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Basic Grammatical Terms

This is a brief and easy to understand guide for those of you who are not quite sure about the difference between an adjective and an adverb. Below are explanations of the main grammatical terms that you are more than likely to come across when learning a foreign language.


A noun is a thing, a person or a place. It can be a concrete thing like a rock, or an idea, concept or emotion like 'love', 'theory', 'imagination'.

You can put the word 'the' in front of a noun and it makes sense.


Pronouns are words like I, you, he, she, it, they, we, who, which, how etc. in English.

PERSONAL pronouns are: I, you, he, she, it, we, they

INTERROGATIVE pronouns are: pronouns we use to begin a question (what, which, how why etc).

RELATIVE pronouns: pronouns we use to describe or explain the nouns we use.

The man whose car it is.

The people who run the restaurant are very nice.


A word that you can put 'to' in front of in English. To run, to walk, to study, to be, to feel etc.

Verbs are usually action words. The tell you about an action or a state (being, feeling, sleeping etc.)

Verbs can change (conjugate) to let us know who is doing the action (I, he, they etc.) and when (in the present, past, future).


This is the verb in neutral gear. Before anything is done to it. In English it is the verb with 'to' before it. To go, to hide, to visit etc.

In Spanish verbs in the infinitive end in either ar, er or ir.


This is a word which describes a noun. It gives us more information about it. This could be almost anything.

The car was black.

She thought the lesson was easy.

The torrential rain fell in sheets.

He wants chocolate cake.


Adverbs describe verbs, just like adjectives describe nouns. Adverbs usually end in '-ly' in English.

He ran to the train station quickly.

He mastered the language easily.


A word that is used before a noun, pronoun, or gerund to show that word's connection with another word, such as `of' in `a house made of wood', and `by' in `We open it by breaking the lock'.

Other prepositions include:

to, at, with, from, for, behind, between, on, over, towards, in front, beside etc.


A gerund is when the verb ends in '-ing' in English: going, being, seeing, moving, following, making etc. It implies something continuous or ongoing.

In Spanish gerunds end in 'iendo' or 'ando'.

Definite Article

The word 'the' in English. You use it when talking about something definite: 'the book', 'the building'.

There are four words for 'the' in Spanish: el, la, los, las.

Indefinite Article

The word 'a' or 'an' in English.

There are two words for 'a' in Spanish: un, una.


A verb is reflexive when its action bounces back upon itself.

In the sentence I dress myself, the subject I performs the action and has the action performed on itself.


The subject of a sentence is the person or thing which carries out the action. In the sentence He hits the ball, 'he' is the subject.


The object of a sentence is the person or thing which receives the action. In the sentence He hits the ball, 'the ball' is the object (the direct object).

If we say He hits the ball to her, then 'to her' is the indirect object. She is receiving the action but indirectly.


The imperative form of a verb is what we use to give an order or command: Go! Run! Look!

Give me the paper.

Study the lesson!

Go away!

Comparatives and Superlatives

These are long words but don't let that put you off, it's pretty easy.

'Good' is an adjective (it's used to describe a noun... 'the good boy')

'Better' is a comparative (you use it to compare things... 'this book is better than that one.')

'Best' is a superlative ('this book is the best'.)

In English most comparatives end in '-er' (faster, longer, easier, taller, stronger).

Most superlatives end in '-est' (fastest, longest, easiest, tallest, strongest).

Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

Cardinal numbers are: one, two, three, four...

Ordinal numbers are: first, second, third, fourth...


A neat trick that almost every language has is the 'shrinking' of someone, or something to show affection for it. This is called the 'diminutive form'.

The diminutive of Charles is Charlie.

Novel = novella

Pig = piglet or piggy

Star = starlet

And so on...


An idiom is a phrase which means something to native speakers, because the meaning is agreed upon, but when you split up the phrase and look at the separate words, it doesn't really make much sense.

Example is English are:

'At one's wit's end'

'Chip off the old block'

'Fit as a fiddle'

'With flying colours'

There are lots of these in English and Spanish.

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That's it. Of course, there are many more grammatical terms, but these are the most common. A good grammar book or textbook will explain others to you as you come across them.