Using the verb "tardar" = to take time

When we talk about how long it takes/one takes to do something we generally use the 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 unmportant or unknown, or when simply making 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" (la pasiva refleja).

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

¿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.


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.


Q&A Forum 3 questions, 3 answers

Menos tiempo

Can I say menos tiempo instead of menos? Can I also say se tarda mucho menos tiempo (it takes much less time)?

Asked 2 weeks ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Emanuel 

Yes you can! 

You can say for example:

El avión tarda menos que el tren. 

(The plane takes less time than the train.)

El avión tarda menos tiempo que el tren.

(The plane takes less time than the train.)

The same goes to "más" and "más tiempo", by the way.

Un saludo

Inma

Menos tiempo

Can I say menos tiempo instead of menos? Can I also say se tarda mucho menos tiempo (it takes much less time)?

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use of the plural se tardan

I’m not quite clear about the use of the ‘se tardan’ plural. The examples given are with a plural number of hours/minutes. Are the time units the ‘subject’ of the passive?  In other words if the time was one hour or one minute, could you still use the plural verb? Or is there some other rule that indicates singular or plural?  Or are they just equivalent?

Asked 6 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Karen

When we use tardar with "se", if the time is expressed in singular, e.g un minuto, una hora... we need "Se tarda", however when we express the time in plural, e.g dos minutos, dos horas... both forms are accepted: "se tarda" and "se tardan"

Se tarda un minuto en llegar a la estación.

Se tardó una hora en preparar la sala para la fiesta.

Se tardó algunos meses en remodelar el edificio.

Se tardaron algunos meses en remodelar el edificio.

Hope it helps

Inma

use of the plural se tardan

I’m not quite clear about the use of the ‘se tardan’ plural. The examples given are with a plural number of hours/minutes. Are the time units the ‘subject’ of the passive?  In other words if the time was one hour or one minute, could you still use the plural verb? Or is there some other rule that indicates singular or plural?  Or are they just equivalent?

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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?
Asked 1 year ago
SilviaKwiziq language super star
¡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.

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?

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