Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Conjugation￼
Do you want to learn Spanish but you fear Spanish conjugation?
Don’t worry, I’ll show you that the conjugation concept is not difficult for an English speaker—and that you already know more than you think.
I promise that by the end of this article, you’ll know basic Spanish tenses, you’ll be able to conjugate regular and irregular Spanish verbs, and know where to look for help when you get lost. I’ll also tell you what to do next to continue working on your conjugating skills.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents:
- But First, What Do Verbs Do?
- What Are Subject Pronouns?
- Breaking Down the Basics of Conjugation
- Present Tense Conjugation
- Conjugating Present Progressive Verbs
- Past Tense Conjugation
- Conjugating Past Progressive Verbs
- Future Tense Conjugation
- How to Learn Spanish Conjugation
- Ready to Practice Spanish Conjugation?
But First, What Do Verbs Do?
Verbs express action (to read, to do, to run) or a state of being (to be, to enjoy).
Él canta y ella está aburrida.
He sings and she is bored.
Canta and está are two verbs in this sentence.
Verbs also give us information about the tenses. Reading the above sentence, both in English and in Spanish, you know that it describes a present situation, not a past or future one.
Spanish verbs in particular also give us information about the mood. Moods don’t refer to a moment in time, but rather to a manner of expression.
There are three Spanish moods:
1. Indicative Mood – Modo indicativo
Express assertion, facts, and objective statements
2. Subjunctive Mood – Modo subjuntivo
Express reactions, feelings, doubts, insecurities
3. Imperative Mood – Modo imperativo
Give direct orders and commands
If it still sounds cryptic, read how to Master the 3 Spanish Moods. For now, the only thing you need to know is that there’s a different conjugation for each mood.
Don’t worry, I’m keeping it simple in this blog post and you’ll just learn the indicative mood conjugation for the present, past, and future tenses. The fact is, that’s more than enough to converse with ease at the beginner level!
What Are Subject Pronouns?
Spanish subject pronouns are essential elements of conjugation, even if they’re emitted (which is often).
Simply put, pronouns replace nouns in a sentence to avoid unnecessary repetition. So, in the sentence “Ann read a book to Tom,” we replace the nouns “Ann,” “book,” and “Tom” with pronouns to become “She read it to him.”
“She,” “it,” and “him” are all pronouns.
There are many types of pronouns, but what you need to master Spanish conjugation are subject pronouns.
Subject pronouns replace the noun that is the subject in a sentence, like “I,” “you,” and “we.”
Spanish Subject Pronouns Chart
|yo (I)||nosotros / nosotras (we)|
|tú (informal you)usted (formal you)||ustedes (formal and informal pl. you)|
|él (he)ella (she)||ellos / ellas (they)|
While 10 subject pronouns exist, you’ll only need to learn five forms of verb conjugation.
Look again at the chart above—the subject pronouns of the same color share the same conjugation form (which you’ll see in detail as you keep reading).
Handpicked for you: An Easy Introduction to Spanish Subject Pronouns
Breaking Down the Basics of Conjugation
Now you know that the conjugation form indicates a tense, mood, and subject pronoun.
What you also need to know before you start conjugating in Spanish is that there are three types of verbs in Spanish:
Correr (to run) is an -er verb, as it has the -er ending. If you cut off the ending, you are left with the stem of the verb, which is corr-.
What usually changes in conjugation forms is the ending. The conjugated ending indicates the tense, mood, and subject pronoun, and it varies according to the verb type.
Irregular verbs also involve stem changes, but we’ll get to that later on.
SUMMARY: Spanish conjugation basically requires the removal of the verb ending and addition of a new ending according to the subject pronoun, tense, and mood.
Now, you’re ready.
Let’s start conjugating!
Present Tense Conjugation
Present tense conjugation is useful if you want to talk about things that happen at the moment or regularly and for general truths.
Let me show you these three Spanish verbs:
- amar – to love
- beber – to drink
- vivir – to live
Present Tense Conjugation for -ar Verbs
|yo amo||I love|
|tú amas||you love|
|él, ella, usted ama||he, she, it, loves (formal you love)|
|nosotros, nosotras amamos||we love|
|ustedes aman||you love|
|ellos, ellas aman||they love|
Yo amo leer.
I love to read.
Did you notice the conjugation endings in bold for the present tense -ar verbs?
-o, -as, -a, -amos, -an.
Present Tense Conjugation for -er verbs
|yo bebo||I drink|
|tú bebes||you drink|
|él, ella, usted bebe||he, she, it, drinks (formal you drink)|
|nosotros, nosotras bebemos||we drink|
|ustedes beben||you drink|
|ellos, ellas beben||they drink|
No bebemos suficiente agua.
