Spanish 1/The Basics

Before we start: Back-pocket notes


Note: This is Not all of Spanish 1!

As you start learning a different language, remember to concentrate in primarily four (4) aspects:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Speaking

Unfamiliar characters


In Spanish, there are a few characters that, in general terms, are not used in the English language.

  • Opening marks. Written questions and expressions of exclamation begin with a ¿ or a ¡ (inverted characters as the ones used in English); the purpose of these is to establish the beginning of the question or exclamation and, thus, alert the reader to prepare for the according intonation. The opening marks are paired with the (closing) ending marks.
  • Accents. The vowels are the only letters that may present an accent:

á é í ó ú

Notice that only one type of accent is used: "´".

Good to know: interrogative pronouns (what?, who?, where?, when?, how?, why?) ¿qué?, ¿quién?, ¿dónde?, ¿cuándo?, ¿cómo?, ¿por qué?, (respectively) are always written with an accent.

Also, later you'll learn about diaeresis, which may be presented over the letter u as: ü

In Spanish, ü is used in a limited amount of words and in conjunction with the letter g, as in: pingüino (penguin).

Additionally, an important known and characteristic letter of the Spanish language is: ñ called eñe. Though it looks like an n it is a different letter (it's sound is similar to that of the gn in lasagna; thus, lasaña in Spanish).

The character " ~ " (tilde) is formally called virgulilla de la eñe, and is not used on any other letter.



Als in general terms, every letter of the alphabet has its own sound, so if you learn the sounds of the letters, you will soon be able to read the words.

Later note that there are some particularities about letters: c, s, x & z, and also about the letter h and ch, as well as y and ll. H or h are generally silent if it follows a C or c sounds like the initial sound in cheese [t͡ʃ].

Regarding pronunciation, the sound of the double r " rr " [r], is stronger than the sound of the single r [ɾ]. No word in Spanish starts with double-r (Rr).

Good luck. Buena suerte. Don't be nervous... don't be afraid of letting the Trigeminal nerve do its thing! Cheers!


Chapter 1 (Intro)


Greetings and Phrases

  • Buenos días. - Good morning.
  • Buenas noches. - Good night.
  • Buenas tardes. - Good afternoon./Good evening.
  • Hola. - Hello.
  • ¿Cómo te llamas? - What is your name?
  • Me llamo... - My name is...
  • Encantado(a). - Delighted.
  • Igualmente. - Likewise. / Same here.
  • Mucho gusto. - Pleased to meet you.
  • Señor (Sr.) - sir, Mr.
  • Señora (Sra.) - madam, Mrs.
  • Señorita (Srta.) - miss, Ms.
  • ¿Cómo estás? - How are you? (familiar)
  • ¿Cómo está usted? - How are you? (formal)
  • ¿Qué? - What?
  • ¿Cómo le va? - How do you do? (formal)
  • ¿Cómo te va? - How's it going? (informal)
  • ¿Qué tal? - How are you?
  • ¿Y tú? - And you? (familiar)
  • ¿Y usted? - And you? (formal)
  • bien - well
  • más o menos - more or less (so, so)
  • nada - nothing
  • regular - regular, okay
  • Lo siento - I am sorry
  • Gracias. - Thank you.
  • De nada. - You're welcome. / Not at all.
  • A su servicio. - At your service.
  • Adiós. - Good-bye.
  • Chao. - Bye.
  • Hasta luego. - See you later.
  • Hasta mañana. - See you tomorrow.
  • Hasta pronto. - See you soon.
  • Nos vemos. - See you.




  • in most countries, "ll" (double "L") is pronounced as "j" [d͡ʒ~ʒ]; "y" [ʎ~j] in Mexico and "sh" [ʃ] in Argentina...
  • in Latin America the "Z" is pronounced as "s" [s]; "th" [θ] in Spain.
  • J is used for the sound like in Bach [x~ɣ~h], g is pronounced hard [ɡ] before a, o and u, but the same as j [x~ɣ~h] before e and i. (To indicate, that it is pronounced hard before these gu- is written. Gü- simply is [ɡʷ].
  • letters in parentheses (a) are feminine, while those without (o) are masculine.

