Composing a Paragraph in Spanish

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Do you need to write a paragraph in Spanish and you don't know where to start? This lesson gives you an easy guide to follow to compose a basic paragraph in Spanish. We focus on appropriate verb conjugation.

Verb Conjugation First

Have you ever read a paragraph that didn't flow well? Clarity and flow can be affected by many aspects of good structure, including verb tense. To succeed at composing a basic paragraph in Spanish, you must first decide what tense is the most appropriate.

It all depends on the type of idea you want to convey. You can ask yourself the question, ''When do the things I want to write about happen?''

For example, facts, opinions, and actions that are habitual use the simple present tense. To account a story or to describe a specific set of actions that are finished, you would use the past tense. While this might seem obvious, writers often forget it when composing a paragraph.

In short, treat verb tenses as the central point of your paragraph. Let's follow the paragraph Marcela writes. She is going to state some facts and opinions regarding the book La Casa de los Espíritus (The House of the Spirits) by Isabel Allende. Thus, Marcela uses the present tense. Now, let's go on with the paragraph work.


Steps to Writing a Paragraph

Let's take a look at some basic steps for making a smoothly written paragraph.

Opening Sentence

The opening sentence in your paragraph lets your reader know what exactly you are going to discuss. You can ask yourself the question, ''What is the main point of this paragraph?'' In short, write a topic sentence for your first paragraph. If you are writing a second or third paragraph, you would ideally have a good transition to connect them.

Here are two examples by Marcela:

  • Topic sentence in opening paragraph: La Casa de los Espíritus, de la autora Isabel Allende, es una obra literaria llena de elementos en que la fantasía revela la presencia del realismo mágico. (The House of the Spirits, by the author Isabel Allende, is a literary piece that is full of fantasy elements that reveal the presence of magical realism.)
  • Next paragraph: Para comenzar, la autora incluye personajes fantásticos en su libro. El personaje Barrabás es un perro inusual por su tamaño; el perro es simplemente enorme. (To begin, the author includes fantastic characters in her book. The character Barrabas is an unusual dog due to his size; the dog is simply enormous.')

As you can see, Marcela uses expressions like para comenzar (to begin) to connect paragraphs. You can use words like these:

  • En primera instancia (in a first instance)
  • En primer lugar (in the first place)
  • Para empezar (to start)
  • Primeramente (firstly)

Writing Sentences

As for writing sentences, you can keep things simple in your composition by following basic sentence structure: a subject, a verb in the correct tense, and a complement (or predicate). For example:

Isabel Allende escribe para despertar en el lector el sentido de fantasía. (Isabel Allende writes to awaken in the reader the sense of fantasy.)

In this sentence, 'Isabel Allende' is the subject, escribe is the verb, and para despertar... is the predicate.

If you want a compound sentence, you can always use the same basic structure with a conjunction and the basic structure again. For example:

Isabel Allende escribe para despertar en el lector el sentido de fantasía, pero ella usa también varios recursos literarios. (Isabel Allende writes to awaken in the reader the sense of fantasy, but she also uses several literary devices.)

Now, note the sentence structure after pero and you will see it is the same of a subject, verb, plus complement. The easiest conjunctions are pero (but), y (and), o (or), aunque (although).

Using Examples and Connecting Sentences

Always use examples to illustrate your ideas. Use expressions like:

  • por ejemplo (for example)
  • para ilustrar (to illustrate)

Your paragraph in Spanish will flow if you use the appropriate connector words between sentences. They usually follow a period and you should add a comma right after the connector. The most common ones you are likely to need are:

  • sin embargo (however)
  • además (besides)
  • aparte (in addition)
  • después (after)
  • es decir (this means)

Here is an example:

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