Grammar Guide – Some Useful Formulas

TimeLikes / DislikesPersonal ASePassiveDurationComparisonsTenerTemperatureVerbs Followed by ...Verbs that Change Meaning

Telling Time

At what time is the event?¿A qué hora es …?
The event is at ..Es a la + una
Es a las + [number > 1]
It is time.Es la + una
Es las + [number > 1]
It was time.Era la + una
Eran las + [number > 1]
ten minutes after two o’clock
twenty minutes to three o’clock
half an hour
quarter of an hour
Es a las dos y diez
Es a las tres menos veinte
la media
el cuarto
on monday
on mondays
el lunes
los lunes
in (the year) 1958
in ’94
en (el año) 1958
en ’94

Expressing Likes and Dislikes

(A mí) me
(A ti) te
(A Ud.) le
(A él) le
(A ella) le
(A nosotros) nos
(A vosotros) os
(A Uds.) les
(A ellos) les
(A ellas) les
+gusta + infinitive(s)
gusta + el/la singular noun
gustan + los/las + plural noun

Other verbs that shold be used with the same pattern:

caer bien/mal
dar pena
to be glad, happy
to like/dislike someone
to feel sorry
to dislike, displease
to really like
to really like
to matter
to interest, find interesting
to bother, be bothered by
to seem
to be surprised

For details see Object Pronouns – Direct, Indirect and Reflexive.

The Personal “a”

When the direct object is a person or a loved animal use verb + a + direct objectVoy a invitar a mi amiga Patricia
Puedo llevar a Rufi, mi perro.
Verbs are not followed by personal a if the direct object are unspecified people.Busco un hombre para esta película.
Busco a un hombre que vi ayer.
Tener indicating posession is not followed by personal a.Tengo una hermana.
Tengo a mi hermana en el hospital.

Impersonal, Passive, Accidental, Reciprocal and Indirect Se:

Impersonal Se:
People/You/They/One do smth.
(When narrating in present.)
Se + singular verb in present
Se estudia mucho en esta universidad. (no specific subject) BUT!
Juan y yo estudiamos mucho en esta universidad. (expressed subject)
Passive Se. Subject is acted upon. Frequently used for instructions and afveritising.
Se + 3rd person verb + passive subject
Se compran tomates frescos. (Fresh tomatoes are bought). BUT!
Se compra tomates frescos. (One buys fresh tomatoes)
Accidental Se. To espress accidental or unintentional occurrences:
Se + indirect pronoun + … + (a + noun/pronoun)
Se le cerró el libro a Juan. (accidentally) BUT!
Juan cerró el libro. (on purpose)
Reciprocal Se. Used with reflexive verbs to express that the recipient of the action is its performer.Juan se está bañando. BUT!
Juan me está bañando.
Indirect Se. Appears in place of indirect pronoun le/les when there are two pronouns, both starting with l.Le compra los zapatos. BUT!
Se los compra.
Passive Voice is mainly found in writing and is used, as in English, to put an emphasis on the action rather than on the doer. To form the passive voice, use the following construction:

Object + ser + past participle + por + Agent
Tomates frescos son comprados por Juan.

One can form most of the tenses using such a construction. However, when there is no clear agent, the passive se construction should be used.
For formation of past participle see conjugation of regular, irregular and stem-changing verbs. Also see conjugation of ser.

Expressing Duration of the Action

I have been doing smth for time expression.Hace time expression que verb in present.
Verb in present desde hace time expression.
Hace time expression que verb in present.
How long have you been doing smth?¿Cuánto tiempo hace que verb in present ?
I have been doing smth for about time expression.Hace como time expression que verb in present.
Hace unos time expression que verb in present.
Something happened time expression ago.Hace time expression que verb in preterit.
Verb in preterit hace time expression.


