Verb conjugation (mainly spanish)

When reading conjugations are easy I know the endings and can identify the words and identify what they did to it and understand the information from the conjugation. But the real problem comes when listening because native’s talk really fast and you can’t really listen for endings it feels more like you would have to memorize the individual forms over a long period of time to exposure. Is this how high level Spanish speakers do it? Or do they get so good at the patterns they can just apply they to all the verbs? I mainly care about listening because speaking you can just learn whatever verbs you care to use but when listening people have their own arsenals of vocabulary so you have to be ready for what they might say. Just trying to find the right strategy for tackling to listening to the conjugated verbs. Thank Again!

Just keep getting input. Listening and reading. Make sure you’re comprehending the main messages of most sentences to be most effective. There is a hypothesis that the order in which you pick up grammar patterns is relatively fixed. This has been shown pretty well in research, and it doesn’t go from low difficulty to high difficulty. It’s also not a different order for people whether it’s a 1st or 2nd language. They do it in almost the same orders every time! You’ll get it at native speaker speed when your brain is ready and you’ve gotten enough exposure to messages that you understand. Don’t force 1 particular grammar structure in study. It doesn’t work. At least, you won’t be able to use this to your advantage in spontaneous scenarios like speaking and listening. If your goal is to pass a test, then that can be fine to study whatever rules, but this is not indicative of your ability to speak and comprehend messages. That doesn’t seem like what you want though… Just keep checking out everything when you’re interested and find good content. Finding the content that you can really connect to is that hardest part, but if you want to learn, it’s something you’ll have to do. Actively thinking about what conjugations you’re hearing should be the least of your worries, just focus on the message of your listening material and be patient


You’re a native English speaker, right? How do you know that “saw” is a past form? How do you know what “should’ve done it” mean? Native speakers know conjugations the same, . We don’t stop to think about what an ending means, we just know. And yes, we can apply all patterns to all verbs and, we are that “good”, even without knowing the grammar, including illiterate people*. You can also reach that level by just reading and listening and paying attention. It’ll take you some time, though.
What you can do for now is alternate between differente “kinds” of listening. The main one is to just listen to meaningful content and try to get what it’s meant. In the beginning you’ll only have a very fuzzy understanding, one that certainly doesn’t get to the point of getting the nuances of the conjugation, very far from the comprehension you get when reading. Just doing that will improve your listening skill and, believe or not, you’ll end up getting better and better and picking up more nuances, including conjugation forms. As I mentioned, you can help the process by occasionally moving to a more deliberate listening mode, in which you rewind the audio to try to pick up what verbal form was used in the previous sentence.
In several languages alread, I have felt the magical moment in which you go from a fuzzy idea of what is said to a crystal-clear understanding in which all subtleties are apparent. At first, it only occurs fleetingly but it gets more and more frequent. I know it’s hard to believe that you’ll ever get to that point but, trust me, it happens. Just kee going.

  • As an example, when my daughter was very, very young, she sometimes said “Me dijo que vayase”. This is not correct, the right form is “fuese” (extremely irregular) but it does show that she knew about subjunctive, imperfect of subjunctive, how those forms are usually formed (present of subjunctive + “ra”/“se)” and when they are used. And that is clearly a form she had never heard because, in fact, doesn’t exist. We are talking 2/3 years of age and that without hesitation in the middle of conversation.

Yeah I just try and listen to main messages and the words that I know sort of pop out to me similar to my native language. Obviously this isn’t very many but they say verbs that I commonly speak with but in forms I rarely/never use in speech so it’s almost like a whole new word. But it made me wonder how other people go about it cause English is so easy in this sense (walk, walked, walking.) That is all we have and even when we conjugate (he smokes) this conjugation is just to sound correct because in English we always say pronouns so the conjugation doesn’t have a different meaning but in Spanish they 90 percent of the time drop the pronoun so the person/tense are built into the conjugations. Idk it’s hard to compare to English it just seems languages with conjugations are just more complex and harder to learn this English. So the what i’m understanding is that the conjugations and the verbs entirely are kind of an accessory to the message so once I just understand more of what is being said They will make more sense? This is what I assumed but thank you for making me realize everything comes slowly with time and input.

