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Thread: Difficult grammar concepts in Spanish

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    Default Difficult grammar concepts in Spanish

    Instead of making an official poll because the options would then become more limited, in your opinion what are the most difficult grammatical aspects about Spanish? I think it would be interesting to read some of the responses because I am sure there will be some common themes as well as some that are problematic for the individual poster. No doubt Spanish grammar is difficult however, there are some really challenging concepts to grasp. Your response can be based on personal experience or based on observations of other speakers' difficulties.

    In my experience some of the more difficult grammar concepts include:

    1/ The subjunctive- knowing when and when not to use it.

    2/ Indirect and direct object pronouns- proper usage of lo vs. le- some usage is regional which adds to the difficulty.

    3/ correct spelling with certain letters- /b/ vs. /v/, /g/ vs. /j/, /s/ vs. /z/- there are plenty of examples on DR1 of incorrect spelling.

    4/ Pronominal verbs- specifically those that do not have a reflexive meaning, understanding how to use the form with 'se' correctly.

    5/ Verb conjugation and irregular verbs

    6/ por y para, ser y estar- understanding correct usage


    ... there are more but these ones come to mind right away.


    -LDG.
    Last edited by Marianopolita; 09-12-2008 at 07:47 PM.

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    Default grammer concepts

    Well Lesley D, As I am still working on Tómate tiempo it may be a while before I can respond to this new question. You are such a taskmaster!!!!!!!

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    Default subjunctive most likely

    Lesley,
    I would say that for most english speakers learning spanish, the subjunctive would be the most difficult just so because we do not really have such in english.

    One of the areas that I have found interesting about the subjunctive, is the use of 'antes de que' and 'despues de que' in the preterit tense. Most books (including native spanish speakers) will say that the 'antes de que' always carries the subjunctive in the preterit tense, while 'despues de que' may/may not carry the subjunctive in the preterit. However someone (a native speaker well learned in both english and spanish) told me that 'antes de que' may/may not carry the subjunctive in the preterit just as in 'despues de que' and that it depends on the point of reference (time frame) with which the speaker is trying to convey the comments.

    The first opinion seems to be what is more common (in spanish language websites etc) but I seem to agree with the second opinion because it makes so much more sense, even though it seems to go against the general grain.

    What do you think?

    Sholly

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    i find all the little linking words dificult since they are in a different order to english....but if i was learning english i would find pronunciaciones the worst since vowls change so much for every word - I thank you

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    Default I'm glad that you asked

    From your list, number 4 is the most difficult for me to understand. However, I have more difficulty in understanding the use of the verb gustar.

    For me it is difficult to grasp that an object can like the person (example: me gusta el mueble). But what is even more difficult for me to understand is how to say I like you, you like me, he likes her, she likes him, they like us, we like them, we like it, etc. When yo, tu, el, ella, ellos, etc are added to the translations it gets even more confusing for me.

    Also, when the above statements are questions are they said in the same way with just using a different intonation?

    Any suggestions on helping to understand this verb would be appreciated.

    Thanks

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    Default Responding-

    Interesting replies thus far and I would like this thread to be just to list the concepts rather than discuss each one in particular. To reply to all will be difficult for me time wise. If you really have a topic of interest out from reading this thread start a new one or add your question to an existing one that covers the same grammar point. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by snowflake42 View Post
    Well Lesley D, As I am still working on Tómate tiempo it may be a while before I can respond to this new question. You are such a taskmaster!!!!!!!
    Take your time. You don't have to reply, you can just read the thread. There's already plenty of diversity in the responses. Taskmaster, no, not at all. While I have time I am just trying to keep the forum interesting. Believe me when I don't have time I don't post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sholly24 View Post
    ...One of the areas that I have found interesting about the subjunctive, is the use of 'antes de que' and 'despues de que' in the preterit tense. Most books (including native spanish speakers) will say that the 'antes de que' always carries the subjunctive in the preterit tense, while 'despues de que' may/may not carry the subjunctive in the preterit. However someone (a native speaker well learned in both english and spanish) told me that 'antes de que' may/may not carry the subjunctive in the preterit just as in 'despues de que' and that it depends on the point of reference (time frame) with which the speaker is trying to convey the comments.

    The first opinion seems to be what is more common (in spanish language websites etc) but I seem to agree with the second opinion because it makes so much more sense, even though it seems to go against the general grain.

    What do you think?

    Sholly

    Sholly, I will be brief because I don't think the correct usage of antes de que is even debatable. It's not a question of opinion but rather a grammar rule that has not changed. As well, I have never heard speakers err with correct usage. Antes de que requires the subjunctive. Antes de que venga, future tense, antes de que viniera, referring to that same future event in the past. The meaning 'antes de que' is always future to the action that's why the subjunctive is required. This concept can't be any more logical. Can you provide examples in the written or spoken language other than this person's 'opinion' to demonstrate otherwise? Rule of thumb is the grammar rules should be your guide. The spoken language is where the flaws lie.

