Grammar troubles got you down?
¡No llores más! (Don’t cry anymore!)
Wait, or is it ¡No lloras más! ? Arrrgh!
For the record, the first is correct, as you can verify by Googling Spanish versions of the song.
If you want to quickly check a non-lyrical Spanish phrase, however, there are some major free online grammar checkers that can help you out.
I recently put all of these online grammar checkers to the test.
Automated grammar checkers are obviously not ever going to replace the advice and corrections of a native speaker.
None succeeded in catching no lloras más, for example (though to be fair, that would require the algorithm to understand that this is a command in Spanish, and not a statement of fact).
But automated checkers can still be a very useful tool, as long as you understand how they operate and don’t rely on them too heavily. You can run your texts through them quickly, and they may save you from a few errors.
There’s also a major site where human native speakers correct each other’s texts (which we’ll discuss later in this post).
And all of the automated grammar checkers have integrated spellchecking, too, which definitely does work well.
To test the Spanish grammar checkers, I wrote a 450-word text: a translation into Spanish of a description of my apartment on Airbnb.
I intentionally included mistakes that are common for both beginning and advanced students of Spanish, as well as for the un-schooled who just picked up the language.
And, I’m sorry to report, I made some grammar flubs of my own, unintentionally.
I compared the websites’ results to corrections of my text by a friend who is a professional book editor in Barcelona (she returned the favor by making me correct some of her marketing materials in English).
In this post, we’ll look at the best free Spanish grammar checkers you can find online and who they’re best for. We’ll also look at what their strengths and limitations are, so that you can get the most out of them as you continue to perfect your Spanish writing.
Check My Spanish! The 3 Best Spanish Grammar Checkers Online
This is the automatic grammar checker that I would recommend for most Spanish learners, as long as you have at least a fair understanding of grammar terms in Spanish, which is the language of the explanations.
Here’s what you should know about this tool:
- The integrated spellchecker is decent, although you should be aware that it may mistakenly flag some words and proper nouns. Among the words that it unnecessarily flagged for me were Picasso, WC and sobreático (a term for an “attic above the attic” used in Spain; the very top floor).
- Another issue to be aware of with the spellchecker is that if you have a spelling mistake in a sentence, this can confuse the grammar check. For example, if you write una sofa, the site will correctly suggest sofá instead, but it won’t tell you that una sofá is still wrong unless you hit the “check text” button again after fixing your spelling error. So you just need to make sure you do this. In this case, you’ll then be told that there’s a gender disagreement: It should be un sofá(a sofa).
- This checker tends to correctly flag gender issues with articles(un,una, etc.), which is great as these are common mistakes for Spanish learners at all levels. These are labeled as a posible falta de concordancia de género (possible lack of gender agreement), but it’s up to you to figure out what the issue is exactly—you can look your noun up at WordReference.com if you don’t spot the error immediately.
- It does not seem to catch errors of agreement between adjectives and nouns. Type in unos mujeres lindos and it will tell you that unos is wrong, but not flag lindos. (It should be unas mujeres lindas, or “some beautiful women.”)
- You also should be prepared to catch your own failings with prepositions. I wrote está a media hora a la Sagrada Familia and it didn’t make a peep. It should be está a media hora de la Sagrada Familia(it’s a half-hour from the Sagrada Familia).
While this grammar checker erroneously flagged more issues and made more suggestions that were not correct than LanguageTool, it did correctly flag some issues that LanguageTool missed, and so may be best for checking certain areas of grammar.
Another advantage is that its explanations are available in English, which could make this the more useful tool for some learners. (This option is available automatically if you’re in an English-speaking country; if you’re living or studying in a Spanish-speaking country, you’ll have to change the language by scrolling down to the very bottom right and clicking on the teeny English button.)
Here’s what you should know about SpanishChecker:
- The spellchecker is also decent, though it erroneously flagged more words than LanguageTool.
- It points out some gender disagreement issues with articles, and it attempts to do the same with adjectives. Just be aware that it often has trouble identifying which adjective goes with which noun, making its corrections in this area a bit haphazard.
- It likes to suggest placing the adjective after the noun, although for stylistic reasons you may sometimes want to have it in front. It may also erroneously suggest an adjective in place of an adverb in that position; for example, it told me to write una cocina buena equipada instead of una cocina bien equipada(a well-equipped kitchen), which was already correct.
- It helpfully points out some minor mistakes that English speakers might make, like placing a comma before the y (and) in a list of three things.
- You should be ready to use your own judgment on suggestions it makes for word order and word choice in some situations. For example, it suggested cuatro (four) instead of cuarto when I was talking about a room.
The human grammar checkers on Lang-8
I realize you might not have a friend who is a professional editor to turn to, but all learners can check over their Spanish texts for free with native speakers on the site Lang-8.com.
This obviously takes a bit more time, and the site is set up to encourage you to reciprocate by correcting others’ texts in your native language.
For the purposes of comparison, I submitted the same text that I used with the automatic checkers to the site, and corrected a few others’ texts in English.
Within about 24 hours, I received a correction from a user. He missed some errors, like my misspelling of the famous street Ramblas in Barcelona. But his corrections for gender, prepositions and general flow were of course much better than any of the automated grammar checkers.
In my experience with the site, users tend to be a bit conservative with their corrections. They will point out obvious errors, but they might not make your Spanish flow well, or even sound like something that a native speaker would say.
The level of writing skill of native Spanish speakers varies widely, and you also don’t know where your checker comes from. In my case, I wanted to write in European Spanish, but the checker used words and constructions more common to Latin America.
One of the things that the site does to help address these problems is to let you get corrections from more than one person, and compare them as you would second opinions from a doctor. This can be confusing too, but is often useful. In order to get more corrections, you can gain points by correcting lots of others’ texts, or by signing up for a paid account.
The site also has a social feature that allows you to friend other users, and these personal connections can help you develop relationships and people to count on as you move forward in your writing in Spanish. It’s not uncommon to make appointments with other users to talk over Skype, for example.
The verdict? LanguageTool is currently the best free online Spanish grammar checker for those who can understand explanations in Spanish. SpanishChecker may be better for beginners and useful for intermediate Spanish learners, as the interface and explanations are in English. The other checkers I tested were not as worthwhile, and of course the very best was getting a native speaker to check your text on Lang-8.
Automated tools for grammar checking may be limited, but they can be very helpful for catching some things, and exchanges with humans can help you with the rest.
I hope that this gives you a great base to move forward as you continue to work on your Spanish writing, whether it’s for concrete tasks like mine, just for language learning or for the pleasure of writing itself.
Mose Hayward blogs about languages, drinks and adventures in Spain and around the world at TipsyPilgrim.com.
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