Stumped on Spanish grammar? Try this.

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If you’re reading this, you know enough English to have a big head start when learning Spanish. 

Our two languages share thousands of words, and have the same general sentence structure. 

But there’s still plenty of differences – enough to make Spanish pretty puzzling to the English-speaking brain. 

Most likely, there’s something that’s confusing you right now about how Spanish works. 

Today, I want to suggest an approach you can try to gradually make more sense of whatever has you stumped. 

It has 5 steps: E S P R L (Think: “ESP for Real Life” – sorry, that’s the best I could do on a Saturday morning). 

Is it really a linear process?

Like many of you that I hear from, a piece of Spanish grammar that plagued me for a long time was the use of le, les, lo, los, etc. 

I learned them in school, so it was more of the traditional approach: explanation -> exercises -> quiz -> next chapter. (I talked a bit about this last week if you’re interested).

This linear approach assumes that grammar can be internalized in a matter of days or weeks…

And that all we have to do is stack one brick on top of the next, and eventually we’ll have a complete structure. 

But what I experienced was a lot less linear than that.

When I finally started using my Spanish, lots of the grammar that had confused me started to feel more intuitive. 

I still made mistakes, but I wasn’t overanalyzing every sentence. 

Essentially, my brain just needed more time and more examples to make sense of the trickier parts of Spanish. The immersion did just that.

This is something that can work for you too — even if you’re not literally “immersed” in Madrid or Medellín. 

Here’s my suggestion: 

The goal is to build an intuition for Spanish. Otherwise, you’ll overthink constantly. 

It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen through exposure and practice. If you think back to grammar that was previously hard for you, you can see this in action. 

The problem is, ‘exposure and practice’ is kind of vague advice. 

So here’s the 5 step approach I mentioned at the start of this email, aimed at giving a bit more structure: 

E: Get more examples 

When you’re immersed in a Spanish speaking context, the examples are all around you. When you’re not, you’ve got to look for them yourself. 

The more you hear a grammar rule in context, the closer you get to an aha moment. 

Use Youglish, AI, or Google to get examples:

S: Spot it in the real world 

Find a piece of content and watch, listen, or read it with the express intent of listening for the rule in question. 

Your main goal here is to notice it. Bonus points for guessing why it’s used in that context. 

P: Practice by writing your own phrases with it 

Hearing examples is essential. 

But producing your own examples is, too. And lucky for us, we now have online tools that’ll give us instant feedback and corrections. 

The tools I like best for this are ChatGPT and Both tend to provide clear corrections without being too nice and only correcting one or two items. 

R: Read back over a description of the rule

You might wonder why reading a description is so far down the list. 

This approach assumes you’ve got some familiarity with a grammar topic. You’ve been trying to learn it for a bit, but feel stuck. So presumably, you’ve read descriptions… but they haven’t helped. 

With the steps above (more examples + practice + corrections), skimming back over the rules will make more sense. 

L: Leave it alone (come back to it later)

The last step is to stop worrying about this rule and come back to it later. 

Most likely you won’t have mastered it yet. It takes longer than one practice session to absorb a new piece of the Spanish puzzle.

These steps will push you in the right direction… 

But if you’re still stuck, more cramming won’t help. Your brain just needs more time and examples. 

So move on to something fun, and just keep an ear out for the thing you were practicing. 

You can always return to these steps later. 

In a nutshell: move on before you’ve ‘mastered’ something

To me, grammar is like the rules of any sport. If you start by reading the rulebook instead of watching, you will think it’s the most complex thing in the world. 

Let’s say it’s tennis. You could try to memorize all the rules before playing, and hope you remember everything in your first match…

Or instead, you could go to a match with someone who knows what’s happening…

And have them explain as the match is happening. 

Imagine you go to a match with someone who knows what’s happening… 

And they explain as you go. 

You may not get the finer points, but you can follow it enough to know who’s winning. 

Then the next week, you get together with that friend to play a little yourself. 

You play, and your friend explains a few more rules as you go. 

Repeat this process and gradually, the game makes more sense. At this point, you could even skim the rulebook and learn a thing or two. 

So don’t let yourself be intimidated or put off by lengthy, jargon-filled grammar books. 

There’s nothing in Spanish that you can’t make sense of. It just takes time, exposure, practice, and repetition. 

If you try today’s approach, let me know how it goes. 


Looking for something more? Here’s one way I can help: 

More than your grammar, what jumps out to native speakers first is our pronunciation. 

If you want to feel and sound more natural when speaking Spanish, check this out

You’ll build more confident spoken Spanish in a structured, fun way. Join 150+ students here. 

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Hey there, I'm Connor. I help motivated learners speak Spanish without slogging through grammar books or tapping through every new app. I started Breakthrough Spanish to give more people the confidence and focus to learn effectively Spanish from home. Learn more about me here.

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