Useful Linguistic Terminology for Spanish as a Foreign Language Students

If you decide to learn Spanish as a foreign language it is likely that you will come across some specific words referring to grammar or the learning process that we might find difficult to understand. What is an antonym? Or a direct object? Let’s take a look at some specific vocabulary you will meet during your learning process. You can also take a look at our online Spanish language course.

Learning Spanish Grammar Specific Vocabulary

Below you will find a list of basic words that are commonly used in any Spanish language learning environment. This will help you understand your teacher, and follow easier the explanations that he or she provides. Being familiar with the terminology will help you recognize the different elements, related to syntax or morphology. The abbreviations commonly used for each one of them will by indicated in brackets following the word: atributo (ATR).

acento – accent,stress: part of the word pronounced with greater force. razón (reason), corazón (heart), murciélago (bat), átomo (atom)

adjetivo (adj) adjective: word that describes a noun or a pronoun. The adjective must have the same gender and number as the noun it describes: casa grande (big house), día soleado (sunny day), amor verdadero (true love)

adverbio (adv) – adverb: word that describes a verb (corre rápidamente – run fast), an adjective (muy interesante – very interesting), another adverb (muy lejos – far away), or a sentence. Adverbs are often used to express time (ahora – now, hoy – today, ayer – yesterday), place (aquí – here), manner (tranquilamente – easy, rápidamente – fast) or degree (casi – almost).

agudo – acute accent: words that have the vocal emphasis on the last syllable: razón (reason), corazón (heart), ratón (mouse)

antónimo – antonym: words with opposite meaning: alto/bajo (high – low), bonito/feo (beautiful – ugly), cerca/lejos (near – far)

artículo – article: words that are used with nouns to indicate their gender (el – masculine, la feminine) and number (el – singular, los – plural, la – singular, las – plural). Articles can be definite (artículo definido) or indefinite (artículo indefinido).

átono – atonic: syllable or word uttered without accent or stress: yo (I), nuestro (our), aunque (although)

atributo (ATR) – attribute: an adjective that expresses qualities and properties of an entity. In this example: La casa es bonita (The house is nice) – the adjective bonita is an attribute.

aumentativo – augmentative: suffix that is used to increase the size of the main meaning of a word. copa – copazo ( glass – big glass), grande – grandote (big – very big



Spanish Syntax – Basic Elements

complemento directo (CD) / objeto directo (OD)direct object:in a sentence, noun or pronoun that receives the action of a transitive verb or shows the result of the action. Veo el cielo – I see the sky

complemento indirecto (CI) / objeto indirecto (OI) indirect object: in a sentence, a word or group of words representing the person or thing towards which the action of a verb is performed. Le enseñé la casa a tu madre. – I showed your mother the house. 

complemento circunstancial (CC) – adverbial: expresses circumstances of the action of the verb, such as time, place or manner. Haré los deberes mañana – I will do my homework tomorrow.

conjugación – conjugation: this action is typical for verbs, it is about the different forms the verb acquires depending on the person, number, tense or mode. Yo hablo (I talk), tú caminas (you walk), él corre (he runs), nosotros comemos (we eat), vosotros sabéis (you know), ellos cantan (they sing). 

copulativo – copulative: in Spanish language, verbs ser (to be), estar (to be) and parecer (to seem) are copulative. They function as links between the elements of the sentence. I am María. There are also copulative conjunctions, y (and) and ni (neither, nor). María y Pedro (Maria and Pedro), ni Antonio ni Paco (neither Antonio nor Paco).

diminutivo – diminutive: a word or suffix that indicates and stresses that something is small. Pequeño – pequeñito (small), gato – gatito (cat – kitty), perra – perrita. (dog – doggie).

ejemplo (ej) – example: a word or  a sentence that illustrates the explanation.

esdrújula– this is the name of the words stressed on the ante-penultimate syllable, lágrima (tear).

género – gender: in Spanish language gender is a very important element, since the nouns, adjectives, articles or pronouns need to match the gender among each other. El tren llegó tarde (The train arrived latet). This sentence means The train arrived late, both the article and the noun are masculine singular, and the verb matches third person singular in Pretérito perfecto simple simple past tense of the Spanish verb llegar, which means to arrive.

gerundio – gerund: this form of the verb does not vary. There are different forms of gerund, depending on the type of verb we are dealing with. If the infinitive form of the verb ends with -ar, the gerund will be formed with the suffix -ando. Andar (to walk), andando (walking), nadar (to swim), nadando (swimming). If the infinitive form of the verb ends with -er or -ir, the gerund will be formed with the suffix -iendo or -yendo. Correr (to run), corriendo (running), beber (to drink), bebiendo (drinking), conducir (to drive), conduciendo (driving), leer (to read), leyendo (reading), ir (to go), yendo (going)

infinitivo – infinitive: neutral verbal form that does not indicate tense, person or number. In Spanish language, they can end in -ar: amar (to love), bailar ( to dance), escuchar (lo listen), tocar (to play), -er: comer (to eat), beber (to drink), resolver (to solve), volver (to return), depender (to depend) or in -ir: conducir (to drive), oír (to hear), insistir (to insist). 

nombre / sustantivo – noun: word used to designate people, things or animals. Nouns can function as a nucleus of the subject. Libro (book), mesa (table), manta (blanket), vaso (glass)

participio – participle: they are non-personal forms of the verbs, and can perform the same function as an adjective.

predicado (pred) – predicate: part of the sentence, its nucleus is a verb, and it provides information about the subject. Nuestro vecino se llama Pepe – Our neighbour’s name is Pepe.

preposición – preposition: words or groups of words used with a noun or a pronoun to introduce an object, or to show direction, location or time: a (to), ante (before), bajo (below), con (with), de (from), entre (between).

pronombre – pronoun: words that function as nouns and can be used in stead of them in a sentence: yo (I), (you), él (he), ella (she), este (this), aquel (that), nosotros (we), ellos (they).

sinónimo – synonym: words that have the same meaning in the same language: baile/danza (dance), ganar/vencer (to win), acabar/finalizar (to finish).

sujeto (suj) – subject: it performs the action of the verb in a sentence. Normally it is a noun, a pronoun or a noun phrase. El gato es negro (The cat is black).

verbo (vb) – verb: word that expresses action, it is the nucleus of the predicate in a sentence: ser (to be), estar (to be), trabajar (to work), escribir (to write), traducir (to translate), vivir (to live), bailar (to dance), amar (to love), improvisar (to improvise).

Now that you are familiar with this basic vocabulary related to Spanish grammar, you can enroll in this course to learn Spanish with us in order to develop your Spanish language skills even more.