Verb tense with Casi

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I have a question about the examples given in today's Word of the Day email.

Ayer casi me compré ese bolso. - I almost bought that purse yesterday.

Casi te caíste en el agujero. - You almost fell in the hole.

When I was first learning Spanish I happened to say, "Casi me caí." My friend, a native Spanish speaker, corrected me. He explained the past tense is used for things that have actually occurred and since I almost fell, but didn't, the correct phrase would be, "Casi me caigo."

Ever since, I have always used the present tense like he suggested. But, the examples above use the past tense. Can somebody explain the rule to me'

8115 views
updated MAY 7, 2009
posted by tiberius

6 Answers

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I don't see why it could not be used in literary or formal Spanish, using what grammars call "presente histórico":

updated MAY 7, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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I've heard this sort of construction (though, no doubt, far fewer times than Lazarus). I believe that you could also say "por poco me caigo". If I had to make up a descriptive term, I'd call it the "vivid past" and I very much doubt that it would be used in writing (except, of course, dialog); it's essentially conversational.

updated MAY 7, 2009
posted by samdie
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Sorry, Eddy, but that's how the language works:

El otro me atacaron con un cuchillo, y casi me muero del susto.
El año pasado perdí el trabajo, y casi me divorcio.

It is pretty common to use the present tense with expressions with "casi",

updated MAY 7, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Both "Casi me caí" and "Casi me caigo" are correct, and they can be used to mean the same thing too. It is common in spoken Spanish to use the present tense to tell a story that happened in the past to make it sound more vivid. The present tense is also used in history books the same way, and to talk about future things that we think we can control in a way. In actual fact, the present tense in Spanish is the less specific tense in terms of time. Ironically, this tense is generally not used for progressive actions that are happening as we speak, in the present.

El otro día iba por la calle, y casi me caigo - a vivid way to describe it, very common

El otro día iba por la calle, y casi me caí - a bit more descriptive, less used

Mayday, mayday, permission to land, permission to land.

updated MAY 7, 2009
posted by Eddy
0
votes

Both "Casi me caí" and "Casi me caigo" are correct, and they can be used to mean the same thing too. It is common in spoken Spanish to use the present tense to tell a story that happened in the past to make it sound more vivid. The present tense is also used in history books the same way, and to talk about future things that we think we can control in a way. In actual fact, the present tense in Spanish is the less specific tense in terms of time. Ironically, this tense is generally not used for progressive actions that are happening as we speak, in the present.

El otro día iba por la calle, y casi me caigo - a vivid way to describe it, very common
El otro día iba por la calle, y casi me caí - a bit more descriptive, less used

updated MAY 7, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
votes

I have a question about the examples given in today's Word of the Day email.

Ayer casi me compré ese bolso. - I almost bought that purse yesterday.

Casi te caíste en el agujero. - You almost fell in the hole.

When I was first learning Spanish I happened to say, "Casi me caí." My friend, a native Spanish speaker, corrected me. He explained the past tense is used for things that have actually occurred and since I almost fell, but didn't, the correct phrase would be, "Casi me caigo."

Ever since, I have always used the present tense like he suggested. But, the examples above use the past tense. Can somebody explain the rule to me?

Hi tiberius
I know that the present tense can be used in place of the future tense, ie, I am going to a football match tomorrow, instead of I will go to a footbal match tomorrow. However, instead of the past tense, I don´t think so. With regards your friends comment about things that have actually occurred then surely the íncident where you almost fell did occur and it´s in the past. I would be surprised if he was right but then again he is a native speaker. I am now flying at 3,000 feet and I am waiting to be shot down on this.

updated MAY 7, 2009
posted by Eddy