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Spanish Verb Tenses Explained: Part 2

Welcome to the second part of this lesson where we touch on all the different Spanish verb tenses! So... how many tenses in Spanish did we say there were? Sixteen! In the first part, we covered the ten "official" tenses of the indicative mood, which deals more with concrete facts, in addition to some "bonus" (non-official) tenses. Now, we'll move on to the other two Spanish moods: the subjunctive, where we will cover tenses eleven through sixteen of the Spanish verb paradigm, and the imperative. If you didn't already, we definitely recommend checking out Part 1 of this lesson. 

 

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The Subjunctive Tenses

While the indicative mood deals with facts, the subjunctive mood in Spanish, in a nutshell, deals with more abstract notions like wishes, desires, emotions, opinions, and more, which require a whole different set of tenses in Spanish. Although it would be impossible to delve too deeply into the multipronged usage of the subjunctive Spanish mood, we will try to illustrate several cases in which you might come across it. Let's get started!

 

11. Present Subjunctive (Presente del subjuntivo)

The present subjunctive is the subjunctive equivalent of the simple present tense. Let's take a look at an example from the Yabla Spanish library: 

 

Si queremos que una persona no nos hable de usted, tenemos que pedir a la persona que nos tutee. 

If we want a person to not talk to us in an formal way, we have to ask the person to use "tú" with us.

Captions 24-25, Karla e Isabel Tú y Usted

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Note that the reason the subjunctive form is employed here (we can tell it is subjunctive due to its conjugation, hable, which differs from its indicative form, habla) is because the sentence conveys that we want (queremos) for someone not to talk to us in a particular way, which doesn't mean that that person will actually respect our desire. Let's take a look at one more example: 

 

Mejor hablemos de ella. 

It's better we talk about her.

Caption 17, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 1

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Here, the word mejor (better) tips us off that the subjunctive form (hablemos instead of hablamos) is in order due to the expression of someone's opinion about what should happen, which doesn't necessarily mean that it will. 

 

12. Imperfect Subjunctive (Imperfecto de subjuntivo)

The imperfect subjunctive is the past equivalent of the present subjunctive. We see in the following example that the verb hablar has been conjugated in the imperfect subjunctive (habláramos) instead of in the indicative (hablábamos) due to the expression of desire, once again with the verb querer:

 

No, no te dije que quería hablar con vos, quería que habláramos los dos. 

No, I didn't tell you that I wanted to talk to you; I wanted for us to talk, the two [of us].

Caption 46, Muñeca Brava 43 La reunión - Part 6

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Another very common use of the imperfect subjunctive is to talk about hypothetical situations. In this case, the imperfect subjunctive is often incorporated into a "si (if) clause" in conjunction with the conditional tense to communicate that "if" something were the case, then something else "would" happen, as in the following clip:

 
 

Eh... Si... ¿hablaríamos?... -Hablara. Hablara ruso, me... vi'... ¿vivía?... Viviría. -Viviría en Rusia. 

Um... "Si... ¿hablaríamos" [If... we would speak]? -"Hablara" [I spoke]. "Hablara ruso [I spoke Russian], me... vi'... ¿vivía" [I... I'd li'... I used to live]? "Viviría" [I'd live]. -"Viviría en Rusia" [I'd live in Russia].

Captions 22-25, Clase Aula Azul La segunda condicional - Part 7

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The hypothetical situation the teacher is going for here is: Si hablara rusoviviría en Rusia (If I spoke Russian, I'd live in Russia). To learn more about this type of construction, we highly recommend the entire series of which this video is a part. 

 

13. Future Subjunctive (Futuro (simple) de subjuntivo)

We definitely couldn't come up with any examples of the future subjunctive tense in our Yabla Spanish library because this tense is all but obsolete and is almost never even taught in modern Spanish. For that reason, you may not recognize it due to its different and little-seen conjugations, although you may occasionally come across it in legal documents or literature. We came up with this example:

 

El que hablare fuerte se echará de lo biblioteca. 

Whoever talks loudly will be thrown out of the library. 

 

The future subjunctive could conceivably be used here because the sentence refers to "whoever," rather than known individuals, as well as alluding to a possible future event. However, in modern Spanish, this very same idea would be conveyed with the present subjunctive:

 

El que hable fuerte se echará de lo biblioteca. 

