Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/mitzral

Tips for identifying which verb tenses to use

Hi, as I am learning these different verb tenses in spanish, future, past, present, would have, could have had and so on.

I find it really hard to quickly identify if this is past tense or half of the sentence is past tense etc. What belongs in which tense basically.

I believe the reason why I am poor at this, is that I dont pay attention to tenses in the languages I already speak. I am not aware of what tense i speak in, it just sounds right or wrong.. (Nor/Eng)

does anyone have any pointers here?

3 years ago

20 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/ElimGarak

http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/COURSES/verbs/vtenses1.pdf This chart will help you learn the tenses. Take a little time to go to StudySpanish or Spanish Dict and review each one. The more you learn about them, the more confident you will be when you encounter them.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mitzral

thanks, this looks helpful.. i guess it takes some practice.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
  • 25
  • 24
  • 23
  • 22
  • 22
  • 22
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 15
  • 15
  • 14
  • 14
  • 14
  • 12
  • 2
  • 2
  • 1033

These explanations are for the indicative mood. Subjunctive gets trickier, for an English speaker, because we don't use it a lot and don't always recognize it when we do. I've just barely almost figured out present subjunctive (which can be, but isn't always, the would, could etc. forms.)

Future - used a lot like we do in English. Phrasal future, which is ir a + verb (voy a estudiar español) is used like we use going to (I am going to Study Spanish. Simple Future - used like we use will. Estudaré español mañana I will study Spanish tomorrow. You can also use simple present and present progressive for future, as we do in English Estoy cocinando la cena esta tarde I am cooking dinner this afternoon. Me voy a Peru mañana - I leave for Peru tomorrow.

Present - pretty much like English, except that Spanish doesn't use the present progressive quite as much, it is generally used only when you are doing something right at the moment, although it can be used as it is in English.

Past - there are two simple past tenses - this is where it starts to get tricky. The imperfect can be thought of as a line in the past - something that was done for an unspecified time and may or may not be finished. I was talking with my mother on the phone every day, Hablaba con mi madre por telefono todos los dias. I used to sing. Cantaba. The preterite can be thought of as a dot - something that was done during a specified period of time, or done only once, and is now finished. I ate tacos yesterday. Comí tacos ayer. You can use them both in the same sentence. While I sang, she danced. Mientras cantaba, ella bailó. (She was dancing during a specific period of time, while I sang, but how long I sang is unspecified.) I have also been told by Spanish speakers, and reading seems to bear this out, that present perfect is used a lot more often for referencing the past in Spanish than it is in English. He bailado I have danced, ha cantado, He has sung

Would, could, should - can be conditional as well as subjunctive. I would like chicken soup. Me gustaria sopa de pollo. I could sing. Podria cantar. I should clean the house. Deberia limpiar la casa. In this sense, again, used a lot like English.

There are nuances, some differences in exactly when each one is used, and of course the subjunctive complicates the whole thing, but as a beginner to intermediate, these should work most of the time.

Read a lot. IMHO it is better to get a feel for when tenses are used than to try to memorize rules, since often as a speaker of another language trying to use logic to determine the right tense/mood, you will find that the logic doesn't work., or that it has a different starting point. Using one form where a native speaker might have used a different one will rarely impede understanding, you just won't be able to convey the little nuances that come so naturally in a language you grew up with.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mitzral

wow, this was great thanks. These notes will be with me until it flows by itself :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mitzral

I have another follow-up reply here, this is the one i find most tricky. While i sang, she danced - Mientras cantaba, ella bailó.

