Similar to English, the words that are used in Spanish are conjugated depending on the tense that is being used. In both English and Spanish, the subject, noun, will determine the form of the conjugated verb that is used in the sentence.
Visuals will be provided so that you can see how a verb is conjugated in Spanish. If you want to know how to conjugate verbs in the present tense, just follow the simple steps that are outlined below.
1. The Subject
The subject (noun or pronoun) is generally the word at the beginning of the sentence that the verb refers to. In order to conjugate a verb in Spanish, you will have to become familiar with the personal subject pronouns that are used in the language. Here is a list of them:
- Yo — I (formal)
- Tú — you (singular familiar)
- Él, Ella — he, she
- Usted — you (singular formal)
- Nosotros/as — we
- Vosotros/as — you (plural familiar)
- Ustedes — you (plural formal)
- Ellos/as — they
2. What’s the subject?
As mentioned before, the subject is the noun or pronoun that starts off the beginning of the sentence. Once you have become familiar with the subject of the sentence, then it is time to move on to the verb.
If we continue using the verb hablar, we then want to know who is talking? In the example, I said that I speak Spanish. However, who is our new subject? Is it you? Is it him or her? Or them? Once we know who we are referring to as our subject, then we can refer to the next step which is conjugating.
3. Change the ending.
All Spanish verbs have three common endings. Spanish verbs usually end with either -ar, -er, or -ir. Identify the ending of the word that you would like to conjugate. Please note: If the verb is reflexive, then “se” will be added to the end of the word.
4. Conjugate verbs ending with -ar.
Once you have identified the ending of the verb, it is time to change it to the present tense. If the sentence is written in the present tense, this is the rule for all words ending with -ar.
- Yo — o: hablo
- Tú — as: hablas
- Él, Ella, Usted — a: habla
- Nosotoros/as — amos: hablamos
- Vosotros/as — áis: habláis
- Ellos/as — an: hablan
5. Conjugate verbs ending with -er.
Once you have identified the ending of the verb, it is time to change it to the present tense. If the sentence is written in the present tense, this is the rule for all words ending with -er. We will use the verb comer (to eat) as an example.
- Yo — o: como
- Tú — es: comes
- Él, Ella, Usted — e: come
- Nosotoros/as — emos: comemos
- Vosotros/as — éis: coméis
- Ellos/as — en: comen
6. Conjugate verbs ending with -ir.
Once you have identified the ending of the verb, it is time to change it to the present tense. If the sentence is written in the present tense, this is the rule for all words ending with -ir. We will use the verb escribir (to write) as an example.
- Yo — o: escribo
- Tú — es: escribes
- Él, Ella, Usted — e: escribe
- Nosotoros/as — imos: escribimos
- Vosotros/as — ís: escribís
- Ellos/as — en: escriben
Spanish Reflexive Verbs. What are they?
Spanish reflexive verbs are words that are used when the subject of a sentence performs an action on themselves. For example, me acuesto (I lie down). The subject refers to me lying down.
Spanish reflexive verbs are words that usually end with -se. Some of the common words that you may come across in Spanish include divertirse (to have fun), imaginarse (to imagine), levantarse (to get up), ponerse (to put on), and preguntarse (to wonder).
1. How to Conjugate Reflexive Verbs
In order to conjugate a reflexive verb correctly, you will have to know how to conjugate it based on its reflexive pronoun. Here is a list of the reflexive pronouns that are used in Spanish.
2. Moving the Reflexive Pronoun
In this example, we are going to use the word levantarse (to get up). We know it is a reflexive pronoun because it ends with -se. However, we will remove the ending -se and we are going to move it from the end of the word to the beginning of the word.
Also, since the word ends with -ar, we will conjugate it using the first person form yo (refer back to the conjugate verbs ending with -ar) to see.
3. Conjugate based on the rules.
The example shown above is using the first person present tense of the yo form for the verb levantarse. However, let’s take a look at the verb imaginarse (to imagine) and conjugate it in the present tense. If we remove the -se and move it to the front of the word, we can conjugate it according to the correct form of the word that we need and/or choose.
