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Better Call Saul #19

Context: Jimmy is visiting the Kettleman's house, looking for clues. He’s with Kim and two police officers. They’re all trying to make him feel as bad as possible about the missing girl, so he’ll tell them everything he knows about the family’s disappearance.

Jimmy: Alright, you wanted me to crack, mission accomplished.

Spanish Translation: Muy bien, querían que me quebrara, misión cumplida.

Our Issue: The Imperfect & Preterite

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THE LOGIC OF THE IMPERFECT & PRETERITE

We use the imperfect and preterite tenses together to tell stories about the past. They happen at the same time, but don’t have the same duration.

The imperfect tense gives us background information, HOW THINGS WERE.

The preterite tense tells us the focus of the story, WHAT HAPPENED.

It’s important to remember that each tense represents the action of a verb. It’s an “imperfect action” and a “preterite action”. Each with their own duration.

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This is an interesting example, it does tell us HOW THINGS WERE and WHAT HAPPENED in the sentence--so we don’t have to look for any further context. But...

To tell us what happened, they didn’t use the preterite tense. In both languages, they used the past participle. Which in this sentence, serves the same purpose: “mission accomplished” and “misión accomplished”.

Jimmy didn’t HAVE to use the past participle. He could’ve used the simple past or preterite tense instead. It was his choice. Then the subtitlers simply emulated him.

mission accomplished
= you accomplished your mission

misión cumplida
= [ustedes] cumplieron su misión

And in this context, when Jimmy said “mission accomplished” -- that really meant, “I cracked” (because that was their mission).

Moving on to “quebrara”. That’s a past tense subjunctive conjugation of “quebrar”. And really hard to say =) “Quebrara” is the “to crack” part. It doesn’t affect our imperfect/preterite conversation, so we don’t need to worry about it now.

What’s cool is, unlike the past two Dosis Diaria, the order of the verbs in this sentence DOES match the order of the verbs in reality. That’s nice.

They wanted Jimmy to crack (the imperfect action, how things were).

Jimmy cracked (the preterite action, what happened).

Here’s what the timeline looks like:

Imperfect & Preterite Timeline

This time, the imperfect action ends at the same time the preterite action ends (when Jimmy tells them their mission has been accomplished).

Thinking logically, we don’t try to complete something that’s we’ve already completed. We don’t try to accomplish things that are already accomplished.

The police wanted Jimmy to crack (emotionally). That desire for Jimmy to crack ended the second he cracked. So did Jimmy’s cracking. Both actions ended at the same time in this example.

THE WHOLE THING:

Muy bien, querían que me quebrara, misión cumplida.
= Very well, you were wanting that I cracked, mission completed.
= Alright, you wanted me to crack, mission accomplished.

Any questions? About this issue or any others? Ask away!

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