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Introduction To Spanish Verbs

This is a basic overview of the concepts you need to get started with Spanish verbs.

Definitions

Infinitive - This is the basic, unchanged form of the verb, e.g. to swim (nadar), to have (tener).

Subject pronoun - This is the subject of the verb in action, e.g. you swim, he swims, she swims.

Conjugation - This is the form of the verb that changes depending on the subject and tense, e.g. I swim, he swims, you swam.

Subject Pronouns

  • yo / I
  • / you - informal, when talking to friends, peers, family and children
  • usted (or Ud.) / you - formal, used when talking to someone older, a person you don't know, or to show respect
  • él / he
  • ella / she
  • nosotros / we
  • vosotros / you (all) - informal, when talking to a group of friends, peers, family and children - used in Spain only
  • ellos / they
  • ustedes (or Uds.) / you (all) - when talking to a group, formal in Spain, used for both formal and informal situations everywhere else.
Vosotros

Vosotros is used when speaking to a group of people you are familar with, but is only used in Spain. In Latin American Spanish ustedes is used when speaking to groups of people formally and informally.

Shared Conjugations

When conjugating verbs, él, ella and usted all share the same form, as do ellos, ellas and ustedes.

Conjugating Verbs

All verbs belong to one of three groups, depending on the ending of the infinitive, -ar, -er, and -ir.

Each group has a set of endings that are added to the verb, depending on the subject and tense.

For example, in the present nosotros (we) form you replace the ending with -amos, -emos, and -imos respectively.

  • hablar (to speak)
  • nosotros hablamos (we speak)
  • correr (to run)
  • nosotros corremos (we run)
  • vivir (to live)
  • nosotros vivimos (we live)

Some conjugations are irregular and do not follow these set rules, these must be learned individually.

Using Pronouns

When conjugating verbs the personal pronouns are not normally used because the verb ending tells you the subject of the verb.

For example
  • hablo can be used on its own, instead of yo hablo (I speak)

It is only necessary to include the personal pronoun for clarity if the subject isn't obvious from the context, or for emphasis.

Negatives

To make a phrase negative you simply add no in front of the verb.

  • Ella habla inglés
  • She speaks English
  • Ella no habla inglés
  • She doesn't speak English

You can also use other negative words instead of no.

  • Nadie habla inglés
  • Nobody speaks English
  • Él nunca habla inglés
  • He never speaks English

Questions

Asking questions is very easy in Spanish. The simplest way is with a rising intonation, without changing any words.

  • hablas inglés
  • you speak English
  • ¿hablas inglés?
  • Do you speak English?
Question Marks

Notice that in Spanish questions include an upside down question mark at the beginning of the question.