I Hate Verbs

Spanish is a verb-driven language, I remember reading that somewhere. No kidding. I’m looking at a verb table right now, and every Spanish verb has about 50 versions (not including the compound tenses). English has … what… like…three… or six…?

Basic stuff still has me stumped. In particular, the many baffling incarnations of very common irregular verbs. One quick example to illustrate: Take the verbs dar (to give) and decir (to say). They look very different in the infinitive, right? Apart from starting and ending with the same letter, they seem to have sod all in common, and you’d be unlikely to confuse them. But you wait…

If you want to say “tell me!”, decir suddenly morphs into “dime!” (imperative) or “digame!” (subjunctive), and when you want to say “I gave” and “we gave” then “dar” turns into “di”  and “dimos“, respectively. All over sudden, dar becomes decir‘s evil twin! This kind of thing happens all over the place, and even after over a year and a half in Spain, confusion abounds.

But I’m not alone. One of my longstanding language exchange partners mentioned a couple of days ago how her three-year-old son was getting most of the verbs wrong by tarring all of them indiscriminately with the regular-verb brush. That poor little blighter will soon enough have the last remaining shred of common sense corrected out of him.

And yes, those red flecks on the white cover are, in fact, blood.

And yes, those red flecks on the white cover are, in fact, blood.

Over the years, I’ve been poring for countless hours over gaps in textbooks demanding to be filled with the correct form of a verb. I’ve never enjoyed it, not even one little bit. It was a necessary evil. And despite all this effort, these endless permutations refuse to stick to my Teflon-plated brain.

I’ve about 90+% comprehension at this point, and I can discuss complex topics, but I still grind to a halt regularly while struggling to produce the right flippin’ version of a verb.

I had not foreseen this. A couple of years ago, when I decided to move to Spain, I thought that by now, it would just be a matter of accumulating more vocab and fine-tuning my diction. The biggest challenge, I thought, would be hitting the right prepositions, which, speaking from my previous experience with English, takes several years.

I know there’s no point complaining about how hard it is to learn a new language, especially when your standards are high. They are not going to change it for me.

If you’ve been dipping into this blog for a while, you will know that I made a start on Portuguese recently. My heart sinks every time I contemplate the verb nightmare stretching out in front of me.

But after this, I’m done, you hear me – DONE. I’ll never touch another language with flippin’ mutating verbs ever again. Japanese it is for me. It may take me a hundred years to get to grips with their impenetrable three-script writing system, but at least Japanese verbs don’t transmogrify all over the place.

Coming up (eventually): A rant about prepositions. Brace yourselves.

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35 thoughts on “I Hate Verbs

      1. bevchen

        Noo, German verbs aren’t that bad. It’s flipping case endings that drive me mental!! I can’t even remember what article things are in the first place, never mind which letter I should be adding on because it’s now dative!

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  1. pollyheath

    I remember struggling with Spanish. Then I started learning Russian and everything seemed soooo easy. Then I took a semester of Hungarian… Russian seemed like a breeze and I wanted to kill myself.

    I’m not sure what my advice is. Study a really hard language for a little bit and come running back to Spanish?

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I vaguely remember my two years of Russian… and I know what you’re getting at, lol.
      I should just stop whining, but, unfortunately, I’m one of those annoying people who have to let EVERYBODY AND THEIR DOG know when they’re having a hard time with something, even if it’s really pathetic 😉

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I gathered. From the drippy bathroom post 😉
        I’ve got a friend, who, during a conversation, casually mentioned that her kitchen had flooded a couple of weeks ago.
        Me: “What, your kitchen was under water and you didn’t tell me about it??”
        Her: “But this kind of stuff is just soooo boring!”
        Me: *gulping inwardly*

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  2. Anna

    I feel your pain, though not with Spanish. French was always the bane of my existence. I started learning Spanish and French at the same time. Within 3 years of intense schooling I was fluent in the former, and yet I couldnt talk my away out of a Parisian bakery, even after living in France. Basically, take all the issues you have with Spanish, and then imagine that you cant even HEAR the difference between words, let alone their various conjugations. Everything is basically the same gargled sound. I still have nightmares. Once in a while (like when I have a French lover) I get nostalgic about the language and wistful about picking it up again, but that feeling evaporates as long as I try to get the most basic sentence out and said lover looks at me as if I am burping an alphabet. PAINFUL.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      LOL, I understand your apprehension! Luckily(?) I’ve never felt compelled to learn French. I feel like I ought to, it’d be useful, but when it comes down to it, I lack the motivation.

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  3. Veronica

    Gosh, I could have written this! I’ve learned five languages in addition to English (French, German, Latin, Russian, Spanish) and I’m fluent in one of them (French). Maybe it’s old age, but Spanish verbs drive me crazy. I still remember the pain when I discovered that negative imperatives are different from positive ones. French has lots of verb forms too, but they don’t use half of them (imperfect subjunctive for example) — whereas the Spanish seem to seize the opportunity to use every verb form they have, and make half of them irregular into the bargain …

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      ‘sactly!!!
      I’m glad I’m not the only one… Spanish is always touted as an ‘easy’ language to learn, and, I guess, in some respects it is, especially if you already speak another Latin-based language or English.
      Thanks for commiserating 😉

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  4. polyglotfun

    I can understand your frustration. 🙂

    Similarly, Portuguese has the verbs “ver” (to see) and “vir” (to come). In the first- and third- person singular future subjunctive “vir” becomes “vier” and “ver” becomes “vir.”

    And English ain’t no saint either, where the verb “lie” can have “lied” or “lay” as the past tense and “lay,” in itself, can be another infinitive with “laid” as its past tense.

    You’re probably better off with a language like Mandarin. 😛

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  5. oldsalt1942

    ALL languages are verb-driven. Without verbs you have nothing. But I know the frustration. I retired to Panama and live in a small community near the Costa Rican border. None of my neighbors speak English. Oh, they all know a few words, nouns, mostly, but they can’t put what they know into a sentence. I’ll NEVER be FLUENT in Spanish, but I am becoming PROFICIENT. After all, I have to communicate with my neighbors.
    Years ago I took an adult education course in conversational Spanish. Half way through the year I got a job as captain of a large sailboat in France. Oooops, took the wrong course. But the interesting thing about the Spanish course was the text book we used was “Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish.” What make the book great is that she teaches the PAST TENSE FIRST. Most courses teach the present tense first, but if you think about it a minute we generally talk in the past tense. Where we came from. What we did for a living. What we did yesterday, last week, last year. Then we talk about what we are GOING to do. The future. Rarely do we speak in the present tense. Actually, the “present” only last for a couple of seconds and then it’s the past.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi there! Interesting, re. teaching the past tense first, I’ve never come across that method. Does have some merit, thinking about it!
      To give some context to Spanish being ‘verb-driven’, the same source (which I can’t now find, for the life of me!) classified English as a ‘satellite-driven’ language, but I don’t know what that means, to be honest.
      I learned English as a young adult, and this experience has shaped my expectations. I don’t just want to communicate in Spanish (I’m already proficient), I want to speak it as well as I do English. I’ve set the bar high, I realise, and I don’t expect this to happen in less than a decade. It’s a life goal thing 😉
      Life on a sailboat… that could me my next goal! (I mistyped ‘gaol’, LOL!)
      Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

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  6. Pingback: Put it this way – learning the language | con jamón spain

  7. Pingback: Prepositions are Evil! | Rachel's Ramblings

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