I'm to the point in my Spanish study that I'm reading books. I often come across words that I might know (such as repartir - to distribute) but the specific form is confusing. I'm hopeful that someone can, first, help me understand this specific instance and, second, recommend a way to understand what all of this means. Simply looking at verb conjugation charts does not help. Most sites on the 'net seem to only provide this. Do I have to go back to school to understand this? I did well in English but these forms are lost in the cobwebs. How did you overcome this issue and effectively study this? Thanks!

  • In order to provide an explanation for this specific instance, it would be helpful with context for this specific instance.
    – dainichi
    Jul 9 '12 at 1:52
  • I don't have the book in front of me but a representative sentence would be, "Sería mejor que repartiera periódicos en vez de buscarte trabajo."
    – McArthey
    Jul 9 '12 at 13:02
  • 3
    @McArthey What would you like to know exactly? I think you should remove all that frustration from your question, as it is quite irrelevant for the spirit of Spanish.SE ;)
    – JoulSauron
    Jul 9 '12 at 21:27
  • +1 for the laugh. I will edit in an attempt to clarify after I have another cup of coffee.
    – McArthey
    Jul 9 '12 at 22:16

This question is over one month old, but let me enter the conversation, as I do not fully agree with any of the previous answers.

The original sentence seemed to be

Sería mejor que (yo) repartiera periódicos en vez de buscarte trabajo

which might be translated as

It would be better (for me) to distribute newspapers instead of looking for a job for you

So let's go for it...

  • "Repartiera" is not conditional, but subjunctive (distributed)
  • "Sería" is conditional (would be)
  • "Repartiera" is not present tense, but past tense (present would be "reparta").
  • Why "repartiera" (subjunctive?) and not "repartia" (indicative past)? We use subjunctive when something is a wish or depends on a condition, and indicative to express facts. Let me include a few examples:

I distributed newspapers when I lived in XXX = Yo repartía periodicos cuando vivía en XXX (a fact: indicative)

I wish I distributed newspapers, as I would have more spare time = Ójala repartiera periódicos, porque tendría más tiempo libre (a wish: subjunctive)

If I distributed newspapers, I would have more spare time = Si repartiera periódicos, tendría más tiempo libre (the beginning of a conditional sentence)

  • Note that you can also say yo repartía as I would distribute, seen as a repeated action in the past.
    – Schwale
    May 29 '16 at 17:20
  • Clarification: Subjunctive comes from subjunction, which means that a sentence is included or subordinated in another sentence. We use specific tenses for subjunctions, like this case. There's no direct equivalence in english. May 29 '16 at 23:50
  • Anyway, saying "Seria mejor que yo repartiera" is not to well-constructed in spanish. By the context, which is well-translated into english, the spanish sentence should be "Seria mejor que yo reparta" since it is a potential situation to occur (in quichua is easier to explain), and not regarding a frequent action done in the past. May 29 '16 at 23:55

Stealing @McArthey's sentence, I agree with the sample sentence. Repartiera is more like "To Distribute" or "To Hand Out" in a preterit or past representation of a verb.

So translating his sample sentence is like "It would be better to [pass out | hand out | distrubute] newspaper instead of looking for a job."

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    – JoulSauron
    Jul 11 '12 at 7:39

In the sentence "Sería mejor que repartiera periódicos..." the word "repartiera" is in conditional form, indicating that it's an improbable thing to happen...

The sentenced is a transformation of this one: "Si yo repartiera periódicos sería mejor que buscarte trabajo".

Sorry for my english ;-)


From your comment "Sería mejor que (yo) repartiera periódicos en vez de buscarte trabajo."

'Repartiera' corresponds to the 1st person subjunctive present.

  • Agreed. It's also worth mentioning that "sería" is a conditional. Aug 11 '12 at 19:07
  • "Sería mejor que (él) repartiera periódicos en vez de buscarte trabajo."
    – qPCR4vir
    Jan 24 '13 at 22:38

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