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Four Fun Games to Teach Sentence Structure in Spanish Class

written by: Audrey Alleyne • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 3/2/2012

The Imperative or Command form of a sentence is used in any language to give and follow directions or instructions on a daily basis. The Past Tense is also used quite frequently. Enjoy the four Spanish sentence structure fun games presented here.

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    The Formal Imperative in Spanish

    There are four forms of the Imperative, but in these games, we shall use the formal or polite “Usted" in both its positive and negative form. Healthcare professionals fall into the category of the formal mode of address; and the first and second games involve role-play among a healthcare professional, a patient and an interpreter. This activity reinforces the student’s use of certain verbs in the imperative and shows how simple the sentence structure is.

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    Imperative Game 1

    The three characters are at a clinic, but the healthcare provider does not know Spanish, so he or she engages an interpreter. For every sentence the doctor tells the patient, the interpreter interprets. The patient only responds when he or she hears the Spanish translation. The dialogue is as follows:

    Doctor: Open your mouth.

    Interpreter: Abra la boca.

    Doctor: Close your mouth.

    Interpreter: Cierre la boca.

    Doctor: Breathe deeply.

    Interpreter: Respire profundamente.

    Doctor: Hold it.

    Interpreter: Deténgalo.*

    Doctor: Open your eyes.

    Interpreter: Abran los ojos.

    Doctor: Do not open your eyes.

    *Interpreter: No abran los ojos.

    Doctor: Close your eyes.

    Interpreter: Cierran los ojos.

    * Deténgalo

    While the instructions that precede this sentence are simply straightforward with the verb in first position followed by the object, deténgalo follows the rule where unstressed pronouns follow the verb and are written as part of it. The accent is placed on the second “e" to maintain the stress in the right place. In the negative, the pronouns come before the verb and are separate words. Here there is no accent mark on the word “detenga." For example:

    Do not hold it – No lo detenga.

    *No abran los ojos.

    To make the sentence negative, simply place the word “no" before the verb.

    The verb “permitir"

    Sentence structure using the verb “permitir" takes on a different form. The affirmative sentence still begins with the verb in the imperative form, but this verb is followed by a second verb in the infinitive, followed by the object. Observe this rule as students continue to play the role of doctor, interpreter and patient.

    Doctor: Allow me to take your pulse.

    Interpreter: Permitame tomarle el pulso.

    Doctor: Allow me to take your blood pressure.

    Interpreter: Permitame tomarle la presión snguínea.

    The indirect object “le" referring to “your" is attached to the infinitive.

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    Imperative Game 2

    To reinforce sentence structure in the imperative in Spanish, students can play a game of giving and taking directions. They take on the role of tourists who meet natives on the street and ask for directions. The questions for the tourists could vary from:

    Where is ... ? Where are ... ? — ¿Dónde está ... ? ¿Dónde están ... ?

    to

    How do I get to ... ? — ¿Por dónde se va a ... ? or, ¿Cómo puedo llegar a ... ?

    Here are some possible replies to someone asking the way to the museum, the bank or the theater:

    • Vaya por esta calle, tome la primera calle a la izquierda y el museo está a la derecha.
    • Go along this street, take the first street on the left and the museum is on the right.

    • Siga la puente, doble a la esquina y cruce la calle . El banco está enfrente de la plaza.
    • Continue along the bridge, turn the corner and cross the street. The bank is opposite the square.

    • Baje por esta calle, tome la segunda calle a la derecha, sube por esa calley el teatro esta la esquina.
    • Go down this street, take the second street on the right, go up that street and the theater is on the corner.

    Even though these sentences are longer than those given in the game on instructions in the imperative, the sentence structure is the same: first, the imperative verb followed by the object

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    Sentence Structure in the Present and Past Tenses - Game 1

    These activities to reinforcing sentence structure in the simple present and past tenses involve the use of the question words ‘¿Cómo?, ¿Qué ? and ¿Cuándo?.' Students participate in an orientation scene, which may be used in various situations.

    Present Tense:

    A.¿Como se llama? –

    B. Me llamos Marta/Pedro Ortiz.

    A. ¿Cómo se llama su esposo/esposa ?

    B. Se llama Pedro/Marta.

    A. ¿Cómo se llaman sus hijos?

    B. Se llaman José, Maria y Juan.

    A. ¿Qué día es hoy?

    B. Es martes.

    A. ¿Qué mes es ?

    B. Es junio.

    Past Tense :

    ¿En qué ano se casó?

    Me casó en mil novecientos noventa y cuatro (1994).

    ¿Cuándo nació?

    Nací en febrero, mil novecientos setenta y siete (1977)

    The sentence structure in both the present and past tenses is simple. The form of the question is constructed with a question word followed by a statement pattern.

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    Sentence Structure in the Present and Past Tenses - Game 2

    This activity can be done in another form. The teacher would give prompts of the question word, and students would complete the sentence orally.

    e.g. The teacher says, "¿Qué mes..?"

    Students may reply with: “¿Qué mes es?" or "¿En qué mes nació?"

    Similarly, the teacher may use a verb like nacer. Students would respond with sentences like “¿Cuándo nació?" or “Nací el ….."

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    Summary

    The four Spanish sentence structure fun games or activities presented here will most certainly be beneficial in helping students to understand and commit to memory sentence structure in the imperative, and present and past indicative in Spanish. In addition, they will have fun while doing so.

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