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Spanish Verbs: An Overview of Present Tense Conjugation

Updated on June 16, 2014

Regular Verbs (-ar, -er, and -ir)

In Spanish, you can often leave out a pronoun because the verb you use will indicate who you're talking about through its conjugation. Regular verbs have simple conjugations. That is, they follow specific rules that are easily memorized for the present tense of the verb.

In their infinitive (or non-conjugated) forms, verbs can have three different endings: -ar, -er, or -ir. Each have very similar rules to follow for present tense conjugation. Here, I will use escuchar, beber, and decidir in some examples below.

However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, lets break down the parts of a verb. Each verb has a root or base, in addition to it's ending (-ar, -er, -ir). The root of escushar is escuch. It's determined by dropping the -ar ending. When you conjugate verbs, you will substitute another ending according to the pronoun you are using.

Verbs Ending In (-ar), Example: Escuchar (to listen)

Pronoun
Endings
Conjugated Verb
Translation
yo
root + o
escucho
I listen
root + as
escuchas
you listen (informal)
usted
root + a
escucha
you listen (formal)
él / ella
root + a
escucha
he / she listens
nosotros/as
root + amos
escuchamos
we listen
vosotros/as (Spain)
root + áis
escucháis
you (group) listen, Spain
ustedes
root + an
escuchan
you (group) listen
ellos / ellas
root + an
esuchan
they listen

Notice that for verbs ending in -ar, the conjugation retains the original "a" from the infinitive form. This makes it a little easier to remember how the endings change.

The same is true for verbs ending in -er.

Verbs Ending In (-er), Example: Beber (to drink)

Pronoun
Endings
Conjugated Verb
Translation
yo
root + o
bebo
I drink
root + es
bebes
you drink (informal)
usted
root + e
bebe
you drink (formal)
él / ella
root + e
bebe
he / she drinks
nosotros/as
root + emos
bebemos
we drink
vosotros/as (Spain)
root + éis
bebéis
you (group) drink (Spain)
ustedes
root + en
beben
you (group) drink
ellos / ellas
root + en
beben
they drink

Verbs Ending In (-ir), Example: Decidir (to decide)

Pronoun
Endings
Conjugated Verb
Translation
yo
root + o
decido
I decide
root + es
decides
you decide (informal)
usted
root + e
decide
you decide (formal)
él / ella
root + e
decide
he / she decides
nosotros/as
root + imos
decidimos
we decide
vosotros/as (Spain)
root + ís
decidís
you (group) decide (Spain)
ustedes
root + en
deciden
you (group) decide
ellos / ellas
root + en
deciden
they decide

The "i" is not always retained when conjugating -ir verbs. In fact, it is only used for conjugating nosotros and vosotros (first and second person plurals). The rest of the endings use the rules for -er conjugations.

Irregular Verbs (-ir, -er, and -ar)

Unfortunately, there are a lot of verbs that do not follow the patterns spelled out above. These are called "irregular" verbs. Because they don't follow rules, irregular verb conjugations must be memorized. Ser and tener are perfect examples.These are verbs you will use often and are the first many Spanish courses insist on teaching you. With ser and tener, both the root and the ending change.

Irregular Verb: ser (to be / are / is)

Pronoun
Conjugation
Translation
yo
soy
I am
eres
you are (informal)
usted
es
you are (formal)
él / ella
es
he / she is
nosotros/as
somos
we are
vosotros/as (Spain)
sois
you (group) are (Spain)
ustedes
son
you (group) are
ellos / ellas
son
they are

Irregular Verbs, Example: Tener (to have)

Pronoun
Conjugated Verb
Translation
yo
tengo
I have
tienes
you have (informal)
usted
tiene
you have (formal)
él / ella
tiene
he / she has
nosotros/as
tenemos
we have
vosotros/as (Spain)
tenéis
you (group) have (Spain)
ustedes
tienen
you (group) have
ellos / ellas
tienen
they have

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