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Moving Forward With the Spanish Present Tense

By Anthony / September 27, 2016

Learning how to use verbs in the present tense is an exciting adventure. You are finally able to expand on your vocabulary, use verbs in your sentences, and have an actual conversation in Spanish.

I remember being elated that I was finally going to be able to ask questions and describe events. I was on my way! My excitement was short lived, however, when I found out there was an entire process to conjugating verbs!

Frustration set in and I was on the verge of giving up. Something had to be done. I decided to change my attitude and take charge of this “process” we fondly call present tense conjugation.

Let’s Talk About the Differences

Spanish is very different from English when dealing with verbs. In English, we pretty much keep the verb the same. By adding a subject in front of the verb, we know who is completing the action.

He runs

We run

In Spanish, they don’t do this. They manipulate the verb (by changing the ending) to indicate who is performing the action.

     Habla         

Hablamos

Habla Hablamos

Now, before you freak out on me, don’t worry! We are going to break it down even further.

Basics You Need to Know

Every verb in Spanish has an infinitive form. This what what the verb is called before you conjugate it. Think of it as the verb in it’s purest form. No one has manipulated it. Here are three examples of verbs in their infinitive:

Hablar (to talk)

Comer (to eat)

Escribir (to write)


There are three types of verbs in Spanish: -ar, -er, and -ir. The type of verb is based on it’s ending (the last two letters of the verb). When you look at the chart below, you will see that each verb is categorized by the last two letters in the infinitive form of the verb.

AR Verbs

ER Verbs

IR Verbs

Hablar (to talk)

Comer (to eat)

Escribir (to write)

Escuchar (to listen)

Beber (to drink)

Vivir (to live)

Nadar (to swim)

Correr (to run)

Existir (to exist)



How Do I Identify the Subjects?

All three types of verbs use the same words for the subjects. They never change, no matter what the verb is:

Yo

I

Nosotros

We​

You

Vosotros

You all

*Only used in Spain in the place of Ustedes

Usted

You (formal)

*Use this when speaking to people of authority, elders, and people of importance

Ustedes

You (plural)

*Used to address multiple people of importance or to indicate “all of you”

Él/Ella

He/She

Ellos/Ellas

They

Now let’s put everything together....

Conjugating AR Verbs

First thing you have to learn are the endings of the -ar verbs according to their subjects:

Yo

o

Nosotros

amos

as

Vosotros

áis

Usted

a

Ustedes

an

Él/Ella

a

                        

                       

Ellos/Ellas

an


Now, using the verb hablar (to talk) as an example, we take from the -ar ending of the verb, and change it to fit our subject:


Hablar - to talk

Yo

Hablo

I talk

Nosotros

Hablamos

we talk

Hablas

you talk

Vosotros

Habláis

​you all talk

Usted

Habla

you talk

(referring to person of importance)​

Ustedes

Hablan

you guys talk

                                                               ​

Él/Ella

Habla

he/she talks

Ellos/Ellas

Hablan

they talk

Yo hablo a Elena (I talk to Elena)

Nosotros hablamos con la profesora (We talk with the professor)

Let’s look at another example:

Escuchar - to listen

Yo

Escucho

I listen

Nosotros

Escuchamos

we listen

Escuchas

you listen

Vosotros

Escucháis

​you all listen

Usted

Escucha

you listen

(referring to person of importance)​

Ustedes

Escuchan

you guys listen

                                                               ​

Él/Ella

Escucha

he/she listens

Ellos/Ellas

Escuchan

they listen

Ella escucha al radio (she listens to the radio)

escuchas a la conversación entre Susana y Lupe (you listen to the conversation between Susana and Lupe).

Now you practice! See if you can conjugate the following -ar verbs:

Amar - to love

Besar - to kiss

Cantar - to sing

                                         ​

                                          ​

Estudiar - to study

Irregulars

As with all languages, there are always exceptions to the rule. Here are two examples of verbs that follow their own path and ignore the -ar conjugation rules in the Yo form:

Dar - to give

Traer - to bring

Yo doy

                                         ​

                                          ​

Yo traigo

                                          

The rest of the forms (subjects) follow the pattern of a regular -ar verb.

