Tell Better Stories in Spanish: The Upcoming Future

April 28, 2017
<p>Welcome to the final part in our 3-part series on <a href="">Telling Better Stories In Spanish</a>. Today we tackle the upcoming, but here are links to the other two for your clicking pleasure:</p><ul><li><a href=""><strong>The past</strong></a></li><li><a href=""><strong>The recent</strong></a></li><li><a href="#upcoming_stories"><strong>The upcoming</strong></a></li></ul><h2>The upcoming <a name="upcoming_stories"></a></h2><p>In English, we typically tell stories about the future in two ways:</p><ul><li>Using the future: I<strong>'ll text</strong> you the name of the restaurant in a bit.</li><li>Using the present continuous (with or without <em>going to</em>): I<strong>'m picking you up</strong> (or I<strong>'m going to pick you up</strong>) in five minutes, so hurry up.</li></ul><p>In Spanish, instead of the future we tend to use the <strong>present</strong> (with or without <span class="sp"><strong>ir a</strong></span>):</p><ul><li><span class="sp">Te <strong>mando</strong> un mensaje con el nombre del restaurante dentro de un rato.</span></li><li><span class="sp">Te <strong>voy a recoger</strong> en cinco minutos, así que date prisa.</span></li></ul><p>The future tense in Spanish is rarely used to talk about the future. Instead, it's relegated to <strong>making predictions</strong> and <strong>expressing doubt</strong> about upcoming events:</p><div class="translation"><p><span class="sp">Elon Musk está convencido de que <strong>colonizaremos</strong> Marte antes del año 2025.</span><br><span class="en">Elon Musk is convinced that we will colonize (prediction) Mars before 2025.</span></p></div><div class="translation"><p><span class="sp">Tengo curiosidad por saber qué <strong>harás</strong> de comer cuando yo no esté.</span><br><span class="en">I'm curious to know what you will cook (doubt) when I'm not here.</span></p></div><p>Let's see how these play out in a real example (<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="present"></span> <span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="future"></span>):</p><div class="translation"><p><span class="sp">Mañana por fin <span class="present">voy<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="1"></span></span> a Veracruz. Mi vuelo <span class="present">llega<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="2"></span></span> por la noche, pero por suerte mi amigo Lucas <span class="present">viene a recogerme<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="3"></span></span> al aeropuerto. Me <span class="present-perfect">ha dicho<span class="index index--annotation-manual present-perfect" manual="4"></span></span> que me <span class="present">va a llevar<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="5"></span></span> a un taller de <a href="">son jarocho</a> en la Isla Tacamichapan y que <span class="present">vamos a aprender<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="6"></span></span> a tocar <a href="">jarana</a>. Con un poco de suerte <span class="future">iremos<span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="7"></span></span> también a Tabasco, aunque no <span class="present">sé<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="8"></span></span> si nos <span class="future">dará<span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="9"></span></span> tiempo. Ya <span class="future">veremos<span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="10"></span></span>. De todas formas, seguro que <span class="present">me lo voy a pasar<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="11"></span></span> de miedo. El domingo te <span class="present">llamo<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="12"></span></span> y te <span class="present">cuento<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="13"></span></span> qué tal todo.</span><br><span class="en">Tomorrow I'm finally going to Veracruz. My flight lands at night, but luckily my friend Lucas is coming to pick me up at the airport. He told me that he's going to take me to a son jarocho workshop in Tacamichapan Island and that we're going to learn to play jarana. With a bit of luck, we'll also go to Tabasco, although I'm not sure if we'll have time. We'll see. Anyway, (I'm) sure I'm going to have a blast. I'll call you on Sunday and I'll tell you how everything went.</span></p></div><p>Some things to pay attention to:</p><ul><li><span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="1"></span>-<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="3"></span>, <span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="12"></span>, <span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="13"></span> I know it might be tempting to say (<span class="sp">mañana <span class="future">iré</span></span>, <span class="sp">mi vuelo <span class="future">llegará</span></span>, <span class="sp">mi amigo <span class="future">vendrá</span></span>), but using the future would give these sentences an unwarranted fortune-cookie feel (<em>you will live a long and happy life</em>). When the likelihood that an event will happen is not up for grabs, use the <strong>present</strong>: <span class="sp">mañana <span class="present">voy</span></span>, <span class="sp">mi vuelo <span class="present">llega</span></span>, <span class="sp">mi amigo <span class="present">viene</span></span>.</p></li><li><p><span class="index index--annotation-manual present-perfect" manual="4"></span> What's this present perfect doing here? As we talked about <a href="">last week</a>, we use the present perfect when the past event feels <strong>recent</strong> or <strong>relevant</strong>. The present perfect and the simple present work pretty well together when they appear in the same sentence, since both tenses point towards the present. If you don't need to make a connection with the present, you can replace the present perfect with the <span class="index index--annotation-manual preterite" manual="preterite"></span> and the present with the <span class="index index--annotation-manual imperfect" manual="imperfect"></span>. However, this gives the sentence a tragically sad feel:</p></li></ul><div class="translation"><p><span class="sp">Me <span class="preterite">dijo</span> que me <span class="imperfect">iba a llevar</span> a un taller de son jarocho y que <span class="imperfect">íbamos a aprender</span> a tocar jarana. 