No supieron al salir que el arribo del niño ocurriría.....

The Inquisitive One

Senior Member
Persian
Hola a todos,

En el libro "Como agua para chocolate", se encuentra la frase, "No supieron al salir que el arribo del nino ocurriria mas pronto de lo que pensaban." En cuanto al verbo "saber", he aprendido que cuando se lo pone en el pretérito, significa "found out / discovered" o "started to know" y cuando se lo pone en el imperfecto, significa "knew". Sin embargo, en esta frase, en inglés se dice "They didn't know when they left that the arrival of the baby would happen sooner than what they thought." Entonces, ¿Podría alguien explicarme gramáticamente por qué se ha puesto el verbo "saber" en el pretérito?

Mil gracias de antemano y muchos saludos:)
 
  • micafe

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Colombia
    Tienes toda la razón. Eso habría que preguntárselo a la señora Esquivel. Es difícil saber por qué lo hizo, a menos que sea la forma de hablar en algún sitio en México.

    Mi consejo es que aunque hayas visto el verbo usado en esa forma en ese libro, te abstengas de usarlo tú cuando hables o escribas en español. :)
     

    BromKaisarus

    Banned
    Español
    Hola a todos,

    En el libro "Como agua para chocolate", se encuentra la frase, "No supieron al salir que el arribo del nino ocurriria mas pronto de lo que pensaban." En cuanto al verbo "saber", he aprendido que cuando se lo pone en el pretérito, significa "found out / discovered" o "started to know" y cuando se lo pone en el imperfecto, significa "knew". Sin embargo, en esta frase, en inglés se dice "They didn't know when they left that the arrival of the baby would happen sooner than what they thought." Entonces, ¿Podría alguien explicarme gramáticamente por qué se ha puesto el verbo "saber" en el pretérito?

    Mil gracias de antemano y muchos saludos:)
    Creo que le han dado una regla muy rígida.

    La señora Esquivel pudo haber escrito "No sabían / supieron al salir que el arribo del niño ocurriría más pronto de lo que pensaban", y "sabían" y "supieron" tienen el mismo significado; sólo la perfectibilidad temporal es la que los diferencia. En este caso, reitero, ya sea que se le escriba en el pretérito o el copretérito de indicativo, el significado no se altera en lo mínimo.
     
    Last edited:

    Julvenzor

    Senior Member
    Español propio (Andalucía, España)
    Hola a todos,

    En el libro "Como agua para chocolate", se encuentra la frase, "No supieron al salir que el arribo del nino ocurriria mas pronto de lo que pensaban." En cuanto al verbo "saber", he aprendido que cuando se lo pone en el pretérito, significa "found out / discovered" o "started to know" y cuando se lo pone en el imperfecto, significa "knew" :cross:. Sin embargo, en esta frase, en inglés se dice "They didn't know when they left that the arrival of the baby would happen sooner than what they thought." Entonces, ¿Podría alguien explicarme gramáticamente por qué se ha puesto el verbo "saber" en el pretérito?

    Mil gracias de antemano y muchos saludos:)

    Olvide esa regla, no tiene sentido. Para decir "to find (out)" o "to discover" se emplean "encontrar/averiguar" y "descubrir" respectivamente conjugados. Son malas enseñanzas que al final sólo conducen a error.

    Tampoco sé por qué lo usó la escritora, parecer ser materia de estilo. Normalmente utilizaríamos el imperfecto.

    Un saludo.
     

    echinocereus

    Senior Member
    English United States
    Quisiera mencionar una cosa más, The Inquisitive One, y tiene que ver con la traducción al inglés de ese “más pronto de lo que pensaban.” Esa construcción “de lo que” en una comparación seguida de una cláusula no debe traducirse al inglés incluyendo la palabra “what.” En español es correcto y necesario; en inglés lo “estándar” es simplemente “than” – “sooner than they thought.” Un saludo. :)
     

    FromPA

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Quisiera mencionar una cosa más, The Inquisitive One, y tiene que ver con la traducción al inglés de ese “más pronto de lo que pensaban.” Esa construcción “de lo que” en una comparación seguida de una cláusula no debe traducirse al inglés incluyendo la palabra “what.” En español es correcto y necesario; en inglés lo “estándar” es simplemente “than” – “sooner than they thought.” Un saludo. :)
    I don't know that "sooner than what/when they thought" is incorrect. It's certainly an additional word that isn't needed, but it's a construction that I hear often.
     

    micafe

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Colombia
    Esa "regla", que no es regla, es una ayuda para que los hablantes de inglés entiendan mejor el uso del verbo en español. No le veo nada de malo explicarles esas diferencias usando todas las herramientas posibles, incluso esas "reglas".

