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Learn the Top 10 Spanish Sentence Patterns

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Often, when you start learning a new language, you’re not really sure how to begin. Random words? Grammar? Basic sentences, maybe? While perhaps memorizing sentences isn’t what you’re looking for when you decide to begin studying, the truth is that these basic Spanish sentence patterns will actually prove very useful. When you’re completely lost at the beginning of your language-learning journey, knowing them will help you have a precise idea of how to have a basic yet meaningful conversation.

If you memorize these ten most basic and useful Spanish sentence structures, you’ll be able to generate hundreds of natural sentences and converse with ease and confidence. We promise that you’ll use most of these sentence patterns every time you have a conversation in Spanish!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Spanish Table of Contents
  1. Linking Nouns
  2. Using Adjectives to Describe Things
  3. Expressing “Want”
  4. Expressing “Need”
  5. Expressing “Like”
  6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something
  7. Asking for Permission
  8. Asking for Information About Something
  9. Asking About Time
  10. Asking About Location or Position
  11. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Master Spanish

1. Linking Nouns

We thought that showing you how to link nouns would be a good way to start. This is a really basic pattern that we use all the time. In Spanish, we always use the verb ser (“to be”) for this pattern:

Example: Juan es mi hermano.
Translation: “Juan is my brother.”

Example: Mi hermano es taxista.
Translation: “My brother is a taxi driver.”

Example: Ese reloj fue un regalo de mi mujer.
Translation: “That watch was a present from my wife.”

Man Pointing at Watch

2. Using Adjectives to Describe Things

In English, to create a basic sentence using adjectives, you only need one verb: the verb “to be.” Of course, there are other verbs you could use to make complex sentences, but because we’re only looking at easy patterns, we’ll ignore them for now. 

Just like we’ve mentioned in other articles and lessons at SpanishPod101.com, in Spanish, there are two different verbs that are equivalent to the verb “to be” in English. These are ser and estar. When using adjectives, it’s really important to know the difference between these two, so we’ll quickly remind you of their specific meanings. Let’s look at the following examples:

Example: Eres preciosa.
Translation: “You’re gorgeous.”

Example: Estás preciosa.
Translation: “You look gorgeous.”

The sentences look very similar in Spanish, but look at the English translations! Ser and estar are both irregular verbs, so you might be a little bit confused about which verb is which. But we’re sure you can already start to see the difference between them. 

In the first example, Eres preciosa, we use the verb ser, which refers to something permanent or something that’s true for a very long period of time. Whoever uses this sentence is telling a girl that she is gorgeous, but not just in that moment. It doesn’t mean she’s wearing, for example, a nice dress (even though she might be)! It means that she is always gorgeous. 

However, you might have noticed that we translated the second example, Estás preciosa, as “You look gorgeous.” Even though estar, which is the verb we used, also means “to be,” it takes away the sense of permanence that we saw in the previous example. So when someone uses this sentence in Spanish, they’re implying that the girl looks good in the clothes or makeup she’s wearing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that she doesn’t look good at other times; in this case, it might just mean that she’s exceptionally beautiful in that moment. 

Example: Está buenísimo.
Translation: “It’s amazing.”

Example: La película que vimos anoche era divertidísima.
Translation: “The movie we watched last night was hilarious.”

Couple Watching a Comedy

3. Expressing “Want”

Another important Spanish sentence for beginners is that which lets you tell someone you want something (or want to do something). The verb we use in Spanish is querer, which means both “to want” and “to love.” 

The structure is quite simple, and it’s similar to English. Let’s look at a few examples:

Example: Quiero esto.
Translation: “I want this.”

In this first example, the object of the sentence—the thing that is wanted—is the pronoun “this,” so it’s a noun phrase. This sentence doesn’t specify what we’re talking about, but we assume that whoever uses this sentence is pointing at something. In any case, neither Spanish nor English require a preposition, or any other kind of particle, before the thing that is wanted.

The following examples, however, use a verb phrase instead:

Example: Quiero preguntarte algo.
Translation: “I want to ask you something.”

Example: Quiero ser una buena persona.
Translation: “I want to be a good person.”

