Spanish Tenses


Tonight I tried to do some work on my Spanish verb conjugations, and bathe the baby. I didn’t quite get to the giddy heights of declaiming "Nosotros hablamos español" while washing our child’s hair, but the baby is marginally cleaner, and I think I’ve got the different versions of the present tense for regular Spanish verbs down just about pat. It doesn’t seem that hard, but then that is only one tense, and I remember with some horror the days of learning irregular verbs in French. Oh, the joys of the perfect tense.

In case I forget that I knew, there’s:
First person: Yo
Second person: Tu
Third person: El / Ella
First person plural: Nosotros/Nosotras
Second person plural: Vosotros/Vosotras
Third person plural: Ellos / Ellas
and of course to complicate things there’s formal second person, although the conjugations are the same as for third person, which sounds a bit complicated, until you realize it’s a bit like asking the Queen "Will Her Majesty prefer a steak and kidney pie or a cheeseburger?", which is easier to remember than French and having a different conjugation for tu and vous.

Being English, it’s easy to be smug about having a language that doesn’t demand gender-agreement between object and verb, or that has lots of irregular verbs. Apart from all the irregular complexities of English which we choose to ignore when they’re inconvenient. A bit like the British class structure, I suppose. (Actually I do like my irregular British conjugations – I am well-informed, you are opinionated, he has his head stuck up his own arse – but there you are.) English is very difficult to understand once you try to explain it; as long as you blithely stagger on without thinking, you won’t get upset by having to explain why something that is complicated is confusing, rather than confused and complicating.

That said, every time I hear somebody say "less" when they mean "fewer", something dies inside me. But if I’d never had the distinction explained to me, would I be unhappier with my lot?

Anyway, there’s six different conjugations to learn, though it would’ve been easier if we all agreed just to talk about ourselves. Yo hablo, yo como, yo escribo, etc. It’s fairly easy to conjugate verbs where the infinitive ends -ar:

Yo hablo
Tu hablas
El habla
Nosotros hablamos
Vosotros hablais
Ellas hablan

and -er verbs conjugate very similarly:

Yo como
Tu comes
El come
Nosotros comemos
Vosotros comes
Ellas comen

because once you can conjugate -ar verbs, the same rules apply for -er verbs, but with an e substituted for an a. Unfortunately, you’ve also got -ir verbs, which sometimes conjugate like -er and sometimes do their own thing, but what would life be without confusion and complexity?

And I have Jorge Lorenzo’s Twitter feed, wherein he handily double posts each update, first en español and then in English, gradually widening my vocabulary for me. Well, my vocabulary of Spanish words to do with motorcycling, that is.

Our child didn’t seem incredibly impressed by all this. Nor, indeed, by being counted to from 1 to 40 in Spanish, nor by being bathed. It seems that she enjoys only one out of every two baths we give her, though today was also a day where she was unsettled and hungry, so perhaps we shouldn’t have been mucking around with thoughts of the Iberian Peninsula and washing when we could have been concentrating on filling the little dear up with milk.

Still, I’ve learned a few things today – not just Spanish verbs, but that it’s easier to burp our daughter over my shoulder now, rather than over my knee, although the risk of vomit over you does increase somewhat. Having read my friend Denise’s both humbling and awe-inspiring post from a few days back, I’ve been intent on thinking of at least one thing every day that I’ve enjoyed, and today I had Spanish conjugations, and a baby cheerfully bouncing on my lap between bursts of anguished weeping.

And I haven’t been defecated on. So that’s three things to celebrate today.


2 responses to “Spanish Tenses”

  1. Yo to you too.

    The Radio 4 iPlayer used to have the usual “More Programmes” and “Less Programmes” options. There were obviously complaints, because one day I noticed it had been changed to “Fewer Programmes”.

    Thanks for your Like by the way and mentioning my post. Baby both cheerful AND not defecating is definitely a good thing.

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