Have you ever been?
Do you know?
Well, we are getting near the end, for the time being anyway, of that great topic ‘the recent and undefined past tense’. The definition doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but I hope that those who have been reading these articles do actually know what I mean – which is an achievement in itself.
Of course our first aim should always be to learn Spanish that is of practical use, so I thought we could tackle an everyday kind of question using our new tense and think about possible answers. Obviously I don’t know who you mix with or what kind of conversations you have, so I’ve gone for a typical conversation gambit which we might all say or be faced with at some time.
¿Has estado en Inglaterra?
Have you been to England?
¿Has estado alguna vez en Gales?
Have you ever been to Wales?
¿Has visitado Madrid?
Have you visited Madrid?
¿Has visto la Alhambra?
Have you seen the Alhambra Palace?
These are the kinds of things we ask people when we are getting to know them as we try to establish common ground.
Of course there is another variation to these questions which you will commonly use and hear. In English it is “Do you know …? Which in Spanish is “¿Conoces …?”
I might say to a Spanish person “¿Has estado en Inglaterra?” or “¿Conoces Inglaterra?” These two questions really amount to the same thing.
Here we are using the verb conocer which we have translated as ‘know’, but means this in the sense of ‘to be familiar with’. This is different from the verb saber which means to know facts.
We can be familiar with places, people and also tunes, films or books; all of which would require the verb conocer, whereas to know statistics, directions or any other kind of information requires the verb saber, as in that long-standing favourite, no sé (I don’t know).
Going back to the question above about Madrid, here are some possible responses. This example is more realistic for us as I know most of you have been to England many times.
¿Has estado en Madrid?
Sí, he estado en Madrid.
Yes, I’ve been to Madrid.
Sí, conozco Madrid.
Yes, I know Madrid.
He estado ahí muchas veces.
I’ve been there many times.
He estado ahí una vez.
I’ve been there once.
He estado ahí varias veces.
I’ve been there several times.
I love it.
(This is the diplomatic response when talking to people from Madrid!)
Hace mucho calor.
It’s very hot.
Hace mucho frío.
It’s very cold.
(Both statements are true, depending on the time of year.)
He estado en la autovía pero no he visitado la ciudad.
I’ve been on the motorway, but I haven’t visited the city.
He estado en el aeropuerto pero no conozco la ciudad.
I’ve been in the airport, but I don’t know the city.
No, no he estado en Madrid.
No I haven’t been to Madrid.
No he estado nunca en Madrid.
I have never been to Madrid.
No conozco Madrid.
I don’t know Madrid.
(Now for that essential phrase aimed at improving diplomatic and
¡Pero me encantaría visitar Madrid algún día!
But I would love to visit Madrid some day!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.