So its just an absurd mastery of the patterns along with comprehension of the other words that let you know the use of the words? Ciego/a is blind but to know whether this is being used as an adj or a noun the structure and use of the words in the sentence have to be heard/understood to know the finer points.
Also the verbs and their conjugations are similar to masculine/feminine in the sense that they don’t matter on their own really but make sense when put in sentences and it makes everything agree/make sense? I don’t know if I’m just thinking about it the wrong way. Also you know Russian how did you tackle that inflected language? Are you at such a level in speech/listening you can hear a lot of the different forms etc.?
Idk if it’s cause i speak English but the language seems almost utilitarian/cave man like. We basically don’t conjugate/ no masculine and feminine. If the pronunciation wasn’t such a pita along with the vocab from the 3 language families I would say its one of the easiest in the world unless your native language is cherokee/japanese or something nothing like it.
(also fuese is the 2nd imperfect subjunctive) people use that?

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Yes, it is used very often, the “fuera” form is more usual but you do hear both. It is interesting that my daughter preferred this fom over “vayara”, because this one sounds more barbaric or wrong, for some reason.
Same thing as I said before: input, paying attention, occasional reviewing of the forms. I don’t think Russian declension is the most difficult part of the language. Yes, I identify the different forms in conversation and use them correctly most of the time.

That’s a tricky one. I’m not sure what you mean exactly. On the one hand, you can understand verb forms in isolation. It is even a rather common kind of sentence in Spanish and we understand what they mean and what they imply. On the other hand, they of course work in a context but that is true of all words. At the end of the day, Spanish conjugated verbs work just the same as English verbs: they convey both an action and some circumstances of when that action took place, such as relative time of occurrence. Again, keep on exposing yourself to the language and you’ll develop a “mental model” of the conjugations, your way of thinking about them will probably be different by then.

Yes, that’s why. It is hard to have a clear idea of how one’s own language works and how easy/difficult it is to learn it for other people. Even people who have learned it early in their lives have a rather distorted idea. There are a lot of features of English that are difficult to learn, in particular for speakers of languages in which those don’t exist. Besides, we tend to think of historical phenomena based on present or recent developments and lose perspective. Not long ago I read a quote by a Renaissance English author, in which he explains how almost no foreigner ever learns English to any decent level (partly because it is so difficult), whereas English people are so good at languages and often speak several tongues and are mistaken by natives
Quite a different perspective, right?

That is correct. Just a note: This mastery really seems absurd when you think about it, but it comes very naturally. The human brain is just wired for this kind of task.

Yeah similar to an professional athlete who plays a sport for years and is superhuman compared to normal people this conjugation superpower is something I need to acquire lol extremely useful. Also bebio means he/she/it drank (preterite) it has meaning on its own but it flows and makes a lot more sense in a sentence more. (obv all words are more at home in sentences but because of the interaction of Spanish it makes a tiny bit more sense in a language idk i could be wrong (my english bias)).

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I am kind of oblivious to the difficulties of English other than the pronunciation and the weird dumb grammatical rules that don’t make sense along with a lot of idiomatic expressions. I don’t give a S*** literally doesn’t make sense but is the most common expression I can think of. Do you find Spanish conjugation a bit of a pain ever? What did you find hard in English specifically? I will just keep using input and will have faith to eventually get a hold of these conjugations.

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In your “bebió” example it shows that you’re thinking in English terms. You find that “bebió” depends more on other words because you are thinking about how you would translate it into English. “So what is this” “Is it he drank or she drank”? You lack that info and look for it in the sentence. For native speakers it doesn’t matter so much whether it is a man or a woman. It is only important for translation. A native Spanish speaker reading in English “he was” might think, ok but was he still watching at that time or had he already finished? Is it “estaba” or “estuvo”? I must find some clue in the sentence, those English verbs only make sense in relation to other parts, right?"
Someone wrote that “From the perspective of foreign speakers, all languages are full of holes”.
Going back to “bebió”. Spanish does have different pronouns for masculine and feminine but many other languages don’t. Again, it’s because that info is no important at the moment: your language considers some info super-important and some dispensable. Others have different priorities.

Well, do you ever find the use of English articles a pain? In fact, this is a good example. Most languages in the world have no articles. In fact all widely-spread languages with articles come from Western Europe and they developed them not so long ago. Spanish has them as well but any speaker of a language without articles find them really weird, but you don’t think about them, do you? You don’t even notice and they certainly are no “pain”. Conjugations are the same. Articles are also a good example of 1. A big difficulty of English. 2. A difficult part of the language with no associated “grammar table”. Language learners often overthink grammar tables and think that is the most important part of a language or the most difficult or both. In reality the parts that can’t be turned into tables are more difficult. How can you make a complete table of all cases when a determined article, an undetermined one or no article
There are many other examples of difficulties of English: there are many verb forms, they are not usually “synthetic” as in Spanish but you still need to master them. Some of them are very difficult for speakers of languages who don’t have them (e.g. counterfactuals “I wouldn’t have done it”). LIngq contributor Evgeny has pointed out how Russian has fewer verb forms than English; The weird way to make questions and negate “do support”, and many others

