Jun 17, 2009, 5:43 PM
Post #4 of 14
I'm currently studying Spanish using the Warren Hardy textbook/approach. He says that the verb querer changes meaning in the preterite. I'll just quote the text:
"QUERER: (to want) changes to: to try (affirmative) or to refuse (negative). Quise hacerlo = I tried to do it. No quise hacerlo = I refused to do it. Querer in the preterite refers not just to wanting, but wanting and attempting or refusing to attempt a specific act. Quise hacerlo is synonymous with traté de hacerlo."
I've never been comfortable with it. In my English-speaking head, there's a clear distinction between wanting something and trying to attain/achieve it. (e.g. "I wanted to go to Europe so I tried to save enough money but I failed.") I even asked a couple of native speakers about it, but that hasn't cleared it up for me either. I'm still unsure.
In your example "I wanted to go to Europe...." I would use the imperfect "Yo quería ir...." because it is the backdrop for the event of "tried to save the money". Evidently, the speaker still would like to go to Europe, so the "wanting" hasn't ended. The attempt to "save the money" has a defined beginning and end, so I would phrase it in the preterite.
Let's say my friend Diego asks me: "Why didn't your friends come to my house last night?" "¿Por qué no llegaron a mi casa tus amigos anoche?" I answer: "Because they wanted to go to the movies (instead)". "Porque quisieron ir al cine (en vez de la fiesta de Diego)." The use of "quisieron" here implies that they went to the movies (instead of going to Diego's party), that their wanting came to an end. If I answered "Porque querían ir al cine", Diego would probably ask, "And then what happened, why didn't they go?", because the "wanting" still hasn't ended.
So yes, in context it can mean "tried to", but in other contexts it can convey the meaning that I, you, they, us, wanted to do something, and it was carried out.
Hope I didn't muddy the waters further.
(This post was edited by willieboy on Jun 17, 2009, 5:46 PM)