Verbi gratia

Víctor Infantes

And the verb became a verb (at last!) and conjugated amongst us. And it was divided into three inflections and, furthermore, it was ordered into modes, tenses, numbers and persons, and classes. If we have a verb, we have gained a lot thanks to this verb, but also a lot to be gained, for there are verbs for all tastes. Let us begin with the classes. There are auxiliary verbs, which are those that help us; causative verbs, which are those where the subject does not carry out the action, but rather they are carried out by others (quite often used by certain subjects); copulative verbs, also used among two (or more) subjects; defective verbs, which are those that are not used to their full extent; the deponent and odd, with dual personalities, since they are active verbs, but are conjugated in the passive tense and therefore have two voices (indistinctively complementary); semi-deponent verbs are even odder and Janus-like at will, since in the present they are conjugated in the active tense and in the past in passive tense, but carry an active meaning (I’m sorry, that is what the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) says); frequentative verbs, which repeat actions (sometimes, insistently); impersonal verbs, since they lack personality, they are conjugated in third person, without wishing to know anything about themselves; then there are verbs in the third person, which are verbs that can only be conjugated in third person singular and plural (and, sometimes, like good Freudian pronouns with a dual personalities, are fed up of the former); inchoative verbs are those that indicate the beginning of an action (sometimes also called, verbosya); transitive verbs, which as we all know quite well, are those that move, they come and go; intransitive verbs, however, are of the static kind, immobile and paralyzed; irregular verbs, though not so abundant, are better not to be dealt with very much; pronominal verbs are dangerous for they conjugate in all forms with a pronoun that agrees with the subject and has no syntactic function; regular verbs, the most coherent of all, cannot be trusted; etc. There are more types, but there we have sufficient examples of these to conjugate with enough certainty. This is what the author has done here.

If we have a verb, the verbs, we have their modes too, which are also called, they call them (curiously) accidents. One of them is the indicative which is what it’s all about; another is rather subjunctive, rather subjective for many reasons; also the conditional, which determines and subordinates us and finally the imperative, which rules and gives orders to all persons without a second thought, except themselves (they lack I).

If we have a verb, we can count on the tense, the tenses; not all the tense, but a few tenses, the most important ones, both simple and composed: the past (already past), the present (which ends right now thus becoming also past the moment it is written) and the future (which will be past as soon as it is published, but is still so while I am writing it).

We are left with the person and its number, the identity (I, you, he), the identities (we, you, they); the most personal, the most intimate, but also of the collective, social kind. We are all here, with our most elemental (de)nomination.

We are all verbal, some of us are verbose and many more than we actually think suffer from verbiage (also diagnosed as verbosity), that is why, when we begin to conjugate things, they are not always what they seem or how they should be. And J. M. Calleja realized this before anyone else did and so he warns us: be careful with the verb tenses and, above all, the people, some people.

Because of all this, and with all this, though we can all conjugate with everyone, we must be attentive to the last person, for he who conjugates last (just as the one who laughs last) has the final word. I conjugate, you conjugate, he conjugates, we conjugate, you conjugate and they, well, they also conjugate, but they sometimes change verbs and are able to supplant all the conjugation.

Foreword to the Book  T(i)EMP(O)s VERBAL(e)s. Madrid 2012