Grammar: Time

Spanish Grammar: Time

Broad Understanding

  • Understanding Spanish grammar related to time involves both knowing the vocabulary and comprehending grammatical structures for expressing past, present and future.

Frequently Used Expressions

  • Commonly used time expressions: ‘ayer’ (yesterday), ‘hoy’ (today), ‘mañana’ (tomorrow), ‘ahora’ (now), ‘luego’ (later), ‘antes’ (before), ‘después’ (after), ‘siempre’ (always), ‘nunca’ (never), ‘a veces’ (sometimes). These can be used with various tenses to express nuanced time-related thoughts.

Past Tense

  • Past tense is divided into two - ‘pretérito indefinido’ and ‘pretérito imperfecto’. ‘Pretérito indefinido’ is used for completed actions in the past and ‘pretérito imperfecto’ for continuous or habitual actions without a set endpoint. Example: ‘Comí pizza’ (I ate pizza - completed action), ‘Comía pizza’ (I was eating pizza - ongoing action)

Present Tense

  • Present tense in Spanish or ‘presente indicativo’ mostly corresponds to the English simple present and the present continuous. Example: ‘Yo estudio español’ (I study Spanish or I am studying Spanish)

Future Tense

  • The future tense or ‘futuro simple’ is used to talk about things that will happen or will be true. In addition to dedicated future tense, Spanish often uses the present tense or ‘ir + a + infinitive’ format to express future plans or intentions. Example: ‘Voy a estudiar español’ (I am going to study Spanish)

Reflexive Verbs

  • Reflexive verbs are often used with time-related expressions. They involve the subject doing an action to itself and have reflexive pronouns. Example: ‘Me despierto a las siete.’ (I wake up at seven.)

Telling the Time and Dates

  • Learning to tell the time, days of the week, months and seasons is also part of the Spanish time topic. Example: ‘Son las dos y media.’ (It’s half past two.)

Key Question Words

  • Question words: When? - ‘¿Cuándo?’, For how long? - ‘¿Por cuánto tiempo?’, At what time? - ‘¿A qué hora?’, Since when? - ‘¿Desde cuándo?’, Until when? - ‘¿Hasta cuándo?’

Tips for Success

  • Try to memorise verb endings associated with each tense with repetition and practice. Having these at your fingertips will make expressing time concepts quicker and more intuitive.