La gramática

I have to say, generalmente (say “heneralmentay”) I can’t stand la gramática.  En mi opinión it is like a stick, used by the people who love it, to beat those people who don’t love it.  They come out with guff like this (see if you can follow it):

“To ask the name of a person who is the indirect recipient of an action (expressed as the object of a preposition), use the preposition a (“to”), as in the sentence “To whom are you writing?”  The preposition a (“to”) must be included before the interrogative pronoun ¿quién? (or ¿quiénes?).”

 – Practice Makes Perfect, Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions by Dorothy Richmond.

To be fair to la autora, it come from a book dedicado a la gramática, so I could razonablemente expect to find this kind of thing inside the covers, but that doesn’t make me like it any more, especialmente when I look on the back of the book and find that it is aimed at high level beginners!

There are only dos, 2, words of español in that hideous páraffo: a = to, and quién = who (or whom … bloody WHOM!!)!!  How can una persona hope to learn español from that?  What is more, the whole páraffo is almost incomprensible to all those of us who have not done degrees in linguistics.  When una persona makes la decisión to estudiar español, they don’t want to confront inglés que no comprende … in fact, it could make them feel that la idea to estudiar español was a bad one.  Too much of una montaña to climb.

So, generalmente, I detesto la gramática when it is presentado in those elitist terms.  That doesn’t mean I don’t use it, and it can be útil to agrupar words in a way that some people would call “la gramática.”  Here is un verbo:

  • Yo soy = I am
  • Tú eres = You are
  • Él es = He is
  • Ella es = She is
  • Usted es = You are (formal)

Can you completar las frases with soy, eres or es?

  1. Yo me llamo Ruth. Yo _____ profesora de español.
  2. ¿Cómo te llamas? ¿Tú _____ estudiante?
  3. No _____ estudiante.  Yo _____ recepcionista en un hotel.
  4. Mi amiga Sofía  _____ estudiante de música.
  5. Hola Sofía. ¿Tú _____ estudiante en mi colegio?
  6. Yo _____ estudiante en un colegio en Warwick.


En inglés los verbos cambian un poco.  Por ejemplo, I have, she has, we have.  En español los verbos cambian un poco más.

When you comenzar to speak español, no es normal to get your verbs correcto … es normal to muddle through and make loads of errores but get your mensaje across.  Spanish speakers have an expression for this … they say “You talk like an Indian” … “Hablas cómo un Indio”.  Insultante, sí; but easier to say than “You don’t conjugate your verbos correctamente!”  And the fact that there is an expression for it underlines how normal it is.

Mantén la calma y habla español.


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