Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Tell Me, What Was Life Like When You Were Studying?

Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. Perhaps you are talking about things you used to do in the past. Maybe you were once a university student. The other person wants to find out what life as a student was like. He/ she decides to say to you something like: "tell me, what was life like when you were studying?".

 In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿qué tal vivías cuando estudiabas?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿qué tal vivía (usted) cuando estudiaba?

You could think of the question you are asked as a typical prompt to talk about things from the past.  When describing your past, you DO NOT need to be concerned about levels of formality. You just need to concentrate on describing how things were then. In this case, perhaps you want to describe your life as a student in terms of:
  • What you had/ didn't have
  • How you were
  • How people around you were.
  • How things around you were

Here are some examples of how you would say what you used to do in the past:
  • Cuando estudiaba tenía muchos amigos* (when I was studying, I had many friends).
  • Cuando estudiaba tenía muy poco dinero* (when I was studying, I had very little money).
  • Cuando estudiaba no tenía coche* (when I was studying, I didn't have a car).
  • Cuando estudiaba estaba más delgado* (when I was studying, I was thinner).
  • Cuando estudiaba era feliz* (when I was studying, I was happy).
  • Cuando estudiaba me sentía muy bien* (when I was studying, I felt really good). 
  • Cuando estudiaba mis padres me apoyaban mucho (when I was studying, my parents supported me a lot).
  • Cuando estudiaba la vida era más barata (when I was studying, the cost of living was lower/ cheaper).

    Now you should practice talking about the past to someone who says to you:
    Dime, ¿qué tal vivías cuando estudiabas?

    *Please see grammar below

    Grammar-The Imperfect
    These are examples of expressions using the imperfect to talk about the past. Remember that in Spanish we use the imperfect in the following situations:

    1. When talking about habitual ongoing actions in the past. Some examples of expressions of this type are:
    • Antes me gustaba jugar a tenis (I used to like playing tennis).
    • Tú casi nunca madrugabas (you almost never got up early).
    • Pedro tenía muchos amigos (Pedro used to have many friends).
    • Siempre estábamos contentos (we used to be always happy).
    • A veces llegábais tarde (sometimes, you -plural were late).
    • Mis compañeros de trabajo apenas me conocían (my work colleagues hardly knew me).
    2. When talking about repeated ongoing events in the past. Some examples of  expressions of this type are:
    • Yo iba a la playa lo domingos* (on Sundays I used to go to the beach).
    • Todos los días te levantabas temprano (you used to get up early everyday).
    • Pedro trabajaba de lunes a viernes (Pedro used to work from Monday to Friday).
    • Nos gustaba ir a nadar los lunes (we liked going swimming on Mondays).
    • Los fines de semana íbais al campo (you -plural used to go to the countryside at the weekends).
    • Mis amigos venían a visitarme una vez a la semana (my friends used to come to visit once a week).
    3.  When describing the past. Some examples of  expressions of this type are:
    • Yo era amigo de Sofía (I was Sofía's friend).
    • Tú eras muy joven (you were very young) .
    • Mi coche era nuevo (my car was new).
    • Éramos como hermanos (we were like brothers).
    • Erais compañeros de trabajo de mi hermano (you -plural were work colleagues of my brother).
    • Mis padres eran muy mayores (my parents were very old).

    4.  When talking about ongoing past actions which were occurring at the same time as a completed action. Some examples of  expressions of this type are:
    • Yo comía cuando me llamaste (I was eating when you called).
    • Dormías cuando llegamos (you were sleeping when we arrived) .
    • Llovía cuando salí (it was raining when I left).
    • Llegabamos a Barcelona cuando amaneció (we were arriving in Barcelona when dawn broke).
    • Cuando os ví, salíais del bar (when I saw you -plural you were leaving the bar).
    • Cuando llegamos, mis padres salían (when we arrived, my parents were leaving).

    5.  When asking someone directly, what would you like?/ how can I help you? When replying to that type of question indicating, what I/ we would like/ are looking for. Some examples of  expressions of this type are:
    • ¿Qué  querías(what would you like?/ what are you looking for?/ how can I help you?).
    • ¿Qué  quería (usted)(what would you like?/ what are you looking for?/ how can I help you?).
    • ¿Qué  queríais(what would you like?/ what are you looking for?/ how can I help you? - you plural).
    • ¿Qué  querían (ustedes)(what would you like?/ what are you looking for?/ how can I help you? -you plural).
    • Quería una lata de sardinas (I wanted/ I am looking for/ could I have a tin of sardines?).
    • Queríamos una habitación doble (we wanted/ we are looking for/ could we have a double room?).

    Now you should practice using the imperfect with some examples of your own.

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