The Ten Commandments

Those of us who think of the alleged Spanish Future Tense as not a tense at all, but a mood or mode in disguise, will be heartened to hear of its modal uses.  Here is just one:  the Ten Commandments standardly use the ‘Future’.  Spanish schoolchildren learn to recite El Decálogo thus:

Amarás a Dios sobre todas las cosas.
No tomarás el nombre de Dios en vano.
Santificarás el día del Señor.
Honrarás a tu padre y a tu madre.
No matarás.
No cometerás actos impuros.
No robarás.
No levantarás falsos testimonios ni mentirás.
No consentirás pensamientos ni deseos impuros.
No codiciarás los bienes ajenos.

Actually, I am rather in favour of these – especially the  schoolchild’s version of el mandamiento sexto.  Much better than condemning adultery, which has a lot to be said for it on the plus side.   Likewise el noveno.  But on, on ….

Other versions abound: El futuro is not mandatory.  One style uses the infinitive, yielding not the Command itself, but its content, as in:

Adorar únicamente a Dios,  y a ningún otro.

Yet another relies on the imperative, as in:

Honre a tu padre y a tu madre.

And therefore the subjunctive for negative commands:

No robes.

And it is common for presentations of Los Diez Mandamientos to switch blithely from one style to the other. Indeed, I came across a website in Texas which used all three styles in the one Decalogue:

Adorar únicamente a Dios, y a ningún otro.
No matarás.
No robes.

¡ay de mí! Los gringos. 

All this, of course, is grist to our mill.  For such uses of el futuro are clearly modal.  And are incomprehensible on the story that what el futuro encodes is simply future time. Later posts will present more evidence of the essentially modal nature of  the alleged tense.

But now, estimados colegas:  do we find the same phenomenon, or perhaps similar phenomena in French, Italian, and so on?  My other languages are not good enough, and I am having difficulty getting anywhere with Google, where all I find is hundreds of thousands of sites trying to sell me versions of the utterly dreadful Cecil B. de Mille film.  Can anyone enlighten me?


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2 Responses to The Ten Commandments

  1. Maria Donapetry says:

    “Honre a tu padre y a tu madre” is blatantly ungrammatical. The verbal form (command) addresses a “usted” (formal you) but is followed by “tu” (informal you).
    It should be “Honra a tu padre y a tu madre” or “Honre a su padre y a su madre”.
    I am guessing this was written by a non native speaker of Spanish trying to communicate with native speakers. It happens a lot in the US.
    I like the translation into Spanish (No codiciarás los bienes ajenos) and its implications. These “bienes ajenos” in the original include your brother’s wife. Am I right?

  2. bob says:

    Well, there as many versions of the Tenth Commandment as there are translations of the Bible. Some mention only your neighbour’s ass, some your brother’s wife. Some have both. I dare say that tells us that the only things valued by the Jews of Israel were wives and asses, and sometimes both. Or perhaps it was more particular. Maybe it wasn’t frowned upon to covet your neighbour’s wife and your brother’s ass, and clearly their daughters were fair game. “bienes ajenos” is so much more in tune with decent thinking on such matters.

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