An Exclusive Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Conjugation
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This post explores the basics of Spanish verb conjugation and teaches you how to form verbs in the most frequently used past, present, and future tenses.
What is verb conjugation, exactly? It refers to the various modifications of a verb in order for it to convey valuable information about the action.
Spanish conjugations give us information about the person, the time, and the mood.
However, for the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on 4 main tenses to learn first in Spanish:
- Simple present
- Present progresive
- Past (preterite)
13 Common Verbs to Know
You need to know the infinitive form of Spanish verbs—also known as the dictionary form, which is unconjugated.
In English, infinitives have the word “to” in front of them, such as “to sleep” (dormir in Spanish). It’s important to know the infinitive form, as it defines how verbs get classified and conjugated (more on that in the next section). This chart shows you 13 common verbs in their infinitive forms, along with their meaning in English and pronunciation in Spanish. Note that seven of these are irregular verbs, three are stem-changing, and three are regular verbs.
|Ser||To be (permanent)||sayr|
|Estar||To be (impermanent)||es-tahr|
|Poder||To be able to||poh-dair|
Spanish Conjugation of -ar, -er, and -ir Verbs
Every single Spanish verb falls into one of three types based on the last two letters of its infinitive: -ar, -er, and -ir. Even verbs that are made up or imported from English such as surfear (to surf) require one of these endings.
Conjugation tables are the most common and effective way to show the verb conjugations for a specific tense. Each conjugation table displays the 7 possible subjects of a sentence:
- Yo — I
- Tú — you (singular familiar)
- Usted — you (singular formal)
- Él, ella — he, she
- Nosotros/as — we
- Ustedes — you (plural)
- Ellos/as — them
Now let’s take a look at some examples in present, past, and future verb tenses.
Spanish Conjugation in the Simple Present Tense
It makes sense to begin by learning the Spanish conjugation rules for verbs in the simple present tense. Once you’ve identified the verb (in infinitive form) and the subject (who’s performing the action), you simply need to pick the correct verb ending.
To conjugate an infinitive, remove the final two letters and add the appropriate ending.
The following examples demonstrate how to conjugate all regular verbs. (Check out this post when you’re ready to learn more about irregular verbs.)
Here’s how to conjugate hablar. The same verb endings apply for all other regular -ar verbs.
Good news! The endings are the same for regular -er and -ir verbs, such as comer and vivir. Notice that all present tense conjugations have the same first-person conjugation, regardless of the verb ending.
Conjugating Stem-changing Verbs
Verb stem changes affect verbs exclusively in the present simple, past simple, and present continuous tenses, all of which we’re studying today. Stem-changing verbs, as the name implies, requires changing the stem prior to completing the conjugation.
The stem change applies to all forms of the verb except the nosotros form, as you can see in the table below. Querer, pensar, and poder are the three stem-changing verbs from our common verbs chart and are conjugated as follows:
Spanish Conjugation in the Present Progressive
Present progressive verbs refer to actions happening right now. In English, this translates to -ing verbs. To form sentences in the present progressive, you first need to conjugate estar (to be):
Then, change the suffix of the action verb:
- -ar becomes -ando
- -er/ir becomes –iendo
Let’s look at an example with the verb vivir. How would you form the sentence “I am living” in Spanish? First, you need to conjugate estar in the yo form—estoy. Then, change the suffix of the verb vivir to get viviendo. There you have it! Estoy viviendo.
Spanish Conjugation in the Past Tense
While there are several past tense verb forms, the preterite is the simplest one and therefore the one to prioritize on your learning journey. In English, conjugating to the past tense for regular verbs would typically involve adding the suffix -ed. As in most verb tenses, the -er/-ir forms have the same ending. Accent marks are used for the first and third person for this verb tense.
|-ar verbs||–er/-ir verbs|
I ate. – Yo comí.
You spoke. – Tú hablaste.
She lived. – Ella vivió.
They thought. – Ellos pensaron.
We waited. – Nosotros esperamos.
Did you all eat? – ¿Ustedes comieron?
Spanish Conjugation in the Future Tense
We saved the easiest for last! For the Spanish conjugation of verbs in the future tense, all ending suffixes stay the same, regardless of whether the verb ends in -ar, -er or -ir! Even better, no letters need to be dropped from the infinitive before conjugating. The regular verb endings for the future tense are:
Alternatively, you can use the verb ir and the infinitive form of the verb to talk about something that will happen in the future. Here are the present simple conjugations of ir, which is an irregular verb.
I will eat. – Yo comeré. – Voy a comer.
You will talk. – Tú hablarás. – Vas a hablar.
She will live. – Ella vivirá. – Ella va a vivir.
They will think. – Ellos pensarán. – Van a pensar.
We will decide. – Nosotros decidiremos. – Vamos a decidir.
Verb Drill Resources
A quick Google search will pull up loads of websites where you can learn more about Spanish conjugation and test your knowledge through quizzes and activities. Two of the best sites I’ve found are:
The SpanishDict conjugation tool lets you look up any verb (in every tense) and learn every exception to the rule. Type in any verb you need to look up to learn or review. You can enter the infinitive or a conjugated form in the search bar to pull up comprehensive Spanish conjugation charts.
Conjuguemos is another straightforward tool for learning or testing yourself on conjugated forms of Spanish verbs. Being able to select which tenses to focus on makes this site particularly useful for beginners who want to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Turning Words into Action
Mastering Spanish verb conjugation is challenging and requires much repetition. Speaking the language is equally as important as learning the grammar rules behind the scenes. Homeschool Spanish Academy offers classes personalized to your level and tailored by our native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. Sign up now for a free trial to put your verb knowledge into action!
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