The Spanish and English languages come from the same language family, the Indo-European family. But the two are from different subgroups. English belongs to the Germanic branch while Spanish is from the Italic branch. Thus, if you're into language learning, you will notice the differences between Spanish and English.
The Spanish language is slightly older than English and their separate evolutions were affected by other languages through conquests and other forms of contact with other cultures.
Spanish ranks second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese. English ranks third. However, English is an official language in 27 non-sovereign and 55 sovereign states around the world. Spanish, on the other hand, is an official language in 20 countries. Both languages are official languages of the United Nations.
Like English, you can communicate with many people around the world who speak Spanish as a first or second language. If you are looking for a second language to learn, know that Spanish is one of the most studied languages around the world. But like most languages, the difficulty or ease of learning the language depends on the student and the primary language he or she speaks. English speakers may find it difficult to learn Spanish. Romance language speakers on the other hand will have an easier time learning Spanish since it is related to the other Romance languages, such as Italian, French, Romanian and Portuguese.
Major Differences Between Spanish and English
What you have read so far are the attributes that differentiate English from Spanish. All languages have different attributes, which make each language unique. Most of the big differences between English and Spanish are found in the sentence construction and grammar. There might be some overlaps but the Spanish language has a different structure and a history of development that is not similar to English. Some of the differences are also found in the rules, pronunciation and the way of writing Spanish.
Having said that, here are the major differences between the two languages.
1. A statement and a question in Spanish can be written similarly.
In English, it is easy to distinguish between a question and a statement. The verb in an English question comes first. If it is a statement, the subject is placed before the verb. In Spanish, the sentence is written in the same way, for example, "Juan is talking with the man" or "Juan está hablando con el hombre." You write it the same way when asking a question, with the addition of an inverted question mark before the statement and a question mark at the end of it.
2. More letters exist in Spanish
Technically, Spanish has 27 letters in its alphabet with the inclusion of /ñ/ while English only has 26. However, Spanish has more sounds. Spanish also has /ch/, /ll/, /rr/ and accented vowels /á/, /é/, /í/, /ó/, /ú/ and letters (vowels and consonants) with an umlaut, the two dots on top of a letter, such as /ü/. It is an indication that the letter has to be pronounced.
3. "W" is a foreign letter
Would you believe that the letter “W”, which is included in the Spanish alphabet is considered a foreign letter? It is only used for borrowed words. You can try searching for Spanish words that start with the letter w to see for yourself.
4. All Spanish verbs end in only three endings
English verbs usually take many forms. In Spanish, all verbs end either with –ar, -er or –ir.
5. Order of verbs and adjectives
In English, it is customary to have the adjective before the noun, because the purpose of the adjective is to modify or describe a noun. In Spanish, the adjective is placed after the noun. It could take some adjustment for a Spanish language learner to remember this if the student is an English speaker. However, if the adjective is a quantifier, it should be placed before the noun. Example: ''the only house'' should be written as ''la única casa (instead of la casa única).
6. The Spanish verb to be has two forms
There are two forms for the Spanish verb to be. One is ser and the other one is estar. Ser vs estar – each one is used differently. When you talk about lasting or permanent attributes, you use ser. The verb is used for descriptions, such as names, religions, nationalities and physical descriptions. You use the verb ser when you describe an occupation (earning a living) or what a person does to spend the time, such as being a student or a gardener. Ser is used to describe someone's personality or the time, year, date, month and days.
Ser also applies when describing the origin of someone or something, as well as relationships, whether it is romantic, friendly or family.
Estar is the verb to use to indicate temporary locations and states. Estar is used for describing emotion, condition, action, location and positions.
The position could be a person's posture or physical position or where something is located. You could use estar to indicate the permanent location of a room, for example, or the conceptual or temporary location of something.
The exception is for parties or events. In this occasion, ser is used instead of estar.
The verb estar is also used for ongoing actions, which are followed by a present participle or a past participle.
Note: For the Spanish people, death is an ongoing action, thus, when talking about being dead, estar is used.
Mental and physical conditions that could change in a few hours or days are described using estar. The same is true with emotions that can change quickly.
7. Nouns in Spanish have genders
It's fascinating as well as confusing, particularly for an English speaker to learn about the many differences between Spanish and English. It is not enough that the nouns have genders. The more confusing part is that some nouns that you know are feminine, are considered masculine in Spanish.
Going by the general rule, nouns that end in o, accented vowels, e, -ma and those that end with a consonant except d and z are masculine. It should be noted that some nouns ending in the letters stated above are feminine.
Examples of masculine nouns:
Exceptions (these are feminine nouns):
On the other hand, most nouns ending in /a/ take on the feminine form, such as:
Likewise, other nouns that end in consonants d and z, like the following are also feminine.
These words are some of the exceptions, as they are considered masculine:
Masculine nouns are preceded by the article el (singular) and los (plural). Feminine nouns are preceded by la (singular) and las (plural).
Notes on adjectives and gender
The article and the adjective you use should match the noun it describes in gender and number. For example, apple is feminine, therefore you should say, "La manzana es roja" or ''The apple is red." But banana is masculine, thus, it should be "El plátano es amarillo" or "The banana is yellow."
Here's another example:
- The red flower – la flor roja
- The red flowers – las flores rojas
In A, everything is singular – the article, the noun and the adjective. Everything changes in B when the flower takes on the plural form.
- The red cat – El gato rojo (singular, masculine)
- The red cats – Los gatos rojos (plural, masculine)
8. Spanish has simpler negation
English has different prefixes you can use for negation and the rule says that you should not use two negatives. It should be a mix of a positive and a negative. In Spanish, grammar rules say that it is better to use double negatives. For example, when you say, "I do not want anything" in English, its Spanish equivalent is "No quiero nada." The direct translation of the sentence is "I do not want nothing" that shows how ''no'' and ''nada'' work together, making it easier to construct negative sentences in Spanish.
9. The subject is sometimes omitted in Spanish
It can be difficult to memorize the different conjugations of Spanish verbs. However, when you understand how each conjugated form is applied, it is possible for you to omit the subject when you're speaking.
10. The verb tener can be used to express one's feeling
Tener means ''to have." Often it is used to express a person's age, something that is attributed to you or what you are feeling right now. So, when you hear a Spanish speaker say, "Tengo 20 años (I have 20 years), the person is saying that he or she is 20 years old. If you are hungry, you say, "tengo hambre" or ''tengo miedo'' if you are scared.
The differences between Spanish and English are many and these are just some of the most prominent that you would encounter if you are learning Spanish.
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