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If I want to say that my neighbor broke his leg this summer and couldn't walk for 3 months which tense should I use: preterito perfecto or preterito indefinido?

So far I've come up with (indefinido in the first part):

Este verano mi vecino se rompió la pierna y no ha podido caminar por tres meses.
Este verano mi vecino se rompió la pierna y no pudo caminar por tres meses.


But those two also look OK to me, although I am not sure they can be used when talking about specific period of time (perfecto in the first part):

Este verano mi vecino se ha roto la pierna y no pudo caminar por tres meses.
Este verano mi vecino se ha roto la pierna y no ha podido caminar por tres meses.


And then, if the sentence starts with specific tense, does it have to be the same tense in the second part as well? Could you give me similar examples?

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rompiste is second person. Third person is rompió. –  rsanchez Apr 12 at 10:14
    
@rsanchez Thanks, you're correct of course! –  Nat Naydenova Apr 12 at 10:21
1  
May I suggest: "Este verano mi vecino se rompió la pierna y estuvo/ha estado tres meses sin poder caminar." It's sounds much more natural. –  Wawy Apr 14 at 15:52

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

First of all, a disclaimer, the usage of 'pretérito perfecto' (se ha roto) and 'pretérito indefinido' (se rompió) varies with the region. Some regions in Spain (like Leon) and I believe most of Latin America prefer the use of 'pretérito indefinido' over 'pretérito perfecto'.

Despite having said that, here I will describe the common usage in Spain. Both 'pretérito indefinido' and 'pretérito perfecto' are used to describe events in the past. The main difference is that 'pretérito perfecto', as the present perfect in English, is used to link an event from the past to now, the present. Let's see how this applies to the sentences in your question.

A) Este verano mi vecino se rompió la pierna y no ha podido caminar por tres meses.

Sentence A is correct. It basically states that your neighbour has been unable to walk since he fractured his leg three months ago until at least today.

B) Este verano mi vecino se rompió la pierna y no pudo caminar por tres meses.

Sentence B is also correct, but the meaning is slightly different. Your neighbour fractured his leg some time ago and he was unable to walk for three months.

C) Este verano mi vecino se ha roto la pierna y no pudo caminar por tres meses.

Sentence C is incorrect, or at least I would say it is a poor choice of tense. There are at least two jarring points:

  • 'Este verano' clashes with "se ha roto", which is 'pretérito perfecto' and thus is linking an event in the past to the present.

  • For the same reason, "se ha roto" also clashes with "no pudo caminar por tres meses".

D) Este verano mi vecino se ha roto la pierna y no ha podido caminar por tres meses.

Again, "Este verano" clashes with the use of 'pretérito perfecto', because 'pretérito perfecto' links to now, but it's hard to interpret "este verano" as now.

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This one is correct if he broke it this summer and now (3 months later) he STILL can't walk: Este verano mi vecino se rompió la pierna y no ha podido caminar por tres meses.

This is correct if he broke it this summer, and he WAS not able to walk for three months (but now can): Este verano mi vecino se rompió la pierna y no pudo caminar por tres meses.

This one is also correct if he broke it this summer and now (3 months later) he STILL can't walk: Este verano mi vecino se ha roto la pierna y no ha podido caminar por tres meses.

If the sentence starts with a specific tense, the second part does not have to be in the same tense. That would severely limit the language. Examples:

Mi vecino se rompió la pierna, y nunca volverá a caminar. No me gustó tu sopa, y nunca la comeré otra vez. Nunca volvere a ser feliz, me divorcié ayer. Siento que me estoy enfermando, no iré a la escuela mañana.

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Nico's explanation about the differences in usage of both tenses is correct. The main difference between both is whether the action has continued until the present, or whether it was just an event that happened and finished in the past.

I would also like to mention that, in your translation, it would be better to use durante tres meses, at least in Castillian Spanish.

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How about this:

Este verano mi vecino se rompió una pierna y no podía caminar durante tres meses.

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This is wrong. The pretérito imperfecto implies an inconclusive action, at least with respect to something else. If you establish a fixed duration (tres meses) the action is concluded and you cannot use it. Este verano mi vecino se rompió una pierna y no podía caminar, removing durante tres meses, is, on the other hand, correct. –  Gorpik Apr 25 at 11:25

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