Spanish vs English: What is the Difference?

Spanish is the third most spoken language globally, with 543 million speakers worldwide. This romantic language is one of the more accessible languages to learn as an English speaker, while it may be more difficult for a Spanish speaker to learn English. However, despite their similarities, Spanish is quite different from both spoken and written English.

Spanish and English share a common root in the Indo-European language, and both share the influence of Latin in their structure and word etymology. Spanish is the more phonetic of the two languages and is a syllable and rhythm stressed language, while English is stress-based with more vowel sounds.

The more phonetic quality of the Spanish language lends itself to those who wish to learn it. Students of Spanish will find that many English words have close matches in Spanish, but that doesn’t mean that Spanish is a breeze to learn. Here are some of the main differences between Spanish and English for those who wish to learn this passionate language. 

Spanish vs English Vocabulary

English has some 171,476 words in current use, while Spanish has around 92,000. In terms of vocabulary, English has a far more extensive repertoire. Latin and French heavily influenced English and exerted an intensive influence on the English language, which is a bit of mixed-breed when adopting foreign words.

Although English holds a far higher number of words, the Spanish language is more adept at changing meaning through inflection and flexible word order. Spanish also employs the subjunctive mood to signify meaning that is absent in English. Spanish also makes use of  stress and suffixes to provide more nuanced shades of meaning. 

Due to the significant influence of Latin on both English and Spanish, they share many similar words in their vocabularies. Some researchers suggest that 30% to 40% of English words are related to a Spanish word, and around 37% of English words were absorbed by the English language from the older Spanish language.

Spanish vs English Grammar

Spanish vs English Adjectives and Adverbs

In the Spanish language, the placement of an adjective or adverb in a sentence can subtly but substantially alter its meaning within its context. For example, an English translation of ‘poor man’ is stable, but in Spanish, hombre pobre would mean poor in a financial sense, while a pobre hombre would denote that the man is poor in a pitiful sense. 

Spanish and Gender

While gender remains a crucial component in Spanish grammar, English has lost most gender attributions over its evolution. Spanish adjectives and pronouns must match the gender of the nouns to which they refer. Spanish speakers even refer to inanimate objects as Ella (she) or él (he). Spanish nouns are typically masculine and feminine and less often the neutral gender.

Spanish and Word Order

Word order is less fixed in the Spanish language than in English, and in Spanish, speakers may use adjectives before or after a noun. It’s also normal for object pronouns to come before the verb. Spanish also allows for double negatives in which a negation occurs before and after a verb, which isn’t accepted in English. 

The Spanish Subjunctive

The Spanish subjunctive performs more as a mood than a tense as it does in English as it’s not rigidly attached to time. In Spanish, the subjunctive mood can express more purposes than its English equivalent, including:

  • Desires
  • Possibilities 
  • Doubts
  • Wishes
  • Emotions
  • Conjectures

Spanish vs English: Speaking and Listening

Unlike English, Spanish is a syllable and rhythm-timed language, and speakers consistently pronounce each letter. This phonetic quality of Spanish speaking means that Spanish is a more accessible language to learn to speak than English. On the other hand, English is a stress-timed language, which means speakers will sometimes stress syllables longer or shorter depending on the context.

One of the most significant distinctions between spoken English and Spanish is that the Spanish language doesn’t distinguish between long and short vowels. Although the Spanish have more words in the alphabet than English, there are certain sounds in the English language that are not in Spanish:

  • Initial sounds: qu, wr, SK, kn
  • Final sounds: gh, ng, ck
  • Contractions: don’t, isn’t, weren’t
  • Vowel sounds: ou, ow, eigh, au, aw, oo
  • Consonants: sh, th, wh, ph
  • Blended consonants: sl, sm, sts, scr, spr, str

There are also four consonants in Spanish that don’t exist in our English language:

  • CH
  • LL
  •  Ñ
  • RR

These sounds are essential to learning Spanish because they’re unique and specific. For example, C and G may be hard or soft sounds when speaking, depending on the vowel that follows them. 

Spanish vs English Writing and Reading

The English and Spanish alphabets are the same, with the addition of one letter ň (eňe) according to the Royal Spanish Academy. Before 2010, the alphabet had three extra letters, including rr, ch and ll.

In Spanish, Interrogative and exclamatory clauses are introduced with inverted question marks (¿) and inverted exclamation marks ( ¡)

There’s also a division between written English and Spanish regarding capitalization. The Spanish follow the English capitalization in capitalizing proper names for:

  • People
  • Places
  • Holidays
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Abbreviations of peoples title Dr. Sr etc
  • The first word of movie, play or book titles

Where Spanish differs from English is that they don’t capitalize:

  • The calendar: including days, months, or years
  • Titles of books/plays/movies remain lower case after the initial title capitalization, i.e., La Guerra de las galaxias (Star Wars)
  • Non abbreviated personal title such as ¿Conoces a la señora Wilson? (Do you know Mrs. Wilson?)
  • Religions
  • Nationalities
  • Place name features such as río Amazonas (Amazon River)

Spanish vs English Coolness and Usefulness

English is by far the most widely spoken language, with 1348 million speakers in 2021. Increasingly, English has dominated online communication and digital platforms and is useful for a number of reasons from basic intelligibility abroad to commerce and media.

Spanish is the fourth most widely spoken language with 543 million speakers and as it is the official language of no less than 18 American countries, it is a great option for traveling the Americas. 

As for “coolness,” that’s a term that’s rather subjective. Both languages have lots of fun words and interesting slang, so each is cool in its own way.


Spanish is an emotive and passionate language that lends itself to easier learning by English speakers. Spanish speakers may struggle more to learn English due to the stress variations and extensive vowel sounds. However, Spanish holds its challenges that English students need to master this widely used and poetic vernacular.

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