Spanish Verbs in the Present Tense and Conjugations

Understanding Infinitives

The infinitive of a verb is, as the name suggests, timeless. It is the unconjugated form of the verb and therefore has no tense (such as past, present, or future).

In English, the infinitive of a verb is formed by adding the word “to.” Examples include: to learn, to act, and to be.

In Spanish, the infinitive of a verb is indicated by one of the following endings:

–AR, -ER, and -IR.
Here are some common verbs.

-AR verbs

-IR verbs

-ER verbs

Isolating Verb Endings

Just as you saw with ser, every verb has a different conjugation according to the subject and tense of the sentence. Fortunately, the conjugations follow some very simple rules. All you have to do is change the ending of the verb according to the appropriate rule.

Let’s start with the present tense and see how the verb endings change with each subject pronoun.

Each type of verb —AR, —ER, and —IR has a different set of endings. Study the verb endings in the table below. How is each type of verb different? Can you detect any patterns?

Conjugate a Verb

 
-AR verbs
-ER verbs
-IR verbs
 
caminar (to walk)
comer (to eat)
escribir (to write)
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yo
camin-o
com-o
escrib-o
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camin-as
com-es
escrib-es
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Ud., él, ella
camin-a
com-e
escrib-e
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nosotros
camin-amos
com-emos
escrib-imos
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vosotros
camin-áis
com-éis
escrib-ís
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Uds., ellos, ellas
camin-an
com-en
escrib-en

In order to conjugate a verb, you first need to identify the verb “stem.” The stem is the part of the verb that, in most cases, remains constant.

Find the stem by taking the infinitive of the verb and removing the –ar, -er, or –ir ending.

Por ejemplo:

Verb

Stem

dibujar

dibuj

preguntar

pregunt

leer

le

compartir

compart

Now that you have the stem by itself, consult the table of verb endings and add the appropriate one, according to who is performing the action.

Por ejemplo:

Using Two Verbs in a Row

When two verbs are used consecutively without changing the subject, the second verb is usually written in the infinitive form.

Por ejemplo:

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Tú necesitas estudiar para la prueba.
You need to study for the exam.
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Espero terminar pronto.
I hope to finish soon.
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Los niños necesitan descansar esta semana.
The children need to rest this week.

When Something Isn’t Happening: Negative Sentences

To convert a sentence into a negative form in Spanish, all you need to do is add the word “no” immediately before the conjugated verb.

Por ejemplo:

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No vamos a terminar pronto.
We are not going to finish soon.
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Ella no necesita estudiar para la prueba.
She does not need to study for the test.
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Yo no soy piloto de aviones.
I am not an airplane pilot.

Be careful that you add the “no” before the conjugated verb—not the infinitive or subject.

Por ejemplo:

¡No ella necesita! (incorrecto) - ¡Ella no necesita! (correcto)

In this section you’ve begun to learn about verbs, their endings, and use in the present tense. 

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