All About Spanish verbs

By optilingo

Easy way to study Spanish verbs, including Spanish verbs, including Spanish verb tense, Spanish mood

Understanding grammar will help you on your way to foreign language fluency. When learning the Spanish language, it’s important to know about Spanish verbs.

Verbs can be the most difficult aspect to learn in any language because all languages tend to have their own ideas on how verbs should be conjugated. Even languages like German that run on strict rules have numerous exceptions and irregular verbs. Romance languages like Spanish have considerably more irregular verbs and exceptions. This text is not going to spend too much time with exceptions because you have enough to worry about with all of the different tenses and types of conjugation (such as subjunctive and indicative).

There are a few things to keep in mind as you begin to learn to conjugate verbs.

  1. Most subjects are understood. Only the formal subjects require a pronoun (usted and ustedes).
  2. is extremely informal and is not used in formal settings or with strangers. It should be restricted to people who are close, like family and friends.

Two Versions of “To Be” – Ser and Estar

The verb to be is critical in every language. Unlike English, Spanish has two versions of this verb.

Ser      Details or characteristics of the subject’s essence

Éste es un libro.                                           This is a book.

Yo soy de los Estados Unidos.                   I am from the United States.

Estar   Details about the subject’s present condition, they constantly change

Esta habitación está desordenada.                      This room is messy.

Yo estoy ocupado.                                                       I am busy.

Ustedes están cansados.                                          You are tired.

The following provides the conjugations for the verb ser.

Pronoun

Presente

(Present Tense)

Pretérito
(Past)

Copretérito          (Imperfect)

Futuro
(Future Tense)

Yo (I)

Soy

Fui

Era

Seré

(You)

Eres

Fuiste

Eras

Serás

Usted (You, formal)

Es

Fue

Era

Será

Él (He)

Es

Fue

Era

Será

Ella (She)

Es

Fue

Era

Será

Nosotros (We)

Somos

Fuimos

Éramos

Seremos

Vosotros (You, plural, informal)

Sois

Fuisteis

Erais

Seréis

Ellos (They)

Son

Fueron

Eran

Serán

Ustedes (You, plural, formal)

Son

Fueron

Eran

Serán

 

The following provides the conjugations for the verb estar.

Pronoun

Presente

(Present Tense)

Pretérito
(Past)

Copretérito          (Imperfect)

Futuro
(Future Tense)

Yo (I)

Estoy

Estuve

Estaba

Estaré

(You)

Estás

Estuviste

Estabas

Estarás

Usted (You, formal)

Está

Estuvo

Estaba

Estará

Él (He)

Está

Estuvo

Estaba

Estará

Ella (She)

Está

Estuvo

Estaba

Estará

Nosotros (We)

Estamos

Estuvimos

Estábamos

Estaremos

Vosotros (You, plural, informal)

Estáis

Estuvisteis

Estabais

Estaréis

Ellos (They)

Están

Estuvieron

Estaban

Estarán

Ustedes (You, plural, formal)

Están

Estuvieron

Estaban

Estarán

 

These verb conjugations will take rote memory to get right. It may also take a while to learn the right word (ser o estar) for different situations. Spend some time working with quizzes and apps to get a better feel of when to use the two different versions.

Indicative – Simple Present Tense

This is a tense that you use frequently (I run, he finds, they send). When you’re learning the Spanish language [Why Learn Spanish], you may divide the simple present tense conjugation for regular verbs into three types. To conjugate all three of these types, you begin by removing the last two letters of the verb in infinitive, then add the ending that corresponds to the correct pronoun. The following table shows you what addition to make based on the subject.

Pronoun

-ar Ending

Example: Caminar (to walk)

-er Ending

Example: Comer (to eat)

-ir Ending

Example: Escribir (to write)

Yo (I) Remove -ar, add o Camino Remove -er, add o Como Remove -ir, add o Escribo
Tú (You) Remove -ar, add as Caminas Remove -er, add es Comes Remove -ir, add es Escribes
Él (He) Remove -ar, add a Camina Remove -er, add e Come Remove -ir, add e Escribe
Ella (She) Remove -ar, add a Camina Remove -er, add e Come Remove -ir, add e Escribe
Nosotros (We) Remove -ar, add amos Caminamos Remove -er, add emos Comemos Remove -ir, add imos Escribimos
Ellos (They) Remove -ar, add an Caminan Remove -er, add en Comen Remove -ir, add en Escriben
Ustedes (You, plural) Remove -ar, add an Caminan Remove -er, add en Comen Remove -ir, add en Escriben

