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Spanish-Influenced English: Spotlight on Morphosyntax

Posted on May 27, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Today’s blog post, Spanish-Influenced English: Spotlight on Morphosyntax, is part 2 of a three-part series. Didn’t have a chance to read part 1? Check it out now - Spanish-Influenced English: Spotlight on Pronunciation.

I’d like to begin this post by explaining what is meant by “morphosyntax.” This term refers to the morphological and syntactic structure of language. Morphology refers to the study of words and their parts. Syntax refers to sentence structure and the rules governing the way in which we form sentences. The purpose of this post is to discuss the morphosyntactic similarities and differences between Spanish and English and describe how the differences may impact a Spanish-speaker’s production of English. It should not be assumed that all second-language learners will present with the patterns described in this post.

Spanish and English have comparable morphosyntactic structures. Typically, both languages follow a subject-verb-object (S-V-O) word order; however, this word order is not required in Spanish as it is in English (Anderson, 1995). Although both languages usually employ a S-V-O word order, there are significant differences between Spanish and English in areas, such as question formation, comparatives/superlatives, possessives, adjectives, gender, number, verb tense, negation, plurals, and articles (Goldstein, 2004; Roseberry-McKibbin, 2002). In Spanish, the following morphosyntactic rules apply (Goldstein, 2004; Roseberry-McKibbin, 2002):
  • Questions are identified by a speaker’s intonation rather than by word order, 
  • Comparatives and superlatives are signified by the word “más,” meaning “more,” 
  • Possessives are represented based on word order rather than an ’s, 
  • Adjectives follow nouns and agree in number and gender with the noun, 
  • Verbs are marked by number and tense, 
  • Negation is marked by the word “no,” 
  • Double negatives are acceptable, 
  • Plurals are represented throughout the noun phrase, 
  • Articles agree in number and gender with the noun. 

As a result of these differences, Spanish speakers learning English as a second language may make mistakes by employing the morphosyntactic rules of Spanish to their sentences in English. Examples of erred sentences that may be produced by a second-language learner are as follows:

  • You are angry?
  • His house is more big than our house.
  • That is the house of Jose.
  • I have three apples reds.
  • No do that!
  • I need three hundreds dollars.
  • I no want no cookies.

This concludes my post on morphosyntax in Spanish-Influenced English. Don’t forget to check back soon for the next post in this series. Also, please leave a comment if English is your second language to let me know what types of struggles (if any) you experience when speaking English.


Anderson, R. T. (1995). Spanish morphological and syntactic development. In H. Kayser (Ed.), Bilingual speech-language pathology: An Hispanic focus (pp. 41-74). San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group, Inc.

Goldstein, B. A. (2004). Bilingual language development and disorders in Spanish-English speakers. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (2002). Multicultural students with special language needs: Practical strategies for assessment and intervention (2nd ed.). Oceanside, CA: Academic Communication Associates, Inc.

About the Author

Courtney Caruso is the owner of Liberty Speech Associates LLC and is a bilingual speech-language pathologist in Northern NJ. She works with children and adults in their homes so they can work on their skills in a natural environment where they are most comfortable.

Interested in speech or language therapy or accent modification services? Contact us at 201-658-4400 or

Categories: Accent Modification, Bilingualism, Cultural & Linguistic Diversity

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