For example, we can say “yo me imagino” which means I imagine, but the correct way to say it is “me imagino.” Here is a list of examples for the conjugated reflexive verb imaginarse (to imagine) in the present tense:
- Yo — me imagino
- Tú — te imaginas
- Él, Ella, Usted — se imagina
- Nosotoros/as — nos imaginamos
- Vosotros/as — os imagináis
- Ellos/as — se imaginan
Conjugating Irregular Verbs in Spanish
1. How to conjugate stem-changing verbs.
In Spanish, the main form of the verb is called the infinitive. The infinitive form of the verb consists of two parts: the stem and the ending. The ending is the last two letters of the word which ends in -ar, -er, or -ir. Additionally, the stem refers to everything else except for the ending. Here are some examples that you can refer to for yourself.
- Conjugate verbs that have a stem change from o to ue using contar (to count) as an example. Also, this has an -ar ending (refer back to the conjugate verbs ending with -ar) for conjugating instructions.
- Yo — cuento
- Tú — cuentas
- Él, Ella, Usted — cuenta
- Nosotoros/as — contamos
- Vosotros/as — contáis
- Ellos/as — cuentan
*Please note: the stem does not change in the nosotros and vosotros forms of the word.
- Conjugate verbs that have a stem change from e to ie using encender (to light) as an example. Also, this has an -er ending (refer back to the conjugate verbs ending with -er) for conjugating instructions.
- Yo — enciendo
- Tú — enciendes
- Él, Ella, Usted — enciende
- Nosotoros/as — encendemos
- Vosotros/as — encendéis
- Ellos/as — encenden
- Conjugate verbs that have a stem change from e to i using pedir (to ask for) as an example. Also, this has an -ir ending (refer back to the conjugate verbs ending with -ir) for conjugating instructions.
- Yo — pido
- Tú — pides
- Él, Ella, Usted — pide
- Nosotoros/as — pedimos
- Vosotros/as — pedís
- Ellos/as — piden
2. How to conjugate the most popular stem-changing verbs.
Similar to the words above these are the most popular words used in Spanish. However, what sets them apart is they are conjugated differently from the rest. Here are a few examples of the most popular Spanish words conjugated in the present tense.
- Estar (to be):
- Yo: estoy
- Tú: estás
- Él, Ella, Usted: está
- Nosotoros/as: estamos
- Vosotros/as: estáis
- Ellos/as: estan
- Ir (to go):
- Yo: voy
- Tú: vas
- Él, Ella, Usted: va
- Nosotoros/as: vamos
- Vosotros/as: vais
- Ellos/as: van
- Ser (to be):
- Yo: soy
- Tú: eres
- Él, Ella, Usted: es
- Nosotoros/as: somos
- Vosotros/as: seis
- Ellos/as: son
3. How to conjugate first person irregular verbs
Some verbs have irregular conjugation only in the first-person present form. In addition, these verbs will follow the conjugation patterns for words ending with -ar, -er, or -ir. Here are a few examples of words that are irregular in the first person:
- Words that change from z to zc in the first person:
- Agradecer (to thank) – Yo agradezco
- Conocer (to know of a person, place, or thing) – Yo conozco
- Ofrecer (to offer) – Yo ofrezco
- Words that have a g in the first person:
- Caer (to fall) – Yo caigo
- Poner (to place) – Yo pongo
- Salir (to leave) – Yo salgo
- Tener (to have) – Yo tengo
- Traer (to bring) – Yo traigo
- Other irregular words that change in the first person:
- Dar (to give) – Yo doy
- Saber (to know) – Yo sé
- Ver (to see) – Yo veo
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Practicingspanish.com. (2019). Spanish grammar – reflexive verbs, reflexive pronouns. Retrieved from http://www.practicingspanish.com/grammar19.html
Spanishdict.com. (2019). Conocer vs. saber. Retrieved from https://www.spanishdict.com/compare/conocer/saber?searchText=conocer%20vs%20saber
Studyspanish.com. (2019). Stem changing verbs e:i. Retrieved from https://studyspanish.com/verbs/lessons/piei
Studyspanish.com. (2019). Stem changing verbs e:ie. Retrieved from https://studyspanish.com/verbs/lessons/pieie
Studyspanish.com. (2019). Stem changing verbs o:ue. Retrieved from https://studyspanish.com/verbs/lessons/pioue
Wikihow. (2019). How to conjugate spanish verbs (present tense). Retrieved from https://www.wikihow.com/Conjugate-Spanish-Verbs-(Present-Tense)