The No BS Guide to Spanish Tense
This guide has been written to help people understand some of the base tenses in Spanish. It gives a basic overview of the base Indicative and Perfect tenses in Spanish. It does not cover academic issues or the Subjunctive.
There are many things left out however it provides enough information for people to use it as a reference tool. As a native English speaker I have written it from an 'English' point of view.
(Sorry for the formatting but I have limited options in DL's interface)
TO UNDERSTAND SPANISH IT HELPS TO UNDERSTAND ENGLISH
We will take a look first at English so we can use this to see what’s going on in Spanish. When people talk about "tense" 99% of the time they are actually talking about 2 separate things i. "tense" and ii. "aspect".
TENSE = TIME
There are 3 tenses in English: I went (past tense), I go (present tense),I will go (future tense)
ASPECT = MEANING
There are 3 basic aspects in English:
Simple (I go): Used to give information
Continuous ( I am going): Used to focus on temporary action
Perfect (I have gone): Used to describe a period of time.
So there are 9 basic Tense and Aspect in English
SIMPLE I worked, I work, I will work
CONTINUOUS I was working, I am working, I will be working
PERFECT I had worked, I have worked, I will have worked
THE GOOD NEWS IS THIS IS BASICALLY THE SAME AS SPANISH
SPANISH SIMPLE ASPECT
For these examples I will be using the verb 'Trabajar' (to work)
SIMPLE PAST: Trabajé*or Trabajaba (I worked)
SIMPLE PRESENT: Trabajo (I work)
SIMPLE FUTURE: Trabajaré (I will work)
*Spanish uses the preterit and imperfect in past.
SPANISH CONTINUOUS ASPECT
PAST CONTINUOUS: Estuve trabajando* or Estaba trabajando (I was working)
PRESENT CONTINUOUS: Estoy trabajando (I am working)
FUTURE CONTINUOUS: Estaré trabajando (I will be working)
*again you have 2 options in past
The verb structure is exactly the same in English as it is in Spanish
I am working = Yo estoy trabajando = (be) + Present Participle
PAST PERFECT: Hubo Trabajado* or Había trabajado (I had worked)
PRESENT PERFECT: He trabajado (I have worked)
FUTURE PERFECT: Habré trabajado (I will have worked)
Again you have 2 options in past and the verb structure is again exactly the same in English and Spanish:
I have worked = Yo he trabajado = (have) + Past Participle
So when we compare English to Spanish we can see that basically they are the same, except in Spanish you have a choice between the imperfect and preterit pasts.
I hope this guide was helpful and again this is designed as a tool to help people learn, not to explore all the issues concerning specific issues.
This is a great guide. Thanks for creating it! It just looks like the formatting of the highlighted areas might need a little attention. I also didn't quite understand your closing statement.
...to help people learn, (comma) not to explore (not meant as an exploration) all the issues...
Thanks for taking the time to post this:)
this is a good guide but please put the english translation for each example it makes it easier to stick in mind
I am wondering what the preterit means... Can anyone possibly explain this to me? If you could that would be awesome.
I worked yesterday would be the preterit in English (trabajé in Spnaish), it is a completed action in the past. IMHO it is the closest in meaning to the simple past in English
Thanks, your explanations are excellent. There is only one disagreement that I have. While some translate the imperfect and preterit as you have, others give them each different translation. Preterit, according to them,is translated as the normal past while imperfect is translated with the lead in words used to giving a slightly different flavor.
I am taking a Spanish class, and what we're taught is that various situations lead to you using preterit or imperfect. One of the biggest factors was preterit is a one time action, whereas imperfect is over a period of time. There are other factors as well.
Thanks JonWhite12, as for you comment on the past forms, tbh thats beyond the scope of this guide, its aim to show the similarity in structure between English and Spanish so people have a context in which to understand Spanish. The way things are viewed and explained say at A2 and C2 levels are completely different.
Thank you for explaining this. I'm at Past Perfect and I hadn't got it yet. This has been very helpful.