With a similar word order to English, you might say "Carlos ha escrito una carta."

However, what is the effect of writing "Ha llegado el calor." as opposed to "El calor ha llegado."?

How does each choice effect the tone of the sentence, if at all?

Muchas gracias.

  • 2
    What comes first is emphasised. In your example the effect is minimal.
    – mdewey
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 14:38
  • 1
    Usually with unaccusative and passive reflexive verbs, the subject comes after the verb. In some cases, especially with plural nouns referring to people, if the subject goes before the verb, it could be interpreted as a reciprocal verb, for example: Ayer se vieron unos policías en el centro (=fueron vistos) Ayer unos policías se vieron en el centro (=el uno al otro); or a reflexive verb: Ayer unos policías se vieron en el centro (=se reunieron)
    – nopaltepec
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 15:16
  • @nopaltepec I was going to answer more or less what you just commented. Why don't you turn that into an answer yourself (if you have the time, of course)?
    – pablodf76
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 16:38
  • It depends on what you want to stress. Spanish speakers put words in the order they want to stress. Here, the first emphasizes the arrival whereas the second emphasizes the heat and this is not limited to Iberian Spanish. It is a major feature of all varieties of Spanish.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


Verbs that behave like llegar are called unaccusative. They are intransitive verbs whose subject is not an agent but an experiencer. So for example, caer “to fall” is unaccusative because its subject does not act; it just experiences a movement. Many of the se verbs (like levantarse, hundirse, etc.) are unaccusative too; in fact se is often used to turn a transitive verb into an unaccusative. On the other hand, trabajar “to work” and correr “to run” are intransitive but not unaccusative, because they are clearly actions performed by an agent.

In linguistics a “default” word order is called “unmarked”, which refers to the fact that is interpreted as normal or unremarkable. The unmarked word order for unaccusative verbs is VS. One effect of this word order is that the event itself (rather than the subject) becomes the first thing you talk about, and the subject (because it is placed last) becomes the so-called focus and is emphasized. “Ha llegado el calor” tells you that the issue at hand is that something has arrived and only then drops the important info: it is the heat! The effect is exactly parallel to the one obtained with transitive sentences like “El verano ha traído fuertes tormentas” (where the unmarked word order is SVO). The focus (the new info) is left for last.

When a speaker uses a different word order, this is interpreted as “marked”, i.e. it is unusual and therefore means something (usually, some kind of emphasis). “El calor ha llegado” sounds funny to the native ear, so there must be some reason to use this word order. It can be done for stylistic effect, for example, if you want to have several parallel sentences with SV-SV-SV... order, or if you want to say several things in a row about the heat. Unless you know what you are doing, it would be better to use VS order for unaccusative verbs.

  • Awesome, thanks for being specific. Is there any chance this doesn't apply to its full extent in mainland Spain? (I'm assuming there wouldn't be any issues really)
    – Poo2uhaha
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 12:43
  • To build on the example: Ha llegado el calor // Ya casi termina el verano, pero el calor apenas ha llegado (I want to emphasize the arrival of the heat) It applies to Spanish in general, it is NOT a regional characteristic.
    – nopaltepec
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 14:41
  • 1
    El calor ha llegado sounds funny to the native ear? El calor ha llegado versus Ha llegado el calor stresses the arrival versus the heat.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 21:58

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