Grammar

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The other day I saw an ad in a magazine.
It had the phrase "Las que necesitEs" I can't find this conjugation anywhere.
iam told by natives that it is correct though.
Thanks Ian

3556 views
updated ENE 7, 2009
posted by ian-hill

23 Answers

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The thing you have to remember is that the subjunctive is a boring, normal, everyday verb form that people use all the time in daily conversation. So I would strongly discourage translating it with unnatural-sounding sentences. There is indeed a very formal, somewhat artificial style of English in which "It would suit me better that he come tomorrow" might be acceptable (caveat-- I'm a UK speaker and I have a feeling that the "that + infinitive" construction is slightly more usual in the US), as might "His coming...". But you need to be aware that the example Spanish sentences that I gave are normal, everyday-sounding sentences. I would even say that some people's misunderstanding of what the subjunctive is comes from these artificial-sounding translations.

Janice said:

...hmm..couldn't one say in English: "It would suit me better that he come tomorrow" or perhaps "..if he were to come tomorrow"? Otherwise, school English grammar would certainly dictate that Neil speak of "his coming...etc."

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updated ENE 7, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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I started this post asking "why would you leave the "e" that follows the "g" in judgement out", Samdie? I was not sure that I had ever seen "judgement" spelled without that "e". I always thought that the "e" serves to show that the "g" in this latin-rooted word is soft. But before posting, I tried writing it in a sentence in Microsoft's Word and I found exactly what you write!. Wow, was I surprised. Google Docs spell-check found both judgement and judgment to be correct. Mirriam-Webster has the "e" but Wikipedia does not.

Next I looked up the word in a couple of "foreign" lanugage dictionaries - (not English-English,) I found "judgement" with an "e". But then guess what! I noticed that the spell checker built in for this post here at spanishdict.com has "judgement" with an "e" underlined in red as though it is incorrect.

Finally, I did not find "judgement" in the spanishdict.com dictionary, but I did find judgementalgrin .........

James Santiago said:

Neil, I basically agree with what you're saying. That is, choosing the proper register in language is a very subjective call, and two equally well educated people may make different decisions. For example, if someone asks "Who's there'," I wouldn't reply "It is I," but rather "It's me," because I think it works better and is more natural, even though the former may be considered more grammatically correct. So we're basically on the same page.

However, it is a slippery slope, and where to draw the line is sometimes unclear. You spelled "judgement" above the way many do today, but I consider it an error for "judgment." I don't think I am a slave to rules, but neither do I think that rules and prescriptive grammar have no good purpose. Without them, we would have language anarchy. Some might prefer that, but I think it would eliminate the distinction between good and bad writing, as well as between good and bad education, which is a loss I would lament. (Does that make me an elitist')

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updated ENE 6, 2009
posted by Janice
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...hmm..couldn't one say in English: "It would suit me better that he come tomorrow" or perhaps "..if he were to come tomorrow"? Otherwise, school English grammar would certainly dictate that Neil speak of "his coming...etc."

I think that the subjunctive in Spanish is lots of fun! In another thread someone pointed to a site where a teacher uses the song "Ojalá que lleva café" to teach the form. My daughter wrote me that her Spanish teacher in Salamanca used that song, too, but that the kids all had yet more fun learning to dance some Spanish dance to it...I unfortunately don't remember the name of the dance. Yes, the subjunctive is fun.

And Neil's list is wonderful! But it demands close study. I wonder, even after I study it closely, can I remember it all? In the textbook from which I am learning Spanish, "Paso a Paso" there are a lot of lessons for the subjunctive. By contrast, there is only one for the futuregrin and only one for the conditional. The number of pages devoted to it give evidence that it's tough! Moreover, in the textbook, the authors make a point of using the Spanish terminology: "subjunctivo" and warning that the normal explanations for the subjunctive as being the form in which to express "possibility" or "irrealidad" fall short and may even lead the learner a bit astray. Neil's list probably summarizes all those lessons neatly.

samdie said:

Neil Coffey said:

"him coming tomorrow suits me better"

Although I don´t wish to disagree with the central argument, "him coming tomorrow suits me better" strikes me as an ugly turn of phrase (in more florid moments, i might say "infelicitous phrase"). I would much prefer "his coming ...". This, despite knowing, that many people would say the former.

