Learn the sentence structure in Spanish

If you're new to Spanish, one of the very first things you need to learn is constructing basic Spanish sentences. In fact, it’s as essential as expanding your Spanish vocabulary. What’s the point in learning new Spanish words if you don’t know how to use them correctly?

For those learning Spanish as their second language, and especially native English speakers, Spanish sentence structure may seem confusing at first. However, with a little practice, it will become second nature.

This guide will introduce you to the basics of Spanish sentence structure, including subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and word order. By the end of this guide, you'll be able to construct basic Spanish sentences with ease!

Subject-Verb Agreement in Spanish Grammar

Much like English the subject and verb must agree in number (singular or plural).

Spanish

English

El gato come la comida.

The cat eats the food.

Los gatos comen la comida.

The cats eat the food.

Verb Conjugation

Spanish has two main types of verbs: regular and irregular. Regular verbs follow a predictable pattern when conjugated (changes that reflect different tenses), while irregular verbs do not.

To conjugate a regular verb in the present tense (the tense used to describe what is happening right now), you have to remove the ending of the verb (-ar, -er, or -ir) and add a new ending that corresponds to the subject.

For example, the regular verb comer (to eat) would be conjugated like this:

SubjectPronounConjugation
Yo I como
You, informal singular comes
Él/Ella/Usted He/She/You, formal singular come
Nosotros/Nosotras We comemos
Vosotros/Vosotras You, informal plural coméis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes They/You, formal plural comen
SubjectPronounConjugation
Yo I como
You, informal singular comes
Él/Ella/Usted He/She/You, formal singular come
Nosotros/Nosotras We comemos
Vosotros/Vosotras You, informal plural coméis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes They/You, formal plural comen

As you can see from the chart above, Spanish verb conjugation in the present tense requires you to remove the ending of the verb (-ar, -er, or -ir) and choose a corresponding ending, considering the subject.

Irregular verbs, on the other hand, do not follow this pattern and you’ll have to memorize them. Here are a few examples of the most common irregular verbs in Spanish:

  • ser (to be),
  • tender (to have),
  • it (to go),
  • hacer (to do/make),
  • ver (to see).
Learn the sentence structure in Spanish

Basic Sentence Structures: Spanish Word Order

Much like English, the word order of a Spanish sentence is important in conveying its meaning. For example, the following two sentences have different meanings even though they share the same words:

Spanish

English

Juan come pizza.

Juan eats pizza.

Pizza come Juan.

Pizza eats Juan.

As you can see, the word order in Spanish isn’t flexible. Changing the placement of the subject of the sentence can change the meaning of a sentence. However, there are some basic rules that you can follow to make sure your sentences are understandable.

Here are the building blocks you need to understand basic Spanish sentence structures and stating forming simple sentences in Spanish:

Declarative Sentences

A declarative sentence is a sentence that makes a statement. Basic Spanish sentence structures typically follow this word order – the same as in English:

Subject + Verb + Object

Spanish

English

Juan come pizza.

Juan eats pizza.

In this sentence, Juan is the subject, come is the verb, and pizza is the direct object.

However, if you want to put an emphasis on a different part of your statement, you can switch this word order. Like this:

Verb + Subject + Object

Spanish

English

Vinieron amigos a mi fiesta.

Friends came to my party.

In this sentence, amigos is the subject, vinieron is the verb, and a mi fiesta is an object. In this case, the emphasis is placed on the fact that friends came to the party.

Negative Sentences

In contrast to an affirmative sentence, which affirms or agrees with something, a negative sentence denies or disagrees with something. In the Spanish language, negative sentences typically follow this word order:

Subject + No + Verb + Object

Spanish

English

Juan no come pizza.

Juan doesn't eat pizza.

In this sentence, the subject is Juan, the verb is come (eats), the direct object is pizza, and the word no (not) negates the verb.

Double Negation

Double negatives are two negative words used in the same sentence. In Spanish, double negatives are typically formed with the word no and a negative expression (frequently a pronoun) such as nadie (nobody), ninguno (none), or nunca (never).

Spanish

English

No me gusta nada.

I don’t like nothing. = I don’t like anything.

In this sentence, the word no (not) negates the verb gustar (to like), and the negative pronoun nada (anything) negates the noun me gusta (I like).

Double negatives are considered grammatically incorrect and may sound odd in English, but they are generally fine in basic Spanish sentences.

