Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Spanish verbs are one of the trickiest areas of Spanish grammar for foreign learners such as English speakers, given that Spanish is a relatively inflected language, with a two-gender system and about fifty conjugated forms per verb, but no noun declension and limited pronominal declension.
How Spanish verbs work
Spanish verbs are conjugated in four categories known as moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional and imperative. Each verb also has three non-finite forms: an infinitive, a gerund, and a past participle (more exactly a passive and perfect participle). This participle can agree for number and gender, giving it four possible forms. There is also form traditionally known as the present participle, but this is generally considered to be an adjective derived from the verb rather than a form of the verb itself.
Verbs are divided into three classes, which differ with respect to their conjugation. The class of the verb can be be identified by looking at the infinitive ending: -ar, -er, or -ir, as shown in the dictionary form of the verb. The vowel in the ending (/a/, /e/, or /i/) is technically termed the thematic vowel.
The ar-verbs are the most numerous and the most regular; moreover, the -ar class is usually chosen for new verbs. The -er and -ir classes comprise far fewer verbs, which also tend to be more irregular. There are also subclasses of semi-regular verbs which show vowel alternation conditioned by stress (see below).
Mood, tense and aspect — forms of the verb
To illustrate the way a verb may conjugate, let us take a typical -ar verb: hablar, to talk or speak. Note that the English equivalents given are only approximate. First, here are its forms that do not conjugate:
- Infinitive: hablar = "to speak"
- Gerund: hablando = "speaking"
- Past participle: hablado (hablado, hablada, hablados, habladas) = "spoken"
- Present participle: hablante = "speaking, speaker"
Next, there is the indicative mood, with its four simple tenses. Each one of these has a perfective form, a continuous form and a perfective continuous form, as in English. This makes for a total of fifteen simple and compound tenses (one is not used). However, in traditional descriptions of the Spanish verb, continuous forms are ignored, and only the simple tenses plus their perfective versions are counted as "tenses". Note that modern grammatical studies would count only the simple forms as "tenses", and the other forms as the product of a certain tense and a certain aspect.
- Simple tenses
- (i.e. each of the four basic tenses plus simple aspect)
- presente (present) – Hablo = "I speak, I am speaking"
- pretérito imperfecto (imperfect) – Hablaba = "I used to speak, I was speaking"
- pretérito indefinido (preterite/simple past) – Hablé = "I spoke"
- futuro (future) – Hablaré = "I shall/will speak"
- Perfective tenses
- (i.e. each of the four basic tenses plus perfective aspect)
- pretérito perfecto ([present] perfect) – He hablado = "I have spoken"
- pretérito pluscuamperfecto (pluperfect) – Había hablado = "I had spoken"
- pretérito anterior (past anterior) – Hube hablado = "I (had) spoken"
- futuro anterior (future perfect) – Habré hablado = "I shall/will have spoken"
- Continuous tenses
- (i.e. each of the four basic tenses plus continous aspect)
- presente continuo (present continuous) – Estoy hablando = "I am speaking"
- pretérito imperfecto continuo (imperfect continuous) – Estaba hablando = "I was speaking"
- pretérito indefinido continuo (preterite/simple past continuous) – Estuve hablando = "I spoke for a while"
- futuro continuo (future) – Estaré hablando = "I shall/will be speaking"
- Perfective continuous tenses
- (i.e. each of the four basic tenses plus continous and perfective aspect)
- pretérito perfecto continuo ([present] perfect continuous) – He estado hablando = "I have been speaking"
- pretérito pluscuamperfecto continuo (pluperfect continuous) – Había estado hablando = "I had been speaking"
- pretérito anterior continuo (past anterior continuous) – Not used
- futuro anterior continuo (future perfect continuous) – Habré estado hablando = "I must have been speaking"
Note again that only the first half of these forms are traditionally considered "tenses" when studying Romance languages.
The subjunctive mood has a separate conjugation table with fewer tenses. It is used to express the speaker's opinion or judgement, such as doubts, possibilities, emotions, and events which may or may not occur.