Conjugating ER Verbs

Here are the endings to -er verbs:

Yo

o

Nosotros

emos

es

Vosotros

éis

Usted

e

Ustedes

en

Él/Ella

e

                        

                       

Ellos/Ellas

en

Using the verb comer as an example, we take of the -er ending and change it to fit our subject:

Comer - to eat

Yo

Como

I eat

Nosotros

Comemos

we eat

Comes

you eat

Vosotros

Coméis

​you all eat

Usted

Come

you eat

(referring to person of importance)​

Ustedes

Comen

you guys eat

                                                               ​

Él/Ella

Come

he/she eats

Ellos/Ellas

Comen

they eat

Yo como panqueques (I eat pancakes)

Vosotros coméis cereal por la mañana (you all eat cereal in the morning)

Here is another example:

Beber - to drink

Yo

Bebo

I drink

Nosotros

Bebemos

we drink

Bebes

you drink

Vosotros

Bebéis

​you all drink

Usted

Bebe

you drink

(referring to person of importance)​

Ustedes

Beben

you guys drink

                                                               ​

Él/Ella

Bebe

he/she drinks

Ellos/Ellas

Beben

they drink

Ellos beben leche (they drink milk)

Él bebe agua (he drinks water)

Your turn to practice! Can you conjugate these -er verbs?

Aprender - to learn

Vender - to sell

Comprender - to understand

                                         ​

                                          ​

Correr - to run

​                                                             

Irregulars

Of course the -er verbs have exceptions. Here are two examples of common irregular -er verbs:

Tener - to have

Hacer - to make

Yo tengo

Nosotros tenemos

Yo hago

Nosotros hacemos

Tú tienes

Vosotros tenéis

Tú haces

Vosotros hacéis

Usted tiene

Ustedes tienen

Usted hace

Ustedes hacen

Él/Ella tiene

Ellos/ellas tienen

Él/Ella  hace

Ellos/ellas hacen

Conjugating IR Verbs

Conjugating -ir verbs is the same as -er verbs with two exceptions; the nosotros and vosotros forms.

Yo

o

Nosotros

imos

es

Vosotros

ís

Usted

e

Ustedes

en

Él/Ella

e

                        

                       

Ellos/Ellas

en

Now for those examples:

Vivir - to live

Yo

Vivo

I live

Nosotros

Vivimos

we live

Vives

you live

Vosotros

Vivís

​you all live

Usted

Vive

you live

(referring to person of importance)​

Ustedes

Viven

you guys live

                                                               ​

Él/Ella

Vive

he/she lives

Ellos/Ellas

Viven

they live

¿Usted vives en California? (do you live in California?)

Nosotros vivimos en la ciudad (we live in the city)

Escribir - to write

Yo

Escribo

I write

Nosotros

Escribimos

we write

Escribes

you write

Vosotros

Escribís

​you all write

Usted

Escribe

you write

(referring to person of importance)​

Ustedes

Escriben

you guys write

                                                               ​

Él/Ella

Escribe

he/she writes

Ellos/Ellas

Escriben

they write

Ustedes escriben las cartas (you guys write the letters)

Los chicos (ellos) escriben los correos electrónicos (the boys (they) write the e-mails)

Practice time!

Aburrir - to bore

Recibir - to receive

Subir - to rise

                                         ​

                                          ​

Imprimir - to print

​                                     

Irregulars

Here are some common examples of irregular -ir verbs:

Ir - to go

Venir - to come

Yo voy

Nosotros vamos

Yo vengo

Nosotros venimos

Tú vas

Vosotros vais

Tú vienes

Vosotros venís

Usted va

Ustedes van

Usted viene

Ustedes vienen

Él/Ella va

Ellos/ellas van

Él/Ella viene

Ellos/ellas vienen




I Got It! Now How Do I Get Better?


The best way to practice your verbs is through real conversations! If you try to memorize the charts and all the rules that go with it you will just frustrate yourself. Taking the plunge and engaging in real conversations is far more fun that making verb charts!

After a few conversations, you will find that you remember your new verbs in their conjugated form for whatever subject you are referring to.

Remember to focus on ending patterns of the -ar, -er, and -ir verbs as you practice. Your brain will pick up on the patterns and commit them to memory. Once this happens, you will be able to conjugate any verb (in the regular form) without having to memorize thousands of verbs in their conjugated forms.

Stay Positive!


Don’t place too much focus on the irregular verbs, they will come in time. You will probably use the wrong form of a verb when practicing, but don’t worry! I used to be so embarrassed when I conjugated wrong during conversations, but making mistakes is all part of the process! Native speakers will probably still be able to understand you and applaud your effort.

Conjugating verbs is a learning process that can be frustrating at times. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Keep practicing and converse in Spanish with anyone that you can. The process may not be easy at times, but think about how great you will feel after you master present tense verbs!

All your hard work will pay off in the end, I promise. Don’t forget, we are always here to help so make sure to ask your questions below.



About the author

Anthony

Coffee drinker, Spanish speaker, habitual traveler, taking life one beautiful day at a time.

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