Siempre quiso/quería irse (verbo)

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Srta Cabello, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. Srta Cabello New Member

    Necesito que alguien me explique la elección entre imperfecto e indefinido con el verbo querer, gracias! Empezó su carrera. Ganó dos veces el campeonato Nacional. (en 1940 y en 1941). Siempre (quiso o quería)_________ irse a Europa en busca de glorias aún mayores, pero la Segunda Guerra Mundial postergó estos sueños. Yo creo que hay más de una opción pero necesito opiniones para dialogar con los alumnos.
  2. Chalon Senior Member

    Viña del Mar
    Viña del Mar-Chile-Español
    In this case, you must use "quiso". Regards!
  3. Srta Cabello New Member

    Gracias pero por qué???? o sea los alumnos americanos estaban convencidos de que el "siempre" introduce al imperfecto y no sé quedaron conformes con mi explicación. gracias desde ya, saludos
  4. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    "Siempre quiso" = "always wanted" (but then things changed).
    "Siempre quería" = "was always wanting"/"would always want" (over a period of time).

    "Quiso" fits best because "siempre" in this case does not extend indefinitely but ends with WW II.
  5. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    Here is why (I think) you are having this problem. Native English-speakers have trouble distinguishing between preterit and imperfect. So they are taught to recognize "signs" of the preterit and imperfect. One sign is the use of siempre, which can of course signal the imperfect (She always went to church on Sundays). But the students cling to these signs like a shipwrecked sailor clings to a log. If you tell them that they can't rely on this sign, they feel they will drown in an ocean of confusion.

    You have to get the students to realize that there are no magic words and the difference between the preterit and imperfect is the point of view of the speaker. Words used in the sentence can give an idea as to the speaker's point of view, but it's the point of view that controls, not the words.

    My attempt at explaining (keeping in mind that I am a learner and not an expert) is that this is a narration of events, which typically uses the preterit. I view the quiso as an event, rather than a state of wanting, because it is implied that for the entire time in question he had the desire, which was terminated with the war.

    If it's any help, here is a link that has a similar discussion in the context of saber:
  6. Srta Cabello New Member

  7. plsdeluno Senior Member

    Excellent answer by RicardoEl abogado. I would have chosen ''quería'' because of siempre, now I can see why it is not correct.
  8. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    I think so too. I see the words "state" and "event" in Ricardo's answer, and these are often good for explaining imperfect-vs.-preterit to English-speaking students.
    But maybe in this case it will be hard for your students to see "wanting" as an event.
    Point out the fact that the war put an end to the wishing (if he was realistic!).
    Ricardo is correct in noting that learners mistakenly look for a magic word to cling to in making the choice between preterit and imperfect.
    But reliable expressions for this purpose are rare.
  9. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The preterite applies when the speaker is thinking of a beginning, an ending, or both (or a punctual event) at or during the time in question, but the imperfect is open ended in the same time period. In this case, pero ... postergó ... suggests an ending.
  10. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    Agreed. These rules are merely generalizations, but not necessarily right in every case. But I'm still not clear on why 'quiso' is the choice. Since 'postergó' means postponed, I take it he/she retained the desire and did eventually go to Europe after the war was over.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  11. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    This is how I see it.

    Él quería ir a Europa, pero quando llegó la guerra, decidió ir a los Estados Unidos.
    Siempre quiso ir a Europa, y lo hizo después de la guerra.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  12. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    "Siempre", when it means "always" is always used with the preterit; when it has the connotation of "each/every time", it is used with the imperfect.


    The easy answer: because!:D. It's just one more rule to learn.

    The more scientific answer is pretty complex and I don't know if it will be useful for a learner.

    Anyway, if someone is interested, just let me know.
  13. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    Thanks. I didn't quite understand the rule. With certain verbs like 'to want' the French have a strong preference for the imperfect, but they usually switch to the passé composé when they use 'toujours' and 'jamais'. I never really understand why, however, since my grammar makes no mention of this.

