Spanish conjugation refers to the way that the infinitive verb forms are changed to reflect who is performing the action and when it takes place.
For native English speakers the idea of conjugating verbs can be a little overwhelming. Try not to let this bother you. In most cases there are basic rules to follow and once you master these Spanish conjugation becomes quite easy.
Characteristics of conjugation
There are several factors that determine the way that a verb is conjugated in Spanish. These are:
- The tense (whether the action takes place in the past, present or future)
- The actor (the person/people performing the action)
- The form of the infinitive (whether it ends in AR, ER or IR)
- The structure of the sentence
- Whether the verb is regular or irregular
You will learn how all of these factors work together as you progress with your Spanish studies.
Using Spanish Conjugation
The first tense that you will learn in Spanish is the present tense. Conjugating verbs in the present tense allows you to talk about actions or states that are occurring now. As with all tenses, verbs in the present tense are conjugated according to the last two letters of the infinitive.
The first step in conjugating verbs in the present tense is to remove the last two letters (AR/ER/IR) from the infinitive form. The next step is to add new endings depending on who is performing the action. These endings are different for each of the three types of verbs. They are as follows:
AR verbs – o, as, a, amos, an
The Spanish conjugation of “hablar” (to speak) in the present tense is:
Yo hablO – I speak
Tú hablAS – You (informal) speak
El / Ella / Usted hablA – He / She / You (formal) speak
Nosotros hablAMOS – We speak
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes hablAN – They / You all speak
ER verbs – o, es, e, emos, en
The conjugation of “comer” (to eat) in the present tense is:
Yo comO – I eat
Tú comES – You (informal) eat
El / Ella / Usted comE – He / She / You (formal) eat
Nosotros comEMOS – We eat
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes comEN – They / You all eat
IR verbs – o, es, e, imos, en
The Spanish conjugation of “vivir” (to live) in the present tense is:
Yo vivO – I live
Tú vivES – You (informal) live
El / Ella / Usted vivE – He / She / You (formal) lives
Nosotros vivIMOS – We live
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes vivEN – They / You all live
Because the conjugation of the verb contains information about the person performing the action, the pronoun is often irrelevant. For example, instead of saying “Yo vivo en Mexico”, you can simply say “Vivo in Mexico” because the “Yo” pronoun is implied in the conjugation.
Unfortunately for Spanish students, there are numerous verbs that don’t follow the Spanish conjugation rules. These are known as irregular verbs. A common example of this type of verb is “IR” (to go) which is conjugated as follows in the present tense:
El / Ella / Usted va
Ellos / Ellas / van
Differences between European Spanish and Latin American conjugation
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