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Using literary texts to reveal problematic rules of usage

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Abstract

This article identifies problematic rules of usage for aspect (preterite/imperfect) in Spanish that are commonly taught in textbooks, citing as evidence examples from Spanish literature. The rules under scrutiny are: (1) the imperfect is used to express emotions in the past, (2) the imperfect is used for descriptions in the past, (3) the preterite and imperfect are associated with certain expressions, and (4) certain verbs “change meaning” in the preterite. Literary works not only provide an authoritative voice to expose these misleading rules but also furnish rich contexts within which to better understand aspect in general.

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