    De todas maneras es el imperfecto el que se usa normalmente en este caso. El pretérito suena muy mal a mis oídos.
     

    echinocereus

    Senior Member
    English United States
    Hello, FromPA, Yes, I too hear that "what" often in conversational speech, but I was taught that it is very poor English. Perhaps the experts do not agree with me these days on this point. :)
     

    Scorny

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - American
    Well I can only say that I am more confused than ever after having read this post. I may not be accurately interpreting many of the Spanish responses written here since it is not my native language; however, as one who is attempting to learn Spanish, I am also confused by the use of the preterit supieron in the example cited. It was suggested that we forget about the rule of saber meaning to "find out or discover" as an equivalent meaning, even though every textbook I have read suggests it. Are you implying that saber in the preterit does not have a different meaning entirely? How would it be translated then? I also thought that generally when one is describing feelings in the past, the imperative is normally used - not the subjunctive. This is why words like querer when used in the preterit have different or unexpected meaning for English speakers.
     

    juan2937

    Banned
    Spanish
    Hola a todos,

    En el libro "Como agua para chocolate", se encuentra la frase, "No supieron al salir que el arribo del nino ocurriria mas pronto de lo que pensaban." En cuanto al verbo "saber", he aprendido que cuando se lo pone en el pretérito, significa "found out / discovered" o "started to know" y cuando se lo pone en el imperfecto, significa "knew". Sin embargo, en esta frase, en inglés se dice "They didn't know when they left that the arrival of the baby would happen sooner than what they thought." Entonces, ¿Podría alguien explicarme gramáticamente por qué se ha puesto el verbo "saber" en el pretérito?
    Mil gracias de antemano y muchos saludos:)
    El uso del simple past, pretérito ( supieron) ellos o ustedes, el uso es apropiado por la acción puntual = al salir, sabían señala que tenían algún conocimiento previo pues NO ES PERFECTIVO este tiempo ( sabían). Al negar un conocimiento puntual = al salir su uso indica lo instántaneo de la acción expresada por = al salir infinitivo con el pretérito simple.
     

    FromPA

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Well I can only say that I am more confused than ever after having read this post. I may not be accurately interpreting many of the Spanish responses written here since it is not my native language; however, as one who is attempting to learn Spanish, I am also confused by the use of the preterit supieron in the example cited. It was suggested that we forget about the rule of saber meaning to "find out or discover" as an equivalent meaning, even though every textbook I have read suggests it. Are you implying that saber in the preterit does not have a different meaning entirely? How would it be translated then? I also thought that generally when one is describing feelings in the past, the imperative is normally used - not the subjunctive. This is why words like querer when used in the preterit have different or unexpected meaning for English speakers.
    You should never take any rule as absolute. The preterite indicates a definite period of time, and in most situations, if you are said to know something as of a distinct point in time, that's equivalent to discovering or becoming aware of that something at that time. But not always. In the context of the phrase, "No supieron al salir, "al salir" provides a temporal context in which "didn't discover" doesn't make sense, and yet it does refer to a specific point in time. Sometimes you have to go beyond the "rule," which may be nothing more than training wheels for beginners, and understand the meaning within the context.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Well I can only say that I am more confused than ever after having read this post. I may not be accurately interpreting many of the Spanish responses written here since it is not my native language; however, as one who is attempting to learn Spanish, I am also confused by the use of the preterit supieron in the example cited. It was suggested that we forget about the rule of saber meaning to "find out or discover" as an equivalent meaning, even though every textbook I have read suggests it. Are you implying that saber in the preterit does not have a different meaning entirely? How would it be translated then? I also thought that generally when one is describing feelings in the past, the imperative is normally used - not the subjunctive. This is why words like querer when used in the preterit have different or unexpected meaning for English speakers.
    I know that all (¿?, let's say, many) English textbooks say that. Nevertheless, it's wrong.:mad: Moreover, it leads to confusion and, what is even worse, to wrong conclusions.

    Let's take a simple example: Siempre supo que quería ser abogado. He always knew/found out that he wanted to be a lawyer. In this case, you can't even use "sabía".

    Here is an interesting thread about the subject.

    EDIT:

    It took me a while to find back the thread, but here you can find a theoretical explanation about the use of the imperfect/preterit (mind you, it becomes pretty technical).
     
