Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Subjunctive Mood in the Past Tense
Things get a little more difficult when we’re using the subjunctive conjugations in the past tense.  So, let’s try to keep the discussion on this topic as simplistic as possible. 

A word of note: many grammar books and Spanish learning tools might present this topic as the “imperfect” subjunctive, which is unfortunately misleading to many students of the Spanish language.  We will continue to refer to this concept as the “past” subjunctive, since it embodies expressions that are either in the preterit or the imperfect tense. 

The main idea to remember is that these types of conjugations are used in the past tense.  If I express an idea in the present tense and I need to use the subjunctive, I use the present tense of the subjunctive, namely:

Necesito que vayas a la tienda.  I need you to go to the store.

Note that BOTH the indicative clause (Necesito….) and the subjunctive clause (vayas…) are conjugated in their respective present tense forms.  All we have to do to utilize the past tense of the subjunctive is to initialize the sentence with a past tense (preterit or imperfect) indicative trigger clause, like this:

Necesité que compraras unas verduras.  I needed you to buy some vegetables.
Necesitaba que compraras unas verduras.  I needed you to buy some vegetables.

In the above examples I outlined the past subjunctive verb compraras so you can get an idea on the ending.  I will explain how to conjugate them in the following section. 

Conjugating Past Subjunctive –Ar Verbs
In order to conjugate verbs for them to be used correctly, it is recommended that you are familiar with the 3rd person plural form of the preterit tense.  Recall that –ar verbs usually end in –aron, while the –er/-ir verbs end in either –ieron or, less frequently, -yeron

To change in to the past subjunctive conjugation, simply drop the –ron from the third person plural preterit conjugation of the verb, and add the following suffixes:

yo: -ra
nosotros: -ramos
tú: -ras
vosotros: -rais
él, ella, Ud.: -ra
ellos, ellas, Uds.: -ran

In the nosotros form, the –a that precedes the conjugative suffix has an accent applied ().  Here is the conjugation of the verb mirar (to see, look at) in the past subjunctive (where you will note the nosotros form’s accent):

yo mirara
nosotros miráramos
tú miraras
vosotros mirarais
él, ella, Ud. mirara
ellos, ellas, Uds. miraran

Mi amigo esperaba que yo mirara el partido.  My friend was hoping I watched the game.

Los abuelos dejaban que miráramos la tele.  The grandparents let us watch television.

El maestro prohibió que los estudiantes miraran la películaThe teacher prohibited the students watching the film.

Here is the verb levantar (to lift):

yo levantara
nosotros levantáramos
tú levantaras
vosotros levantarais
él, ella, Ud. levantara
ellos, ellas, Uds. levantaran

El entrenador quería que yo levantara pesos.  The coach wanted me to lift weights.

El niño necesitaba que levantáramos el juguete pesado.  The boy needed us to lift the heavy toy.

Necesitábamos que tú levantaras el sofá.  We needed you to lift the sofa. 

Conjugating Past Subjunctive –Er and –Ir Verbs
Let’s look at some –er/-ir verbs conjugated in the past subjunctive.  Follow the same method of conjugating these as you did for the –ar verbs.  For example, here is the –er verb toser (to cough):

yo tosiera
nosotros tosiéramos
tú tosieras
vosotros tosierais
él, ella, Ud. tosiera
ellos, ellas, Uds. tosieran

El médico esperaba que yo no tosiera.  The doctor hoped that I wasn’t coughing.

Nuestra madre esperaba que no tosiéramosOur mother hoped we weren’t coughing.

Here is the verb reír (to laugh):

yo riera
nosotros riéramos
tú rieras
vosotros rierais
él, ella, Ud. riera
ellos, ellas, Uds. rieran

Mis padres eran alegres que riéramos.  My parents were happy that I was laughing.

El maestro estaba contento que los alumnos rieran.  The teacher was content that the students laughed. 

Estaba sorprendido que tú rierasI was surprised that you were laughing. 