- Simple tenses
- presente del subjuntivo (present subjunctive) – "Hable" = "I speak, I am speaking, I will speak"
- imperfecto del subjuntivo (imperfect subjunctive) – "Hablara" or "Hablase" = "I used to speak, I was speaking, I spoke, I would speak"
- Perfective tenses
- perfecto del subjuntivo ([present] perfect subjunctive) – "Haya hablado" = "I have spoken, I spoke"
- pluscuamperfecto del subjuntivo (pluperfect subjunctive) – "Hubiera hablado" or "Hubiese hablado" = "I had spoken, I spoke"
- Continuous tenses
- presente del subjuntivo continuo (present subjunctive continuous) – "Esté hablando" = "I am speaking"
- imperfecto del subjuntivo continuo (imperfect subjunctive continuous) – "Estuviera hablando" or "Estuviese hablando" = "I was speaking, I would be speaking"
- Perfective continuous tenses
- perfecto del subjuntivo continuo ([present] perfect subjunctive continuous) – "Haya estado hablando" = "I have been speaking"
- pluscuamperfecto del subjuntivo continuo (pluperfect subjunctive continuous) – "Hubiera estado hablando" or "Hubiese estado hablando" = "I had been speaking"
The present subjunctive is formed from the stem of the first person present indicative of a verb. So for an irregular verb like salir with the first person salgo, the present subjunctive would be salga, not sala. The use of the imperfect subjunctive is determined by tense of the main verb of a sentence, not necessarily the tense of the subjunctive verb itself. The "-ra" form is always correct, whereas the "-se" form is only correct in certain types of clauses.
- Simple tenses
- condicional (conditional) – "Hablaría" = "I would speak"
- Perfective tenses
- condicional anterior (conditional perfect) – "Habría hablado" = "I would have spoken"
- Continuous tenses
- condicional continuo (conditional continuous) – "Estaría hablando" = "I would be speaking"
- Perfective continuous tenses
- condicional anterior continuo (conditional perfect continuous) – "Habría estado hablando" = "I would have been speaking"
The imperative mood only has two forms: the second person singular and plural, and these are only used in the positive. The subjunctive supplements the imperative in all other cases.
- For comer, to eat
The singular imperative coincides with the third-person singular of the indicative for all but a few irregular verbs. The plural is always the same as the infinitive but with a -d instead of an -r. These actual imperative forms are in bold to distinguish them from those which are really just subjunctive forms.
- ¡come! (tú) – Eat! (informal singular)
- ¡coma! (usted) – Eat! (formal singular)
- ¡comed! (vosotros) – Eat! (informal plural)
- ¡coman! (ustedes) – Eat! (formal plural)
- ¡no comas! (tú) – Don't eat! (informal singular)
- ¡no coma! (usted) – Don't eat! (formal singular)
- ¡no comáis! (vosotros) – Don't eat! (informal plural)
- ¡no coman! (ustedes) – Don't eat! (formal plural)
The first person plural imperative, i.e. "Let's..." is expressed in any of three possible ways:
- The present indicative: comemos (for action verbs only)
- The present subjunctive: comamos
- Vamos + infinitive: vamos a comer
Examples of verbs conjugated
Here we include only simple tenses. Perfective and continuous forms are easily put together by using the appropriate tense of estar + gerund or haber + past participle.
We use the pronouns yo, tú, él, nosotros, vosotros and ellos to symbolise the three persons and two numbers. Note however, that it is the norm in Spanish to omit an explicit subject. Note also that the subject, if specified, can easily be something other than these pronouns. For example, instead of él, we can have ella, usted, impersonal se, or a noun phrase. Instead of nosotros, we can have nosotras, tú y yo, él y yo etc., or a noun phrase that includes the speaker. The same comments hold for vosotros and ellos.
Following the convention in Latin studies, we cite the verbs from which these Spanish words derive:
- in the first-person singular of the present active indicative
- in the second-person singular of the present active indicative
- in the present active infinitive
- in the first-person perfect active indicative
- in the supine.
Regular -ar verbs (amar, to love)
From the Latin: amo, amas, amare, amaui, amatum — "to love".
|Non-finite||(masc. sing., fem. sing., masc. pl., fem pl.)|
|Past participle||amado (amado, amada, amados, amadas)|
Regular -er verbs (vender, to sell)
From the Latin: uendo, uendis, uendere, uendidi, uenditum — "to sell".
|Non-finite||(masc. sing., fem. sing., masc. pl., fem pl.)|
|Past participle||vendido (vendido, vendida, vendidos, vendidas)|
Regular -ir verbs (partir, to split/depart)
From the Latin: partio, partis, partire, partiui, partitum — "to split/share".
|Non-finite||(masc. sing., fem. sing., masc. pl., fem pl.)|
|Past participle||partido (partido, partida, partidos, partidas)|
ser, to be
From the Latin: sum, es, esse, fui — "to be".
estar, to be
From the Latin: sto, stas, stare, steti, statum — "to stand".
|está (estate)||esté (estese)||estad (estaos)||estén (estense)|
† Estar is usually made reflexive in the imperative.
haber, to have
From the Latin: habeo, habes, habere, habui, habitum — "to have".
|Non-finite||(masc. sing., fem. sing., masc. pl., fem pl.)|
|Past participle||habido (habido, habida, habidos, habidas)|
|Present||he||has||ha †||hemos ††||habéis||han|
- † ha in perfective tenses and in haber de; hay in the impersonal expressions hay que and hay meaning "there is/are".
