Yo lloraba cuando él me decía eso

Tin

Senior Member
Catalan - Majorca / Spanish - Spain
This is just an example to try to fully understand something that's been bugging me for a long time in English: the past tense in recurrent actions. The thing is recurrent actions are super easy in Spanish, you don't have to make any decision regarding the verbal forms you use, because you just have to use the same verbal tense every single time. But it seems in English most of the times it works whether you use used to or would or just the past simple. It's hard for me to decide. If I decide to use would, do I necessarily need to use would in all the verbs in the sentence?

What I mean is: What's the correct way or how would you say it naturally? I'm talking about colloquial American English (remember this refers to a recurrent PAST event, not conditional):

A) I would cry when he said that to me.
B) I would cry when he would say that to me.

Does A) work without having to use so many would's in the narration (imagine if this sentence were much longer with many more verbs) or, on the other hand, does it make absolute no sense to you native speakers?
 
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  • Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English
    Does A) work without having to use so many would's in the narration (imagine if this sentence were much longer with many more verbs) or, on the other hand, does it make absolute no sense to you native speakers?
    "We don't often use would in subordinate clauses; instead, we use past tenses. • Would you follow me wherever I went? (NOT Would you follow me wherever I would go? ) I would tell you if I knew. (NOT I would tell you if I would know.)"

    This information is found on several websites. It's a good general "guideline," I think, but it's not applicable in all situations.

    I think A works well and makes sense.

    You mentioned recurrent (habitual) actions. Cambridge Grammar of English says that would is used more frequently in formal contexts.

    Would.jpg
     
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    Tin

    Senior Member
    Catalan - Majorca / Spanish - Spain
    That's absolutely right, Cholo234, but I thought this "rule" didn't apply in this case because this is past habit would and not conditional would!
     

    S.V.

    Senior Member
    Español, México
    I agree with Cholo. Aunque en otros casos sí puedes oír esa 'd, por ejemplo:

    Kaz would ask everytime he'd see her struggling to reach for something.
    So everytime he'd come home or when we visited him, my cousins and I would always go like “where's Chocolate Dada?!”
    Everytime she'd come home, I would have to chase her to see her.
    His heart would flutter everytime she'd say something to him.

    De la güeb. Le cambié a she también. Creo que sí podríamos oír I would always cry whenever he'd say that to me.
     

    Tin

    Senior Member
    Catalan - Majorca / Spanish - Spain
    Interesantes ejemplos, S.V., gracias. Entonces, es lo que digo, que la cosa parece caótica. No parece tener demasiada coherencia.
     

    Tin

    Senior Member
    Catalan - Majorca / Spanish - Spain
    Continuing with this topic, how would you say this in English if the order of the verbs is inverted in the sentence?

    "Cuando él me decía eso, yo lloraba".

    A) When he'd say that to me, I'd cry.
    B) When he said that to me, I'd cry.

    Or maybe "when" should be turned into "whenever"?

    C) Whenever he said that to me, I'd cry.
     

    Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English
    Continuing with this topic, how would you say this in English if the order of the verbs is inverted in the sentence?

    "Cuando él me decía eso, yo lloraba".
    Zulma Iguina's example below begins with cuando also. It refers to the imperfect and emphasizes how the Spanish imperfect can be translated not only by using (1) used to, and (2) would, but also (3) the simple past (although her translation below doesn't include the simple past, which would have been "When I was a kid, my parents took me to the movies once a week)." At dictionary.cambridge.org, they say that used to refers to actions and situations in the past which no longer happen or are no longer true.

    Habitual (2).jpg
     
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    Tin

    Senior Member
    Catalan - Majorca / Spanish - Spain
    Interesting, but this example doesn't really answer my question because "cuando era niño" is a past state, and the would habitual past can't be applied to past states, only to past activities.
     

    Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English
    What I mean is: What's the correct way or how would you say it naturally?
    You have framed your question in the singular ("the correct way").

    Maybe the answer can't be framed in the singular ("The correct way is . . . ") I personally think both A and B "work."

    "Language is not an algebra, and there is no single right answer to any given predicament with words." (Jacques Barzun)

    Correctness.jpg
     
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