I have a few nuances here that almost mean the same thing. Could someone translate these? When I was singing, she was dancing. I sung and she danced. While I was singing, she was dancing.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
  • 25
  • 24
  • 23
  • 22
  • 22
  • 22
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 15
  • 15
  • 14
  • 14
  • 14
  • 12
  • 2
  • 2
  • 1033

Cuando estaba cantando, ella estuvo bailando. I sang and she danced - yo cantaba y ella bailaba or yo canté y ella bailé. Depends on how long - I sang and she danced every day when we were little, or I sang and she danced at the show. Mientras estaba cantando, ella estuvo bailando. Note - just to make it more confusing, you can use the imperfect for both actions. Native speaker, please help here.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/eagersnap
eagersnap
  • 19
  • 17
  • 14
  • 7
  • 5
  • 3

"Language Transfer" is an excellent audio course, which - among other things - teaches the tenses in a very intuitive way.

You can download it for free and listen in the bus/train/car etc.

http://www.languagetransfer.org/#!blank/cbjz

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
  • 25
  • 24
  • 23
  • 22
  • 22
  • 22
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 15
  • 15
  • 14
  • 14
  • 14
  • 12
  • 2
  • 2
  • 1033

Languagetransfer is indeed a great course - I got the line versus dot concept from it and it made preterite vs imperfect MUCH easier to understand.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/eagersnap
eagersnap
  • 19
  • 17
  • 14
  • 7
  • 5
  • 3

Yes, and it supplements Duolingo very well because it teaches exactly the kinds of things that Duolingo doesn't - and vice versa.

For me the greatest thing about LT was the way it shows the patterns in the conjugations. For instance the way you can use 3rd plural preterite indicative (e.g. comieron) to find the complete conjugation for past subjunctive by just changing the o to a and then varying the endings (comiera, comieran etc.)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
  • 25
  • 22
  • 12
  • 6
  • 4

Read children's books, keep it simple. Don't worry about being conscious aware of using the tense. Do you want to be an editor? Probably not. Keep it simple. You'll get used to some phrases.

  • "I don't want to go," said Michael.
  • "Yo no quiero ir" dijo Miguel

Don't worry about it, just get used to it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Abendbrot
Abendbrot
  • 13
  • 12
  • 12
  • 9
  • 8

Are there specific rules, when to use the past and when to use perfect, like the English language has?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
  • 25
  • 22
  • 12
  • 6
  • 4

Or . . . The Big Red Book of Spanish Verbs

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rozzie
Rozzie
  • 18
  • 12
  • 11
  • 8
  • 5
  • 15

just order barron's 501 spanish verbs for spanish thanks

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wazzie
wazzie
  • 25
  • 11

I have this book as well, and have found it nearly useless. It is on okay reference on conjuctions of different verbs (I personally find sites like spanishdict.com quicker and easier to use though), but does nearly nothing in teaching you how to use verbs.
It is an okay conjugation reference book, but a poor grammar book (in my opinion of course).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
  • 25
  • 22
  • 12
  • 6
  • 4

I'll keep that in mind.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rozzie
Rozzie
  • 18
  • 12
  • 11
  • 8
  • 5
  • 15

I wasn't looking for a grammar book

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sandeepa2
sandeepa2
  • 22
  • 17
  • 15
  • 13
  • 8
  • 1267

Hi wazzie, I have just started Spanish. Can you recommend a Spanish Grammar Book. Gracias.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wazzie
wazzie
  • 25
  • 11

Wait... I'm confused.. were you telling mitzral to "just order barron's spanish verbs" or do you mean that you "just ordered Barron's book"?
It seemed like you were telling mitzral (who is looking for grammar help) to order the book, and I felt that was bad advice.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rozzie
Rozzie
  • 18
  • 12
  • 11
  • 8
  • 5
  • 15

I just order Barron's book I wasn't telling anyone to buy it I saw the picture and went to amazon and wanted to see what the book was about. Sorry if I confused you.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wazzie
wazzie
  • 25
  • 11

Uses of Perfect tense (from A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish (currently on sale for 30 dollars!)):

To denote events occuring in a period that includes the present:
I have not seen your mother this week

For events whose effects are still relevant in the present:
Someone has smoked a cigarette here. I can smell the smoke

(The above book is a great intermediate grammar book)

3 years ago