Spanish/Word Order

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The word order in Spanish is not as rigid as it is in English.

It is normally SVO (subject - verb - object):

Juan comió una manzana (Juan ate an apple)

However, it is possible to change the word order to emphasize the verb or the object:

Comió Juan una manzana (VSO)
Una manzana comió Juan (OVS)

Note: To say "An apple ate Juan," that is, Juan was eaten by an apple, insert the word "a" like this:

Una manzana comió a Juan. (SVO)

The subject is frequently omitted because the verb ending already gives information about the person:

Yo comí una manzana (I ate an apple)
Comí una manzana (I ate an apple)

In the second sentence we know that I ate the apple because the verb ending would be different for all other persons.

If you want to say "Juan ate it," the word order will have to be changed to accommodate the direct object pronoun:

Juan la comió (SOV)

This is always the word order when using a direct or indirect object pronoun.

In general, Spanish is very flexible because the core grammatical structure gives you the liberty of changing the order of words. A Spanish sentence can be constructed in a photographic manner so that you put words in the sentence in the same order you tend to think that you're observing them. Spanish tries to make possible the compatibility between the formal logic and the descriptive quality of the message.

The main departure from English grammar is that instead of an adjective-noun form, it's noun-adjective. So, in English we would say blue car, while in Spanish you would say "car blue" (coche azul). There are, as in many other languages, exceptions to this rule, particularly when the adjective has a double meaning. For example, "a poor man" could be expressed as "an unfortunate man" (pobre hombre), or a "wealth-less man" (hombre pobre). As a rule of thumb, the more permanent meaning dictates that the adjective go before the noun, but when in doubt, place the adjective after the noun.