Grammar

Spanish grammar points


Uses of the 4 Past Tenses in Spanish 3

In previous posts you have learned about how to talk about the past, and you learned how to form and use the Pretérito Perfecto (Present Perfect), the Pretérito Imperfecto (Past Continuous), the Pretérito Indefinido (Past Simple) and Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto (Past Perfect).

Now you have all the tenses required to talk about the past, but you might be wondering when to use one or the other, aren’t you? I hear you, it seems tricky but it is not that much.

Let me explain.

  • Pretérito Perfecto: Is used for past actions that have a feeling of continuing into the present, or continuing to affect the present, or without mention of when.

– Esta tarde he tomado un café con Sara.
– This afternoon I have had a coffee with Sara.

  • Pretérito Indefinido: Is used for past actions that are seen as completed at a definite time in the past.

– El año pasado fuimos de vacaciones a Portugal.
– Last summer we went on holiday to Portugal.

It is also used for actions in the past that have no relation with the present, such as single events that contain a date or a specific period of time.

– Viví en Paris desde 1997 a 2001.
– I lived in Paris from 1997 to 2001.

– Trabajamos en el proyecto la semana pasada.
– We worked in the project last week.

– Ayer no fui a trabajar.
– Yesterday I didn’t go to work.

The Indefinido is used for a series of actions in the past, to talk about past actions that happen one after the other.

– Ella se levantó, se vistió, tomó un café y fue al trabajo.
– She got up, got dressed, had a coffee, and went to work.

  • Pretérito Imperfecto: This tense Is used for actions in the past that are not seen as completed. It’s use implies that the past action did not have a definite beginning or a definite end.

– Cuando vivía en Londres, todavía no conocía a Peter.
– When I was living in London, I still didn’t know Peter.

The Imperfecto is also used for habitual actions (used to…).

– Hacía yoga todas las mañanas.
– I used to do yoga every morning.

The Imperfecto is the tense of the description, so it is used to describe things, people, animals, situations in the past. Also for telling time and stating one’s age.

– Mi padre era alto, moreno y llevaba un bigote muy gracioso.
– My father was tall, dark and he had a funny moustache.

– Hacía mucho frío y no tenía un abrigo.
– It was very cold and I didn’t have a coat.

– Cuando tenía 12 años jugaba en el parque.
– When I was 12 years old I played in the park.

– Eran las 10 de la noche.
– It was 10 o’clock at nigh.

We combine the imperfecto with the indefinido to tell a story.

– Hacía mucho frío cuando él llegó a casa y preparó una taza de té.
– It was very cold when he arrived home and prepared a cup of tea.

  • Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto: Used to talk about an action that happened in the past, previous to another action also in the past.

– Cuando llegué a casa, él ya se había ido.
– When I arrived home, he had already gone.

And now all in combination! Woohoo!

– Pedro estaba (description) muy cansado porque se había acostado    (action 1º) muy tarde la noche anterior por lo que no oyó (action 2º) el despertador a la mañana siguiente.

– Pedro was very tired because he had gone to sleep very late the previous night, and that’s why he didn’t hear the alarm the following morning.

 

Finally, you can download a printable version of this lesson in the link below. You will also find a second link to a pdf with some exercises to practice and reinforce the knowledge. Remember that you can get a personalized correction for free by sending your answers to learn@mariaortegagarcia.com and I will get back to you with the corrections as soon as my busy teaching schedule allows me to.


Irregularities of the Pretérito Indefinido tense in Spanish. Talking about the past (III) 7

Few days ago, a follower of my Facebook page asked me for help about his personal nightmare in Spanish. For him, the irregular verbs in the Pretérito Indefinido (Past Tense) were just something he couldn’t understand, so he wrote me few lines asking me for some tips. As this week, I also had a class with one of my students, working on the same topic, I decided I was going to spend some time answering all your prayers about the irregularities of the verbs in the Pretérito Indefinido in Spanish. 

