/, Student's doubts about Spanish/FAQ: letter ‘eñe’, future subjunctive and negative imperative

FAQ: letter ‘eñe’, future subjunctive and negative imperative

Frequently asked questions about SpanishA Spanish proverb says “la curiosidad mató al gato”; nevertheless, what would have happened to humankind without curiosity? We might not have discovered the fire, the wheel, the uses of steam or even, Internet.

The fact is that our students at Spanishviaskype.com, often ask questions, based on their curiosity, mostly. These questions give us a perfect excuse to discuss other contents that enrich our student’s learning.

Today, we will start a new series of articles entitled “FAQ” (frequently asked questions), with real questions from our students.

1. Why is Spanish the only language that uses the letter “eñe”?

The letter “eñe” (ñ), is maybe the most popular symbol in the Spanish language. However, it’s not the only language that uses it. Galician, Asturian and some Native American languages have this letter in their alphabet, of course, influenced by the Spanish one.

The origin of the symbol starts in vulgar Latin. The phoneme /ɲ/ didn’t exist in classical Latin, but it appeared in the Romance languages. In the North of Spain, the scriveners adopted three different spellings for the same sound: “ni + vowel” (Hispania), “gn” (agnus, lamb) and “nn” (anno, year). The three of them lived together until the monks started using a symbol above the “n” to shorten the double letter. From that moment, the letter “ñ” replaced all the other ways to represent the new sound.

2. Why are there equivalent tenses in subjunctive for the present and past, but not for the future?

This is not actually true. During our lessons, our students can learn the present subjunctive and some past tenses in this mode, but they might realize that there is a lack of future subjunctive. This tense do exist in the Spanish verbal system. The problem is that it’s in disuse nowadays.

It used to express a hypothetical action in the future (si alguien cometiere un delito…). In modern Spanish, it can be replaced by other tenses, like the present indicative (si alguien comete un delito), or the imperfect subjunctive (si alguien cometiera un delito).

In consequence, we don’t teach this tense until our students reach the C1 or C2 levels and just in case they would need to read legal texts or classic literature.

3. Why do you have different forms for the affirmative and negative imperative?

Strictly, there aren’t negative forms in the imperative tense in Spanish. In other words, the language only consider the option of giving an order in affirmative and, what is more, just for the second person (and vosotros). All the other options the speaker may need are satisfied with the present subjunctive forms.

Vaya (usted) a la oficina de turismo.
No comas (tú) tanto.
Hablemos (nosotros) con nuestro profesor.

We hope we have shed light on these questions and, of course, we expect that you can share your own doubts on the comments section. Meanwhile, why don’t you try a free trial lesson here. On our classes you can ask whatever you want about the Spanish language; we love your curiosity.

By | 2018-11-06T14:39:39+00:00 noviembre 7th, 2018|Spanish language, Student's doubts about Spanish|Sin comentarios

About the Author:

I was born in Badajoz (Extremadura) and I currently live in Bilbao (Basque Country). I studied a Bachelor degree in Spanish Language and Literature and an International House degree as a qualified teacher of Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language. I think languages are the key that opens the doors to new cultures and I love teaching mine.

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