How To Conjugate Spanish Verbs In The Present Tense
Conjugating Spanish verbs can be a bit tricky. You might know this by now if you’ve all of a sudden gotten stuck trying to figure out why some verbs are regular (and easy to conjugate), while others are irregular (and generally have to be memorized). To keep things simple we will begin by learning how to conjugate verbs in the present tense and follow up by learning the difference between regular and irregular verbs in Spanish and their conjugation.
The present tense of the verb is in the infinitive form. It’s quite simple, the verb will either end in: -ar, -er or -ir. For example: amar (to love) comer (to eat) and vivir (to live).
There are three steps in conjugating a regular verb in the present tense.
1. Determine the subject (pronoun)
2. Remove the ending of the verb (-ar, -er, -ir)
3. Add the ending for the corresponding subject.
How to conjugate an -ar verb
Hablar (to speak): Yo hablo con mi amiga = I speak with my friend.
|usted (formal you)||habla|
|ustedes (plural you)||hablan|
How to conjugate an -er verb
Comer (to eat): Yo como en mi casa = I eat in my house.
|usted (formal you)||come|
|ustedes (plural you)||comen|
How to conjugate an -ir verb:
Vivir (to live): Yo vivo con mi hermana = I live with my sister.
|usted (formal you)||vive|
|ustedes (plural you)||viven|
We can now continue with the irregular verbs.
Irregular verbs do not follow the same set of rules that regular verbs do. Although they still change depending on the subject of the sentence, they don’t change with the same set of rules as the regular verbs. Some of them change completely, even the stem of the verb changes, which makes it necessary to memorize them.
Some common irregular verbs in Spanish are:
- Ser (to be)
- Estar (to be)
- Ir (to go)
- Saber (to know)
- Hacer (to do)
- Tener (to have)
Irregular verbs are also called stem – changing verbs.
How to conjugate the irregular verb: tener
Tener (to have): Ella tiene un gato = She has a cat.
|usted (formal you)||tiene|
|ustedes (plural you)||tienen|
As you can see from the chart, the stem vowel changes from e to ei. The exception is for the pronoun yo and the pronoun nosotros. Nosotros is the only pronoun that follows the rule of the regular verbs.
Because it’s hard to determine a pattern, the best thing you can do is just to go ahead and memorize them. It might seem hard at first, but begin with the most common irregular verbs, then the more you keep practicing, the easier it will get.
Let’s keep practicing!
We will continue with another stem vowel change. In this case, we will focus on verbs which vowel changes from o to ue.
How to conjugate the irregular verb: dormir
Dormir (to sleep): Yo duermo todas las noches = I sleep every night.
|usted (formal you)||duerme|
|ustedes (plural you)||duermen|
Notice again how nosotros is the odd one: the o does not change to ue.
One last example where the stem vowel changes.
How to conjugate the irregular verb: seguir
Seguir (to follow or continue): Yo sigo trabajando = I continue to work. For this example, the vowel e changes to i.
|usted (formal you)||sigue|
|ustedes (plural you)||siguen|
Well done! Learning how to conjugate regular and irregular verbs in Spanish will help lay the foundations for speaking Spanish correctly. Memorizing those tricky ones right from the beginning will help you avoid a big headache in the future when you are more advanced.
Here are some examples of the most common irregular verbs. It’s a great way to get started.
Ser (to be)
- Ella es mi hermana = She is my sister.
Estar (to be)
- Yo estoy en clase = I am in class.
Tener (to have)
- Ellos tienen libros = They have books.
Hacer (to make)
- Yo hago el desayuno = I make breakfast.
Ir (to go)
- Yo voy al doctor = I go to the doctor.
Dar (to give)
- Nosotros damos dinero = We give money.
Llegar (to arrive)
- Yo llego en media hora = I arrive in half an hour.
Creer (to believe)
- Yo creo que si = I believe so.
Pensar (to think)
- Tu piensas todo el tiempo = You think all the time.
Salir (to leave, go out)
- Ella sale de trabajar a las 10 = She leaves work at 10.