One verb at a time

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Essential Spanish -

En­ten­der The best verb to use when talk­ing about our un­der­stand­ing (or lack of it) in Span­ish is “en­ten­der”. This goes against what a lot of English speak­ers like to think, as they find the verb “com­pren­der” eas­ier to re­mem­ber. This is ob­vi­ously be­cause “com­pren­der” is sim­i­lar to the English word “com­pre­hend” but in fact, when we’re talk­ing about un­der­stand­ing the spo­ken or writ­ten word, rather than a sit­u­a­tion, “en­ten­der” is used more com­monly.

“En­ten­der” is a rootchang­ing verb, which means that in the present tense, and by ex­ten­sion the present sub­junc­tive, the sec­ond “e” changes to “ie” in four of its six forms. There­fore “I un­der­stand” is “en­tiendo” (and “I dont´ un­der­stand” is “no en­tiendo”). In all other tenses and forms “en­ten­der” is a com­pletely reg­u­lar, stan­dard verb.

Go­ing back to the gen­eral ten­dency to use the phrase “no com­prendo” or even “no com­prende” for “I dont´ un­der­stand”, I have a cau­tion­ary tale for you. It is quite likely that a Span­ish per­son who is ex­plain­ing a sit­u­a­tion to you – why your car hasnt´ been fixed be­cause the parts are still on or­der but yes­ter­day was a bank hol­i­day in Madrid, for ex­am­ple – that the ex­pla­na­tion is com­pleted with a ques­tion­ing “¿Com­prende?” This means “(Do) you un­der­stand?” (and not “I un­der­stand). I think this is what some peo­ple pounce on as a word they can use in all sit­u­a­tions. A while ago I was told the story of some wellmean­ing ex­pat whose car was stopped by the Guardia Civil. In re­sponse to what­ever the po­lice­man said to the driver, he replied with “No com­prende”, which he thought meant “I dont´ un­der­stand” but in ac­tu­ally fact meant “You dont´ un­der­stand, or com­pre­hend”. Ap­par­ently the Guardia re­acted rather badly, which I think you’ll agree is a sit­u­a­tion to be avoided.

A use­ful phrase that means “as far as I un­der­stand it” is “a mi en­ten­der” (lit­er­ally - to my un­der­stand­ing). How­ever, when we try to reach a mu­tual

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