Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Tell Me, Was It You?

Introduction


This post is about verb conjugation -the preterite tense, indicative mood of irregular verb ser.





SCENARIO


Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague about a someone having recently won a prize. The other person doesn't know who the winner was and says: "tell me, was it you?".

In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and say:
Dime, ¿fuiste tú?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say:
Dígame, ¿fue usted?



OUR TIP

Answering should be straightforward, but remember:



  • Use ser (not estar) in your answer.
  • Make sure that you conjugate your verb correctly
  • Choose between formal or familiar options to suit the occasion -see examples below.

Typical answers could be:
  • Sí, fui* yo (yes, it was I);
  • Fuiste* tú, ¿no? (it was you -familiar, wasn't it?);
  • Fue* usted, ¿no? (it was you -formal, wasn't it?);
  • No, fue* Pedro (no, it was Pedro);
  • No, fue* María (no, it was Maria);
  • Sí, fuimos* mis hermanos y yo (yes, it was my brothers and I);
  • Fuisteis* vosotros, ¿no? (it was you -familiar/ plural, wasn't it?);
  • Fueron* ustedes, ¿no? (it was you -formal/ plural, wasn't it?);
  • No, fueron* Pedro y María (no, it was Pedro and Maria);

Now you should practise replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿fuiste tú?

*Please see grammar topic below, Verbs

Verbs
A verb is a 'doing' word which conveys:
  • What action takes place in a sentence
  • Who does that action
  • When that action occurs.
In addition, the verb may also convey the mood or feelings of the speaker toward the action which takes place. The verb may, for example, indicate whether the speaker is stating a fact, expressing a wish or indeed giving an order.

Irregular Verbs
Verb: ser
The Spanish verb ser is irregular* in some tenses, as shown in the table below:

Tense
Mood
Regular
Irregular
Present
Indicative

Imperfect
Indicative

Preterite
Indicative

Future
Indicative

Conditional
Indicative

Perfect
Indicative

Pluperfect
Indicative

Future Perfect
Indicative

Conditional Perfect
Indicative

Present
Subjunctive

Imperfect
Subjunctive

Perfect
Subjunctive

Pluperfect
Subjunctive


Imperative


* NB:
  • Conjugate tenses in the regular column the same as other regular verbs ending in -er
  • The preterite tense conjugation/ indicative mood is shown below

Indicative Mood/ Preterite Tense - Conjugation
    Verb: ser
Subject
SER
(TO BE)
I
Yo
FUI
You
FUISTE
You
Usted*

FUE
He
Él
She
Ella
We
Nosotros
FUIMOS
You
Vosotros**
FUISTEIS
You
Ustedes***
FUERON
They
Ellos
They
Ellas

*NB More courteous/ polite form of 'you'
**NB 'You' plural
*** NB More courteous/ polite form of 'you' plural


Verb Conjugation Notes
It is worth remembering once more that in its basic form (infinitive), a Spanish verb is just a general 'doing' word. In that form, a verb simply indicates an action and nothing else. If we want a verb to be more specific about the action in a sentence, we need to conjugate it. It is only when conjugated that the verb indicates:
  • Who does the action
  • When the action takes place
  • The mood/ attitude of the speaker towards the action

The conjugation tables above refer to using conjugation to establish who does the action. What follows below are some notes on establishing when the action takes place and the mood/ attitude of the speaker towards the action.

Subjunctive Mood
The use of subjunctive mood is disappearing English. Nowadays is often viewed as an old and unfashionable form of the language.

In contrast, the use of subjunctive mood is very much alive and in everyday use in Spanish. This widespread use of subjunctive mood tends to be the bane of many a learner of Spanish from the English speaking world.

The concept of subjunctive mood is perhaps best illustrated by contrasting its use against the use of indicative mood with examples in English. The following are a couple of examples which should serve that purpose:
  • Indicative mood (“Peter eats an apple”).- Indicative mood is commonly used to make statements of facts or positive beliefs such as this one. As can be seen in the sample sentence (in quotes above), the speaker makes a clear and unambiguous statement of a fact (Peter eats an apple).
  • Subjunctive mood (“Peter would eat an apple if he were hungry”).- In contrast with indicative mood, subjunctive mood is commonly used to make statements indicating hypothetical or non-fact actions. As can be seen in the sample sentence (in quotes), in this case the speaker sees the action of eating an apple as something hypothetical, something which may or may not happen (Peter would eat an apple... if he were hungry).
Verb Tenses
Verb tenses relate to setting the time period (when) during which the action of the verb takes place. Basic times (periods) for Spanish verb actions are:
  • The past (before now)
  • The present (now)
  • The future (after now)
Each Spanish verb tense corresponds to one of those basic time periods. In other words choosing a verb tense places the action of the verb in one of those basic periods and determines when the action takes place.


Now you should practise the use of the preterite tense of the irregular verb ser with some examples of your own.

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