Irregular Verbs in the Past Subjunctive
Remember the preterit tense verbs that were irregular?  Don’t forget that their 3rd person plural conjugations were irregular as well and didn’t resemble their infinitive forms at all.  Here are all of the conjugations that you’ll need to know from all of the irregular preterit tense verbs:

tener (to have):  yo tuviera, tú tuvieras, él tuviera, nosotros tuviéramos, vosotros tuvierais, ellos tuvieran

poner (to put, to place):  yo pusiera, tú pusieras, él pusiera, nosotros pusiéramos, vosotros pusierais, ellos pusieran

saber (to know):  yo supiera, tú supieras, él supiera, nosotros supiéramos, vosotros supierais, ellos supieran

poder (to be able to):  yo pudiera, tú pudieras, él pudiera, nosotros pudiéramos, vosotros pudierais, ellos pudieran

dar (to give):  yo diera, tú dieras, él diera, nosotros diéramos, vosotros dierais, ellos dieran

decir (to say, to tell):  yo dijera, tú dijeras, él dijera, nosotros dijéramos, vosotros dijerais, ellos dijeran

hacer (to do, to make):  yo hiciera, tú hicieras, él hiciera, nosotros hiciéramos, vosotros hicierais, ellos hicieran

andar (to walk):  yo anduviera, tú anduvieras, él anduviera, nosotros anduviéramos, vosotros anduvierais, ellos anduvieran

estar (to be): yo estuviera, tú estuvieras, él estuviera, nosotros estuviéramos, vosotros estuvierais, ellos estuvieran

traer (to bring): yo trajera, tú trajeras, él trajera, nosotros trajéramos, vosotros trajerais, ellos trajeran

querer (to want, to love): yo quisiera, tú quisieras, él quisiera, nosotros quisiéramos, vosotros quisierais, ellos quisieran

conducir (to drive): yo condujera, tú condujeras, él condujera, nosotros condujéramos, vosotros condujerais, ellos condujeran

The verbs ser (to be) and ir (to go), as you recall, are the same conjugation in the preterit tense.  Since we are forming the past subjunctive from the 3rd person plural preterit, then both verbs are conjugated the same in the past subjunctive, as well:

ser (to be) & ir (to go): yo fuera, tú fueras, él fuera, nosotros fuéramos, vosotros fuerais, ellos fueran

Verbs with Spelling Changes in the Past Subjunctive
If you recall, there are some verbs that, when conjugated in the 3rd person preterit tense, exhibit a change in the spelling of their roots.  The verbs include morir (to die):

yo muriera, tú murieras, él muriera, nosotros muriéramos, vosotros murierais, ellos murieran
and verbs like pedir (to ask for)

yo pidiera, tú pidieras, él pidiera, nosotros pidiéramos, vosotros pidierais, ellos pidieran

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Possessive Adjectives
Possessive adjectives (“my”, “your”, “his”, etc.) are encountered in lieu of the article (that is, they appear before the noun).  Each possessive adjective is associated with its corresponding subject pronoun.  With the exception of the nosotros and vosotros forms (1st and 2nd person plural, respectively), each possessive adjective only has two forms (singular and plural) and are not dependent on the noun’s gender:

1st Person
mi, mis
nuestro/-a, nuestros/-as
2nd Person
tu, tus
vuestro/-a, vuestros/-as
3rd Person
su, sus
su, sus

Mi gato es negro.  My cat is black.
Tus perros son amables.  Your dogs are friendly.
Su suéter es de lana.  His sweater is wool (made of wool).
Nuestra hija tiene quince años.  Our daughter is 15 years old.
Nuestros hijos son gemelos.  Our sons are twins.
¿Vuestro carro es rojo?  Is your car red?
Su mamá mezcla los ingredientes.  His/her/your/their mother mixes the ingredients.
Sus ejércitos cruzan el río.  Their armies cross the river.

An important concept to remember here is the ambiguity of the third persons singular and plural.  In these cases, it is important to remember that we could be referring to either “his”, “her”, “their”, “its”, or “your” (plural). 
Also, the possessive adjectives are not dependent on the number of the subject.  What this means is that if we for example are referring to several people as the subject, and we wanted to describe possession of a single object, we would still only use the singular possessive adjective (not the plural)! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Introduction to the Subject Pronouns
There are several subject pronouns in the Spanish language.  A subject pronoun is a part of speech that takes the place of a noun while acting as the subject of a sentence.  Subject pronouns (and all pronouns, for that matter) can be categorized in a chart based on whether they are 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person singular or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person plural pronouns. 

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person categorizations will make more sense in the next Unit, but you should memorize the configuration of this chart now, as this will be the cornerstone of verb conjugations in the lessons to come. 

