Eight Golden Sentences to Hack Spanish Grammar

31.03.2017 |

Episode #6 of the course How to speak Spanish fluently for beginners by Rype


In the previous lesson, we focused on hacking the learning curve by memorizing the most common words (minimum target of 2,000) to achieve our desired results (~93% oral understanding).

Today, we’re going to introduce grammar rules for putting these words together in order to form comprehensible sentence structures others will understand.

In every single language, grammar is conveyed using some combination of three basic operations:

1. adds words (ex. You like it -> Do you like it?)
2. changes existing words (ex. I eat it -> I ate it)
3. changes the order of those words (ex. This is nice -> Is this nice?)

*referenced from The Four Hour Workweek Blog

That’s all there is to it.

To better illustrate examples, we’re going to use some traditional sentences you’re already familiar with in English.


Story #1: My Dog Ate My Homework

Let’s take the traditional “my dog ate my homework” analogy.

Here are the four components that are involved:

Your dog

The easiest way to shortcut the learning process of these grammatical forms is to understand the actual meaning of the sentence and use flashcards to memorize it effectively.

The reason why this is so effective (compared to typical language textbooks) is that you’re using visual representations to tell a story, allowing you to easily embed it into your memory.

Remember to write down the sentence structures in Spanish, as this will naturally have you thinking in the foreign language.


Story #2: I Give John the Apple

This is a popular framework introduced by Tim Ferriss, originally to analyze how fast you would be able to learn Spanish or any language you want.

However, it also serves as a powerful framework to learn how grammar rules are applied in your desired language by breaking down each part of the sentence. According to Ferriss, these eight “golden” sentences are just about all you need to know in order to understand how the language works because they show how verbs are conjugated between speaker and subject, whether they show gender and number, direct and indirect objects, negations, and tense.

The first thing we recommend is to write down the eight sentences you see below on the left side and directly translate the meaning of the sentences in Spanish on the right side.

1. The apple is red. → La manzana es roja.

2. It is John’s apple. → (Esta) es la manzana de Juan.

3. I give John the apple. → Le doy la manzana a Juan.

4. We give him the apple. → Le dimos la manzanas a él.

5. He gives it to John. → (El) se la da a Juan.

6. She gives it to him. → (Ella) se la da a él.

7. I must give it to him. → (Yo) tengo que dársela a él.

8. I want to give it to her. → (Yo) quiero dársela a ella.

You should pay attention to where the indirect object (John) is located in the sentence and where the direct object (apple) is located.

For example, you’ll notice that in the first sentence, the Spanish translation is the exact same ordering as the English version:

The apple is red. La manzana es roja.

However, in the third sentence, the ordering differs:

I give John the apple. Le doy la manzana a Juan.

It starts with “le,” which is the indirect object pronoun (IOP); it’s like saying “him.” In Spanish, the speaker must be told from the very beginning of the sentence to anticipate that someone is going to receive an action. That person is revealed to be John, by “a Juan.”

From this analysis alone, you can learn a lot about how Spanish grammar differs from English.


Next steps

1. Pick one of the references we mentioned

2. Use flashcards to create a front side and back side (answer) as we illustrated (in the “my dog ate my homework” example). You can use:

Digital flashcards
• Physical flashcards

3. Spend the next week memorizing these meanings

4. Get immediate feedback from:

• a professional teacher
• a native speaking friend

Enjoyed this lesson? Share it with a friend! Tomorrow, we’re going to discuss every language learner’s best friend to learn Spanish faster. Cognates.


Recommended book

“Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Spanish Grammar” by Gilda Nissenberg


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