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Apocopation in Spanish

It might sound scary, but apocopation is actually something quite simple. In fact, it’s common in English, and lots of other languages, too! All it means is that there are some words that you shorten by taking off the end of a word. Sometimes this is just in spoken conversation, but sometimes it’s a core part of the Spanish language.

It’s natural that, over time, languages change to make things more convenient. Think about all of the words English has shortened to make conversations easier. For example, “bro”, a common way to refer to a friend, is short for “brother”, and “Birks” for the brand of shoes Birkenstocks. We’ll show you some different apócopes in Spanish that you’ll want to learn.

Apocopation in adjectives

As mentioned earlier, some examples of apocopation in Spanish are grammatically necessary. This means that using the full version of the word in certain circumstances is grammatically incorrect. For example, some adjectives in Spanish shorten at the end when they come before a masculine noun. These are:

  • Alguno -> algún (some)
  • Bueno -> buen (good)
  • Malo -> mal (bad)
  • Ninguno -> ningún (not one)
  • Uno -> un (one)
  • Primero -> primer (first)
  • Tercero -> tercer (third)

For example, when “uno” isn’t followed by a masculine noun, it stays the same. However, if you’re using that adjective to describe a noun, it has to shorten. For example, I would say “un libro” for “one book.”

Shortened words are can be dialectal

There are lots of other words that shortened simply to make them more convenient. In fact, this often happens when people are speaking out loud, and it depends on what part of the Spanish-speaking world they’re from. Lots of Spanish dialects tend to not pronounce the last “s” in a word. For example, the word estás might sound more like está for some speakers because that’s the dialect they speak.

Other shortened words are just more convenient, and you might hear the shortened version more than the long one. Here are some examples:

  • Bicicleta -> bici (bike)
  • Televisión -> tele (television)
  • Bolígrafo -> boli (pen)

Have you heard other examples of apocopation in Spanish? Let us know!

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