Translation:I was looking at the birds through the window all day on Sunday.
Is is really necessary to have the word "the" as in "the birds" in the sentence? It sounds more idiomatic without the "the" in English. I have gotten this a lot in DL- are we really talking about particular birds we are watching, or is it really all birds that can be seen through the window, in which case "the" should be left out?
I think bbbindle was questioning the English, not the Spanish. We usually "watch birds" or "bird-watch", although "I was watching the birds" is not wrong, even if they are not particular birds. I reported this.
More generally, my experience with Duolingo tells me that both languages omit the article at times, although unfortunately not always in the same instances -- and English omits it more often.
Yes. The rules are somewhat different but the difference between. Tomo café and tomo el café is exactly the same as the difference between I drink coffee and I drink the coffee. It is when you generalize about the noun that the the most difficult difference appears.
Unlike many other instances where English speakers can and probably should drop the article, doing so here requires some thought. There is a definite distinction which is not easy to define. It's a difference in the intensity of the two different experiences. Both are right, neither is wrong, but there is a distinction. They are not always interchangeable.
"Looing at the birds" implies greater attention and perhaps greater interest in the actual birds that come in front of the window. "Looking at birds" implies a less focused and more generalized viewing - an acknowledge that there were birds outside the window, that you saw them, but didn't pay close attention to them. It's a question of actuality and immediacy of experience, with "looking at the birds" implying greater interest in and greater attention to detail as specific birds appeared in the window.
Perhaps another example: If you went to the beach at Ipanema, would you spend the day looking at girls (or boys), or would you spend the day looking at the boys (or girls)?
Let's be honest, DL's English often leaves a lot to be desired. There are a few ways this Spanish sentence can be rendered in English. DL's isn't even close to being the best. For that reason and the often irrelevant "tips", I'd never pay for it. It's a shame, but it's true.
I don't understand why "estuve" was used in this sentence since she was doing this activity all day long (ongoing) but I was marked wrong in the previous sentence when "I spoke to you by telephone when I was at my aunt's house" and I used "estuve en la casa de mi tia" - marked wrong as she was in her aunt's house for an ongoing period of time. What is the difference, please? How do you distinguish when an ongoing activity takes the imperfect or the preterite?
I agree that it can be tricky, but in this case the use of the preterite «estuve» is correct because the action can be viewed as a single event. In particular, the speaker was bird-watching on Sunday (a single event).
Your other example sentence uses the imperfect for the "when I was" because it sets the stage for another past action, namely speaking to them on the phone.
Preterite is used for actions that can be viewed as single events, repeated a specific number of times, part of a chain of events, or occurred during a specific period of time.
Imperfect, on the other hand, is used for actions that were habitual or set the stage for another past action. Imperfect is also typically used in a few areas such as your age, time, physical sensations, emotional states, and descriptive characteristics.
I have been wondering about the use of the preterit form for these gerunds. I was always taught to use the imperfect, unless I wanted to emphasize an abrupt action. Now, that is a generalization, but is "estaba viendo" wrong for this? Especially, as you put it, it was an ongoing action.
Sorry to hijack, but I think it goes hand-in-hand.
Although your explanation works for the imperfect and the preterite in general, it does not work as well for the imperfect progressive and the preterite progressive. There are a few more things to consider here, and either might be correct depending on the circumstances. One thing you have to remember is that one of the functions of the imperfect is to set the scene. In English, this is often done with the past progressive, so in many cases the English past progressive is actually translated into the imperfect itself, even when a time period is specified. In Spanish, the progressive tenses are only used to highlight or emphasize the fact that the action is ongoing. And it is true that the imperfect progressive is more common than the preterite progressive. To understand the difference you have to look at the interaction between the continuous action in the past, expressed in one of the progressive tenses, and the main action in the past which most likely will be in the preterite. If the continuous action happened only up to when the main action happens, especially if it were interrupted by it, the imperfect progressive would be used. If the continuous action was happening during the whole time the main action was happening, but did indeed have a set beginning and end, the preterite progressive would be used. But, as I said, the progressive tenses are only used to emphasize or highlight the ongoing nature of the action. So actually it would be most common to express both situations with the imperfect (simple imperfect) and not either of the progressive tenses.
No one shall ever know, muahaha! :)
I am German, which is a bit more mundane than Finnish, but pretty good for my part, so I don't have to learn this overly complicated item of a language anymore.
