enseñar - verb or not

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Hola,

No estoy seguro sobre un algo.

enseño - I teach
enseñaba - I was teaching
enseñé - I taught

In these, I am the one doing the teaching.

But what is the translation for "I was taught"?

In this one I am receiving the teaching...

Also, what kind of word is "taught" in the last example? Surely it isn't a verb...

Yours confused,
Martyn.

6688 views
updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Martyn

19 Answers

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Natasha said:

The first sentence would be appropriate in an essay about "What My Parents Taught Me."

The second sentence would be appropriate in an essay about "Why I Respect My Elders," where the parents are only mentioned tangentially.
This reflects, perhaps, the difference of our being well south/north of the Mason Dixon line but (unless it were an exercise in using the active/passive voice), I would be perfectly happy with either as a "normal" expression in English.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by samdie
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samdie said:

Consider the difference between "My parents taught me to respect my elders." and "I was taught by my parents to respect my elders."

Time's up!

Agreed.

The first sentence would be appropriate in an essay about "What My Parents Taught Me."

The second sentence would be appropriate in an essay about "Why I Respect My Elders," where the parents are only mentioned tangentially.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Natasha
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Some of these ideas were brought up in [url=http://my.spanishdict.com/forum/topic/show'id=1710195%3ATopic%3A374576]this previous discussion[/url], where the conclusion was that these two sentences are equivalent:

The man is being kissed.
Están besando al hombre.

The third person plural conveys the "impersonal" statement in Spanish. This is very interesting because in English, using the third person plural for an impersonal statement is considered non-standard for formal writing.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Natasha
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Consider the difference between "My parents taught me to respect my elders." and "I was taught by my parents to respect my elders."

Time's up!

There is no difference in meaning! They are bot perfectly normal English sentences. The first is constructed with the active voice and the second with the passive voice. Despite what someone said earlier, the passive is frequently used in English (what English teachers object to is its overuse by people trying to sound "formal" (i.e. being pompous) when the active voice would be the more natural way of expressing something.

The main area of agreement between English and Spanish on the use of the "passive" occurs in what may also be called the "impersonal" construction. "One often hears ...." (in American English, "You often hear ... " is somewhat more common for this construction) which in Spanish would be "Se oye ...." or "One says ..." vs. "Se dice ..."

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by samdie
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N said:

No one seems to have answered your last question about the word taught. "Was taught" is a verb phrase. To be is an auxiliary verb.

To further highlite the word, taught is the past tense and the past participle of the verb "teach". Therefore in your example it is being used as the past participle.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Eddy
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látigo said:

The passive voice in English is really not that accepted in scholarly papers. English teachers will grade you low for the use of the passive voice.. They want you to employ the active voice = "They taught me." Spanish is different - both the active and passive voice are accepted. Fui enseñado(a) por el maestro. (Note that enseñado is used if the speaker is male, but enseñada if the speaker is female.

This may be beating a dead horse, or something like that, but one of my pet peeves involves how the Grammar Checker in MS Word flags my sentences, even when they are passive sentences that clearly cannot be stated as active.

The Bedford Handbook, 6th ed., has this in a box:

Some speakers of English as a second language avoid the passive voice even when it is appropriate. For advice on transforming an active sentence to the passive, see 62c. [62c is an entire section on this.]

Later, under "Appropriate uses of the passive": (starts p. 138)

"The passive voice is appropriate if you wish to emphasize the receiver of the action or to minimize the importance of the actor." . . . "In much scientific writing, the passive voice properly emphasizes the experiment or process being described, not the researcher."

online debate about this subject

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Natasha
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N said:

No one seems to have answered your last question about the word taught. "Was taught" is a verb phrase. To be is an auxiliary verb.

Thank you - sometimes it's difficult for me to work out the types of words in a sentence.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Martyn
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No one seems to have answered your last question about the word taught. "Was taught" is a verb phrase. To be is an auxiliary verb.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by 2N
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Ada:

to teach is the verb. In your instance ' I was taught' could be preterite or past participle tense, depending on whether or not you were passively or actively taught. My understanding for example is that if a teacher taught a single lesson it would be 'me enseñó' but if it was over a period of time it would be 'me enseñaba'.

Not really, Adam. You can use both tenses to talk about a period of time: "Mi profesor me enseñó inglés durante años".

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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to teach is the verb. In your instance ' I was taught' could be preterite or past participle tense, depending on whether or not you were passively or actively taught. My understanding for example is that if a teacher taught a single lesson it would be 'me enseñó' but if it was over a period of time it would be 'me enseñaba'.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Adam
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I appreciate the time taken to explain this. To be honest it's quite confusing to me, but I will persevere because it seems to be very important.

Thanks again.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Martyn
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Nice reply, L! Very clear.

Martyn, to give you another example of this, we can say "I was given a ball" in English, and it sounds just fine, but if you say "Fui dado una pelota" in Spanish, it sounds as if you were what was given, not the ball. The more natural way to translate the English is "Me dieron una pelota." There is no actual "they" here; it's just an impersonal they, as we say in "They say it's going to be a close race." Therefore, even if a single person actually gave you the ball, you can still use this impersonal form because in this context what is important is not the giver of the ball, but the fact that it was given.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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In strict grammatical sense, "Fui enseñado" is incorrect, even though some people use, because "yo" would be the indirect object of this sentence, and the Spanish passive tense is formed only with the direct object. In a formal exam, "Fui enseñado" would be crossed as incorrect.

However, "Fui enseñado" would be correct to mean "I was shown (to others)", as if you were an object to be shown to other people; here, the person to be shown would be the direct object of the active sentence. In this case, the active alternative "Me enseñaron" is correct Spanish, and more commonly used, Although "enseñaron" refer to "they", the subject doesn't really refer to anyone in particular.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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The passive voice in English is really not that accepted in scholarly papers. English teachers will grade you low for the use of the passive voice.. They want you to employ the active voice = "They taught me."
Spanish is different - both the active and passive voice are accepted.
Fui enseñado(a) por el maestro. (Note that enseñado is used if the speaker is male, but enseñada if the speaker is female.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by ltigo
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Gracias por sus repuestas.
Martyn.

updated OCT 20, 2008
posted by Martyn