 

Spend some time practicing different verbs with these endings to get the rhythm. Once you have practiced them several times, simple present tense will become relatively easy to conjugate. Here are some common verbs that follow these conjugations.

trabajar      to work              beber                to drink                    decidir       to decide

hablar        to speak            leer                    to read                    escribir      to write

nadar         to swim             vender              to sell                      dormir        to sleep

bailar         to dance            cometer            to commit               persistir      to persist

visitar         to visit               exceder            to exceed                recibir        to receive

estudiar     to study             ceder                to cede/yield           prohibir      to prohibit/forbid

andar         to walk              respirar             to breathe               vivir           to live

Use these verbs for practice in the next few sections. They follow the same conjugations.

You can also go online and pull up long lists of verbs like these because they represent the way most Spanish verbs are conjugated (making it easy to practice). While you are learning the simple present tense conjugation, you can also expand your vocabulary and include many common verbs you will need in order to have a conversation in Spanish.

Indicative – Simple Past Tense

Taking into consideration the same three verb endings, you can work with the simple past tense.

Pronoun

-ar Ending

Example: Caminar (to walk)

-er Ending

Example: Comer (to eat)

-ir Ending

Example: Escribir (to write)

Yo (I) Remove -ar, add é Caminé Remove -er, add í Comí Remove -ir, add í Escribí
Tú (You) Remove -ar, add aste Caminaste Remove -er, add iste Comiste Remove -ir, add iste Escribiste
Él (He) Remove -ar, add ó Caminó Remove -er, add ió Comió Remove -ir, add ió Escribió
Ella (She) Remove -ar, add ó Caminó Remove -er, add ió Comió Remove -ir, add ió Escribió
Nosotros (We) Remove -ar, add amos Caminamos Remove -er, add imos Comimos Remove -ir, add ios Escribios
Ellos (They) Keep -ar, add on Caminaron Remove -er, add ieron Comieron Remove -ir, add ieron Escribieron
Ustedes (You, plural) Keep -ar, add on Caminaron Remove -er, add ieron Comieron Remove -ir, add ieron Escribieron

 

Indicative – Imperfect Tense

The imperfect tense shows the way things used to be or how things happened in the past (he used to walk, they were walking). To show the imperfect tense for most verbs, remove the -r and add the appropriate ending.

 

Pronoun

-ar Ending

Example: Caminar (to walk)

-er Ending

Example: Comer (to eat)

-ir Ending

Example: Escribir (to write)

Yo (I) Remove -ar, add aba Caminaba Remove -er, add ía Comía Remove -ir, add ía Escribía
Tú (You) Remove -ar, add abas Caminabas Remove -er, add ías Comías Remove -ir, add ías Escribías
Él (He) Remove -ar, add aba Caminaba Remove -er, add ía Comía Remove -ir, add ía Escribía
Ella (She) Remove -ar, add aba Caminaba Remove -er, add ía Comía Remove -ir, add ía Escribía
Nosotros (We) Remove -ar, add ábamos Caminábamos Remove -er, add íamos Comíamos Remove -ir, add íamos Escribíamos
Ellos (They) Remove -ar, add abais Caminaban Remove -er, add íais Comían Remove -ir, add íais Escribían
Ustedes (You, plural) Remove -ar, add aban Caminaban Remove -er, add ían Comían Remove -ir, add ían Escribían

 

Indicative – Future Tense

Future tense is the one conjugation that will be relatively easy to learn in Spanish. It requires less work because it has more repetition than any of the other tenses. Typically, you only need to tack on the necessary ending to complete the conjugation.

Pronoun

-ar Ending

Example: Caminar (to walk)

-er Ending

Example: Comer (to eat)

-ir Ending

Example: Escribir (to write)

Yo (I) Add é Caminaré Add é Comeré Add é Escribiré
Tú (You) Add ás Caminarás Add ás Comerás Add ás Escribirás
Él (He) Add á Caminará Add á Comerá Add á Escribirá
Ella (She) Add á Carminará Add á Comerá Add á Escribirá
Nosotros (We) Add emos Caminaremos Add emos Comeremos Add emos Escribiremos
Ellos (They) Add án Caminarán Add án Comerán Add án Escribirán
Ustedes (You, plural) Add án Caminarán Add án Comerán Add án Escribirán

 

Notice that the changes for all the verbs are exactly the same, so you won’t have to worry about what the ending is – you will only need to focus on the pronoun being used to properly conjugate the future tense verb.

