Similarities and Differences Between English and Spanish
Have you ever wondered why there are so many similarities between English and Spanish? If you still haven’t noticed them, let me help you with this useful comparison guide for Spanish learners.
The common characteristics that English and Spanish share make learning Spanish easier for native English speakers despite the undeniable differences between the two languages.
Keep reading this post where I will explain the main similarities between English and Spanish, some of their basic grammar differences, and share my unique personal experience on the subject.
English vs Spanish
How different or how similar are these two languages? Well, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. While they aren’t the most similar languages in the world, they aren’t the most different either.
For instance, Spanish is more closely related to Portuguese and Italian, while English is closer to German and Dutch. However, Spanish and English are more closely related to one another than they are to any of the Russian, Mandarin, or Polish languages.
In the comparison of English and Spanish, most people would argue that they differ completely regarding grammar rules and pronunciation. Whether that might be the case, there is still room for the following similarities between English and Spanish.
Similarities Between English and Spanish
Are there any similarities between English and Spanish? More than you’d think. I’ve just mentioned that they share the same alphabet, but they also share a common origin: the ancient Indo-European language.
They also share a few words rooted in the old Latin and Greek languages, which greatly simplifies the comprehension of many words from the other language. For example, the words photography and fotografía, or biology and biología.
These words with similar sound and meaning are called “cognates,” and comparative linguistics tells us that there are plenty of them between English and Spanish. Between 30% and 40% of English words have a related word in Spanish.
Another one of the pragmatic similarities between English and Spanish is their basic structure. This means that these languages built their sentences in pretty much the same order. Let’s take a closer look at the grammar similarities and differences between English and Spanish.
Pronunciation and Alphabet in English and Spanish
To begin with the linguistic similarities between English and Spanish, the most evident one is that they both share the same alphabet: the Latin alphabet. This alphabet, also known as the Roman alphabet, was originally an adaptation from the Greek one and is now used to write hundreds of different languages.
The standard Latin alphabet has 26 letters in English, meanwhile, the Spanish alphabet has 27 letters (including ñ).
What’s more, the English language has 44 phonemes, or individual speech sounds, while the Spanish has “only” 25. Surprising, right? There are more speech sounds to learn in English than in Spanish.
In comparison to English, Spanish is a straightforward language when it comes to pronunciation. Each letter has a corresponding sound, and it will (almost) always sound that way. For example, in Spanish, a letter “e” always sounds like “eh,” while in English the same letter can be pronounced as “ee,” “eh,” or “er,” to name just one example.
English vs Spanish Grammar
Although there are plenty of similarities between English and Spanish, when it comes to grammar it gets easier to spot the differences.
This is an area in which English speakers learning Spanish always find their native language much simpler. The English language adds a “-s” to the third person, an “-ed” to conjugate in past tense, and “íng” for continuous verb forms.
On the other hand, verb conjugation in Spanish is more complex. There can be up to 30 different forms to conjugate a verb in Spanish, however we don’t use them all in everyday life.
Each verb changes depending on the tense, mood, and person. Also, the use of auxiliaries and irregular verbs is quite different from that of English.
Before returning to the similarities between English and Spanish, let’s mention one of its biggest grammar differences: how each language uses their subjects.
In Spanish, subjects have a gender, which isn’t the case in English. A mesa (table) is feminine, while a carro (car) is masculine.
Also, in Spanish you don’t always need to explicitly state the subject in a sentence, sometimes it’s enough to include a conjugated verb which indicates who the subject is. For example, in Spanish you can simply say dormí, which is a conjugated form of the verb dormir (to sleep)—and even though it doesn’t include a subject, one can understand that the meaning of that word is “I slept,” because the conjugation implies who the subject is within the ending of the word.
One of the main grammar differences between these two languages is the placement of adjectives. In English, adjectives usually come before the noun, as in “red house,” while in Spanish the most common sentence structure places adjectives after nouns, as in casa roja.
However, it’s important to mention that in many cases in Spanish it’s accepted to place adjectives before nouns, but you need to consider the context and meaning of the sentence. If you’re not an advanced learner, it’s probably better to always place your adjectives after the nouns for now, to avoid any mistakes.
4. Sentence Order
This is one of the main similarities between English and Spanish. In both languages, the structure of sentences usually is: subject + verb + object.
El perro come carne.
The dog eats meat.
Subject: el perro, dog
Verb: come, eats
Object: carne, meat
Again, this is the most common structure, but that doesn’t mean that sentences are always structured in the same way. You shouldn’t be surprised if you find Spanish sentences where the subject comes after the verb sometimes.
5. Capitalization and Punctuation
You can label this section as you prefer, since it can be a difference or one more of the similarities between English and Spanish. For instance, both languages use question marks.
However, English only requires one question mark, whereas Spanish requires you to use an additional one at the beginning of the interrogative sentence.
The same happens with capitalization. In both languages you start sentences and proper names with a capital letter, which is a similarity. However, when it comes to the names of the days of the week, months, headings, and titles of books and films for example, capitalization rules are different.
- Punctuation Marks, Special Characters, and Other Symbols in Spanish
- How to Write Dialogues in Spanish for Maximum Clarity
My Personal Experience as an English and Spanish Speaker
From my experience as a bilingual person, I can tell you that English is quite similar to Spanish, but it doesn’t come naturally to a non-native.
Let me explain by discussing my experience with learning languages.
My wife is from Poland and we live in Portugal. So, I’m exposed to Polish and Portuguese. I’ve been studying Polish for years and haven’t made much progress, because it’s a language that’s much more different to Spanish than English.
On the other hand, I’ve been studying Portuguese for only a few months, and I already speak it fairly well. Portuguese, as a romance language, is much more similar to Spanish than English.
Learn Spanish, It’s Not That Different!
The multiple and varied similarities between English and Spanish will prove useful in your learning process. However, it is still essential to put in a constant effort and combine it with tailored strategies to become proficient.
Among the countless benefits of speaking Spanish is it allows you to talk to more people. According to CNN, in the United States there are around 53 million people who speak Spanish, making the US the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.
You can start to perfect your Spanish fluency today by joining our one-on-one classes with certified Spanish teachers from Guatemala. Sign up today at HSA for a free trial class and benefit from our flexible schedules and personalized lessons and packages. You can trust us as we have been providing reliable, professional services to Spanish learners for over 10 years.
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