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Hey kids, put your grammar hats on, because it’s time to talk about verb endings in Chilean Spanish (and friends beseeching male friends to not have that baby right then and there, but that comes at the end, skip ahead if you have a short attention span).

Sure, you’ve got your copy of 501 Spanish Verbs, fully conjugated handy right there, right? That’s a great place to rest your coffee while we take a second to expound upon just one more verb ending in Chilean Spanish that won’t show up in your hefty tome, or any other verions of those fancy G-is for grammar books. No weí, you say? yes, way.

In Chilean Spanish, you will often hear the greeting (among friends or peers)

Cómo estaí?

Or if someone wants to know where you (familiar) live, they will say,

Dónde vivís?

Wikipedia probably says it better but more boringly than I do, and without hilarious anecdotes here:

2. Verbal voseo, using the pronoun tú.
For example: tú sabís, tú tenís, tú hablái, tú vivís, etc.
This kind of voseo is the predominant form used in the spoken language.

So basically, you got your -ar verb. Instead of using the regular tú form which would be -as, you instead use an aí. Cachai? (got it?) Like that. This yeilds conversations such as the following one I had with my students after a bike accident left me unable to lift my left arm.

No te dieron cabestrillo? (Didn’t they give you a sling?)
Sipo (well, yes)
Y por qué no lo ocupaí? (And why aren’t you using it?)

I was so touched by their kindness in worry about my arm, and by their decision to use this funny little affectionate Chilean verb ending that I may have been extra generous on their oral quiz, even to the guy who spoke in a frightening word salad. And not a composed one. Or maybe it was more a merenjunje (concoction).

In the case of an -er or -ir verb, where you would normally get an -es ending, instead it’s an -ís ending, changing the stress of the verb as well as the pronunciation, though the s is generally dropped, so instead of “qué haces?” you’ll get “qué hacís” which sounds like K-ah-C.

The voseo is very affectionate and informal, and usually goes on words that are comun y corriente (normally used). For example, with the somewhat formal word inculcular (which means indoctrinate or infuse someone with ideas), I would be surprised to hear someone say, y por qué no lo inculcaí? ? It shows up probably most commonly on the most common verbs like hacer, ir, cachar and huevear (this requires a whole ‘nother post about this crazy word, huevón, and that was the joke about no weí from above, which means, don’t d… around.

As foreigners, we can use these forms or not (in the right time and place), and everyone will fall all over themselves about how Chilean we sound. I have friends who do, and friends who don’t. I tend to, but I am a linguistic chameleon. If you leave me with your Dutch grandmother for a week, I promise to accidentally pick up some of her accent or grammatical inconsistencies sin querer (without meaning to).

But this funny little voseo, as they call it (though we tend to use it with tú, and seldom use vos unless we’re pretending to be Argentine, and even then we will start with a che more often than we end with a vos) also has a funny side. Oh, a very funny side. So funny, in fact that I almost choked on the water I was drinking out of my new Camelbak water bladder the other day (go camelbak and hydrapak for being interchangeable water-bladder wise, you make me very happy).

I was on this zany overnight bikeride that I like to do every year. Like to do may be a great exaggeration, but there I was, out on my bike, about 60 km down, and another 60 to go, in the middle of a very black and breezy night, and we were pedaling up this long slow hill, and one guy shouted to another (you need some background here, parar is to stop, and parir is to give birth).

No te parís!!!!

Though this, is, in fact, the correct voseo conjugation of parar, for the command, it doesn’t work for the negative command, which reverts back to the regular voseoparaí.” His friend was telling him not to stop, that much was obvious, though it was grammatically muddled. Unfortunately for him, “No parís” (without the te) means “don’t give birth!” with this form, which is how we all parsed it. It was late, and we were tired.

I wasn’t the only one who heard it, and we entertained ourselves silly, a Chilean amiga of mine and I as we pedaled up past the thousands of blinking lights of the other people headed towards the sanctuary where people go to light candles, say prayers, ask for grace and maybe even a miracle or two.

Which, not to be blasphemous, is a real shame that he did not, in fact give birth right then and there. Because that would have been a miracle. But stopping on that hill? No weí.

Photos to follow.