    Yes, I am curious. What is the reason for the rule? The French pattern of usage is something like the 'present perfect' in English. An action or state that began in the past, but still continues in the present. In the case of the verb 'vouloir', we have the impression that the desire will soon be fulfilled.
  14. Rasmus1504 Senior Member

    Peterdg, can you give me an example where siempre has the connotation of each/every time? I can't quite see it. I would also be interested in the explanation for the rule is like that!
  15. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Right! Also in French, it would be normal to say "J'ai toujours voulu le faire" or "J'ai toujours su qu'il était un peu fou" . It's actually the same in Spanish.
    First, you have to know that the model that is currently used to describe the difference between the imperfect and the preterit, is not the model that is used in traditional textbooks for students. The model I adhere to (and that is, in general lines, also followed by the NGLE of the RAE) is that there are only two important rules:

    1) The interrupting action goes in the preterit and the interrupted action goes in the imperfect (for a good understanding; this is of no importance for the case we are discussing here)
    2) The verbs that describe a closed time interval go in the imperfect and what happens in the closed time interval, goes in the preterit. (this is important in this case).

    Furthermore, you have to know that there are two types of verbs: "verbos télicos" and "verbos atélicos"; the first one being verbs that, by the nature of their meaning, denote punctual facts; the latter are verbs that, by the nature of their meaning, denote actions that continue in time.

    Many verbs can, depending on how they are used, have a "télico" aspect or an "atélico" aspect. But many verbs usually belong to one or the other category.

    E.g. "golpear" is a verb that usually is "télico": you hit someone, and that's it; it's not something that usually continues in time; you can repeat it, but those would be considered sequential events, not continuous events. "Saber" and "querer" are, by nature, "atélico" meaning that they usually describe something that goes on in time; it's not a punctual event.

    Now, there is a strong resistance to use a by nature atelic verb in the imperfect in a closed time interval as it is almost impossible to interprete it as a repetitive event.

    For some reason, "siempre", in its meaning of "always" (as opposed to "every/each time") and "nunca" are considered to be "closed time intervals" and hence, with "saber" and "querer" (being atelic), the use of the imperfect is almost impossible.

    Yes, the example that Ricardo gave: "She always went to the church on Sundays": "Siempre iba a misa los domingos": "Each Sunday, she went to church".
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  16. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    Ricardo provided us with one already.

    "She always went to church on Sundays"
    "Siempre ella íba a Misa dominical."
    "Ella iba a Misa todos los domingos."

    In general, the translation between English and Spanish is straight forward, if we are talking about activities. The above English sentence could be changed to:

    "She used to go to church every Sunday."
    "She would go to church every Sunday."

    This modification shows that the activities were habitual, in which case the imperfecto is clearly applicable. However, when we are dealing with psychological states (thoughts, emotions, desires, etc), and other states or conditions that we can't visualize, the distinction between the imperfecto and preterito becomes difficult for an English speaker to grasp. It is in this case where Peter's rule is most applicable. If he is right, then the following sentence should be taken to mean that she used to go to church every Sunday.

    "Siempre quería ir a Misa los domingos."

    So, now I get the impression of someone's desire becoming a habitual action. Whereas, with the preterite its a desire someone always had, but didn't necessarily express it at that time.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  17. Lurrezko

    Lurrezko Senior Member

    Junto al mar
    Spanish (Spain) / Catalan
    Eso es. Lo entiendo tal como lo dices.

    Un hilo interesante.
    Un saludo
  18. SevenDays Senior Member

    In other words, perhaps to simplify things, there is "habitual always" (she always went to church on Sundays ~ siempre iba a misa los domingos) and there is "durative always," referring to a period of time that has a natural ending (I was always a good student ~ siempre fui un buen alumno [I'm not a student anymore]). If the period of time does not convey/suggest a natural ending, "always" assumes an imperfect meaning. Suppose we are looking at pictures of my childhood, and we come across a photo of me in my school uniform, all cleaned-up, with my hair neatly parted, I would naturally say "mis padres siempre me querían ver así" where "querían" suggests a present in the past, and therefore ongoing.

