For English speakers, the foremost challenge in Spanish morphology is the verb. While the Spanish noun has only two inflectional categories, singular and plural (gender being regarded as derivational for nouns), the verb has forty-eight distinct simple inflectional forms. ("Inflectional" excludes derived forms in -ble, -dor, etc.; "simple" excludes compound forms such as he hecho; and "distinct" precludes counting identical forms such as (yo) hacía = (él) hacía twice.) The PARADIGM (full set of forms) of the Spanish verb thus contrasts starkly with the inflectional options of English verbs, which range from one to eight:
|one form: must||four forms: walk, walks, walked, walking|
|two forms: can, could||five forms: sing, sings, sang, sung, singing|
|three forms: put, puts, putting||eight forms: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being|
Spanish verbs have more forms because they are conjugated for more tense and mood categories and for more person and number distinctions. The latter seem redundant to English speakers until they understand that Spanish speakers often rely on the verb to indicate the subject; that is, the -s of hablas is not just a sign of agreement as suggested by fillin-the-blanks such as Tú (hablar_____), but the usual marker of an unexpressed tú.
Linguists and teachers in the United States largely agree on what to call tense and mood categories: drank is "past," bebí and bebía are respectively "preterite" and "imperfect." In Hispanic countries, however, there is less consensus: some scholars retain traditional Latin terminology while others have substituted new terms deemed more appropriate for Spanish. Figure 6.1 summarizes the major differences (see Resnick 1984 for fuller discussion). He dicho, for example, has been called "presente perfecto" and "presente compuesto," both of which describe its morphology, the present of haber compounded with the "perfect" participle (v. 6.3.2). But it is also called "pretérito perfecto"