❉  ❉  ❉

The past tense – Pretérito Indefinido – is used to talk about the past in Spanish. We used to talk about actions accomplished in a particular moment in the past.

El año pasado mis padres y yo nos mudamos a nuestra nueva casa. – Last year, my parents and I moved to our new house.

So, the action (mudarse = ‘to move’) was accomplished, finished in an specific time in the past (el año pasado = ‘last year’). We also use the pretérito indefinido to express an action that happens in the past, occurs in the middle of other action.

– Justo cuando estábamos pasándolo mejor, tuvo que irse. – Right when we were having more fun, he had to go.

As you can see, there are two actions: one extended in time (pasarlo bien = ‘have fun’) and one that happens in the middle of the previous one (tener que irse = ‘have to go’). In those cases, the action that happens in the middle of another action goes in pretérito indefinido.

Form

To conjugate a regular verb in the “Indefinido”, you just need to drop the endings -ar, -er or -ir from the infinitive form and add the endings.

Indefinido

 

Irregular verbs

Unfortunately there are quite a few irregular verbs in this tense. Verbs with an irregular root:

Indefinido_Irregular

Indefinido_Irregular

Some other irregularities:

  • Verbs ending by -ducir in the infinitive (like “producir”, “conducir”, “traducir”) C > J

The “c” in the root becomes “j”.

– Conducir: Conduje, condujiste, condujo, condujimos, condujisteis, condujeron.

  • Verbs that have an “-i-” between vowels with the verbs that en in “-er” and “-ir” in the infinitive, change the “i” for a “y” in the 3rd person of the singular (he/she) and of the plural (they). I > Y

– Leer: Le-ió > Leyó / Le-ieron > Leyeron – Contruir: Construyó / Construyeron – Oir: Oyó / Oyeron

  • Verbs ending by -zar in the infinitive (empezar, comenzar, cazar…) Z > C

The “z” becomes “c” only in the 1st person singular (yo).

– Empezar: Empecé, empezaste, empezó, empezamos, empezasteis, empezaron.

  • Verbs ending by -car in the infinitive (sacar, aparcar…) C > QU

The “c” in the rot becomes “qu” for the 1st person singular (yo).

– Sacar: Saqué, sacaste, sacó, sacamos, sacasteis, sacaron.

  • Verbs ending by -gar (llegar, jugar…) G > GU

The “g” in the root becomes “gu” in the 1st singular (yo).

– Llegar: Llegué, llegaste, llegó, llegamos, llegasteis, llegaron.

  • Verbs whose root end by “-ll” and “-ñ” (bullir, tañer…) won’t have the “i” in the 3rd person of singular and plural.

– Bullir: Bulló (not bullió) / Bulleron

  • Some verbs ending by “-er” and “-ir” in the infinitive change their vowel (E > I // O > U) in the 3rd person singular and plural. They are the same that change their vowel in the present of indicative (irregular verbs in the Present).

– Pedir: Pedí, pediste, pidió, pedimos, pedisteis, pidieron. – Dormir: Dormí, dormiste, durmió, dormimos, dormisteis, durmieron.

Otros verbos irregulares:

Andar > anduv-                             Caber > cup-
Haber > hub-                                 Poder > pud-
Poner > pus-                                  Saber > sup-
Decir > dij-                                   Querer > quis-
Traer > traj-                                  Venir > vin-

Note: 

Much of the above type and style of clarifications, grammar, and other tricky elements are now covered in Compass Spanish (a new course comprised of daily mini-lessons delivered straight to your inbox). If you struggle to find the time or have a busy schedule, try out a free week (no strings attached and no credit card required!).


Humor, movies, songs and lots of Spanish: “Mucha Guasa”

Last week, a friend and I launched Mucha Guasa (‘Much Banter’) an educational page intending to teach Spanish in a fun way.

A daily video of my friend singing or performing a line from a song or a movie translated into Spanish, which you, my dear Spanish lovers / learners can try to guess which movie or song he is performing.