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updated ENE 6, 2009
posted by Janice
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Neil, I basically agree with what you're saying. That is, choosing the proper register in language is a very subjective call, and two equally well educated people may make different decisions. For example, if someone asks "Who's there'," I wouldn't reply "It is I," but rather "It's me," because I think it works better and is more natural, even though the former may be considered more grammatically correct. So we're basically on the same page.

However, it is a slippery slope, and where to draw the line is sometimes unclear. You spelled "judgement" above the way many do today, but I consider it an error for "judgment." I don't think I am a slave to rules, but neither do I think that rules and prescriptive grammar have no good purpose. Without them, we would have language anarchy. Some might prefer that, but I think it would eliminate the distinction between good and bad writing, as well as between good and bad education, which is a loss I would lament. (Does that make me an elitist')

updated ENE 6, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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As I said in another thread, my stance is that part of being an effective communicator is making a judgement of how your audience will interpret and react to the language that you use. In "him coming tomorrow" vs "his coming tomorrow", my judgement is that the former sounds more natural to most speakers and the latter is a piece of prescriptive etiquette, essentially based on an inadequate analysis of the language, that many speakers will think sounds unnatural. My judgement is that "him" will sound perfectly acceptable to many readers, and I don't think that people wil lthink me more intelligent or a more effective speaker for blindly aping a fairly redundant prescriptive invention based on a flawed analysis. Of course, I may have actually made the wrong judgement, and that either (a) the majority of my readers genuinely think that of the two, "his coming tomorrow" sounds the more natural English [my general observations make me doubt this, but I could of course be wrong], or (b) the majority of my readers think it sounds unnatural, but would still have preferred me to write unnatural-sounding English in order to preserve presciptive etiquette. But nonetheless, that's my judgement.

For foreign readers, I actually think it makes more sense to present examples of natural, everyday English, and as I say, I'm judging that of the two, "him" probably sounds more natural to most educated/literate speakers.

In other cases such as "he's lain/laid there", I'd try and make a similar judgement, based again on the usage I'd generally observer and what I thought would sound more natural to my target audience. I don't necessarily see the use of "him/his" in the first case as dictating the use of "lain/laid" in the second.

James Santiago said:

Neil wrote: I've never counted formally, but in everyday, natural English I believe I observe the construction "him coming tomorrow" far more frequently, and I'm wagering that many educated native speakers would judge "his coming tomorrow" to be unnatural.

But, by that argument, we should use "lay down" as an intransitive verb, which is what the majority of English speakers do, both educated and otherwise. In fact, it is rather rare to hear the verbs lie and lay used correctly today. Does that mean we should follow this trend always? In casual speech it might be acceptable, but certainly not in writing or more formal speech.

Each person has to decide for himself where the acceptable line lies (or lays!). In the case of his/him here, I agree with Samdie, if only because this is a language forum where we try to make our posts as grammatically correct as possible for the sake of non-native learners.

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updated ENE 6, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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Neil wrote:
I've never counted formally, but in everyday, natural English I believe I observe the construction "him coming tomorrow" far more frequently, and I'm wagering that many educated native speakers would judge "his coming tomorrow" to be unnatural.

But, by that argument, we should use "lay down" as an intransitive verb, which is what the majority of English speakers do, both educated and otherwise. In fact, it is rather rare to hear the verbs lie and lay used correctly today. Does that mean we should follow this trend always? In casual speech it might be acceptable, but certainly not in writing or more formal speech.

Each person has to decide for himself where the acceptable line lies (or lays!). In the case of his/him here, I agree with Samdie, if only because this is a language forum where we try to make our posts as grammatically correct as possible for the sake of non-native learners.

updated ENE 5, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Neil
I agree
Ian

updated ENE 5, 2009
posted by ian-hill
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Neil Coffey said:

I would take the view that "his coming tomorrow" is essentially a prescriptive invention (though it makes little difference to the Spanish, in any case). I've never counted formally, but in everyday, natural English I believe I observe the construction "him coming tomorrow" far more frequently, and I'm wagering that many educated native speakers would judge "his coming tomorrow" to be unnatural.
Consider these two sentences:
1) I saw him standing in the middle of the road.
2) His standing in the middle of the road nearly caused a traffic accident.

