Basic Sentence Structure

The only requirements for a complete sentence are a subject and a verb. The subject is the person or thing that is responsible for the action of the verb. The verb, of course, is the action word, and is conjugated in the correct form to agree with the subject. In Spanish, the subject (when stated) comes before the verb just like in an English sentence. There is a tendency in Spanish to eliminate the subject pronoun because the form of the verb indicates what person the subject is. If the verb form has more than one potential subject (like él, ella, and Ud.), simply look for context clues in the sentence or in the preceding sentences to determine the subject. There are many other parts of speech that can make a sentence more complex, but you will not master them until later in this book. For now, simply think of a sentence as subject + verb + rest of sentence. The examples below demonstrate the relationship between the subject and verb of a sentence. In each sentence below, the verb is in boldface and the subject is underlined.

  • Julieta compra una coca cola.
  • Julieta buys a Coke.
  • miras la televisión.
  • You watch TV.
  • Gonzalo visita a sus abuelos. Viven en Ecuador.
  • Gonzalo visits his grandparents. ( They) live in Ecuador.
  • Soledad termina su examen.
  • Soledad finishes her test.

Remember that a pronoun not only replaces a noun, but it also replaces all of the descriptive words that go with the noun. Thus, a pronoun eliminates the noun and all the words that modify (describe) it. In the sentences below, the pronoun “she” replaces the noun “woman,” but also eliminates all of the modifiers that accompany “woman.”

  • An extremely beautiful woman wearing a gold gown arrived at the party. She was the center of attention.

It would sound ridiculous to say, “An extremely beautiful she wearing the gown was the center of attention.” Just remember that when a noun has any modifiers, such as adjectives or articles, those modifiers disappear when that noun becomes a pronoun.