Sunday, 18 March 2012

Tell Me, What Did You Do Last Week?

Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe you are catching up with events last week. The other person says to you something like: "tell me, what did you do last week?".

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿qué hiciste la semana pasada?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿qué hizo (usted) la semana pasada?

The question is an invitation for you to talk about something you did/ didn't do in the past. When saying what you did/ didn't do in the past, you DO NOT need to be concerned about the level of formality in the other person's question. Your main concern should be about communicating what you did/ didn't do. Perhaps you want to say that last week, you:
  • Did something specific.
  • Did a sequence of specific things.
  • Didn't do anything.
  • Didn't do something specific.
  • Didn't do a sequence of specific things

Here are some examples of how you would say what you did/ didn't do last week:
  • La semana pasada fui al cine* (last week I went to the cinema).
  • La semana pasada llamé a Pedro y hablé con él *(last week I called Pedro and spoke to him).
  • No hice* nada la semana pasada (I didn't do anything last week).
  • La semana pasada no descansé nada* (last week I didn't have a rest at all).
  • La semana pasada no vi la tele ni escuché música* (last week I didn't watch tv nor did I listen to music).

Now you should practice talking about the past to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿qué hiciste la semana pasada?

*Please see grammar below

Grammar-The Preterite
These are examples of expressions using the preterite to talk about past completed actions and sequences of completed actions. Remember that in Spanish we use the preterite in the following situations:

1. When relating an action which is completely finished . Some examples of expressions of this type are:
  • Estuve en Manila (I was in Manila).
  • ¿Fuiste a ver a tus padres? (did you go to see your parents).
  • Pedro me llamó por teléfono (Pedro phoned me on Sunday).
  • Fuimos a Nueva York una vez (we went to New York once).
  • ¿Cuando llegasteis a Barcelona? (when did you -plural arrive in Barcelona?).
  • Mis padres nos escribieron una carta (my parents wrote a letter to us).

2. When narrating a sequence of completed events/ actions. Some examples of expressions of this type are:
  • Llegué, y vencí (I arrrived, I saw and I conquered -J. Caesar).
  • Te acostaste, te lenvataste y te fuiste a trabajar (you went to bed, you got up and you went to work).
  • Pedro llegó, miró y se fue (Pedro arived, he had a look around and he left).
  • Compramos las entradas, vimos la película y nos fuimos a casa (we bought the tickets, watched the film and went home).
  • Cuando vísteis que hora era, ¿por qué no llamásteis (when you-plural saw the time, why didn't you call?).
  • Mis amigos no te vieron y se fueron (my friends didn't see you and left).

3. When talking about completed actions in a clearly defined period of time in the past. Some examples of expressions of this type are:
  • Del lunes al jueves estuve en Los Ángeles (from Monday and Thursday I was in LA).
  • ¿Estuviste en Madrid en 1991? (were you in Madrid in 1991) .
  • Mi tío te vió la semana pasada (my uncle saw you last week).
  • En 1991 estuvimos en Barcelona (in 1991 we were in Barcelona).
  • El año pasado trabajásteis todo el año (last year, you -plural worked all year round).
  • Mis amigos estuvieron en España en 1995 (my friends were in Spain in 1995).

Now you should practise using the preterite with some examples of your own.

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