    By the way, in the original question, there are several simple pasts (empezó, ganó, postergó) that the choice of "quiso" is rather automatic.
  19. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    Did you mean "she used to want to go to church every Sunday"?

    And would another way of expressing imperfect aspect be: Every Sunday, she would want to go to church (but but the feeling would pass).
  20. loudspeaker Senior Member

    British English
    Wow! It's threads like this that make this site so useful! :)
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  21. L'Inconnu Senior Member


    Most of the explanation makes sense, except the last two paragraphs.

    You seem to be saying it backward. Since atelic verbs (querer, saber, sentir, etc) don't usually describe discrete events (namely those we can count) we normally use the imperfect mode.

    This doesn't agree with your original premise.

    Here is how I see it.

    Time is a continuum; a number line that extends to infinity in both the past and future directions. It is invariably expressed with the imperfect tense. The preterite describes events that are discrete points on this number line. Increasing the frequency of these events, adds more points to the line, and, in a manner analogous to connecting dots, provides a sense of continuity. This is why the imperfect is used to describe past habitual events.

    The trick is to imagine how an atelic verb, namely one that normally describes a continuous state or condition, can be used to describe a discrete event that occurs at a given moment in time. "To be thinking" vs "To have a thought." Thinking is an ongoing or continuous process. A thought occurs at a given moment in time. "Was thinking" vs "Thought".

    For us to understand why 'nunca' takes the predicate, all we have to do is argue that zero is a countable number. Siempre is more complicated. To use the imperfect, the action has to occur habitually. In the case of "Siempre quería ir a Misa", we have to imagine that the person did in fact go to church (of their own volition) or at least expressed a desire to do so. The real contradiction of terms is using the preterite to describe a continous state. Ironically, this is the one case that should not confuse English speakers, because it is effectively our present perfect tense.

    "I have lived a very long and rewarding life"

    We normally use the continous mode of the present perfect to describe a state or condition that began in the past and continues in the present. But, notice that the above statement is made when we anticipate that the person is going to die. Similarily, when someone states that he has always wanted to do something, we anticipate that he will do it when he gets the chance. Perhaps it is because we expect that his desire will be expressed as an action, one which will terminate his state of wanting, we use the preterite.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013
  22. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    Here's how I read this: There is a resistance to using the imperfect for a verb that by its nature is atelic when the verb appears in a closed time interval (one with a beginning and ending) as it is almost impossible to interpret action of an atelic verb as a repetitive event.
  23. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    Here is how I interpret this statement:

    siempre, in its meaning of "all through the time period" (as opposed to "each (or every) time") and nunca (never throughout the time period) are considered to be "closed time intervals." Since there is a completed event (the time period, whatever it may be), with saber and querer (being atelic), the use of the imperfect is difficult because with these two modifiers there is: (1) an end to the action, which calls for the pretertie and (2) there is no repetition during the time period because the action was continuous (without interruption) throughout the time period.
  24. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium

    You saved my day:). I was also replying but I couldn't have done it better than what you said.
  25. L'Inconnu Senior Member


    Re-read the following statements:
    Atélico verbs describe continuous events. But, if we have already stated that the imperfect is used for closed time intervals, the logical conclusion is that the imperfect is used with atélico verbs. And, in fact, that is what usually happens. Verbs like Saber and Querer are more frequently conjugated with the imperfecto than the preterito.
  26. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    Here is what I think it should say:

    "As it is difficult to imagine the action of an atélic verb as being repetitive, the imperfect is normally used."
  27. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Ah, now I (think I) see what you are referring to.

    The imperfect is not used for closed time intervals. That is not what I said. I said that the imperfect is used to describe (define) the closed time intervals; what occurs during these closed time intervals, is expressed with the preterite.

