Thursday, 15 March 2012

Tell Me, What Did You Do To Your Brother?

Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe it is said that your brother has fallen out with you. The other person might have heard that you have done something which upset your broher. At some point, he/ she says to you something like: "tell me, what have you done to your brother?".

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿qué le hiciste a tu hermano?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿qué le hizo (usted) a su hermano?

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 you:
  • Did something some time ago.
  • Did something at a specific point in time.
  • Didn't do anything.
  • Didn't ever do anything.
  • Didn't do something some time ago.
  • Didn't do something at a specific point in time.

Here are some examples of how you would say what you did/ didn't do:
  • Discutimos ayer (we had an argument yesterday).
  • Hablé con él hace unos días (I spoke to him a few days ago).
  • No le hice* nada (I didn't do anything to him).
  • Nunca le hice* nada (I never did anything to him).
  • No le llamé* ayer (I didn't call him yesterday).
  • No pude* hablar con él hace un par de días (I couldn't speak to him a couple of days ago).

Now you should practice talking about the past to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿qué le hiciste a tu hermano?

*Please see grammar below

Grammar-The Preterite
These are examples of expressions using the preterite to talk about past 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).
  • 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 levantaste 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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