HomeQ&Ahelp with present tense verb conjugation pronouns (subject pronouns)

help with present tense verb conjugation pronouns (subject pronouns)

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I am used to seeing the pronouns of a present tense regular verb conjugation, for example, look like this: I eat, you eat, he/she/it eats, we eat, you(pl) eat, they eat I know the pronouns are commonly not used, but what is confusing me is what pronouns would be in the conjugation if they were used... Specifically, the 3rd person singular spot seems to also include the "you/formal", which to me is 2nd person. This is confusing the heck outta me. The references to 2nd person plural only being used in Spain is also confusing. Is there no use/no such verb in other Spanish speaking countries? I am brand new to learning Spanish (2 lessons so far) and I may be jumping the gun, but I'm already getting confused just trying to follow a simple present tense regular verb conjugation.... help! (I learned French years ago, and I remember those conjugations being just like the "eat" example I put at the top.) grin

6943 views
updated SEP 12, 2009
edited by 0074b507
posted by YolimaKat

3 Answers

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I think this is a very confusing issue for beginners because it's not stressed in school. I had studied Spanish for 4 years in high school, but it wasn't until I came here and happened across a chart listing the conjugations correctly that I realized that usted and ustedes were 2nd person and not 3rd person.

Spanish has two second person forms. They all mean you just as in English. There is the You informal, singular and plural and the You formal, singular and plural.
The confusion arises because the You formal, singular and plural just happens to use the 3rd person verb endings, the same as the 3rd person pronouns (él,ella, ellos,ellas).

I didn't really grasp that until I considered the same situation with the negative informal commands and the affirmative, formal commands. They all use present tense, subjunctive endings. That doesn't mean, however, that they are subjunctive mood (they're imperative), but just that they share the same endings.

Once I wrapped my head around that concept I began to understand how usted and ustedes could be 2nd person, but there pronouns are always included in the 3rd person list of verb endings.

updated SEP 12, 2009
posted by 0074b507
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There is confusion in terminology for the 2nd pers. formal and the 3rd pers. (singular or plural) If one is concentrating on the pronoun (usted/ustedes) it seems natural to speak of the 2nd person (or a term like "direct address"). However, for historical reasons, the verb forms used with these pronouns are (or, if you prefer, are indistinguishable from) the 3rd person. As a result, sometimes people will refer to "usted habla" as being in the 3rd person (because of the verb) and sometimes as the 2nd person (because of the pronoun).

Something similar happens in very formal English (for example when addressing someone of "exalted" rank (king/queen/bishop/pope/judge/etc.) Thus, one would say (to a judge) "If your Honor wishes ..." as opposed to "If you wish". Notice that, not only is some title used but the form of the verb changes (to 3rd person from the 2nd person). This phenomenon is sometimes called "indirect address". Historically "usted" is derived from "vuestra merced" and is quite similar in usage and meaning to the English "your Honor". The main difference is that the use of usted(es) became very widespread in Spanish (and extended to "less exalted" people [to indicate formality/politeness])

updated SEP 12, 2009
posted by samdie
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Hi yolima, yes, very confusing. confused

We use the second person plural here in Spain (vosotros) but in American countries, this is mostly substituted by "Ustedes" (3rd person plural), which would be formal in Spain, but is common and everyday use and familiar in America.

updated SEP 12, 2009
posted by 00494d19
and that's why he is confused. Ustedes is 2nd person, plural, formal and uses 3rd person, plural endings. - 0074b507, SEP 12, 2009
ellos is 3rd person, plural; not ustedes - 0074b507, SEP 12, 2009
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