How To Use Ud and Uds (Tú/Usted [Ud.] - Vosotros/Ustedes[Uds.])


In Castillian Spanish (Spain), there are several ways to say "you." We must differentiate between familiar/formal and singular/plural forms. (singular) is used when talking to someone you know, such as family, friends, or pets. Usted (abbreviated Ud.) is used in formal events, such as talking to a teacher, someone who you don't know well, or a person who has a high title, such as a police officer, etc. The plural of tú is vosotros/as, the female form is used only for a wholly female group. The plural of usted is ustedes. In Latinoamerica usted can also be used for a close friend and is never used as a polite form. Tú may be lost altogether and another pronoun vós may be used be present for certain contexts.

Singular Plural
Familiar vosotros/as (Spain)
ustedes (Latin America) RAE
Formal usted ustedes

Time (tiempo)

Please read ¿Qué hora es?
  • ¿Qué hora es? - What time is it?
  • ¿A qué hora ....? - At what time ....?
  • Es la una. - It's one o' clock.
  • Son las dos. - It's two o' clock.
  • Son las tres y quince. - It's a quarter past three.
  • Son las cuatro y media. - It's half past four.
  • Son las siete menos cuarto. - It's a quarter to seven.

Whole Numbers

  • cero - zero (0)
  • uno - one (1)
  • dos - two (2)
  • tres - three (3)
  • cuatro - four (4)
  • cinco - five (5)
  • seis - six (6)
  • siete - seven (7)
  • ocho - eight (8)
  • nueve - nine (9)
  • diez - ten (10)
  • once - eleven (11)
  • doce - twelve (12)
  • trece - thirteen (13)
  • catorce - fourteen (14)
  • quince - fifteen (15)
  • dieciséis - sixteen (16)
  • diecisiete - seventeen (17)
  • dieciocho - eighteen (18)
  • diecinueve - ninteen (19)
  • veinte - twenty (20)
  • veintiuno - twenty-one (21)
  • veintidós - twenty-two (22)
  • veintitrés - twenty-three (23)
  • veinticuatro - twenty-four (24)
  • veinticinco - twenty-five (25)
  • veintiséis - twenty-six (26)
  • veintisiete - twenty-seven (27)
  • veintiocho - twenty-eight (28)
  • veintinueve - twenty-nine (29)
  • treinta - thirty (30)

Note: After 30, numbers are named using the conjunction "y" (and), as to say: "thirty-and-one", "thirty-and-two", etcetera... "forty-and-eight", forty-and-nine", and so forth....

  • treinta y uno - thirty-one (31)
  • cuarenta - forty (40)
  • cincuenta - fifty (50)
  • sesenta - sixty (60)
  • setenta - seventy (70)
  • ochenta - eighty (80)
  • noventa - ninety (90)
  • cien - one hundred (100)

Body Parts

  • (La) cabeza - (The) head
  • (La) oreja - (The) ear (outside)
  • (El) oído - (The) ear (inside)
  • (El) ojo - (The) eye
  • (La) nariz - (The) nose
  • (La) boca - (The) mouth
  • (La) lengua - (The) tongue
  • (El) cuello - (The) neck
  • (El) brazo - (The) arm
  • (El) pecho - (The) chest
  • (La) mano - (The) hand <<--- Notice that though the noun in Spanish ends with 'o' the article used is la.
  • (El) dedo - (The) finger / toe
  • (El) estómago - (The) stomach
  • (La) pierna - (The) leg
  • (El) muslo - (The) thigh
  • (El) pie - (The) foot
  • (El) pelo - body hair <<--- Though colloquially, "pelo" may mean head hair as well
  • (El) cabello - head hair
  • (La) piel - (The) skin
  • (El) músculo - (The) muscle
  • (El) corazón - (The) heart
  • (La) espalda - (The) back
  • (La) rodilla - (The) knee
  • (El) codo - (The) elbow
  • (El) hombro - (The) shoulder

