The Present Tense in Spanish
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The Present Tense in Spanish

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Okay, so you know a bit of Spanish vocabulary, and now you want to know how to use it in sentences. The best place to start? Right here, right now, with the present tense!

Three types of verb

To form sentences in the present tense, we need to know how to conjugate verbs with the correct present tense endings.

In Spanish, verbs can be split into three main types:

  • -ar
  • -er
  • -ir

Each group has its own conjugation pattern. To conjugate a verb, you need to remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir) and add on the appropriate present tense ending.

-ar verbs

Let’s take the common -ar verb hablar (to talk) as an example.

First, you remove the -ar.

Hablar habl-

Then you add one of the following endings:

Yo (I)

-o

Nosotros (We)

-amos

Tú (You)

-as

Vosotros (You plural)

-áis

Él/ella/usted (He/she/it/you formal)

-a

Ellos/ellas/ustedes

(They/you formal plural)

-an

For example, ‘I talk’ would be: habl- + -ohablo

So, what we end up with a conjugation table like this:

Yo

hablo

Nosotros

hablamos

hablas

Vosotros

habláis

Él/ella/usted

habla

Ellos/ellas/ustedes

hablan

-er verbs

This table shows you the present tense endings for -er verbs:

Yo (I)

-o

Nosotros (We)

-emos

(You)

-es

Vosotros (You plural)

-éis

Él/ella/usted (He/she/it/you formal)

-e

Ellos/ellas/ustedes (They/you formal* plural)

-en

*In this article, we refer to ustedes as being formal (as it is in most of Spain). But remember that in most of Latin America, this form is used even in familiar contexts when addressing a group of people!

One of the most common -er verbs is vender (to sell). The conjugation table looks like this:
YovendoNosotrosvendemos
vendesVosotrosvendéis
Él/ella/ustedvendeEllos/ellas/ustedesvenden

-ir verbs

Yo (I)-oNosotros (We)-imos
Tú (You)-esVosotros (You plural)-ís
Él/ella/usted (He/she/it/you formal)-eEllos/ellas/ustedes (They/you formal plural)-en

The common verb vivir (to live) is conjugated like this:

Yo

vivo

Nosotros

vivimos

vives

Vosotros

vivís

Él/ella/usted

vive

Ellos/ellas/ustedes

viven

The good news...

That may feel like a lot of tables, but don’t be overwhelmed! If we simplify things a little, you’ll see that there aren’t actually that many differences. Check out this table which shows them side by side.

-ar-er<strong>-ir
-o-o-o
-as-es-es
-a-e-e
-amos-emos-imos
-áis-éis-ís
-an-en-en

Not so bad, right?

Null-subject language

Spanish is what we call a ‘null-subject language.’

This means that, due to the variety of endings, we can leave out the subject and still make sense. Take the verb vender as an example. In English, most of the verb endings are the same:
IsellWesell
YousellYou (plural)sell
He/she/itsellsThey sell

So if you were to say ‘sell houses’ you’d have no idea who is doing the selling. For that reason, in English we have to include the subject, to differentiate between ‘I sell houses,’ ‘you sell houses,’ ‘we sell houses,’ and ‘they sell houses.’

But in Spanish, each person pretty much has its own verb ending. So if I say ‘vendo casas,’ it’s perfectly clear that it’s me selling the houses, because of the ‘o’ at the end. There’s no need to say ‘yo vendo casas.’

Examples

Take a look at these examples, and try to spot how the verb endings often allow us to drop the subject:

-ar verbs

Yo hablo.

I speak.

¿Por qué me miras?

Why are you looking at me?

Carolina baila bien.*

Carolina dances well.

Nosotros nadamos en el mar.

We swim in the sea.

¿Vosotros trabajáis por aquí?

Do you (plural) work around here?

Ellas toman riesgos.

They take risks.

*Examples like this are a little more complicated. The verb ending -a could refer to he or she or it or you (formal), so it may be necessary to include the subject to clarify who exactly we are talking about. But don’t forget the power of context.