    Last edited:

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Well I can only say that I am more confused than ever after having read this post. I may not be accurately interpreting many of the Spanish responses written here since it is not my native language; however, as one who is attempting to learn Spanish, I am also confused by the use of the preterit supieron in the example cited. It was suggested that we forget about the rule of saber meaning to "find out or discover" as an equivalent meaning, even though every textbook I have read suggests it. Are you implying that saber in the preterit does not have a different meaning entirely? How would it be translated then? I also thought that generally when one is describing feelings in the past, the imperative is normally used - not the subjunctive. This is why words like querer when used in the preterit have different or unexpected meaning for English speakers.
    That "rule" is very useful, until you come to an example where it's not so useful. As you've seen from the comments in this thread: we naturally would use the imperfect sabían because stative verbs like "saber/to know" suggest mental states that are ongoing, without a beginning or ending, and that is precisely what the imperfect refers to. But that doesn't block the preterit, as you've also noted here. Whereas the imperfect can be thought of as a movie (something that is ongoing, unfolding), the preterit becomes a snapshot, a photograph, a moment frozen in time. The effect is that when we say no supieron al salir, the "didn't know" only refers to the precise moment of "leaving," and not to any prior time. If you think about it, the same can be said of the English version. In they didn't know when they left that the arrival of the baby would happen sooner than they thought, the "didn't know" syntactically only refers to the time of leaving (when = at the time that), and not before then, though semantically we deduce that they didn't know before they left either. The rule that "saber" changes meaning whether it's in the imperfect sabían ("know") or in the preterit supieron ("find out") may have some truth when you are translating from one language to the other, but when you focus on the inner workings of Spanish, such distinction is meaningless. Keep in mind that the imperfect and the preterit are "tenses" that describe, from a linguistic perspective, two versions of "past time," but from the perspective of everyday life, the "past" is just one, which is why we often use them interchangeably, blurring the distinction between the "time" of linguistics and the "time" of everyday life.
    Cheers
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I think Spanish-speakers are not likely to see "saber" in the preterit as having a "different meaning entirely" from "saber" in the imperfect.
    Remember that the preterit/imperfect difference is not about the action named by the verb, but rather it's about whether the speaker does or does not focus attention on the beginning and/or end of the action.
    For a Spanish-speaker, both "sabía" and "supo" are about knowledge in the past. The former is about the continuaton of knowledge in the past, and the latter is usually about the beginning of knowledge (which English, in its "poverty" of verb tenses, is forced to go to an entirely different verb to express, so textbooks recommend "found out" or "learned").
    In the case of
    Siempre supo que quería ser abogado. He always knew/found out that he wanted to be a lawyer
    ...no, it's not "found out", but it's still about knowledge with focus on relevant time boundaries (in this case, I suspect that the relevant specific moment in time is when he became a lawyer). Did his knowledge "stop" at that moment? No, but its relevance to the narration did end then.
    How can an action "come to a stop" grammatically when the action in reality continues on?
    I repeat: It's not about the action, it's about the speaker's focus on how the action fits into time.
    Compare the English "I've lived here ten years" (Hace diez años que vivo aquí). A Spanish-speaker has a perfect right to ask, why is it in the present perfect—what has been "perfected" or completed if you still live here? Answer: the ten years, the period for which my living here is relevant in the narration.

    As with every other verb, the use in the preterit means you are focusing on boundaries in time—the beginning, the end, or both—while the use in the imperfect means you are focusing on the continuity of the action without attention to the boundaries.

    That being said, I don't know why Ms. Esquivel said "No supieron"—unless the momentary event that put an end to the relevance of "saber" was the birth of the baby.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    That being said, I don't know why Ms. Esquivel said "No supieron"—unless the momentary event that put an end to the relevance of "saber" was the birth of the baby.
    Because of "al salir", which makes it happen in a closed time interval. I'm sure that the majority of the native Spanish speakers would intuitively also have used the preterit in this case (I mean if they hadn't started to think about "ongoing" versus "punctual" etc.)
     

    Scorny

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - American
    Seven Days,

    I think your explanation has been the most helpful. It brings me back to my initial understanding of the preterit/imperfect usage. I think the guidelines can sometimes cause more confusion if we don't have a complete understanding of the topic. I first learned that the imperfect expresses an event in the past that had no definite beginning/completion (therefore the term ...imperfect). I am sticking with this concept and I hope that it serves as my guide. I also understand that it is the viewpoint of the speaker the choice.

    Thanks again
     
    Last edited:

    juan2937

    Banned
    Spanish
    I know that all (¿?, let's say, many) English textbooks say that. Nevertheless, it's wrong.:mad: Moreover, it leads to confusion and, what is even worse, to wrong conclusions.
    Let's take a simple example: Siempre supo que quería ser abogado. He always knew/found out that he wanted to be a lawyer. In this case, you can't even use "sabía".
    Here is an interesting thread about the subject.EDIT:It took me a while to find back the thread, but here you can find a theoretical explanation about the use of the imperfect/preterit (mind you, it becomes pretty technical).
    Siempre supo que quería ser abogado. (adverbial locution+simple past)
    Sabía que quería ser abogado ('imperfect past')
    As we know that the simple past the action is like a flash, we have to use adverbial locution siempre to convey the idea of permanent or lasting idea to be a lawyer it is a chain of DOTS due to ´'siempre'
    With the imperfect past the adverb siempre is redundant because in the impefect past the action is ongoing, and its graphic is a little wavy line.
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top