Could this sentence also mean, "I knew to swim."? As in, "After I fell in the water, I knew to swim." If not, how would you say that?
I don't have the answer to your question (which is a good one), but I thought it worth pointing our that in English "I knew to swim" is actually a kind of shorthand for something like "I knew that I should swim," and the Spanish translation may map closer to the latter version.
I don't know either, but I think grammatically your example should use the 'preterite past' ("supe") as you are talking about a precise/exact moment in time.
Actually if you use the preterite form of saber it does not mean knew, it means found out. Saber is one of the verbs which change meanings in the preterite because knowing is never something that has a clear start and finish. Conocer and a few other verbs are like this as well. Here is a link explaining it. http://www.spanishdict.com/topics/show/63
This is a misleading rule it is not always true. The idea is sound, but it can just as easily be translated as "suddenly I knew" "I knew immediately" "I knew at once" "Then I knew" etc. One use of the preterite for non-action verbs is a sudden change in state.
It's more true than false. And I am talking degree not frequency. The difference between using the preterite and the imperfect for verbs describing states of being and mental processes isn't easily translated despite being quite significant. The preterite always requires a distinct start and end to the action of the verb. With verbs like hit or jump the duration of the action is always seen as extremely short, but most action verbs carry with them the assumption of a clear cut beginning and ending. But with a verb like to know the picture is quite different. Many things you "know" you don't remember when you learned and certainly by definition you don't know when you forgot (ceased to know). So knowing doesn't easily fit the preterite. But learning can, although learning can also be ongoing and therefore imperfect. The "imperfect" aspect of the imperfect tense is that, even though you are talking about the past, the action has not necessarily ended. If what you knew last week or last year you still know, it has to be imperfect. But we do say things like I just knew he was lost. This is not knowledge in a traditional sense. These flashes of instinct, intuition, ESP or whatever would use the preterite.
Now I have seen a couple of science fiction type shows where the main character was somehow temporarily given appropriate skills for the situation they were in. In that scenario, supe would be appropriate. We could not express that in English so concisely though. But for most people, if you knew how to swim, you know how to swim so the imperfect is required.
Hmm... That's a good point. Thank you for your insight. :D Ese es un buen punto. Gracias por sus ideas.
Nope. I tried "I knew to swim" (since "cómo" was missing) and it got marked wrong.
For a moment, substituting "He" for "I" it seems to me "He knew how to swim" and "He used to know how to swim" are two different things in English. "He used to" implies that he no longer knows how to swim. However, you can't make that assumption with "He knew how to swim". In response to "How did he escape?", you could respond with "Well, he knew how to swim". In this context you don't know whether he still knows how to swim.
"I could swim" feels like a more natural way of saying "I knew how to swim", should definitely be accepted.
Ignoring the structure for a meaning you feel is better does not teach you how Spanish actually creates meaning with vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. It is not that you couldn't say I could swim in Spanish. In fact you could create a distinction using both words. I could swim would be Podía /pude nadar. The knowledge of how to do something and the ability to carry out the task. Yo sabía nadar pero no pude nadar ese día debido a la resaca. I knew how to swim, but I could not swim that day due to the undertow.
You most certainly do have a point, but in this context is the phrase ''Yo sabia nadar'' not supposed to mean that one was capable of swimming, as in he had achieved that ability prior to the action? In that case, ''I could swim'' is the English equivalent and should be accepted. Or perhaps I'm wrong, but I think that Yo sabia nadar is the equivalent of I could swim. Just like I think that I know how to swim is the same as I can swim. Although the sentence that you have pointed out makes sense and you are right, I still think it depends on the context and situation. But think about it, ''I can swim but I can't swim right now because of the strong current'' is still grammatically correct in English, is it not? Because of the fact that I can swim is a phrase to signify the fact that someone is capable of swimming due to prior acquirement of that specific skill.
I would appreciate if you'd throw in some more thoughts on the subject, as I am kind of confused.
