One question that I am frequently asked by my newsletter subscribers is whether you can use the present tense instead of the future tense in Spanish. Well, the answer is “yes.” In this lesson, I will explain this topic in detail. By the way, the use of the present tense instead of the future tense isn’t limited to statements. Native Spanish speakers often use the present tense in questions where English speakers would use the future tense.
Here’s an example that just happened to me minutes ago. I was on the phone speaking to a friend when I told him that I had to go because I was busy writing an important email to my customers and readers. And he asked “me llamas luego?” (You call me later?)
But in English, we would ask “WILL you call me later?”
My Puerto Rican and Dominican friends back in New York would have asked “me llamas pa’ tras?” (You call me back?)
Colombians consider “me llamas pa’ tras?” more like “Spanglish” than Spanish. So in Colombia ask “me llamas luego?” And here’s another use of the present tense by a native Spanish speaker instead of the future tense. Yesterday, I saw a “joven” or “adolescente” (teenager) flirting with some “muchachas” about his age that were in a car. And he asked the driver “me llevas contigo?”
Literally, “you take me with you?” Notice that he did NOT ask “me llavarás contigo?” (Will you take me with you?)
To me it is very strange noticing this because in New York sometimes my Spanish speaking friends that were not native English speakers would say in English phrases such as “I call you” or ask “You call me?” instead of “I will call you,” or “Will you call me?”
I didn’t think much of it at the time. I just assumed that he or she didn’t speak English well. And I understood what he or she was saying and that was the only thing that really mattered. Or was that really the only thing that mattered?
Well, if you don’t speak Spanish the same way that native Spanish speakers do, and if you don’t use the present tense when they would use the present (instead of the future tense), they too will assume that you don’t speak Spanish well. Of course, they will still understand you.
So it all depends on whether your goal is to just to be able to make yourself understood in Spanish or if your goal it to be able to speak Spanish “like a native.”
Now I am not saying that native Spanish speakers never use the future tense. I am just saying that they have a tendency to use the present tense where English speakers would use the future tense.
But before I end this article, I just want to share with you my favorite phrase where my “novia” uses the present tense instead of the future tense:
Me llevas al cielo? (You take me to the sky?)
A better way to translate “me llevas al cielo?” is “will you take me to ecstasy?”
By the way, how I end my emails with “nos vemos” which literally means “we see each other” as opposed to “we WILL see each other” is another example of how native Spanish speakers would use the present tense where native English speakers would use the future tense.