Saturday, June 23, 2007

Map of the Preterit Tense

So my Map of the Present Tense was so highly acclaimed (one positive comment) that I decided to post my map of el tiempo pretérito. Use this tense for simple, single-actions in the past.

Regulars: As always, the regulars are in the east, where everything is orderly and predictable. Comer: comí comiste com comimos comisteis comieron. Vomitar: vomité vomitaste vomitó vomitamos vomitasteis vomitaron. Study these endings.

JP, do we have to learn the vosotros


But how are we....

Just stick an "-is" on the form, for
goodness sakes.

Irregulars. In the wild west, you see there are exactly four irregulars. There are no more.

So that French TA in college, who poo-pooed Spanish because there were too many irregulars to fit her brain around, to her I say, il n'y en a que quatre, mademoiselle, que quatre.

Ir and ser have the same forms: fui fuiste fue fuimos fuisteis fueron. So learn two verbs for the price of one. Dar and ver are not terribly irregular; dar has a little bit of an identity crisis... it thinks it's an -ir verb. The only "irregular" thing about ver is that it doesn't wear any accent marks. In fact, none of the verbs living in the wild west wear accents; they are all naked.

The Stem Change (tm) verbs live in the north, just as in the Map of the Present Tense. But notice that in the preterit, only the -ir verbs get stemchang-ified. In fact, it's the same damn -ir verbs in the preterit as in the present.

Finally, the Minority Verbs live in the south. I coined this term because although they might not look regular compared to the verbs in the east, they are, in fact, totally regular within their own culture. That is to say, they have a separate set of endings, which they use regularly. Tener: tuve tuviste tuvo tuvimos tuvisteis tuvieron. Notice that all of these forms are naked (i.e., no accent marks).

Also notice that these preterit forms use alternate stems. Of course they do, they're minorities. We expect their roots to be different, for them to have slightly different cultural backgrounds. Do you have a problem with that? Just because they're different?

There are four kinds of alternate stems, so you might as well memorize them according to their groups: the ones whose vowels change to -i-, the ones whose vowels change to -u-, the ones that get -uv-, and the few that gain a -j-. There are 14 total, and they're all listed on the map.

My students like to put them in a certain order and then create a mnemonic sentence out of the first initials. Fine, kids, do what you gotta do. Remember, when it comes to mnemonics, the raunchier the better; just keep it to yourself.

Is that it? Is that all there is to forming all the verbs in the the
preterit tense?


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