- †† habemos in the rare expression nos las habemos con meaning "the matter in question is"; dialectally or archaically for hemos, all senses; dialectally for hay in the plural, meaning "there are".
- ††† Dialectally, haiga, etc.
tener, to have
From the Latin: teneo, tenes, tenere, tenui, tentum — "to hold".
|Non-finite||(masc. sing., fem. sing., masc. pl., fem pl.)|
|Past participle||tenido (tenido, tenida, tenidos, tenidas)|
ir, to go
From the Latin: eo, is, ire, iui, itum — "to go"
(plus parts of uado and sum).
- † Dialectally, ves.
- †† The second-person plural imperative of irse is idos, i.e. it does not lose its d as other verbs do.
yacer, to lie
From the Latin: iacio, iacis, iacere, ieci, iectum — "to throw".
|yace/yaz||yazca ††||yaced||yazcan ††|
- † also yazgo or yago
- †† also yazga etc or yaga etc
A considerable number of verbs show a predictable change in the vowel of the root when conjugated in certain categories. The vowel /e/ changes to /je/, and the vowel /o/ changes to /we/, and the change happens when the root vowel receives the stress (note that the dictionary form always has the vowel, not the diphthong, since in the infinitive form the stress is on the last syllable, i.e. on the thematic vowel).
For example (only some persons and tenses, for contrasting purposes):
- acertar → yo acierto, él acierta, nosotros acertamos; yo acerté, él acertó...
- soldar → yo sueldo, él suelda, nosotros soldamos; yo soldé, él soldó...
- perder → yo pierdo, él pierde, nosotros perdemos; yo perdí, él perdió...
- mentir → yo miento, él miente, nosotros mentimos; yo mentí, él mintió...
- apostar → yo apuesto, él apuesta, nosotros apostamos; yo aposté, él apostó...
- moler → yo muelo, él muele, nosotros molemos; yo molí, él molió...
To complicate matters further, a number of verbs in the second and third conjugations show a slightly different irregularity, whereby /e/ also changes to /i/ and /o/ also changes to /u/, also when stressed, and only in some persons and tenses:
- poder → yo puedo, él puede, nosotros podemos; yo pude, él pudo, nosotros pudimos...
- concebir → yo concibo, él concibe, nosotros concebimos; yo concebí, él concibió...
- morir → yo muero, él muere, nosotros morimos; yo morí, él murió...
A lot of verbs with /e/ or /o/ in the root do not alternate (e. g. meter, comer, etc.), and they are often a source of mistakes for children learning to speak, and also for some adults. It is common to find alternated forms like yo aprieto where the verb (apretar) in fact does not alternate, and unalternated (regularized) forms like yo colo where the verb alternates (colar → yo cuelo).
Use of verbs
Contrasting simple and continuous forms
There is not such a strict distinction between simple and continuous forms in Spanish as there is in English. In English, "I do" is one thing (a habit) and "I'm doing" is another (current activity). In Spanish, hago can be either of the two, and estoy haciendo stresses the latter.
Though not as strict as English, Spanish is more strict than French or German, which have no systematic distinction between the two concepts at all.
This optionally continuous meaning which can be underlined by using the continuous form is a feature of the present and imperfect tenses. The preterite never has this meaning even in the continuous form, and the future has it only when it is in the continous form.
- ¿Qué haces? could be either "what do you do?" or "what are you doing?"
- ¿Qué estás haciendo? is definitely only "what are you doing?"
- ¿Qué hacías? could be either "what did you use to do?" or "what were you doing?"
- ¿Qué estabas haciendo? is definitely only "what were you doing?"
- ¿Qué hiciste? is "what did you do?"
- ¿Qué estuviste haciendo? is "what did you do all that time?"
Note that since the preterite by nature refers to an event seen as having a beginning and an end, and not as a context, the use of the continuous form of the verb only adds a feeling for the length of time spent on the action.
- ¿Qué harás? is "what will you do?"
- ¿Qué estarás haciendo? is "what will you be doing?"
Contrasting the present and the future
Both the present and the future can express future actions, the latter more explicitly so. There are also expressions that convey the future.
- Mi padre llega mañana = "My father is arriving tomorrow" (out of context, llega could mean he is arriving now or usually arrives)
- Mi padre llegará mañana = "My father will arrive tomorrow" (future tense)
- Mi padre va a llegar mañana = "My father is going to arrive tomorrow" (future with ir)
- Mi padre está a punto de llegar = "My father is about to arrive" (immediate future with estar a punto)
- Mi padre ya llega = "My father arrives soon" (future with ya)
The future tense can also simply express guesses about the present and immediate future:
- ¿Qué hora es? Serán las tres, = "What time is it?" "It's about three (but I haven't checked)."
