Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Tell Me, What Has To Be Done?


Introduction
This post is about the practical use of the infinitive in general and more specifically the use of the infinitive in the combination “haber que+ infinitive.




SCENARIO
Imagine you are with a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe you have been very busy and he/ she has offered help. He/ she wants you to tell him/ her what needs done and says to you something like: "tell me, what has to be done?"*.

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿qué hay que hacer?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿qué hay que hacer?


OUR TIP
The question is an invitation for you to say what needs to be done. When saying what needs to be done without indicating who has to do it, you do not need to consider different levels of formality for you reply. All you need to be concerned with is saying something relevant to the question.

Here are some examples of how you could reply:
  • Hay que* ir a correos (we** need to go to the post office);
  • Hay que* ir al banco (we** need to go to the bank);
  • Hay que* ir a la farmacia (we** need to go to the chemist);
  • Hay que* ir a comprar pan (we** need to go to buy bread);

**NB Please see the note about the subject of these sentences in the grammar section below (item 4. Haber que... )

Now you should practise replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿qué hay que hacer?

*Please see grammar topic below, the infinitive- Haber que...


Grammar- The Infinitive

The answers above highlight the use in Spanish of the infinitive in combination with another verb to form commonly used expressions. Below are some more examples of Spanish verbs which often combine with the infinitive to produce commonly used expressions.




    1. Acabar de
The combination acabar de + infinitive has two main common uses:
  • In positive expressions it indicates an action or activity which has been just completed. Examples of this use are:
    • Acabo de levantarme (I just got up);
    • Acabas de llamarme, ¿verdad? (you have just called me, haven't you- familiar);
    • Usted acaba de llamarme, ¿verdad? (you have just called me, haven't you- formal);
    • Pedro acaba de llamarme (Pedro has just called me);
    • Acabamos de levantarnos (we just got up);
    • Acabáis de llamarme, ¿verdad? (you- plural have just called me, haven't you- familiar);
    • Ustedes acaban de llamarme, ¿verdad? (you- plural have just called me, haven't you- formal);
    • John y Ann acaban de llamarme (John and Ann have just called me);

  • In negative expressions it indicates an action or activity which is failing to complete or materialise. Examples of this use are:
    • No acabo de entenderte (I fail to understand you);
    • No acabas de decidir si vas a ir a España (you procrastinate endlessly about going to Spain- familiar);
    • Usted no acaba de decidir si va a ir a España (you procrastinate endlessly about going to Spain- formal);
    • Pedro no acaba de convencerme (Pedro is failing to impress me);
    • No acabamos de levantar cabeza (there is no end to our troubles);
    • No acabáis de decidir si vais a ir a España (you- plural procrastinate endlessly about going to Spain- familiar);
    • Ustedes no acaban de decidir si van a ir a España (you- plural procrastinate endlessly about going to Spain- formal);
    • John y Ann no acaban de convencerme (John and Ann are failing to impress me);


    2. Deber
The combination deber + infinitive has two main common uses:

  • The straight combination deber + infinitive is used to indicate obligation. That is, it is used to express what someone 'must do'/ 'ought to do'. Examples of this use are:
    • Debo levantarme (I must get up);
    • Debes decir la verdad (you must tell the truth- familiar);
    • Usted debe decir la verdad (you must tell the truth- formal);
    • Pedro no debe ariesgarse (Pedro must must not take risks);
    • Mañana debemos madrugar (tomorrow we must get up early);
    • Debéis decir la verdad (you- plural must tell the truth- familiar);
    • Ustedes deben decir la verdad (you- plural must tell the truth- formal);
    • John y Ann deben tener cuidado (John and Ann must be careful);

  • The combination deber de + infinitive is used to indicate supposition. That is, it is used to express what someone would probably or surely do. Examples of this use are:
    • Ahora debo de creerte, ¿verdad? (now I should believe you, shouldn't I?);
    • Debes de tener mucha paciencia (you must surely have lots of patience- familiar);
    • Usted debe de tener mucha paciencia (you must surely have lots of patience- formal);
    • Pedro no debe de recordar lo que ocurrió (Pedro must surely not remember what happened);
    • Ahora debemos de creerte, ¿verdad? (now we should believe you, shouldn't we?);
    • Debéis de tener mucha paciencia (you- plural must surely have lots of patience- familiar);
    • Ustedes deben de tener mucha paciencia (you- plural must surely have lots of patience- formal);
    • John y Ann no deben de estar en casa (John and Ann must surely not be at home);


    3. Haber de
The combination haber de + infinitive is used to indicate what is needed or advisable. That is, this combination is used to express what someone 'needs to do'. Examples of this use are:
  • He de levantarme (I need to get up);
  • Has de decir la verdad (you need to tell the truth- familiar);
  • Usted ha de decir la verdad (you need to tell the truth- formal);
  • Pedro no ha de ariesgarse (Pedro should not take risks);
  • Mañana hemos de madrugar (tomorrow we need to get up early);
  • Habéis de decir la verdad (you- plural need to tell the truth- familiar);
  • Ustedes han de decir la verdad (you- plural need to tell the truth- formal);
  • John y Ann han de tener cuidado (John and Ann need to be careful);