You have to be sensitive to what Duo is trying to present in each sentence. Saber is generally considered a modal verb in Spanish. Of course English modal verbs are quite different, and to know how to is certainly not modal in English. Now there actually are a couple of ways to say I could swim in Spanish because in English could is ambiguous out of context. It could be pude nadar, podía nadar or podría nadar. Each of these would be translated as I could swim, but they do not have the same meaning and usage in Spanish. But there is only really one way to say I knew how to swim in Spanish because Supe nadar would actually mean I learned how to swim. These little details can only be absorbed using Duo's modeling methods by using a direct translation. I say direct as opposed to literal because a direct translation will translate chunks with a regular translation that aren't really literal. I think of translating these sentences on Duo as somewhat akin to translating for a diplomat. You want your translation to be good English but you don't want to change the words or the structure based on what YOU think sounds better or means the same thing. Many people are quite precise with their words and you are trying to be as precise as possible about the translation. There are certainly situations where you might want to distinguish between the ability to do something and the knowledge of how to do it. These are the tools which help you make these finer distinctions.
Thank you for the answer, I think I can see your point much more clearly now, although Spanish will probably never stop confusing me. But I'll take it one step at a time and perhaps I'll make it.
Most people will tell you that there is no difference between the sound of the b and v in Spanish. I know with some speakers I think I can hear a difference, but whether it is a particular regional accent or all in my head, I can't tell you. So if you take them as the same sound as the following link says, and understand that the terminal ia has the same sound as illa, then the only difference between sabía and Sevilla is the a or e sound, which is small. http://www.studyspanish.com/pronunciation/letter_bv.htm
It wasn't about b vs. v, I meant that the first a sounded like an e - an issue with the computerized voice.
Most translation programs translate the I used to know how to swim with soler (to be in the habit of, accustomed to) in the imperfect (Yo solía saber nadar), and I believe that is the correct way. However, the I knew how (yo sabía) to swim (nadar) is the correct one in my opinion.
Is this also can translate as' I used to know how to swim.' ? Thanks in advance.
"For words that end in a vowel, the letter “n,” or the letter “s,” the stress is on the next to last syllable." So why is an accent necessary on the 'i' of sabía when the stress is already on that syllable anyway?
That was a question I had. The answer is that ia is considered a diphthong in Spanish. That means they are considered to be one syllable. Any time a strong vowel and a weak vowel are together in Spanish it is a diphthong (diptongo) Normally the strong vowel is emphasized, when it is the weak vowel as here, an accent is used. This is definitely a different concept than many English diphthongs, and I don't hear it, so I just have to learn it.
Does this sentence imply that the speaker no longer knows how to swim? Also, does it differ semantically from "Yo supe nadar." ?
Let me answer your second question first. Saber is a verb that has so much affinity with the imperfect that the preterite actually means something different. Yo supe nadar means I learned how to swim. It is similar in this way to conocer where the imperfect has the expected meaning of the past tense to to know and the preterite has the Single point in time meaning which is to learn for saber and to meet for conocer.
As for the first question, no the sentence does not necessarily imply that you no longer know how to swim. It is exactly like the English. There can be any number of past situations where your knowing how to swim is relavent to the story. I knew how to swim, so I jumped into the pool and saved the baby. Or I knew how to swim but I wasn't invited out on the boat.
Thanks for the detailed response. I was wondering if it implied that you no longer know how to swim because I have the translation "I used to know how to swim," which is a strange thing to say if you haven't forgotten. This reminds me of that Mitch Hedberd joke: "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to also."
Yes. Duo and many other learning sites use "usted to" as a common translation for the imperfect. But you have highlighted one of the problems with it, especially when used with those verbs which are the most confortable in the imperfect. There are three reasons to use the imperfect.
When an action in the past doesn't have a clearly defined beginning and ending point.
For repeated or routine actions in the past.
To set the scene or provide background information in the past. This is generally translated as the past perfect in English.
Verbs like saber, querer, creer, sentir, and others relating to feelings and mental states and processes are comfortable in the imperfect because they often meet the first criteria. We often don't know when we started or stopped thinking or feeling something, and, as in this case, just because you are talking in the past tense it doesn't necessarily mean that you don't still (or again).
But other verbs are never in the imperfect for reason 1. Verbs like jump, buy, fix, walk, order, etc are by definition actions with a set beginning and end. We don't have to know how long you walked yesterday to know that it stopped at some point, whether it began again or not. These verbs generally use the imperfect for reason 2. Caminaba al trabajo cada día. I walked to work every day. The every day shows that repeated nature. Another way we do so in English is I used to walk to work. In this usage it doesn't necessarily imply that you never walk to work anymore, just that it is no longer your routine. And this is actually where the use of used to originated for the imperfect. With these verbs it doesn't imply that it never is true any more, but I still don't like its use. First because we don't always say it here, second it can imply different things than the simple imperfect. And finally because Spanish actually has a way of saying I used to, and that is with the imperfect of the verb soler (solía).
