Spanish Lesson 2

Welcome to the second installment of my Web-course in Spanish. If this is your first time visiting the Spanish Lessons, be sure to check out the first Lesson for an introduction to the course and to Spanish. Aiding me with Lesson 2 is Jennifer Chambers, also of Willamette University.

Lesson 2 now has audio! It's a different form than lesson 1 - instead of getting a pronunciation of a particular word, you select the audio clip that accompanies a particular section (such as the Nouns or the Colors). It's a much larger audio clip to download, but should be simpler to use once it has been transferred.

Lesson 2 - La Casa (the house)

This week's new words:

Click here to hear these words spoken
  • la casa - house
  • la cocina - kitchen
  • el cuarto - room
  • el cuarto de baño - bathroom
  • la mesa - table
  • la pared - wall
  • la puerta - door
  • la silla - chair
  • el teléfono - telephone
  • la televisión - television
  • la ventana - window
  • estar - to be
  • ser - to be
  • de - from (or belonging to)
  • en - in (something)
  • antipático(-a) - unpleasant
  • bonito(-a) - pretty
  • bueno(-a) - good/well
  • cómodo(-a) - comfortable
  • contento(-a) - happy/glad
  • enfermo(-a) - sick, ill
  • feo(-a) - ugly
  • grande - big
  • limpio(-a) - clean
  • malo(-a) - bad
  • nervioso(-a) - nervous
  • simpático(-a) - pleasant, nice
  • sucio(-a) - dirty
  • tranquilo(-a) - calm
  • viejo(-a) - old
  • Numbers 11-99

    Click here to hear these numbers spoken
  • 11 once
  • 12 doce
  • 13 trece
  • 14 catorce
  • 15 quince
  • 16 dieciséis
  • 17 diecisiete
  • 18 dieciocho
  • 19 diecinueve
  • 20 veinte
  • 21 veintiuno
  • 22 veintidós
  • 23 veintitrés
  • 24 veinticuatro
  • 25 veinticinco
  • 26 veintiséis
  • 27 veintisiete
  • 28 veintiocho
  • 29 veintinueve
  • 30 treinta
  • 40 cuarenta
  • 50 cincuenta
  • 60 sesenta
  • 70 setenta
  • 80 ochenta
  • 90 noventa
  • Colors

    Click here to hear these colors spoken
  •  blanco(-a) - white
  •  amarillo(-a) - yellow
  •  anaranjado(-a) - orange
  •  rosado(-a) - pink
  •  rojo(-a) - red
  •  azul - blue
  •  verde - green
  •  café, marrón - brown
  •  gris - grey
  •  negro(-a) - black
  • Pronunciation

    Most of the Spanish alphabet is exactly like the English alphabet. Here are some exceptions from words in this lesson.
    The Spanish c has 2 possible sounds, just like English. It can sound like the s in some, or like the k in kite. Unlike English, there are very strict rules about when the Spanish c sounds like an s or a k. If the c precedes (comes before) an e or an i, the c will have an s sound. For example, once. If the c precedes any other letter (a, o, u, or a consonant), then it will have a k sound, as in cuarto. The word cocina has both types of c in it - the first c makes the k sound, and the second c makes the s sound.
    The Spanish j has no exact English equivalent. It is like a strong English h as in happy, made further back in the throat and with more sound, much like one were clearing their throat. Listen to the pronunciations for rojo, anaranjada, and viejo above.
    In Lesson 1 you learned how to pronounce the Spanish r. The Spanish rr is pronounced differently than the single r - it is made by rolling the r on the upper palate, to produce a quick series of the Spanish r sounds. If a single r occurs at the beginning of a word (as in rojo), it is pronounced as a double-r (rr). Otherwise, only the rr is pronounced this way, as in marrón. If you are old enough, you might remember the "R-r-r-r-ruffles have r-r-r-r-r-ridges" commercials - this is the sound you are trying to make. It takes practice to do it well.
    The Spanish v is very short and quick, and almost sounds like the English b in bed. It is never drawn out like the English word very.
    The Spanish z is pronounced as an s, or an s-sounding c. Thus, azul is pronounced like "assule"(one word). In Spain, the z is pronounced like the English th in this. Azul would be pronounced "ath-ule". Use whichever pronunciation you prefer.

    Two confusing verbs - ser and estar

    If you have already read the New Words section, you probably noticed that the two verbs introduced this week both mean the same thing - to be, or to exist. These are two of the most confusing verbs for people learning Spanish, because there is a difference between when you use ser, and when you use estar. Hopefully, introducing them now and practicing them throughout the rest of the lessons will make them a little bit easier to comprehend.

