Old July 04, 2012, 05:00 PM
DocHolliday DocHolliday is offline
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Verb Question


I'm just starting with Spanish, and am following the advise of Ramón Campayo to learn an extended list of basic vocab before bothering with a lot of the grammar.

So, for instance, I'm supposed to learn the following verbs:

To Be
To Have
There Is
To Want
To Love
To Help

When I go to <snip> and type in to be, I see that be can be translated into ser and estar

When I type in "try" <snip> I see there are multiple words that you can translate it into.

I'm curious to know what's going on here, and which of the words I should learn.

When I looking for translations should I go with just the word 'love" or should I put a to in front of it, "to love"?

Do I just take the first translation?

Any advice welcome.


Last edited by Rusty; July 04, 2012 at 10:11 PM. Reason: removed links
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Old July 04, 2012, 05:38 PM
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aleCcowaN aleCcowaN is offline
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If you don't know how the new language looks like -its inner workings-, there's no benefit in learning some translations. It can be even counterproductive.

In the translation front you have your be am is are was were being been translated in a hundred words ranging three different verbs. For instance hay sea fuera estaría haber estuviese sido somos era and so on.
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Old July 05, 2012, 12:06 AM
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Rusty Rusty is offline
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You cannot just learn vocabulary. You must also learn the grammar, what Alec called the 'inner workings' of the language, in order to use the vocabulary in an intelligible way.
Dictionary entries will be useless to you if you pay no attention to the roles being played. You must understand the concept of a noun, an adjective, a verb, etc., before you can find their counterparts in a foreign language.

To help answer your questions, 'to be' is known as a 'full infinitive' in English. Without the preposition 'to', it's called a 'bare infinitive'. The infinitive is technically not a verb. It cannot function as a verb. In English, an infinitive can function as a noun, an adjective or an adverb. Even so, many people mistake the infinitive for a verb.

The Spanish equivalent of the English infinitive will sometimes have a preposition (not necessarily 'to') and will sometimes not have one. It very much depends on how it's used in the sentence. The Spanish infinitive is not a verb, nor can it function as such. It acts as a noun and is the equivalent of either the 'full infinitive' or the English gerund.

As you learned, there was more than one way to translate 'be'. This is no different than looking up an English word. A word can have anywhere from a single definition to several hundred. Each of those definitions might translate to another word in a foreign language. For instance, both 'ser' and 'estar' are correct translations of the English infinitive 'be', but they are used in different ways that are not usually interchangeable. So, you must learn the different ways these words can be used in order to make the right choice.

The word 'love' has several translations, depending on the situation. You'll need to know what the situation is before you can choose the right translation.

The infinitives are great to know, but if you can't make a verb out of them (by a process called conjugation), they are useless to you.

You will seldom use the first entry you see in a dictionary. If you're looking up a noun, you'll need to choose a noun in the dictionary. For instance, the word 'try' could be used as a noun or a verb. If you're looking for the noun 'try', you'll choose from the list of nouns, not the verbs. Conversely, if you want the verb, you'll choose from the list of infinitives and conjugate appropriately.

The phrase 'there is' isn't a verb, in either language. In English, it could mean that something exists or it could indicate the location of an object. In Spanish, two different verbs would be used. Since it was listed with a bunch of infinitives, I'll assume you want to know how to express the existence of something. In Spanish, this is expressed with 'hay', which is an impersonal form of the infinitive haber. It means both 'there is' and 'there are' in English.

I hope this helps, rather than hinders, your desire to learn Spanish. There's no real need to know all the grammar terms I used above, but it's imperative to know what role a word plays before you can find its equivalent.
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