When you use the imperfect it doesn't assume that the action is complete. Actually, it's the opposite. The reason the imperfect tense is called imperfect is exactly because the action is imperfectly complete. This is the major issue with the use of "used to" when translating the imperfect. That is especially true with verbs like sabía which are particularly comfortable in the imperfect. Using used to with a verb like hablar or correr makes a little more sense because it does make one think of repetitive, serial actions for those verbs which is what the imperfect implies, but it still doesn't mean that the action is complete. We use the past tense for these words all the time. I fell out of a boat when I was a child, but I knew how to swim. This English sentence doesn't imply that I don't know how to swim now. In Spanish that would be. Me caí de un barco cuando era una niña, pero sabía nadar. Here you have a verb in the preterite for a single, finite action and two verbs in the imperfect. The first is presumably a completed action (I am no longer a child) and the second is an imperfect action as I still know how to swim. But they both are essentially states which endured for an unspecified amount of time around the finite event of falling out of the boat.
None of the hints include "used to know how" which makes more sense that "knew", which is listed.
Actually for verbs like saber, it doesn't. If you say that I used to know something it implies that you don't know it now. The imperfect doesn't necessarily imply this at all. In fact that is the reason for the name imperfect. The imperfect allows for an imperfect completion of the event. The imperfect here implies an unspecified duration of the verb around the time period being discussed. All the sentence is saying is that, at the time in question, I knew how to swim. Since people seldom forget that, presumably I would still know how to swim.
I have always objected to "used to" as the translation for the imperfect. That it assumes you don't still is part of it, and also solía actually would translate to used to, so it isn't really legitimate in Spanish. But for verbs like correr, hablar, cocinar and other action verbs it does help English speakers a bit. This is because we always assume some sort of relatively short duration with them. But verbs which reflect feelings and mental processes are actually much more comfortable in the imperfect. For action verbs, the imperfect implies repeated or routine action. This part is also implied by used to which does help explain its use for them.
Here we go again!! I answered the above with "I used to know how to swim" and was marked incorrect.
This is the reason that I have always hated the convention of using "used to" in the translation of the imperfect. First of all it is never quite accurate. If a native Spanish speaker wanted to express "used to", they would use the imperfect of the modal verb solar, to be accustomed to. The other problem is that the meaning that people are trying to achieve only works with some verbs, although it is the majority of verbs. We actually have the same two classes of verbs, although we think about them differently. The larger class are more typical action verbs. In English we call these continuous verbs (although we don't tend to discuss them much). They are continuos because in English we use the present continuous (also called progressive) to say what we are doing now (I am working, I am laughing, I am playing, etc. The non continuous verbs are more about internal processes. They are verbs like to think, to know, to feel, to want, etc. These we don't normally use the continuous tenses with, although you will hear some occasionally but others less so (I am thinking vs I am knowing for example). While I haven't yet tied in the Spanish, I like to start with what you know from English, whether or not you know that you know it. The relevance of these two classes of verbs to Spanish has to do with the imperfect. The action or continuous verbs use the preterite most commonly. These are verbs which have an implied short duration, whether or not a duration is mentioned. Therefore in the past, the preterite is perfect. One and done. But if you are talking about routine or repeated actions, the imperfect is required. This is where the use of used to has SOME meaning. If you say I used to run to work, it is clear that you ran to work more than once in the past, while if you say I ran to work, one time might be assumed. This is exactly the difference between Yo corrí al trabajo and Yo corría al trabajo. But the problem is that when you say used to it assumes you no longer do it. That is NEVER implied by the imperfect tense by itself. The tense is called imperfect because the past event may not have been completed or ended.
The English class of verbs that are called continuous are relevant to Spanish in that these verbs are actually a lot more comfortable in the imperfect. When you say you think something or you know something the beginning and ending point in the past is generally unclear. So sabía just means knew or knew how to. Here saying used to adds nothing but an assumption that you no longer know how to swim. So here used to us actually wrong. Actually many people will tell you that supe doesn't even mean to know it means to learn or to find out. That is a slight exaggeration as you might say De repente supe, Suddenly I knew which expresses knowledge as a finite act.
Here is an explanation of ENGLISH continuous and non continuous verbs, if I lost you there.
Why? In past lessons we've learned that saber + infinitive = know how to do something. Other translation tools and a Google search are agreeing that this sentence should not use "como".
No it's not the.yangist, like daefenris mentioned, "saber" used this way means "to know how to".