Lesson 2:
The Present Tense

The Present Tense

Regular Verbs

In Spanish there are three types of infinitive verbs which can have the following endings: -ar /-er /-ir. They are used like “to + verb”

Example:

ayudar (to help) -ar
vender (to sell) -er
abrir (to open) -ir

Just as we do in English, in Spanish we combine verbs too, but differently. In English, the verb “to help” is as follows:

I help
You help
He/She helps
We help
They help
You-all help

But in Spanish, the ending of the verb changes according to the person. As explained above, there are three classifications of verbs:

verbs ending in -ar
verbs ending in -er
verbs ending in -ir

According to this classification, the endings for each group are as follows:

The present tense of regular “-ar” verbs are formed by dropping the infinitive ending “-ar” and adding the personal endings.

Example:

For verbs ending in -ar:

ending Ayudar (to help)
yo -o ayudo
-as ayudas
usted/él/ella -a ayuda
nosotros -amos ayudamos
ellos/ellas -an ayudan
ustedes -an ayudan

The present tense has the following meanings in English:

Tú cantas – 1) you sing, 2) you do sing
Él canta – 1) he sings, 2) he does sing

NOTE:

The pronoun “usted” is usually expressed in Spanish, and isn’t omitted. However, the other subject pronouns: yo, tú, él, ella, nosotros, ellos, ellas are usually omitted, unless they are required for clarity or emphasis.

Example:

Canto bien. instead of: Yo canto bien.
I sing well.

Cantan bien. instead of: Ellos cantan bien.
They sing well.

BUT:

Example:

Ustedes cantan bien
You all sing well.

Ella canta bien, pero él canta mal.
She sings well, but he sings badly.

Ella y yo cantamos bien.
She and I sing well.

Negative Constructions

A verb becomes negative by placing “no” before it.

Example:

María no habla español.
María doesn’t speak Spanish.

Yo no bailo bien.
I don’t dance well.

Interrogative Constructions

In a statement, the subject usually comes before the verb. In a question, the subject usually comes after the verb.

Example:

Tú contestas correctamente.
You answer correctly.

¿Contestas tú correctamente?
Do you answer correctly?

Juan habla inglés.
Juan speaks English.

¿Habla Juan inglés?
Does Juan speak English?

The present tense of regular “-er” verbs are formed by dropping the infinitive ending “-er” and adding the personal endings.

For verbs ending in -er:

ending Vender (to sell)
yo -o vendo
-es vendes
usted/él/ella -e vende
nosotros -emos vendemos
ellos/ellas -en venden
ustedes -en venden

The present tense has the following meanings in English:

Tú comes – 1) you eat, 2) you do eat
Él come – 1) he eats, 2) he does eat

Negative Constructions

A verb becomes negative by placing “no” before it.

Example:

Felipe no bebe leche.
Felipe doesn’t drink milk.

Yo no leo novelas.
I don’t read novels.

Interrogative Constructions

In a statement, the subject usually comes before the verb. In a question, the subject usually comes after the verb.

Example:

Felipe corre todos los días.
Felipe runs every day.

¿Corre Felipe todos los días?
Does Felipe run every day?

The present tense of regular “-ir” verbs are formed by dropping the infinitive ending “-ir” and adding the personal endings.

For verbs ending in -ir:

ending Abrir (to open)
yo -o abro
-es abres
usted/él/ella -e abre
nosotros -imos abrimos
ellos/ellas -en abren
ustedes -en abren

The present tense has the following meanings in English:

Tú vives – 1) you live, 2) you do live.
Ella vive – 1) she lives, 2) she does live.

NOTE: The endings of “-er” and “-ir” verbs are the same in the present tense except in the pronoun “nosotros”.


Negative Constructions

A verb becomes negative by placing “no” before it.

Example:

Luz no escribe cartas.
Luz doesn’t write letters.

Nosotros no cubrimos la mesa.
We don’t cover the table.

Interrogative Constructions

In a statement, the subject usually comes before the verb. In a question, the subject usually comes after the verb.

Example:

La madre divide el pastel.
The mother divides the cake.

¿Divide la madre el pastel?
Does the mother divide the cake?

