Better Call Saul #20
Context: Jimmy is still at the Kettleman's house with Kim and the police. The house has been ransacked--it’s a mess. Then Jimmy noticed that the child’s doll was missing--that the Kettleman's had time to stop and let their child take her doll. This gave him an idea!
Jimmy: Maybe the Kettleman's kidnapped themselves.
Spanish Translation: Quizá los Kettleman se raptaron a sí mismos.
Our Issue: The Imperfect & Preterite
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.
This one’s pretty simple. The Kettleman's KIDNAPPED themselves. They TOOK themselves. That’s the focus of the story. The preterite action, “se raptaron”.
But let’s practice finding the default context anyway. In real life--in reality--you can’t have a preterite action without an imperfect action! That’s crazy! Things were always a certain way--no matter what happened!
So thinking logically... if the Kettleman's kidnapped themselves... that means... before they kidnapped themselves, they weren’t kidnapped, right?
It feels weird even saying that. But these easy imperfect/preterite examples might just be the best way to understand the more complicated imperfect/preterite examples.
Here’s what the timeline looks like:
So the Kettleman's weren’t kidnapped (imperfect action, how things were).
Then they kidnapped themselves (preterite action, what happened).
But the second they kidnapped themselves, both actions ended. Them not being kidnapped was over and the actual kidnapping was over too. Fun stuff.
THE WHOLE THING:
Quizá los Kettleman se raptaron a sí mismos.
= Maybe the Kettleman's kidnapped themselves for themselves.
= Maybe the Kettleman's kidnapped themselves.
Any questions? About this issue or any others? Ask away!