Spanish sentence structure

Sentence structure is a good starting for people studying any other language besides the native one. From this one on, you’ll be able to compare the similarities and differences between languages.  The typical word order in Spanish is SVO (Subject, Verb, Object). Of course, we have many other elements that you should study, such as prepositions, pronouns, the articles, interjections, etc. In this post, we’ll study the Spanish sentence structure.

simple sentence in spanish

As we mentioned before, the typical word order in Spanish is SVO (subject, Verb, Object). Let’s see some easy examples and then we’ll add difficulty.

In the picture on your left, you can see two sentences: the first one is the most simple structure: Subject-verb-object. In the second we’ve added an element that works as a complement. There is no rule in the extension of your sentences, you can build as long and complex as you want.

It doesn’t matter the tense or the form you choose for your sentence, the Spanish sentence structure is kind of the same:

  • Yo leo un libro(I read a book) =Yo estoy leyendo un libro (I’m reading a book)
  • In both cases we have the same structure: S-V-O
subject and predicate in spanish

¿What is a grammatical subject?

A subject is the part of the sentence that tells us who is being talked about. The subject is composed of a noun -or another word acting as a noun- that acts as a nucleus and by a series of words that accompany or modify it. These elements are the determinants -which are always before the noun- and other words that are called complements of the name.

Adjectives, nouns or noun phrases preceded by a preposition (prepositive complements) are «complementes of the noun».

the structure of the Subject is the following:

(<article>+<noun>+/<adjective>/<noun>/<complement of the noun>)

  • – el niño mimado (the spoiled child)
  • -la casa azul (the blue house)
  • -los estudiantes más jóvenes (the yougest students)
  • -los jardines colgantes de Babilonia (Hanging Gardens of Babylon)
  • -las clases de español (the Spanish classes)
  • -los niños atletas (children athletes)

As you can see, there is no verb, therefore, there is not a sentence.

What is a verb and why it’s so important?

Is well know that the verb is the nuclear part of any sentence.

Verbs are the action words in a sentence. They describe what the subject is doing and they can be expressed in different tenses. Depending on the grammar you are based on, is the way you’ll classify them. For now, we’ll just say the verb is the most important part of the sentence and the other elements make sense just around this.

With the purpose to analyze or understand better the sentence, we can separate starting with the verb. We’ll separate subject and predicate.

Spanish sentence structure

What is a predicate?

Then we have review the most regular cases of subject, let’s advance with the predicate, that part which theachers always use to tell us : «the rest of the part of the sentence that isn’t the subject».

But beyond the easy definition, there are many functions within the predicate. The ideal is you know them a bit. It isn’t necessary to become a nerd of languages but It’s convenient to know a bit of these function because they help us to decipher the messages when we’ve not understood them well.

A predicate is a verbal action carried out or suffered by the subject. There are two types of predicates: the nominal predicate and the verbal predicate.

The nominal predicated is the one that contains a copulative verb. These verbs in Spanish are: verbs to be (SER Y ESTAR) and PARECER (seem) are copulative.

The verbal predicated «is formed by a verb that, by itself or accompanied by complements, constitutes the predicate of a grammatical sentence» (RAE,2014)

predicate structure in spanish

Since the verb is the most important part of the predicate, it is considered the core of it. Any other verb excepting those mentioned above (ser,estar, parecer).

In grammar, a complement is a word or word group that completes the predicate in a sentence. In contrast to modifiers (which are optional) complements are required to complete the meaning of a sentence.

The complements of the verb are: – The direct object – The indirect object – The circumstantial complement.

Type of complements in the Spanish sentence structure

(1) Direct and Indirect objects

The direct and indirect objects answer the question «what» and «whom» respectively. If you want more details, you can read more in our article about the direct and indirect object in Spanish. (don’t forget you can also do the exercises about it)

(2) Circumstantial complements in Spanish

type of complements in the spanish sentence estructure

«It is called circumstantial complement to the syntactic function performed by an adverbial phrase by a noun phrase or by a prepositional phrase that indicates some semantic circumstance of time, place or mode to the verb of which it is complement» If you stop to think a minute about it, make a lot of sense the classification of these complements. There are complements of place, time, mood, cause, purpose, company, instrument, material, concession, quantity, property. Let’s see some examples and you’ll realize it is pretty much simpler than it looks!

  • PLACE: «Me he estacionado frente al parque» (I’ve parked in front of the park)
  • TIME: «Iremos a cenar mañana a las 7:00 PM»(We’ll go to have dinner tomorrow at 7:00 PM)
  • MOOD: «No me hables de ese modo» (Don’t talk to me in that way! )
  • CAUSE: «No vamos a la Oficina por la pandemia» (We don’t go to the office because of the pandemic)
  • PURPOSE: «Compra las verduras para preparar la cena» ( Buy the vegetables to make dinner)
  • COMPANY: «voy por unas copas con mis amigas» (I’m going to have drinks with my friends)
  • INSTRUMENT: «Él cortó el pasto con una podadora electrica» (he cut the grass with an electrical mower)
  • MATERIAL: «¡Este librero está hecho de madera pura!» (This bookcase is made with pure wood!)
  • CONCESSION: » Tenemos que seguir adelante apesar de la tristeza» (We have to carry on despite the sadness)
  • QUANTITY:»Mi sobrino menor come muchísimo» (my youngest nephew eats too much)
  • PROPERTY: «El auto es de los dos, recuérdalo» (The car belong to both of us, remember!)

We’ve studied the basic structure of simple sentences. We hope you’ve enjoyed this post and overall, we hope you never stop learning!

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