Let’s start with some sentences which revise what we learnt in the previous article. They can all build together very simply, by combining “I” words (quiero – I want; necesito – I need; puedo – I can) with verbs in their basic, or infinitive form, that is the form that ends in “–ar”,”-er” or “–ir”.

Quiero trabajar – I want to work.
Necesito cocinar – I need to cook.
Puedo bailar – I can dance.
Necesito comer tres veces al día – I need to eat three times a day.
Quiero jugar otra vez – I want to play again.
Puedo abrir la puerta – I can open the door.

Now we are going to introduce another “I” expression, which works in exactly the same way as the ones we have already seen. This time it consists of two words – Voy a – it means “I’m going to”.

“I am going to” is rather a long expression in English, but it cannot be translated word for word into Spanish. We need to think about the concept it expresses, which is related to my “intention” to do something. When we want to express our intention in Spanish, these are the two words we should use Voy a, and we then follow them with any infinitive verb in just the same way as before.

For example:
Voy a cocinar – I’m going to cook.
Voy a abrir – I’m going to open.

One of the most important keys to learning Spanish is to realize that we cannot translate word for word. This is the big mistake that many people make. Most of our confusion about Spanish comes from our insistence on trying to translate literally all the time when it is the idea behind the words which is the important thing. The Spanish use fewer words than English to express the same ideas, which is amazing in itself when you think how much they like speaking.

Here are some more sentences for you to translate into English. This time I will put the answers at the end of the article.

Quiero bailar contigo.
Puedo trabajar mañana.
Voy a comer ahora.
Necesito aprender Español.

Now we’re going to look at something new, which we can do without needing to learn any new words at all. This just shows how easy basic Spanish really is. If you put the word no in front of any of your new sentences, you instantly make them negative. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is remarkably simple and much easier than English.

For example:
Voy a cocinar – I’m going to cook.
No voy a cocinar – I’m not going to cook.
Necesito cambiar dinero – I need to change money.
No necesito cambiar dinero – I don’t need to change money.
Quiero volver a inglaterra – I want to go back to England.
No quiero volver a Inglaterra – I don’t want to go back to England.
Puedo dormir aquí – I can sleep here.
No puedo dormir aquí – I can’t sleep here.

Take a second to look at the way these negative forms are made in English. “I’m not going to”, “I don’t need to” and “I can’t”. Imagine being a foreigner trying to learn English; you have to learn lots of different ways of making negatives, whereas in Spanish you only ever have to put no in front of the verb you’ve made your sentence negative. You see – I told you it was easy!

Now here are the answers to the sentences above:

Quiero bailar contigo – I want to dance with you.

(You never know when this phrase might come in handy!)

Puedo trabajar mañana – I can work tomorrow”.

(Anathema to some people, but a few of us still have to do it!)

Voy a comer ahora – I am going to eat now.

(We could also translate this as “I’m going to have lunch now” as the Spanish also use comer to refer to having their big midday meal.)

Necesito aprender Español – I need to learn Spanish.

(You can’t argue with that really and it could be useful when you want to encourage a Spanish person to actually speak to you in Spanish rather than English which tends to happen more and more).

Here are some sentences to think about. This time you’re going to translate four short sentences from English into Spanish. The basic structures are exactly as we’ve learnt them so far – there are no tricks and the answers will appear next month!

I don’t want to speak English.

I’m not going to open the door.

I can’t cook very well.

I need to work a little.

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