Why is there an 'r' in podría/podrías?

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If Podría / podrías is a form of the verb infinitive 'poder', why is there an r in it'

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updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by Erin

8 Answers

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I am interested, but it is not what I remember at all. Both tenses were supposed to be periphrastic forms based on the infinitive (sometimes contracted), so it wasn't really on the mind of the speakers, but it was indeed based on the infinitive:
*
cantare habeo --> cantaré
cantare habebam --> cantaría

dargelo he --> se lo daré
dargelo ia/ie --> se lo daría
dado gelo ha --> se lo ha dado

Las formas medievales del futuro y el condicional son especialmente significativas. Veremos (3.7.8.4.3(4)) que muchos verbos en -er e -ir tenían formas contractas en estos paradigmas; es decir, la /e/ e /i/ del infinitivo se eliminaba cuando el auxiliar ((h)e, (h)as, etc.) se añadía directamente al verbo (sin la intervención de un clítico): prendrá,combrá, repintrá, subrá. En estas circunstancias, cuando faltaba la marca de la conjugación (la /e/ o la /i/ del infinitivo), las vocales altas de la raíz eran obligatorias en los verbos en -ir y las vocales medias no estaban permitidas. No encontramos formas como ''escrebrá, ''sabrá, etc. Esta polarización de vocales radicales demuestra con toda claridad que la elección de las vocales viene determinada por la clase de conjugación y no por algún factor fonológico.*

(Ralph Penny, A History of the Spanish Language, 2nd Ed. 1991)

The most well known example in these kind of books is:

amar-he --> amaré

There has never been an "amré" form, as far as I know.

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Just an additional historical note, in case anyone's interested. Synchronically (i.e. looking at the language as it is now), verbs like poder are the "black sheep" in loosing the 'e'. But interestingly, what appears to have happened historically is almost the other way round: it was at one time very common for -er and -ir verbs in general to drop the e/i, giving forms such as vivrán, perdrás, entendremos. According to Lyons (1977)[1], for example, such forms are attested from around 12th-14th century, but then all but a few of these contractions begin to be reverted. (Linguistically, this is quite interesting because the contractions survive for several generations, but the fact that they're then reverted suggests that there was still the feeling in speakers minds that e.g. entendremos is "really" based on the infinitive.)

So it seems there was a time in history when the "black sheep" would have been what we now regard as regular forms, and forms such as podrás would have been regarded as regular.

[1] "A look into the Spanish future", Lingua 46:224-244.

lazarus1907 said:

Actually, the regular conditional form should have been poder + ías = poderías, but in this stem irregularity, the -e- is dropped, leaving you with "podrías". Other verbs dropping the -e- in the conditional are: haber, querer, caber and saber.

>

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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Let me give you some accurate figures regarding samdie's comments about irregular verbs:

Overall, 90% of the Spanish verbs are regular.
However, among the 200 most commonly used ones, only 60% are regular.
Less than 9% of the more unusual verbs are irregular.

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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You may take some consolation from the fact that regular verbs are much more common that the irregular ones (indeed, that's why we call them regular/irregular). On the other hand, the irregular verbs deserve special attention because they tend to be the more commonly used ones. There are good reasons for this but that invites a discussion of language philosophy rather than the practical questions of language learning.

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by samdie
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Well that's very good to know - thank you Lazarus!

lazarus1907 said:

Actually, the regular conditional form should have been poder + ías = poderías, but in this stem irregularity, the -e- is dropped, leaving you with "podrías". Other verbs dropping the -e- in the conditional are: haber, querer, caber and saber.

>

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by Erin
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Actually, the regular conditional form should have been poder + ías = poderías, but in this stem irregularity, the -e- is dropped, leaving you with "podrías". Other verbs dropping the -e- in the conditional are: haber, querer, caber and saber.

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Ok, thank you

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by Erin
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'poder' is an irregular verb (what some call a 'stem-changing' verb). The 'r' is part of that irregularity.

updated MAR 1, 2009
posted by samdie