    Verb Conjugation

    As in English, verbs are conjugated, or take various forms, in Spanish. In the present tense, there are 6 verb forms, depending on who the subject of the verb is. Here are the conjugations for ser and estar:

    ser - to be

  • yo soy ("I am")
  • eres ("you are")
  • usted/él/ella es ("you (formal)/he/she is")
  • nosotros somos ("we are")
  • *vosotros sois ("you (familiar plural) are")
  • ustedes/ellos/ellas son ("you (formal plural)/they (male)/they (female) are")
  • estar - to be

  • yo estoy ("I am")
  • estás ("you are")
  • usted/él/ella está ("you (formal)/he/she is")
  • nosotros estamos ("we are")
  • *vosotros estáis ("you (familiar plural) are")
  • ustedes/ellos/ellas están ("you (formal plural)/they (male)/they (female) are")
  • Audio of conjugations of ser and estar.

    Note that the conjugations for usted (you), él (he), and ella (she) use the same form of the verb. The same goes for their plurals (though the singular and the plural use different forms).

    * - the vosotros form is shown only to describe all 6 conjugations for ser and estar. Vosotros is the familiar plural form of , and is not used in Latin America. Because my own instructors have ignored the vosotros forms of verbs, I do not use that verb form myself, and will not use it in examples. I will include it with all verb conjugations for those who are interested, however.

    Now that you have this pretty little conjugation, what does one do with it? Make sentences, of course. The conjugation of a verb tells you which form of the verb to use depending on who is the subject of the verb. In English we conjugate without thinking about it - I am, you are, he is, etc. You don't (normally) say "I are" or "you is", because it's gramatically incorrect. Likewise in Spanish, you don't say "yo eres", because it's just plain wrong. Here are some examples of using ser and estar:

  • Yo soy viejo. ("I am old.")
  • Tú eres bonita. ("You are pretty.")
  • Nosotros estamos nerviosos. ("We are nervous.")
  • Ella está en la silla. ("She is in the chair.")
  • Ellos están sucios. ("They (the males) are dirty.")
  • Now it's time to explain the differences between ser and estar, before we go any further. While both verbs mean "to be" or "to exist", there are very distinct rules as to when you use one or the other. The rules are summarized here:

    ser is used to indicate more permanent aspects of people or things, such as -

    1. Identity - Yo soy Carla. ("I am Carla")
    2. Profession - Él es un profesor. ("He is a teacher.")
    3. Origin - Nosotros somos de Costa Rica. ("We are from Costa Rica.")
    4. Religious or political affiliation - Tú eres católico? ("You are Catholic?")
    5. Time of day or date - Son las ocho. ("It is 8 o'clock.")
    6. Posession - La casa es de Juana. ("It is Juana's house.")
    7. Nationality - Soy de México. ("I am from Mexico.")
    8. Physical aspects or characteristics of something - Las sillas son verdes. ("The chairs are green.")
    9. Essential qualities of something or someone - Soy viejo. Eres antipático. ("I am old. You are unpleasant.")

    estar is used to indicate more temporary aspects of people or things, such as -

    1. Location - La silla está en la cocina. ("The chair is in the kitchen.")
    2. Condition or emotion that is subject to change - Estoy enfermo. ("I am sick.")
    3. Personal observations or reactions, how something "seems" or "feels" - La cocina está limpia. ("The kitchen is (seems) clean.")
    Notes: Notice that the verb form used for things like la silla is the él/ella/usted form. A chair is an "it" (below, you'll see that it's actually a "she"), which uses the el/ella/usted form of the verb. Also notice that you can make sentences like Soy de México, without including the pronoun. To English speakers this may seem like saying "Am from Mexico", which we would never do, but in Spanish, because the subject can be figured out by the form of the verb used (since the sentence used soy, the subject must be yo, or I), there is no confusion about who the subject of the sentence is and the pronoun can be left out. If it would be unclear what the subject of the sentence is, then the pronoun has to be included.

    The above lists of when to use ser and estar have to be memorized - using them incorrectly means you will be less likely to be understood, and people will definitely know you are not a native speaker. The same goes for the conjugations of ser and estar. Every Spanish verb has a conjugation, and memorizing them just goes along with learning the language.

    El, la, un and una (definite and indefinite articles)

    In Spanish, as well as all the other Romance languages (French, Italian, etc), all nouns have a gender associated with them. "Chair" is feminine, "telephone" is masculine. The way to tell whether a noun is masculine or feminine is to look at the el or la that precedes the noun in the New Words section of these lessons. El (differing than él, which means "he", by the accent mark over the "e") is the definite article that corresponds to masculine nouns - el cuarto, el teléfono. La is the definite article that corresponds to feminine nouns - la casa, la mesa, la ventana. Whether a noun is considered feminine or masculine is generally based on the last letter of the noun. If the noun ends with an "a", as in silla or cocina, or with "-sión" (televisión), "-ción", "-tad", "-dad", or "-umbre", then it is probably a feminine noun. If it ends with an "o" or a consonant, such as cuarto or reloj (wristwatch), then it is probably a masculine noun. Exceptions do exist to this rule - mapa (map) is masculine, and pared (wall) is feminine - but the majority of Spanish nouns behave normally. The exceptions just have to be memorized as you come across them.

