We are still on our first category of ‘e to ie’ Root Changing Verbs. So far we have looked at an example of an ‘–ar’ verb, namely cerrar which means ‘to close’. Exactly the same root change occurs with certain ‘-er’ and ‘-ir’ verbs as well, so we will now look at a couple of examples of these.
Let’s take ‘querer’ which means ‘to love’ or ‘to want’. The infinitive form ‘querer’ may not look terribly familiar, but if you have learnt any Spanish at all, you will certainly recognize one of the forms. Remember that we are now using the standard ‘-er’ endings which do not vary.
You can see that our root ‘quer’ changes to ‘quier’ in the usual places (1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular and 3rd person plural). The beat goes on these root changes when we speak, like this: quiEro, quiEres, quiEre, quiEren. In the 1st and 2nd persons plural, the root returns to ‘quer’ and the beat goes on the endings, like this: querEmos, querÉis.
Of course the word that we all know is ‘quiero’ meaning ‘I want’, which just goes to illustrate the best way of learning root-changing verbs, which is by using them. When my beginners Spanish students learn ‘quiero’ I simply tell them that it means ‘I want’ and can be used in this, that and the other situation. If I were to say to them “Now we will learn ‘quiero’ which is the first person singular of a root-changing –‘er verb’”, I probably wouldn’t see them for dust and they would be none the wiser.
Now here is an example of an ‘-ir’ verb which makes the same root change of ‘e to ie’ and which also contains a familiar word. The verb is ‘sentir’ and it means ‘to feel’. Since it is an ‘-ir’ verb, we now have to remember to make the distinctive ‘–ir’ ending changes, which are the same for all ‘-ir’ verbs. This gives us:
which mean: I feel, you feel, he or she feels and so on, as usual.
The word ‘siento’ ought to look familiar, from our phrase ‘lo siento’, which means ‘I’m sorry’, but you may not realize that the literal translation of this is ‘I feel it’. If you’ve been taught good spoken Spanish you will also know that we use this expression to make a genuine apology and not just when we’ve stood in someone’s way for two seconds in the supermarket. People who keep saying ‘lo siento’ every time they would say ‘sorry’ in English sound a little strange in Spanish. If you tell yourself that it really means ‘I do apologize’ then you will realize that the Spanish must be tempted to ask “Why, what have you done?” The correct word, if any, for these minor apologies is of course ‘perdón’.
Here is a question for you to think about for next month:
If ‘lo siento’ means ‘I’m sorry’, how do we say ‘We’re sorry’ in Spanish?
Don’t spend too long worrying about it, but the answer is completely logical – of course! See you next month.
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.