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Preterite vs imperfect


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Old February 17, 2023, 07:35 AM
Oldman Oldman is offline
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I really suck at this. I may just talk in preterite for the rest of my Spanish career.

Once upon a time there WAS a king who HAD five daughters. Of all of them, the youngest WAS the most beautiful. The Princess HAD a ball and always WENT to play alone with this ball next to a pond near the castle. One day the princess LOST her ball in the pond. The princess DID not know how to swim and WAS NOT ABLE to retrieve her ball. The princess WAS sad and STARTED to cry. Suddenly, the princess HEARD a voice say “ what is PASAR here”? Why are you crying ? The Princess DID not know where the voice was coming from but soon SAW a toad. The toad SAID “ I can return the ball if you do me a favor”. The princes ASKED what the favor was. The toad said he WANTED a kiss. The princess DECIDED yes, and WENT to go kiss the toad, Before she could, the toad DOVE into the water and RETRIEVED the ball. Now, the princess HAD to kiss the toad. She CLOSED her eyes and KISSED the toad. Now she KNEW why the toad WANTED a kiss. He TURNED into a prince and they LIVED happily ever after.

My strategy :

I start with the assumption that every verb is preterite because my initial thinking is that all things that occurred in the past actually have had a start and a finish . Then I w for verbs that might have be an exception to this broad assumption. If a discrete beginning and an ending time frame is not obvious, I think it is imperfect.

So sentence one and two - there WAS a king, she WAS the most beautiful ...I'm guessing imperfect because it's too open ended as to when there was a king. and her beauty is ongoing as far as I can tell.

HAD a ball - imperfect ...don't know when she had it or when she didnt have it

PASAR might be imperfect - my coin flip came up heads

DID NOT KNOW where the voice was coming from - a might be imperfect due to my gut feeling

She KNEW why he WANTED a kiss - guessing imperfect for both

LIVED happily ever after - ongoing, so imperfect

DO I even have half of these correct ?
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Old February 17, 2023, 09:16 AM
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Rusty Rusty is offline
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It is incorrect to think that all things that happened in the past had a start and end. Spanish has two past tenses for a reason. English doesn't, but we are still able to tell a story about things that HAPPENED or WERE HAPPENING in the past.
Don't exit the storytelling.

I also said earlier that characteristics are always imperfect when you speak of them in the past.

The two questions appearing in the story you wrote are not in the past tense at all.
The question with PASAR in it and the question that follows it both use the "present" tense.
"What's going on here? Why are you crying?" The toad SAID these, to be sure, but he didn't use the "past" tense in the questions.
The English questions are technically formed using the present progressive tense. The Spanish equivalents may be asked using either the present tense or the present continuous tense.
«¿Qué pasa (aquí)?» o «¿Qué está pasando (aquí)?»
«¿Por qué llora(s)?» o «¿Por qué está(s) llorando?»

There WAS a king isn't too open ended. It's a characteristic.
The princess WAS beautiful. That's a characteristic.
So these two are said using the imperfect, and you guessed correctly.
Let's tackle the KNEW and WANTED verbs. In the imperfect, they mean KNEW and WANTED. In the preterit, they are usually translated into English as FOUND OUT and TRIED. So, to convey KNEW (or DID NOT KNOW) and WANTED (or DID NOT WANT), you must use the imperfect tense. Therefore, you're guess was correct.
Just abpve the KNEW and WANTED line, you guessed that DID NOT KNOW might be imperfect. Your gut feeling was correct, for the same reason I explained above.

LIVED happily ever after IS certainly ongoing. Good job! If you were to use the preterit there, you'd be saying they are dead.

HAD a ball is imperfect, as you surmised.

You didn't mention anything about WENT. Since in the story it appears as ALWAYS WENT, that is a habitual, repetitious, or ongoing action.

You didn't mention "HAD five daughters." This is a characteristic. If you were to choose the preterit here, the story would be about five daughters who are dead. Gloomy start.

You said nothing about LOST. Did she lose it or was she losing it? How does the story go?

She DID NOT KNOW how to swim (imperfect, because otherwise it would be translated as FOUND OUT).

She WAS NOT ABLE to retrieve the ball. Think in terms of an ongoing event in this case. Because she couldn't swim she couldn't get the ball. If the preterit were used, the meaning would change to TRIED BUT FAILED. She didn't try at all because she couldn't swim.

Becoming sad isn't a characteristic. It's a change from normal. Ask yourself whether the change was ongoing and that more needed to be said about the process, or whether the change happened and nothing more needs to be said. I think you'll make the right choice. The same choice applies to STARTED to cry. The story didn't elaborate on the process (no play by play scenario here).

Using this same kind of logic, I believe you can frame all the rest of the verbs in the correct tense.
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Old February 17, 2023, 10:03 AM
Oldman Oldman is offline
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thanks...the verbs that I DID NOT mention, I HAD assumed to be in the preterite. Looks like I somehow DID manage to make some good guesses. Having gone back and LOOKED at your comments again, they APPEARED to be helpful. Oldman WAS and is an extremely handsome fellow

DID NOT - preterite?
HAD assumed- preterite?
DID manage -preterite?
LOOKED - probably preterite, possibly not ?
APPEARED - probably imperfect, possibly not?
WAS extremely - characteristic - imperfect
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