    4. Haber que
The combination haber que + infinitive is used to indicate what is needed or advisable. This combination is only used in 'impersonal'* expressions. In those situations, you don't need to worry much about verb conjugations (only the 3rd person singular of tenses is used). Thus this combination is used to express what 'needs to be done'. Examples of this use are:
  • Hay que decir la verdad (you* need to tell the truth);
  • Había que decir la verdad (you* needed to tell the truth);
  • Hubo que decir la verdad (you* needed to tell the truth);
  • Habrá que decir la verdad (you* will need to tell the truth);
  • Habría que decir la verdad (you* should need to tell the truth);


*NB These are expressions without a specific subject. In other words, the subject of the sentence is omitted. In English this type of general talking expressions can be a bit confusing. The reason being that in English 'you' is commonly used as a subject, when in fact what is meant is not 'you' but 'someone'/nobody specifically. It is these situations, when 'you' is used to mean nobody specifically that the combination haber que + infinitive is commonly used.


    5. Ir a
The combination ir a + infinitive is used to indicate a action or activity which is due to take place in the future. That is, this combination is used to express what someone 'is going to do'. In fact, the combination ir a + infinitive is a common alternative to future tenses as a way to talk about the future. Examples of this use are:
  • Voy a ver a mis amigos (I am going to see my friends again);
  • Vas a hacer los deberes, ¿verdad? (you are going to do your homework, aren't you- familiar);
  • Usted va a hacer los deberes, ¿verdad? (you are going to do your homework, aren't you- formal);
  • Pedro va a sentarse (Pedro is going to sit down);
  • Mañana vamos a madrugar (tomorrow we are going to get up early again);
  • Vais a hacer los deberes, ¿verdad? (you- plural are going to do your homework, aren't you- familiar);
  • Ustedes van a hacer los deberes, ¿verdad? (you- plural are going to do your homework, aren't you- formal);
  • John y Ann van a estudiar español juntos (John and Ann are going to study Spanish together);


    6. Gustar
In the specific case of gustar*, the combination gustar + infinitive indicates a liking. That is, this combination is used to express what someone 'likes'. In more general terms, the combinations of verbs similar to gustar + infinitive also follow the pattern outlined below. Examples of the use of gustar + infinitive** are:
  • Me gusta bailar (I like dancing);
  • Te gusta bailar, ¿verdad? (you like dancing, don't you- familiar);
  • A usted le gusta bailar, ¿verdad? (you like to dance, don't you?- formal);
  • A Peter no le gusta bailar (Peter doesn't likes dancing);
  • Nos gusta bailar (we like dancing);
  • Os gusta bailar, ¿verdad? (you- plural like dancing, don't you- familiar);
  • A ustedes les gusta bailar, ¿verdad? (you- plural like dancing, don't you?- formal);
  • A John y Ann les gusta bailar (John and Ann like dancing);


*NB Please note that “gustar” and similar verbs are the subject of another series of posts in this blog.
**NB Please note that the combination gustar + infinitive should only be used when the two verbs have the same subject. When there is a different subject for each verb, a subjunctive should be used instead of the infinitive. Please see some examples below:
  • Me gusta que bailes (I like you- familiar to dance);
  • Te gusta que bailemos, ¿verdad? (you like us to dance, don't you- familiar);
  • A usted le gusta que bailemos, ¿verdad? (you like us to dance, don't you?- formal);
  • A Peter no le gusta que bailemos (Peter doesn't like us to dance);
  • Nos gusta que bailéis (we like you- plural to dance);
  • Os gusta que bailemos, ¿verdad? (you- plural like us to dance, don't you- familiar);
  • A ustedes les gusta que bailemos, ¿verdad? (you- plural like us to dance, don't you?- formal);
  • A John y Ann les gusta que bailemos (John and Ann like us to dance);


    7. Poder
The combination poder + infinitive is used to indicate being able/ capable of doing something. That is, this combination is used to express what someone 'can'. Examples of this use are:
  • No puedo respirar (I can't breathe);
  • Puedes abrir la puerta ¿verdad? (you can open the door, can't you?- familiar);
  • Usted puede abrir la puerta, ¿verdad? (you can open the door, can't you- formal);
  • Pedro no puede venir (Pedro can't come);
  • Podéis llamar por teléfono ¿verdad? (you- plural can make a phone call, can't you?- familiar);
  • Ustedes pueden llamar por teléfono, ¿verdad? (you- plural can make a phone call, can't you?- formal);
  • John y Ann no pueden salir hasta mañana (John and Ann can't leave until tomorrow);