In school I learnt English (of course) and Russian, the latter being a language that never really stuck with me. In university I had a little bit of French, but that was only superficial. Oh, also I'm currently 29 years old, to put it in perspective. Living mainly on the internet, I made a lot of international friends, so I'm getting a good chunk of English practice every day. :)
I really only got interested in languages rather recently, about two years ago. I've been wanting to learn Hungarian for a while and was waiting for the Duolingo course to open. I got impatient and started Danish, because it seemed easy for a German (it is!) and because one of my friends is a Dane. Then I did Hungarian and now I'm bullfighting my way through the Spanish course, because I thought I should learn at least one useful language. On my short list are also Armenian, Finnish, and maybe Albanian.
I generally have a knack for systems, and natural languages have wonderfully complicated rules and usually plenty of exceptions to keep me busy. Especially conjugations are great learning material. I enjoy finding parallels and differences between the languages, and some extremes (two or three tenses and three moods in Hungarian versus up to 16 tenses and four moods in Spanish).
My sense for the imperfect just comes from learning the rule when to use the imperfect (basically not being able to exactly localise the event on the timeline) and applying and practicing that rule rigorously.
I hope this is satisfying. :´)
Yes. Absolutelly. I actually considered German, but your Imperfect tense statement had me flummoxed. German verbs are more like English than Spanish, but not only don't you have an imperfect tense, you don't have progressive tenses either. German is actually the only other language, besides English, that I have spoken exclusively for a period of time. I lived in rural Bavaria (Prutting am Chiemsee) as an Au Pair Mädchen in the mid seventies for a year and later returned for another year first at the Goethe Institute in Prien and worked for about 10 months in another small Bavarian village whose name escapes me. I am relearning my German on Duo, and New words like das Handy. The Germany I lived in is no more. It was West Germany, the currency was the Deutschmark and there was neither a. European Union nor an internet. Putting, which had a population of about 500 people then, now has a website. But even then I recognized how living in Europe was a lot more connected than most of the US, even though I have lived in or adjacent to relatively large cities like Boston and San Diego (where I now live) One reason I am learning Spanish is that I may retire to Mexico to escape Southern California prices. Tijuana is about 20 miles South of me. But I love languages and am also refreshing my French and learning Italian and Portuguese.
Good luck on your language journey. The world is literally your oyster.
Spanish is a cake with many layers. Thank you for the input. :)
I didn't think of the issue that English doesn't have an imperfect tense, so it has to resort to past progressive to express that aspect of speech (or a "used to" construction, maybe). I see now that the imperfect progressive wouldn't be inappropriate here - if the cotext is to set a story - but preterite progressive definitely would not be wrong either - if you treat it as a single, context-free event. And I agree that using a non-progressive tense would be more common here.
Your refreshing approach to language made me interested in your language journey. You write English impecably, but I suspect it's not your native language. You sentence about English not having an imperfect tense, so "it has to resort to past progressive to express that aspect of speech (or a "used to" construction" interested me. I am a linguist and have often said that while Germanic languages are more concise with nouns, Romance languages are much more powerful with verbs. But I have to confess when I read that statement, my initial reaction was a little negative at that same implication. You may be more enlightened than I, but it did not seem like a native speakers statement. I looked at the languages that you do on Duo, and found Hungarian and Danish as the top two. People learn languages for a lot of different reasons, and I definitely applaud them all, but I don't think I would be going out on a limb to say that is an unusual mix. I would definitely suspect that you are European, and the most "logical" explanation (not that logic has to have much to do with it) would be Finnish. But I don't know if that would explain your sense of essential appropriateness of the past imperfect. So I would love to know your language journey.
This is a logical assumption Dean, but according to these native speakers, "ver" does not take a preposition of direction "a" to change it from "see" to "look at." Based on this we have to assume that in this case the "a" is a personal "a".
As to why a personal "a" is included, the answer could be in your opening sentence: "The personal a is only for pets or animals dear to you." One of the native speakers in the above link confirms that direct object animals, even if they are wild animals, take the personal "a" when the writer/speaker/subject feels an emotional connection to them. So, even if the birds in this DL sentence are not pets, I suppose it is reasonable to say that the writer/subject feels some emotional connection to them if he/she is going to spend a whole day looking at them :)
English grammar books wouldn't help you with that anyway, since the "personal a" only appears in Spanish. :)
This term describes the quirk of Spanish grammar that you add a preposition a in front of the direct object of a sentence, whenever that object is a certain person (or a certain group of people). So for example:
- Veo la puerta. - I see the door.