We don’t drink enough water.
The conjugation endings in bold for the present tense -er verbs are -o, -es, -e, -emos, -en.
Present Tense Conjugation for -ir verbs
|yo vivo||I live|
|tú vives||you live|
|él, ella, usted vive||he, she, it, lives (formal you drink)|
|nosotros, nosotras vivimos||we live|
|ustedes viven||you live|
|ellos, ellas viven||they live|
Where do you live?
The conjugation endings in bold for the present tense -ir verbs are -o, -es, -e, -imos, -en.
The only change between the regular -ir and -er verbs in the present tense is the nosotros (we) form.
In sum, these are the present tense regular verb endings:
|-ar verbs||-er verbs||-ir verbs|
|-o, -as, -a, -amos, -an||-o, -es, -e, -emos, -en||-o, -es, -e, -imos, -en|
Conjugating Stem-Changing Verbs in the Present Tense
Some verbs undergo additional changes within the stem yet keep the regular -ar, -er, and -ir endings. These are usually minor vowel changes that occur in all the grammatical present tense forms except nosotros. This is why, for example, the verb pensar (to think) turns into yo pienso (I think)—not yo penso.
Stem changes include:
- e → ie
- o → ue
- e → i
- i → ie
- u → ue
Here’s how to conjugate the verb pensar (to think) that has an e→ie change.
Present Tense Conjugation for Pensar
|yo pienso||I think|
|tú piensas||you think|
|él, ella, usted piensa||he, she, it, thinks (formal you think)|
|nosotros, nosotras pensamos||we think|
|ustedes piensan||you think|
|ellos, ellas piensan||they think|
Ellos no piensan mucho.
They don’t think much.
Other verbs that undergo this change include querer (to want) and cerrar (to close).
Can you try conjugating them?
Here are some example verbs for other stem changes in the present simple:
o→ ue changes
- soñar – to dream
- contar – to count
- dormir – to sleep, to dream
soñar: sueño, sueñas, sueña, soñamos, sueñan, sueñan
e→ i changes
- medir – to measure
- servir – to serve
- pedir – to ask for
medir: mido, mides, mide, medimos, miden, miden
i→ ie changes
- adquirir – to acquire
- inquirir – to inquire
adquirir: adquiero, adquieres, adquiere, adquirimos, adquieren, adquieren
u→ ue changes
- jugar – to play
jugar: juego, juegas, juega, jugamos, juegan
Can you try conjugating the others?
Among the -er and -ir verbs, some have the irregular yo form in the simple present tense. All the other subject pronoun forms follow the patterns for regular verbs.
This is how it looks with the verb hacer (to do) which undergoes a stem change just in the first person singular form:
Present Tense Conjugation for Hacer
|yo hago||I do|
|tú haces||you do|
|él, ella, usted hace||he, she, it, does (formal you do)|
|nosotros, nosotras hacemos||we do|
|ustedes hacen||you do|
|ellos, ellas hacen||they do|
Yo hago lo que me gusta.
I do what I like.
Other verbs that undergo changes in the first person singular form in the simple present tense include
- tener – tengo (to have)
- saber – sé (to know)
- traer – traigo (to bring)
- valer – valgo (to be worth)
Learn more: What Are Spanish ‘-go’ Verbs?
Conjugating Irregular Spanish Verbs in the Present Tense
Some important Spanish verbs are completely irregular in the present tense, such as
- Ser (to be, permanent)
- Estar (to be, temporary)
- Ir (to go)
- Haber (to have, auxiliary verb)
Present Tense Conjugation for Ser
|yo soy||I am|
|tú eres||you are|
|él, ella, usted es||he, she, it is (formal you are)|
|nosotros, nosotras somos||we are|
|ustedes son||you are|
|ellos, ellas son||they are|
Tú eres mi mejor amigo.
You are my best friend.
Present Tense Conjugation for Estar
|yo estoy||I am|
|tú estás||you are|
|él, ella, usted está||he, she, it is (formal you are)|
|nosotros, nosotras estamos||we are|
|ustedes están||you are|
|ellos, ellas están||they are|
Present Tense Conjugation for Ir
|yo voy||I go|
|tú vas||you go|
|él, ella, usted va||he, she, it goes (formal you go)|
|nosotros, nosotras vamos||we go|
|ustedes van||you go|
|ellos, ellas van||they go|
Vamos todos juntos.
Let’s go all together.