🙁</span><span class="en">He told me he was going to take me to a son jarocho workshop and that we were going to learn to play jarana.</span></div><ul><li><span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="3"></span>, <span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="5"></span>, <span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="6"></span>, <span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="11"></span> Don't forget the "a" between the verbs of movement (<span class="sp">ir, venir, volver</span>) and the infinitive (<span class="sp">viene <strong>a</strong> recogerme, va <strong>a</strong> llevar, vamos <strong>a</strong> aprender, voy <strong>a</strong> pasar</span>).</p></li><li><p><span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="7"></span>, <span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="9"></span>, <span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="10"></span> You should totally use the <strong>future</strong> when you want to shroud the upcoming event in <strong>doubt</strong> or <strong>uncertainty</strong> (especially when making a prediction).</p></li></ul><p>At first, it might feel a bit weird to <strong>use the present to talk about the future</strong>, but that's the way Spanish works. Just remember that <span class="sp">«<span class="future">Iré</span> a verte mañana y <span class="future">nos tomaremos</span> un café»</span> sounds as weird to Spanish speakers as "I call you tomorrow and we have a coffee" sounds to you.<h3>What to watch out for: Relative time references</h3><p>I didn't want to finish this series without briefly talking about the poorly misunderstood but absolutely essential <strong>subjunctive</strong>. It comes in handy anytime we want to talk about <strong>relative time</strong>; that is, time in relation to something else. For example (<span class="present"><span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="present"></span></span> <span class="present-subjunctive"><span class="index index--annotation-manual present-subjunctive" manual="present subjunctive"></span></span>):</p><div class="translation"><p><span class="sp">Te <span class="present">llamo</span> cuando <span class="present-subjunctive">llegue</span> Clara.</span><br><span class="en">I'll call you when Clara gets here.</span></p></div><p>Your brain might trick you into wanting to say <span class="sp mistake">Te <strong>llamaré</strong> cuando <strong>llega</strong> Clara</span>, but just remember that:</p><ol><li>There is <strong>no uncertainty or doubt</strong> about the fact that the call is happening, which makes the <strong>present</strong> a better choice than the future.</li><li>The time of the call is <strong>relative</strong> (it depends on Clara, not on the clock hands), which makes the <strong>subjunctive</strong> a better choice than the indicative.</li></ol><p>This relative business is not only restricted to time—it also works when talking about a <strong>person</strong>, a <strong>place</strong>, a <strong>thing</strong> or a <strong>way of doing something</strong>:</p><div class="translation"><p><span class="sp">Mañana <span class="present">puedes<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="(upcoming plan)"></span></span> traerte a <span class="present-subjunctive">quien quieras<span class="index index--annotation-manual present-subjunctive" manual="(person)"></span></span> a la fiesta.</span><br><span class="en">Tomorrow you can bring whomever you want to the party.</span></p><p><span class="sp"><span class="future">Aparcaré<span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="(doubtful plan)"></span></span> el coche <span class="present-subjunctive">donde <strong>pueda</strong><span class="index index--annotation-manual present-subjunctive" manual="(place)"></span></span>.</span><br><span class="en">I'll park the car wherever I can.</span></p><p><span class="sp"><span class="present">Voy a darle<span class="index index--annotation-manual present" manual="(upcoming plan)"></span></span> a «me gusta» a <span class="present-subjunctive">todas las fotos que Laura <strong>ponga</strong> en su Instagram<span class="index index--annotation-manual present-subjunctive" manual="(place)"></span></span>.</span><br><span class="en">I'm going to [click "like" on] every picture that Laura puts on her Instagram.</span></p><p><span class="sp"><span class="future">Haré<span class="index index--annotation-manual future" manual="(promise)"></span></span> <span class="present-subjunctive">lo que <strong>pueda</strong><span class="index index--annotation-manual present-subjunctive" manual="(way of doing something)"></span></span> para sacar a tu hermano de la cárcel.</span><br><span class="en">I'll do what I can to get your brother out of jail.</span></p></div><p>If you want to get better at noticing relative references, try to turn them into absolutes by getting rid of the verb: <span class="sp">puedes traerte a <strong>Marcos</strong></span>, <span class="sp">aparcaré el coche <strong>ahí</strong></span>, <span class="sp">voy a darle a «me gusta» <strong>a las fotos</strong></span>, <span class="sp">haré <strong>algo</strong> para sacarle de la cárcel</span>.</p><hr /><p>Okay, you've loaded a lot of information into your temporary working memory, now is your chance to turn it into long-term neural synapses:</p><blockquote class="workout"><strong>Spanish Workout 3</strong>: Write your own one hundred-word story about an upcoming event.</p></blockquote><p>It can be any upcoming event that you want: an expedition to explore your nearby volcano, the birthday party of your favorite Tibetan monk, or your long-awaited rite of passage into adulthood. Be sure to sprinkle in some doubts, promises and relative references just for fun.<p>As always, I'm more than happy to read your story (if you spellcheck it in Microsoft Word or Google Docs first). If you <a href="">email it to me</a> or if you post it in the comments below, I'll email you back with some general comments. For more thorough corrections, check out <a href="">HiNative</a>. It's a great resource.</p>