- Veo a la niña. - I see the girl.
In the case of this sentence, animals are getting the person treatment, which you can do if you have a connection to the animal.
I'm not quite sure what "tense" you're talking about.
I disagree there. There is no grammar issue with either sentence. So what remains is essentiallly personal style. My preference personally would be the first because it is more concise/succinct. Adding prepositions can create very stringy sentences. Of course this is hardly to that level, but my editing skills have tended to make me omit prepositions where possible.
I assume Michael's question was because one of the options was accepted but the other wasn't. Since both are quite common and mean exactly the same thing, both should be accepted. My first reaction was to wonder if he switched the syntax around from what the Spanish says. In other words I was looking out my window all day [on] Sunday as opposed to [On] Sunday I was looking out my window all day. I would be more inclined to add the on for the latter than the former. But if Duo just allowed the change in syntax without examining its possible effect in the use of the preposition, whichever personal prejudice that the originator of this sentence had may have been reinforced. As I say, both are correct and common enough that many people wouldn't even think about the other option.
Actually the translation which tracks best is also the least clunky. On Sunday I was watching birds out the window all day. I agree that your translation is as valid as theirs, although it is true that beginning a sentence with that many introductory words that don't make up a clause is less common in English. We like our subjects to come early
I agree, good thinking. So when i tried it another way "All day Sunday i was looking through the window at the birds" - again rejected After re reading lynettemcw's comment above, maybe i am guilty of changing the syntax of the spanish phrase. However the important thing is that i understood the Spanish phrase with ease. Allowing myself to get mired in the many ways the phrase can be interpreted in english (to avoid clunkyness(?) and provide disambiguation) is a habit i need to restrain. The trouble is, i am retired and live in Spain and do not get much opportunity to write in English, so in these discussions , once i have found an answer or two which/that clarifies the Spanish i get hooked on the English.
It's the difference between "to see" (ver) and "to look at" (ver a).
I don't think that is correct. "Ver" can translate as "look" and "look at" without being followed by the preposition "a." For me the "a" here is the personal "a" (being included for the direct object "los pájaros"). I'm pretty sure if what were being looked at through the window were inanimate objects, chairs for example, then there would be no "a" in this sentence: El domingo estuve viendo las sillas por la ventana todo el día.
But if you can back up your assertion I'd be happy to change my mind :)
Ah, you're mocking me. That's quite rude and not funny.
"The basic rule is a simple one: the a precedes the mention of a specific person or persons used as a direct object, and (except in some rare cases where it's used for clarification) it is not used in other cases."
In the examples given, that doesn't mean you have to know the people or their names, as in:
Oigo a los músicos, I hear the musicians. That's specific enough.
Another example where the direct object is not specific enough: "Oigo la orquesta, I hear the orchestra.
Mostly importantly, this rule is about People . except with an exception for pets:
"Many pet owners think of their animals as people, and so does Spanish grammar, so the personal a is used. But the a isn't used with ordinary animals."
So, the personal "a" is used with specific named or unnamed people and pets, but not ordinary animals, like birds outside your window.
Of course, if you had read the comment above by DeanG6, you would have picked up on this fact: "The personal a is only for pets or animals dear to you. My guess is the a in this case is probably because of your 2nd option, "viendo a" mean "looking at" and not just "seeing".'"
So, there it is. Plenty of expert commentary to back up my assertion.
If you have something to warrant an exception here or otherwise explain the "a" in this sentence, I really want to hear it. I don't like being wrong, so I want to be corrected when I am.
As a addendum:
That sentence you picked to mock me for was a response to a bald assertion that Duo was wrong about something, when everything I knew said that Duo was right, and everyone else in the discussions was saying that Duo was right. The commenter had nothing to back it up, absolutely nothing. So I challenged it, mainly for the benefit of others reading the comment, so they wouldn't get confused.
Also, I don't make assertions without researching them. I continue to do so after I post comments, and on more than one occasion, I've spent time (anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more) finding comments I later discovered to be wrong or needing revision, and I look them up to do so. So, when I see an obviously wrong assertion which is isn't supported by anything at all, apparently without any effort to do at least a little research, if irritates me ab it. People have put a lot of time and effort into Duo, and to have it challenged like that is insulting, IMO.
