Using the Spanish verbs "tardarse/demorarse"= to take time

To take time in Spanish

When we talk about how long it takes/one takes to do something we generally use the verbs "tardar(se) or "demorar(se)" in Spanish.

The way we use these verbs is slightly different to the English "to take time". Have a look at the following examples:

Yo tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.

Yo me tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.

Yo me demoro 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.

¿Cuánto tiempo tardaste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?

¿Cuánto tiempo te tardaste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?

¿Cuánto tiempo te demoraste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?

As shown in some of the examples above, it is common to use tardar and demorar pronominally too: tardarse/demorarse.

Notice how in the Spanish examples above the person (yo, ...) is the subject of the sentence, unlike in English where "it" is normally the subject. (It takes me, It took me...) so tardar(se) and demorar(se) always agree with the person. 

This would be incorrect:

Me tarda 5 minutos.

¿Cuánto tiempo te tardó?

Me demora 5 minutos.

We can also use tardar(se) or demorar(se) to talk about how long some form of transporation takes, this time the bus, train, plane etc being the subject in the sentence. For example:

El tren tardará 6 horas en ir de Mar del Plata a Buenos Aires.The train will take 3 hours to go from Mar del Plata to Buenos Aires.

El tren se tardará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.

El tren se demorará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.

El tren demorará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.

 

Tardar(se) and demorar(se) used in this context are interchangeable, however, sometimes demorarse connotes negativity, conveying a bit of "annoyance" from the speaker about someone or something being late, while tardar seems to be more neutral.

Here are more examples:

El autobús número 6 tarda demasiado tiempo en hacer su recorrido.Bus number 6 takes too long to complete its route.

El autobús número 6 se demora demasiado tiempo en hacer su recorrido.The number 6 bus takes too long to complete its route.

Es mejor que vayamos en avión porque el avión tarda menos que el tren.We'd rather take a plane because the plane takes less time than the train.

Es mejor que vayamos en avión porque el avión se demora menos que el tren.We'd rather take the plane because the plane takes less time than the train.

Important note: 

While in English "what takes time" is expressed with the infinitive "to [verb]", in Spanish we use preposition en + infinitive:

Tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.
It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.

Tardé 6 horas en corregir los exámenes.
It took me 6 hours to mark the exams.

 

Tardarse (impersonal)

In cases where the subject is unimportant or unknown, or when simply making a general statement, tardarse is used in a different way.

For example:

Se tardó mucho en construir este hospital.It took (them, whoever built it) a long time to build this hospital.

Se tarda bastante tiempo en acostumbrarse a un país nuevo.It takes (in general) quite some time to get used to a new country.

It can be used in the singular, for example se tarda, se tardó or in the plural, for example se tardan, se tardaron.

Se tardó dos años en construir la urbanización. = Se tardaron dos años en construir la urbanización.
It took two years to build the residential area.

We are referring here to an action where we don't mention the person/people who did it. 

When used in its plural form it works as a passive with "se", see Forming the Spanish passive with se (la pasiva refleja).

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Examples and resources

¿Cuánto tiempo tardaste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?
¿Cuánto tiempo te demoraste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?
Yo tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.
Yo me demoro 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.
El tren demorará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.
Se tardó mucho en construir este hospital.It took (them, whoever built it) a long time to build this hospital.
El tren se tardará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.
El tren se demorará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.
El tren tardará 6 horas en ir de Mar del Plata a Buenos Aires.The train will take 3 hours to go from Mar del Plata to Buenos Aires.
Es mejor que vayamos en avión porque el avión se demora menos que el tren.We'd rather take the plane because the plane takes less time than the train.
El autobús número 6 se demora demasiado tiempo en hacer su recorrido.The number 6 bus takes too long to complete its route.
Yo me tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.
¿Cuánto tiempo te tardaste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?
Siempre demoras bastante en acabar tu tarea.You always take a long time to finish your work.
Es mejor que vayamos en avión porque el avión tarda menos que el tren.We'd rather take a plane because the plane takes less time than the train.
Se tarda bastante tiempo en acostumbrarse a un país nuevo.It takes (in general) quite some time to get used to a new country.
El autobús número 6 tarda demasiado tiempo en hacer su recorrido.Bus number 6 takes too long to complete its route.
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