All You Need to Know About Spanish Contractions
One of the fastest ways to make your Spanish look more native-like is to master Spanish contractions.
Knowing these Spanish secrets will improve both your grammar and pronunciation. You’ll sound less like a language learner and more natural.
Let me explain to you what contractions are and what is so characteristic about Spanish contractions. I’ll also throw in some informal ones that you won’t find in grammar books.
In the end, you’ll be able to test your skills in a short quiz.
Ready? Let’s start!
What Are Contractions?
You already know what contractions are. In English, you can shorten a word or phrase by dropping one or more letters. If you need to write a contraction down, you put an apostrophe in a place where letters were dropped like in “it’s” and “doesn’t.” Contractions make the pronunciation work less arduous and convey a chatty tone, but if you want to write a formal essay or send a job application, you shouldn’t use them too often.
Spanish contractions look slightly different and the whole system is definitely easier to grasp for a learner than the English one.
Spanish contractions have the same function. They make sentences look less wordy and your articulation easier.
The biggest difference is that they aren’t optional. That’s why Spanish contractions are an important part of Spanish grammar that you should master quite early.
Let’s have a look at three types of contractions that you need to know.
1. A and de Plus Definite Article
The most common Spanish contractions are the ones you form using the prepositions a (to) and de (of or from). If these prepositions meet with a definite article el, they form a contraction.
a + el = al
de + el = del
Al usually means that a masculine word is the receiver of an action expressed in a verb. We can sometimes translate it with “at the” or “to the”.
Mi madre llamó al tío Juan.
My mother called uncle Juan.
Mis hijas tienen que bañar al perro.
My daughters have to bathe the dog.
Voy al supermercado, ¿vienes?
I’m going to the supermarket, are you coming?
¿Puedes llevarme al doctor?
Can you take me to the doctor?
Del is the opposite of al and tells us that the action comes from the masculine noun or that something belongs to, or is a part of a masculine word. You can usually translate it with “from the” or “of the”.
Estoy cansada, acabo de llegar del trabajo.
I’m tired, I just got home from work.
¿Cuál es la puerta del dentista?
Which is the dentist’s door?
Eres la persona más bonita del mundo.
You’re the most beautiful person in the world.
Cierra la puerta del horno, por favor.
Close the oven door, please.
This contraction does not occur with other articles so please, don’t try to join the prepositions a and de with la, las, or los.
Voy a la playa.
I’m going to the beach.
Vengo de las montañas.
I come from the mountains.
Veo a los bomberos trabajando.
I see the firefighters working.
Esta casa es de la directora.
This house belongs to the director.
Exceptions to the al and del contractions
You won’t form a contraction with these prepositions if the masculine article el is part of a name and capitalized.
Es un artículo de “El País”.
It’s an article from El País.
Vamos de vacaciones a El Paso.
We’re going on vacation to El Paso.
Mi primo es de El Salvador.
My cousin is from El Salvador.
Another exception comes when what follows the prepositions a or de is not a definite, masculine article el but a pronoun él. Yes, the accent makes the difference. However, when you say it, you can’t see the accent written, so just remember that él means “he” or “him” and not “the” of a masculine noun.
Le regalé el libro a él.
I gave the book to him.
A él le gusta María.
He likes Maria.
Este coche es de él, no de ella.
This car is his, not hers.
2. Con Plus Prepositional Pronoun
Another one of Spanish contractions happens when the preposition con (with) meets prepositional pronouns mí, ti, and sí. In this case, you remove the accent mark from the prepositional pronoun–if there is any–and add a suffix -go at the end of the world.
con + mí = conmigo
con + ti = contigo
con + sí = consigo
with him, with her, with it, with them
Let’s see how they look in a sentence.
¿Quieres casarte conmigo?
Will you marry me?
Este comportamiento no va contigo.
This behavior does not suit you.
Él siempre habla consigo mismo.
He always talks to himself.
3. Verbs Plus Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns
When direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns are used with an infinitive, gerund, or command, they contract into a single word. You have to place them after the verb and watch out for the accents in these Spanish contractions.
Cuéntame una historia.
Tell me a story.
Is he lying to me?
Voy a escucharlo.
I’m going to listen to it.
Ella tiene que regalarmela.
