Expressing Feelings in Spanish
Up to this point all of the sentences that we have studied simply communicated facts. However, people use language for other things than just stating facts about reality.
- The boys are studying.
- The teacher knows that the boys are studying.
The first sentence describes the fact that the pupils are studying. In the second sentence, we are told the fact that the teacher knows that the students are doing it. In other words, in the second sentence, we have a fact about a fact. Everything is real. We are getting information about what is actually happening.
Now let's take a look at another sentence.
- The teacher hopes that the boys are studying.
In this sentence, we really don't know if the boys are studying or not. There is no information about their activity. What we do learn in this sentence is HOW THE TEACHER FEELS about their studying.
- The teacher fears that the boys are wasting time.
The teacher has a negative feeling in this case. That means that the teacher is NOT in favor of the boys doing what the sentence says. We don't really know if they are wasting time or not, but we DO know that the teacher is against them doing it. This is the important idea that we must learn to recognize. When the sentence tells us clearly how one person feels about what another person does, we have an example of what some books call "influence".
By "influence" we mean that what someone does influences the way that someone else feels, OR that the way that someone feels influences in some way, what someone else does. In the first example, the teachers feelings are putting some pressure on the boys to study. They may not respond and do the work, but there is some kind of pressure there. In the last sentence, the possibility that the boys are wasting time influences the way that the teacher feels. The teacher is concerned and worried about the possibility of the boys wasting time. Now, if you can identify this kind of feeling in sentences, you have the basis for the kind of sentences that we are going to work with.
- I believe that the house is burning.
Does that sentence tell you clearly how the person feels about the event, which in this case is the burning of the house? Is the person happy that the house is burning, or is the person upset? The answer is, we really don't know. The word "believe" doesn't tell us about the person's feelings. It just tells us that he is convinced in his own mind that the information is a fact. It does NOT tell us that his emotional reaction is positive or negative.
Now, let's look at the way that Spanish deals with sentences that express feelings. First we have to remember that the verb in Spanish is divided into three parts. The first part tells us what action is taking place. The second part tells us if this is an "A" category verb or an "E" category verb. The third part of the verb is the part that matches the subject. If "we" do something, it will be "mos". If "they" do something, it will be "n". And so on. Let's look at the following sentences.
- Los chicos estudian.
- La profesora sabe que los chicos estudian.
We know that the verb "study" in Spanish is an "A" category verb, so we have an "a" in the middle. We know that "n" matches "they", so we have an "n" on the end of the verb. Now let's add another sentence to the list. The verb "hope" in Spanish is "espera". The first part of the verb is "esper" and it is an "A" category verb. To say "he" or "she" does something, we have a blank space at the end after the "a".
- Los chicos estudian.
- La profesora sabe que los chicos estudian.
- La profesora espera que los chicos estudien.
Notice that when the verb "hope" is used in the first part of the sentence, the "a" of the very "study" changes to "e". When the main verb in the sentence expresses a feeling about what is happening, the middle part of the verb, in this case the letter "a", will change to the opposite vowel. The "A" verbs change to "e", and the "E" verbs change to "a". Now, this does not mean that it is a different category verb. We just use the opposite vowel to indicate that this is a feeling sentence, not a fact sentence. "Study" is truly an "A" verb, but it uses "e" when feeling is expressed in the sentence. One form that will never change is the "infinitive". That is the form which ends in the letter "r" and means "to do something". In this case it would be "estudiAR". We NEVER will have "estudiER". The middle vowel CANNOT change to the opposite vowel! Let's take a look at some charts which we can use to show what is happening.
"A" verb FACT "A" verb FEELING "E" verb FACT "E" verb FEELING A E E A
You can see from this chart that when feeling is expressed by the main verb in the sentence, then in the part of the sentence that begins with the word "que" which means "that", the middle vowels of the verb switch. The "a" changes to "e", and the "e" changes to "a".
Let's take a look at how this would work if we have an "E" category verb in the sentence. The word "learn" in Spanish is "aprende". The first part of the verb is "aprend" and it is an "E" category verb. For the examples that we are going to use you will also need to know that "word" in Spanish is "palabra". Now let's see the following sentences, first in English, and then in Spanish.
- We are learning the words.
- The teacher knows that we are learning the words.
- The teacher hopes that we are learning the words.
In the first sentence we just have a fact. In the second sentence we are dealing with facts also.
In the third sentence we are actually told that the teacher feels positively about the action that we are doing. This is truly an "influence" sentence, and when we translate this sentence into Spanish, we are going to have to make the change in the verb "learn" as we did in the other example that we studied. Let's see how these three sentences will look in Spanish.
- Nosotros aprendemos las palabras.
- La profesora sabe que nosotros aprendemos las palabras.
- La profesora espera que nosotros aprendamos las palabras.
Notice that in the second sentence, the middle "e" of "aprendemos" didn't change. However, in the third sentence, when we use the verb "hope", which shows how the teacher feels, we have to change the "e" to "a", just like we saw on the chart.
Let's take a look at another problem which we have to face when we use "influence" sentences in Spanish. Once again, we have the verb "hope" as an example of a word which expresses the feelings of someone about what someone else is doing.
- The teacher hopes that we study.
Now let's take a look at another verb in English which shows feelings. Let's use the verb "want" and substitute it in the same sentence.
- The teacher wants that we study.
This may sound odd in English. The reason is that English has two patterns for "influence" sentences. One pattern uses the word "that" and the other one uses the infinitive, which in English means the verb with the word "to". For this to sound right in English we would have to say,
"The teacher wants us to study."
The problem is that in Spanish there is only one pattern used for "influence" sentences. In English there are two, and we seem to automatically know which pattern to follow. In English there are actually two groups of verbs that express "influence". One group uses the "that" pattern just like the verb "hope". The other group uses the "to" pattern, like "want". For example, if I said the verb "pray", which pattern would I use.
- I pray that John learns the words.
- I pray John to learn the words.
I'm sure that you agree that the first sentences sounds right in English, while the second one sounds odd. Let's look at another example. Which pattern would we follow if we use the verb "beg"?
- I beg that John learns the words.
- I beg John to learn the words.
Doesn't the second sentence sound more normal to you? If you want to translate, "I want John to learn the words," you must first change it to the other pattern that we use in Spanish. Just follow the example of "hope".
- I hope that John learns the words.---->I want that John learns the words.
The proper translation of this sentences would then be:
- Yo quiero que Juan aprenda las palabras.
Now, does this mean that we are never going to use an infinitive in a sentence in which feelings are expressed about doing something? The answer is no! We do use the infinitive in Spanish, but the way we do it is more restricted than the way that we do it in English. Remember, an "influence" sentence is one in which someone expresses how he feels about what SOMEONE ELSE is doing. What if we say that someone wants to do something HIMSELF? That is the situation in which we are going to use the infinitive. We do the same thing in English, actually. If I want to say, "John wants to learn the words", we are not talking about someone else. In Spanish we would say it this way.
- Juan quiere aprender las palabras.
Notice, John (person X) is really wanting John (person X) to learn the words. He is the same person in both parts of the sentence. We only have an "influence" sentence and use the word "that" when we have John (person X) wanting someone else (person Y) to do something.