Using the verb "tardar" = to take time

When we talk about how long it takes/one takes to do something we generally use verb "tardar" in Spanish. 

The way we use this verb 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.

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

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

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

This would be incorrect:

Me tarda 5 minutos. 

¿Cuánto tiempo te tardó?

As you can see in the third example above, we can use tardar to talk about how long "transport" takes to do something. 

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.

Es mejor que vamos 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.

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

In cases where the subject is not important, is unknown or is simply a general statement, tardar is used in its reflexive form: tardarse.

For example:

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

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

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

Se tardó dos horas en llegar. = Se tardaron dos horas en llegar.
It took two hours to arrive.

When used in its plural form it works as a passive with "se", see Forming passive sentences with se.

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

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.


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


Es mejor que vamos 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.


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


¿Cuánto tiempo tardaste 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.


Q&A

allison

Kwiziq community member

8 August 2018

1 reply

reflexive verbs versus passive "se"

Is there an example of a use of tardarse that is not in the third person? If not, is it a reflexive verb really?

Silvia

Kwiziq language super star

8 August 2018

8/08/18

¡Hola Allison! We normally use the verb "tardarse" in the third person as an equivalent of the English construction "to take time", but in some Latin American countries it is true that they use the full form of this verb as a reflexive, for example, "yo ME tardé cinco horas en llegar" meaning "It took ME five hours to arrive", but by this moment we are only offering Spanish from Spain, so you have to use only the third person at this point. I hope this helps. Silvia.
Clever stuff underway!