As you might have noticed in these sentences, while English does need the preposition “to,” Spanish doesn’t require anything between the verb querer and the next verb. Something you must always remember, however, is that the second verb always needs to be in its infinitive form, which, as you might remember from our previous article on conjugations, is the one we find in a dictionary.

Sentence Patterns

4. Expressing “Need”

There are two basic ways of expressing “need” in Spanish, and they both have equivalents in English, so they are pretty easy to translate. The verb necesitar means “to need (to)” and the verb phrase tener que is equivalent to “to have to” in English. 

In Spanish, just like in English, we can use necesitar (“to need [to]”) whenever we need something, or need to do something. But in the case of tener que (“to have to”) it only works when we need to do something; in other words, there has to be a verb right after. This verb, just like we explained happens when expressing “want,” needs to be in its infinitive form.

First of all, we’ll look at a simple example:

Example: Necesito un bolígrafo.
Translation: “I need a pen.”

That’s simple, right? It’s the same structure as in English: “I need” + article + noun. Let’s keep going.

Example: Necesito comprar pan.
Translation: “I need to buy bread.”

Example: Tengo que practicar.
Translation: “I have to practice.”

Example: Me tengo que ir.
Translation: “I have to go.”

Example: Tengo que ir al baño.
Translation: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

There are only a few things you need to remember. We’ve already mentioned a couple of them: when we can use each of these verbs and that the next verb always needs to be in its infinitive form. 

Something else you need to remember is that when we use the verb necesitar, we can simply add the next verb afterwards. But when using the other verb, tener que, always use the conjunction que before the next verb. 

Sentence Components

5. Expressing “Like”

We’re sure you saw this coming. Expressing whether you like something or not is quite common in basic conversations, so it’s a pattern that you should definitely learn. It’s not hard to learn at all, but compared to other Spanish sentence patterns, it is a bit strange. You’ll need to remember that it always requires a personal pronoun in front of the verb. Our article about pronouns might help you refresh your memory.

This pronoun isn’t the subject of the sentence, but when translated into English, it does become the subject. That sounds weird, right? Well, this is because this structure can be considered an equivalent of a passive sentence. Gustar doesn’t exactly mean “to like.” It actually means something along the lines of “to be liked.”

If you’re familiar with Spanish conjugations, you might notice that the verb in the first example below, gustas, isn’t in the first person, but in the second person. This is because the person that is liked is “you,” so “you” is the real subject in this sentence. 

Example: Me gustas.
Translation: “I like you.”

In the second example, however, we changed the person who is liked to a third-person subject: Carla. Even though, in English, both the subject and the verb stay the same as in the first example (“I like”), the verb in Spanish changes to me gusta, because now the subject is Carla.

Example: Me gusta Carla.
Translation: “I like Carla.”

Example: Me gusta cocinar.
Translation: “I like cooking.”

In the third example we just saw, the verb is in the third person, and in this case, the subject is not a person, but an action. The literal translation would be “Cooking is liked by me.”

Example: Me gusta ver el atardecer en la playa.
Translation: “I like watching the sunset at the beach.”

Sunset at the Beach

Example: No me gustan los plátanos.
Translation: “I don’t like bananas.”

Finally, the last two examples were mostly for you to see a couple more sentences that use the same structure. The last one is just another example of how los plátanos is the actual subject in the sentence, because, just like the verb, it’s in the plural.

6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something

It might be useful to learn how to ask people to do things politely. To begin with, you might like to know the word for “please” in Spanish. We actually use two words for this: por favor. Just like in English, por favor can be either at the beginning or at the end of the sentence.

Example: Por favor, siéntate.
Translation: “Please, sit down.”

Example: Escúchame, por favor.
Translation: “Listen to me, please.”

Example: Por favor, ponte en la cola.
Translation: “Please, get in line.”

People Standing in Line

You must know that being polite isn’t all about using the word “please.” “Thank you” is another expression that might come in handy, so why not take a look at our article on how to say “thank you” in Spanish

7. Asking for Permission

The last few patterns we’re going to see today are all going to be different kinds of questions in Spanish. The first question pattern is how to ask for permission. In Spanish, the verb you need to know to ask for permission is poder (“can”), which we learned in our previous article about verbs. You might be glad to know that we don’t have different verbs for “can” and “may,” so you don’t need to worry about using the right verb.

