Spanish Language/Verb tenses


I'm trying to understand the different tenses. I recently had a friend say "quisiera ayudarte" to me usually she says "quiero ayudarte". What is the difference?

Hi Julie!

The meaning is pretty much the same in both cases, but "quiero ayudarte" is the simple present tense form of the verb, so it would be like saying "I want to help you" in English.  "Quisiera ayudarte" is the past (imperfect) subjunctive form, but it is often used to make a polite offer, something like using the conditional form in English to sound more polite or formal: "I would like to help you"... It could also be used if what comes next is a reason why she CAN'T help you for some reason... like "I'd like to help you, but.... with some kind of excuse.

I hope that helps!  

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Brandee Strickland


I can answer questions about the Spanish language itself, as I studied Spanish academically and also spent a significant amount of time living in Chile (as a teacher of English). I can also help with issues of translation, and with interpreting slang or other cultural anecdotes. As an experienced teacher, of both EFL and Spanish, I can answer questions as well about teaching, classroom practice, and the use of technology.


I am a native speaker of English but have studied Spanish since a young age, as well as living in Chile for 5 years. I learned Spanish as a student myself, and have also taught introductory and intermediate level Spanish courses both privately and at the University level. At the graduate level, I have studied linguistics and sociolinguistics, as well as focusing on language teaching and the use of technology in the classroom.

University of Calgary, Canada; Universidad de Concepcion, Chile

Strickland, B., & O'Brien, M. G. (2013). A Review of the Literature on Technology in Second and Foreign Language Learning. Calgary: University of Calgary. Strickland, B. (Summer 2012). Communities of practice in the language classroom: Theory and reality. ETAS Journal. Strickland, B. (2009). De Gardner a Bajtin: La comunicacion mediada por ordenador y su impacto en la clase de lenguas. University of Calgary (Canada), ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. MR54572. Strickland, B. (2009). El mito de Narciso en la poesía española de los Siglos de Oro. Espéculos: Revista de estudios literarios, 40.

I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Psychology from Bowdoin College in the U.S. I completed an M.A. in Spanish and Second Language Acquisition and a PhD dissertation in the same field, both at the University of Calgary in Canada and currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Universidad de Concepción in Concepción, Chile.

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