As for me personally. The big thing in English is, of course, pronunciation. You have mentioned it but I don’t think you realize how big a deal it is. For native speakers is a matter of how you can spell a word but for foreign learners, the weird spelling effectively doubles the size of vocabulary that we have to learn. Notice that the most time-consuming part of learning a language is learning vocabulary. You can get very confused by conjugations, declensions and so on but they are a finite part of the language with defined rules and you can get them wrong and still communicate. ON the other hand, vocabulary has no clear end and it takes year to learn a large enough set of words. In other languages you learn the written word and then deduce pronunciation. In English you must learn both separately, which amounts to learning each word twice.
Here is an example of a grammar point that I found difficult in English: Some verbs are followed a to-infinitive (“I want to go”), some by an infinitive without “to” (“i must go”), some by an ing-form (“I appreciate you coming over”), some by either an infinitive or an ing-form with no change of meaning (I like to cook, I like cooking). Some by both but with a change of meaning (I stopped to check the car, I stopped checking the car).

As a further example of how the “underdetermination” of “bebió” vs “She drank” is arbitrary, consider English “they”. When you say “They drank” you don’t know anything about the gender of those who did the drinking but don’t care and don’t consider that it is especially dependent on the context. Other languages (e.g. French) do need to use different pronouns and would consider English “they” as dependent on context as you find subjectless Spanish sentences.

Thank you for this perspective honestly means a lot when I look at languages obvious each one has difficult parts you pointing out the difficult parts of English provides a lot of comfort because the harder it is just displays how capable brains are to adaptation. Yeah my two pet peeves in a language that I find most difficult are pronunciation and conjugation because they arent technically that hard but take a very long time to iron out. When i say “that hard” they obviously are extremely hard but not impossible. But one thing I have noticed is when languages subtract concepts from your own it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal but when they add it is a pita. imperfect v preterite I still mess up all the time because English doesn’t have this. But in Korean them not having articles like the and a is a blessing because you just subtract it. Also do you feel english has a bigger vocab then other languages? People say because its part germanic, latin, and old french or whatever. I still run into alot of words i don’t know when talking if the person is an academic but I just ignore them cause they are more flashy then effective.

English has a relatively large vocabulary compared to similar languages. It is due to a couple of factors. On the one hand, it doesn’t have so many ways to derive different words so it just uses new roots. For example, languages with diminutive forms can get a lot of mileage from them. Spanish and Russian are good examples. Another factor is that English borrows words from lots of languages, not only from its foundational Gerrmanic-Latin vocabulary. You have amok from Indonesian, kowtow from Chinese, aficionado, corral, patio, cojones from Spanish, and so on. Other languages are more picky about their loanwords. Finally, there’s a rather new tendency to try to give names to everything, one example is how generations tend to get nicknames. nowadays: boomers, generation X, millennials and so on. Back in the day “50s generation” seemed enough. This is a global tendency but it is much stronger in English, which leads worldwide pop culture.
However, I’ve read comparisons between languages and it doesn’t seem that English has such a huge vocabulary or even the largest one. Besides, the most important thing for most foreign learners is the typical active vocabulary of an average speaker, which is much smaller.

It wont let me reply to the other post but this kind of slang creation happens less in say Spanish? Good to know and I will keep grinding. Also you said the vocab of a typical adult speaker like what they use. When you run into someone that just talks funny (vocab-wise) you just ask them what the words are I assume. Por cierto gracias por explicarme en ingles no me podia haber expliar este punto en espanol solamente. casi no puedo explicarlo en ingles. tambien un otra pregunta me siento cuando eschucho mi velocidad de entender es lento y atraves tiempo aumenta gradulmente como magica? dijiste que experiancas un momenta magica a donde todo es claro obviousamente es dificil para explicar este pero advinto practica hace perfecta.

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It’s not so much about slang. There’s slang in Spanish for sure. It is that there is a tendency to name every little phenomenon which is much stronger in English than in other languages.
Yes, you have to ask for explanations when you don’t understand somethhing, just the same as you would do in your native language when you don’t know some word.
Yes, as you listen more and more you get to understand faster and faster speech because your listening comprehension becomes more automatic and yo don’t have to stop and think about what each word means. It is certainly a matter of practice.
Le deseo mucho éxito