How to build the rightly Spanish Sentence Structure?
Sentence structure involves the word order in a sentence. There are always some rules we can apply for the purpose of bringing some order to that chaos. The main items that we are to put into practice are:
- Typical word order in Spanish is SVO (Subject, Verb, Object)
- Gender and Number agreement (Concordance)
- Negation in Spanish
- Questions in Spanish
I have good news for you! Spanish is a very flexible language, and most of the time you’ll be able to change that order without altering the meaning of the sentence or making it unintelligible. Let's go to start.
As I mentioned in the introduction, word order is quite important in Spanish (as in any other language) because it can be a little chaotic and can lead to misunderstandings if you don’t keep to it. In regards to the scheme S.V.O. we have to bear in mind some issues:
Typical order of Sentences (Declarative Sentences) → Subject + Verb + Object.
But, the Subject (S) is often, in practice, omitted in Spanish.
(Yo Subject omitted) Vivo (V) en Granada (O) - I live in Granada
In case we want to emphasize who is making the action, we have to mention the Subject.
Yo (S) vivo en Granada - I live in Granada
To name the Subject ‘Yo’ emphasizes who is living in Granada.
Note that the ending of the verb ‘vivo’ point out who is the Subject (Therefore it’s very important to remember the verb endings)
(Yo) Compro manzanas. - I buy apples.
(Tú) Compras manzanas. - You buy apples.
(Ellos) Compran manzanas. They buy apples.
I am not going to delve into this article about what Gender (masculine, feminine) and Number (singular, plural) are in Spanish.
What I would remark is the importance of the agreement among the Gender and Number of the subject, verb article, noun, and adjective, to build a Spanish Sentence properly. Look at the example.
El caballo (Él) es blanco - The horse (He) is white
- El caballo: masculine singular subject
- es: singular verb third person
- Blanco: singular adjective
Los caballos (Ellos) son blancos - The horses (They) are white
- Los caballos: masculine plural subject
- son: plural verb third person
- blancos: plural adjective
Los hombres son españoles - The men are Spaniard
Las mujeres son españolas - The women are Spaniard
Spanish negation does not present great difficulties. Basically, what you have to do is add “no” before the verb:
(Yo) No compro manzanas - I don’t buy apples
(Nosotros) No leemos libros - We/I don’t read books
In case you are answering a negative question, you have two options:
a) One → No
¿(Tú) Sabes hablar ruso?- Can speak Russian?
No sé hablar ruso - I don't know how to speak Russian
b) Two → No
¿(Tú) Sabes hablar ruso?- Can speak Russian?
No, no sé hablar ruso - No, I don't know how to speak Russian
The only tricky part in Spanish negation is probably the double negation, but even this is easy.
First of all, have a look at this list of negative words:
- nada (nothing)
- nadie (nobody)
- ningún, -o, -a, -os, -as (any, no, no one, none)
- ni (nor)
- ni…ni (neither…nor)
- nunca (never)
- ya no (no longer, anymore)
- todavía no (not yet)
- tampoco (neither)
There are two ways of using these negative words in a sentence:
a) You can use them alone before the verb (Remember not to use “no” in that case!).
Mis hermanos nunca van a patinar - My siblings never go skating.
Nadie quiere comer carne - Nobody wants to eat meat
Ni Italia, ni Francia producen cocos - Neither Italy nor France produce coconuts
Ninguno de los padres vino a conocer al maestro - Neither parent came to meet the teacher -
b) You can use “no” before the verb, and add the negative word after the verb.
No bailo nunca - I never dance.
No ha comprado nadie manzanas - Nobody has bought apples
No quiero comer huevos, ni leche - I don't want to eat eggs or milk
No hay nada de comer en el frigorífico - There is nothing to eat in the fridge
Unlike English, in Spanish you can even find three negatives:
No leo nada nunca - I never read anything
Asking questions in Spanish is way easier than in English because you don’t use auxiliary verbs to make questions. Always it´s used two question marks ¿...?
The subject placement is very flexible at the beginning or end of the sentence (in case you want to use it for emphasizing who is asking)
¿(Tú) Qué tal estás (Tú)? - How are you
¿(Tú) Sabes algo de Luis (Tú)? - Do you know anything about Luis?
When we have question words (qué – what, cuándo – when, por qué – why, quién – who, dónde – where, cómo – how, cuál – which, cuánto – how much, etc.), They are always placed at the beginning and the subject at the end of the question sentence.
¿Por qué lee María? - Why does María read?
¿Cuánto cuestan las manzanas? - How much do the apples cost?
¿Dónde están los niños? - Where are the children?
Adjectives usually come after the noun or the verb.
(Yo) Tengo una casa bonita - I have a beautiful house
Mi casa es grande - The house is big
Adverb placement is pretty flexible in Spanish, although there is a tendency to put them right after the verb or right in front of the adjective:
El perro camina lentamente - The dog walks slowly
El perro camina muy lento - The dog walks very slowly
There are many more issues, but I don't want to be a bore. Hopefully, these 5 tips help you to organize your Spanish speech.
Any comments are welcome.