First of all we must apologize for a spelling mistake in last month’s article – many thanks for Rob and Andrea for pointing this out to us! The verb ‘to go to sleep’ is of course dormir and not dormer. This may well have been the computer changing things (as it has just done on my computer!), but we should have picked it up when proofing.

In our last lesson we started to look at how we change verbs to refer to ‘he’ or ‘she’; in other words to put them into the ‘third person singular’ form.

Having established that in all verbs except one we do this by dropping the letter ‘s’ from the end of second person singular (you) form, we can now go back once more to some previous verbs and see how this works in practice.

Let’s look at our original expressions of intention, obligation and need, for example.

Vas a – you are going to
Va a – he or she is going to

Puedes – you can
Puede – he or she can

Quieres – you want
Quiere – he or she wants

Prefieres – you prefer
Prefiere – he or she prefers
You can see clearly from these examples that all that is required is the dropping of the letter ‘s’ to make this change from second to third person and that is true of every single verb in Spanish in the present tense with only one exception, as I mentioned, which is the verb Ser (to be). This is an irregular verb and changes from eres (you are) to es (he or she is).

I’m now going to state the obvious yet again, because sometimes it is the obvious that we don’t think about! When we are forming a sentence in the third person we are suddenly at liberty to name the subject of the sentence in a way we cannot do with the first and second person.

To explain what I mean in English, a first person sentence can only start with ‘I’ and the second person sentence can only start with ‘you’. In Spanish, as we know, these words yo and tú are optional extras. However, when we come to the third person, we can use ‘he’ or ‘she’, or many other possible subjects – my husband, your friend, the teacher, Mr. Smith, that man over there, the person who lives in that house, Mary, Bill, my cat – I think you’re getting the idea.

So, without further ado, let’s see what new sentences we can form – there are of course thousands of them!

Mi marido va a trabajar mañana.
Tu amiga puede pasar cuando quiere. (Here the verb pasar means ‘to call in’)
El profesor quiere hablar con tu madre.
El señor Smith prefiere comer pescado.

Remember as well we can form our negatives and our questions from these very easily.

Mi marido no va a trabajar mañana.
Tu amiga no puede pasar cuando quiere.
¿El profesor quiere hablar con tu madre?
¿El señor Smith prefiere comer pescado?

Notice in particular the way we would translate these last two sentences. In English they would start with ‘Does’
“Does the teacher want to speak to your mother?”
“Does Mr. Smith prefer to eat fish?”
The words such as ‘do’ and ‘does’, when forming questions are called ‘auxiliary verbs’ and only exist in English. In Spanish they are not needed. When we are forming a simple closed (yes/no) question, we simply make a statement sound like a question with our voice and write it with the upside down question mark. In other words, it is as though we were saying:
“The teacher wants to speak to your mother?”
“Mr. Smith prefers to eat fish?”

It is noticeable as well that some Spanish people speak English in this way, translating directly from their own language, which is actually a lot more straightforward anyway!

Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are now available as e-books at where you can also obtain Jane’s brand new “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.