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Explaining Spanish Grammar Using the Love Chapter

I have been explaining Korean grammar using the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, and I have wanted to also explain Spanish grammar, but I have been extremely busy lately. However, I know that Spanish, next to English, is one of the most popular languages around. Lots of Americans had high school Spanish, and if an American has a second language, it is probably Spanish. When I was in college, in a Linguistics class I took, the professor showed us a list of the most widely spoken languages on the earth, and of course, English was right up at the top, and right under it was Spanish. I understand that many people are interested in Spanish, so I want to continue explaining Spanish grammar for you with the love chapter.

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Verse 1: Si yo hablase lenguas humanas y angelicas, y no tengo amor, vengo a ser como metal que resuena o cimbalo que retifie.

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Si yo hablase lenguas humanas y angelicas, – “If I spoke human and angelic languages.” “Si” here means “if.” Everyone knows that “si'” means “yes,” but without that accent mark, “si” becomes “if.” “Yo” is the first person singular pronoun, “I.” “Hablase” is a verb tense most of us didn’t study in school. It comes from “hablar,” “to speak.” “Hablase” is the imperfect subjunctive, first person singular form of “hablar.””imperfect subjunctive” is the form that needs to be used with “if” for past tense. If imperfect subjunctive form is used, it often refers to something in the past, but can also refer to unlikely events or possibilities. It is unlikely that we speak the languages of angels, and the verb shows that. “Humanas” and “angelicas” are both adjective forms of “humans” and “angels.” And, most anyone who has studied Spanish at all know that “y” means “and.”

y no tengo amor – “and I don’t have love.” Again, this clause begins with “y” (and). “Tengo” comes from “tener.” It is in first person present tense. Like in English, the present tense means “everyday” or “all the time.” “Tener” is an irregular verb, so not all the verbs are conjugated like this one, but all of first person present tense verbs end with an “o.” A “first person” verb means a verb that has “I” as the subject imbedded into it. With the “no” before it, it is negated, and in English, “no” means “don’t” in this case. “Amor” (love) is the direct object. If you answer the question “what?” you will know what the direct object is. The direct object received the direct action of the verb. “What do I not have?” The answer according to this clause is “amor” (love).

vengo a ser como metal – “I come to be like metal.” “Vengo” is the first person singular present tense of the verb “venir,” to come. I have explained what present tense entails and first person entails above. “A ser” means “to be.” Just “ser” alone can mean “to be,” but this “a” connects “ser” to the verb before it. There is more than one type of verb that can mean “to be” in Spanish, and they are both used in different places with different meanings. This “to be” verb, ser, identifies things. “Ser” talks about something that is permanent or describes a essential conditions of something. In essence, “vengo a ser” basically means “I become.” As a question word, “como” means “how,” but “como” is also used inside the sentence as “like” or “as.” In this case, it is used as “like.” “Como metal” would be called a simile because it is a comparison, a type of figurative language like is used in poetry. The way the person becomes is compared to “metal.”

que resuena – “that echoes.” This is a relative clause. “Que” can be used as the interrogative pronoun “what,” but here, it is used as the relative pronoun “that.” A relative clause is actually an adjective clause, and this relative or adjective clause tells about “metal.” A clause must have a subject and a verb, and the subject here is “it.” “It” is embedded into “resuena” because “resuena” is the third person singular form of “resonar” that means “to echo.” The pronouns that go with third person singular verbs are “he, she, and it” in English. In Spanish, there is no “it,” so “‘el’ (he) or “ella” (she) is used for “it.” In English, we don’t actually put this into a relative clause that is used as an adjective, but we make an adjective out of it and say “echoing metal,” or “resounding brass.”

o cimbalo que retifie – “or a cymbal that clangs.” “O” means “or” in Spanish. The two suggestions here are “metal” or “cimbalo.” “Cimbalo” means “cymbal.” “Que retifie” is another relative clause that is used as an adjective clause telling about “cimbalo.” Again, “que” is a relative pronoun, and in English, it is “that.” “Retifie” is a present tense, third person singular form of “retifir” which means “to make a metal noise,” so “it” or in Spanish “‘el” or “ella” is imbedded into “retifie.”

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If you put this all together, you have: ” If I spoke human and angelic languages, and don’t have love, I become like metal that echoes or a cymbal that clangs.”

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Verse 2: Y si’ tuviese profecia, y intendiese todos los misterios y toda ciencia, y si’ tuviese toda la fe, de tal manera que trasladase los montes. y no tengo amor, nada soy.