Present Tense Conjugation for Haber (auxiliary)
|yo he||I have|
|tú has||you have|
|él, ella, usted ha||he, she, it has (formal you have)|
|nosotros, nosotras hemos||we have|
|ustedes han||you have|
|ellos, ellas han||they have|
The verb haber rarely exists on its own—instead, it forms what are called “perfect tenses” in Spanish (similar to the English verb “have”):
Tú has comido esto antes.
You have eaten this before.
Te he dicho que no.
I have told you no.
Conjugating Spanish Reflexive Verbs in Present Tense
Reflexive verbs talk about things you do to and for yourself. This means that the subject of the sentence (the person performing the action) is the same as the object of the sentence (the person receiving the action).
Me ducho todas las mañanas.
I take a shower every morning.
Ducharse is a reflexive verb, as you are the one who washes yourself and you’re the clean one.
To master the reflexive verbs, apart from the conjugation present tense endings, you need to master the reflexive pronouns. There are many basic reflexive verbs that you’ll use from day one, so it’s absolutely necessary to learn.
What’s the first question you learn in Spanish?
¿Cómo te llamas?
What’s your name?
And the answer?
My name is…
In Spanish, reflexive verbs always appear with personal, self-referential pronouns that you already know.
Four reflexive pronouns exist, according to the subject pronoun:
|Subject Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun|
|él, ella, usted||se|
Sometimes, you may translate the reflexive pronoun into “self.” For example, me peino means “I comb myself” but it usually doesn’t sound right in English.
Let’s see a complete conjugation of one reflexive verb—ducharse (to take a shower)—in the present simple tense.
Notice how the reflexive pronoun changes with the conjugated verb ending.
|Subject Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun and Verb|
|él, ella, usted||se ducha|
|nosotros, nosotras||nos duchamos|
|ellos, ellas||se duchan|
Siempre me ducho por las mañanas.
I always take a shower in the morning.
Check out: Master Reflexive Verbs in Spanish Grammar
Conjugating Present Progressive Verbs
The present progressive is another tense to talk about present actions in Spanish. You use it only for actions happening right now or around now. It’s like the present continuous in English (“I am writing”).
To construct the present progressive tense in Spanish, you need to join a conjugated verb estar with a gerund.
Let’s learn how to make a gerund with the -ar and -er and -ir verbs. It’s easy. You just have to change the infinitive ending -ar into the gerund ending -ando, and the -ir and -er to -iendo.
Let’s look at the complete conjugation of the present progressive tense of the -ar verbs. I’ll show it to you with the verb caminar (to walk).
Present Progressive Tense Conjugation for Caminar
|yo estoy caminando||I am walking|
|tú estás caminando||you are walking|
|él, ella, usted está caminando||he, she, it is walking (formal you are walking)|
|nosotros, nosotras estamos caminando||we are walking|
|ustedes están caminando||you are walking|
|ellos, ellas están comiendo||they are walking|
Ya estoy caminando unas cuatro horas.
I’ve been walking around for four hours.
There are no stem changes in the present progressive tense for -ar verbs. They all conjugate in the same way.
Let’s see one example of the present progressive tense conjugation of the -er and -ir verbs with the verb comer (to eat).
Present Progressive Tense Conjugation for Comer
|yo estoy comiendo||I am eating|
|tú estás comiendo||you are eating|
|él, ella, usted está comiendo||he, she, it is eating (formal you are eating)|
|nosotros, nosotras estamos comiendo||we are eating|
|ustedes están comiendo||you are eating|
|ellos, ellas están comiendo||they are eating|
Ahora no puedes irte porque estamos comiendo.
You can’t go now because we’re eating.
Some irregular –er gerunds end in -yendo instead of -iendo. The most common ones are
- caer – to fall
- creer – to believe
- leer – to read
- traer – to bring
This change is necessary, as you have two consecutive vowels in the stem of the verb.
Se me está cayendo la cadena de mi bici.
My bike chain is falling off.
Past Tense Conjugation
Past simple tense conjugation is useful if you want to talk about things that happened at a specific moment in the past.
Now, you will learn one of the two past tenses—the preterite. Later on, you can add to your skills by adding imperfect conjugation.
Preterite Regular -AR Verb Conjugation
The preterite endings are easy to remember for the -ar verbs. Let’s conjugate again the verb amar.
Preterite Tense Conjugation for amar
|yo amé||I loved|
|tú amaste||you loved|
|él, ella, usted amó||he, she, it loved (formal you loved)|
|nosotros, nosotras amamos||we loved|
|ustedes amaron||you loved|
|ellos, ellas amaron||they loved|
Amé la película.
I loved the movie.
Mind the accent over the preterite ending in the first and the third person singular.