If we were reading a book all about Carolina the ballerina then we wouldn’t need to say ‘Carolina es bailarina de ballet. Carolina baila bien. Carolina tiene 30 años.’ It would be clear that we were talking about Carolina, so we could drop her name and just say: ‘Carolina es bailarina de ballet. Baila bien. Tiene 30 años.’

-er verbs

Yo bebo té.

I drink tea.

aprendes rápido.

You learn fast.

Él no teme nada.

He fears nothing.

Nosotras comemos por la noche.

We eat in the evening.

Vosotras vendéis muchas cosas.

You (plural) sell lots of things.

Ustedes leen libros.

You (formal plural) read books.

-ir verbs

Yo vivo en Inglaterra.

I live in England.

¿ recibes mensajes de él?

Do you receive messages from him?

¿Qué ocurre?

What is happening?

Nosotros permitimos animales.

We permit animals.

Vosotros asistís al colegio.

You attend school.

Los abrebotellas abren botellas.

Bottle openers open bottles.

Irregular verbs

There are quite a few irregular verbs in Spanish, but it’s important to learn the most common ones, as they’re some of the most useful verbs in the language.

ir  (to go)

voy

vamos

vas

vais

va

van

Examples:

Voy al mercado.I’m going to the market.
Borja va al gimnasio.Borja goes to the gym.
Vamos a la playa.We are going to the beach.

hacer (to do/to make)

hago

hacemos

haces

hacéis

hace

hacen

Examples:

Los martes, hago la compra.

On Tuesdays, I do the grocery shopping.

¿Qué haces?

What are you doing?

Hacen mucho ruido.

They’re making a lot of noise.

ser (to be)*

soy

somos

eres

sois

es

son

Examples:

Eres hermosa.

You are beautiful.

Sois idiotas.

You are idiots.

Son hombres.

They are men.

estar (to be)*

estoy

estamos

estás

estáis

está

están

Examples:

¿Dónde está la biblioteca?

Where is the library?

Estáis en mi casa.

You (plural) are in my house.

¿Señores, cómo están?

Gentlemen, how are you?

*The differences between these two versions of ‘to be’ can be quite subtle and take a while to learn. Just remember that there are two verbs that mean ‘to be.’

You can also check out our article on ser vs estar here.

haber (to have)*

he

hemos

has

habéis

ha/hay

han

This verb is usually used in compound tenses.

Another use of haber is that the third person singular form hay is used to mean ‘there is’/’there are.’

He terminado.

I have finished.

Juan ha escrito algo.

Juan has written something.

Hay un ratón en la casa.

There is a mouse in the house.

tener (to have)

tengo

tenemos

tienes

tenéis

tiene

tienen

Examples:

Julia tiene fiebre.

Julia has a fever.

Tenemos muchos problemas.

We have a lot of problems.

Los perros tienen muchos juguetes.

The dogs have lots of toys.

poner (to put)

pongo

ponemos

pones

ponéis

pone

ponen

Examples:

¿Te pongo más ensalada?

Shall I give you more salad?

¿Por qué pones tus cosas en mi habitación?

Why do you put your things in my room?

La radio pone mis canciones favoritas.

The radio puts on my favorite songs.

decir (to say)

digo

decimos

dices

decís

dice

dicen

Examples:

Digo la verdad.

I’m telling the truth.

A veces mi padre dice palabrotas.

Sometimes my dad says curse words.

Dicen que todo pasa por alguna razón.

They say that everything happens for a reason.

ver (to see)

veo

vemos

ves

veis

ve

ven

Examples:

Ya me has hecho daño, ¿ves?

Now you’ve hurt me, see?

Veis demasiadas películas.

You watch too many films.

Tus profes ven todo.

Your teachers see everything.

saber (to know something/to taste)

sabemos

sabes

sabéis

sabe

saben

Examples:

No lo sé.

I don’t know.

El helado sabe a vainilla.

The ice cream tastes of vanilla.

Sabemos cantar.

