In an earlier article we took a step forward by changing some of our important “first person” verb forms into “second person” verb forms, in other words to talk about “you” as well as “I”. We have limited ourselves to just six examples so far, because these are ones that give us a chance to building more interesting sentences by combining them with the infinitive or other verbs to express our needs, desire, intentions and obligations:
quieres (you want)
vas a (you are going to)
necesitas (you need)
puedes (you can)
tienes que (you have to)
te gusta (you like).
We can now make statements about the person we are addressing, for example “Vas a aprender mucho español con Jane” (“You’re going to learn a lot of Spanish with Jane” – just thought I’d slip that one in), or “Puedes dormir más tarde” (“You can sleep later” – I’ll leave you to invent your own context for that one).
We could also give someone information in the negative, for example “No tienes que volver mañana” (You don’t have to go back (or come back) tomorrow”.)
Perhaps the second person is used most frequently however to form questions. We can think of lots, using the words we have learnt so far. Here are some questions which perhaps you would like to answer yourself. You can send me the answers if you wish.
¿Necesitas tomar medicamentos?
¿Quieres aprender más sobre España?
¿Vas a visitar a tu familia este verano?
¿Tienes que volver a trabajar?
¿Puedes salir esta noche?
¿Te gusta comer verduras?
I think we’ll make a little digression at this point, just in case some of you are confused. The second person or ‘you’ form that I have just demonstrated, is actually a form we use when we are being friendly or familiar with the person we are addressing. I prefer to teach this form first so that students can address each other in a friendly way and to open up the possibility of chatting to neighbours or getting a bit further in a conversation than ordering a beer.
However, a lot of people learn a slightly different form first, that is the more formal way of addressing ‘you’. The actual words for ‘you’ (which don’t necessarily come into the sentence) are tú when we are being familiar and usted when we are being more formal. I try to encourage people not to get over-anxious about when they should use these forms. In the area of Spain I used to live everyone used the tú form (that is, as I have taught you above) all the time, which is perhaps why I’m biased in its favour. However, I’ve noticed that in the Murcia region, or perhaps just on the coast where there are a lot of visitors and strangers, it’s common to be approached using the usted form (which I am going to explain now) although the tú form can be switched to quite easily without anyone getting upset.
So, now for the good news. To change from more familiar to more formal, all we have to do is remove the letter ‘s’ from the first person verb. Therefore, here are our sentences again expressed more formally:
¿Necesita tomar medicamentos?
¿Quiere aprender más sobre España?
¿Va a visitar a su familia este verano?
¿Tiene que volver a trabajar?
¿Puede salir esta noche?
And the one that behaves differently:
¿Le gusta comer verduras?
There isn’t a huge amount more to it than that, although we will come back to this later on in more detail. In the meantime, enjoy interrogating those around you.
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are now available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s brand new “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.