Pretérito

amalan2k

Member
USA English/Spanish
I´m still having dificulty understanding the difference between
-Pretérito perfecto
-Pretérito imperfecto
-Pretérito indefinido
especially the uses of to be in the past
estaba, estuve, fui, and era
Could you please explain to me the differences and give examples if you have the time.
Thanks
- Avanti
 
  • manuycacu

    Senior Member
    Argentina - Spanish
    I cant remember exactly the names of each tense since my school grammar lessons were considerably long ago, but I can tell you about the everyday use of them:
    Tenses ending in -aba and -ia are used for actions in the past that lasted some time, or when the emphasis is put on that fact (that they lasted some time)
    Caminaba por la playa al atardecer...
    El telefono no dejaba de sonar

    or for actions that were repeated every day/week/month, etc. but don't happen any more for example:
    Cuando era joven corria media hora todas las mañanas.
    Ibamos al cine por lo menos una vez por semana pero ahora esta tan caro que no vamos mas

    or for the longer action of two that happened at the same time in the past:
    Mientras esperaba que me atienda el medico (longer action), le escribi una carta a Maria
    Complete el formulario mientras hacia la cola en el banco

    The other tense is used for finished actions:
    Esta mañana corri media hora para entrenar para la carrera
    Anoche vi una pelicula buenisima
    Anoche soñe (finished action) que viajaba alrededor del mundo (longer action)

    As regards estaba and estuve, the verb is "estar"
    Estaba esperando el tren cuando me encontre con Maria
    Estuve dos horas esperandote (finished action, even if it lasted 2 hours, the emphasis is given to the fact that it finished)


    era and fui: verb "ser"
    Cuando era chica, iba a visitar a mi abuela todos los viernes
    Despues, cuando fui mas grande, la empece a visitar cada 15 dias

    fui can also be the verb "ir" (=go)
    Fui al supermercado (finished action)
    the other way would be "iba"
    Iba al cine todos los miercoles.... (see the previous example)


    I hope I didn't make things more confusing...!
     

    sergio11

    Senior Member
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    Amalan2k,

    It is not easy to explain to an English speaking person the differences between those tenses, because not all of them have an equivalent in English. I think Manuycacu did a pretty good job. To give a more complete explanation would take much longer and I am not sure we would achieve a better result.

    Regarding Ser and Estar, one of the difficulties of English speaking people is that English has only one verb that conveys both meanings, that is, "to be." One of the things you have to realize is that, in English, the verb "to be" has more than one meaning. Just check a dictionary: you will see several meanings listed there. In Spanish those meanings are expressed with different words. The meanings that concern essence are expressed in general with the verb "ser," and the meanings that concern state are expressed with "estar."

    For example, when you say, "he is Italian," you are talking about his essence, so you would translate "es italiano," but when you say, "he is tired" or "he is in Boston," you are not talking about essence, so you would translate "está cansado" or "está en Boston."

    Another example to clarify this issue would be that if you say "he is white," meaning "he is of the white race," you would say "es blanco," because it is a description of essence. However, when you say "he is white," meaning "he is pale," whether from fear or from a disease, you are not referring to his essence but to his present state, so you translate "está blanco."
     

    amalan2k

    Member
    USA English/Spanish
    Thanks guys that really helps, I pretty much understand the difference between ser and estar, but using them in the past tense can be pretty dificult at times.

    Thanks again

    - Avanti
     

    funnydeal

    Senior Member
    Mexico / Español
    Please look at this link and chose the article you think will help you:

    Anyway, I am copying some extracts

    http://spanish.about.com/sitesearch.htm?terms=past tense&SUName=spanish&TopNode=3837&type=1


    Term in Spanish: préterito indefinido

    Also Known As: preterit, simple past

    Definition: The verb tense that expresses action taking place at a definite time in the past. It is contrasted with the imperfect tense, which expresses action that took place at an indefinite time or has not been completed. The preterite is the tense that would normally be thought of as the past tense in English.

    Examples in Spanish: Cantó. Escribió la carta. Conocí a Eva.

    Equivalent examples in English: He sang. She wrote the letter. I met Eva. (Note that conocer, as in the Spanish example above, can mean "to know" or "to meet." The translation of "met" is used because the use of the preterite indicates an event that happened at a specific time.)



    Term in Spanish: pretérito imperfecto

    Definition: The tense that expresses action in the past that either has not been completed, that occurred habitually or frequently, or that took place over an indefinite period of time. It is contrasted with the preterite tense, which expresses action that took place at an definite time or has been completed. English does not have an imperfect tense per se, although it has other ways of expressing the concept of the Spanish imperfect, as in the examples below.