- ¿Quién llama a la puerta? Será José = "Who's at the door? It must be José"
Studies have shown that this use of the future tense is learnt by Spanish-speaking children before they learn to use it to express future events (the English future with "will" can also sometimes be used with this meaning). The other constructions detailed above are used instead. Indeed, many adult dialect speakers hardly use the future tense to refer to the future.
The future tense of the subjunctive mood is also obsolete in practice. As of today, it is only found in legal documents and the like. In other contexts it is always replaced by the indicative form.
Contrasting the preterite and the imperfect
Fundamental meaning of the preterite and imperfect
Spanish has two fundamental past tenses. Strictly speaking, the difference between them is not tense but aspect. However, within Spanish grammar, they are considered tenses, with aspect controlled by auxiliary verbs.
The difference between the preterite (and in certain cases, the perfect) on one hand and the imperfect on the other is often hard to grasp for English speakers. English has just one past tense form, which can have aspect added to it by auxiliary verbs, but not in ways that reliably correspond to what occurs in Spanish.
The distinction between them does, however, correspond rather well to the distictions in other Romance languages, between for example the French imparfait and passé simple / passé composé, or between the Italian imperfetto and passato remoto / passato prossimo.
The imperfect fundamentally presents an action or state as being a context, and is thus essentially descriptive. It does not present actions or states as having ends, and often does not present their beginnings either.
The preterite (and perfect, when applicable) fundamentally presents an action or state as being an event, and is thus essentially narrative. It presents actions or states as having beginnings and ends.
Comparison with English usage
The English simple past can express either of these concepts. However, there are devices that allow us to be more specific. Consider, for example, the phrase "the sun shone" in the following contexts:
- "The sun shone through his window. John knew it was going to be a fine day."
- "The sun was shining through his window. John knew it was going to be a fine day."
- "The sun shone through his window back in those days."
- "The sun used to shine through his window back in those days."
- "The sun shone through his window the moment John pulled back the curtain."
In the first two, it is clear that the shining refers to the background to the events that are about to unfold in the story. It is talking about "what was happening". We have a choice between making this explicit with the past continuous as in (2), or just using the simple past as in (1) and allowing the context to make it clear what we mean. In Spanish, these would be in the imperfect, optionally in the imperfect continuous.
In the third and fourth examples, it is clear that the shining refers to a regular, general, habitual type of event. It is talking about "what used to happen". We have a choice between making this explicit with the expression "used to" as in (4), or just using the simple past as in (3) and allowing the context to make it clear what we mean. In Spanish, these would be in the imperfect, optionally with the auxiliary verb soler.
In the fifth example, only the simple past is possible. It is talking about a single event presented as occurring at a specific point in time (the moment John pulled back the curtain). The action starts and ends with this sentence. In Spanish, this would be in the preterite (or alternatively in the perfect, if the event has only just happened).
- Cuando tenía quince años, me atropelló un coche = "When I was fifteen, I got run over by a car"
Imperfect used for "was" in Spanish because it is the background to the specific event expressed by "got run over", in the preterite.
- Mientras cruzaba / estaba cruzando la calle, me atropelló un coche = "While I crossed / was crossing the road, I got run over by a car"
In both languages, the continous form for action in progress is optional, but Spanish requires the verb in either case to be in the imperfect, because it is the background to the specific event expressed by "got run over", in the preterite.
- Siempre tenía cuidado cuando cruzaba la calle = "I was always / always used to be careful when I crossed / used to cross the road"
Imperfect used for both verbs since they refer to habits in the past. Either verb could optionally use the expression "used to" in English.
- Me bañé = "I had a bath"
Preterite used if this refers to a single action or event, i.e. the person had or took a bath last night.
- Me bañaba = "I had a bath"
Imperfect used if this refers to any sort of habitual action, i.e. the person had or took a bath every morning. Optionally, solía bañarme can specifically express "I used to have a bath".
- Tuvo una hija = "she had a daughter"
Preterite used if this refers to an event, i.e. a birth.
- Tenía una hija = "she had a/one daughter"
Imperfect if this refers to the number of children by a certain point, i.e. in "She had one daughter when I met her ten years ago; she may have more now". A description.
Note that when describing the life of someone who is now dead, the distinction between the two tenses blurs. One might describe the person's life saying tenía una hija, but tuvo una hija is very common because the person's whole life is viewed as a whole, with a beginning and an end. The same goes for vivía/vivió en... "he lived in...".