She has to give it to me.
Me reí leyéndolo.
I laughed reading it.
Let it go!
¡Límpiámelo ahora mismo!
Clean it up right now!
If you want to read more about Direct Object Pronouns and Indirect Object Pronouns, accent, and placement rules, read The Ultimate Guide to Using Double Object Pronouns in Spanish.
Spanish Informal Contractions
Apart from formal, mandatory Spanish contractions, you’ll find many informal phonetic contractions if you travel to American and South American Spanish-speaking countries. These Spanish contractions are often heard in Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and other countries in the region.
Remember, these are not official contractions, although they are very common in speech, and could be compared with English “gonna” for “going to” and “whatchya” for “what are you”.
Pa’ instead of para (for) is one of the most used. If the word that comes afterwards starts with an a, you should also drop it.
pa’que = para que (for what / what for)
pa’rriba = para arriba (up)
pa’ti = para ti (for you)
pa’cá = para acá (here)
pa’dentro = para adentro (inside)
Another common informal Spanish contraction is onde instead of donde. Some people also drop the o sound so it may sound like nde.
Onde’s = dónde es (where is)
Ontas = dónde estás (where are you?)
All the forms of the words estar (to be) also get their contracted forms:
ta = está (is)
tas = estas (are)
toy = estoy (am)
tábamos = estábamos (were)
So what do you think it means if you hear somebody saying:
‘Ontas? Ven pa’ca’rriba?
Did you guess? It’s: ¿dónde estás? Ven para acá arriba. (Where are you? Come here upstairs).
If you go to Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, you’ll hear many more Spanish contractions in Speech. Generally, the words that end with the same letter as the starting letter of the next word will be contracted.
The final letter d is also considered “unnecessary” in fast, informal speech, so don’t be surprised when you heard verda’ instead of verdad. The same letter, between two vowels, is also dropped and ¡qué pesao! Means ¡qué pesado! (You are such a pain)
Don’t be discouraged if these informal Spanish contractions are difficult to catch. Slowly your ear will get used to them and you will even start speaking the same way.
Spanish Contractions Exercises
Let’s see how much you have learned about Spanish contractions. Some of the sentences below are wrong. Can you correct the ones that need it?
- Bolivia está a el norte de Paraguay.
- Mi tío trabaja en “El País”.
- Cuenta me un cuento.
- Hoy, el agua de el mar está fría.
- Quiero ir con ti a el cine.
- La chamarra de el muchacho era roja.
- He dejado mi carro a el lado de el tuyo.
- Pasa me lo por favor.
- Este regalo es de él.
- Vengo de el dentista.
- Ella siempre habla con ella misma.
- Vengo de El Salvador.
Click here for the translation of the questions and the answer key.
As you can see, Spanish contractions are easy to grasp. You’ve aced the quiz and are ready to keep climbing on your Spanish ladder. Before you go on with the next topic, remember to strengthen your newly acquired skills. Sign up for a free class with one of our friendly Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala and take your Spanish contractions to the next level.
Ready to learn more Spanish grammar? Check these out!
- Master the Various Uses of ‘Ya’ in Spanish
- Master the Subjunctive in Spanish
- Suceder, Pasar, and Ocurrir: Spanish Verbs Meaning “to Happen”
- A Simple Guide to Spanish Sentence Structure and Order
- Learn to Use Voseo: Vos in Spanish
- How to Write and Pronounce Spanish Accent Marks
- Master the Spanish Alphabet: Letters, Sounds, and Songs for Everyone
- How to Use the Verb ‘Soler’ in Spanish
- Bolivia está al norte de Paraguay.
- Cuéntame un cuento.
- Hoy, el agua del mar está fría.
- Quiero ir contigo al cine.
- La chamarra del muchacho era roja.
- He dejado mi carro al lado del tuyo.
- Pásamelo por favor.
- Vengo del dentista.
- Ella siempre habla consigo misma.
- Bolivia is at the North of Paraguay.
- My uncle works at El País.
- Tell me a story.
- Today, the seawater is cold.
- I want to go to the movies with you.
- The boy’s jacket was red.
- I have left my car next to yours.
- Pass it to me, please.
- This gift is from him.
- I’m coming from the dentist.
- She always talks to herself.
I come from El Salvador.