He querido vs Quería ?

I understand that these are translated as "I have wanted" (although there's no such form in English) and "I wanted". Past perfect and past simple.

In my audio book they use mostly "He querido" in all cases.

Is there any rule when you must use only one form? Which one is used more frequently?

  • 2
    I don't understand why you say "there's no such form in English" about "I have wanted" but in case it helps to provide a better example, "Querer" can be translated not only as "to want" but also as "to love", thus: "He querido a María con toda mi alma" -> I have loved Maria with all my soul; "Quería a María, pero se terminó" -> I loved María, but it is over.
    – Diego
    Mar 26 '15 at 12:38

"He querido" is more common when the action "querer" is close in time or is not finished. When using "quería" your listener will understand that it is an action completely finished (even a lot of time ago).

Yo siempre he querido ser más alto
(I've always wanted to be taller) not finished action

Esta mañana he querido llamarte pero no he podido
(This morning I wanted to phone you but I couldn't) close in time

Yo de pequeño quería ser torero
(When I was young I wanted to be a bullfighter) finished action, far in time

It's also right using "quería" for close in time but completely finished actions

Quería contestar todas las preguntas del examen pero no he tenido tiempo
(I wanted to answer every test's question but I had not time enough)

  • No es completamente cierto... El pretérito perfecto compuesto se emplea en acciones que han ocurrido muy recientemente. El uso que tú le das es un uso "sajón" del tiempo verbal ya que se corresponde directamente con el past participle in english a pesar de que sus usos no son totalmente equivalentes. De hecho aquí en galicia prácticamente no lo utilizamos, mientras que en madrid se utiliza más que el pretérito perfecto simple. Para acciones que todavía no han terminado debes usar el pretérito imperfecto; aunque todo depende del contexto Mar 30 '15 at 21:06

As Diego in the comments points out, "I have loved" actually makes perfect sense in English (and it's actually called the present perfect, the past perfect is "I had loved"). Consider someone wanting to express their love for someone existing from the point in time they met that person until the present moment. "I love you since I met you" makes no sense. "I loved you since I met you" implies that we don't anymore (perhaps you are dead?). The only possible answer is "I have loved you since I met you".

There are a couple of things to consider without having more context in your question.

If the narrator is working in the present time frame, then present perfect will generally be used — it expresses actions that happened simply before now. If I say "he viajado a Méjico", we know that before now, I went there, but without any indication of when, specifically, I went there. Grammatically, you can set a lower bound by adding on desde que cumplí cinco años or similar, but the upper bound must necessarily be in the present time frame.

Because the present time frame is, of course, still on going, there is a strong implication that the action, or other related ones, will happen again. If I say, "esta mañana he desayunado", while it's unlikely I'll eat breakfast again, I'm leaving it open for me doing more things in the morning (in other words, it's like saying "Thus far this morning, I've had breakfast").

With the imperfect, there is a very strong (but not strictly guaranteed) impliction that the action has ended — if the narration is in the present time frame, that is.

If the narration is in the past time frame, then quería represents an ongoing action that parallels in the past time the meaning of present progressive or a habitual present in the present time frame

  • Thank you very much, as I understood you right, the correct usage would be: Siempre he querido ser un cosmonauta. / Yo quería ir, pero no pude. Or should I say - Yo quería ir, pero no he podido. / What would be the correct way to say the last sentence ?
    – monstro
    Mar 26 '15 at 15:34
  • @monstro The first two you have are exactly right. The last one would be much better in either present or present perfect: "He querido ir pero no he podido" or "Quiero ir, pero todavía no he podido" Mar 26 '15 at 15:39

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