Mastering Spanish Verbs Conjugation: How to Conjugate Present Tense
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Want to pick up Spanish but feeling intimidated by its grammer? I’m here to show you that understanding conjugation isn’t as challenging as it appears for an English speaker. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have a grip on basic Spanish verb tenses, ace regular and irregular verb conjugations, and discover reliable support when you need it. I’ll also steer you towards the next steps to further polish your language skills. Let’s begin!
But before we start,
What is its Function?
Verbs serve the purpose of expressing either actions (such as reading, doing, running) or a state of being (like being or enjoying).
In the sentence, “Él cocina y ella está emocionada” (He cooks, and she is excited), “cocina” (infinitive: (cooks) and “está” (is) are the verbs used, and the nouns are “él” (he) and “ella” (she).
Additionally, they provide insights into the timeframe of an action, as evident in the sentence, conveying a present situation in both English and Spanish.
Particularly in Spanish, they also convey the manner of expression rather than a specific moment in time.
Spanish has three grammatical “modo”:
1. Modo indicativo
Used for stating facts, assertions, and presenting objective information.
2. Modo subjuntivo
Applied to express reactions, emotions, uncertainties, and doubts.
3. Modo imperativo
Utilized for issuing direct orders and commands.
At this point, it’s essential to understand that each mood requires a distinct changes.
Rest assured, I’m simplifying things in this blog post, focusing solely on teaching you the indicative mood conjugation for present, past, and future tenses. In fact, mastering these basics is more than sufficient for comfortable conversations at the beginner level!
The 10 Personal Subject Pronouns of Spanish
Even though there are 10 subject pronouns, you’ll only have to grasp five verb conjugation forms. Take another look at the chart above; subject pronouns of the same color correspond to the same form, a detail we’ll delve into as you continue reading.
Understanding the Basics of Spanish Conjugation
Now that you’re aware, the conjugation form serves to indicate both tense, mood, and subject pronoun.
Before delving into our lesson, it’s crucial to understand that Spanish verbs fall into three distinct categories:
1st category: ends in –ar
2nd category: –er
3rd category: –ir
“Correr” (to run) belongs to the “-er” category, evident from its -er ending. By removing this ending, you’re left with the verb’s stem, which, in this case, is “corr-.”
Typically, what undergoes modification is the ending. This ending reflects the tense, mood, and subject pronoun, and it adjusts based on the type of verb. It’s worth noting that irregular verbs also incorporate stem changes, but we’ll explore that aspect later in the discussion.
How to Conjugate regular Verbs in the Present Tense
Understanding the present is essential for describing current actions, regular routines, and universal truths. Explore these three examples:
- “trabajar” – indicating working
- “correr” – denoting running
- “escribir” – indicating writing
– Yo trabajo (I work)
– Tú trabajas (You work – informal singular)
– Él/Ella/Usted trabaja (He/She/You work – formal singular)
– Nosotros/Nosotras trabajamos (We work)
– Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes trabajan (They/You all work – formal plural)
Notice the bolded endings for -ar category in the present tense?
- -o, -as, -a, -amos, -an. It’s that straightforward.
- Yo corro (I run)
- Tú corres (You run – informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted corre (He/She/You run – formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras corremos (We run)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes corren (They/You all run – formal plural)
“Él corre en el parque todas las mañanas.” (He runs in the park every morning.)
The highlighted present tense endings for -er group are –o, -es, -e, -emos, -en.
- Yo escribo (I write)
- Tú escribes (You write – informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted escribe (He/She/You write – formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras escribimos (We write)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes escriben (They/You all write – formal plural)
And here’s a sentence example:
“Ella escribe cartas a su familia cada semana.” (She writes letters to her family every week.)
In summary, the regular verb endings for the present are –o, -es, -e, -imos, -en. The unique variation between -ir and -er verbs in this tense occurs exclusively in the nosotros (we) form.
The regular endings:
-ar verbs: -o, -as, -a, -amos, -an
-er verbs: -o, -es, -e, -emos, -en
-ir verbs: -o, -es, -e, -imos, -en
How to Conjugate Stem-Changing Verbs in the Present Tense
Certain verbs experience additional stem changes while maintaining regular -ar, -er, and -ir endings. Typically, these involve subtle vowel adjustments in all present forms except nosotros.
For instance, “cerrar” (to close) transforms into “Yo cierro” (I close) due to an e→ie change, not “yo cerro.”
Conjugating verbs with stem changes encompasses variations such as:
e → ie, o → ue, e → i, i → ie, and u → ue.
To illustrate, let’s examine how “cerrar” undergoes conjugation with an e → ie shift.
- Yo cierro (I close)
- Tú cierras (You close – informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted cierra (He/She/You close – formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras cerramos (We close)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes cierran (They/You all close – formal plural)
Another verb with comparable stem changes is “querer” (to want), which conjugate as “quieren” (they want).
Here are some example verbs for other stem changes in the present simple:
o→ ue changes
- Volar (to fly)
- Recordar (to remember)
- Mostrar (to show)
e→ i changes
- Repetir (to repeat)
- Seguir (to follow/continue)
- Competir (to compete)
i→ ie changes
- Pensar (to think)
- Sentir (to feel)
- Preferir (to prefer):
u→ ue changes
- Jugar (to play)
- Hurgar (to dig/poke around)
- Acudir (to come/attend)
Irregularities in the yo form exist among certain -er and -ir verbs in the simple present tense. However, the remaining subject pronoun forms follow the standard patterns for regular verbs.
