I’m two weeks in to my intermediate Spanish course. So far I have been on time for each lesson, so well done me, it’s after I arrive that it goes downhill. We’ve been spending a lot of our lessons talking about things that we did in the past to learn how to use the past tense in verbs. That’s all good if there were only one past tense to choose from, but there are two I can describe and another two that I am not sure of yet. That makes FOUR!! Don’t you think that’s just greedy?
I had to get this explanation from the internet (thanks to http://www.spanish.about.com) as I don’t want to give you the wrong information and lead you down the same rabbit hole I’m in.
“What’s past is past, but in Spanish what’s past may be either preterite or imperfect. Unlike English, Spanish has two simple past tenses, known as the preterite (often called the preterit) and the imperfect indicative. (As in English, they are known as simple tenses to distinguish them from verb forms that use an auxiliary verb, such as “has left” in English and ha salido in Spanish.)
Although the English simple past in a sentence such as “he ate” can be conveyed in Spanish using either the preterite (comió) or the imperfect indicative (comía), the two tenses are not interchangeable.”
I know this is true because of the amount of times I’ve managed to get it wrong in class and everyone else has sniggered at me. There are some very smart people in my group, which is not intimidating at all, no, no, really. No.
I’m also fairly certain now that even though the famous languages teacher, Michel Tomas, who up to now has been a bit of a hero in my house, is great for starting to speak a language you shouldn’t rely on him for. He teaches that you make sentences together by translating directly from one language to another, this just isn’t possible.
In Spanish, verb tenses are formed by changing the endings of verbs, a process known as conjugation. Present tense, imperfect, preterite, future, conditional, the present perfect, the pluperfect, the past perfect, the preterite perfect, future perfect and the conditional perfect conjugation. So, we should have that all under control by next week.
What I am learning from learning Spanish is how little I understand the English language. I must have missed out on the grammar lessons at my (don’t laugh) Grammar School because I don’t understand the terms, I am literally starting from scratch.
Anyone who has studied Spanish is aware of the troublesome relationship between the pretérito and imperfecto. The imperfecto (yo hablaba) translates to the English imperfect (I was talking) while the pretérito (yo hablé) literally translates to the English simple past (I talked) but can also be translated as the English present perfect (I have talked) or the emphatic past (I did talk). And when a person asks you in Spanish what you did before they will ask you using the present tense. (Example: “Desde cuando vives aqui ?” translates to “From when you live here?”) Confuso? Si. Thanks for asking.
Of course I have been searching the internet for “easy ways to remember the different Spanish verb tenses”. That brings up almost a million and a half results, so I guess there’s still some work to be done there. Hang on in there McLeod.