Learning the Spanish Language — Project Day 36

Indefinite Articles — Omit vs. Include

Yesterday I told myself to investigate the 'rules' for when articles are required, omitted, optional or inadmissable with nouns. Today, I discovered a veritable can of worms. For the indefinite article alone, there are far too many different cases and conditions, for me to take in all the detail at one go.

When to omit

  • When generic/universal features of the noun are being emphasized
  • Describing membership of professions, occupations, social status, sex
  • After 'ser' in common phrases — esp. -ve expressions e.g. "es coincidencia"
  • After verbs when d.obj. usually indivisible— tener, comprar, sacar, buscar, llevar, haber
  • For literary effect — gravitas, formal, archaic, esp. on qualified nouns
  • In apposition — e.g. "Barcelona, ciudad que me atrae"
  • After some meanings of 'a modo'/'manera de', por, sin, con, como — depends
  • Exclamations — after qué, and before tal, medio, cierto, otro, semejante

When to include

  • Describing personal characteristics — "he's a butcher", i.e. murderous
  • Qualified nouns — e.g. "he’s an actor who's always out of work"
  • If it means "one of ..." — "es una de los abogados"
  • In common phrases — e.g. "es una lastima"
  • To distinguish nouns from adjectives — often have same form in Spanish
  • When d.obj. divisble/enumerated with tener, comprar, sacar, buscar, llevar, haber
  • Other meanings of por, sin, con, como

Unos/unas, meaning 'some' are rarely omitted, esp not in speech. Sometimes used as literary or journalistic devices — e.g. journalist quotes 'experts' instead of 'some experts' as sources, to hide small numbers, like 1-2.

I think I'm going to need to keep going back to the grammar books periodically, to refresh my memory of the details — until most of the common use cases become automatic patterns of speech.

Neuter Demonstrative Pronouns

One, short, set of exercises. 100% correct on the substance. The usual hiccups of detail:

  • Accent missing on qué
  • Missing instance of ser ('es') — restarting in wrong position after distraction
  • Translated 'great' as 'grande' — rather than 'fantastico'
  • Used 'deberias' rather than 'debes' for 'you should' — I was right to do so

The Future and Notifications

As usual, the Glossika sentences required me to use a whole bunch of tenses and moods. But notivation of events in the future formed a large chunk of them. So I got an opportunity to practice the future and learned quite a few new expressions about staying in touch, keeping up to date, and being notified, e.g.

  • Si algo sucede, hágamelo saber inmediatamente
  • Notifíquenos si hay nuevos desarrollos
  • Te avisaremos cuando tengamos algo
  • Nos dejará saber cuando encuentre algo
  • Si hay imprevistos, llámame
  • Si algo sucede, solo marcame
  • Márqueme si hay un problema

You'll notice that several of those examples include the word-phrase 'hay'.

I specifically chose to include them, because during these exercises I remembered two big problems I have with 'hay':

  • My English brain struggles to parse 2 concepts from 1 tiny word — there + is/are
  • Hay's sound triggers my Italian concept for 'hai', before English/Spanish meanings

The negative language transfer from Italian is strengthened by the fact that both the Spanish and Italian words sound identical, they often appear in the same position within sentences and 'you have' and 'there is' are sometimes cognate phrases in English, e.g. "now, you have ...", "you have, here ..."

So even though 'hay' and 'hai' are different parts of speech, it's very easy to conflate the sound-concept conotations — not least, because 'hai' is among the most frequently used words ever, in informal Italian.

Auxilliary Verbs — Querer, Poder, Deber

Exercises on their present tense. No challenge at all. Not even any errors of attention.

Still, worth spending 10 minutes practising creative sentence composition — making stuff up, to provide unexpected answers to the questions posed, e.g. Q: "¿Qué puede hacer Babe Ruth?" A: "Babe Ruth no puede hacer nada, porque está muerto".

I was getting a bit pissed-off by parochial yankee cultural references in the questions and guessed that the author might be some sort of god botherer who thought that baseball players were immortal.

Verbs that Take the Preposition 'de'

Types of verbs:

  • Cessation, ending, withdrawl — e.g. 'terminar de'
  • Emotion — e.g. 'aburrirse de', 'cansarse de', 'sorprenderse de'

Particularly common cases:

  • Hablar de
  • Acabo de
  • Alegrarse de
  • Librarse de
  • Gozarse de
  • Encargadar de
  • Depender de
  • Aburrirse de
  • Tratar de
  • Salir de
  • Accordarse de
  • Servir de Olvidarse de
  • Morir de
  • Morirse de
  • Quejarse de

Exercises on this topic followed the usual pattern. Two errors of substance on the topic being tested, but several incidental gramatical errors (mostly attention-related), e.g.

  • Accents
  • Porque vs. por qué
  • Plural subject agreement
  • Adverb-verb order — idiom error, not attention-related
  • Used 'alejarse' vs. 'alejarte' in "you should get away from" — Eng. 'you' also = 'one'

Learning Tasks Checklist

Task M T W T F S S
Word/phrase aural+oral
Sentence aural+oral
Socratic aural+oral
Verb exercises
Pronoun exercises
Preposition exercises
Physical exercise
Non-subbed video
Subbed video
Research lang. learning
List 'issues'
Prepare materials

Contact Davie Fisher

By form

By Phone

+44 (0)113 234 4611

By email


By snail mail

Flat 3 15 South Parade Leeds LS1 5PQ United Kingdom