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Master Spanish Conditionals Through Pop Music

Conditionals: they can give a headache to even the most steadfast of Spanish learners. Conditional constructions describe hypothetical or impossible events, and often begin with the word, si (“if”). Here’s an example: If I had to pick the trickiest part of Spanish grammar, I would choose the conditional. Sadly, we live in a world of “ifs”, and you can’t get by very long speaking Spanish if you avoid all conditional constructions. But luckily, Spanish music is here to help you: there are plenty of songs that use conditionals, and can help you sneak in some extra practice. In this article, we’ll check out two of them from the Spanish speaking world. One of them is from Argentina!.

Can Learning Spanish Feel Like Sex, Gambling, And Chocolate?

What is the link between gambling, chocolate, sex and…learning Spanish? You might be surprised to hear that the same part of the brain’s reward centre activates in response to all four stimuli, but that’s what scientists in Barcelona recently discovered. Participants in an experiment were encouraged to decipher new words in a foreign language whilst experts measured the chemicals in their brains. The results lead scientists to claim that those who felt more rewarded from learning new words were able to learn more. In other words, participants who naturally feel good when they learn, are more likely to learn more!

6 Ways To Turn Your Vacation Into A Spanish Learning Venture

Traveling to a Spanish speaking country has always been the single biggest motivator to Spanish students; in fact, it’s perhaps the only reason most of us decided to even start learning the language. After all, what good is a language skill if you never wish to be where it’s spoken! It’s a shame how so many of us consider it a divine right, as English speakers, to be understood everywhere we go, be it Mexico, Mongolia or even Mars. Now, traveling abroad is a costly affair and not all are lucky enough to make it. But what if you are? Well, then you really are lucky since one such trip can accelerate your Spanish learning like nothing else can.

6 Alien-Sounding Spanish Verbs In An Instant

Etymology is an incredibly wonderful tool when it comes to acquiring new words. Dig deep enough into the history of any language and words that seemed utterly alien and unrelated until now suddenly start to appear familiar. This works best when the language in question shares genetics with your native tongue. Fortunately, Spanish and English share a stronger ancestral bond than many acknowledge, which makes learning new words easier than it seems. Let’s see how etymological mapping can help us learn some of the most commonly used Spanish verbs that, on face value, seem to have little semblance with their English meanings.

Easy Trick To Learn The Spanish For Your Clothes

You could be out on vacation shopping for some items of clothing in a Spanish-speaking country or perhaps you just want to flaunt your Spanish to a bunch of native speakers. No matter what your motivation, learning to name what you wear everyday in Spanish is a cool skill to have. And, if you know the right way to learn, it should take you no more than a few minutes to conquer them all and reproduce them “on the fly” without having to fiddle with mental translations. If cramming up words after words is your forte, we’d recommend saving that skill for something harder as this one calls for hardly any efforts on your part!

The Spanish Preterit: Once And For All

Past actions in the Spanish language can be expressed in two ways depending on whether they were completed once for all or otherwise. Spanish grammar categorizes them as the preterit and the imperfect. While the imperfect handles all habitual, continuous, or repetitive actions and verbs denoting a state of being, preterit covers pretty much whatever is left – actions that were performed and also concluded well within the past. This article delves into the latter and tries to make life easier for those of you who are still struggling to remember and recall the preterit conjugations. Rest assured, they only appear scary.

So what is preterite again?

In simpler terms, preterit is the tense used in Spanish, as well as other Romance tongues, for past actions that are seen as completed. Completion here implies that the event had a definite beginning and an equally definite end. This is in sharp contrast to the imperfect tense where there is no such well-defined completion, hence the name.

Some examples illustrating this tense:

  • I ate a taco last night (preterit because I started and finished eating well within last night)
  • I ate tacos when I was in Mexico (imperfect because I am implying eating as a habitual action in the past; I used to eat tacos when I was in Mexico)
  • She was beautiful (imperfect because being beautiful is a state of being, a characteristic, a trait and the trait hasn’t been implied to have changed in the past; this can also be rendered as “she used to be beautiful,” a tell-tale sign of the imperfect tense)
  • Juan spoke for 5 hours (preterit because the act of speaking did end after 5 hours)
  • It began to rain in the evening (preterite because even though the rain could have lasted indefinitely, the event in question – the beginning of rain – had a specific time of occurrence, evening)
  • Ana ran through the woods (preterit because Ana ran only once and this wasn’t a repetitive or habitual action)

So, we see how preterit is in sharp contrast to the imperfect tense in Spanish when it comes to past actions. And it is important that we recall these differences while communicating in Spanish in order to sound correct and appropriate. Let’s see how the preterit conjugations work in Spanish.