So far we have only looked at verbs in indicative mood, these are relatively straightforward. They indicate a degree of certainty and objectivity so that there is no doubt about what is being said. Make sure you learn these tenses before moving on because conjugation gets considerably more complicated going forward.

Subjunctive

The subjunctive mood indicates that there is doubt, a wish or a possibility. The speaker is trying to convey a sense of longing or hope with these verbs, such as “I wish,” “I want,” and “I hope.”

The thing to remember about the subjunctive tense is that it also requires another verb, such as wish, want, and hope. That verb must be conjugated too, but for now we are focusing on the infinitive of the second verb (“I wish to eat,” “I want to run,” and “I hope to go”). All of these examples are for the three verbs already covered by the indicative case.

Pronoun

-ar Ending

Example: Caminar (to walk)

-er Ending

Example: Comer (to eat)

-ir Ending

Example: Escribir (to write)

Yo (I) Remove -ar, Add e Camine Remove -er, Add a Coma Remove -ir, Add a Escriba
Tú (You) Remove -ar, Add es Camines Remove -er, Add as Comas Remove -ir, Add as Escribas
Él (He) Remove -ar, Add e Camines Remove -er, Add a Coma Remove -ir, Add a Escriba
Ella (She) Remove -ar, Add e Camine Remove -er, Add a Coma Remove -ir, Add a Escriba
Nosotros (We) Remove -ar, Add emos Caminemos Remove -er, Add amos Comamos Remove -ir, Add amos Escribamos
Ellos (They) Remove -ar, Add en Caminen Remove -er, Add an Coman Remove -ir, Add an Escriban
Ustedes (You, plural) Remove -ar, Add en Caminen Remove -er, Add an Coman Remove -ir, Add an Escriban

 

Remember that this mood requires a degree of uncertainly. Phrases like “It’s good that” (Es bueno que) and “It’s likely that” (Es probable que) are followed by a subjunctive. Statements like “She likes” (A ella le gusta) are not subjunctive because it is stating that a person likes or enjoys something for sure.

Imperative

Verbs in the imperative mood are used in sentences that express petitions, commands, orders or prohibitions. They do not require (and rarely have) an explicit subject because the subject is understood (implicit) to be the person the speaker is talking to. The following is based on the verb caminar.

Camina.                     Walk (singular you)

No camines.              Don’t walk (singular you)

Caminen.                   Walk (plural you)

No caminen.              Don’t walk (plural you)

Caminemos.              Let’s walk (us)

Slightly Irregular Verbs

There are some verbs that follow many of the patterns mentioned above, but have one or two exceptions. You have to pay particular attention to them to ensure that you don’t conjugate them incorrectly.

Present simple tense

Pronoun

Comenzar
(to begin)

Querer
(to want)

Sentir
(to feel)

Jugar
(to play)

Pensar
(to think)

Dormir
(to sleep)

Despertar
(to wake up)

Yo (I) Comienzo Quiero Siento Juego Pienso Duermo Despierto
Tú (You) Comienzas Quieres Sientes Juegas Piensas Duermes Despiertas
Él (He) Comienza Quiere Siente Juega Piensa Duerme Despierta
Ella (She) Comienza Quiere Siente Juega Piensa Duerme Despierta
Nosotros (We) Comenzamos Queremos Sentimos Jugamos Pensamos Dormimos Despertamos
Ellos (They) Comienzan Quieren Sienten Juegan Piensan Duermen Despiertan
Ustedes (You, plural) Comienzan Quieren Sienten Juegan Piensan Duermen Despiertan

 

Irregular Verbs

This is where Spanish conjugation begins to get tricky. Many of the most commonly used verbs in Spanish are irregular. Irregular verbs don’t follow a predictable pattern. They are entirely unique.

The following table addresses the irregular verbs that you are likely to need when you first start learning Spanish. The only way to learn these verbs is through memorization and regular practice (and use).

