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Learn Spanish: 100 Most Common Verbs and Expressions
Studying Spanish Verbs
When you're learning a language, especially as an adult, it pays to know the most common verbs you'll encounter. This can help with travel and basic communication.
Of course, the list I've compiled below are verbs that I feel, from years of teaching Spanish, are the most beneficial to know.
This is not an alphabetical list.
- Simple, regular -AR verbs are first.
- Other verbs are grouped as opposites.
- Still, others are grouped according to whether they stem-change or have interesting forms.
This is all an effort to help you memorize and assimilate these verbs into your vocabulary.
Included with many verb are common expressions and meanings that you might hear people say in Spanish.
Of course, these words and phrases can vary from country to country.
Furthermore, this is just a small sampling of an entire language - it's impossible to capture everything.
Learning More Verbs
As you learn more verbs and vocabulary, you can help yourself to learn and memorize them in several ways:
- reading them out loud and repeating to yourself several times
- writing down the verbs
- acting them out
- learning them in "clusters" - such as the way a particular group of verbs follow a pattern, or if they're opposites, etc.
- watching television in Spanish and listening for some of these verbs so you can hear them in context
- putting the verb into a sentence in the target (Spanish) language
Regular Verbs vs. Irregular Verbs
Before diving right into the verbs, it's helpful to know if they're regular or not.
If you know a verb follows a regular pattern, that's part of the battle.
If it doesn't, then you can memorize those verbs separately.
Breaking down all the verbs into their specific parts is beyond the scope of this article, but you'll have a good feel for lots of common verbs after reading and studying them.
Regular Verbs All Follow a Pattern
For -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs, when you break a verb down (conjugate) it, the endings of those verbs follow a predictable pattern:
Irregular Verbs Do Not Follow Typical Patterns
They are separated into different groups in this article.
Regular Verb Ending Patterns
How do you learn languages best?
Common Spanish Verbs Ending in -AR
Most textbooks you'll see start with the regular verbs in Spanish, and for good reason: they follow a pattern.
Here is a group of regular verbs that end in -AR, plus some common expressions that go with them:
- Bailar - to dance
-un baile - a dance
-un bailador, una bailadora - a dancer
- Mirar - to look
-¡Mira! - Look! (informal)
-miremos - let's look
- Necesitar - to need
-es necesario - it's necessary
-la necesidad - necessity
- Escuchar - to listen to
-escucho la radio - I listen to the radio
-escúchame - listen to me (informal)
- Tomar - to take (something to eat/drink)
-¿Algo de tomar? - Something to drink? (Waiters will often ask this in restaurants.)
-tomar en cuenta - to consider
- Desear - to want, desire
-deseable - desirable
-es poco deseable - it's not desirable
- Estudiar - to study
-el estudiante, la estudiante - student
-estudioso, estudiosa - studious
- Aceptar - to accept, to agree to
-¿Acepta el trato? - Do you agree to the deal?
- Cantar - to sing
-la canción - the song
-el cantador, la cantadora - singer
- Limpiar - to clean
-estoy limpio - I'm broke (Used in Latin America; literally: I'm clean)
-la limpieza - the cleaning or cleanliness
- Enseñar - to teach
-la enseñanza - teaching
-enseñaba - I used to teach; he (or she) used to teach
More Common Verbs Ending in -AR
Here are a few more of regular -AR verbs that people frequently use in Spanish.
- Buscar - to look for (this verb really does include the "for" part: "busco un papel" means I'm looking for a paper)
- Ayudar - to help; ayúdeme means "help me"
- Cambiar - to change; "en cambio" means "on the other hand"
- Llegar - to arrive; "la llegada" means "arrival" and its opposite, "la salida" is "departure."
- Llorar - to cry; "no llores" means "don't cry"
- Pasar - to pass, happen; "¿Qué pasa?" means "What's up?" or "What's happening?"
- Lavar - to wash; "lávese las manos" means "wash your hands"
- Amar - to love; "te amo" means "I love you"
- Gritar - to scream; "el grito" is "a scream"
- Entrar - to enter
- Cortar - to cut; "corto" is something that is "short" as in "pelo corto" or "short hair"
Verbs that Reflect Physical Movement or Tasks
These verbs should be easier to memorize together because they all involve some sort of "action:" The only one of these that is irregular is "andar," in the past tense.
Caminar - to walk
Andar - to walk, stroll, hike
Correr - to run
Nadar - to swim
Marchar - to march, to leave
Hablar - to speak, talk
Escribir - to write
Cocinar - to cook
Comer - to eat
Beber - to drink
Preparar - to prepare
Other Regular -ER and -IR Verbs
These are regular verbs for the most part. "Recoger" is a little irregular. If you're looking for more regular -ER and -IR verbs, check the section on opposites. You can also look in the section of stem-changing verbs for more -ER and -IR verbs that are irregular.
Comprender - to understand, comprehend
Aprender - to learn
Sacudir - to shake
Recoger - to gather, to collect, to get
The Verbs "To Like" and "To Be Important To" in Spanish
These two verbs are a little different than most verbs.
When you express that you like something, you use the verb "gustar" - but it's not formulated in the same way as the typical verb.
Me gusta - I like; Te gusta - you like; Le gusta - he/she/it likes
It literally means "to be pleasing to" - thus "me gusta" literally means "it is pleasing to me."
Quite a few verbs take on this format in Spanish, but to keep things simple, here's one more:
Importar - to be important to, to matter to
Me importa - it's important to me; Te importa - it matters to you; Le importa - it's important to her (him, it).
Sometimes it's helpful to learn and understand verbs if you can pair them with the opposite meaning. The verbs with an asterisk (*) next to them are irregular verbs.
Sentarse* / levantarse* - to sit / to stand up, lift up; "levántese" - stand up; "siéntese" - sit down
Perder* / encontrar* - to lose / to find; "no pierda mi tiempo" - don't waste my time
Olvidar / recordar* - to forget / to remember; "olvídelo" - forget it
Gastar / ahorrar - to spend / to save
Cerrar* / abrir - to close / to open; "cerrado" - closed; "abierto" - open
Vivir / morir* - to live / to die; "murió" - he, she or it died
Vender / comprar - to sell / to buy; "ir de compras" - to go shopping
Apagar / encender* - to turn off, extinguish / to turn on; "el apagafuegos" means "fire extinguisher"
Empezar* / terminar - to begin / to finish, terminate; "el término" is "term" (when talking about vocabulary words)
Dormirse* / despertarse* - to fall asleep / to wake up; "Me dormí en el sofá" - I fell asleep on the couch.
The next group of verbs have "go" in their first person, present tense form to help make them easier to remember.
Most of these are irregular verbs, meaning they have different forms, especially in different tenses, with different subjects (I, you, Tom, Dick, Jane, we, etc.). Some of them are a little more regular.
Tener - to have / tengo - I have
Hacer - to do, to make / hago - I do, I make
Decir - to say / digo - I say
Oír - to hear / oigo - I hear
Venir - to come / vengo - I come
Poner - to put / pongo - I put
Caer - to fall / caigo - I fall
Jugar - to play / juego - I play
Pagar - to pay / pago - I pay
Salir - to leave, to go out / salgo - I leave, I go out
Traer - to bring / traigo - I carry
The following group of verbs have "oy" in the first person present tense. These are all irregular verbs.
Estar - to be (not permanent) / estoy - I am
Ser - to be (permanent) / soy - I am
Ir - to go / voy - I go
Dar - to give / doy - I give
"O" to "UE" Verbs
These particular verbs are grouped together because the middle part changes from the letter O to UE when the verb is conjugated, or broken down by subject. They are all at least somewhat irregular, too.
Poder - to be able / puedo - I am able, I can
Volar - to fly / vuelo - I fly
Volver - to return / vuelvo - I return
Contar - to tell, to count / cuento - I tell, I count
Dormir - to sleep / duermo - I sleep
Stem-Changing Verbs Types
"E" to "IE" Verbs
Some verbs in Spanish have a change from the letter E in the center of the verb (or in its "root") to include the letters IE. For this reason, all of these are irregular.
Pensar - to think / pienso - I think
Entender - to understand / entiendo - I understand
Querer - to want / quiero - I want
Sentir - to feel / siento - I feel
Preferir - to prefer / prefiero - I prefer
"E" to "I" Verbs
A few verbs change from the letter "E" in the center to the letter "I":
Pedir - to ask for / pido - I ask for
Seguir - to follow, to continue / sigo - I follow, I continue
Verbs With Lots of Vowels
In Spanish, some words seem to have a lot of vowels. They really aren't that different from most other verbs when you break them down.
Leer - to read / leo - I read; tú lees - you read
Creer - to believe / creo - I believe; tú crees - you believe
Ver - to see / veo - I see; tú ves - you see
"C" to "Z" Verbs
Some verbs in Spanish end with -cer. In that case, when you break it down in the first person form, that "C" has a "Z" that gets added to it:
Parecer - to seem / parezco - I seem
Conocer - to know (a person), to be familiar with / conozco - I know
Merecer - to deserve / merezco - I deserve
These verbs have a "J" in their formulations.
Dibujar - to draw / dibujo - I draw
Trabajar - to work / trabajo - I work
Festejar - to party / festejo - I party
Viajar - to travel / viajo - I travel
Manejar - to drive, to manage / manejo - I drive, I manage
Exigir - to demand / exijo - I demand
© 2014 Cynthia Calhoun