Whoever talks loudly will be thrown out of the library. 

 

14. Present Perfect Subjunctive (Pretérito perfecto de subjuntivo)

The present perfect subjunctive is the equivalent of the present perfect indicative in situations that require the subjunctive, and the verb haber is thus conjugated in its subjunctive form. That said, we'll take this opportunity to mention another case that requires subjunctive: when expressing that something will happen "when" something else happens that hasn't yet, as in the following example:

 

Cuando se hayan hablado, se van a entender mejor.

When they've talked to each other, they are going to understand each other better. 

 

And, here's an additional example of the present perfect subjunctive from our Spanish video library with different verbs:

 

Espero que os haya gustado este vídeo sobre esta maravillosa planta y hayáis aprendido algo nuevo. 

I hope you've liked this video about this wonderful plant and have learned something new.

Captions 80-81, Fermín La plumeria - Part 1

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15. Pluperfect Subjunctive (Pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo)

The pluperfect subjunctive is the subjunctive equivalent of the pluperfect tense and is also used to talk about hypothetical situations. It is formed with the pluperfect form of haber plus the participle, and, like the imperfect subjunctive, it is often used in conjunction with the conditional or conditional perfect to describe what "would have" happened if something else "had been" done. Let's see an example:

 

Si yo hubiera hablado con mi jefe antes, habría evitado cualquier malentendido. 

If I had spoken with my boss previously, I would have avoided any misunderstanding.

 

Let's look an additional example of the pluperfect subjunctive tense, which does not include the conditional:

 

Es como si nunca hubiéramos hablado

It's as if we had never talked.

Caption 28, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 8 - Part 6

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The Spanish phrase como si (as if) quite often precedes verbs in the pluperfect subjunctive tense. 

 

16. Future Perfect Subjunctive (Futuro compuesto de subjuntivo)

Like the future subjunctive, the future perfect subjunctive is rarely encountered and might only be employed in literary or legal contexts to talk about what will happen in the future if a hypothetical situation "has not" yet occurred. It involves the future subjunctive form of the verb haber plus the participle, as follows:

 

Si el demandante todavía no hubiere hablado ante el tribunal para la fecha especificada, se desestimará su caso. 

If the plaintiff still hasn't spoken before the court by the specified date, his case will be dismissed. 

 

However, the present perfect subjunctive would take the place of the future perfect subjunctive in order to say this today:

 

Si el demandante todavía no haya hablado ante el tribunal para la fecha especificada, se desestimará su caso. 

If the plaintiff still hasn't spoken before the court by the specified date, his case will be dismissed. 

 

Since different verb conjugations are rarely required in English to talk about emotions, desires, or hypotheticals, the subjunctive mood can initially feel quite confusing for English speakers, and we hope that this lesson has this shed some light on some of the possible subjunctive scenarios in Spanish. For more information about the subjunctive in Spanish, the following link with take you to several additional lessons on different aspects of this topic. 

 

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The Imperative "Tenses"

Let's conclude our rundown of all Spanish tenses by talking about the "bonus" tenses in the imperative mood (modo imperativo), which are not included in the official classification of the different tenses in Spanish. Also called commands, these Spanish verb tenses are those that tell someone to do something, and they fall into several categories:

 

1. Commands with  (informal "you") :

 

Habla con la gente de laboratorio.

Talk to the people from the lab.

Caption 36, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 11

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2. Negative commands with :

 

A ver. Sebas, mi amor, no le hables así a tu papá.

Let's see. Sebas, my love, don't talk to your dad like that.

Caption 30, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 2

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3. Commands with vos (informal "you" in certain regions):

 

por favor hablá con Andrea; necesito encontrar a mi nieto. 

please talk to Andrea; I need to find my grandson.

Caption 59, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 9

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4. (Negative or positive) commands with usted (formal "you"):

 

Hable más despacio.

"Hable más despacio" [Speak more slowly].

Caption 40, Carlos explica El modo imperativo 2: Irregulares, Usted + plurales

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5. (Negative or positive) commands with ustedes (plural "you"):

 

Pues no me hablen de costumbre porque luego en vez de ganar, pierdo.