Perhaps the verb that English speakers find most difficult to translate properly is "to be" in the past tense: "was". Apart from the choice between the verbs ser and estar (see below), it is often very hard for English speakers to distinguish between contextual and narrative uses.
- Alguien cogió mis CDs. ¿Quién fue? = "Someone took my CDs. Who was it?"
Here the preterite is used because it is an event. A good clue is the tense cogió is in.
- Había una persona que estaba mirando los CDs. ¿Quién era? = "There was a person who was looking at the CDs. Who was it?"
Here the imperfect is used because it is a description (the start and end of the action is not presented; it is just something that was in progress at a certain time). A good clue is the tense of the other verbs.
Contrasting the preterite and the perfect
The preterite and the perfect are distinguished in a similar way as the equivalent English tenses. As a general rule, whenever the present perfect ("I have done") is used in English, the perfect is also used in Spanish. In addition, there are cases in which English uses a simple past ("I did") but Spanish requires a perfect. In the remaining cases, both languages use a simple past.
As in English, the perfect expresses past actions that have some link to the present. The preterite expresses past actions as being past, complete and done with. In both languages, there are dialectal variations.
Frame of reference includes the present: perfect tense
If it is implicitly or explicitly communicated that the frame of reference for the event includes the present and the event or events may therefore continue occurring, then both languages strongly prefer the perfect.
- With references including "this" including the present
- Este año me he ido de vacaciones dos veces = "I've been on holiday twice this year"
- Esta semana ha sido muy interesante = "This week has been very interesting"
- With other references to recent periods including the present
- He hecho muy poco hoy = "I haven't done much at all today"
- No ha pasado nada hasta la fecha = "Nothing has happened to date"
- Hasta ahora no se me ha ocurrido = "It has not occurred to me until now"
- With reference to someone's life experience (their life not being over)
- ¿Alguna vez has estado en África? = "Have you ever been to Africa?"
- Mi vida no ha sido muy interesante = "My life hasn't been very interesting"
- Jamás he robado nada = "I have never stolen anything"
Frame of reference superficially includes the present: perfect tense
Sometimes, we say "today", "this year", but we mean to express these periods of time as finished. This requires the simple past in English. For example, in December we might speak of the year in the simple past because we are assuming that all that year's important events have occurred and we can talk as though it were all over. Other expressions — such as "this weekend" if today is Monday — refer to a period which is definitely over; the word "this" just distinguished it from other weekends. There is a certain tendency in Spanish to use the perfect tense even for this type of time reference, even though the preterite is possible and seems more logical.
- Este finde hemos ido al zoo = "We went to the zoo this weekend"
- Hoy he tenido una jornada muy aburrida = "I had a boring day's work today"
Consequences continue into the present: perfect tense
As in English, the perfect is used when the consequences of an event are referred to.
- Alguien ha roto esta ventana = "Someone has broken this window" (the window is currently in a broken state)
- Nadie me ha dicho qué pasó aquel día = "Nobody has told me what happened that day" (and so I still don't know)
These same sentences in the preterite would purely refer to the past actions, without any implication that they have repercussions now.
In English, this type of perfect is not possible if a precise time frame is added or even implied; i.e. one cannot say "I have been born in 1978" because the date requires "I was born", despite the fact there is arguably a present consequence in the fact that the person is still alive. Spanish sporadically uses the perfect in these cases.
- He nacido en 1978 (usually Nací en 1978) = "I was born in 1978"
- Me he criado en Madrid (usually Me crié en Madrid) = "I grew up in Madrid"
The event itself continues into the present: perfect or present tense
If the event itself has been happening recently and is also happening right now or expected to continue happening soon, then the preterite is impossible in both languages. English requires the perfect tense, or better still the prefect continous. Spanish requires the perfect tense, or better still the present simple:
- Últimamente ha llovido mucho / Últimamente llueve mucho = "It's rained / It's been raining a lot recently"
This is the only use of the perfect that is common in colloquial speech across Latin America.
In uneducated speech in Madrid and northern Castile, there is a tendency to overuse the perfect, applying it to any event with any vague connection with the present, or which occurred not very long ago. This is stigmatised.
- † La semana pasada he vuelto a la ciudad = "I went back to the city last week"
In the south of Spain and across Latin America, there is a colloquial tendency to replace most uses of the perfect with the preterite. There are variations in this according to region, register and education.
- † ¿Y vos alguna vez estuvistes allá? = ¿Y tú alguna vez has estado allí? = "And have you ever been there?"
The one use for the perfect which does seem to be normal in Latin America is the perfect for actions that continue into the present (not just the time frame, but the action itself). So, "I've read a lot in my life" and "I read a lot this morning" would both be expressed with leí instead of he leído, but "I've been reading" is expressed by he leído.
