LEARN SPANISH THROUGH SENTENCES 1

LEARN SPANISH THROUGH SENTENCES: SER PRESENT TENSE INDICATIVE

In this series of articles, you will internalize the usage of the Spanish language by learning to recognize patterns in the structure and the words used in different sentences.

Specifically, while we examine the sentence bellow, you will learn about:

● The structure of sentences

● The gender of nouns, adjectives, determiners and pronouns

● The difference between muy, mucho, mucha, muchos and muchas

● The form and usage of verbs

● The use of ser and estar

Feel free to jump directly to any of these sections.

EXAMPLE SENTENCE

Esta flor es muy bonita. (This flower is very beautiful.)

●ESTA: this [demonstrative adjective, feminine-singular]

●FLOR: flower [common noun, feminine-singular]

●ES: he, she, it is [verb SER, 3rd person-singular, present tense, indicative]

●MUY: very [adverb, invariable]

●BONITA: beautiful [descriptive adjective, feminine-singular]

STRUCTURE

In order to understand the structure of this sentence, the first thing we are going to examine is the verb (or verbs) in our example. Depending on the number of verbs, we will have one simple sentence, or several clauses in which we can divide the sentence.

In this example we only have one verb—es (is)—so we know it is a simple sentence.

Es is a form of the verb ser (to be), which is a linking verb.

Linking verbs have almost no meaning and are used to connect the subject of the sentence to an attribute that adds information about the subject.

The subject tends to be before the verb. In this sentence, the subject is esta flor (this flower), so we use it before es (is).

The attribute tends to be after the linking verb, so we use muy bonita (very beautiful) after es (is).

The subject—esta flor (this flower)—is formed by two words:

Flor (flower), a noun, is the main element of the subject.

Esta (this) is a demonstrative adjective. Unlike descriptive adjectives, which are normally used after nouns, determinative adjectives such as demonstrative adjectives tend to precede nouns. That is why we use esta (this) before flor (flower).

The attribute—muy bonita (very beautiful)—is formed by two words:

Bonita (beautiful), a descriptive adjective, is the main element of the attribute.

Muy (very) is an adverb that modifies bonita. Adverbs tend to precede the adjectives they modify. That is why we use muy (very) before bonita (beautiful).

THE GENDER AND NUMBER OF NOUNS, ADJECTIVES, DETERMINERS AND PRONOUNS

Spanish nouns possess two qualities — gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) — that influence the form of adjectives, determiners and pronouns.

You can read more about the gender of nouns here.

You can read more about how nouns build their plural forms here.

As you have seen, in this sentence we have a noun: flor (flower).

Flor (flower) is a feminine noun in its singular form, so any adjective, determiner or pronoun related to it has to be in its feminine-singular form.

Esta (this) is a demonstrative adjective that modifies flor (flower). It may appear in one of four different forms:

masculine-singular: este

feminine-singular: esta

masculine-plural: estos

feminine-plural: estas

In this sentence, we use the feminine-singular form, esta, because flor is a feminine-singular noun.

Bonita (beautiful) is a descriptive adjective that modifies flor (flower). It may appear in one of four different forms:

masculine-singular: bonito

feminine-singular: bonita

masculine-plural: bonitos

feminine-plural: bonitas

In this sentence, we use the feminine-singular form, bonita, because flor is a feminine-singular noun.

ADVERBS ARE INVARIABLE

Adverbs, on the other hand, are invariable; they have just one form. That is why, even if we apply muy (very) to bonita (beautiful)—a feminine-singular adjective— we don’t have to care about its form.

MUY, MUCHO, MUCHA, MUCHOS OR MUCHAS

Muy is related to mucho, that can also be an adverb and an adjective.

With the invariable adverb muy (very), we modify adjectives and other adverbs.

With the invariable adverb mucho (a lot), we modify verbs.

With the four forms of the adjective—mucho (much), mucha (much), muchos (many) and muchas (many)—we modify nouns.

Since in this sentence we want to modify an adjective (bonita), we use the adverb muy (very).

VERB FORMS

In Spanish, verbs are the most variable among all kinds of words. We can choose among their different forms in order to express mood, tense, person and number.

Es (is), the verb in our sentence, is a form of the verb ser (to be).

There are different factors that determine the form of the verb.

There are two moods in Spanish: the indicative and the subjunctive. The indicative is a neutral mood, while the subjunctive is triggered by certain words or conditions, particularly in compound sentences. Since there is no word or condition that would trigger the subjunctive in this sentence, we use the indicative.

The tense of the verb is mainly determined by the time we want to express, but also by some characteristics of the verb itself and, especially in compound sentences, by some words and by the sentence structure.

In our sentence we want to express a current characteristic of the flower. That is one of the settings where we use the present indicative tense.

There are six forms of the present indicative tense conjugation of ser:

1st person-singular: soy

2nd person-singular: eres

3rd person-singular: es

1st person-plural: somos

2nd person-plural: sois

3rd person-plural: son

The person (1st, 2nd or 3rd) and number (singular or plural) the verb must adopt are determined by the subject of the sentence.

The subject in this sentence is esta flor (this flower). Since it is a singular element that doesn’t represent the person speaking (1st person) nor the person listening (2nd person), the form of the verb we use is the 3rd person-singular: es.

SER VS. ESTAR

In Spanish there are two verbs that are translated as “to be” in English: ser and estar.   Foreign speakers of Spanish often have problems deciding which verb to use in each case.

When linking a noun to an adjective, we use ser or estar depending on the meaning of the adjective. Generally speaking, we can say that we use ser when we perceive that the adjective expresses an intrinsic quality, and we use estar when we perceive that the adjective expresses a condition resulting from a change or process.

Since being beautiful is an intrinsic quality, we use the verb ser with bonita (beautiful).

Since the number of adjectives that are normally used with ser is much larger than the number of adjectives normally used with estar, and many of the adjectives used with estar can also be used with ser, I always recommend students to use ser as a general rule, and learn the uses of estar with adjectives as exceptions.

You can find a list of adjectives that are used with estar here.

GO FIND PATTERNS!

There are several technical terms in this post, but remember that, once you know them, you will easily be able to identify different kind of structures and words inside sentences. Then you will start recognizing patterns that you can use when creating your own sentences.

Check other posts with sample sentences; You will become familiar with all these terms very quickly. You will be seeing patterns everywhere!

If you have any questions related to this post, you can leave a comment or send me a message through the contact form.

Find more Spanish example sentences here.

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