"standing ... road" is, in the first, case a participial phrase used as an adjective (modifying "him") and, in the second, a participial phrase used as a noun (and modified by "his"). Both of these sentences seem normal to me. My objection is to the substitution of "him" for "his" in the second sentence.

updated ENE 5, 2009
posted by samdie
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His coming home .... is better English it is like "His dog" where the dog is what is his. In his coming home the action of "coming home" is his.

updated ENE 4, 2009
posted by ian-hill
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Neil Coffey said:

Ah thank you, yes, those are the funny forms ending in "-d", aren't they?

Yes, there are about 45 million funny people using that funny ending in Spain. wink

updated ENE 4, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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I would take the view that "his coming tomorrow" is essentially a prescriptive invention (though it makes little difference to the Spanish, in any case). I've never counted formally, but in everyday, natural English I believe I observe the construction "him coming tomorrow" far more frequently, and I'm wagering that many educated native speakers would judge "his coming tomorrow" to be unnatural.

samdie said:

Neil Coffey said:

"him coming tomorrow suits me better"

Although I don´t wish to disagree with the central argument, "him coming tomorrow suits me better" strikes me as an ugly turn of phrase (in more florid moments, i might say "infelicitous phrase"). I would much prefer "his coming ...". This, despite knowing, that many people would say the former.

>

updated ENE 4, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
0
votes
Neil Coffey said:

"him coming tomorrow suits me better"
Although I don´t wish to disagree with the central argument, "him coming tomorrow suits me better" strikes me as an ugly turn of phrase (in more florid moments, i might say "infelicitous phrase"). I would much prefer "his coming ...". This, despite knowing, that many people would say the former.

updated ENE 4, 2009
posted by samdie
0
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Ah thank you, yes, those are the funny forms ending in "-d", aren't they? (Sorry, I live in Mexico -- always forget about the "vosotros" form grin

lazarus1907 said:

Neil Coffey said:

(6) in most forms of the imperative except the positive "tú" (and "vos") forms.

And the "vosotros" form of the imperative.

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updated ENE 4, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
0
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Neil Coffey said:

(6) in most forms of the imperative except the positive "tú" (and "vos") forms.

And the "vosotros" form of the imperative.

updated ENE 4, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
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Some common situations are:

(1) As the complement of non-assertive verbs: as a rough guide these are ones where either
(a) in English, you'd tend to use a phrase such as "for X to Y", "X ing Y"-- i.e. where you don't have a finite verb: "we asked for him to come" (pedimos que viniera : the form viniera is a subjunctive (in this case, past)).
(b) in English, where you can't postpose the main verb (see below): "we're sorry that Mary was so late" -- sentimos que María llegara tan tarde (again, llegara is a past subjunctive).
(2) As in the example, non-concrete relative clauses.
(3) Where a clause is the subject of the sentence: "him coming tomorrow suits me better" : que venga mañana me queda mejor, and where this type of sentence is 'turned on its head': me queda mejor que venga mañana.
(4) In a time-related subordinate clause where the time frame of the subordniate clause comes after that of the main clause: ("I'll do it when Juan gets here" -- lo hago cuando llegue Juan);
(5) with a few adverbs like "probablemente", "posiblemente", the verb in the main clause can optionally be in the subjunctive, with some subtle connotations depending on which you use (e.g. if I recall correctly, some speakers have the judgement that if you say "Quizás María está enferma", that implies that somebody else is ill too, but not necessarily if you say "Quizás María esté enferma");
(6) in most forms of the imperative except the positive "tú" (and "vos") forms.

In 2(b), the general pattern is that the subjunctive is used in cases where in English you couldn't postpose the verb. In other words:
- in cases like "I think he's OK", "they say he's not well", "I suppose he'll come later" where you could also rephrase as "He's OK, I think", "He's not well, they say", "He'll come later, I suppose", then Spanish tends to use the indicative in the subordinate clause;
- in cases like "I don't think he's well", "I doubt he'll be coming" (where you couldn't say "He's well, I don't think", "He'll be coming, I doubt"), Spanish tends to use the subjunctive.
- there are some obvious exceptions (esperar is pretty much always used with the subjunctive).

Ella said:

I'd want to know more situations where we can use subjunctive.

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updated ENE 4, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey