Everyone who has learning Spanish knows that one of the biggest challenges is to puzzle out all the Spanish verb conjugations. But don’t let them ruin your day!
In this article, we’re going to walk you through Spanish conjugations, starting from the most frequent verb tenses and the fundamental rules that will help you move on to more advanced verb use.
Why learning conjugation is so important
Verb conjugation enables us to describe different situations and events in the most accurate way. In fact, conjugation is the process of changing a verb form so that it agrees with its subject. For example, let’s change the subject of the following sentence:
I have a book.
Monica has a book.
To conjugate “have” with the new subject, we need to transform it into “has”. The particular ending of the verb shows who is performing the action and indicates when the action occurs.
The concept of Spanish verb conjugation is very similar to that in English. If you’ve grown up speaking English, you can conjugate verbs naturally. However, doing this in Spanish is far more complicated.
No doubt, understanding how to conjugate different types of verbs can be the more stressful part of language learning. The key to mastering verb conjugation — practice. So let’s start with the basics: the most used tenses, regular verbs and some of the most popular irregular verbs.
If you have no time or enough motivation to learn the language by yourself, online tutoring is what you need to see the desired progress. At Preply, you’ll find hundreds of Spanish tutors who provide private lessons via the easy-to-use video chat. Choose a preferred expert and schedule your first lesson at the time that suits you the most. After the first lesson, you’ll get a personalized study plan based on your current level.
Need help with conjugations? Find a tutor to explain to you the specifics of Spanish grammar.
How to conjugate Spanish verbs
In Spanish, a verb ending changes in agreement with tense, person, and number. According to the Spanish conjugation rules, different forms of the verb are created by removing the infinitive ending, such as ‒ar, ‒er, or ‒ir, and replacing it with the required ending that specifies who is performing an action depending on the used tense and mood (indicative, subjunctive or imperative).
To conjugate Spanish verbs correctly, you should pay attention to:
Types of Spanish infinitives
The infinitive is a non-conjugated verb as there is no specified subject. As you know, infinitives in English come with the word “to”. Here is how the English verb conjugation looks like:
to be — I am
to have — he has
to speak — she speaks
to read — we read
to write — they write
Compared to English infinitives, Spanish infinitives consist of only one word. As mentioned above, all infinitives in Spanish have one of the following endings: ‒ar, ‒er, or ‒ir. For example:
ser/estar — to be
tener — to have
hablar — to speak
leer — to read
escribir — to write
To conjugate an infinitive, you have to remove the final two letters and add the appropriate ending.
The performer of the verb
When conjugating verbs in Spanish, identify who’s performing the action. There are 8 possible subjects pronouns:
|First person||yo||nosotros, nosotras|
|Second person (informal)||tú||vosotros, vosotras|
|Second person (formal)||usted||ustedes|
|Third person||él, ella||ellos, ellas|
Although there are 8 possible performers, there are only 6 forms of Spanish verb conjugation. Pay attention that él/ella and usted as well as ellos/ellas and ustedes have the same forms.
Types of moods in Spanish
The mood is a grammatical category that refers to the different ways in which the action of the verb can be expressed. In Spanish, there are 3 moods: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. Each of them has different functions and can be conjugated (except imperative) into different tenses.
The indicative mood is used to talk about actions, events, or states that are solid facts or believed to be true. It’s the most commonly used mood, so in this article, we’ll use examples of indicative conjugation.
The subjunctive mood is used to describe reactions and express emotions or feelings. It’s used more commonly in Spanish than in English.
The imperative mood is used to give commands and tell someone to do something in a direct manner.
Before we get to the Spanish conjugation charts, let’s talk about verb tenses. A tense is a form of the verb that specifies when the action happens. Similar to the English language, there are 3 simple tenses in Spanish: present, past, and future. But, in both English and Spanish, there are also the compound tenses, such as present continuous or past perfect.
