A sentence (oración) is a group of words usually formed by a subject and a verb. It expresses a statement, a wish, a question…
There are different types of sentences. A sentence can belong to one or more kinds. We are going to see the most important ones.
2. Simple and complex sentences
Simple sentences (oraciones simples) have only one predicate. This is the part of the sentence that indicates what is said about the subject:
Me llamo María. My name is María.
Complex sentences (oraciones compuestas) are formed by one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses:
Ana me pidió que viniera aquí. Ana asked me to come here.
There are different types of complex sentences. They will be dealt with in another chapter.
Glossary note: Una oración can be a sentence, if it is independent, or simply a clause, which can be dependent or independent. Remember that all sentences are clauses but not all clauses are sentences. In Spanish, the equivalent to sentence is oración or cláusula; the equivalent to clause is oración. Take care with this false friend in its grammatical sense. It is always safer to say “oración”.
Active and passive voices express the same fact from a different point of view. There can also be a change of meaning.
The active voice sentence (oración en voz activa) stresses the doer of the action:
La profesora regañó a un alumno. The teacher scolded one pupil.
The passive voice sentence (oración en voz pasiva) stresses the action or the object. The latest becomes the subject of the sentence:
Un alumno fue regañado por la profesora.
One pupil was scolded by the teacher.
See further details in the passive voice section.
In reflexive sentences (oraciones reflexivas) the subject performs and receives the action of the verb:
Me peino. I comb my hair.
In reciprocal sentences (oraciones recíprocas) the plural subject performs and mutually receives the action of the verb:
Juan y yo no nos soportamos. Juan and I can’t stand each other.
Find out further details in the pronominal, reflexive and reciprocal verbs chapter.
A statement sentence (oración enunciativa) expresses a positive or negative fact, opinion…:
Me gusta tu peinado. I like your hairstyle.
No me gusta tu peinado. I don’t like your hairstyle.
An imperative sentence (oración imperativa) expresses a command or a prohibition:
Dame esa libreta. Give me that notebook.
An interrogative sentence or question (interrogación) asks about something. It can be direct (with interrogation marks) or indirect:
¿Puedes venir conmigo? Can you come with me?
No sé qué quieres. I don’t know what you want.
NOTE: In Spanish there is no inversion of the subject.
Questions usually carry interrogatives.
An exclamatory sentence (exclamación) expresses strong emotions. It uses exclamation marks for opening and closing the sentence. Exclamations must be sparingly used in Spanish:
¡Qué bonito! How nice!
Exclamations usually carry exclamatory particles.
A desiderative sentence (oración desiderativa) expresses a wish. The verb is usually in the subjunctive mood:
Ojalá Jaime llegue pronto. I hope Jaime comes soon.
A doubt sentence (oración dubitativa) expresses a doubt. Subjunctive is very usual too:
No creo que Jaime llegue pronto. I don’t think Jaime comes soon.