Office Items

  • bolígrafo/pluma - pen
  • carpeta - folder
  • cuaderno - notebook
  • estudiante - student
  • hoja de papel - sheet of paper
  • (el) lápiz - pencil
  • (los) lápices - pencils
  • (el) borrador - eraser
  • libro - book
  • profesor, profesora - professor (male, female)
  • maestro, maestra - teacher (male, female)
  • sala de clases (salón de clases) / aula - classroom

Please Read

  • The articles El and La both mean the in Spanish. El is the masculine form and words that use el usually end in -o. La is the feminine form; most words that end in -a and all words that end in -ción are feminine. There are exceptions, as with the noun mano (hand) the article may not necessarily match the "o" or "a" standard: Las manos ("The hands).

Some nouns can be either gender, such as estudiante, which can be used as el estudiante or la estudiante to mean the student. Other examples of nouns contrary to the norms of gender are "el paraguas" (the umbrella), "el día" (the day) and "la radio" (the radio).

  • Some feminine words, like agua, use the form El when in singular form, as it is considered hard to say la agua due to the glottal stop (hiatus).
  • Some Spanish speakers prefer terms that may vary from other regions, for example, in central Mexico salón de clases is used instead of aula, and maestro(a) instead of profesor(a).

Calendar (el calendario)

  • (El) año - (The) year
  • (El) día - (The) day
  • (El) mes - (The) month
  • (La) semana - (The) week
  • (El) fin de semana - (The) weekend <<--- the article El is directed to fin (end); so it may be understood as: "El fin de la semana" (The week's end or the end of the week).
  • ¿Qué día es hoy? - What day is today?
  • ¿Cuál es la fecha? - What is the date?
  • Es el ... de ... - It's the ... of ...
  • Es el primero de ... - It's the first of ...
  • hoy - today
  • ahora – now
  • mañana - tomorrow
  • en el futuro – in the future
  • ayer - yesterday
Calendar in English.
Calendario en español.

Days of the week


As in English, the roots of the names for each of the days of the week maintain a link to planets and other cosmic bodies, which in instances were ultimately named after deities; Norse mythology for English (Germanic language) and Roman mythology for Spanish (Romance language).

So for example, for Monday, we find "moon" (day), which translates to luna, giving us lunes. Another example is Thursday, which was named after Thor, and has as parallel Jupiter; Jupiter (which is spelled the same in Spanish) is for jueves.

  • lunes - Monday
  • martes - Tuesda
  • miércoles - Wednesday
  • jueves - Thursday
  • viernes - Friday
  • sábado - Saturday
  • domingo - Sunday

Note: Look at the calendars, and notice that the week may start on Sunday instead of Monday!


  • enero - January
  • febrero - Feburary
  • marzo - March
  • abril - April
  • mayo - May
  • junio - June
  • julio - July
  • agosto - August
  • septiembre - September
  • octubre - October
  • noviembre - November
  • diciembre - December
Cultural note
  • The names of days in Spanish and many other European languages are always lowercase except at the beginning of a sentence.
Aztec calendar
  • The Aztecs of Ancient Mexico developed a calendar. "The Aztec calendar stone, Mexica sun stone, Stone of the Sun (Spanish: Piedra del Sol), or Stone of the Five Eras, is a large monolithic sculpture that was excavated in the Zócalo, Mexico City's main square, on December 17, 1790.[1] It was discovered whilst Mexico City Cathedral was being repaired.[2] The stone is around 12 feet across and weighs about 24 tons.[3]."(taken from wikipedia)

