Spanish Grammar Explained /

Conjugating regular verbs in Spanish

Learn how to use Spanish regular verbs in the present tense in just a few steps!
The conjugation of verbs in Spanish is extremely important, especially considering that Spanish speakers don't use personal pronouns like "I" or "you" when they speak. Instead of saying yo soy, they will just say soy. Using yo, for example, just sounds unnatural, unless you want to emphasize something. But that's for later. So how do people know what on earth they are talking about? They change the verb forms (conjugate them)!
Step 1: Understanding conjugation or how verb forms change. In English, verbs don't change much when they are conjugated. That's why you might not have even noticed the difference.
to speak
I speak
to eat
I eat
to live
I live
In many languages, including Spanish, verbs change a little bit more depending, for example, on the person. By person, we mean grammatical person, not a real person. The first, second and third person singular are:
  1. yo → I
  2. tú → you
  3. él/ella → he/she
Él written with an accent means "he", if you happen to forget the accent you will be writing the masculine article "the" instead, like el gato.
Also notice, there is no "it" in Spanish. Objects and animals are either feminine or masculine.
Step 2: "yo" with an "o"
Hablo inglés, francés y español.
I speak English, French, and Spanish.
Como muchos frutos rojos.
I eat lots of berries.
Vivo en Panamá.
I live in Panama.
The regular conjugation of the first person singular yo always ends in -o, like yo.
Step 3: Watch out for the endings!
To learn how to use the verbs with and él/ella, the second and third person singular, it is very useful to know one thing first: Spanish verbs in their original form (infinitive i.e. not conjugated), always end in three different ways:
  • -AR
  • -ER
  • -IR
See how to use verbs depending on their original ending:
Keep the vowel (A, E) of the infinitive, except for IR-verbs, they do everything that ER-verbs do in the singular forms!
Grammar terms explained
  • conjugation: when verbs change their form depending on the pronoun that precedes them.
  • personal pronouns: a part of speech terms used to classify words that refer to someone. They always replace a name that we already know from the context; in Spanish yo, tú, él, ella
  • infinitive (verbs): verbs as you find them in the dictionary, verbs without conjugation, the opposite is... you guessed it... finite verbs!
  • grammatical person: it's a category of conjugation, the distinction between the speaker (first person), the addressee (second person), and others (third person).