The following passage is taken from the introductory materials to Raymond MacCurdy's anthology, Spanish Drama of the Golden Age. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1971, pp. 12-13.

Generally, speaking, Spanish grammatical usage in the seventeenth century does not differ greatly from modern usage. There are, however, certain recurring grammatical practices in Golden Age plays which are either rare or which have fallen into disuse in modern Spanish. Familiarity with the most common of these practices, which are listed below, will enable the student to read the plays with greater ease. The examples are drawn from plays in the anthology.


  1. The definite article el is sometimes used before feminine nouns and adjectives beginning with unstressed a- or ha-, and occasionally before other initial vowels. This el is an old form of the feminine article, not the masculine. Examples: el afrenta, el alfombra, el acerada cuchilla, el hermosura.
  2. The definite article la may be used before feminine nouns beginning with stressed a- or ha-. [Example:] la hambre.
  3. The feminine indefinite article may be apocopated. [Example:] un hora, un aya.


  1. Pronouns of address. The king is addressed vuestra majestad or vuestra alteza, other royalty by vuestra alteza (Often capitalized but not in this anthology). The usual forms for formal address are vuestra merced and vuesamerced (The equivalent of modern usted). Vos and are used for informal or disrespectful address; however, in many plays vos and are used indiscriminately among equals and between master and servant, with no intention of disrespect and with no apparent change in attitude on the part of the speakers. Vos is also used for the familiar plural (the equivalent of modern vosotros). Since the use of a given form of address is often determined by stylistic or metrical considerations, no fixed rules can be given for their use.
  2. The relative quien may be used for both the singular and plural, and may refer to things as well as persons. [Examples:] "todos aquéllos a quien/ hará en este mundo bien"; "Y yo me parto en tu nombre;/ por quien venzo mis desdichas."
  3. The interrogative ¿quién? is occasionally used for the plural ¿quiénes? [Example:] "¿Quién fueron/ los crueles sacristanes?"
  4. The masculine directo object le is often used instead of lo to refer to things. [Example:] "Muestra el papel, / que primero le tengo de aderezar."
  5. The feminine indirect object la is often used instead of le. [Example:] "Mentalmente la dije mi deseo."
  6. The object pronoun may precede the addirmative imperative provided that the imperative does not begin the sentence. [Example:] "De lo hecho te contenta, / y ten por cárcel tu casa."
  7. Object and reflexive pronouns, which normally precede finite forms of the verb in modern usage except in highly elevated style, frequently follow the verb and are attached to it. [Example:] "Recójome a mi aposento."
  8. Object and reflexive pronouns, which normally are appended to the infinitive, may precede it. [Example:] "Ya, Jimena / no tiene que se cansar."
  9. Pronominal periphrasis. One of the most common stylistic feature of the comedia is its frequent use of pronominal periphrasis. The periphrasis can often best be translated by paraphrasing. A few examples and suggested translations follow: "De Rodrigo la cabeza / te promete mi valor" ("I, because of my bravery, promise you Rodrigo's head.") "No piense tu bobería / que está la casa vacía." ("Don't be stupid enough to think that the house is vacant.") "Yo un medio sé que mi silencio calla" (freely, "I know a way that I cannot divulge.")
  10. [Occasionally the object pronoun will be found "infixed" between the verb stem and its ending in the future tense. Example: "verlo he" for "lo veré."]


  1. Archaic verbe forms. Among the archaic verb forms which occur most frequently are: habemos (hemos), vais (vayáis), fuérades (fuerais) and érades (erais). Similar to the last two cases, other verbs may have the ending - ades instead of the modern -ais.
  2. The second person plural of the preterit often ends in -astes instead of -asteis, and in -istes instead of -isteis. [Examples:] dejastes, partistes, etc.
  3. Singular verbs with plural subjects. When two or more subjects are closely related and viewed as a unit they may take a singular verb. [Example:] "¿Qué ruido, grita y lloro / ...rompe el silencio en mi casa?" This construction also occurs, but probably less frequently in modern Spanish.
  4. The subjunctive is used after como meaning "provided that" or "if". [Example:] "Aceto (Acepto) el tratarme ansí, / como no comience en mí."
  5. The future subjunctive, which has largely fallen into disuse in modern Spanish, is common. [Example:] "Yo creeré lo que quisiere.
  6. The imperfect subjunctive is frequently used instead of the conditional tense, and in the result clause of sentences involving a condition contrary to fact (a fairly common practice in modern Spanish). [Examples:] "Por la misma razón yo no / tratara de más venganza." "¡Si no fuérades mi padre, / diéraos una bofetada!"
  7. The imperfect subjunctive is also used for the pluperfect subjective in an if clause of implied negation and for the conditional perfect in the result clause. [Example:] "Si arder le vieras..., / no dudo, gran señor, que te admiraras." ("If you had seen it burn..., I don't doubt, great loard, that you would have been astonished.")
  8. Present participle. The preposition en followed by the present participle (or gerund) is often used instead of al plus infinitive to denote simultaneity of action or to indicate that something happens after the completion of the action expressed by the aprticiple. [Examples:] "En siendo los suegros turbios / han de ser los yernos claros." "Y en habiendo sucedido / habremos los dos quedado..."


  1. The objective possessive (genitive). The objective use of possessive adjectives is very common. [Examples:] tu obediencia (my obedience to you); tu amor (my love for you); vuestro respeto (my respect for you).


  1. Personal a. The preposition a is frequently omitted before a personal direct object. [Examples:] "Ana, llama esa mujer." "Castigaré mis vasallos."


  1. The metathesis (transposition) of the letters in the third person object pronoun and the plural imperative ending (-ad, - ed, or -id) is common. [Examples:] matalde (matadle), prendelde (prendedle), seguilde (seguidle).


  1. The r in the infinitve ending frequently assimilates to the following l of an appended pronoun. [Examples:] matalle (matarle), cortalla (cortarla), vella (verla), ceñilla (ceñirla). The resulting ll is pronounced like any other ll, so that mirallo rhymes with caballo.

Texto electrónico por Vern G. Williamsen y J T Abraham
Formateo adicional por Matthew D. Stroud

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Most recent update: 30 June, 2002