[1] Florescano, Enrico (2006). National Narratives in Mexico. Nancy T. Hancock (trans.), Raul Velasquez (illus.) (English-language edition of Historia de las historias de la nación mexicana, ©2002 [Mexico City:Taurus] ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3701-0. OCLC 62857841 . [2] a b Aztec Civilization [3] The Aztec Sun Stone

Other words and phrases; some questions and answers

  • ¿Cómo se escribe ...? - How is ... spelled?
  • Se escribe ... - It's spelled ...
  • ¿Cómo se dice...? - How does one say...? (How do you say...?)
  • Se dice... - One says... (You say...)
  • ¿Qué quiere decir ...? - What does ... mean?
  • Quiere decir ... - It means ...
  • ¿Cuántos(as)? - How many?
  • en - in / on
  • hay - there is, there are
  • por favor - please
  • Punta... - Tip (point or vertex)

Showing uppercase and how the letter is proununced or named in Spanish.

  • A - a
  • B - be
  • C - ce
  • D - de
  • E - e
  • F - efe
  • G - ge
  • H - hache
  • I - i
  • J - jota
  • K - ka
  • L - ele
  • M - eme
  • N - ene
  • Ñ - eñe
  • O - o
  • P - pe
  • Q - cu
  • R - erre
  • S - ese
  • T - te
  • U - u
  • V - uve
  • W - uve doble
  • X - equis
  • Y - i griega/ye
  • Z - zeta

Country focus


Mexico (Spanish: México) is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the North Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico is a federation comprising thirty-one states and a federal district, the capital Mexico City (CDMX), whose metropolitan area is one of the world's most populous.

Map of Mexico

Covering almost 2.3 million square kilometers, Mexico is the fifth-largest country in the Americas by total area and the 14th largest independent nation in the world. With an estimated population of 129 million (2019 estimated), it is the 10th most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.

As a regional power and the only Latin American member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico is firmly established as an upper middle-income country.

Mexico is the 12th largest economy in the world by GDP by purchasing power parity. The economy is strongly linked to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners. Despite being considered an emerging world power, the uneven distribution of income and the increase in insecurity are issues of concern.

Mexican culture reflects the complexity of the country's history through the blending of pre-Hispanic civilizations and the culture of Spain, imparted during Spain's 300-year colonization of Mexico. Exogenous cultural elements mainly from the United States have been incorporated into Mexican culture. As was the case in most Latin American countries, when Mexico became an independent nation, it had to slowly create a national identity, being an ethnically diverse country in which, for the most part, the only connecting element amongst the newly independent inhabitants was Catholicism.

Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City at night, with the Angel of Independence.

The Porfirian era (el Porfiriato), in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, was marked by economic progress and peace. After four decades of civil unrest and war, Mexico saw the development of philosophy and the arts, promoted by President Díaz himself. Since that time, though accentuated during the Mexican Revolution, cultural identity had its foundation in the mestizaje, of which the indigenous (i.e. Amerindian) element was the core. In light of the various ethnicities that formed the Mexican people, José Vasconcelos in his publication La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race) (1925) defined Mexico to be the melting pot of all races (thus extending the definition of the mestizo) not only biologically but culturally as well. This exalting of mestizaje was a revolutionary idea that sharply contrasted with the idea of a superior pure race prevalent in Europe at the time.

The famous Guadalajara Cathedral, a symbol of Mexico

Factbox: Official Language: Spanish

Other Languages: 62 other Native languages, English

Capital: Mexico City (Ciudad de México, México D.F.)

Government: Democracy

Area: 1,972,550 sq km (761,606 sq mi) (15th)

Population: 111,211,789 (July 2010) (11th)

Religion: Christianity 95% (mainly Catholic), Non-religious 2.5%, Buddhism 0.1%, other 2.4% (mainly traditional Mayan or Aztec beliefs)

Human Development Index HDI : 0.854 (HIGH, 53rd) HDI List of Countries

Independence: September 27, 1821

Currency: Mexican pesos

The ruins of Palenque, an Ancient Mayan city that was abandoned by the time Spanish explorers landed in Mexico.