english, french & spanish verb systems

deja vu   Thu Jul 19, 2007 11:26 pm GMT
i would like to know from those of the three languages mentioned above, which language has the hardest, most complex verb system
since english has only 9 tenses but french and spanish have 14 tenses
english it's not an inflected language at all.but french and spanish,specially spanish are pretty inflected languages, meaning that you have to add special endings to show the relation of the verb to the person doing the action and wheather they are plural feminine or masculine.
does that makes them harder?
Guest   Fri Jul 20, 2007 12:54 am GMT
Spanish and French verbs never conjugate based on gender. Perhaps you're thinking of Hebrew or Arabic.
furrykef   Fri Jul 20, 2007 1:28 am GMT
It isn't really accurate to say that Spanish has 14 tenses... what you call a "tense" is actually a combination of tense, mood, and aspect.

Memorizing Spanish conjugations is simple. It only took me a few days to learn how to conjugate all regular verbs and the most common irregular verbs. I did this by rote: conjugating an entire table for the verbs hablar, beber, vivir (the regular verb forms), and for ser, estar, haber, tener, etc. For the most part, the verbs follow simple and predictable patterns, even the irregular ones. For instance, with very few exceptions, the first-person present subjunctive is the same as the first-person present indicative, except the -o is changed to -e for -ar verbs, and -a for other verbs, and this rule holds true even for many irregular verbs. For instance: tener (infinitive), tengo (first-person present indicative), tenga (first-person present subjunctive). Then the subjunctive is conjugated for other persons based on the same pattern: tenga (yo), tengamos (nosotros), tengas (tú), tengáis (vosotros), tenga (él/ella/usted), tengan (ellos/ellas/ustedes).

It may be boring to write the tables over and over, and the technique surely isn't right for everybody, but it worked great for me. It didn't take long, and I certainly found Spanish conjugation to be no great hindrance afterward.

What's harder than learning how to conjugate is how to use the conjugations correctly. For instance, knowing when to use the simple past and knowing when to use the past imperfect is not a trivial problem in Spanish... sometimes the choice is very clear, but there are many cases that throw foreigners off. But that really has nothing to do with the conjugations themselves. Compare these:

* We went to the beach.
* Fuimos a la playa.

* We used to go to the beach.
* Íbamos a la playa.

In this case, the same distinction is made between the two languages, but the second English sentence uses an auxiliary verb and the Spanish one uses a conjugation. It's the distinctions that are difficult to deal with, not the conjugations. If Spanish used auxiliary verbs to make the distinctions instead, they wouldn't be any easier to handle. The conjugations themselves are easy.

So I don't think inflection necessarily makes a language much harder. It can in highly inflecting languages where every word is inflected in several ways, but conjugation in the Romance languages is a relatively small step up from the inflection found in English.

- Kef
furrykef   Fri Jul 20, 2007 1:29 am GMT
<< Spanish and French verbs never conjugate based on gender. Perhaps you're thinking of Hebrew or Arabic. >>

Or maybe of how adjectives must decline for gender. That's usually not very hard to deal with, though.
Guest   Fri Jul 20, 2007 4:19 am GMT
Most verbs in English have 2 verb froms. Some 3. In spansh there is a whole lot more. I'm not sure, maybe like 60 or little less.
furrykef   Fri Jul 20, 2007 4:48 am GMT
<< Most verbs in English have 2 verb froms. Some 3. >>

Nope. Talk, talks, talked, talking... four forms for a regular verb.

And don't forget you also have to know the auxiliary verbs you can use for other tenses, aspects, and moods: will talk, would talk, had talked...
Guest   Fri Jul 20, 2007 5:00 am GMT
The verb with the most forms is "to be".


8 forms
Travis   Fri Jul 20, 2007 6:13 am GMT
It's better to handle this in terms of not just all inflected forms, but rather the number of stem forms from which all other forms are derived. Excluding the verb "be", English verbs have at most four stem forms, and non-present-preterite verbs have at most three stem forms. For non-present-preterite verbs other than "be", the three stems are the infinitive/present stem, the preterite stem, and the past participle stem. For present-preterite verbs there is another stem form, them third person singular indicative present stem, which is always the same as the infinitive/present stem.

Normal strong verbs have two or three stems, depending on whether there are separate preterite and past participle stems. Normal weak verbs either have one, two, or three stems, depending on whether they are either regular, irregular with matching preterite and past participle forms, or irregular with weak suffix-less preterite forms and weak suffix-ful past participle forms. Note that weak verbs with three distinct stem forms (such as "tell" and "sell") are not represented in standard English orthography, but do occur in actual speech (at least in North American English). (My dialect also has another class of weak verbs with up to three stem forms, as their past participles optionally acquire the suffix "-en", albeit inconsistently.)