Using the verb “hacer” (to do) as an example, notice the stem change occurring exclusively in the first person singular form:
The Spanish Verb “Hacer”:
- Yo hago (I do/make)
- Tú haces (You do/make, informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted hace (He/She/You do/make, formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras hacemos (We do/make)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes hacen (They/You all do/make)
I do my homework: “Yo hago mi tarea.”
Other verbs with alterations in the first person singular form in the simple present include:
- “tener” (to have) → “tengo” (I have)
- “saber” (to know) → “sé” (I know)
- “traer” (to bring) → “traigo” (I bring)
- “valer” (to be worth) → “valgo” (I am worth).
How to Conjugate Irregular Verbs in the Present Tense
In the present tense, there are key Spanish verbs that deviate entirely from regular patterns, namely:
- “Ser” (to be, permanent)
- “Estar” (to be, temporary)
- “Ir” (to go)
- “Haber” (to have, auxiliary verb)
- Yo soy (I am)
- Tú eres (You are, informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted es (He/She/You are, formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras somos (We are)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes son (They/You all are)
- Yo estoy (I am)
- Tú estás (You are, informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted está (He/She/You are, formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras estamos (We are)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes están (They/You all are)
- Yo voy (I go)
- Tú vas (You go, informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted va (He/She/You go, formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras vamos (We go)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes van (They/You all go)
Haber (auxiliary verb)
- Yo he (I have)
- Tú has (You have, informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted ha (He/She/You have, formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras hemos (We have)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes han (They/You all have)
“Haber” is rarely used independently; instead, it plays a role in forming “perfect tenses” in Spanish, similar to the English verb “have”:
- “Tú has comido esto antes” expresses “You have eaten this before.”
- “Te he dicho que no” conveys “I have told you no.”
How to Conjugate Reflexive Verbs in the Present Tense
These type of verbs describe actions done to and for oneself, where the subject and object are the same. For instance:
- “Me levanto temprano todos los días” means “I wake up early every day.” Here, “levantarse” is signifying that you are both the one getting up and the person involved in the action.
To excel in using these verbs, it’s essential to grasp not just present conjugation endings but also its pronouns. This becomes especially important as you encounter numerous basic reflexive verbs right from the beginning of your language learning journey.
When starting to learn Spanish, one of the fundamental questions is about a person’s name: “¿Cómo te llamas?” means “What’s your name?” Responding with “Me llamo…” indicates “My name is…” This introduction incorporates the use of known self-referential pronouns.
Four reflexive pronouns align with the subject pronouns they refer to:
Yo → Me
2. Tú → Te
3. Él/Ella/Usted → Se
4. Nosotros/Nosotras → Nos
5. Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes → Se
These pronouns, when translated, sometimes become “self.” For instance, “Él se lava la cara,” translates to “He washes his face.” In this case, the pronoun “se” becomes “himself” in English but this direct translation often doesn’t sound natural in English.
Now let’s explore the full conjugation of the reflexive verb ‘lavar’ (to wash oneself) in the present simple to see the variation in reflexive pronouns according to the conjugated verb endings.
- Yo me lavo (I wash myself)
- Tú te lavas (You wash yourself – informal singular)
- Él/Ella/Usted se lava (He/She/You washes oneself – formal singular)
- Nosotros/Nosotras nos lavamos (We wash ourselves)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes se lavan (They/You all wash themselves – formal plural)
Present Progressive Verbs
The present progressive in Spanish, like the present continuous in English, expresses actions happening now or around this time by combining the verb “estar” with a gerund.
To form the gerund in Spanish, you simply change the -ar verb ending to –ando, and for -er and -ir verbs, it becomes –iendo.
Let’s explore the full conjugation of the present progressive using the verb “hablar” (to talk).
“Hablar” Conjugation in Present Progressive Tense
- Yo estoy hablando (I am speaking)
- Tú estás hablando (You are speaking)
- Él/Ella/Usted está hablando (He/She/You formal are speaking)
- Nosotros/Nosotras estamos hablando (We are speaking)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes están hablando (They/You all formal are speaking)
-ar verbs retain a consistent conjugation pattern without any stem variations in the present progressive.
Let’s take a look at how -er and -ir verbs, using “comer” (to eat) as an example, are conjugated in the present progressive.
“Comer” Conjugation in Present Progressive Tense
- Yo estoy comiendo (I am eating)
- Tú estás comiendo (You are eating)
- Él/Ella/Usted está comiendo (He/She/You formal are eating)
- Nosotros/Nosotras estamos comiendo (We are eating)
- Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes están comiendo (They/You all formal are eating)
Some -er verbs have irregular gerunds, ending in -yendo instead of the typical -iendo.
Some examples of irregular -er gerunds include:
- Poseer (to possess)
- Proveer (to provide)
- Oír (to hear)
- Construir (to build)
This adaptation becomes essential when there are two back-to-back vowels in the core of the verb.
From regular -ar, -er, -ir verbs to nuanced stem-changing and irregular verbs, this comprehensive guide introduces learners to a spectrum of verb forms. By embracing these variations, learners gain versatility and depth in their Spanish language proficiency. In the coming up posts, we’ll cover, Preterite lesson, Best verb conjugator, the imperfect tense, and the subjunctive.