Lists of regular verbs to the present tense:

Common Regular -ar Verbs:

Admirar to admire hablar to speak
Arreglar to arrange, to fix invitar to invite
Ayudar to help lavar to wash
Bailar to dance llamar to call
Bajar to go down, to lower llegar to arrive
borrar to erase llevar to carry, to take, to wear
buscar to look for mirar to look at
cambiar to change montar to ride a horse, bicycle
caminar to walk nadar to swim
cantar to sing necesitar to need
celebrar to celebrate pagar to pay for
cocinar to cook pasar to pass, to spend time
contestar to answer patinar to skate
comprar to buy practicar to practice
cortar to cut preguntar to ask
descansar to rest preparar to prepare
desear to wish, to want regresar to return, to come back
dibujar to draw sacar to take out
enseñar to teach terminar to finish, to end
entrar en to enter into tocar to touch, to play a musical instrument
escuchar to listen to tomar to take, to drink
esperar to wait, to hope trabajar to work
estudiar to study usar to use, to wear
explicar to explain visitar to visit
ganar to win, to earn money viajar to travel
gritar to shout

Common Regular -er Verbs:

aprender to learn depender to depend on
arder to burn, to glow esconder to hide something
barrer to sweep leer to read
beber to drink meter / echar to put in
comer to eat ofender to offend
comprender to understand prometer to promise
correr to run poseer to own
creer to believe responder to answer
creer que sí / no to think so / not romper to break
coser to sew retroceder to move backwards, to retreat
cometer un error to make a mistake vender to sell
deber to must, to have to, to owe

Common Regular -ir Verbs:

abrir to open existir to exist
acudir to turn to insistir en to insist on
añadir to add interrumpir to interrupt
aplaudir to applaud imprimir to print
asistir to help / assist omitir to omit
asistir a to attend partir to leave, to depart
cubrir to cover permitir to permit, to allow
compartir to share prohibir to prohibit
confundir to mix up, to confuse recibir to receive
cumplir to be “x” years old, to be one’s job repartir to deliver
cumplir con su promesa / palabra to fulfill, to keep one’s promise resistir to resist, to withstand
decidir to decide sacudir to shake, to dust
describir to describe subir to go up, to ascend
dividir to divide subir a to get on car
discutir to discuss subir las escaleras to go upstairs
descubrir to discover sufrir to suffer
escribir to write unir to bring together
exprimir to squeeze vivir to live

Irregular Verbs

In English, there are also irregular verbs like “to be”:

I am
You are
He/She is
We are
They are
You-all are

As you can see, the conjugation of the verb is different from the verb in the infinitive. That is why it is an irregular verb; because it changes its form. In Spanish there are also irregular verbs – these verbs are divided into three groups.

In the first group, we find irregularity just in the first person singular “yo”.

Caber (to fit) Caer (to fall) Ver (to see)
Yo quepo caigo veo
cabes caes ves
usted/Él/ella cabe cae ve
Nosotros cabemos caemos vemos
Ellos/ellas caben caen ven
Ustedes caben caen ven
Dar
(to give)
Hacer
(to do/to make)
Poner
(to put/to set)
Yo doy hago pongo
das haces pones
usted/Él/ella da hace pone
Nosotros damos hacemos ponemos
Ellos/ellas dan hacen ponen
Ustedes dan hacen ponen
Salir
(to live/to go out)
Saber
(to know)
Traer
(to bring)
Valer
(to be worth)
Yo salgo traigo valgo
sales sabes traes vales
usted/Él/ella sale sabe trae vale
Nosotros salimos sabemos traemos valemos
Ellos/ellas salen saben traen valen
Ustedes salen saben traen valen

In the second group, there are irregularities except in the first person plural “nosotros”.

Decir
(to say/to tell)
Estar
(to be)
Oír
(to hear)
Tener
(to have)
Venir
(to come)
Yo digo estoy oigo tengo vengo
dices estás oyes tienes vienes
usted/Él/ella dice está oye tiene viene
Nosotros decimos estamos oímos tenemos venimos
Ellos/ellas dicen están oyen tienen vienen
Ustedes dicen están oyen tienen vienen

In the third group, they are completely irregular verbs.