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Y si’ tuviese profecia – “And, if I had prophecy.” Again, “y” means “and,” and “si'” with that accent mark means “if.” “Tuviese” comes from “tener.” “Tuviese” is first person perfect subjunctive tense, a kind of past tense used when you use “if,” for hypothetical situations. “Profecia” means “prophecy.”

y intendiese todos los misterios y toda ciencia – “and understood all mysteries and all knowledge.” “Y,” again, means “and.” “Intendiese” comes from “intender” which means “to understand.” Many of us learned in high school to use “comprender” for “to understand.” However, this is actually a better verb to use. “Intendiese” is first person perfect subjunctive tense, which means it is in a past tense used for hypothetical situations and used with “if.” “misteros” means “mysteries.” Like English, “misteros” has an “s” at the end making it plural. It also has an “o” before that “s” which makes it masculine. This means that it needs “los” and not “las.” “Los” is plural, masculine “the.” The gender and number must match in Spanish. The noun tells you which gender and number you need in the articles like “los,” “las”, “el” and “la” which all mean “the” in English. “todos” means “all.” “Todos” is also connected to “misterios,” so it must be plural and masculine. “Todos” has the “o” to tell you it is masculine, and the “s” to tell you it is plural. After that, we have another “y” meaning “and.” Lastly here, we have “toda ciencia.” “Ciencia” looks like it means “Science,” but it means “knowledge.” “Ciencia” is singular and feminine. The “a” tells you it is feminine. “Ciencia” matches “toda.” “Toda” means “all” and is singular and feminine to match “ciencia.”

si’ tuviese toda la fe – “If I had all the faith.” Again, “si'” with that accent mark over it means “if.” And again, “tuviese” comes from “tener” which means “to have.” “Tuviese” is, again, in first person perfect subjunctive tense which means it is used with “if,” past tense, used in hypothetical situations, and has “I” imbedded into it. “Toda,” again, means “all” and is singular and feminine. “Toda” matches “la fe” which is also in singular feminine. “La” means “the,” and “fe” means “faith.”

de tal manera que trasladase los montes – “of such manner that I moved mountains.” “De,” as I have said in other blogs, means “from” or “of,” and in this case, it means “of.” “Tal” means “such.” “Manera” means “manner.” “Que trasladase los montes” is a relative clause that is used as an adjective clause describing the manner of or kind of faith, “fe.” “Que,” as I have said before, can be used as an interrogative pronoun, but in this case, it is a relative pronoun beginning the relative clause. “Trasladase” comes from “trasladar” which means “to transfer” or “to move.” “Trasladase” is in first person singular perfect subjunctive tense meaning that it is a past tense used with “if” for hypothetical situations. A “first person singular” verb means “I” is imbedded into it. “Los montes” meaning “the mountains” has both a plural, masculine “the” and a plural masculine noun, “montes” (mountains.)

y no tengo amor – “and I don’t have love.” “Y,” again, means “and.” “Tengo” comes from “tener” which means “to have.” “Tengo” is in present tense, first person singular, as I said above. “Tengo” means “I have.” “Amor” (love) is the direct object which means that it receives the direct action of the verb and answers “what?”. “What do I have?” “love.” However, this is a negative verb because “no” comes before “tengo.” “No tengo” means “I don’t have.”

nada soy – “I am nothing.” “Nada” means “nothing.” “Soy” comes from “ser.” “Ser” is the verb that means “to be” that only identifies things that don’t change or conditions about something that don’t change. “Soy” is the first person singular present tense form. That means that “I” is embedded into it and that it is talking about everyday or all the time. If you want to tell someone your name, use this verb to introduce yourself saying “Soy________,” putting your name in the blank. In Spanish, the word order is the opposite of English. In English, “I am” comes first, and then “nothing” comes second. However, in Spanish, here, they have put “nada’ (nothing) first and “soy” (I am) second. You could say “Soy nada” instead of “nada soy.” However, the translator put “nada” first because they considered the fact that you are “nothing” or “nada” is more important that the subject and verb.

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If we put this all together, it becomes:And if I had prophecy and understood all mysteries and knowledge, and had all the faith of such manner that I moved mountains, and I don’t have love, I am nothing.”

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Here we found some verb tenses that we don’t have in English. For many years, when I have studied my Bible, if there was a verse that was giving me trouble, I looked it up also in other languages I speak because there are different grammatical concepts, different translators, and different word choices. I don’t speak Greek, the original language of the New Testament nor Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, but I can check my understanding of scriptures with grammar. The nice part is that I understand grammar in several languages, and I can compare how the different languages have translated something. If I am checking in three different languages, and two of the translations agree, but one doesn’t, then I know if someone made a mistake, and I the meaning from the two that agree. In this case, you can see that several of the verbs here are hypothetical. In English, we don’t get that they are hypothetical. We all know that none of us can understand the languages of angels. We have never even heard any angelic language. They are only hypothetical which means we only guess they exist, but we don’t really know. It causes the imagery here to become stronger. The meaning is that it doesn’t matter what language you speak, even languages that we don’t know exist, and we don’t treat others with love, then we are just a bunch of noise. “Moving mountains” is also hypothetical because we know no one does that, but it is imagery again trying to describe how big of a faith the Apostle Paul is talking about. Not one of us can move a mountain with our faith, so it is faith that is bigger than we have. If we have a faith that is bigger than any person has, but we don’t treat others with love, then we are nothing. The Apostle Paul is really letting us know how important it is to treat others right, with love. Okay, there you have it, the grammar from the first two verses of the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. I will add to this as I have time until I finish the chapter.

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