In the fifth class of our Absolute Beginner Spanish course we are going to learn how the Spanish verbs work, so we can study the most basic things related to verbs: the infinitive and the present tense.
Spanish verbs are conjugated, that is, the ending changes depending on the subject. In English, we say I eat, but He eats. In Spanish we say yo como y él come. That’s conjugating a verb.
The first thing we have to know about verbs in Spanish is the infinitive. In English, the infinitive is the basic form with to, as in to be or not to be. In Spanish, we would say ser o no ser.
In English, the infinitive doesn’t have a specific ending, and each verb has its own form: to clean, to sink, to have, to google, to jeopardize…
In Spanish, however, every infinitive falls into one of three categories:
- primera conjugación: verbs in ‑ar, like amar o cantar
- segunda conjugación: verbs in ‑er, like comer o querer
- tercera conjugación: verbs in ‑ir, like dormir o reír
The infinitive is the basic form of a verb, and that’s what you will find in dictionaries. It is important to know the infinitive of a verb, because, depending on the conjugation, the endings of the present (and other tenses) may vary.
(You will find forms such as llamarse. What is that ‑se doing there?, you might wonder. It means it is a pronominal verb, i.e. it has a required pronoun, which in the infinitive is literally attached to the ending).
The regular present indicative
Just like any other language, Spanish has regular and irregular verbs. Now we are going to learn the regular conjugation of the present, i.e. its endings and regular patterns.
|él, ella, usted||canta||come||vive|
|ellos, ‑as, ustedes||cantan||comen||viven|
As you can see, there are many similarities among conjugations. Notice however that the third conjugation is the most variable!
Remember: in Spanish we don’t say the subject most of the times, because the ending is already saying who the subject is! It is usually displayed merely for teaching purposes, but you should make the effort and get used to not saying it all the time.
That’s it for now. Most of the Spanish verbs have a regular present, but, as you might have guessed… many of the most frequent verbs happen to be irregular. Soon we’ll deal with them!