The Basics of an English Sentence (Transitive)

Do you know how to write a sentence in English?

If you do, fantastic. What you are about to read will help you understand why you write the way you write in English.

If you don’t, there’s no better time to learn how than now.

Here is a basic English sentence for us to dissect:

He talked to the students. 

A similarity you’ll notice is that the structure of a basic English sentence (transitive) is very similar to that of Spanish. There is a subject, a verb, and an object.

What is the subject? He

What is the verb? talked

What is the object? the students.

Basic transitive sentence structure is subject+verb+object.

Spanish does exactly this. However there is something that you do in Spanish that we can’t do in English. We cannot eat the subject like you can do in Spanish.

For example, the above sentence could be said like this in Spanish:

Habló con los estudiantes.

No subject is placed before the verb, but since the subject was brought up before in another sentence/part of the conversation, all latino speakers know you are talking about he.

In English, this NEVER happens. You cannot eat the subject and expect a gringo to understand you, and/or think you are speaking good English. Anytime a latino tries this, they end up sounding silly.

Now that you see that the basic English sentence is not so different from that of Spanish besides this one Spanish peculiarity, let’s take a deeper look at the above three parts of a basic sentence.


What can be a subject?

Any noun can be a subject. Dogs, Cats, My car, His horse, The golden soccer ball, Their house, Doug, Jorge, Kyle. Those are all subjects. The subject pronouns I, You, He, She, It, We, They are also subjects.


What is a verb?

A verb is a word that signals an action, a mental state, or a state of being. Some verbs include run, cook, be, know, learn, understand, talk, sleep.


What is an object?

Like the subject, the object is a noun. Dogs, cats, my car, his horse, the golden soccerball, their house, Doug, Jorge, Kyle. The object pronouns of me, you, him, her, it, us, and them are also objects.

**One interesting thing to note about object pronouns in English is that they come after the verb in English, not before the verb like you do in Spanish.**

Ella me habló.

She talked to me.

Now that you know what they are, you should know about the most common mistake latinos make when creating simple sentences.

They don’t properly conjugate the verb!

Just like in Spanish, the subject of the sentence will determine how to conjugate the verb which comes after. Doing this in English is even easier than in Spanish because English has a lot less conjugations than Spanish. Let’s use the present simple of tener/have as an example.

In Spanish the conjugations are tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, and tienen. In English the conjugations of have are have and has. 5 versus 2, which is easier? 2

Latino students understand that has, runs, cooks, flies, likes, goes with the subject pronouns of he, she, it, but when the subject is Doug, Kate, Alejandro, My car, Their dog, they don’t realize that these subjects can all be replaced by He, She, It. That is the job of He, She, It, to replace the proper subjects like Doug, Kate, Alejandro, My car, Their dog. So remember that you need to conjugate the verbs exactly the same for Doug as you would for He, for Alejandra as you would for She, and Their dog as you would for It.


The basic transitive sentence in English is almost exactly the same as that of Spanish. There are 2 common mistakes latinos make when creating this basic English sentence. Do you remember what they are?

  1. Eat the subject
  2. Improperly conjugate the verb after a 3rd person singular subject such as Doug, Alejandra, and My dog.

Avoid the above 2 common mistakes, and you will quickly dominate the basic English sentence.

Good luck.

-Profe Kyle

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