    The subjunctive does exist in English and is used but by a small percentage of speakers and the concept is identical to the usage in all of the Romance languages. It has almost fallen out use but not 100%.

    Quote Originally Posted by jrhartley View Post
    i find all the little linking words dificult since they are in a different order to english....but if i was learning english i would find pronunciaciones the worst since vowls change so much for every word - I thank you
    Good point and the best solution for this is reading. Start at a junior level and progress slowly at your own pace.

    Quote Originally Posted by newuser View Post
    From your list, number 4 is the most difficult for me to understand. However, I have more difficulty in understanding the use of the verb gustar.

    For me it is difficult to grasp that an object can like the person (example: me gusta el mueble). But what is even more difficult for me to understand is how to say I like you, you like me, he likes her, she likes him, they like us, we like them, we like it, etc. When yo, tu, el, ella, ellos, etc are added to the translations it gets even more confusing for me.

    Also, when the above statements are questions are they said in the same way with just using a different intonation?

    Any suggestions on helping to understand this verb would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Your logic is a bit off IMO, which could be a part of the problem in understanding how to use the verb 'gustar'. You stated: 'For me it is difficult to grasp that an object can like the person', I think it would be easier for you if you state 'an object is pleasing to you' which you will find in the majority of grammar books.

    There are a handful of verbs in Spanish that function like gustar, therefore, I recommend understanding how to use the forms correctly because the logic will apply to other verbs. For example, me interesan los libros, no me importa, me encanta dibujar etc.

    Examples specific to your question & yes intonation allows for the question to be formed:

    Te gusta el carro - You like the car// ¿Te gusta el carro?- Do you like the car?

    Le gusta la casa- S/he likes the house//- ¿Le gusta la casa?- Does s/he like the house?

    My suggestion is practicing on your own and have a competent person correct the sentences. Translate a variety of sentences from English to Spanish with gustar and you will see it will get easier. Keep doing it until you have grasped the concept. It may take a long time but it will be worth it in the end.

    This link should help as well, I am pro grammar books. There are plenty of good ones on the market.

    Spanish Language - Search Results


    -LDG.
    Last edited by Marianopolita; 09-13-2008 at 10:05 AM.

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    Llevar vs Traer.

    No matter how many times I go over it I still get it wrong. The concept eludes me. If you here but they are there but the object is there.... and you are bringing it here... but there is a full moon and it's raining... of course you would use traer....naturally.
    but... only if it's a Monday. If it's a Friday.... llevar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lesley D View Post
    Sholly, I will be brief because I don't think the correct usage of antes de que is even debatable. It's not a question of opinion but rather a grammar rule that has not changed. As well, I have never heard speakers err with correct usage. Antes de que requires the subjunctive. Antes de que venga, future tense, antes de que viniera, referring to that same future event in the past. The meaning 'antes de que' is always future to the action that's why the subjunctive is required. This concept can't be any more logical. Can you provide examples in the written or spoken language other than this person's 'opinion' to demonstrate otherwise? Rule of thumb is the grammar rules should be your guide. The spoken language is where the flaws lie.

    -LDG.
    The comments made by this person related only to the use of 'antes de que' in the preterit (past) tense.



    i.e (She finished her task before the teacher arrived)
    Ella terminó su tarea antes de que el profesor llegara
    Ella terminó su tarea antes de que el profesor llegó

    What I have been told is that the use of llegó and llegara are both correct and the difference depends on the time frame with which the speaker is trying to convey his/her thoughts. Using llegara implies that the speaker is not trying to focus on the arrival of the teacher as a finished activity in the past while the use of llegó implies that the speaker is conveying the arrival of the teacher as a finished activity in the past with a clear certainty as to when the teacher arrived.

    Just someone's opinion and not mine but this person is actually mexican and is a spanish professor here in the US in a university and also holds a masters degree in english. Of course, this does not mean that he can't be wrong.

    What he has said is that atimes even the use of the subjunctive lends itself to certain adjustments based on the evidence/information that the speaker has at the time of speaking or based on the impression that the speaker is trying to convey.

    Sholly

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    I'm new here, somebody mentioned this place and I thought I'd take a look. The poster 'newuser' had a very common confusion about the word 'gustar' and I think Lesley D gave an excellent explanation. The word does not mean 'like', it means 'please', so, 'Me gusta la casa.' means 'The house pleases me.', NOT 'The house likes me.' Spanish does not have a word that directly translates to 'like' (well, at least not in this context, they do have a word for 'similar'). As for the question about using subjective 'antes de que', I'll agree with her again, the anticipated action has not happened YET, and therefore might actually NOT happen at all (even if you want it to, even if they promised to, etc.)...therefore, since it is not a 'sure thing', use subjective.

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    Default thank you for the link

    As always Lesley, thanks for your help.

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