How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs?[A Simple Guide]

Kirsten has been fascinated by foreign languages since childhood and has made it her mission to inspire others with her passion for Spanish. She has a master’s degree in Hispanic Studies from Boston College and has tutored and taught students of all ages.
Kirsten Agla
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They say actions speak louder than words, so learning how to say and use verbs should be twice as loud!

This article reviews the basics when it comes to Spanish verb conjugation and teaches you how to conjugate in different tenses like the past, present, and future.

How Does Spanish Verb Conjugation Work?

Conjugation is simply when you make the verb match the person doing the action. English tends to rely on pronouns for this, whereas Spanish changes the verb itself therefore making the pronoun optional.

For example, here is the verb “to talk” conjugated in the present tense in English:

I talk We talk
You talk You all talk
He talks/She talks/It talks They talk

In order to use verbs, you’ll have to know Spanish pronouns. The pronouns that share a square have the same conjugation, much like how in English “he, she, it” are in the same box.

Yo – I Nosotros – We (men, mixed men and women)

 

Nosotras – We (women only)

Tú – You (informal) Vosotros – You all (men, mixed men and women)

 

Vosotras – You all (women only)

Él – He

 

Ella – She

Usted – You (formal)

Ellos – They (men, mixed men and women)

 

Ellas – They (women only)

Ustedes – You all (formal, latin american)

🚩Note that in Spanish, “it” is not really a pronoun so “he” or “she” is used. Now, let’s learn some verbs!

 

Spanish Verb Types And The Infinitive

In the Spanish language, all verbs end in -ar, -er, or -ir. These are the three verb types that you will encounter and will determine how the verb is conjugated.

To exemplify each verb type, we will be using hablar – to talk, comer – to eat, and vivir – to live.

These verbs are currently in the infinitive form, which is a fancy way of saying that it is the “pure” version of the verb that hasn’t been changed to match a pronoun or verb tense.

What Are The Basic Steps to Conjugate Spanish Verbs?

Once you know the Spanish pronouns, the second thing to learn is the verb endings. Each box in that pronoun table from earlier has its own unique verb ending, plus each verb type has its own set of endings. 

Basic Spanish Verb Conjugation

To learn the basic steps to verb conjugation, we will be looking at the present tense.

  1. Select your verb. 
  2. Select the pronoun. Do you want to say that he speaks, we speak etc. 
  3. Take off the ending, either – ar, -er, or -ir. 
  4. Attach the ending that matches the tense, pronoun, and verb type. 

In summary, take off the verb’s last two letters then stick on the appropriate ending to make it match the pronoun. Here are all of the verb endings along with examples.

Present Tense -AR Verb Endings

  • Yo – o
  • Tú – as
  • Él, Ella, Usted – a
  • Nosotros/as – amos
  • Vosotros/as- áis
  • Él, Ella, Usted -a
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – an

Present Tense Hablar – To Speak

Yo hablo Nosotros/as hablamos
Tú hablas Vosotros/as habláis
Él, Ella, Usted habla Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes hablan

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “we” – nosotros.Spanish verb conjugation Nosotros hablamos

Present Tense -ER Verb Endings

  • Yo – o
  • Nosotros/as – emos
  • Tú – es
  • Él, Ella, Usted – e
  • Vosotros/as – éis
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – en

Present Tense Comer– To Eat

Yo como Nosotros/as comemos
Tú comes Vosotros/as coméis
Él, Ella, Usted come Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes comen

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “I” – yo.

Spanish verb conjugation present tense Yo como

Present Tense -IR Verb Endings

  • Yo – o
  • Tú – es
  • Él, Ella, Usted – e
  • Nosotros/as – imos
  • Vosotros/as – ís
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – en

Present Tense Vivir – To Live

Yo vivo Nosotros/as vivimos
Tú vives Vosotros/as vivís
Él, Ella, Usted vive Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes viven

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “she” – ella.

Spanish verb conjugation present ella vive

 

Irregular Spanish Verbs

All verbs use these predetermined endings, however, some verbs are irregular and have an extra step. For example, some verbs are called stem changers because the middle part of the verb changes. Querer – to want, is an E→ IE verb because it becomes quier- + verb ending. Other verbs are totally irregular and don’t follow a pattern. Ser – to be, is a great example of this. 

Present Tense Ser – To Be

Yo soy Nosotros/as somos
Tú eres Vosotros/as sois
Él, Ella, Usted es Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes son

As you can see, this one is totally weird. Not many verbs act as oddly as this one, but they are out there! Many common verbs like ser are irregular and can be picked up easily with some practice. If you aren’t sure if a verb is regular or irregular, don’t sweat it. If you treat these unknowns as regular verbs, people will still likely understand you and can even teach you.

 

Reflexive Spanish Verbs

A reflexive verb describes an action that is done to oneself. Any verb that has “se” after it is a reflexive verb, like levantarse and dormirse. Basically, these verbs are conjugated normally then have an additional piece tied to them. This piece is called a reflexive pronoun and also must match with the subject. For example, to say “I get myself up” you would say me levanto.

Reflexive verbs are not limited to the present tense. You can use the past tenses, the future, or any other verb conjugation with the reflexive pronouns.