Present simple tense

Pronoun

Hacer
(to do)

Tener
(to have)

Ir
(to go)

Venir
(to come)

Decir
(to say)

Oír
(to hear)

Ver
(to see)

Yo (I) Hago Tengo Voy Vengo Digo Oigo Veo
Tú (You) Haces Tienes Vas Vienes Dices Oyes Ves
Él (He) Hace Tiene Va Viene Dice Oye Ve
Ella (She) Hace Tiene Va Viene Dice Oye Ve
Nosotros (We) Hacemos Tenemos Vamos Venimos Decimos Oímos Vemos
Ellos (They) Hacen Tienen Van Vienen Dicen Oyen Ven
Ustedes (You, plural) Hacen Tienen Van Vienen Dicen Oyen Ven

 

Present Progressive Tense with Estar

The progressive tense uses the verb estar to show that the person is moving or is in motion. For the three primary types of verbs (-ar, -er, and -ir), it is relatively simple.

Drop the -ar and add -ando (-ar verbs) or the -er or -ir and add -iendo (-er and -ir verbs)

Caminar            caminando

Comer              comiendo

Escribir             escribiendo

This is true even for the irregular verbs, with a few exceptions (like ir – to go, or decir – to say or tell).

Hacer         haciendo

Tener         teniendo

Ir                 yendo

Decir          diciendo

Reflexive Verbs

There are some verbs in Spanish with a reflexive essence, such as “I stood up for myself.” (Me defendí). They rely on the use of reflexive pronouns to complete the thought. The verbs are conjugated the same way, but you need to add the right pronoun just before the verb.

First you need to know the pronouns for these verbs.

Me                             myself

Te                              yourself (informal)

Se                              yourself (formal), yourselves, himself, herself, itself, themselves

Os                              yourselves (formal)

Nos                            ourselves

The following are some of the most common reflexive verbs. As you can see, when they are in infinitive mood (not conjugated) they end in –se.

acostarse                                                                             to go to bed

afeitarse                                                                              to shave

alegrarse                                                                              to be glad

despedirse                                                                          to say goodbye

despertarse                                                                        to wake up

divertirse                                                                             to have fun

lavarse                                                                  to wash

levantarse                                                                           to get up

ponerse                                                                               to put on

sentarse                                                                               to sit down

vestirse                                                                                to get dressed

They are used like this:

Me desperté a las ocho de la mañana.                      I woke up at 8 am.

¡Te dije que no!                                        I said no!

Se vistió rápidamente.                                    He got dressed quickly.

Special Spanish Verbs

This section covers verbs that have no English equivalents or that are so irregular that it will be helpful to have a chart specifically for them.

  1. Gustar    It translates roughly as “to be pleasing to”, but is often translated or read as “to like”. Ella le gusta el libro.
  2. Hacer     It translates roughly as “to do” or “to make”. Hacer una bufanda.
  3. Hay        “There is” – does not include a specific number (there are many people outside). Hay mucha gente afuera.
  4. Hay que “One must”. Hay que ser valiente de cara al mal.
  5. Habia      “There was” or “there were” – does not include a specific number (there were too many stars to count). Había dos personas en la cocina esta mañana.
  6. Había que    “Had to”. Había que comprar una chaqueta.
  7. Tener      idiomatic version of “to have” or “to be”. Tengo un helado.
  8. Querer    idiomatic version of “want to” or “wish to”.  Quiero un abrazo de Ryan Reynolds.
  9. Saber     “to know” something (fact, reason, idea).    Yo sé que es agradable.
  10. Conocer “to know” something concrete (person, place, subject, literature). Conozco a Juan.

More Semi-Irregular and Irregular Verbs

There are several more common semi-irregular and irregular verbs that you should take the time to memorize along with their conjugations. Don’t try to learn them all at the same time (particularly with the ones in the main body of the ebook). You want to make sure you get one or two word conjugations right before you take on the next couple of words– that way you can ensure that you understand them so that you don’t have to think about the conjugation too much when speaking and writing.

Prounoun

Poder
(to be able to)

Preferir
(to prefer)

Salir
(to go out)

Saber
( to know)

Yo (I) Puedo Prefiero Salgo
Tú (You) Puedes Prefieres Sales Sabes
Él (He) Puede Prefiere Sale Sabe
Ella (She) Puede Prefiere Sale Sabe
Nosotros (We) Podemos Preferimos Salimos Sabemos
Ellos (They) Podéis Preferís Salís Sabéis
Ustedes (Plural You) Pueden Prefieren Salen Saben