Help in Spanish: How to Memorize Conjugations
If you’re seeking help in Spanish, I’m here to assist!
I can still visualize my teacher writing verb conjugation charts on the board when I began learning Spanish in middle school. Because I learned Mexican Spanish, I didn’t have to learn the vosotros form (which is essential for Spain Spanish.) Honestly, I was grateful to have one less conjugation to memorize! Speaking practice was never a focus in my classes; it was all about grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing.
Long story short—after taking Spanish classes in middle and high school, I placed out of my foreign language requirements in college. When I became a bilingual third grade teacher at age 26, I’d had an eight-year gap in my Spanish studies. I clearly needed some serious help in Spanish. I took a community college course, found language partners for conversational practice, and watched lots of Spanish films with subtitles.
It’s been an ongoing journey of improving my Spanish skills ever since. (Living in Guatemala and marrying a Colombian have helped immensely!) Now, I’m here to provide you with support and help in Spanish—specifically with tips, tricks, and strategies for memorizing verb conjugations! Comencemos.
Help in Spanish: Spanish Verb Conjugation Cheat Sheet
The key to effective communication in Spanish is all about accurately conjugating the verbs. While it’s true that a plethora of irregular verbs exist in Spanish, you don’t need to focus on them at first, as you can learn them gradually over time. It’s helpful to realize that some verb tenses are more common than others, including the infinitive, present, preterite (past), and imperative (command) forms.
Regular Verbs in the Present Tense
This trick will help you learn to conjugate any regular Spanish verbs in the present tense. Once you memorize the endings for any -ar verb (-o, -as, -a, -amos, and -an), you can apply the similar endings (-o, -es, -e, -emos/-imos, -en) to regular -er and -ir verbs.
|Yo hablo – I talk||Yo como – I eat||Yo vivo – I live|
|Tú hablas – You talk||Tú comes – You eat||Tú vives – You (informal) live|
|Él habla – He talks||Ella come – She eats||Usted vive – You (formal) live|
|Nosotros hablemos – We talk||Nosotras comemos – We eat||Nosotros vivimos – We live|
|Ellos hablan – They talk||Ustedes comen – You all eat||Ellos viven – They live|
Once you have learned the above regular verbs, try to conjugate other regular verbs using the same endings without looking at the chart. You can both write them and say them aloud.
Help in Spanish: Common Regular Spanish Verbs
|-AR Verbs||-ER Verbs||-IR Verbs|
|Practicar – to practice||Leer – to read||Escribir – to write|
|Buscar – to search||Beber – to drink||Existir – to exist|
|Llegar – to arrive||Deber – to owe||Ocurrir – to occur|
|Ayudar – to help||Comprender – to comprehend||Recibir – to receive|
|Escuchar – to listen||Correr – to run||Permitir – to permit|
|Trabajar – to work||Suceder – to happen||Partir – to divide|
|Viajar – to travel||Aprender – to learn||Cumplir – to fulfill|
|Echar – to throw||Responder – to reply||Decidir – to decide|
A Note on Irregular Verbs
Although regular patterns exist, irregular verbs need to be learned independently. If you focus on learning the regular verb conjugation patterns, you’ll gradually pick up the exceptions. It just takes time and exposure.
Hand-picked for you: How to Use the 50 Most Common Irregular Verbs in Spanish
Recognizing the Tenses
When it comes to Spanish verb conjugations, rather than poring over endless dull charts, tune your ear to the sounds of the different tenses.
When listening to (or involved in) a conversation in Spanish, knowing the sounds of specific tenses will help you immediately discern whether the speaker is talking about the past, present, or future. By internalizing the sounds of the tenses, you avoid having to conjugate on the spot.
If a person is telling a story about something that happened to them in the past, you’ll hear first-person imperfect and preterite verb endings including é, í, aba, and ía.
Estudiaba español en el colegio, y viajé a México para un curso de inmersión en 2007.
I studied spanish in high school, and I traveled to Mexico for an immersion course in 2007.
If the story is about another person, and it happened in the past, you’ll hear third-person imperfect and preterite verb endings like ó, ió, aba, and ía.
La niña miró una película en español porque estaba estudiando el idioma y quería aprender de una manera divertida.
The girl watched a movie in Spanish because she was studying the language and wanted to learn in an enjoyable way.
When speaking with a friend or peer about the past, the most common verb endings to listen for are iste and aste.
¿Estuviste aquí? – Were you here?
Llegaste pronto después que te llamé. – You arrived soon after I called you.
When it comes to stem-changing verbs, the sounds of the tenses are the same. You’ll still hear í, ía, iste, and ió when someone is referring to the past.
Cuando pediste el pescado, el mesero mintió y te dijo que no había.
When you ordered the fish, the waiter lied and told you there wasn’t any.
Help in Spanish: 5 Spanish Verb Conjugation Memorization Strategies
The following study methods are ideal for committing the conjugation rules you’re learning to memory.
1. Flash Cards
Keep it old school! Using index cards for quick memorization is a time-tested tactic and an effective way to review the verbs you are learning. Writing each verb ending and conjugation on separate index cards can help you learn to associate the rules. Through repetition, the cards help you become familiar with the verbs and conjugations you’re studying. This method works well for visual learners. It also serves as a guide for auditory learners if they speak the words aloud while reviewing them on the index card.
2. Copy the Verb Chart
A closely related strategy is making your own copy of the verb conjugation chart in a notebook. Like flash cards, this is a tried-and-true method. For visual learners, consider color coding the charts by the subject pronoun (yo, tú, el/ella/usted, nosotros, and ustedes) or by irregular verbs versus regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs. For auditory learners, practicing the Spanish verb conjugations by reciting them aloud also works.
3. Mental Association
Use this method to associate certain words with objects or ideas for easier memorization. Linking and connecting them can help you recall the verb’s meaning. For example, the first syllable of the verb dormir (to sleep) sounds like “door” in English. So, you could think of the door to your bedroom where you sleep as a way to remember what dormir means.
4. Grammar Guidebook
A quality Spanish textbook provides the grammatical rules you need to understand with clear explanations of when and how to use them. Have one handy to use as a reference, such as 501 Spanish Verbs.
5. Read and Listen to Spanish Often
To familiarize yourself with how the language sounds like, no better method beats reading and listening to Spanish daily (or as often as possible). Every complete sentence contains at least one verb. So, by reading a variety of materials including books, blogs, magazines, and stories, you can observe how Spanish verbs are conjugated right before your eyes—as well as how to construct sentences.
If pronunciation is a challenge, you may benefit from listening to an audiobook while following along with its written transcript. In addition, listen to the language by watching movies and videos in Spanish. Once you can generally understand the message without actually seeing the speaker, try listening to Spanish audio clips and songs. Take note of how native speakers use the language and conjugate verbs in real-world conversations.
Pro tip: print out the lyrics of your favorite Latin songs to read and sing along.
The Most Effective Way to Learn Spanish
Talking with a fluent Spanish speaker is one of the fastest, most effective ways to start internalizing these rules. They can point out to you how these rules work in conversation and how to apply them—while you sharpen your conversation skills!
Plus, when you make mistakes (like mixing up the Spanish verb conjugations), a fluent or native speaker can point them out and give you resources for improving your understanding. I’m grateful to my native-speaking friends and partner who help me take note of my mistakes so that I can continue to improve my Spanish.
Do you want to practice applying these verb conjugations in real time? To sharpen your Spanish skills, set up a free trial class with our native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. They’re friendly, experienced, and equipped to provide you with meaningful and enjoyable help in Spanish.
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