May 3, 2010 | Spanish

On Verb Tenses and Pizza Joints

I discuss epic poetry and proper Spanish at an Upper West Side pizza place.

Today was a very productive Monday. I got up and got right to studying. In the past couple of days I have finished two grammar books and begun a new one focusing on subjunctive.

A Book Dedicated to Subjunctive!

I find subjunctive enjoyable. The right forms are starting to come into my brain at the right times a bit more fluently than before. 

Brandt and I spent most of the day and evening at the office. There was—besides studying—shredding. There was organizing. There was e-mailing. There was the setting up of our new Mac, in what will probably turn out to be our first major step towards a PC-free life. (Full disclosure: I was not in the slightest bit helpful with the Mac setup; that was all Brandt.)

In the early evening we took a break and went for a walk in Central Park. On our way we stopped by one of our favorite pizza places, Freddie & Pepper’s, whose owner is Chilean. They sell empanadas as well as pizza.

These days I am not actually eating pizza—I am a pizza observer only—but Brandt ordered two slices. While we were waiting for the pizza to come out of the oven, I talked to one of the employees about my Spanish studies. In Spanish, I mean.

I told him I was studying daily. He said it was a hard language, and I said it was better than English. He demurred, pointing out how many more verb forms there are and then beginning to list them: preterite, imperfect, etc.

Inside Freddie & Pepper's

I was impressed by his grammar knowledge. How many natively English-speaking Americans can speak fluently nowadays about English verb tenses? If you believe a lot, you probably work at a literary journal.

He also complained that no one speaks proper Spanish (which he refers to as castellano rather than español). He told me that to improve my skills I should read two things: Don Quixote and the Spanish epic poem El Cantar de Mio Cid.

Now that is a lot of pressure.

I laughed and said I would try to improve.

The guys there are consistently nice and friendly. I think they make excellent pizza, too.

The park was beautiful tonight. Brandt and I walked around the Ramble, which was a perfect temperature and had a feeling of post-rain cleanness. Birds, and greenery, and light through the leaves. We made our way back home along 72nd Street.

Bow Bridge, Splendid Tonight

Our First Black-Crowned Night Heron of the Season

Brandt with Binoculars

Me in the Ramble

This Has Been Hanging Over 72nd Street for Years...

Does This Remind You of the Movie Coma?

I am so happy it is not freezing cold anymore. I’m looking forward to long Pimsleur walks in the park next month, with Greek and fireflies.

Comments (2)

katherine • Posted on Tue, May 18, 2010 - 1:08 pm EST

I have always wanted to know how many verb tenses there are in English and have never been able to figure out.  I have asked many people and no one seems to know!  I can list off this information in several different languages, except for my native tongue!  Would love to find a book that gave this info.  I wonder if I will have to buy an English as a second language book??

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, May 27, 2010 - 1:07 pm EST

I’ve seen different treatments of “tense” from book to book, which can have a dramatic impact on tense count. I haven’t thought much about tense numbers in English; however, off the top of my head I would probably count future, present, and simple past, as well as the attendant perfect constructions, but would disregard conditional and progressive structures in my total.

Disclaimer: I am not making any permanent commitment to this response. :)

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