Contents of Lesson 6

Makeup of sentences.

Problems with terminology. What is a verb?

The simple Spanish sentence.


Lesson 6: Sentence Structure (I). Sentence Building Blocks.

Makeup of sentences. Sentences in Spanish (and in English too) consist of verbs that indicate an action or describe a state, nouns and pronouns that show who or what performs and (sometimes) receives the action or is in the state, modifiers that make the nouns or the verb more specific, and linking words (prepositions and conjunctions) that join the elements with each other. In order to understand the meaning of any sentence, in English as well as Spanish, one must consciously or unconsciously identify its parts and establish their relationship.

Problems with terminology. What is a verb? The usual classifications of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so on describe Latin quite accurately, since they were created for that language. In the case of Spanish the terminology is sometimes misleading. In this lesson we will discuss what a verb really is.

The simple Spanish sentence: one conjugated verb form, one clause. A clause is a major building block of a sentence. Clauses are defined by conjugated verb forms. Each clause contains one and only one conjugated verb form, and each conjugated verb form in turn implies a clause. A simple sentence consists of a single clause:

To understand the meaning of a clause in Spanish, one starts with the verb. From the verb one identifies the object and subject, and then the modifiers are associated with the items modified. Each verb has only one possible subject.


Exercise 1 - Functions of infinitives. Identify the function of the infinitive in each of the following sentences, then translate the sentence.

  1. Es necesario estudiar en esta clase.
  2. No sabemos cómo llegar a su casa.
  3. Vamos a nadar esta tarde.
  4. Para (in order to) tener éxito, una buena personalidad es importante.
  5. En mayo es deseable plantar el maíz.

Exercise 2 - Translation of simple sentences. Find the object, predicate noun, or predicate adjective (if any), then the subject, and then translate the sentence.

  1. Son muy altos los precios de estos cuadros.
  2. Está en el comité el profesor de catalán. (Catalán = the language spoken in Cataluña.)
  3. No está en la fábrica.
  4. Vivimos Pedro y yo en una casa nueva.
  5. A los españoles no quieren los franceses.
  6. Los muchachos y las muchachas todos están felices.
  7. Mi amigo y yo tomamos cerveza.
  8. ¿Toman ustedes los exámenes mañana?
  9. ¿Van al museo los chicos?
  10. Viene a la fiesta toda la familia.

Click here for answers to these exercises.

Direct and indirect objects. The direct object is what the action of the verb falls directly upon. In the sentence "I give the flowers to my girlfriend," "flowers" is the direct object, they are what is being given. "Girlfriend" is the indirect object: she receives the direct object, the flowers.

For more help with this topic, see the book English Grammar for Students of Spanish, by Emily Spinelli, has been useful to thousand sof Spanish students. It can be purchase for $12.95 plus shipping from the on-line bookstore Amazon. A new edition is expected in 1998.

This page Copyright © 1998 Daniel Eisenberg. Please report errors or omissions: ¡Mil gracias!