I honestly do not know how many distinct stems you can boil most verbs in Spanish or French down to, but one way or another it is probably a better means of comparison than simply comparing the number of inflected forms possible, as it disregards cases that are predictable from other forms' stems unless there exists distinct stems in cases which override them.
greg   Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:27 am GMT
« Guest » : « Spanish and French verbs never conjugate based on gender. »


Indicatif passé composé féminin :
je suis allée
tu es allée
elle est allée
nous sommes allées
vous êtes allées
elles sont allées.

Indicatif passé composé masculin :
je suis allé
tu es allé
il est allé
nous sommes allés
vous êtes allés
ils sont allés.
furrykef   Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:27 am GMT
Spanish verbs generally have very few stems as well. No doubt this is also true of French. But when you're still learning the conjugations for standard verbs, you also have to watch out for unpredictable suffixes, not just the stems.

For instance, here's a conjugation table for the regular Spanish verb "amar" (to love), with a few items omitted so I can illustrate the point. The order for each is "yo, tú, nosotros, usted, ustedes" (probably a nonstandard order, but this is the way I'm used to since I formatted my tables this way when learning):

present: amo, amas, amamos, ama, aman
preterite: amé, amaste, amamos, amó, _____
imperfect: amaba, amabas, amábamos, amaba, amaban
future: amaré, amarás, _____, amará, amarán
conditional: amaría, amarías, amaríamos, amaría, amarían
subjunctive: ame, ames, amemos, ame, amen
past subjun.: amara, amaras, amáramos, amara, amaran
imperative: N/A, ama, amemos, ame, amen

(You can't have a first-person imperative, obviously. ;))

You'll notice that the "ustedes" form seems to always be the same as the "usted" form with an "n" added, and for the most part, you'd be right. So you would think that, following the pattern, the first blank would be "amón", but you'd be wrong: it's "amaron", the one exception to the rule. Similarly, one would predict the second blank would be "amaramos", but it's actually "amaremos". It's also easy to forget the accent marks (or, in speech, the stress patterns) on "amábamos" and "amáramos". "Amaste" in the preterite doesn't resemble any of the other conjugations, so it's also unpredictable.

Of course, these things come easily enough with a little practice. I had no trouble writing the whole table from memory and I am 100% certain that it is 100% correct.

One time I wrote out a conjugation table for a regular Italian verb, just for fun, and the conjugations didn't seem to follow patterns that were as obvious as in Spanish, but maybe I wasn't looking in the right places...

- Kef
furrykef   Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:28 am GMT
greg - those are only past participles, and I believe they only change for gender when used as adjectives... unless French grammar does it differently than Spanish grammar...
Franco   Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:35 am GMT
This is like "Power of Language" thread. Different conjugations is not harder, just not like the native language.

It wont make you smart. It wont make you be a good psychologist to speak Spanish, to be good psychologist, learn psychology.
Guest   Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:48 am GMT
<< Faux. >>

Vrai. The verb in those sentences is "être". Those past participles of "aller" are adjective complements of the verb and their change in form can't be called conjugation.
Travis   Fri Jul 20, 2007 8:02 am GMT
>>(You can't have a first-person imperative, obviously. ;))<<

Actually, you can have a first person plural imperative, which spoken English does most definitely have. English does not have any kind of morphological method of marking it, of course, but it is indicated in English with the analytic construction "let's <verb phrase>".
Jérémy   Fri Jul 20, 2007 9:30 am GMT
<greg - those are only past participles, and I believe they only change for gender when used as adjectives... unless French grammar does it differently than Spanish grammar...>

"allée" is no adjective in "je suis allée". Past participle yes, adjective no.
Elles sont alléES voir leur professeur.

Past participles also depend on gender when the direct object is placed before the verb:

J'ai mis la cafetière sur le gaz => Je l'ai misE sur le gaz.
J'ai écrit des nouvelles mais personne ne les a aiméES.
Personne n'a aimé les nouvelles que j'ai écritES.

Actually I think agreement is quite complex in French because there are rules and sub-rules (see "la maison que j'ai construitE" but "la maison que j'ai fait construire", not "*la maison que j'ai faite construire" ...). Agreement is often a problem even for some native speakers of French, like the "ais/ai/ait/er/é/ée/ées/és/aie/aient/" endings.