    Examples in Spanish: Él cantaba. Ella escribía la carta. Yo conocía a Eva.
    Equivalent examples in English: He used to sing. She was writing the letter. (Note that in the preceding two examples the reader can't tell out of context when or even whether the activity ceased.) I met Eva. (Note that conocer, as in the Spanish example above, can mean "to know" or "to meet." The translation of "knew" is used because the use of the imperfect indicates an activity that didn't cease at a particular time.)


    ©2005 About, Inc. All rights reserved. A PRIMEDIA Company.
     

    amalan2k

    Member
    USA English/Spanish
    This helps so much, but just so I can understand how I would use it in my head could you translate a couple frases for me.
    -What have you been doing¿?
    -I´ve been studying Chemistry.
    -How long have you been studying¿?
    -I just studied for an hour
    you guys have been a lot of help
    Muchisimas gracias
    - Avanti
     

    manuycacu

    Senior Member
    Argentina - Spanish
    FIND TRANSLATION IN CAPITAL LETTERS
    amalan2k said:
    This helps so much, but just so I can understand how I would use it in my head could you translate a couple frases for me.
    -What have you been doing¿? QUE ESTUVISTE HACIENDO?
    -I´ve been studying Chemistry. ESTUVE ESTUDIANDO QUIMICA
    -How long have you been studying¿? DURANTE CUANTO TIEMPO ESTUVISTE ESTUDIANDO (THIS IS THE LITERAL TRANSLATION; A MORE EVERYDAY-LANGUAGE WAY TO SAY IT WOULD BE: "CUANTO TIEMPO ESTUDIASTE")
    -I just studied for an hour SOLO (ESTUDIE DURANTE) UNA HORA
    you guys have been a lot of help
    Muchisimas gracias
    - Avanti
     

    funnydeal

    Senior Member
    Mexico / Español
    I disagree with the translations given. If I am wrong please correct me

    -What have you been doing? QUE ESTUVISTE HACIENDO? :cross:


    -What have you been doing? = ¿Qué has estado haciendo?
    ¿QUE ESTUVISTE HACIENDO? = What were you doing?


    - I've been studying Chemistry. ESTUVE ESTUDIANDO QUIMICA :cross:


    - I've been studying Chemistry. He estado estudiando química.
    ESTUVE ESTUDIANDO QUIMICA = I was studying Chemistry


    - How long have you been studying ¿ DURANTE CUANTO TIEMPO ESTUVISTE ESTUDIANDO (THIS IS THE LITERAL TRANSLATION; A MORE EVERYDAY-LANGUAGE WAY TO SAY IT WOULD BE: "CUANTO TIEMPO ESTUDIASTE"):cross:

    - How long have you been studying? = ¿Cuánto tiempo has estado estudiando?

    - I just studied for an hour SOLO (ESTUDIE DURANTE) UNA HORA

    Although I think that it must be "I have just studied for an hour" then the translation is "Sólo he estudiado por una hora"


     

    sergio11

    Senior Member
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    You are right, funnydeal, if it is for a grammar class, your translations are the correct ones, but if it is for common conversation, who can tell a difference in the meaning between your translations and manuycacu's? Is "estuviste haciendo" very different from "has estado haciendo?" Is "estuve estudiando" very different from "he estado estuidiando?"
     

    manuycacu

    Senior Member
    Argentina - Spanish
    The point is that in everyday language, at least in my country, we don't use very much the "he estado", we just say "estuve haciendo tal cosa" o "hice tal cosa" instead of "he estado haciendo tal cosa".
     

    sergio11

    Senior Member
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    amalan2k, if you were in Argentina and tasted the sweetness of our language in Buenos Aires, you can never go back to anything else. No matter what else you try, it always pulls you back. If I may say so without offending too many people, you are in the right track!
     

    amalan2k

    Member
    USA English/Spanish
    That´s right, ya se eso por que no soy un boludo, soy una maza.
    Hey sergio11 sometime send me some messages, maybe we can talk. If you use msn messenger my email is amalan2k@comcast.net
    I stayed in Buenos Aires for a while, and Rosario, Santa Fe

    NO IMPORTA CON QUIEN, USA FORRO.
    -Avanti
     

    funnydeal

    Senior Member
    Mexico / Español
    In normal and natural speech, I use both kind of tenses, because one indicates than an action has finished, while the other indicates that it is in progress

    For instance:

    Estuve enferma = I was ill

    He estado enferma = I have been ill


    And only to point out, the quesiton was posted in the Grammar subforum, wasn't it?
     
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