First of all we need to check last month’s homework. Here are the sentences I asked you to translate, with the correct answers.

I don’t want to speak English – No quiero hablar inglés

I’m not going to open the door – No voy a abrir la puerta

I can’t cook very well – No puedo cocinar muy bien

I need to work a little – Necesito trabajar un poco

The first three sentences are negative and therefore start with ‘No’ despite the fact that in each of the English sentences the negatives are formed in three different ways. Obviously in these articles we can’t hear the spoken sentences, but one thing to point out here is that when one word ends in a vowel sound and the next word begins with a vowel sound, they run together when spoken. So quiero hablar, would sound like “quieroablar” (as the letter H is silent) and voy a abrir would become “voyabrir” with the two ‘a’ sounds merging together. It’s important to get practice at tuning in to spoken Spanish so that you can start recognizing these features of the language.

Now let’s see what else we can do with the words we have covered so far. We have learnt that “I words” (quiero, puedo, necesito, voy a) can go in front of infinitive verbs to form really useful sentences about what we want, need, can or are going to do. We have also seen that by placing the word ‘no’ in front, we can make these sentences negative.

Now we are going to see how these same basic forms can be turned into questions. This is incredibly easy; in fact it’s so easy people are inclined not to believe it and try to complicate things. To make these sentences into questions, all you have to do is give your voice a questioning intonation. When writing we place a question mark at the end and an upside down question mark at the beginning of the sentence, to indicate the same thing.

For example: Puedo abrir la puerta means ‘I can open the door’. If I say exactly the same sentence making my voice sound questioning, I’ve changed it to ‘Can I open to the door?’ which is written in Spanish ¿Puedo abrir la puerta?

Yes, it really is that simple! Let’s see what else we can do.

Puedo volver mañana. – I can return tomorrow.

¿Puedo volver mañana? – Can I return tomorrow?

Puedo cambiar mi dinero. – I can change my money.

¿Puedo cambiar mi dinero? – Can I change my money?

Necesito trabajar hoy. – I need to work today.

¿Necesito trabajar hoy? – Do I need to work today?

Necesito beber mucha agua. – I need to drink a lot of water.

¿Necesito beber mucha agua? – Do I need to drink a lot of water?

Obviously in the case of ¿Quiero? – ‘Do I want?’ and ¿Voy a? – ‘Am I going to?’ it is more difficult to find sentences that make sense, so as a special little bonus we will learn the words for ‘You want’ and ‘You are going to” which can instantly be used to mean ‘Do you want?’ and ‘Are you going to?’

‘You want’ is Quieres and ‘You are going to’ is Vas a so therefore:

‘Do you want to cook?’ is ¿Quieres cocinar?

‘Are you going to sleep?’ is ¿Vas a dormir?

Just to recap what we have just done – Quiero means ‘I want’, and by changing the final letter we can turn it into Quieres meaning ‘you want’. Something similar happens with Voy a – ‘I’m going to’ and we can turn it into Vas a meaning ‘You are going to’. I think I should mention as well, that these refer to an informal “you”, as in Spanish we can be formal and informal in the way we address people. However nowadays in Spain these distinctions are not so important so we’ll talk in more detail about that later.

This all might sound rather simple, but you may not have yet realized just what potential we have opened up already, just by learning these small changes. It is not necessary to learn all the ‘whys and wherefores’ of how verbs change in order to start forming all kinds of sentences! So far we have only used six verbs and six “I” or “you” expressions, so next month we’ll need some more verbs and other simple words to spread the net even wider. In the meantime though, here’s your homework:

What do these mean in English?

No quiero volver a casa hoy.

¿Quieres bailar conmigo?

Voy a hablar con mi amigo.

¿Vas a beber vino?

No necesito comer ahora.

¿Puedo aprender más?

Happy translating and see you next month!

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.