    When using nouns, you must make sure that you use the correct gender and number when using an identifier. The identifiers are el, la, los, las, un, una, unos, and unas. El and la are singular definite articles, which means you are talking about a specific thing. La silla means "the chair" - you are talking about a specific chair. Un and una are singular indefinite articles, which means you are taking about any member of a group of things. Una silla means "a chair" - you are talking about any chair in general. The use of these identifiers is identical to the way you would say it in English - if you want to say "a table", use una, and if you want to say "the table", use la. Los is the plural of el, and las is the plural of la. You use these plural definite articles when you are talking about several specific members of a group - las mesas means "the tables". Unos and unas are plural forms of un and una, respectively, and translate to "some" when used in sentences - unas mesas means "some tables". These are plural indefinite articles, which means they don't refer to any specific objects but to a class of them, such as tables or chairs.

    Here are some examples using these 8 articles:

  • Los cuartos son grandes. ("The rooms are big.")
  • Unas sillas están en la cocina. ("Some chairs are in the kitchen.")
  • El teléfono es verde. ("The telephone is green.")
  • La pared es fea. ("The wall is ugly.")
  • De and en

    De is Spanish for of or from. La casa de Theresa means "Theresa's house" (literally, "the house of Theresa"). Soy de Mexico means "I am from Mexico". De is used most often to show possession or origin, as per the preceding examples. When de is followed by an el, as in la casa de el profesor, the de and el are combined into del. So the correct way to say "The (male) teacher's house" would be la casa del profesor.

    En is Spanish for in, as in inside something (not necessarily inside a physical object). It can be used to mean that something is inside something else, as in la silla está en la cocina ("the chair is in the kitchen"), or that someone is somewhere, Marcos está en España ("Mark is in Spain").



    Adjectives are words that describe things, words like "red", "fast", and "pretty". In English, there isn't much to using adjectives because they never change - "the fast car" or "the cars are fast". In Spanish, the adjective has to agree, in both gender and number, with whatever it is describing. If the adjective modifies a feminine noun, then the adjective uses a feminine ending. If the adjective modifies a masculine plural noun, then the adjective uses a masculine plural ending. Here are some adjectives with their various endings:
    bonito - pretty
  • singular masculine - bonito
  • singular feminine - bonita
  • plural masculine - bonitos
  • plural feminine - bonitas
  • cómodo - comfortable
    feo - ugly
    sucio - dirty
    blanco - white
    negro - black
    The above rules are good for any adjective that ends in an -o or -a. Adjectives like azul and verde, that end in a consonant or an -e, do not have separate masculine and feminine forms. So, you would say el cuarto es azul ("the room is blue"), and la casa es azul ("the house is blue"), as well as las sillas son azules ("the chairs are blue"). There are exceptions to this rule, but that will be addressed in another lesson.

    Placement of adjectives

    In Spanish, adjectives generally go after the noun they are describing. For example, el teléfono rojo ("the red telephone"), and las profesoras viejas ("the old (female) professors"). If you want to say that "something is something", then the sentence structure is the same as in English, using the correct forms of ser or estar: el teléfono es rojo ("the telephone is red"); las profesoras son viejas ("the (female) professors are old").

    Numbers 11-99

    The numbers 11-15, like the numbers 1-10 in Lesson 1, have irregular forms - memorize them. From 16 on, however, numbers start following some patterns, much like they do in English. Sixteen is dieciséis, which is actually a contraction (shortening) of diez y seis, or "10 and 6". Seventeen is diecisiete, or "10 and 7", and so on. Much like the "teens" in English - fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, etc.

    Twenty in Spanish is veinte. Twenty-one is veintiuno (a contraction of veinte y uno or "twenty and one"), 22 is veintidós ("twenty and two"), and so on. Twenty (veinte) is the only number that allows this contraction. Starting at thirty (treinta), all numbers are made by combining the 10's and the 1's words via y, like this: 31 is treinta y uno, 38 is treinta y ocho (literally "thirty and 8"). This pattern holds for all of the numbers 31 through 99. Here are some examples:


    Here are some examples of sentences you can now make, using the words and grammar from these 2 lessons: Here are the translations for these sentences.
    That's the end of Lesson 2. As always, feel free to mail me questions, comments, or corrections on this or any of the Lessons. Believe me, I'm starting to get a new appreciation for teachers through my work with this.

    Return to the Spanish Lessons Homepage.

    (FORM)Send a note to Tyler. Tyler Chambers, 6-27-94
    Copyright Tyler Chambers 1994.