Learn the sentence structure in Spanish

Interrogative Sentences

To turn declarative sentences into questions in the Spanish language, all you have to do is switch verb and subject in their positions:

Subject + Verb + Object Verb + Subject + Object

Juan come pizza. Juan eats pizza. A declarative sentence.
¿Come Juan pizza? Does Juan eat pizza? An interrogative sentence.
Juan come pizza. Juan eats pizza. A declarative sentence.
¿Come Juan pizza? Does Juan eat pizza? An interrogative sentence.

It's important to note that Spanish questions typically end with a question mark at the beginning and the end of a question (¿?), while English questions typically end with just a question mark at the end of the interrogative sentence (?).

However, there is another, simpler way to form a question in Spanish grammar. In yes or no questions, you can just add question marks at the beginning and at the end of the affirmative sentence and use rising intonation towards the end of a question.

Nothing in the sentence structure changes, yet it stays grammatically correct. Like this:

Vamos al cine. We’re going to the cinema. An affirmative sentence.
¿Vamos al cine? Are we going to the cinema? An interrogative sentence.
Vamos al cine. We’re going to the cinema. An affirmative sentence.
¿Vamos al cine? Are we going to the cinema? An interrogative sentence.

Question Words

Question words are words that are used to ask a question. In Spanish, some of the most common question words include quién (who), cuál (which), dónde (where), cómo (how), and por qué (why).

To form a question in Spanish, simply begin your sentence with the question word and add question marks. For example:

Spanish

English

¿Dónde está Juan?

Where is Juan?

¿Cuál es tu nombre?

What is your name?

Adjective Placement in Spanish Grammar

In a basic Spanish sentence structure, Spanish adjectives typically go after the noun they modify. For example:

Spanish

English

Juan es un estudiante inteligent.

Juan is a smart student.

In this sentence, the subject is Juan, the verb is es (is), and the adjective intelligent (smart) modifies the noun estudiante (student).

However, there are some exceptions to this rule:

1. When an adjective describes the physical characteristics of a person or thing, it typically goes before the noun it modifies. For example:

Spanish

English

Es un gran hombre.

He's a tall man.

In this sentence, the subject is un hombre (a man), the verb is es (is), and the adjective gran (tall) modifies the noun hombre (man).

2. When an adjective describes the quantity of a noun, it typically goes before the noun it modifies. Like this:

Spanish

English

Tengo muchos libros.

I have many books.

In this sentence, the subject is Tengo (I have), the verb is tengo (have), and the adjective muchos (many) modifies the noun libros (books).

3. When an adjective is related to the opinion of the speaker about a noun, it typically goes before the noun it modifies. For example:

Spanish

English

Me gusta el buen vino.

I like good wine.

In this sentence, the subject is Me (I), the verb is gusta (like), and the adjective buen (good) modifies the noun vino (wine).

When two or more adjectives describe a noun, we typically place adjectives in the following order:

Quantity → Opinion → Size/Shape → Age/Color/Origin

Spanish

English

Yo tengo un libro pequeño viejo.

I have a small old book.

In this sentence, the subject is Tengo (I have), the verb is tengo (have), and the adjectives viejo (old) and pequeño (small) modify the noun libro (book).

As you can see from the example above, the position of adjectives can be different in other languages, so it's important to remember the correct order when you form sentences in Spanish. While this might seem very complex, English follows a similar pattern for order of adjectives.

Learn the sentence structure in Spanish

Adverb Placement in Spanish Grammar

Most of the time, you'll place adverbs after the verb in Spanish. This can be a bit confusing for English speakers, who are used to placing adverbs before the verb. For example, take a look at the following sentence:

Spanish

English

Necesito hablar más despacio.

I need to speak more slowly.

In this sentence, the adverb despacio (slowly) comes after the verb hablar. This is because in Spanish, adverbs of manner (adverbios de modo) usually go after the verb. Adverbs of manner describe how something is done.

When it comes to adverbs that modify adjectives, they usually go before the adjective. For example:

Spanish

English

Es un niño muy inteligente.

He's a very smart boy.

The Bottom Line

Learn the sentence structure in Spanish

We hope this article has helped you understand the basics of Spanish sentence structure. We’ve addressed subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and word order in Spanish. We also provided some examples of how these concepts work in practice. By understanding these concepts, you'll be able to construct basic Spanish sentences with ease!

Now that you know the basics of Spanish sentence structure, it's time to put your knowledge into practice! Download our Langster app to get even more grammar explanations and learn Spanish with stories. Good luck!