Diminutives in Spanish are frequently used, almost in every situation and especially in informal conversations.
If you want to know more about diminutives, our Spanish school El Rincón del Tándem provides all its Spanish students a simple explanation of their function, formation and practical use.
Are you ready to master diminutives in a short time? If so….let’s go there!
Diminutives in Spanish are words whose suffix slightly changed their original meaning.
Diminutives are used in the following cases:
– To mean the small version of something: libr-ito, gallet-ita, etc.
– To reduce importance : problem-ita
– To express affection and love: abuel-ito, cariñ-ito, amor-cito, herman-ita
– To convey sarcasm and contempt: niñ-ita, señor-ita, etc. In this last case, the negative undertone can be easily deduced from the context of the sentence.
Quiero mucho a mi hermanita = I love my little sister so much (little does not mean necessarily younger but it is a way to show affection).
El señorito se levanta cuando quiere.. no lo soporto! = The nob gets up when he wishes…I cannot stand that! (in this case the diminutive convey contempt).
Tengo un problemita pero nada grave = I have a small problem, nothing serious (diminutive is reducing the importance of the “problem”).
Grammatically speaking, the diminutives can be:
Caja (box) – cajita (little box)
Gato (cat) – gatito (kit cat)
Pájaro (bird) – pajarito (tweety bird).
Feo (ugly) – feito (not so handsome)
Bajo (small) – bajito (not so tall)
Solo (alone) – solito (all alone).
> PEOPLE NAMES
Hermana (sister) – hermanita (little sister, in terms of affection)
Mama (mom) – mamita (mommy)
Amor (my love) – amorcito (my little love).
> PERSONAL NAMES
Andrea – Andreita
Pablo – Pablito
Carlos – Carlitos
Despacio (slowly) – despacito
Pronto (soon) – prontito
With regard to the formation of diminutives, you can find here blow some general rules. The suffix to be added varies according to the ending of the word.
1. Words ending in a CONSONANT (except N and R)
In this case, we just add the suffix –ITO or –ITA to the word.
Papel + ITO = Papelito
Arbol + ITO = Arbolito
IMPORTANT: The suffix -ITO is for masculine word and –ITA for feminine word. In case the word is in plural we use –ITOS or –ITAS.
2. Words ending with in N, R, E, I, U or accented vowel
We form the diminutives adding the suffix – CITO or – CITA to the words.
Calor (heat) + CITO = Calorcito (warm)
Nube (cloud) + CITA = Nubecita (small cloud)
Mujer (woman) +CITA = Mujercita (little woman)
Bebé (baby) +CITO = Bebecito (little baby)
3. Words ending in O and A
In this case, we drop the last vowel and add the suffix –ITO or –ITA.
Casa (house) + ITA = Casita (small house)
Paso (step) + ITO = Pasito (little step)
4. MONOSYLLABIC words ending in consonant
In this case we add the suffix – ECITO –ECITA
Pan (bread) + ECITO = Panecito (roll)
Tren (train) + ECITO = Trenecito (small train)
Some diminutives are formed differently than the ones above mentioned. In these specific cases, the rule we apply is slightly different in order to keep the pronunciation of the original word (basically, the sound of the consonant).
– Words ending in CO and CA
In this case the diminutive is formed by dropping the consonant C and adding a QU + ITO/ITA
Barco (boat) – Bar + QU +ITO/ Barquito (small boat)
Boca (mouth) – Boc + QU + ITA/ Boquita (small mouth)
– Words ending in GA , GO, GUA
The rules is: drop the last vowel, add U or Ü after the consonant G and lastly, add ITO/ITA.
Amiga (friend) – Amig + Ü + ITA/ Amigüita (little friend)
Jugo (juice) – Jug + U + ITO/ Juguito (small juice)
– Word ending in Z
We eliminate the Z and add – CITO or –CITA according to the gender of the word
Arroz (rice) + ITO = Arrocito (rice)
Lápiz (pencil) + ITO = Lapicito (small pencil)
Lastly, Spanish language is very rich and its vocabulary can vary according to the region. Therefore, if you travel throughout Spain you will probably get to know different way to form diminutives. For instance, the suffix may be: ÍN(O) or INA (like in Asturia, León y Extremadura) or –ILLO /ILLA ( in Adalusia) instead of ITO/ITA.
We really hope this blog help you to speed your Spanish learning process.
Have a good day and till the next blog!