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Preterite o imperfect?

 

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  #1  
Old January 03, 2015, 03:30 PM
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Preterite o imperfect?

Cómo se dice..?

"It hardly rained at all while we were there."
"Apenas llovió o llovia (at all) mientras que estuvimos o estabámos alli."

Muchas veces cuando estoy hablando de algo en el pasado sobre mis vacaciones por ejemplo no se si se usa el preterite o el imperfecto.
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  #2  
Old January 03, 2015, 05:28 PM
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Apenas llovió mientras que estábamos allí.

When you're talking about background information in the past, you use the imperfect. "While we were there" is obviously setting the stage--describing the time period in which the action (it rained) occurred.

"Llovía" could also work -- it wouldn't be incorrect.
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Old January 03, 2015, 10:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capn Spanish View Post
Apenas llovió mientras que estábamos allí.

"Llovía" could also work -- it wouldn't be incorrect.
I thought that the imperfect must be used when saying "mientras".
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Old January 03, 2015, 11:06 PM
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Yo habría tirado por dejarlo todo en pretérito: las lluvias acabaron y la estadía también.

Apenas llovió mientras estuvimos allí.

En definitiva: valen todas las alternativas según el exiguo matiz que desee transmitirle.

Cuidado asimismo con "mientras que", esto solamente se emplea para introducir coordinadas adversativas.

Un saludo.
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Old January 04, 2015, 01:09 AM
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It depends on what you want to convey.

Let's look first at the adverbial clause "while we were there". If you are placing the situation in a past time with the perspective that the situation is finished, with a sense of psychological distance from it, "while we were there" would be rendered "mientras estuvimos allí". Placing the situation in a past time with a sense of reliving or observing inside that time, "while we were there" would be expressed as "mientras estábamos allí".

Now let's look at the main clause "It hardly rained". At first glance, this is a perfective simple past form in English (cf. "It was hardly raining", an imperfective simple past form) so we might be led to think that we should use the preterite in Spanish. But consider a sentence like "I chewed gum as I walked along the beach watching the sun set." "Chewed" and "walked" are typically considered perfective forms but this sentence is conveying the same imperfective ideas expressed in "I was chewing gum as I was walking along the beach watching the sun set" except with more ease. So we can't always rely solely on the form of a word to give us perfective or imperfective meaning. And we have to ask ourselves what are we really attempting to express in English before trying to craft a Spanish analog.

If we write "Apenas llovía mientras estábamos allí", we could be mentioning the simultaneity of the scarcity of rain and our presence at some place in the past without viewing the events within temporal bounds, or we could just be setting the scene, as Capt Spanish discussed, with a generalized sense of lack of precipitation during our stay someplace in the past, again without temporal boundaries.

"Apenas llovió mientras estábamos allí" features an instance (or maybe even a discrete number of uncounted instances) of barely noticeable rain during the time we were somewhere; this use gives focus to the rain conditions.

"Apenas llovía mientras estuvimos allí" again gives background information about the precipitation conditions while we were someplace, but the time frame of these conditions is referenced as completed in the past.

"Apenas llovió mientras estuvimos allí" could carry meaning practically identical to "Apenas llovía mientras estábamos allí", that the condition of scarce rain extended throughout our stay somewhere, however the events are viewed as demarcated and completed in the past. It could also refer to an instance of minimal rain during our stay somewhere in a demarcated, completed past time, again bringing focus to that event of rain.

There may be other interpretations as well and it would be best to hear from a native Spanish speaker about frequency of use and naturalness of these phrases. I've tried to cover non-exotic uses.

Note that you may want to reserve "mientras que" for situations where "while" takes its oppositional sense and means "whereas". See the DPD, entry #3 under "mientras" at http://lema.rae.es/dpd/?key=mientras.
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Old January 04, 2015, 11:45 AM
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Good catch on the "mientras" vs. "mientras que" -- I didn't even notice that.

I still say that "mientras" requires the imperfect, though. What I'd learned was that when "mientras" is joining two clauses, you can combine either imperfect+imperfect or preterite+imperfect but never two preterites.

Here's a page that backs up what I'm saying:
http://www.cliffsnotes.com/foreign-l...rfect-formulas

By the way, I just asked my wife (who's Brazilian -- native language Portuguese) and she said that while native speakers do sometimes use two preterites, she's pretty sure that it isn't grammatically correct.
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Old January 04, 2015, 03:03 PM
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For an example and brief discussion of using pretérito + mientras + pretérito, see Nueva gramática de la lengua española (2009). [Edición en línea (www.rae.es)], section 31.13e:
…A ello se añade que mientras se asocia con una variable temporal que no puede ser duplicada por otro adjunto, como en Nos quedamos mientras duró el concierto (*dos horas). El grupo sintáctico contenido en el paréntesis no puede añadirse porque el intervalo que mide la duración de la situación ya es expresado por el segmento que mientras introduce. [Énfasis en negrita es mío.]
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Old January 04, 2015, 04:21 PM
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Very interesting post and I learned something new!

If I'm understanding this correctly, though, it seems like a pretty special case. Using "mientras" in this way almost makes it seem like a condition or a qualifier establishing the boundaries on the first action in the preterite; i.e. to define exactly how long the first action went on.

In the example you gave, using the "mientras" in that context is like saying, "We stayed for two hours," or you could substitute "as long as" and say, "We stayed as long as the concert lasted."

In the original poster's example, if you said the following:
Llovió mientras estuvimos allí.

That seems to define how long it rained--as long as we were there--instead of simply stating that the rain is something that happened while we were there.

I'm guessing it's a bit of an exotic case which won't apply to most uses of "mientras"; it's probably safe to assume that you're almost always going to use the imperfect with "mientras."

Not trying to nitpick; just trying to keep an already complicated topic (preterite vs imperfect) from becoming even more open-ended and ambiguous.
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