Accompanying those highly entertaining videos, and contributing to the educational side, it’s me explaining some grammar point or idiom appearing in the translation.

Fun? Lots. Here is just an example of him singing.

Learning? Of course! So far, we have seen the use of the intensifier “demasiado / demasiada”, the “future simple”, the use of “ya” and “ya no” and the use of “como” as an adverb of manner, and we only launched last Wednesday!

Like us and start having fun while learning Spanish for free every day.


The most common phrasal verbs in Spanish, oh the joy! 1

Just as the English language has its phrasal verbs that cause so many headaches to the poor learners of English, Spanish has a quite nice list of phrasal verbs too.

Phrasal verbs in Spanish = Perífrasis

But first, what is a phrasal verb? It’s a combination of two verbs, one fully conjugated, called helper verb because it doesn’t keep its usual meaning, and another verb in a non-personal form (infinitive, gerund or participe), which provides the main meaning of the phrasal verb.

Helper verb (conjugated) + Main verb (infinitive/gerund/participe)

– Yo suelo trabajar los fines de semana.
– I usually work on weekends.

Sometimes, both verbs are linked by a preposition.

Vamos a salir esta noche.
– We are going to go out tonight.

One of the most used phrasal verbs in Spanish would be “ir a + infinitivo” (‘to be going to’) used to talk about future plans and “tener que + infinitivo” (‘have to’) which express obligation and necessity, but there are others, let’s see some:

  • estar + gerundio (‘to be doing something’)

– No puedo salir ahora, estoy estudiando para el examen del martes.
– I can’t go out now, I’m studying for Tuesday’s exam.

  • seguir + infinitivo (‘to continue to do something’)

– Laura sigue trabajando para la empresa.
– Laura continues working for the entreprise.

  • llevar + participio (‘to have done something’)

Llevo escritas 200 páginas de mi tesis.
– I have written 200 pages of my thesis.

  • llevar + gerundio (‘to lead to do something’)

–  ¡Llevo haciendo dieta durante 3 semanas y aún no he perdido ni un kilo!
– 
I have been going on a diet for 3 weeks and I haven’t lost a kilo yet!

  • empezar a + infinitivo (‘to begin to do something’)

– Mi padre ha empezado a pintar mi retrato.
– My father has begun to paint my portrait.

  • ponerse a + infinitivo (‘to start to do something’)

Me tengo que poner a estudiar para el examen del martes. ¡Es pasado mañana!
– I have to start to study for Tuesday’s exam. It’s the day after tomorrow!

  • deber + infinitivo (‘to have to do something’)

Debéis leer El Quijote este verano.
– You have to read El Quixote this summer.

  • terminar de + infinitivo (‘to finish doing something’)

– No hemos terminado de limpiar los cristales todavía.
– We haven’t finished cleaning the windows yet.

  • poder + infinitivo (‘to be able to do something’)

– No puedo ver la tele y estudiar al mismo tiempo.
– I am not able to watch the T.V and study at the same time.

  • soler + infinitivo (‘to do something usually’)

– Los novios suelen bailar juntos después del banquete de boda.
– The bride and the groom usually dance together after the wedding reception.

  • tener que + infinitivo (‘to have to do something’)

Tienes que comer más frutas y verduras.
– You have to eat more fruit and vegetables.

  • acabar de + infinitivo (‘to have just done something’)

Acababa de salir de casa cuando empezó a llover.
– I had just left the house when it started to rain.


“Ser bueno” and “Estar bueno”: not the same thing? 1

“Ser” and “estar” are not the same thing, as the Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz tells us is his song “No es lo mismo” (here you can have a look at the lyrics in Spanish and its translation into English)

 

In a previous post, I wrote about the differences between “bien, bueno/a” and when to use one or the other. In another previous blog post I wrote about the million dollar question, the differences between “ser” and “estar”. In this one, I am going to combine both questions and shed some light on them. Don’t need to thank me now, guys, I’m here to help… 😉

Ok, here we go!