All you need to know is that, whenever you need to start a question with “Can I…?” or “May I…?” you can start it with ¿Puedo…? followed by a verb in its infinitive form, and anything else you might need. And if you need to ask someone if they can do something for you, you can ask them: ¿Me puedes…? Once again, this will always be followed by a verb in its infinitive form.

Example: ¿Puedo pasar?
Translation: “May I come in?”

Example: ¿Me puedes dar tu número de móvil?
Translation: “Can you give me your phone number?”

Example: Por favor, ¿me puedes pasar la sal?
Translation: “Please, can you pass me the salt?”

Example: ¿Le puedes dar esto a tu hermana?
Translation: “Can you give this to your sister?”

We decided to include the last question, which is actually asking for a favor for someone else. Instead of using the pronoun me, like in the previous two sentences, we use the pronoun le, which in this case means “to her,” because it’s referring to this person’s sister.

8. Asking for Information About Something

We’re sure you agree with us about the importance of being able to ask for information about things. There are so many things we could ask about, but we chose to give you only three examples. 

The first example is something that we all have to ask sometimes. You’ll probably need it when you visit a Spanish-speaking country for the first time, encounter something new (such as food, or even objects), or don’t understand what someone said during a conversation in Spanish. This is a question with many uses that we’re sure you’ll appreciate.

Example: ¿Qué es eso?
Translation: “What is that?”

There’s no doubt that you’ll also find the following question very useful.

Example: ¿Cómo te llamas?
Translation: “What is your name?”

And finally, we’ve included a more complicated question so that you see how a longer sentence is built. Because we’re only learning basic patterns, don’t worry too much about it for now! All you need to know for now is the structure of the sentence, which is actually the exact same structure as the sentence in English.

Example: ¿Cuál es el plato que comimos la última vez?
Translation: “Which is the dish we ate the last time?”

9. Asking About Time

Don’t give up yet, we’re almost done here! The next question patterns we’ll learn are those related to time. Here, there’s one interrogative pronoun you should always remember, which is cuándo, and it means “when.”

Example: ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños?
Translation: “When is your birthday?”

Example: ¿Cuándo es la reunión?
Translation: “When is the meeting?”

Example: ¿A qué hora llega tu vuelo?
Translation: “What time does your flight arrive?”

Flight Arrivals Board

Cuándo will always be helpful when you need to know when something is. However, sometimes you might need to be a little bit more specific, like in the last example we just saw. When you need to know what time something is, use the expression ¿A qué hora…? Notice that we always need the preposition a in this expression, but when we want to ask what year or what day something is, we don’t need any preposition. Instead, it will be something like this:

Example: ¿Qué día es el examen?
Translation: “What day is the exam?”

10. Asking About Location or Position

Finally, our last question pattern is for asking about location. There’s one word you must remember, which is dónde, the word for “where.”

Whenever you need to ask where something or someone is, you can just ask ¿Dónde está…? (“Where is…?”). Let’s see a couple of examples:

Example: ¿Dónde está el baño?
Translation: “Where is the bathroom?”

Example: ¿Dónde está el ascensor?
Translation: “Where is the elevator?”

That’s pretty easy to remember, isn’t it? Well, it does get a little bit harder when we want to ask something else, because we might need to add prepositions to this word, just like what happened in the previous section.

Example: ¿De dónde eres?
Translation: “Where are you from?”

11. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Master Spanish

With these basic Spanish sentence patterns, you’ll be able to have all sorts of basic conversations about different topics. Of course, this won’t magically make you fluent in Spanish, but it will help you get there. Luckily, at SpanishPod101.com, we have everything you’ll ever need to learn Spanish. For example, our lesson on how to greet people correctly

Learn a new word every day with our Free Word of the Day, or all the vocabulary you might need in our vocabulary lists.

In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you learned anything new today. Are there any sentence patterns we didn’t cover that you need to know? We look forward to hearing from you!

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