Ir (to go) Ser (to be)
Yo voy soy
vas eres
usted/Él/ella va es
Nosotros vamos somos
Ellos/ellas van son
Ustedes van son

Expressions of time for the present tense

a menudo frequently / often siempre always
a veces sometimes toda la mañana all morning
algunas veces sometimes toda la noche all night
cada día each day toda la tarde all afternoon
cada mañana each morning todas la mañanas every morning
cada noche each night todas las noches every night / evening
cada tarde each afternoon todas las tardes every afternoon
con frecuencia frequently / often todo el día all day
de vez en cuando sometimes todos los días every day
frecuentemente frequently / often usualmente usually
generalmente generally siempre always
pocas veces / raras veces rarely / seldom

Stem-Changing Verbs

Infinitives are made up of two parts: the ending and the stem. In the following examples, the stem is underlined and the ending is in bold.

With regular verbs, the stem stays the same, and the ending changes as they are conjugated.

Ayudar (to help) Vender (to sell) Abrir (to open)
Yo ayudo vendo abro
ayudas vendes abres
usted/Él/ella ayuda vende abre
Nosotros ayudamos vendemos abrimos
Ellos/ellas ayudan venden abren
Ustedes ayudan venden abren

With some verbs, the stem also changes when you conjugate them. In the present tense, there are three groups of stem-changing verbs:

-o -ue

-e -ie

-e -i

 

Some verbs that contain “o” in the stem, the “o” becomes “ue” in the present tense, except in the pronoun “nosotros”. This change occurs in the syllable directly before the verb ending.

Almorzar (to eat lunch) Volver (to return) Dormir (to sleep)
Yo almuerzo vuelvo duermes
almuerzas vuelves duermes
usted/Él/ella almuerza vuelve duerme
Nosotros almorzamos volvemos dormimos
Ellos/ellas almuerzan vuelven duermen
Ustedes almuerzan vuelven duermen

Compare it to the regular verb vender. Notice that the endings are the same for regular verbs and stem-changing verbs.

Almorzar (to eat lunch) Vender (to sell)
Yo almuerzo vendo
almuerzas vendes
usted/Él/ella almuerza vende
Nosotros almorzamos vendemos
Ellos/ellas almuerzan venden
Ustedes almuerzan venden

NOTE:

The verb jugar (to play) follows the same pattern in that the stem vowel changes in all present tense forms except for “nosotros”: juego, juegas, juega, jugamos, juegan.

The verb “oler” (to smell) also has a special form, add “h” before the change “ue” except for “nosotros”: huelo, hueles, huele, olemos, huelen.

 

Some verbs that contain “e” in the stem, the “e” becomes “ie” in the present tense, except in the pronoun “nosotros”. This change occurs in the syllable directly before the verb ending.

Cerrar (to close) Perder (to lose) Sentir (to regret)
Yo cierro pierdo siento
cierras pierdes sientes
usted/Él/ella cierra pierde siente
Nosotros cerramos perdemos sentimos
Ellos/ellas cierran pierden sienten
Ustedes cierran pierden sienten

A few -ir verbs that contain “e” in the stem, the “e” becomes “i” in the present tense, except in the pronoun “nosotros”. This change occurs in the syllable directly before the verb ending.

Servir (to serve)
Yo sirvo
sirves
usted/Él/ella sirve
Nosotros servimos
Ellos/ellas sirven
Ustedes sirven

Common o-ue stem-changing verbs.

acostar to put to bed mostrar to show
almorzar to eat lunch mover to move
colgar to hang oler to smell (o-hue)
conmover to move emotionally poder to be able, to can
contar to tell, to count, to narrate. contar con – to count on, to rely probar to prove, to test, to try food
costar to cost recordar to remember
devolver to give back recostar to recline
doler to have / be in pain renovar to remodel, to renew
dormir to sleep resolver to solve, to resolve
encontrar to find rodar to roll
envolver to wrap soler to be in the habit of, to be accustomed to
esforzarse to make an effort soñar to dream of
forzar to force sonar to sound, to ring
jugar to play games, sports (u-ue) tostar to toast
llover to rain volar to fly
moler to grind, to crush volver a +infinitivo to + verb + again
morder to bite, to chew volver to return, to come or go back
morir to die

Common e-ie stem-changing verbs.