As we started from basic, let’s pay attention to the simple tenses. Imagine that we have to say “I read” in Spanish. The dictionary tells us that “to read” is “leer”. As you can see, the ending of the verb “leer” is ‒er. The next step is identifying the subject. The Spanish equivalent to “I” is “yo” (first person, singular).
At the final step, we need to find an ending that is appropriate for the present simple tense according to the subject and infinitive ending. And here is when charts of the verb endings come in handy.
The Present Simple: El Presente
This tense is likely the one you’ll encounter the most. So, let’s turn back to our example and translate “I read” into Spanish. As “leer” is an “‒er” verb, we should consider the chart of the present tense “‒er” verb endings:
|Second person (informal)||‒es||‒éis|
|Second person (formal)||‒e||‒en|
The ending that corresponds with the subject “yo” is ‒o. So, we need to add it to the stem “le”. Put it all together, and we’ll get:
But what about ‒ar and ‒ir verbs. In this case, we should follow the same process but use different charts. Here they’re:
Example: Él habla inglés perfectamente bien.
He speaks English perfectly.
Example: Escribimos ensayos cada semana.
We write essays every week.
The Past Simple: El Pretérito
In English, conjugation to the past simple typically involves adding the ending ‒ed to a verb. But when it comes to past tense Spanish conjugation, turning infinitive into the form of the past simple, or the preterite, isn’t so easy.
Here is a chart of preterite conjugations. Note that the ‒er/‒ir forms have the same ending in this tense.
Leí el libro ayer.
I read the book yesterday.
Habló de las nuevas reformas.
He spoke about the new reforms.
The Future Simple: El Futuro
You’ll surely like the future conjugation in Spanish. In this tense, the endings will stay the same, no matter whether the verb ends in ‒ar, ‒er, or ‒ir. Besides, there is no need to remove the ending, as the entire infinitive is used as the stem. One thing you should pay attention to is the performer of the verb.
Check out the table of regular future endings below:
“‒ar, ‒er, ‒ir” endings
En diciembre viajaré a los Estados Unidos.
I will travel to the US in December.
Iré a la escuela mañana.
I will go to school tomorrow.
The Imperfect Tense: El Imperfecto
In Spanish, the imperfect tense is used to talk about repeated or habitual actions in the past and describe what someone was doing when they were suddenly interrupted. Imperfect conjugation in Spanish includes two sets of endings for regular verbs: one for ‒ar verbs and other for both ‒er/‒ir verbs.
Just remove the infinitive ending and add the specific one from the chart:
Nos conocimos cuando asistíamos a la escuela.
We met each other when we were attending school.
Cuando era estudiante, jugaba todo el tiempo.
When he was a student, he would play all the time.
All these rules might seem overwhelming, but with regular practice and by using the charts above, you’ll quickly enhance your language skills.
The last thing you should know about the Spanish verb conjugation is that almost every tense has verbs that don’t follow the standard rules. These verbs are called “irregular” verbs. How can you cope with them? All you can do is memorize the specific forms of these verbs since the typical procedure of changing the ending doesn’t work.
We’ve prepared some examples of the most common irregular verbs in different tenses (when these irregularities happen). All examples correspond to indicative mood.
Ir conjugation (to go)
Ver conjugation (to see/watch)
Oir conjugation (to hear/listen to)
Hacer preterite conjugation (to do/make)
Tener conjugations (to have)
Conjugation of estar (to be)
Ser conjugation (to be)
As you can see, the variety of verb forms in Spanish are much more extensive than they are in English. There are a lot of grammar rules to remember, and you need to conjugate hundreds of verbs to become a master. It seems hard when you’re just getting started. But don’t give up! With practice, you’ll surely achieve high results.
Whether you need help with Spanish conjugations or just want to enhance your speaking skills, Preply is a perfect place to get qualified tutoring assistance from native speakers. Find a tutor that fits your budget and take lessons at any time you like.