A less standard use of the perfect is found in Ecuador and Colombia. It is used with present or occasionally even future meaning. For example, Shakira Mebarak in her song Ciega, Sordomuda, sings
- Bruta, ciega, sordomuda, / torpe, traste, testaruda; / es todo lo que he sido = "Clumsy, blind, dumb, / blundering, useless, pig-headed; / that's all I am"
Contrasting the indicative and the subjunctive
Contrasting the subjunctive and the conditional
Contrasting the subjunctive and the imperative
The subjunctive mood expresses wishes and hypothetical events. It is often employed together with a conditional verb:
- Desearía que estuvieses aquí. = "I wish you were here."
- Me alegraría mucho si volvieras mañana. = "I would be very glad if you came back tomorrow."
The imperative mood shows commands given to the hearer (the second person). There is no imperative form in the third person, so the subjunctive is used. The expression takes the form of a command or wish directed at the hearer, but referring to the third person. The difference between a command and a wish is subtle, mostly conveyed by the absence of a wishing verb:
- Que venga el gerente. = "Let the manager come.", "Have the manager come."
- Que se cierren las puertas. = "Let the doors be closed.", "Have the doors closed."
With a verb that expresses wishing, the above sentences become plain subjunctive instead of direct commands:
- Deseo que venga el gerente. = "I wish that the manager comes."
- Quiero que se cierren las puertas. = "I want the doors (to be) closed."
Contrasting the present and the future subjunctive
The future tense of the subjunctive is found mostly in old literature or legalese and is even misused in conversation by confusing it with the past tense (often due to the similarity of its characteristic suffix, "-ere", as opposed to the suffixes of the past tense, -era and -ese). Many Spanish speakers live their lives without ever knowing about or realizing the existence of the future subjunctive.
It survives in the common expression sea lo que fuere and the proverb allá donde fueres, haz lo que vieres (allá donde can be replaced by a la tierra donde or si a Roma).
The proverb illustrates how it used to be used:
- With si referring to the future, as in si a Roma fueres.... This is now expressed with the present indicative: si vas a Roma....
- With cuando, donde etc, referring to the future, as in allá donde fueres.... This is now expressed with the present subjunctive: vayas adonde vayas...
Contrasting the preterite and the past anterior
The past anterior is rare nowadays and restricted to formal use.
It expresses a very fine nuance: the fact that an action occurs just after another [had] occurred, with words such as cuando, nada más and en cuanto ("when", "no sooner", "as soon as"). In English, we are forced to use either the simple past or the past perfect; Spanish has something specific between the two.
- En cuanto el delincuente hubo salido del cuarto, la víctima se echó a llorar = "As soon as the criminal [had] left the room, the victim burst into tears"
The use of hubo salido shows that the second action happened immediately after. Salió might imply it happened at the same time, and había salido might imply it happened some time after.
However, colloquial Spanish has lost this tense and this nuance, and the preterite must be used instead in all but the most formal of writing.
Contrasting ser and estar
Ser expresses nature and estar expresses state. See Romance copula for further information.
Contrasting haber and tener
The verbs haber and tener are easily distinguished, but they may pose a problem for learners of Spanish that are speakers of other Romance languages (where the cognates of haber and tener are used differently), for English speakers (where have is used as a verb and as an auxiliary), and others.
Haber derives from the Latin habeo, habes, habere, habui, habitum; with the basic meaning of "to have".
Tener derives from the Latin teneo, tenes, tenere, tenui, tentum; with the basic meaning of "to hold", "to keep".
As habeo began to degrade and become reduced to just ambiguous monosyllables in the present tense, the Hispanic Romance languages (Spanish, Gallician-Portuguese and Catalan) restricted its use and started to use teneo as the ordinary verb expressing having and possession. French instead reinforced habeo with obligatory subject pronouns. The Italian solution was to reinforce it with the pronoun ci ("there" or "to it") where necessary.
Haber: Expressing existence
Haber is used as an impersonal verb to show existence of an object or objects, which is generally expressed as an indefinite noun phrase. In English, this corresponds to the use of there + the corresponding inflected form of to be. When used in this sense, haber has a special present-tense form: hay instead of ha. The y is a fossilised form of the mediaeval Castilian pronoun y or i, meaning "there", which is cognate with French y and Catalan hi, and comes from the Latin ibi.
Unlike in English, the thing which "is there" is not the subject of the sentence and therefore there is no agreement between that and the verb. This echos the constructions seen in languages such as French (il y a = "it there has"), Catalan (hi ha = "[it] there has"), and even Chinese (有 yǒu = "[it] has").
- Hay un gato en el jardín. = "There is a cat in the garden."
- En el baúl hay fotos viejas. = "There are old photos in the trunk."