The conjugation endings in bold for the past tense -ar verbs are -é, -aste, -ó, -amos, -aron.
Preterite Regular -ER and -IR Verb Conjugation
The preterite endings are the same for the -er and ir verbs.
Preterite Tense Conjugation for Comer
|yo comí||I ate|
|tú comiste||you ate|
|él, ella, usted comió||he, she, it ate (formal you ate)|
|nosotros, nosotras comimos||we ate|
|ustedes comieron||you ate|
|ellos, ellas comieron||they ate|
¿Comiste lo que te di?
Did you eat what I gave you?
Once again, keep an eye on the accent over the preterite ending in the first and the third person singular.
The conjugation endings for the past tense -er and -ir verbs are -í, -iste, -ió, -imos, -ieron.
To sum up, these are the present tense regular verb endings:
|-ar verbs||-er and –ir verbs|
|-é, -aste, -ó, -amos, -aron.||-í, -iste, -ió, -imos, -ieron.|
If you want to conjugate reflexive verbs in the past, you’ll conjugate the verb according to the preterite rules and just add the reflexive pronoun.
Preterite Conjugation for Ducharse (to shower oneself)
|yo me duché||I took a shower|
|tú te duchaste||you took a shower|
|él, ella, usted se duchó||he, she, it took a shower (formal you had a shower)|
|nosotros, nosotras nos duchamos||we took a shower|
|ustedes se ducharon||you took a shower|
|ellos, ellas se ducharon||they took a shower|
Se duchó antes de dormir.
He took a shower before going to bed.
Conjugating Common Irregular Spanish Verbs in Preterite
Many verbs are irregular in the Spanish past tense. If you want to focus on this particular topic, check out 50 Irregular Preterite Spanish Verbs You Want to Use Often. You’ll see all the possible stem changes that Spanish verbs can undergo in this tense.
Now, let me just show you the most common verbs that you’ll need to know how to conjugate in the past tense:
- ser – to be
- ir – to go
- dar – to give
- ver – to see
- estar – to be
- decir – to say
- venir – to come
The good news is that ser and ir have identical conjugation in the preterite.
Preterite Conjugation for Ser (to be) and Ir (to go)
|yo fui||I was/went|
|tú fuiste||you were/went|
|él, ella, usted fue||he, she, it was/went (formal you were/went)|
|nosotros, nosotras fuimos||we were/went|
|ustedes fueron||you were/went|
|ellos, ellas fueron||they were/went|
Ayer fui a pagar mi coche.
Yesterday I went to pay for my car.
Preterite Conjugation for Dar (to give)
|yo di||I gave|
|tú diste||you gave|
|él, ella, usted dio||he, she, it gave (formal you gave)|
|nosotros, nosotras dimos||we gave|
|ustedes dieron||you gave|
|ellos, ellas dieron||they gave|
Te di mi palabra.
I gave you my word.
Preterite Conjugation for ver (to see)
|yo vi||I saw|
|tú viste||you saw|
|él, ella, usted vio||he, she, it saw (formal you saw)|
|nosotros, nosotras vimos||we saw|
|ustedes vieron||you saw|
|ellos, ellas vieron||they saw|
No me vio.
He didn’t see me.
Preterite Conjugation for estar (to be)
|yo estuve||I was|
|tú estuviste||you were|
|él, ella, usted estuvo||he, she, it was (formal you were)|
|nosotros, nosotras estuvimos||we were|
|ustedes estuvieron||you were|
|ellos, ellas estuvieron||they were|
I was busy.
Preterite Conjugation for decir (to say)
|yo dije||I said|
|tú dijiste||you said|
|él, ella, usted dijo||he, she, it said (formal you said)|
|nosotros, nosotras dijimos||we said|
|ustedes dijeron||you said|
|ellos, ellas dijeron||they said|
¿Por qué no me dijeron?
Why didn’t you tell me?
Preterite Conjugation for Venir (to come)
|yo vine||I came|
|tú viniste||you came|
|él, ella, usted vino||he, she, it came (formal you came)|
|nosotros, nosotras vinimos||we came|
|ustedes vinieron||you came|
|ellos, ellas vinieron||they came|
Mi profesor no vino ayer.
My teacher didn’t come yesterday.
Conjugating Past Progressive Verbs
You use the past progressive to talk about past continuous actions in Spanish.
To construct the past progressive tense in Spanish, you need to join a conjugated verb estar with a gerund.
You already know how to conjugate the verb estar in the preterite and you know how to form gerunds for -ar, -er, and-ir verbs.
Let’s go directly then to the conjugation table in the past progressive tense of the verb caminar (to walk).