To compare people, things, or actions
that are not equal:
más/menos + noun/adjective/adverb + que
verb + más/menos + que
Juan Luis Guerra da más concertos que Rubén Blades.
Tipper es menos famosa que Hilari.
Roberto trabaja más rapidamente que Carolina.
Gabriela habla más que Ana en clase.
To compare quantities or degree:
más/menos de
No puede costar más de mil pesetas.
Siempre trabaja menos de lo debido.
To compare people, things or actions
which are equal:
tan + adjective/adverb + como
tanto/a/os/as + noun + como
verb + tanto como
Ella es tan sensible como su esposo.
Ella trabaja tan rápidamente como yo.
Ella trabaja tantas horas como yo.
Las mujeres trabajan tanto como los hombres.

Some adjectives have regular and irregular comparative forms. The latters sometimes comvey a different shade of meaning.

buenomás buenonicer, kinder, better (person)mejorbetter
malomás malonaughtierpeorworse
grandemás grandelarger (in size), older (person)mayorolder (person)
pequeñomás pequeñosmaller (in size), youngermenoryounger

Note: mejor and peor usually preceed the noun they modify.

To form the superlative degree:el/la/los/las noun más + adjective (+ de …)
el/la/los/las noun menos + adjective (+ de …)
Caballé es la cantanta de ópera más famosa del mundo.
Portillo es el mejor lugar de Chile para esquiar.
To describe something or someone which is one of
the most/least but not the mose/least:uno/a de los/las (plural noun) más + plural adjective (+ de…)
uno/a de los/las (plural noun) menos + plural adjective (+ de…)
Gloria Estefan es una de las (cantantes) más famosas
de los Estados Unidos.


to be … years oldI am 18 years old.
Ramon was 27 years old when …
tener … añosYo tengo 18 años.
Ramon tenía 27 años cuando …
to be (very) hungry
to be (very) thirsty
to be afraid (of)
to be (very) cold
to be (very) hot
to be right (wrong)
to be sleepy
to be in a hurry
to have to do something
tener (mucha) hambre
tener (mucha) sed
tener miedo (de)
tener (mucho) frío
tener (mucho) calor
(no) tener razon
tener sueño
tener prisa
tener que infinitive

Talking about Temperatutre


I am hot.
Tengo calor.
This (something) is hot.
Està caliente.
It is hot (of weather).
Hace calor.

These verbs are followed by …

To begin to do smth. – Emepezar/Comenzar a infinitive
Uds. empiezan a hablar muy bien el español.
You’re beginning to speak spanish very well.
To be going to do smth. – Ir a infinitve
Voy a ir de compras esta tarde.
I am going to go shopping this afternoon.
To continue doing smth. – Continuar a gerundio
Continuo estudiando el español.
I am continuing studying spanish.
To do smth again. – Volver a infinitive
¿Cuándo vuelves a jugar al tenis?
When are you going to play tennis again?
To just finish doing smth. – Acabar de verb
Acabo de escribir un tarjeta.
I just finished writing a postcard.
To play sport. – Jugar al noun
(Some Spanish speakers omit al.)
Juego al tenis – I play tennis.
To plan, intend to do smth. – Pensar infinitive
¿Cuándo piensas contestar la carta?
When do you plat to answer the letter?
To think about smth. – Pensar en
¿En qué piensas?
What are you thinking about?

Verbs that Change Meaning in Preterite

These verbs change their meaning when used in preterit:
For some verbs (querer, poder) easy way to remember is that in preterit they reflect unfulfilled intensions.

conocer (a + person)to know (someone),
be acquainted with
met/began to know
(someone or some place)
knew (someone); was acquainted with
saber (+ information)to know
found out
querer (+ infinitive)to want
(to do something)
tried to, but did not
(do something)
(to do something)
no querer (+ infinitive)not to want
(to do something)
(to do something and did not)
did not want to
(to do something)
poder (+ infinitive)to be capable
(of doing something)
was/were able and did
(do something)
was/were capable
(of doing something)
no poder (+ infinitive)not to be capable
(of doing something)
was/were not able
and did not (do something)
was/were not capable
(of doing something)
tener que (+ infinitive)to have to
(do something)
had to and did
(do something)
had to, was supposed
(do something), but did not necessarily do it.
ir a (+ infinitive)
(different in imperfect???)
to be going to
(do something)
was/were going to (do something),
but did not necessarily did (?)
Expresses a past plan that did not materialize.
Can be used to give excuses.
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