Well don't talk to me about habits because then instead of earning, I lose.

Caption 7, La Banda Chilanguense El habla de México - Part 3

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6. Commands with vosotros/as (informal plural "you"):

 

Con vosotros o vosotras: Hablad más despacio.

With "vosotros" or "vosotras" ["you" plural informal masculine/feminine]: "Hablad más despacio" [Talk more slowly].

Caption 25, Carlos explica El modo imperativo 1: Tú + vos

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7. Negative commands with vosotros/as:

 

No nos habléis de esa forma.

Don't speak to us in that way. 

 

8. (Negative or positive) commands with nosotros/as (we): 

 

Hablemos de otra palabra.

Let's talk about another word.

Caption 19, Carlos comenta Confidencial - Jerga típica colombiana

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While we won't get into the norms for conjugating all of these types of commands with -ar, -er, and -ir verbs, we recommend Yabla's four-part video series entitled El modo imperativo (The Imperative Mode), beginning here, which explores this topic. 

 

And that wraps up our lesson on all of the verb tenses in Spanish. We hope you've enjoyed it (and learned a lot)! And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

 

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How to say I'm sorry in Spanish - Lo siento

As long as we are human, we are bound to make mistakes—a simple rule that applies doubly if you are a human trying to learn a foreign language! But what distinguishes a successful learner from an intransigent one is whether one can admit to one’s mistakes and redress them, right? So, don't shy away from speaking if you make mistakes in your Spanish. Sweeten your friends up instead with a candid apology! Here's a lesson about the most common ways to say “I'm sorry” in Spanish.
 

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Lo siento
 
One short and very common way to say "I'm sorry" in Spanish is lo siento (literally, "I feel it"). Using the proper intonation, this phrase can help you get out of almost any sticky situation or mistake, but, and this is very important, you have to really mean it! Why? Because, just like "I'm sorry," this little Spanish phrase can also be used in a dismissive way, for example:

Lo siento, pequeña, pero aquí las cosas hay que ganárselas.

I'm sorry, little one, but here things have to be earned.

Captions 30-31, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 5

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Perhaps that's why it's very common to add the adverb mucho (a lot) to this phrase, as in lo siento mucho (I'm very sorry) as a way to make sure that the apologetic nature of one's lo siento gets properly transmitted. Another alternative is to use repetition to stress the importance of what you are saying... You can never be too sorry, right?
 

Bueno, sí, sí, sí, lo siento mucho, Andrea, por favor. -Ay, mire, lo sientolo siento.

Well, yes, yes, yes, I am very sorry, Andrea, please. -Oh, look, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

Caption 20, Confidencial - El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2 - Part 3

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But even lo siento mucho is not exclusively used to offer apologies. You can say it as a sarcastic remark, for example, or you can use the phrase lo siento mucho pero to casually introduce an excuse:
 

Lo siento mucho Mateo pero tengo que irme.

I'm very sorry, Mateo, but I have to leave.

Caption 42, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

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You may also hear people (especially in Spain) using que (as, since, that) instead of pero (but), as in lo siento mucho que:
 

Mariona... lo siento que llego de la biblioteca.

Mariona... I'm sorry as I'm coming from the library.

Caption 1, Blanca y Mariona - Vida en general

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Note that the expression siento que (without the pronoun lo) is also used to express empathy about an unfortunate situation:
 
Siento que te hayan despedido, Tomás.
I'm sorry you got fired, Tomas.
 
It’s also a good option when offering condolences (besides using the classic phrase mis condolencias, which is more formal and more impersonal):
 
Siento que perdieras a tu mamá, Lucía.
I'm sorry you lost your mom, Lucia.
 

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Perdóna[me] and Discúlpa[me]
 
Here are some truly apologetic words! The noun perdón (forgiveness) and the verb perdonar (to forgive) have heavy connotations in Spanish. The reason behind this is that these words are rooted in legislative or ecclesiastical contexts in which the notion of perdón is intrinsically linked to the notion of culpa (guilt, fault). The same is true of the noun disculpa (apology, forgiveness, literally "non-guilt") and the verb disculpar (to forgive, literally "to take away the guilt"). There are subtle differences between using perdón and disculpa though. We will tackle those in our next lesson, so stay tuned!

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