atravesar to cross hervir to boil
acertar to hit the mark, to be right invertir to invest, to turn upside down
apretar to tighten, to squeeze mentir to lie
ascender to ascend, to promote negar to deny, to negate
advertir to warn nevar to snow
cerrar to close pensar to think
comenzar a to begin, to commence pensar en to think about
confezar to confess pensar que to think that
calentar to heat, to warm perder to lose, to miss train, bus
consentir to consent to, to spoil someone (ie. gifts) preferir to prefer
convertir to convert querer to want, to wish, to love someone
concernir to concern (impersonal verb) querer decir to mean to say
despertar to awaken quebrar to break
defender to defend remendar to patch, to mend
descender to descend regar to water, to irrigate
divertirse to have fun referir to refer, to narrate, to recount
digerir to digest recomendar to recommend, to advise
empezar to begin, to start sembrar to seed
encerrar to lock in, to contain sentar to seat
encender to light, to set fire to, to switch on sentir to feel, to feel sorry, to regret something physical
entender to understand sugerir to suggest
extender to extend, to prolong tender to hang clothes
enterrar to bury tropezar to stumble
gobernar to govern temblar to tremble, to shiver
herir to hurt

Common e-i stem-changing verbs.

competir to compete pedir to ask for, to request
despedir to take leave of, to fire repetir to repeat
derretir to thaw, to melt reír to laugh at
freir to fry reñir to quarrel, to scold
gemir to groan servir to serve
impedir to prevent, to hinder sonreír to smile
medir to measure vestir to dress

There is another type of change. Some verbs change in the first person singular yo, in the present tense, as follows:

Only first-person singular verbs “yo” whose infinitive ends in “-guir”, changes the ending to “-go”, as follows:

Extinguir (to extinguish)
Yo extingo
extingues
usted/Él/ella extingue
Nosotros extinguimos
Ellos/ellas extinguen
Ustedes extinguen

This pattern occurs to preserve the original sound in accordance with the rules for Spanish pronunciation.

conseguir to obtain, to get
extinguir to extinguish
distinguir to distinguish
perseguir to persecute
proseguir to continue, to proceed
seguir to follow

Only first-person singular verbs “yo” whose infinitive ends in “-ger/-gir”, changes the ending “-g” to “-j” , as follows:

Recoger (to pick up/gather)
Yo recojo
recoges
usted/Él/ella recoge
Nosotros recogemos
Ellos/ellas recogen
Ustedes recogen

This pattern occurs to preserve the original sound in accordance with the rules for Spanish pronunciation.

afligir to afflict, to grieve escoger to choose, to select
coger to seize, to grasp, exigir to demand
corregir to correct fingir to pretend
dirigir to direct, to address proteger to protect
dirigirse to lead, to head to recoger to pick up
elegir to choose surgir to emerge, to appear, to surface

Only first-person singular verbs “yo” whose infinitive ends in “-cer/-cir”, changes the ending “-c” to “-zco”. This pattern occurs only if a vowel precedes the “c” in the infinitive as follows:

Traducir (to translate)
Yo traduzco
traduces
usted/Él/ella traduce
Nosotros traducimos
Ellos/ellas traducen
Ustedes traducen

More examples of this construction:

agradecer to be thankful, to appreciate nacer to be born
amanecer to dawn, to wake up obedecer to obey
aparecer to appear obscurecer to become dark
conducir to drive, to lead ofrecer to offer
conocer to know padecer to suffer from
crecer to grow up parecer to seem
desaparecer to disappear parecerse a to seem like, to look like
envejercer to age, to become old permanecer to remain
fortalecer to strengthen, to fortify, to toughen pertenecer to belong to, to pertain to

Exceptions: The following three verbs change only -c to -z as follows:

Vencer (to defeat) Convencer (to convince) Ejercer (to practice a profession)
Yo venzo convenzo ejerzo
vences convences ejerces
usted/Él/ella vence convence ejerce
Nosotros vencemos convencemos ejercemos
Ellos/ellas vencen convencen ejercen
Ustedes vencen convencen ejercen

The following verbs also change, but in a different way.

Verbs ending in -uir but not -guir change in the endings = -i to -y. It is in all grammatical pronouns, except in “nosotros” as follows:

Construir (to construct, to build)
Yo construyo
construyes
usted/Él/ella construye
Nosotros construimos
Ellos/ellas construyen
Ustedes construyen

More examples of this construction:

atribuir to attribute huir to escape, to flee
concluir to conclude, to end incluir to include
constituir to constitute, to establish, to set up influir to influence
construir to construct, to build instituir to introduce, to establish
destruir to destroy obstruir to obstruct
disminuir to diminish, to dwindle, to reduce substituir to substitute
distribuir to distribute