I'm just a beginner of learning Spanish grammar, I bought the book Practice Makes Perfect: Completed Spanish Grammar. In the first Chapter it shows the conjugation examples for three different infinitive form endings.

comprar (to buy)


compras - you (fam.) buy
compra - he/she/it buy, you (for.) buy


usted compra - you (for. sing.) buy, are buying, do buy
nosotros compramos - we (masc., masc. & fem.) buy, are buying, do buy

What do these abbreviation in the parentheses mean? Where can I find a complete reference for it?


  • @mdewey In other words, one male = nosotros. No males = nosotras. – FairOPShotgun Apr 1 at 11:52
  • @mdewey Thanks for pointing out, I have corrected the typo :D – Benjamin Cai Apr 2 at 2:50

These weird abbreviations are common in spanish grammar books. Many of them have a list, but I couldn't find one in the Practice Makes Perfect series. I can tell you what the abbreviations are from your post.

You(fam.) means you(informal).

This is basically talking about informal conversations. These include talking to a friend or relative.

You(for.) means you(formal).

This refers to talking to a higher up. AKA a boss or teacher. In spanish, this is referred as the Usted form. Another way to categorize the Usted form is You(for. sing.) or You(formal, singular or one person)

Masc. and fem. refer to male and female.

In your example, it says the nosotros form(we) is formed by a combination of people (masc., masc. & fem.) or (male, male, female). Note: It can be formed by 2 people as long as it refers to "we".

I hope this sums up all of your confusion.

  • Really appreciate the help. If possible, could you refer me some other source where a list of this abbreviations can be found? Thx! – Benjamin Cai Apr 2 at 2:52
  • @BenjaminCai Every book's abbreviations are different, so I can't find one that is the same. Just to note, you don't need to know the abbreviations to conjugate them. Just ignore the abbreviations and you should be just fine. – FairOPShotgun Apr 2 at 13:19

Apart from the abbreviations that extract raises some other questions which it might be helpful to point you to.

As already mentioned fam=familiar and for=formal. This distinction between forms of you which we do not have in English has its own tag on this site and you might like to browse some of them to see the finer points of usage. In some countries in part of South America usage varied considerably but for now I would ignore that unless you plan to go there.

It is curious that the book decides to use the subject pronoun for we (nosotros) but not elsewhere. Subject pronouns are usually dropped in Spanish except for emphasis or to disambiguate. Usted is perhaps an exception here.

Although not relevant to verbs masc=masculine and fem=feminine which are grammatical concepts. As you probably know all Spanish nouns have grammatical gender which for animate objects may or may not be related to their biological sex.

A useful reference for conjugation of verbs is the dictionary produced by the Spanish Royal Academy. If you vists https://dle.rae.es/?w=diccionario insert the verb you are looking for and press Consultar you will see the verb and its meaning. For your example of comprar it is here if you then hit Conjugar it will show you the complete conjugation. The variant forms I mentioned used in part of South America are those labelled vos.

  • Really appreciate the answer. I find your explanation and reference of website very helpful! – Benjamin Cai Apr 3 at 16:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.