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The following question is within a lesson on Memrise.com:

Example1: ¿Conoció tu madre a tu padre en una estación de tren?

Did your mother meet your father at a train station?

Being that I'm so new to Spanish, I would construct this sentence as such:

Example2: ¿Tu madre conoció a tu padre en una estación de tren?

The construction of Example1 really stifles my listening comprehension. This is because my brain is programmed to English, and the construction of Example2 is similar to that of English.

So ultimately my question is, how common do native speakers use the construction of Example1?

If the answer is, "very common", then I'm in for a world of hurt because I find Example1 to be sooooo difficult, and therefore I'll have to increase my study times in this particular area.

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    In my experience, native speakers would also prefer the second construction. In this specific case, even ¿Tu madre y tu padre se conocieron en una estación de tren? – Gorpik Jan 21 '16 at 9:36
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    very common, and if you see the answers, there are other contructions – Adrian Cid Almaguer Jan 21 '16 at 14:52
  • Well, since Spanish are English are two different languages, yes, you will have to get used to a whole set of syntactical constructions that may or may not "look" similar to English. There are way too many Spanish speakers from way too many different countries, and you will not find a uniform way of doing syntax, especially when Spanish is a tad more flexible in that respect than English. – TeachingTom Jan 22 '16 at 23:03
  • As a follow-up question to native speakers, can native speakers usually and easily comprehend all of these various constructions? – Rock Anthony Johnson Jan 22 '16 at 23:09
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  1. Often, in Spanish you'll see a lot of these constructions. We invert some part of the sentence because we want to show preference of something when speaking.

    ¿Conoció tu madre a tu padre en una estación de tren?
    ¿Tu madre conoció a tu padre en una estación de tren?

  2. As you were told, both constructions work, with no difference in meaning. The same applies if you wanted to turn both madre and padre into a pronoun (here we'll need to use the pronoun se):

    ¿Se conocieron en una estación de tren?
    ¿En una estación de tren se conocieron?

  3. We can even form more constructions, perhaps less used, but which can be used anyway:

    ¿Conoció tu madre en una estación de tren a tu padre?

  4. And commas can also be added to rewrite the question and interrogative signs are placed in different positions:

    En una estación de tren, ¿tu madre conoció a tu padre?
    Conoció tu madre a tu padre, ¿en una estación de tren?

    As you can see, in Spanish we have lots of options to rephrase a sentence, it all depends how we want to express it on that precise moment.

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    Exactly. In general in Spanish, the more important elements go first. If the act of meeting is more important, ¿Conoció tu madre...?, if the mother is more important, ¿Tu madre conoció...?, if the father is more important, ¿A tu padre le conoció tu madre...?, etc – guifa Jan 21 '16 at 16:07
  • Thanks, Ustanak and @guifa. I have no idea of what search criteria would help me to find the answers that your're providing here. This is soooo valuable! – Rock Anthony Johnson Jan 21 '16 at 17:10
  • O si te asombra que fuera en una estación del tren; "¿Así que fué en una estación del tren que se conocieron tu mamá y tu papá? – chapelo Mar 12 '16 at 23:43
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Both are correct however I would say that Example 1 sounds to me like a "book" while Example 2 sound like everyday common people talk.

Given the answer from Ferran (I think from Spain) where he likes Example 1 best I'd say that the first sounds good in Spain and the second is best in Latinamerica.

The way I would say it would be more like ¿Tus padres se conocieron en una estación de tren?

  • 1
    I'm also from Spain and option 2 sounds better, but the example in this answer sounds the best (although slightly different meaning) – Francisco Presencia Jan 21 '16 at 15:28
  • @FranciscoPresencia I'm curious, in what way is the example in this answer slightly different in meaning? – Rock Anthony Johnson Jan 21 '16 at 17:06
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    Well for starters the topic of the conversation are "the parents", not the mother only. Then it asks how they met each other, not how the mother met the father. So for instance, if you're talking specifically about your mother, I'd expect the sentence to be any of the examples you showed. However if you are talking about your parents or in other general topics, then the one with "Tus padres" sounds better. – Francisco Presencia Jan 21 '16 at 17:54
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Also, as a native spanish speaker, i can confirm both ways are correct.

First example is a "formal" mode of asking. More appropriate for writing or being polite.

The most common way is the second example, since it's the colloquial way to do a question.

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As a native spanish speaker I would say both of your construction are correct. Maybe the first one is more common if you use a translation and you are answering a question of your students book.

For me, the first one sounds more correct because of the order construction. However I miss in the first one a how (Cúando) like:

¿Cómo conoció tu madre a tu padre en una estación de tren?
How did your mother meet your father at a train station?

In Spanish there isn't an exact construction of questions because it admits several changes of sorting words,subject etc. It is not very common to put the subject at the beginning of a question. However, everybody will understand you whichever you choose.

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    I do not agree that a "how (Cómo)" is missing. Those are to different questions. If you add "Cómo" you are asking for the whole story of how they met, but the original question only asks for if they met at a train station or not. As for the rest of the answer, I do agree. – DGaleano Jan 21 '16 at 12:33
  • Thats true, but without "how" the questions sounds a bit weird. – Ferran Buireu Jan 21 '16 at 14:25

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