Just like in any other language, Spanish uses conjunctions, or conjunciónes in Spanish, as a word that links words, phrases, and ideas together.
With this handy tool, just like in most other languages, you can easily join two (or more) ideas together in the same sentence, simply by adding a word or two.
The type of conjunction, however, can differ between two different types. Because there are so many ways that two aspects or ideas can relate to one another, you also have a few different ways you can use conjunctions.
For this guide, we will be going through two different classes of conjunctions used in the Spanish language. They are called the coordinate and the subordinate.
When using coordinating conjunctions, it‘s pretty simple to remember. The word “coordinating” can help you remember that here, we are talking about words and ideas that “coordinate” with one another, meaning they are relatively alike.
In this case, a sentence will have two elements in one phrase that are the same, grammatically speaking. For example, conjunction coordinates are normally used to join nouns with nouns and verbs with verbs, etc.
In Spanish, there are a few commonly used or stated coordinating conjunctions. They can be used in several situations on a daily basis. Although they are often used and fairly simple to add to a sentence, there are a couple of rules that go along with them.
Here are a few coordinating conjunctions that are used:
Adding One Element to the Other
When two like elements are in one sentence, you can use these three types of coordinating conjunctions:
It‘s that simple!
However, as I mentioned before, there are a few rules that you might need to take into account when working with these coordinating conjunctions. For example, if one of the nouns or words you‘re using in the sentence begins with an “i-” or “hi-”, and it is the second word in the conjunction, you will replace the “y” with an “e”.
Instead of using “y”, meaning “and”, you‘ll simply be using “e”, which also means “and”, it’s just more grammatically correct.
|Juan and Ian went to school.|
|Juan e Ian fueron a la escuela.|
That one rule is pretty simple.
However, once we take it to the opposite type of coordinating conjunctions but still talking about similar types of words and aspects, you‘ll run into a rule or two.
If our sentence is negative—not rude, just negative—then you should replace the “and” with “ni”. You can use this term to negate two or more aspects in a sentence. In English, this is the equivalent of using “neither” and “nor”, however, it isn‘t always directly translated as such.
|No me gusta ni el jamón ni el pavo||I don‘t like ham or turkey. (I like neither ham nor turkey).|
To shorten and make it easier, for this same exact sentence and meaning, you can also say:
No me gusta jamón ni pavo.
Giving an Alternative
As I mentioned before, there are conjunctions that are positive and negative. However, there are also conjunctions that offer two similar-like words or aspects that offer you a choice.
Think of the English word “or”, as in, “this or that”. It doesn‘t necessarily have to be a question but a statement simply offering two different choices of similar parts of speech.
Basically, when you‘re going to be offering choices, for example, with the English word “or”, you should use the Spanish conjunction “o”. However, it sometimes isn‘t that simple. You may need to change the “o” to other alternatives. Please see the table below:
Just like before with the “y” changing to “e” when the second word or aspect of your sentence begins with an “i” or “hi”, here, you have to change the “o” to a “u” when the following word starts with an “o” or a “ho”.
|El perro es desobediente u obediente.||The dog is either disobedient or obedient.|
Comparing One Contrasting Statement to Another
Now that we covered adding and alternatives, now we‘re going to talk about contrasting one subject to another.
In this grammar portion, instead of using the conjunction to compare similar aspects, you can use conjunctions to compare statements that are quite opposite of one another.
Here are a few examples of contrasting, coordinating conjunctions:
|aunque||although, even though|
|no obstante||however, nevertheless|
|por lo demás||otherwise, apart from that|
Just like in English, you can insert these words almost anywhere in the sentence (although, it has to be done correctly) to show that you want to contrast one object or aspect to the other. It can also be used if you are going in one direction with the sentence and then quickly switch to the opposite direction.
Here are some examples using these words as a contrasting, coordinating conjunctions:
|Su hijo es ambicioso, pero también es cauteloso.||His son is ambitious but also cautious.|
|He visitado todos los países sudamericanos, excepto Argentina.||I visited all the South American countries, except Argentina.|
|Sin embargo, hay algo que falta en la historia.||However, there is something missing in the story.|
Giving an Explanation
Last but not least, you can also use conjunctions in Spanish when you are giving an explanation or trying to clarify a certain, ambiguous statement.
Here are some examples:
|es decir||that is, that is to say|
|esto es||that is|
This one is pretty simple, think of when you‘re speaking to your friends and you have to explain to them why you won‘t be able to go to the movies this weekend. You cannot simply say that you cannot go, period. Most likely, you‘ll have to offer an explanation for your absence (especially since you really want to go).
|Estoy muy ocupada y tengo que lavar mi ropa, cortar el césped y limpiar el baño, es decir, no podré salir este fin de semana.||I'm very busy and I have to wash my clothes, mow the lawn and clean the bathroom, that is, I won't be able to go out this weekend.|
There are subordinating conjunctions, or conjunciones de subordinación, which do not belong to the same type of word or aspect of the Spanish language.
That is because subordinating conjunctions are words in a sentence that link one independent clause to a dependent clause.
An independent clause is a section of the sentence, an idea, that can stand on its own in a correct grammatical sentence.
A dependent clause is a section of the sentence, an idea, that can NOT stand on its own. It needs a main clause, another dependent clause or an independent clause to complete the full sentence.
For example, here is an example of a sentence using the subordinating conjunction “that” or in Spanish, “que”:
|Dije que estoy en casa.||I said that I am at home.|
In this example, you can see that “Dije”, or “I said”, is the dependent clause, because, without the second section, it wouldn‘t be able to stand alone in one sentence. The dependent clause is not always first, therefore, that is not a good way to distinguish what part of the sentence is which.
Going back to the example sentence, “Estoy en casa” or “I am at home” can easily stand alone in its own sentence, which makes it the independent clause.
However, to join these two parts in the sentence, you‘ll need a subordinate conjunction.
There are a few words that form subordinate conjunctions in the Spanish language.
|tan pronto como||as soon as|
|apenas||as soon as|
|a menos que||unless|
|antes (de) que||before|
|con tal (de) que, siempre que||as long as|
|en caso de que||in case|
|pues||well, for, because|
|para que||so that|
This is only a few examples, however, there are plenty of others that you may see in any sentences that need to connect an independent and a dependent clause.
Here are a few examples of some sentences of subordinate conjunctions at work:
|Quería un helado, pero no tenía dinero.||I wanted an ice cream, but I did not have enough money.|
|Díle que no me gusta.||Tell him that I don't like it.|
|¿Quieres dinero? ¡Pues trabaja!.||Do you want money? Then work!|