    "Mientras él trabajaba en el extranjero, no pudieron verse".

    "Mientras él trabajaba en el extranjero" describes the time interval; "no pudieron verse" is what happens in the time interval.

    So, your conclusion is not correct; it is based on the fact that you consider that something that takes time in the past is expressed with the imperfect. Therefor you deduce that atelic verbs, that by nature continue in time, hence usually take the imperfect. That is just not true.

    Consider the following: "Lo conocí durante cuarenta años". "Conocer" is atelic in this meaning, so by nature takes time; in your concept, it should go in the imperfect. Well, it doesn't. It is the closed time interval "durante 40 años" that forces the preterit because "conocer" is an atelic verb in this context. If we had used a telic verb, the imperfect would be conceivable:"Durante 40 años solíamos vernos todos los domingos".
  28. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    I finally I understand this point. However...

    "te esperaba a ti"

    This satisfies both conditions you just mentioned

    1) Completed
    2) Continuous
  29. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    On the plus side, I think I am starting to understand your argument. On the negative side, I am still not convinced.

    "Capo colombiano vivía desde hace cuatro años como ganadero en Venezuela"

    I consider 'vivir' to be an atelic verb, that is, one that describes a continuous action. And, I still don't see how defining a time interval practically forces me to use the preterito. In French, it's really a question of which preposition you use. "Durante" = "Pendant" goes with the passé composé. "Desde" = "Depuis" goes with l'imparfait.

  30. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    For a good understanding, this is not my argument:). This is how it is described nowadays in the NGLE.

    About your sentence "Capo colombiano vivía desde hace cuatro años como ganadero en Venezuela": "desde hace 4 años" is not a closed time interval. It is closed at the beginning of the interval but it is open at the end.
  31. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    As I understand it, the point that was being made was that siempre and nunca imply a closed time period. Your example does not have a word or phrase that implies a closed time period.

    Wouldn't "I waited for you for two hours" take the preterite?
  32. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    This headline suggests to me that the "vivir en Venezuela" is part of the setting for the news story,
    and that it will be interrupted by some events to be narrated, perhaps when the capo's identity is discovered.
  33. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    "El día que esperaba desde hace un año"

    'Desde' goes with the imperfecto, and 'durante' goes with the pretérito.
  34. L'Inconnu Senior Member

  35. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    I think I finally understand it. It would be better to say that the closed time interval allows one to use the preterit. If the time interval were not closed, that is, if we didn't know when the state began or ended, then we couldn't use the preterit, and we would have to use the imperfect.

    So, there are two cases where we can use the preterit:

    (1) When an event occurs at a given moment in time.
    (2) When an activity or state endured for a fixed interval in the past.

    The imperfect applies to cases:

    (1) Where the activity was habitual.
    (2) When a state or activity continued for some period of time.

    A. Él quería ir a Europa, pero cuando llegó la guerra, decidió ir a los Estados Unidos.
    B. Siempre quiso ir a Europa, y lo hizo después de la guerra.

    In (A), we have a state that continued for some time, before being interrupted by a sudden event. It's an open interval, because even though we know when his state of wanting ended, we don't know the moment in time when it began. So, we can't say exactly how long his desire lasted. Since we have a continuous state without a fixed time interval, we must use the imperfect. The first rule you quoted applies.
    In (B) the person's state of wanting is also continuous over time. However, use of the word 'siempre' allows us to conceive of a fixed interval. Since 'siempre' is all inclusive, it can be presumed to have a begining and an ending. This allows us to use the preterit.

    And, this is the point where the argument really begins. Does the closed time interval force us to use the preterit, or is it the simple fact that we have already used the imperfect for case (A), and so we simply need to use another grammatical construction for case (B). That is, if we had to use the imperfect for one case, and the preterit for the other, isn't our choice dictated by the simple fact the preterit fits (B) better than it does (A)?
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2013

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