Past Progressive Conjugation for Caminar
|yo estuve caminando||I was walking|
|tú estuviste caminando||you were walking|
|él, ella, usted estuvo caminando||he, she, it was walking (formal you are walking)|
|nosotros, nosotras estuvimos caminando||we were walking|
|ustedes estuvieron caminando||you were walking|
|ellos, ellas estuvieron comiendo||they were walking|
Estuve caminando cuando la vi.
I was walking when I saw her.
Future Tense Conjugation
Last but not least, learn how to conjugate Spanish verbs in the future simple tense. You use the future simple tense to talk about things that will happen at some point in the future.
Conjugation of Regular –AR, -ER, and -IR Verbs in Future Simple Tense
Simply add the future simple endings to the infinitive form of the verb.
The future simple endings are -é. -ás, -á, emos, and -án. Let’s see an example with the verb comprar (to buy).
Future Tense Conjugation Regular Endings
|yo compraré||I will buy|
|tú comprarás||you will buy|
|él, ella, usted comprará||he, she, it, will buy (formal you will buy)|
|nosotros, nosotras compraremos||we will buy|
|ustedes comprarán||you will buy|
|ellos, ellas comprarán||they will buy|
¿Qué me comprarás?
What will you buy me?
It will work exactly the same with comer and vivir. You just have to add the future simple endings:
- comer: comeré, comerás, comerá, comeremos, comerán, comerán
- vivir: viviré, vivirás, vivirá, viviremos, vivirán
Guess what? It’s also that easy with the reflexive verbs. Just regular future tense conjugation with reflexive pronouns added.
Future Tense Conjugation for Ducharse (to shower oneself)
|yo me ducharé||I will take a shower|
|tú te ducharás||you will take a shower|
|él, ella, usted se duchará||he, she, it will take a shower (formal you will take a shower)|
|nosotros, nosotras nos ducharemos||we will take a shower|
|ustedes se ducharán||you will take a shower|
|ellos, ellas se ducharán||they will take a shower|
Me ducharé mañana por la mañana.
I will take a shower tomorrow morning.
Conjugating Common Irregular Spanish Verbs in the Future Tense
The -ar verbs are always regular in the future simple. Only the -er and -ir verbs undergo a few changes.
Here are the irregularities you may expect in this tense:
1. Some verbs drop the final e or i of the infinitive and add the letter d.
2. Some verbs simply drop the final e or i of the infinitive and add nothing.
3. Some verbs do not follow any pattern for irregularities.
For verbs that drop the final vowel and add the letter d before adding the future tense endings, let me show you the conjugation for the verb tener (to have).
Future Tense Conjugation for Tener
|yo tendré||I will have|
|tú tendrás||you will have|
|él, ella, usted tendrá||he, she, it, will have (formal you will have)|
|nosotros, nosotras tendremos||we will have|
|ustedes tendrán||you will have|
|ellos, ellas tendrán||they will have|
¿Qué tendremos para comer?
What will we have for lunch?
Other verbs that behave the same way are for example salir (to leave) or poner (to put). Can you try conjugating them?
Only -er verbs drop the final infinitive vowel in the future tense and add nothing in its place. After doing this, simply add the future tense endings.
Let’s see the verb poder (to be able to).
Future Tense Conjugation for Poder
|yo podré||I will be able|
|tú podrás||you will be able|
|él, ella, usted podrá||he, she, it, will be able (formal you will be able)|
|nosotros, nosotras podremos||we will be able|
|ustedes podrán||you will be able|
|ellos, ellas podrán||they will be able|
No podré ayudarte.
I won’t be able to help you.
Another verb like poder is saber (to know). Can you conjugate it?
What will we do?
How to Learn Spanish Conjugation
Now it’s time to practice. You know how to conjugate verbs in Spanish in the present, past, and future tense but you’ll need some time to master this skill.
If in the future, you need to conjugate a verb you don’t know, just write the verb in the search field of the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy) and click on the blue rectangle at the top of the definition that says conjugar. You’ll get the complete conjugation table for this verb.
If you want more tips on how to master Spanish conjugation, check out 12 Amazing Ways to Memorize Spanish Conjugations.
Ready to Practice Spanish Conjugation?
As I said, there’s nothing left now but to practice. Knowing Spanish conjugation is essential for successful communication, and it will take some time to master this new skill.
Learning grammar can be boring at times, and motivation is important to stay on track. Remember what moves you to study Spanish.
Your carrot can be something as simple as gaining new friends without even leaving your country. According to Forbes, more than 559 million people speak Spanish around the world. And the U.S. has the second-biggest population of Spanish speakers in the world!
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