I’ve been involved in development of a Windows gadget in my job.
Gadgets are those small applets that Windows Vista and Windows 7 users can install on their desktop.
Typically gadgets simplify a specific task. So I decided to simplify verb conjugation and wrote a Verb Conjugator gadget.
The first version of the gadget is ready and available for download.
See French Verb Conjugator on-line.
After finishing the Spanish verb conjugator, I thought that programming a verb conjugator for French verbs would be easy and straightforward. This was not exactly the case.
French belongs to the Romance languages, a group of languages that developed from the Latin language. So does Spanish. That’s the reason that verbs are quite similar between these languages; they have the same irregular verbs, the same moods, tenses, and persons, and they have the same kind of verb endings.
Compared with the Spanish language, the French verb conjugation shows less forms. The future tense of the subjunctive mood does not exist. And the subjunctive past has only one form, opposed to Spanish that has two forms for it.
There is one thing, however, that is much harder to program in the French verb conjugation; the compound forms are formed either with être ’to be’ or avoir ’to have’ as the auxiliary verb. (Spanish always uses haber ’to have’). The correct auxiliary depends on the meaning, and this requires a dictionary.
When I was done with entering the verbs that take être as the auxiliary verb — there are less verbs of this category — in compound tenses, I could release the French verb conjugator.
I developed the first Spanish verb conjugator in 1995. I chose Visual Basic 1.0 as the programming tool, more or less for two reasons: 1. I could write the software for Microsoft Windows; 2. the tool was free (I got it together with a computer magazine).
Spanish verbs are quite logical in the conjugation. By removing the two last characters from the end of the infinitive, we obtain the stem. And by applying certain endings we can get all the conjugated forms of the verb. Generally the endings depend on the conjugation (whether the verb infinitive ends -ar, -er, or -ir).
By simply applying the endings to the stem the conjugator can conjugate all regular verbs of the Spanish language, which account more than 90% of all the verbs. I porgrammed this in one afternoon.
In order to work well, the conjugator must also be able to conjugate all irregular verbs. This was the tricky part; all irregular verbs had to be put in different categories according to the irregularities that they show. So I wrote a dictionary that contained the irregular verbs and information about the irregularities. This was time consuming and required that the verbs were checked in various books.
At this point I decided to mark all irregularities in red. In means of programming it was done easily; if special rules were applied, use red language.
In addition to irregularities there is something that is called ortographic change. In practice it means that a letter ot two are replced with some other letter in certain situations. The ortigraphic rules are regular, so it was a matter of a few codelines.
Finally as you can imagine, am automated verb conjugator can conjugate the verb in any form. Now there are some verbs in Spanish that are not conjugated in all forms. I chose to mark these forms in grey. Unfortunately I had to build again a dictionary with information of non-existing forms.
To put this together, a Spanish verb conjugator works like this:
- Check from dictionary, if the verb is irregular.
- If the verb is not found in dictionary, consider that it is regular.
- Remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir).
- Apply the special rules for irregular verbs.
- Add the verb endings and apply the ortographic rules.