Posted by: janecronin | March 10, 2019


“Estudiar” is a verb that should cause us few problems either in its formation or its meaning.   In fact, I would bet that everyone reading this either knows, or can guess, what it means, and the conjugations are completely regular.

An interesting phenomenon that you may or may not have noticed about the Spanish language, is that none of its words begin with the letter ‘s’ plus another consonant.  In other words, there is nothing beginning with ‘sp-‘, ‘sc-‘, ‘scr-‘ ‘sl-‘, ‘sm-‘, ‘str-‘ or ‘st-‘ all of which are extremely common in English.  Consequently you will find that the words in Spanish with similar roots to their English equivalent will have the letter “e” added at the beginning.   I mention this now because of course “estudiar” means “to study”.  We find the same phenomenon with “especial” (special); “escuela” (school); “escrúpulo” (scruple); “eslogan” (slogan); “esmoquin” (dinner jacket – from “smoking”); “estricto” (strict) and many more examples besides.  This also means that the Spanish struggle when speaking English to pronounce these combinations without putting an “e” sound at the beginning.  The classic example is the way they generally pronounce the international “stop” sign as “estop”.

Going back to our verb “estudiar” we can identify a lot of derivative words, all of which are easily understandable in English:  “estudiante” (student); “estudio” (study); “estudioso” (studious).  One derivative which is a little difficult to define in English is the adjective “estudiantil”.  This really means “of students” or “pertaining to students” which of course is an expression we don´t use in English.  What we do in English is take nouns, such as “student” and use them in the place of an adjective.  So, for example, we have expressions like: “student life” or “a student movement” which is Spanish are “la vida estudiantil” “un movimiento estudiantil”.

The plural of “estudio”, that is “estudios” is used in Spanish to describe someone´s level of education.  Someone, and usually it would be an elderly person, might say “no tengo estudios” where an English equivalent would probably be “I didn´t have much education”.  Likewise, when describing someone with a high level of education and qualifications we can say “tiene muchos estudios”.  We should avoid using the word “educación” in this sense, as in everyday speech this refers more to one’s manners.  If you say of someone “no tiene educación” you are referring to their general behaviour, which has nothing to do with their academic qualifications.  Similarly, if we say “es una persona muy educada” we mean, he or she is a very polite person.

Of course we tend to think of “estudiante” as a young person, but I’m firmly of the opinion that we can be, and should be, “estudiantes” all our lives.  I went to university in my thirties and was classed as a “mature student” (estudiante adulto) then, but I’m happy to belong to that category for the rest of my life, irrespective of whether I go along to classes or not.


  1. Hi Jane. You could always try asking your Spanish friends either or both of the following questions (as I sometimes ask my Spanish students) to help them think about their pronunciation more:

    1) Soléis decir inspección—y no “in-es-pección”, ¿no?

    2) ¿Qué dia viene entre el viernes y el domingo? ¡No es el “es-abado”!


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