1st Person
yo (I)
nosotros, nosotras (we)
2nd Person
*tú (you (familiar))
vosotros, vosotras (you (familiar plural))
3rd Person
él (he, it (masc.)), ella (she, it (fem.)), *Ud. (you (formal))
ellos (they, masc.), ellas (they, fem.), Uds.  (you (formal plural))

Recall the differences from Chapter 1 between * and *Ud.  Both are actually 2nd person references, but notice that the subject pronoun Ud. is located in the third person singular category.  So, when referring to someone formally as Ud., we are actually using the third person singular grammatical person. 

The 1st and 2nd persons plural also contain a feminine form (nosotras and vosotras, respectively).  They are used when referring to a group of females.  The 3rd person singular as well as the 3rd person plural also contains a feminine form.  When referring to a mixture of males and females, the masculine form is defaulted to. 

The subject pronouns vosotros and vosotras are seldom used in the Americas.  The formal 3rd person plural subject pronoun Uds. is used instead, for referring to a group of people in the second person.  However, we can still practice using the vosotros/vosotras form:
¿Cómo estáis vosotros?  How are you all doing?

In Spain, the vosotros and vosotras subject pronouns (and their subsequent conjugations) are used in regular conversational Spanish, so it is recommended that you at least know that these pronouns exist in daily usage. 
Here are all of the subject pronouns you must know, in the bullet list below: 
·         yo (I)
·         (you, familiar)
·         Ud. (you formal)
·         él (he, masculine)
·         ella (she, feminine)
·         nosotros (we, masculine)
·         nosotras (we, feminine)
·         vosotros (you, plural, familiar, masculine)
·         vosotras (you, plural, familiar, feminine)
·         ellos (they, masculine)
·         ellas (they, feminine)
·         Uds. (you, plural)*
*Recall that Uds. is used as the regular plural form in México and other Central and South American countries. 

Check out the following sentences and phrases using different subject pronouns:
Tú necesitas aprender español.  You (familiar) need to learn Spanish.
Ella quiere ir de compras.  She wants to go shopping.
Ellas miran.  They look.
Ellos llaman.  They call.
Yo pago.  I pay. 
Nosotros vamos a celebrar la Navidad en Madrid.  We are going to celebrate Christmas in Madrid.
Nosotras celebramos.  We celebrate.
Yo voy a estudiar.  I am going to study.
Y vosotras, ¿cómo estáis?  And how are you all?
Uds. no van a sacar buenas notas si no estudian.  You (all) aren’t going to get good grades if you don’t study.
Él saca el cuaderno.  He takes out the notebook.
Eva escribe con el lápiz.  Eva writes with the pencil. 
Ud. practica.  You practice.
Cuernavaca y Oaxaca están en México.  Cuernavaca and Oaxaca are in Mexico.
Los hermanos estudian.  The brothers are studying.

Omitting Subject Pronouns
The subject pronouns are actually not needed a lot of the times.  If there is no confusion as to the subject of the sentence, then the pronoun can be omitted.  For example, I can simply say:
Voy a estudiar.  I am going to study.

Notice the subject pronoun “yo” was taken away.  We can do this because the conjugation of the verb (voy) is in the 1st person singular category.  According to our chart above, “yo” is the 1st person singular subject pronoun.  Since they match, we don’t need the subject pronoun.  In English, we always MUST use a subject pronoun. 
Here are some other sentences in Spanish with the subject pronoun removed:
Necesitas llamar.  You need to call.
Necesitas hielo.  You need ice.
Necesitamos ir.  We need to go.
¿Dónde estudiáis?  Where do you study?
Estudian en la biblioteca.  They are studying in the library.

Using Subject Pronouns to Avoid Ambiguity
We MUST use the subject pronoun in sentences when there is a possibility of confusion.  This occurs in the third persons singular as well as plural.  For example, if we were to say

Necesita mirar.
This can either mean,
He needs to watch.
She needs to watch.
It needs to watch.
You need to watch.  (Ud.formal singular “you”)

So, to clarify to the listener, you the speaker must include a subject pronoun unless the subject of the sentence (which can also be a proper name) is otherwise understood:

Adán necesita estudiar.  Adam needs to study.
Ella necesita estudiar.  She needs to study.
¿Necesita ayuda Ud.?  Do you need help?

