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Spanish Matters - a blog in English and Spanish for those learning the language

This blog is entitled "Spanish Matters", because it does! Matter, that is. If you have committed to living in Spain, you should also make a commitment to learn some Spanish. So this is a blog about matters Spanish, as well as promoting the notion that Spanish does indeed matter. The blog contains articles in both English and Spanish. Don Pablo hopes it will be helpful to those learning the language.

Those Little Things that Mean a Lot
Sunday, November 28, 2021 @ 7:22 PM

By don Pablo

Have you ever noticed that whenever you ask for something in a Spanish bar, restaurant or shop, the barman, waiter or shopkeeper invariably comes back at you with something a little different, as if they’re correcting you?  Don’t be disheartened; they’re not.  By adding a little something extra to the end of the word you’ve used, they’re just being friendly.  They’re using the Spanish diminutive suffix, to give it its technical name.

Let’s look at some examples.  In a bar, ask for una cerveza, una caña or un tubo and the barman, more often than not, will confirm your order with una cervecita, una cañita or un tubito.  This doesn’t only apply to alcoholic drinks, of course; un zumo becomes un zumito, and un café, un cafelillo or un cafelito.

When asked to wait a moment, a minute or a second, you will be told un momentito/un momentillo, un minutito or un segundito.  The nicest examples of this diminutive suffix I’ve come across recently are muy cerquita de aquí (very very near here) and ahora mismito (right away).  And surely the most sublime example of the use of this linguistic feature is in the double diminutive chiquitita, as immortalised in the Abba song of that name.

The grammar is that, in theory, you can add the suffix –ito, -ita, -itos, -itas or –illo, -illa, -illos, -illas to any Spanish noun, the effect being to make the thing smaller, more familiar, more affectionate.  Sometimes it doesn’t really change the meaning much at all!

Some nouns with diminutive suffixes have become nouns in their own right, for example:

perro – dog; perrito – puppy; perrito caliente – hot dog

gato – cat; gatito – pussycat

pan – bread; panecillo – bread roll

cigarro cigar; cigarrillo - cigarette

amor – love; amorcito - darling

paseo – walk; paseíto – little stroll

bocadillo – sandwich

fresquito – nice and fresh


There are, of course, suffixes which make things bigger, but that’s the subject of another article…..



Like 2


Goldilocks said:
Saturday, December 4, 2021 @ 11:36 AM

Absolutely fascinating. Thank you for this. I shall try to see it as something friendly from now on and not (yet another!) gentle correction to my Spanish!

Cillasmum said:
Saturday, December 4, 2021 @ 7:31 PM

Love this update! Thanks for sharing,😊

PablodeRonda said:
Sunday, December 5, 2021 @ 3:44 AM

Thank you both for your kind comments. I too used to think I was being corrected all the time, but not so at all. The andaluces in particular love a suffix. I do too, now I've been here a long time. I use these diminutive suffixes all the time. For example, it's a while since I've ordered a cerveza or a tubo, and I always ask for un cafelito con leche in the mornings.
Recently I've come across una horita, un rinconcito and un huequecito.

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