Now, it’s time to hold all of you intermediate students accountable. As your parents said when they caught you with a ‘C’ in geometry, “I’m not mad, but I know you can do better moving forward.” Here is a list of ten words, expressions, and rules I hear your intermediate peers get wrong every day.
Here we go…
1. darse cuenta de – this crazy mess of words that individually have nothing to do with “realizing” something come together to mean exactly that. Note the need for the “que” if a verb is going to follow this expression. (e.g., Me doy cuenta de que ya sabes utilizar esta expresión/I realize that you now know how to use this expression.)
2. antes/después de vs. antes/después de que – When do we put the “que” after antes/después de? When there’s a subject change between the two clauses. And remember, “antes de que” will ALWAYS trigger the subjunctive. “Después de que” will only do so if you’re referring to an event that hasn’t yet happened. Notice the subject change in the following example. (e.g., Después de que llegues, vamos al estadio/After you get here, we’re going to the stadium)
3. por/para – There’s not necessarily an easy trick for remembering por versus para. Find a list of its uses, commit them to memory, and practice, practice, practice. One example that I often find helpful, although it’s not comprehensive due to the numerous meanings of each word, is the following… (e.g., Compré un regalo por mi esposa vs. Compré un regalo para mi esposa/In the first example, my wife is busy at work and we’re going to my nephew’s birthday party tonight. In the second example, it’s her birthday and I want to surprise her.)
4. preterite vs. imperfect – The preterite is used for (1) specific events/instances, (2) past actions that the speaker subjectively views as complete, or (3) past actions that belong to a fixed period of time. The imperfect refers generally to what the circumstances were in the past; there is normally a point of reference either in the form of another event that happened or that was happening. My favorite example to use recently is… (e.g., Pensé que el coche se paró. ¿Pero no? VS. Pensé que el coche se paraba, pero no.) Chew on that one for a minute and let me know how it tastes.
5. ser vs. estar in the past tense – Think about the rules for the present (permanent features vs. temporary states) and then just put them in the past tense. The objective concept of what is permanent or impermanent doesn’t change just because the moment has passed. (e.g., La ventana está sucia y antes también estaba sucia)
6. prepositions – This is why I tell all of my beginner students to make note of and memorize verbs one by one, as they come across them, that use different prepositions than those we use in English. (e.g., soñar con, enamorarse de, hablar de, preocuparse por, etc…)
Hey, I know all of these aren’t so simple and of course I’m not really mad at OR disappointed in you. I hope this article helped. Comment below if you have any further questions, comments, or other expressions/rules you can’t seem to commit to memory.
¡Gracias por leer!