SER BUENO vs. ESTAR BUENO

– Ser bueno:

1. Talking about a person: ‘virtuous, upright

– Mi hijo es muy bueno, siempre se porta muy bien.
– My son is very upright, he always behaves.

2. Talking about a thing: ‘of good quality’, ‘beneficial

– Mi cazadora de cuero es buena, me costó carísima.
– My leather jacket is of good quality, it was very expensive.

– Hacer deporte es bueno.
– Sport is good for you.

– Estar bueno:

1. Talking about a person: ‘being healthy or very handsome

– Juan Diego Botto está muy bueno.
– Juan Diego Botto is very handsome.

2. Talking about food: ‘having a good taste

– Esta sopa está muy buena.
– This soup is very tasty.

SER MALO vs. ESTAR MALO

– Ser malo:

1. Referred to a person: ‘being evil, wicked

– Norman Bates es malo, malísmo.
– Norman Bates is evil, very evil.

2. Talking about a thing or an action: ‘of bad quality’ or ‘ harmful

– Este libro es muy malo, no pude terminar de leerlo.
– This book is very bad, I couldn’t even finishing reading it.

– Fumar es malo para la salud.
– Smoking is bad for you.

– Estar malo:

1. Talking about a person: ‘being sick, ill

– Hoy no voy a trabajar porque estoy malo.
– I am not going to work today because I am sick.

2. Referred to a food: ‘rotten‘.

– Esta manzana está mala, dáme otra.
– This apple is rotten, give me another one.

A VERY USEFUL LIST

Now, there are many other adjectives that change meaning depending on if they are with “ser” or “estar. Let’s see some of them and learn some new vocabulary and expressions.

+ SER + ESTAR 
aburrido'boring'
- Este libro es muy aburrido .
- This book is very boring.
aburrido'bored'
- Estoy aburrida hoy, la clase es un tostón.
- I am bored, today's class is a drag.
atento'thoughtful, courteous'
- Mi novio es muy atento, siempre me trae flores por mi cumpleaños.
- My boyfriend is very courteous, he always brings me flowers for my birthday.
atento'attentive'
- Tengo que estar más atenta en clase.
- I need to be more attentive in class.
despierto'bright, sharp'
- Es un niño muy despierto.
- He is a very sharp boy'
despierto'not sleep'
- Estoy despierta desde las 7 am.
- I am awake since 7 am.
verde'green color', 'sexual'
- El vestido es verde.
- The dress is green.
- Es un chiste un poco verde.
- It's a blue joke.
verde'unripe, immature, not ready'
- La manzana está verde
- The apple is green.
- Aún estoy muy verde para presentarme al examen.
- I am not ready yet to do the exam.
negro'black color'
- No me gusta el negro.
- I don't like black.
black'being angry'
- Estoy negra, se me ha roto el coche dos veces en una semana.
- I'm furious, my car broke twice in a week.
orgulloso'arrogant'
- Sofía es demasiado orgullosa, no me gusta.
- Sofia is too arrogant, I don't like her.
orgulloso'pleased'
- Estoy muy contenta con el resultado.
- I'm very pleased with the outcome.
listo'smart, intelligent'
- Este chico es muy listo, llegará lejos.
- This boy is very smart, he will go a long way.
listo'ready'
- ¡Espérame, no estoy lista!
- Wait, I'm not ready!
claro'light, pale'
- No me gustan los colores tan claros.
- I don't like such light colors.
claro'obvious, clear'
- Está claro que no es el culpable.
- It's obvious he's not guilty.
abierto'extroverted'
- Ella es muy abierta, habla con todo el mundo.
- She is very outgoing, she talks with every body.
abierto'open'
- La puerta está abierta.
- The door is open.

 

Note: 

Much of the above type and style of clarifications, grammar, and other tricky elements are now covered in Compass Spanish (a new course comprised of daily mini-lessons delivered straight to your inbox). If you struggle to find the time or have a busy schedule, try out a free week (no strings attached and no credit card required!).