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Using querer in El pretérito Indefinido vs El pretérito Imperfecto

We can use the verb querer (to want) in El Pretérito Indefinido or El Pretérito Imperfecto but the meaning will be different.

Querer in affirmative sentences:

Daniel quiso sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.Daniel tried to surprise/had the intention of surprising his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.

Daniel quería sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.Daniel wanted to surprise his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.

See how in El Pretérito Imperfecto querer keeps its usual meaning (to want) but in El Pretérito Indefinido the nuance is "to try". 

Querer in negative sentences:

El niño no quiso terminarse el vaso de leche.The boy refused to finish his glass of milk.

El niño no quería terminarse el vaso de leche.The boy didn't want to finish his glass of milk.

See how the meaning changes from "want" to a stronger "refuse" when used in El Pretérito Indefinido.

Have a look at these other examples using both tenses:

Nosotros no quisimos ayudarle.We refused to help him.

Mis hijas quisieron jugar con la video-consola sin mi permiso.My daughters tried to play with the video game without my permission.

María quiso advertirme del peligro.María tried to warn me of the danger.

Mis padres querían salir temprano para evitar el tráfico.My parents wanted to set off early to avoid traffic.

La mujer quería pagar en efectivo.The lady wanted to pay in cash.

Ellos susurraban porque no querían despertar al bebé.They were whispering because they didn't want to wake up the baby.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Daniel quería sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.Daniel wanted to surprise his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.
María quiso advertirme del peligro.María tried to warn me of the danger.
Daniel quiso sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.Daniel tried to surprise/had the intention of surprising his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.
El niño no quería terminarse el vaso de leche.The boy didn't want to finish his glass of milk.
Nosotros no quisimos ayudarle.We refused to help him.
El niño no quiso terminarse el vaso de leche.The boy refused to finish his glass of milk.
Mis hijas quisieron jugar con la video-consola sin mi permiso.My daughters tried to play with the video game without my permission.
La mujer quería pagar en efectivo.The lady wanted to pay in cash.
Ellos susurraban porque no querían despertar al bebé.They were whispering because they didn't want to wake up the baby.
Mis padres querían salir temprano para evitar el tráfico.My parents wanted to set off early to avoid traffic.

Q&A Forum 2 questions, 3 answers

StuartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Usage in isolation

Hola,

Can we use these nuances as statements

Quisimos - 'we tried'

No Quise - 'I refused'

... with no further construction, embellishment added?

etc.

Gracias, 

Asked 2 months ago
InmaKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hola Stuart,

Not quite with "quisimos". We don't use "quisimos" the way you use it as a "short" statement. 

For "quisimos" as "we tried" I am imagining you are thinking of this sort of context:

-Es una pena que no hayáis podido convencer a Laura para venir al concierto.

*Quisimos. (Nosotros lo intentamos.)

-It´s a pity you couldn't persuade Laura to come to the concert.

*We tried.

We'd use "lo intentamos" instead.

With "No quise" you could actually use it as a short answer for "I refused". For example:

-Me sorprende que no hayas ido al concierto con tus amigos.

-No quise. Estoy enfadada con ellos.

-I am surprised you didn't go to the concert with your friends.

-I refused. I am mad at them.

Saludos.

Inma

StuartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thanks a lot Inma, great - can we extrapolate that out to some further degree and say that responses in the negative, we can use the short forms? And those in the affirmative we can't? 

Maybe applicable to other verbs?

Gracias de nuevo,

Usage in isolation

Hola,

Can we use these nuances as statements

Quisimos - 'we tried'

No Quise - 'I refused'

... with no further construction, embellishment added?

etc.

Gracias, 

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AlanB1Kwiziq community member

The ramblers wanted to enjoy nature

I chose "quisieron" because there isn't any verbal clue that they actually  went rambling and "tried", so how can one decide which is the correct answer? They could have had the desire without the intention!

Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hola Alan

Sorry about the delay.

The clue in this question is in the actual translation of the sentence. We used "wanted to", which is the general translation of querer in El Imperfecto. If we wanted the student to use El Indefinido we would have translated it as "The ramblers tried to enjoy nature" which is the more specific meaning of querer in El Indefinido. 

But, having said that, we are having another look at this lesson. We may include a more specific hint to help a bit more with the decision to use one or the other. 

Hope this helps,

Gracias y un saludo

Inma

The ramblers wanted to enjoy nature

I chose "quisieron" because there isn't any verbal clue that they actually  went rambling and "tried", so how can one decide which is the correct answer? They could have had the desire without the intention!

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