From this thread Word order in passive voice I have been given comment about one of my own sentences used in question. Specifically, about this sentence:

Coches se venden aquí.

Comment was the following: "In any case, if you start the sentences with coches, you must use the articles: Los coches se venden aqui. A missing article would be a flat-out error in Spanish there."

I studied Spanish grammar, but this one wasn't explicitly mentioned anywhere or I simply missed it somehow.

So the question is: Is it correct that you cannot start any sentence with a noun without using article/directive/possessive pronoun before it?

"Coches se venden aquí." - incorrect as I already understood?

"En este casa coches se venden aquí" - my example without anything before noun (because "coches" is not in the beginning of sentence), but not sure if it is correct?

"Mis/unos/los/estos coches se venden aquí." - my example that should be correct.

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    Indeed, the sentence "coches se venden aquí" sounds to me like there is an article missing. But you cannot then infer that no sentence can start with a noun. The Spanish language is flexible enough for that, I remember one famous saying in Spanish, similar to your example: "Consejos vendo que para mí no tengo". It is said like that, and means that I don't follow the advices I give to others. It's not like you should start every sentence like that, probably the general rule is that you should avoid that structure, but it is possible.
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 10:24
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    Indeed starting with nouns sounds weird, however it's perfectly valid. The sentence soudns more naturally starting with the adverb "aquí se venden coches". Nevertheless the sentence is still correct. For example, as an answer. ¿Qué se vende aquí? Coches, se venden aquí.
    – FGSUZ
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 1:34
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    An important missing exception would be with proper nouns, which do not need an article: "Roberto se fue a casa".
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 11:26
  • Please note: I said that general statements in Spanish must take an article. I never said you can't have aphorisms: Perro ladrador, nunca mordedor. Flexibility has nothing to do with it. Dogs like bones.=A los perros les gustan los huesos. General statements in English take a plural, and no article. I like bananas. A mi me gustan los platanos. And not: A mi me gustan platanos.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 1:43

3 Answers 3


Bare nouns starting a sentence in Spanish are not ungrammatical. They are however restricted to specific circumstances (leaving aside poetry and other registers where one has more freedom to move things around).

Most simple noun phrases begininning a sentence must have an article (or a possesive, or a demonstrative) because bare nouns cannot be used in Spanish in the same way as in English. So if you want to say something like "Pets are expensive to maintain", you cannot say

“Mascotas son caras de mantener.”

You need the definite article:

Las mascotas son caras de mantener.”

In sentences like your example the subject goes at the end: “Aquí se venden coches” (or just leave out aquí, since it's obvious). This probably has an explanation in terms of the relationship between syntax and semantics of the passive. The main thing is that the subject is not the topic or theme of the sentence.

You can use a bare noun in a general statement if the noun is an object of the verb, but in this case the normal position is after the verb, as you know:

“Es caro mantener mascotas.” ("It's expensive to maintain pets.")

Since in Spanish you can topicalize (make it the topic of the sentence) almost anything by moving it to the beginning, it's possible to move such a general object to the front. This is often done with contrastive purposes, i.e. when you need to emphasize the difference between alternatives. Suppose you get into an electronics shop and say you want to buy a tablet, but the shop only sells smartphones; then the shopkeeper can say to you:

Tablets no vendemos. Teléfonos le puedo mostrar si quiere.”

That is, literally: "Tablets we don't sell. Phones I can show you if you want."

This works also when there's no explicit alternative but still you want to emphasize the topic. For example, suppose you made pizza for your friend, and your friend comments you haven't put olives on top. Then you could reply:

Aceitunas nunca les pongo a las pizzas. ("Olives I never put on pizzas.")

The phrase would be equally fine if you'd left the word aceitunas in its usual place, after the verb, but in this case it somehow emphasizes that it's olives, not something else, that you usually leave out.

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    Es que es if you had left, no if you would leave.
    – pablodf76
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 21:10
  • I think above should be "Aceitunas nunca las pongo a las pizzas." Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 23:27
  • Ah vale, pensé en would. Elimino comentario
    – fedorqui
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 6:14
  • In English, the last example in its written form would be more like "Olives: I never put them on pizzas". By the way, in case you didn't see it, Jose's answer spanish.stackexchange.com/a/32096/3053 was actually supposed to be a comment on this answer.
    – Tom Fenech
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 11:28
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    +1 for examples translated to English that make the object-first approach seem natural, in the sense of reflecting how people often speak.
    – J.G.
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 22:36

While an article is generally needed before a noun —do stick to that as a guide to build proper sentences—, per your asking, the rule is not so strict in practice as to not show instances where that gets exempt (used as an expressive resource)

Off the top of my head, these two samples show that deviations from it are possible:

Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente [ every shrimp that falls asleep gets carried away by the water stream] (from a Caribbean lyric, metaphorically warning on the need to remain awake and alert in order to survive)

Or this other, from the Spaniard poet Antonio Machado

Moneda que está en la mano, quizás se deba guardar /
moneda que está en el alma, se pierde si no se da

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    This is nice! I didn't think of those, but they do form a kind of common structure. I just thought about Cocodrilo que duerme es cartera. :)
    – pablodf76
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 16:57
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    My hard-working ex-mother-in-law, bless her heart, had one of her own: Pañal quitado, pañal lavado. Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 17:09
  • Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente is not a general statement about camerones. It's an aphorism or saying. Your examples are not general statements such as: dogs like bones, cats like fish. Those are general statements.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 1:35
  • ramal que para, ramal que cierra (Menem amenazando con la aplxcación de una impiadosa política de privatización de trenes en los 90 en Argentina (sabrinaramirez.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/…)
    – ipp
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 5:35

You can start with a noun and omitting the article. By the example you provide the context appears to be a sign or a post. However, as other have commented, the example provided in the question sounds a little weird. I would change as in the following examples:

Coches en venta
Tomates en oferta
Departamento en renta

It may be arguable that these examples are not really sentences:

El departamento en renta está fuera de la ciudad.
Los tomates en oferta estan caducados.
Todos los coches en venta tienen seguro incluido.

But you can see them from another perpective:

[Aquel] departamento [está] en renta.
[Los] tomates [están] en oferta.
[Todos los] coches [están] en venta.

As others have mentioned, literary license allows other possibilities like in sayings:

Pueblo chico, infierno grande
Panza llena, corazón contento
Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda

or riddles

Agua pasa por mi casa. Cate de mi corazón...
Oro no es, plata no es...

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