We know how to sing.

venir (to come)

vengo

venimos

vienes

venís

viene

vienen

Examples:

Ya vengo.

I’m coming.

¿Señora, viene a la reunión?

Madame, are you coming to the meeting?

Vienen a la fiesta.

They are coming to the party.

conocer (to know someone)

conozco

conocemos

conoces

conocéis

conoce

conocen

Examples:

Conozco a Joan.

I know Joan.

¿Os conocéis?

Do you know each other?

Conocen a Shakira.

They know Shakira.

dar (to give)

doy

damos

das

dais

da

dan

Examples:

Doy mis consejos.

I give my advice.

¿Me das tu número de teléfono?

Will you give me your number?

Damos pasos para mejorar la situación.

We are taking steps to improve the situation.

salir (to go out)

salgo

salimos

sales

salís

sale

salen

Examples:

Salgo cada viernes.

I go out every Friday.

Sale más barato así.

It works out cheaper this way.

Normalmente salen por esa puerta.

Normally they go out through that door.

Stem-changing verbs

Also known as radical-changing verbs, these don’t follow the regular conjugations, but they aren’t fully irregular, either!

In some verbs, the → ue

In some verbs, the → ie

In some verbs, the → i

The changes occur in the yoél/ella/usted, and ellos/ellas/ustedes forms. No changes occur in the nosotros and vosotros forms

poder (to be able to)

o ue

puedo

podemos

puedes

podéis

puede

pueden

Examples:

No puedo ir.

I can’t go.

¿Podéis venir?

Can you (plural) come?

Pueden entrar.

You (formal plural) may enter.

volver (to return)

o ue

vuelvo

volvemos

vuelves

volvéis

vuelve

vuelven

Examples:

Los lunes vuelvo a casa a medianoche.

On Mondays I return home at midnight.

Sandra siempre vuelve con su ex.

Sandra always goes back to her ex.

¿Chicas, a qué hora volvéis?

Girls, what time are you coming back?

querer (to want)

e ie

quiero

queremos

quieres

queréis 

quiere

quieren

Examples:

Te quiero.

I love you.

¿Quieres un bocadillo?

Do you want a sandwich?

Queremos ir a Japón.

We want to go to Japan.

empezar (to start)

e ie

empiezo

empezamos

empiezas

empezáis

empieza

empiezan

Examples:

La película empieza pronto.

The movie starts soon.

Cuando estamos listos, empezamos.

When we’re ready, we begin.

Las canciones empiezan bien.

The songs start well.

pensar (to think)

e ie

pienso

pensamos

piensas

pensáis

piensa

piensan

Examples:

¿Piensas en mí?

Do you think about me?

Tu madre y yo pensamos que eres muy inteligente.

Your mother and I think that you’re very intelligent.

Ana y María piensan alquilar el piso.

Ana and María are are thinking about renting the apartment.

preferir (to prefer)

e ie

prefiero

preferimos

prefieres

preferís

prefiere

prefieren

Examples:

Prefiero vivir en Alemania.

I prefer living in Germany.

¿Cuál prefiere usted?

Which one do you (formal) prefer?

¿Preferís pastel o helado?

Do you (plural) prefer cake or ice cream?

repetir (to repeat)

e i

repito

repetimos

repites

repetís

repite 

repiten

Examples:

Repito: no vas a la fiesta.

I say again: you are not going to the party.

A veces cenamos y luego repetimos.

Sometimes we have dinner then have second helpings.

Repiten los mismos errores.

They make the same mistakes.

pedir (to ask for)

e i

pido

pedimos

pides

pedís

pide

piden

Examples:

No pido nada de él.

I’m not asking anything of him.

El gato pide leche.

The cat pleads for milk.

Piden voluntarios.

They are looking for volunteers.

Good job!

That’s a lot of example sentences to get through, so well done! It’s okay if you don’t memorize all this at once. Start by trying to learn the regular verb endings, practicing a little every day, then think about moving onto the irregular ones!

For more comprehensive Spanish lessons like this, check out My Spanish Routine!

About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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