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The Essentials: How to Get by in Spanish

by Madeleine Lee

If you’ve fallen in love with Spanish… you’re not alone! More than 500 million people around the world speak Spanish. Whether you’re drawn to its mesmerizing trills or its rich cultural ties, Spanish is one of the most useful and far-reaching languages you can learn. 

If you’re eager to learn Spanish but aren’t sure where to start, look no further. Rosetta Stone’s team of language experts knows exactly what you need to succeed! In this Spanish essentials guide, you’ll find almost everything a Rosetta Stone learner masters in their first unit. 

With each Rosetta Stone lesson, you’ll pick up new vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation skills through a carefully structured Dynamic Immersion environment. For this guide, Spanish elements are listed in order of utility—words that fall into the first three categories are crucial to building a sentence! 

  • Activities 
  • People
  • Verb tenses
  • Things
  • Adjectives
  • Numbers and phrases 

Check it out below, or hop over to the subscription page to master the fundamentals and find a plan that works for you! 


When learning a language, you’ll want to be able to talk about what people are up to. The essential verbs to learn in Spanish are ones that you use every day. 

To readLeer
To writeEscribir
To drinkBeber 
To eatComer
To cookCocinar
To swimNadar
To runCorrer
To haveTener 
To beSer 
To wearLlevar 


Why are you learning Spanish? To connect with other people, of course! There are many ways to refer to a person—by their profession, their style, their sense of humor—but the basics are easy to remember and help you communicate what you need to in a short amount of time. 


A quick note about nouns: In Spanish, nouns are either masculine or feminine, including those that wouldn’t typically have a gender (like a chair or table). It’s important to remember that the article (a, an, the, this) preceding the noun changes depending on its gender. Feel free to revisit this note when you reach the “Things” section! 

EnglishSpanish (Masculine)Spanish (Feminine)
a, an ununa


EnglishSpanish (Singular)Spanish (Plural)
A girlUna niñaLas niñas
A boy Un niñoLos niños
A womanUna mujerLas mujeres
A manUn hombreLos hombres


First PersonYoNosotros / Nosotras
Second PersonVosotros / Vosotras
Third PersonÉl / Ella / UstedEllos / Ellas / Ustedes 

Verb tenses

In Spanish, most verbs end in the following three letters: “ar”, “er”, and “ir”. When conjugated, each verb type has slightly different endings that attach to the root verb. 

When learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone, context clues that match words with images help reinforce the nuances of each verb tense. This reliance on context and reasoning—rather than rote memorization—helps you build a deeper, more enduring understanding of the language.  

The endings for common verbs in the present tense—which gives you the ability to speak about what’s happening now—are listed below. 


Pronouns (English)Pronouns (Spanish)-ar-er-ir
You (plural)Vosotros/Vosotras-áis-éis-ís

Using the present tense endings above, this is what the verb “nadar” (“to swim”) looks like when conjugated: 

Yo nadoNosotros/Nosotras nadamos
nadasVosotros/Vosotras nadáis
Él/Ella nadaEllos/Ellas nadan

Irregular Verbs

Some verbs have irregular endings, which means that their conjugated forms don’t follow the verb ending patterns above and/or their roots change. 

Ser (“to be”) and tener (“to have”) are the two most common irregular verbs. Learn these, and you’ll feel even more confident as you master the basics. 


First PersonSecond Person
Yo soyNosotros/Nosotras somos
eresVosotros/Vosotras sois
Él/Ella/Usted esEllos/Ellas/Ustedes son 


First PersonSecond Person
Yo tengoNosotros/Nosotras tenemos
tienesVosotros/Vosotras tenéis
Él/Ella/Usted tieneEllos/Ellas/Ustedes tienen


There are so many “things” out there! But don’t be intimidated. From food and furniture to sports and the great outdoors, cognate words—or words that look and mean the same thing in two languages—are plentiful. They can help you navigate conversations and pick up new phrases in the process. 

The list of items below is a small sample of what you’d learn in Unit 1 of Rosetta Stone’s Spanish edition. 


EggUn huevo
SandwichUn sándwich
AppleUna manzana 
BowlUn tazón
CupUna taza


A bedUna cama
A chairUna silla
A tableUna mesa 
A cellphoneUn celular
A keyUna llave
A flowerUna flor
A bicycleUna bicicleta
A newspaperUn periódico
A bookUn libro
A ballUna pelota


When learning and tackling adjectives, there are two key grammatical rules to keep in mind:  

  • Adjectives ending in “o” change their ending to “a” to match feminine nouns 
  • Adjectives typically follow the noun they’re describing 

Here’s an example: 

There is a red chair. 

Hay una silla roja

Start by learning colors in Spanish, and then branch out to more whimsical descriptors. 



Numbers and phrases

Numbers and phrases round out the essentials list. You’ll need to know your numbers to discuss quantities, tell time, or inquire about costs, while a handful of simple phrases can help you get to where you need to go. 




There is…Hay…Hay un libro. (There is a book). 
How much? How many?¿Cuànto? ¿Cuànto cuesta? (How much does it cost?)
Where is it? ¿Dónde está?¿Dónde está el libro? (Where is the book?)
What is it? ¿Qué es?¿Qué es el libro? (What is the book?)
What time is it? ¿Que hora es?¿A que hora es el concierto? (What time is the concert?)

Gain a deeper understanding 

Now that you’ve had a look at the essentials, take some time to consider what you want your language learning journey to look like. Will you achieve your Spanish dreams by learning in a traditional classroom setting, or branching out on your own

Whatever environment you choose, Rosetta Stone can help you meet your Spanish learning goals and speak confidently from the very first lesson. You’ll learn through dynamic immersion, not rote repetition, and perfect your accent every step of the way. Our courses are built by language learning experts who have refined what and how you learn to ensure you build fluency fast. 

Start learning Spanish today at rosettastone.com!

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