Can someone change the topic of the thread to "Spanish past participle
mjfleck2000 wrote:Hello fellow Spanish language learners....
I am having difficulty, at times, selecting the correct verb in the compound construction of ser + past participle and estar + past participle. The basic gramatical guide is that ser + pp indicates that an action was completed and estar + pp indicates the result of an action that was completed…. okey-dokey. That is not entirely clear.
I was reading a news article that said “ el hombre fue detenido”. Hmmm… I thought, why isn’t that “el hombre está detenido”. Let’s see… fue detenido is a passive construction regarding an occurrence in the past… okay, that makes sense… but , but, but… why not “ el hombre estuvo detenido”. Certainly they are not saying that the state of being detained is a inherent characteristic of the man. But, then again, my new sentence is not a passive construction.
Why not "estuvo detenido"? Because the construction of estar
in the preterite (estuve
) + participle* is used for the state
of a result** along with its duration of time, for things typically done temporarily. El hombre estuvo detenido por tres días
'The man was detained for three days (but is most likely free now)'. In contrast, what the author of the news article intended was to express an element of change, the man going from being free to being detained, in which case the preterite passive is called for: el hombre fue detenido.
*In the terminology I prefer, "gerund" is the word for the -ando/-iendo form, so the -ado/-ido "past participle" is just "the participle".
**I strongly disagree with aledda that there's any element of change involved. To me, estuve + participle expresses a state of affairs.
I remember using the sentence “ la ventana está abierta” when I was in Panamá. I went to google translate and typed in “The window is open” -> “La ventana está abierta”. Okay.
I then typed in “The window is opened by John” -> La ventana está abierta por Juan”… yep, me gusta.
*La ventana está abierta por Juan is plain wrong Spanish though: it actually means "the window is open for
John", not "by John". Don't trust Google Translate...
This is not to say that you can't use an agent introduced by por
por in the estar
+ participle construction, as seen below in my next reply. Take it as part of the behaviour of the verb abrir
. A correct, fairly literal translation of "the window is opened by John" would be La ventana es abierta por Juan
, but honestly, this is the kind of strange sentence that syntacticians love but that native speakers are unlikely to say. I think it'd be more idiomatic, certainly in spoken language, to go for La ventana la abre Juan
or just Juan abre la ventana.
Now, if I change the verb to the past tense, I get a different construction. “The window WAS opened by John” -> “La ventana FUE abierta por Juan”.
As you can see, I am confused by the differences between the two constructions of ser + pp versus estar + pp. I have studied these constructions but I would appreciate some help here. I especially would like the point of view of other native English speakers who know the challenge I am having and have figured out some explanation that guides me to select the correct usage.
I suspect that contrasting these constructions in both the present and the preterite could be of benefit for you. For the passives I'm also giving you a more informal rephrasing of the same sentences typical of spoken language. (Remember that native Spanish speakers don't use the "ser
+ participle" passive as often as English speakers use "be
+ past participle".)
- El hombre es detenido (por la policía). 'The man is detained/arrested (by the police).' <- Change of state present (present passive): the man goes from being free to being detained. Also, more informally: al hombre lo detiene la policía ~ la policía detiene al hombre. ~ al hombre lo detienen*.
- El hombre está detenido (por la policía). 'The man is (currently) detained (by the police).' <- State of the result of an action (the police's detainment/arrest of the man): the man is in the state of being detained after the police arrested him.
- El hombre ha sido detenido (por la policía). 'The man has been arrested (by the police).' <- Change of state present (present perfect passive): the man was arrested and is still detained by the police. The emphasis is on the change of state from freedom to detainment. Also, more informally: al hombre lo tiene detenido la policía ~ la policía tiene detenido al hombre ~ al hombre lo tienen detenido*.
- El hombre ha estado detenido (por la policía) por tres días. ~ El hombre lleva tres días detenido. 'The man has been detained for three days.' <- State of the result of an action for the mentioned period of time up to the present. The emphasis is on the length of time that continued onto the present.
- El hombre fue detenido (por la policía). 'The man was detained/arrested (by the police).' <- change of state present: the man went from being free to being detained. Also, more informally: al hombre lo detuvo la policía ~ la policía detuvo al hombre ~ al hombre lo detuvieron*.
- El hombre estuvo detenido (por la policía) por tres días. 'The man was detained (by the police) for three days.' <- state of the result of an action: the man was in the state of being detained for three days after being arrested.
*In case you're unfamiliar with the construction (I realize that it's not often taught to students because it's quite informal), in spoken Spanish it's common to use the third person plural as a semantic passive: ayer trajeron las mochilas azules
'the blue backpacks were brought yesterday', a mi hijo lo mataron con pistola
'my son was killed with a gun'.
s_allard wrote:Let's take for example the following sentence:
1. In 2010 we were married.
This is somewhat ambiguous. Depending on the context, this sentence could mean two things:
2. We got married in 2010.
3. At the time of certain events in 2010, we were a married couple.
In Spanish, things are much more complicated. If you google ser/estar casado, you'll find a plethora of articles pointing out that the two verbs are basically interchangeable but that Spain tends to use ser whereas Latin America favours estar.
But referring to our specific example (1) above, how would you translate the two meanings (2) and (3). It's a bit tricky. You could say:
4. Fuimos casados en 2010.
5. En 2010, estábamos casados.
Note that not only are we using ser in example 4 but also the pretérito tense form to indicate past action whereas in 5 we are using the imperfecto of estar.
All of this to say that despite certain certain common principles, there are major differences between Spanish and English in this regard.
And on top of that, your sentence #4 is not something that native speakers would typically use, certainly as far as spoken language goes! They, well, we
would prefer to simply say nos casamos en 2010
(where casamos is in the preterite), or if you're mentioning the agent, el padre Toño nos casó en 2010.