    8. Ponerse a
The combination ponerse a + infinitive is used to indicate beginning an activity. That is, this combination is used to indicate that someone sets an activity in motion. Examples of this use are:
  • Nunca me pongo a trabajar antes de las siete (I never start working before seven);
  • Cuando te pones a estudiar debes concentrarte (when you study you must concentrate- familiar);
  • Cuando usted se pone a estudiar debe concentrarse (when you study you must concentrate- formal);
  • Pedro se puso a trabajar de inmediato (Pedro started working immediately);
  • Mañana nos pondremos a pintar las ventanas (tomorrow we start painting the windows);
  • Os pondréis a cenar cuando lleguéis ¿verdad? (you- plural will sit down to have supper when you arrive, won't you?- familiar);
  • Ustedes se pondrán a cenar cuando lleguen ¿verdad? (you- plural will sit down to have supper when you arrive, won't you?- formal);
  • John y Ann se pusieron a estudiar español juntos (John and Ann studied Spanish together);


    9. Querer
The combination querer + infinitive* is used to indicate wishes. That is, this combination is used to express what someone 'wants to do'. Examples of this use are:
  • Quiero ver a mis amigos (I want to see my friends);
  • ¿Quieres tomar algo? (would you like to have a drink?- familiar);
  • ¿Quiere usted tomar algo? (would you like to have a drink?- formal);
  • Peter quiere aprender español (Peter wants to learn Spanish);
  • Queremos ir a España (we want to go to Spain);
  • ¿Queréis tomar algo? (would you- plural like to have a drink?- familiar);
  • ¿Quieren ustedes tomar algo? (would you- plural like to have a drink?- formal);
  • John y Ann quieren estudiar español juntos (John and Ann want to study Spanish together);

*NB Please note that the combination querer + infinitive should only be used when the two verbs have the same subject. When there is a different subject for each verb, a subjunctive should be used instead of the infinitive. Please see some examples below:
  • Quiero que veas a mis amigos (I want you to see my friends);
  • ¿Quieres que tomemos algo? (would you like us to have a drink?- familiar);
  • ¿Quiere usted que tomemos algo? (would you like us to have a drink?- formal);
  • Peter quiere que aprendamos español (Peter wants us to learn Spanish);
  • Queremos que Peter vaya a España (we want Peter to go to Spain);
  • ¿Queréis que tomemos algo? (would you- plural like us to have a drink?- familiar);
  • ¿Quieren ustedes que tomemos algo? (would you- plural like to have a drink?- formal);
  • John y Ann quieren que estudiemos español (John and Ann want us to study Spanish)


    10. Soler
The combination soler + infinitive is used to indicate doing something often/ repeatedly. That is, this combination is used to indicate that someone usually does does something. Examples of this use are:
  • Los lunes suelo leventarme temprano (I usually get up early on Mondays);
  • Sueles ir a clase de español los martes, ¿verdad? (you usually go for your Spanish lesson on Tuesdays, don't you- familiar);
  • Usted suele ir a clase de español los martes, ¿verdad? (you usually go for your Spanish lesson on Tuesdays, don't you- formal);
  • Pedro suele jugar a fútbol los miércoles (Pedro usually plays football on Wednesdays);
  • Los jueves solemos cenar temprano (on Thursdays we usually have supper early);
  • Soléis ir a clase de español los martes, ¿verdad? (you- plural usually go for your Spanish lesson on Tuesdays, don't you- familiar);
  • Ustedes suelen ir a clase de español los martes, ¿verdad? (you- plural usually go for your Spanish lesson on Tuesdays, don't you- formal);
  • John y Ann suelen estudiar español juntos (John and Ann usually study Spanish together);


    11. Tener que
The combination tener que + infinitive is used to indicate having to do something. That is, this combination is used to express what someone 'has to do'. Examples of this use are:
  • Tengo que levantarme (I have to get up);
  • Tienes que decir la verdad (you have to tell the truth- familiar);
  • Usted tiene que decir la verdad (you have to tell the truth- formal);
  • Pedro tiene que ariesgarse (Pedro has to take risks);
  • Mañana tenemos que madrugar (tomorrow we have to get up early);
  • Tenéis que decir la verdad (you- plural have to tell the truth- familiar);
  • Ustedes tienen que decir la verdad (you- plural have to tell the truth- formal);
  • John y Ann tienen que tener cuidado (John and Ann have to be careful);


    12. Volver a
The combination volver a + infinitive is used to indicate doing something again. That is, this combination is used to express what someone 'does again'. Examples of this use are:
  • Hoy he vuelto a ver a mis amigos (today I have seen my friends again);
  • Veo que vuelves a decir lo mismo (I see that you are again saying the same thing- familiar);
  • Veo que vuelve usted a decir lo mismo (I see that you are again saying the same thing- formal);
  • Pedro vuelve a ariesgarse (Pedro is taking risks again);
  • Mañana volvemos a madrugar (tomorrow we get up early again);
  • Veo que volvéis a decir lo mismo (I see that you-plural are again saying the same thing- familiar);
  • Veo que vuelve usted a decir lo mismo (I see that you are again saying the same thing- formal);
  • John y Ann vuelven a ser amigos (John and Ann are friends again);


Now you should practise the use of the infinitive in combination with other verbs with some examples of your own.

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