Using the verb "tardar" = to take time

When we talk about how long it takes/one takes to do something we generally use the verb "tardar" in Spanish.

The way we use this verb is slightly different to the English "to take time". Have a look at the following examples:

Yo tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.

¿Cuánto tiempo tardaste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?

El tren tardará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.

Notice how in the Spanish examples above the person (yo, ...) is the subject of the sentence, unlike in English where "it" is normally the subject. (It takes me, It took me...) so "tardar" always agrees with the person.

This would be incorrect:

Me tarda 5 minutos.

¿Cuánto tiempo te tardó?

As you can see in the third example above, we can use tardar to talk about how long some form of transporation takes.

Here are more examples:

El autobús número 6 tarda demasiado tiempo en hacer su recorrido.Bus number 6 takes too long to complete its route.

Es mejor que vamos en avión porque el avión tarda menos que el tren.We'd rather take a plane because the plane takes less time than the train.

Important note: 

While in English "what takes time" is expressed with the infinitive "to [verb]", in Spanish we use preposition en + infinitive:

Tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.
It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.

Tardé 6 horas en corregir los exámenes.
It took me 6 hours to mark the exams.

Tardarse

In cases where the subject is unimportant or unknown, or when simply making a general statement, tardar is used in its reflexive form: tardarse.

For example:

Se tarda bastante tiempo en acostumbrarse a un país nuevo.It takes (in general) quite some time to get used to a new country.

Se tardó mucho en construir este hospital.It took (them, whoever built it) a long time to build this hospital.

It can be used in the singular, for example se tarda, se tardó or in the plural, for example se tardan, se tardaron.

Se tardó dos horas en llegar. = Se tardaron dos horas en llegar.
It took two hours to arrive.

When used in its plural form it works as a passive with "se", see Forming passive sentences with "se" (la pasiva refleja).

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Examples and resources

Se tardó mucho en construir este hospital.It took (them, whoever built it) a long time to build this hospital.
Se tarda bastante tiempo en acostumbrarse a un país nuevo.It takes (in general) quite some time to get used to a new country.
El autobús número 6 tarda demasiado tiempo en hacer su recorrido.Bus number 6 takes too long to complete its route.
Es mejor que vamos en avión porque el avión tarda menos que el tren.We'd rather take a plane because the plane takes less time than the train.
El tren tardará 3 horas en ir de Sevilla a Madrid.The train will take 3 hours to go from Seville to Madrid.
¿Cuánto tiempo tardaste en corregir todos los exámenes?How long did it take you to mark all the exams?
Yo tardo 5 minutos en llegar a la oficina.It takes me 5 minutes to get to the office.
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