.)- Jewish
el mal- disease; damage; evil
el matrimonio- matrimony, marriage, married couple
el/ la moro/a- Moor
el plátano- banana
los Reyes Católicos- The Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabella)
el soroche- altitude sickness

Adjetivo:

guatemalteco- Guatemalan

Adverbios:

anoche- last night
anteayer- the day before yesterday
ayer- yesterday

Expresión:

dejar + de + infinitive- to stop doing something; to fail to do something

Last revised on June 16, 2021.