It is possible, in cases of certain emphasis, to put the verb after the object:
- ¿Revistas hay? = "Are there any magazines?"
There is a certain vulgar tendency to make haber agree with what follows, as though it were the subject, particularly in tenses other than the present indicative. This is fairly common in Catalonia and Latin America. There is heavier stigma on inventing plural forms for hay; but hain, han, habemos (common in Mexico) and suchlike are sometimes encountered in uneducated speech.
- Había un hombre en la casa. = "There was a man in the house."
- Había unos hombres en la casa. = "There were some men in the house."
- *Habían unos hombres en la casa. = "There were some men in the house." (dialectal)
Haber as an existence verb is never used in other than the third person. To express existence of a first or second person, the verb estar ("to be [located/present]") or existir ("to exist") is used, and there is subject–verb agreement.
The phrase haber que (followed by a subordinated construction with the verb in the infinitive) carries the meaning of necessity or obligation without specifying an agent. It is translatable as "it is necessary", but a paraphrase is generally preferable in translation.
Note that the present-tense form is hay.
- Hay que abrir esa puerta. = "That door needs opening", "We have to open that door".
- Habrá que abrir esa puerta. = "That door will need opening", "We're going to have to open that door".
- Aunque haya que abrir esa puerta. = "Even if that door needs to be opened".
It is comparable to the French il faut and the Catalan cal, although it should be noted that a personal construction with the subjunctive is not possible. Hay que always goes with the infinitive.
A separate construction is haber de + infinitive. It is not impersonal. It tends to express a certain nuance of obligation and a certain nuance of future tense, much like the expression "to be to". It is also often used similarly to deber ("must", "ought to").
Note that the third personal singular of the present tense is ha.
- Mañana he de dar una charla ante la Universidad = "Tomorrow I am to give a speech before the University".
- Ha de comer más verduras = "She ought to eat more vegetables".
Haber de is quite common in Catalonia, where the local language has a similar expression.
Haber: Forming perfective tenses
Haber is also used as an auxiliary to form the perfect tenses, as shown elsewhere. Spanish uses only haber for this, unlike French and Italian, which use the corresponding cognates of haber for most verbs, but cognates of ser ("to be") for certain others.
- Ella se ha ido al mercado. = "She has gone to the market."
- Ellas se han ido de paseo. = "They have gone on a walk."
- ¿Habéis fregado los platos? = "Have you all done the washing-up?"
Tener is a verb with the basic meaning of "to have", in its essential sense of "to possess", "to hold", "to own". As in English, it can also express obligation (tener que + infinitive). It also appears in a number of phrases that show emotion or physical states, expressed by nouns, which in English tend to be expressed by to be and an adjective.
- Mi hijo tiene una casa nueva. = "My son has a new house."
- Tenemos que hablar. = "We have to talk."
- Tengo hambre. = "I am hungry", lit. "I have hunger."
Verbs are negated by putting no before the verb. Other negative words can either replace this no or occur after the verb:
- Hablo español = "I speak Spanish"
- No hablo español = "I don't speak Spanish"
- Nunca hablo español = "I never speak Spanish"
- No hablo nunca español = "I don't ever speak Spanish"
Spanish verbs describing motion tend to emphasize direction instead of manner of motion. According to the pertinent classification, this makes Spanish a verb-framed language. This contrasts with English, where verbs tend to emphasize manner, and leave the direction of motion to helper particles, prepositions, or adverbs.
- "We drove away" = Nos fuimos en coche (literally, "We left by car").
- "He swam to Ibiza" = Fue a Ibiza a nado (literally, "He went to Ibiza swimming").
- "They ran off" = Huyeron corriendo (literally, "They fled running").
- "She crawled in" = Entró a gatas (literally, "She entered on all fours").
Quite often, the important thing is the direction, not the manner. So, although "we drove away" translates into Spanish as nos fuimos en coche, it is often better to translate it as just nos fuimos. For example:
- "I drove her to the airport, but she'd forgotten her ticket, so we drove home to get it, then drove back towards the airport, but then had to drive back home for her passport, by which time there was zero chance of checking in..."
- La llevé al aeropuerto en coche, pero se le había olvidado el billete, así que fuimos a casa [en coche] a por él, luego volvimos [en coche] hacia el aeropuerto, pero luego tuvimos que volver a casa [en coche] a por el pasaporte, y ya era imposible que consiguiésemos facturar el equipaje...
Glossary of basic Spanish verbs in the infinitive
What follows is a list of basic verbs in the Spanish language. If the English equivalent is a cognate, it is put in [square brackets]. Cognates which are not good translations of the Spanish term are given in ([parentheses and square brackets]). Reflexive verbs with meanings different from their non-reflexive counterparts are listed separately.