No mocking intended Jeffrey. I was merely requesting the same evidence to support your assertion that you were requesting of others, which I'm sure you didn't think was unreasonable or offensive when you requested it, so I am unsure why you found it rude when I did. If you can provide that evidence I would happily admit my own assertion was incorrect.
As to the evidence you did provide: Yes, I'm familiar with the definition you offered as to when the personal "a" is required, and I had read Dean's comment before posting mine, I just wasn't convinced by it. No offence to Dean (please don't take offence Dean) but to my knowledge he is a learner too and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't class his own words as "expert commentary."
That said, I would agree with both of you, and the definition, that the personal "a" is only used for people and pets (because that is what I too was taught) but there are instances both on DL and in reality (newspaper articles for example) where apparently non-pet animals are still preceded by the personal "a" when they are direct objects. GregHullender, who is arguably one of the most well-read users on DL, maintains that all animals and anything being anthropomorphised should be preceded by the personal "a" when it is a direct object. I have to disagree with this, but based on the usages I have seen it seems apparent that the personal "a" is sometimes (rightly or wrongly) used for more than people and pets. And of course, likely or unlikely, the possibility exists that the birds being referred to in this DL sentence are pets and would therefore require the personal "a" regardless.
So, why don't we ignore the personal "a" issue and address this from the other angle. Does "ver" mean "see", while "ver a" means "look at?" I can't find any evidence to support this. SpanishDict's dictionaries offer several situations where "ver" translates to "look at" without the presence of the preposition "a." Similarly their examples section offers four pages of "ver a" and in every instance the "a" is not just a preposition of direction but is a personal "a." There are no examples of looking at inanimate objects, for example, with the "a" included.
Based on that evidence I'd have to stick to my assertion, but I will ask the question on the SD forum where several Spanish professors dwell and will report back their response.
A couple of native speakers have responded. Their answers are here. To summarise them:
The "a" in this DL sentence is a personal "a." It is not a preposition of direction that changes "ver" from "see" to "look at." Natural English determines whether "ver" is translated as "see" or "look at" or "watch." If the objects being looked at were inanimate (and/or emotionally detached from the writer/speaker) such as "las sillas," no "a" would be included.
We'll have simply disagree on the point for now. I don't have time do a lot of research on it, but will certainly keep your points in mind. Perhaps it's a regional thing.
As a point of internet etiquette, when you quote someone's words back at them, particular when you're just asking them to do something they've asked of other people, that's mockery. There's other ways of asking the same question in your own words which isn't.
It's not a big deal. I accept your word that you didn't intend to mock, so I hope in the future you won't do that, now that you know it's rude to do so.
They are slowly replacing these exercises with others with smaller word blocks. I appreciate the concept, but selecting an I or other small words on my smartphone is difficult, but it does seem to illuminate even the partial filling of the answers. It will take a while to catch them all though
Strictly speaking, there is nothing wrong grammatically with your sentence, but it is not the norm. The most common place to put time expressions like Sunday or all day in English is at the end of the sentence. They can also go in the beginning of a sentence, but that tends to lessen their importance in the sentence. In reality, English syntax is more flexible with adverbs and adverbial phrases, but what I just explained is what foreign students are taught about English syntax.
So you could translate this sentence as they do above with both time expressions (or I guess you could call it a compound time expression) at the end, or you could split them to follow the Spanish syntax more closely, On Sunday I was looking at birds through the window all day. But for Duo to individually program syntactic variations into the application beyond the standard ones is probably not going to happen. It's a lot of work, especially when they aren't particularly colloquial or common.
You are right. Duo gets into trouble when it tries to simply reinforce its view of common for common. In English, expressions of time NORMALLY go at the end of the sentence. To put Sunday at the beginning of the sentence is possible, but that places it more in focus or makes it more important. But in Spanish it's pretty much the opposite. While I have never read that this is true specifically, my impression after hearing a fair amount of spoken Spanish is that in many cases Spanish puts the emphasis at the end of the sentence. So Duo's way of teaching this is to require you to place the time expression in its "normal" place in English when it is in its "normal" position in Spanish. I understand what they are trying to do, and it's a valid goal, but Duo's framework isn't well suited to teaching some of the nuances without confusing those who haven't spent so much time studying languages and Linguistics as I.
It's certainly a little stringy. But the standards one has for written language are much greater for those of spoken language, and the fundamental goal on Duo is the spoken. I doubt you would think twice if you heard someone say this, although you might be surprised if CERTAIN people said it.