Friday, March 20, 2020
Impersonal Verb Definition, Usage, and Examples
Impersonal Verb Definition, Usage, and Examples Impersonal verbs, verbs that dont refer to the action of a specific entity, are used in both English and Spanish, although in different ways. Known as verbos impersonales in Spanish, they are fairly rare. They consist mainly of someÃ weather verbs and certain uses of haber and ser along with their English equivalents. Definition of Impersonal Verb An impersonal verb is one that expresses the action of an unspecified, generally meaningless subject. In its narrowest sense, an impersonal verb can have no subject. Impersonal Spanish verbs in this narrow sense include the weather verbs such as llover (to rain), which are also defective verbs, because conjugated forms exist only in the third-person singular (as in llueve, it is raining). Applying this strict definition to English, only one impersonal verb- methinks- remains in use, and then only in literature or for effect. In a broader and more usual sense, however, impersonal verbs in English are those that use a meaningless it as the subject. The it, known by many grammarians as an expletive, dummy pronoun, or pleonastic pronoun, is used not to provide meaning in the sentence but to provide a grammatically necessary subject. In the sentences It snowed and It is apparent he lied, snowed and is, respectively, are impersonal verbs. In Spanish, sometimes plural verbs can be considered impersonal, as in a sentence such as Comen arroz en Guatemala (they eat rice in Guatemala). Note how in this sentence, the implied subject of the sentence (translated as they in English) doesnt refer to anyone in particular. There is no significant difference in meaning between saying Comen arroz en Guatemala and Se come el arroz en Guatemala (Rice is eaten in Guatemala). In other words, this impersonal usage is similar in meaning to that of the passive voice. Using the Weather Verbs The most common weather verbs that are used impersonally in addition to llover are granizar (to hail), helar (to freeze), lloviznar (to drizzle), never (to snow), and tronar (to thunder). Hacer can similarly be used impersonally in phrases such as hacer viento (to be windy, literally to make or do wind). Other weather-related hacer phrases include hacer buen tiempo (to have good weather), hacer calor (to be hot), hacer frÃ o (to be cold), hacer mal tiempo (to have bad weather), and hacer sol (to be sunny). Verbs used similarly to refer to outdoor phenomena include amanecer (to become dawn), anochecer (to become dark, as at night), and relampaguear (to become brighter). When used impersonally, these verbs can be used only in the third person, but they can be used in any tense. For example, forms of llover include llovÃ a (it was raining), lloviÃ ³ (it rained), ha llovido (it has rained), and lloverÃ a (it would rain). Haber as an Impersonal Verb In Spanish, the hayÃ form ofÃ haber also is considered impersonal. In translation to English, there rather than it is used as a dummy pronoun. When used in the third person, haber can have meanings such as there is, there are, and there were. In the present indicative, haber takes the form of hay when referring to the existence of both singular and plural subjects. So Hay una mesa is used for There is one table, while Hay tres mesas is used for There are three tables. Traditionally in other tenses, only the singular form is used. Thus you would say HabÃ a una mesa for There was one table and HabÃ a tres mesas for There were three tables. However, although grammar purists may frown on it, it isnt unusual to hear habÃ an used for the plural, or habrn in the future tense. Ser as an Impersonal Verb In Spanish, no equivalent of it is used with impersonal verbs, which stand alone using a third-person singular conjugation. An example of an impersonal verb usage is the es in Es verdad que estoy loco (It is true that I am crazy). Ser is commonly used impersonally as the equivalent of constructions such as it is, it was and it will be in English impersonal expressions. Thus you could say Es posible que salgamos for It is possible we will leave. Note how it doesnt refer to anyone or anything in particular but is included simply so is can have a subject. Key Takeaways Impersonal verbs are those which the subject of the verb is no person or entity in particular.When impersonal verbs are used, Spanish doesnt use a noun or pronoun as the subject, omitting the subject entirely. In English, it and sometimes there are used as dummy subjects for impersonal verbs.Impersonal verbs are used only in the third person.