The Placement of Subject Pronouns
Subject pronouns, when used, are usually placed before the verb that they modify.  However, they can be understood in an interrogatory fashion when they follow the verb.  This is done to emphasize the subject of the sentence, the way we do in English.  Note the following:

¿Necesitas la computadora?  Do YOU need the computer?
¿Cambias un cheque?  Are YOU cashing a check?
No comprendes .  YOU don’t understand.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Combining Multiple Pronouns
It is possible to have several combinations of objects as well as reflexive pronouns in normal speech.  For example, let’s assume we are referring to los pantalones (the pants) and we resort to the reflexive verb phrase ponerse + article of clothing/other object.  We can combine the pronouns with the reflexive pronoun coming first, following the formula
reflexive pronoun + direct object pronoun + verb
Ella se pone los pantalones.  She puts on the pants.
Ella se los pone.  She puts them on.

Note the placement of the third person plural direct object pronoun (los).  Other examples:
El huésped se quita los zapatos.  The guest takes off his shoes.
El huésped se los quita.  The guest takes them off.

¡Hace frío! Nos ponemos las chaquetas.  It’s cold!  We put on our jackets.
Nos las ponemosWe put them on. 

We can also combine indirect and direct object pronouns.  The formula for this is
indirect object pronoun + direct object pronoun + verb

¿Me mandaste la carta?  Did you send the letter to me?
Sí, te la mandé la semana pasada.  Yes, I sent it to you last week. 

¿Quién hizo mis quehaceres?  Who did my chores?
Te los hicieron las criadas.  The maids did them for you.

¿Dónde está nuestro carro?  Where is our car?
Os lo traigo, Sr.  I will bring it to you, sir.

Spelling Changes in the 3rd Person Indirect Object
If the indirect object pronoun and the direct object pronoun are being utilized in the third person in the same clause, then the indirect object pronouns le and les become se.  It is important to understand that the se in this case is NOT a reflexive pronoun, but rather a modified indirect object pronoun created to break up the difficult phonetics of le lo, le los, le la, and le las. 
Here are some examples:
¿Le enviaste el paquete a tu mamá?  Did you send the package to your mom?
Sí, se lo envié esta mañana.  Yes, I sent it to her this morning.

¿Entregaste el informe de tu cliente?  Did you turn in your client’s report?
Sí, se lo entregué ya.  Yes, I already turned it in for him.

¿Ud. me muestra la biblioteca?  Will you show me the library?
Se la mostraré a Ud.  I will show you it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Subject Pronouns

Here are the subject pronouns in Spanish.  Thanks to Hans for letting me post our lesson today...it will be a great starting point for beginners learning Spanish.

1st Person
nosotros, nosotras
2nd Person
vosotros, vosotras
3rd Person
él, ella, Ud.
ellos, ellas, Uds.

Using each subject pronoun in a sentence:

Yo hablo en una voz alta.  I speak in a loud voice.
platicas tanto.  You chat so much.
Ella anda buscando amor.  She walks around looking for love.
Nosotros podemos jugar.  We can play.
Vosotros veis la verdad.  You see the truth.
¿Encuentran algo Uds.?  Do you find something?

Let me know if you need any help!



Monday, September 10, 2012

Using Hacer to Talk About Time

Use the following formula:

hacer + ______ (unit of time) + que + verb phrase (present tense)

to discuss something that started in the past and is continuing into the present.  For example, if I have been in México for 3 weeks, I can say (using the above formula):

Hace 3 semanas que estoy en México.  I've been in Mexico for 3 weeks.  

You can even leave off que + verb phrase to mean "ago":

Yo fui a México hace 3 semanas.  I went to Mexico 3 weeks ago.  

Confused? Sign up for a lesson!  I'll give you a 1-hour Spanish lesson for only $10 if you mention this blog.  WOW what a deal...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spanish-Speaking World Capitals

Here are the Spanish-speaking countries as well as their capitals.  A good solid foundation of geography can expand your knowledge of the Spanish language indirectly!

La Capital (Capital City)
El País (Country)

América del Norte, Norteamérica (North America)
México, D.F. (Distrito Federal)

América Central (Central America)
Guatemala de la Asunción
San Salvador
El Salvador
San José
Costa Rica
Ciudad de Panamá

El Caribe (Caribbean)
San Juan
Puerto Rico
Santo Domingo
La República Dominicana
La Habana

América del Sur, Suramérica, América del Sud, Sudamérica (South America)
La Paz
Bolivia (Admin.)
Bolivia (Constit.)
Buenos Aires

África (Africa)
República de Guinea Ecuatorial 

Europa (Europe)

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