Basically, regular verbs – verbs that follow the standard conjugation pattern, such as hablar, vivir, beber, etc. – follow either of the two conjugation rules depending on whether they end in -ar or otherwise. All regular verbs with the -ar ending conjugate as below (illustrated using hablar as example):

-é (hablé I spoke)

-aste (hablaste you spoke)

-ó (habló he/she/it spoke)

-amos (hablamos we spoke)

-aron (hablaron they spoke)

The regular -ir and -er verbs follow a slightly similar pattern with some minor differences. Here’s the conjugation using beber as example:

-í (bebí I drank)

-iste (bebiste you drank)

-ió (bebió he/she/it drank)

-imos (bebimos we drank)

-ieron (bebieron they drank)

Alright, enough of that dead-beat grammar dope; now where’s the trick? Don’t tell me you got to memorize the whole shebang like the rest of my class does...hell, no! Relax, this article wouldn’t be here if that’s what you were expected to do. So, yes, there is a mnemonic just for you; actually, more than one.

Trick to remember the -ar conjugation

First of all, I’d recommend that you stop giving a dead rat’s ass about what this tense is called. Knowing that definitely completed actions in the past are known in Spanish grammar as preterite is not going to serve you one bit during your conversations with them natives. What you must remember, however, is the conjugated endings and the fact that these endings are to be used when discussing past actions that were completed for sure. Doest’t matter if they call it preterit or whatever.

Yesterday, I ate a tasty donut
I ate tasty donuts...
Photo credit: Bev Sykes licensed CC BY 2.0
So, what’s the trick to remember the endings? Let’s start with singular subjects. We have seen the conjugation pattern for singular subjects has 3 endings for each person, i.e., -é (I), -aste (you), and -ó (he/she/it). Here’s a mnemonic to remember this sequence of three verb endings:

Yesterday, I ate a tasty donut

Isn’t this a delicious sentence to remember? Just the very thought makes me drool! So, what’s the trick here? Well, for starters, did you notice the general tense of this statement? It’s very clear that my action (of eating that donut) was performed once and completed at a specific point in time in the past, i.e., yesterday. What does this tell you about the tense? Yes, the preterit!

My friends drank rum
...while they had bottles of rum!
Photo credit: Simon Law licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
Now imagine the bold portions in their exact sequence. Rings a bell? No? Well, don’t they rhyme with the singular conjugated endings for the -ar verbs we saw above? Look again:

ate – -é

tasty – -aste

donut – -ó

I hope the memory hook has driven home now. As for the plurals, the first person (we) conjugation is a no-brainer as it’s exactly the same as the one in the simple present tense. So, hablamos could mean both “we speak” and “we spoke”. Context is your friend. The third person ending, -aron, rhymes with ron, the Spanish for “rum”. Now, extend the donut visual to include your friends who had rum with their donuts. this should easily fit in with the overall image and help you recall the entire preterit table for -ar verbs comfortably.

Tricks for -ir and -er verbs

The conjugations for these verbs are dominated by the letter, “i” with “a” taking a backseat. For the memory hook this time, try having pistachios instead of donuts. Confused?

Yesterday, I ate pistachios

Notice how the bold portions rhyme with the singular subject -er/-ir endings in the conjugation table:

I – -í

pistachios – -iste

pistachios – -ió

As for the plurals, the trick almost remains the same as that for them -ar verbs. The “we” form remains the same as the “we” form present indicative conjugation for -ir verbs, e.g., vivimos could stand for either “we live” or “we lived”. The “they” form for -ir verbs is also same as that in -ar conjugation with a slight difference in the “a” being replaced by “ie”.

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  1. This article just saved me a ton of frustration thank you ever so much !

  2. Super glad to have been useful. Wish you all the best with your Spanish, Kay!

  3. Thanks for the tip. I must confess, I find it odd that you've ignored an entire set of conjugations with second person plural. I guess that's another good tip tho' - if you can't make it fit your prescribed mnemonic, just ignore it!

  4. Conjugations don't have to fit mnemonics...mnemonics have to fit conjugations. It's unfortunate that you think the way you do but coming up with a mnemonic for anything under the sun is a cinch, really. That being said, this website, despite attempting to be neutral to some extent, focuses primarily on Latin American Spanish where a majority of the population doesn't use the informal second person plural conjugation in either speech or writing. That's why it wasn't covered. As said, you are free to device your own (believe me, it's easy).


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