- abrir — to open ([aperture])
- aburrir — [to bore]
- apagar — to turn off
- aparecer — [to appear] (in the sense of coming into view)
- apoyar — to support
- apoyarse — to lean on/against
- aprender — to learn; ([to apprehend])
- arrancar — to pull out
- arreglar — to clean up ([regulate])
- ayudar — to help [aid]
- bailar — to dance
- bajar — to lower; to put down; to get off (a bus, for example) ([bass])
- beber — to drink
- bucear — to practice scuba-diving
- buscar — to look for
- cantar — to sing ([chant])
- cerrar — to close
- charlar — to chat
- cocinar — to cook
- coger — to get, to take, to grab; to shag (Rioplatense Spanish)
- comer — to eat
- comprar — to buy
- comprender — to [comprehend], to understand
- conducir — to drive
- conocer — to know ([cognition])
- conseguir — to get; to achieve; to acquire
- conservar — [to conserve]; to save
- correr — to run
- cortar — to cut; to mow ([curt])
- costar — [to cost]; to be difficult
- creer — to think; to believe ([creed])
- dar — to give ([donate])
- deber — to ought; should; to owe
- decir — to say; to tell
- decorar — [to decorate]
- dejar — to allow; to leave (something behind)
- depositar — [to deposit]
- descansar — to rest
- desear — to [desire]
- destacar — to stick out
- devolver — to return (something) ([devolve])
- dibujar — to draw
- dificultar — [to make difficult]
- distinguir — [to distinguish]
- doler — to hurt; to ache
- dormir — to sleep ([dormant])
- durar — to last ([duration])
- educar — to bring up; to rear ([educate])
- empezar — to begin; to start
- empujar — to push
- encantar — to be loved; [to enchant]
- encontrar — to find; [to encounter]
- enseñar — to teach; to show (something)
- enviar — to send; to post; to mail
- escoger — to choose
- esconder — to hide; ([ensconce])
- escribir — to write; ([inscribe])
- escuchar — to listen to
- esquiar — [to ski]
- estar — to be (in the sense of having a [status])
- estudiar — [to study]
- explorar — [to explore]
- faltar — to be lacking; to be missing
- fascinar — [to fascinate]
- fijarse — to pay attention; to become fixed [fixation]
- ganar — to win; [to gain]; to earn
- girar — to turn ([girate])
- gustar — to be pleasing, to be liked
- hablar — to talk, to speak
- hacer — to do; to make
- importar — to matter; [to be important]
- interesar — [to interest]
- invitar — [to invite]
- ir — to go
- irse — to leave
- jugar — to play
- lastimar — to hurt
- lavar — to wash
- leer — to read
- limpiar — to clean
- lograr — to get, to attain, to achieve
- llamar — to call
- llegar — to arrive
- llenar — to fill
- llevar — to wear
- llevarse — to get along (with someone)
- nadar — to swim
- necesitar — to need; ([necessitate])
- pagar — to pay for
- parar — to stop
- parecer — to appear; to seem
- parecerse — to resemble
- pasar — [to pass]; to happen
- patinar — to skate
- pedir — to order; to ask for
- pensar — to think
- poder — can; to be able to
- poner — to put; to place; to set
- practicar — [to practise]
- preferir — [to prefer]
- preparar — [to prepare]
- presentar — to introduce; [to present]
- prestar — to lend
- probar — to try; to taste; [to probe]
- proteger — [to protect]
- quedar — to have remaining; to meet up (colloquial, Spain)
- quedarse — to be located; to be left; to remain
- querer — to want; to love (a person)
- recibir — [to receive]
- reciclar — [to recycle]
- recoger — to pick up
- reducir — [to reduce]
- regalar — to give (a gift)
- regresar — to come back; to return
- reír — to laugh
- robar — [to rob]; to steal
- rogar — to beg
- saber — to know
- sacar — to take out
- sacudir — to dust
- salir — to go out
- saltar — to jump; to skip over
- salvar — [to save]
- separar — [to separate]
- ser — to be (in an intrinsic or [essential] sense)
- servir — [to serve]
- soler — to be in the habit of
- sostener — to hold; [to sustain]
- subir — to climb; to raise
- sujetar — to hold up
- soportar — to tolerate
- tener — to have
- terminar — to end; [to terminate]
- tirar — to pull; to throw out
- tocar — to play; [to touch]
- tomar — to have (a drink, for example)
- trabajar — to work
- traer — to bring
- usar — [to use]
- vaciar — to empty
- vender — to sell; [to vend]
- vestir — to dress (someone)
- vestirse — to get dressed; to dress (habitually)
- ver — to see
- visitar — [to visit]
- vivir — to live
- volar — to fly
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details