Here is a basic formula for reflexive verb conjugation:

(Pronoun) + Reflexive verb pronoun + conjugated verb 

Reflexive Verb Pronouns

Yo – me Nosotros/as – nos
Tú – te Vosotros/as – os
Él, Ella, Usted – se Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – se

Here is an example using the pronoun “you” – with the verb levantarse.

Spanish verb conjugation reflexive tú te levantas

 

How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs in Different Tenses

How to form present progressive verbs in Spanish

The present progressive is used to talk about things that are happening right now in this very moment. In English, we use the verb “to be” plus the gerund “-ing,” such as “she is talking” or “we are watching.” Spanish acts the same way!

Simply conjugate the verb estar – to be, then add the Spanish version of “-ing.

  • ar verbs use the ending -ando
  • -er and –ir verbs use the ending -iendo.

Bailar becomes bailando, comer becomes comiendo, and so on. 

  • Yo estoy+v +ando/iendo
  • estás+v +ando/iendo
  • Él, Ella, Usted está+v +ando/iendo
  • Nosotros/as estamos+v +ando/iendo
  • Vosotros/as estáis+v +ando/iendo
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes están+v +ando/iendo

For example:

  1. I am eating 
    • Estoy comiendo
  2. They are dancing
    • Ellos están bailando
  3. We are living
    • Estamos viviendo

How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs in The Past Tenses

The past tense uses the exact same steps as the present tense! Take off the ending and add the one that matches the pronoun you want to use. Spanish has two forms of the past, and there is a short description on what each is used for.

 

The Preterite tense

The preterite tense is for single, completed actions. Think of the major plot points to a story, all of the action that moves the plot forward.

Preterite Tense -AR Verb Endings

  • Yo – é
  • Tú – aste
  • Él, Ella, Usted – ó
  • Nosotros/as – amos
  • Vosotros/as – asteis
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – aron

Preterite Tense Hablar – To Speak

Yo hablé Nosotros/as hablamos
Tú hablaste Vosotros/as hablasteis
Él, Ella, Usted habló Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes hablaron

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “you” – usted.

Spanish verb conjugation preterite tense Usted habló

 

Preterite Tense -ER/-IR Verb Endings

  • Yo – í
  • Tú – iste
  • Él, Ella, Usted – ió
  • Nosotros/as – imos
  • Vosotros/as – isteis
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – ieron

Preterite Tense Comer – To Eat

Yo comí Nosotros/as comimos
Tú comiste Vosotros/as comisteis
Él, Ella, Usted comió Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes comieron

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “I” – yo.

Spanish Verb conjugation preterite tense Yo

The imperfect tense

The imperfect is for the continuous past. It’s the description that sets the scene of a story, the little details that are hard to contain with definitive start and endpoints.

Imperfect Tense -AR Verb Endings

  • Yo – aba
  • Tú – abas
  • Él, Ella, Usted – aba
  • Nosotros/as – ábamos
  • Vosotros/as – abais
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – aban

Imperfect Tense Hablar – To Speak

Yo hablaba Nosotros/as hablábamos
Tú hablabas Vosotros/as hablabais
Él, Ella, Usted hablaba Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes hablaban

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “they” – ellos.

Spanish verb conjugation imperfect tense

Imperfect Tense -ER/-IR Verb Endings

  • Yo – ía
  • Tú – ías
  • Él, Ella, Usted – ía
  • Nosotros/as – íamos
  • Vosotros/as – íais
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – ían

Imperfect Tense Vivir – To Live

Yo vivía Nosotros/as vivíamos
Tú vivías Vosotros/as vivíais
Él, Ella, Usted vivía Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes vivían

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “she” – ella.

Spanish verb conjugation Ella viviá imperfect tense

 

How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs in The Future Tenses

Talking about the future can be hard, but conjugating in the future tense won’t make it harder. That’s because the future tense uses the same endings for all verb types, and you don’t even have to remove the -ar, -er, or –ir part of the verb.

Future Verb Endings (All Verb Types, Attached to the Infinitive)

  • Yo – é
  • Tú – ás
  • Él, Ella, Usted – á
  • Nosotros/as – emos
  • Vosotros/as – éis
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – án

Future Tense Hablar – To Speak

Yo hablaré Nosotros/as hablaremos
Tú hablarás Vosotros/as hablaréis
Él, Ella, Usted hablará Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes hablarán

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “yo” – I.

Spanish verb conjugation future tense yo

 

Conditional

The conditional is the “would” tense. Would you like to know how to conjugate with it?

Just like the future tense, it’s actually even easier than normal conjugation because you don’t have to take off the verb ending! All you do is attach the following endings to the back of the infinitive form of the verb.

Conditional Verb Endings (All Verb Types, Attached to the Infinitive)

  • Yo – ía
  • Tú – ías
  • Él, Ella, Usted – ía
  • Nosotros/as – íamos
  • Vosotros/as – íais
  • Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes – ían

Conditional Tense Comer – To Eat

Yo comería Nosotros/as comeríamos
Tú comerías Vosotros/as comeríais
Él, Ella, Usted comería Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes comerían

Here are the steps in action using the pronoun “he” – él.

Spanish verb conjugation conditional tense

 

Summary of Spanish Verb Conjugation

All Spanish verb conjugation can be done using tables and formulas. It’s a lot like math because it’s logical, there are rules, and once things click with one tense then you will easily understand the other tenses. Take it one tense at a time, practice a lot, and before you know it you will be an expert!

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