Spanish verb tenses

Jun 16, 2021

Would you like to take your Spanish to the next level and be able to use the wide range of Spanish verb tenses? Keep reading! The following information may be very useful for you!

This post is an overview of the most important aspects you need to bear in mind about Spanish verb tenses and their conjugations. It may seem a hard task but don’t panic! Please keep reading and take into consideration the following rules. We’ll provide a wide range of examples and explanations for each Spanish verb tense. 

In this post you can also find the conjugation of some verbs.  The endings of the spanish verb tenses are particularly relevant in Spanish. For instance, if someone told you “Bailas muy bien”, you would infer that this person is giving a compliment to you thanks to the ending of the verb. Unlike Spanish, English always uses subject pronouns (“You dance very well”).

You probably know how to conjugate the most basic verbal spanish verb tenses: the present simple, but the following information will come in handy if you want to master the use of this verbal tense in Spanish. 

In this post, we’ll focus on regular verbs and on the indicative mood. Regular verbs are very easy to learn because they follow the same conjugation patterns. Therefore, once you learn how to conjugate one of these verbs, you’ll be able to conjugate all regular verbs in Spanish. Are you ready?

The endings of the verbs are particularly relevant in Spanish. For instance, if someone told you “Bailas muy bien”, you would infer that this person is giving a compliment to you thanks to the ending of the verb.

As you can see on the following tables, you need to use the root of the infinitive verb and then add the appropriate ending to it, according to the subject and to the verb type (verbs that end in -AR, verbs that end in -ER and verbs that end in -IR). 

Let’s have a look at its conjugation:

Present tense endings for -ar  verbs 

Verbs ending in -ar belong to the first conjugation, for example, bailar, estudiar or saltar

yo -o bail-o I dance
-as bail-as You dance
él/ella -a bail-a He/she dances
nosotros -amos bail-amos We dance
vosotros -áis bail-áis You dance
ellos/ellas  -an bail-an They dance

Present tense endings for -er verbs

Verbs ending in -er belong to the second conjugation, for example, tener, comer or beber

yo -o beb-o I drink
-es beb-es You drink
él/ella -e beb-e He/she drinks
nosotros -emos beb-emos We drink
vosotros -éis beb-éis You drink
ellos/ellas  -en beb-en They drink

Present tense endings for -ir verbs

Verbs ending in -ir belong to the third conjugation, for example, vivir, sentir or escribir

yo -o viv-o I live
-es viv-es You live
él/ella -e viv-e He/she lives
nosotros -imos viv-imos We live
vosotros -ís viv-ís You live
ellos/ellas  -en viv-en They live

Main uses of the present simple tense in Spanish

  • We use the Spanish present tense to talk about habitual actions, that is to say, activities that an individual does regularly (jobs, hobbies, daily routines…). 

Let’s have a look at some examples:

Me levanto a las ocho todos los días. (I wake up at eight every day)

Estudio medicina en la universidad. (I study medicine at university)

  • To talk about universal truths, in other words, things that are generally true. 

Examples: 

En invierno hace frío. (It’s cold in winter)

Barcelona es una ciudad multicultural. (Barcelona is a multicultural city)

  • Unlike English, Spanish verb tenses uses the present tense to talk about current actions, in other words, something happening at the moment of speaking. (In this case, English tends to use the present continuous) 

Examples:

¿Qué haces? (What are you doing?)

Hago los deberes. (I am doing my homework)

  • To talk about things happening in the near future (English generally uses the present continuous)

Examples: 

Voy al cine, ¿te vienes conmigo?.  (I am going to the cinema. Want to come with me?)

However, we need to take into account that the present simple in Spanish is much more versatile and flexible than in English since it can be used to talk about the past, present and future. 

Would you like to share with native speakers the trips you made at some point in the past or a funny story to make them laugh? Then you must learn how to talk about the past using the different past tenses in Spanish. Let ‘s have a look at the following verb tenses to talk about the past: el pretérito perfecto simple, el pretérito imperfecto, el pretérito perfecto compuesto y el pretérito pluscuamperfecto. Now you might be wondering how to use one or another, right? At first sight one may think it is a hard task, but it is not that difficult!  Let’s go ahead!

El pretérito perfecto simple o pretérito indefinido

It is used to talk about specific events that took place at a certain time in the past. For instance, “Ayer comí pasta para cenar” (I ate pasta for dinner yesterday) or “El año pasado vendí mi coche” (I sold my car last year)

Let’s now have a look at its conjugation: 

  AR ER IR
  BAILAR BEBER VIVIR
yo habl-é beb-í viv-í
habl-aste beb-iste viv-iste
él/ella habl-ó beb-ió viv-ió
nosotros habl-amos beb-imos viv-imos
vosotros habl-asteis beb-isteis viv-isteis
ellos/ellas habl-aron beb-ieron viv-ieron

We use the Spanish present tense to talk about habitual actions, that is to say, activities that an individual does regularly (jobs, hobbies, daily routines…). 

El pretérito imperfecto 

It is generally used to talk about past habitual events or actions, to describe something in the past (it could be a people, places, objects…). For example, “De pequeña jugaba al fútbol” (I used to play football when I was a child) or “Nuestro antiguo piso tenía tres habitaciones” (Our former flat had three bedrooms)

  AR ER IR
  BAILAR BEBER VIVIR
yo habl-aba beb-ía viv-ía
habl-abas beb-ías viv-ías
él/ella habl-aba beb-ía viv-ía
nosotros habl-ábamos beb-íamos viv-íamos
vosotros habl-abais beb-íais viv-íais
ellos/ellas habl-aban beb-ían viv-ían


El pretérito perfecto compuesto 

It is used to express unfinished actions in the past, that is to say, they continue up to the present time. To form the pretérito perfecto compuesto you need to conjugate the present tense of the auxiliary verb “haber” according to the person it refers to and the past participle of the verb. 

Let’s have a look at the conjugation of the verb “haber” that you need to learn to form the pretérito perfecto compuesto

  HABER
yo he
has
él/ella ha
nosotros hemos
vosotros habéis 
ellos/ellas han

We normally use the this verb tense with some of the following words: 

  • Esta semana (this week); este año (this year)

Example: Este año he tenido muy mala suerte. 

  • Hoy (today)

Example: Hoy he ido de excursión. 

  • Ya (already)

Example: Ya he entendido el problema. 

  • Hasta ahora (up to now, so far…)

Example: No he recibido ninguna noticia hasta ahora. 

  • Nunca (never)

Example: Nunca he ido a Italia.

To form the pretérito perfecto compuesto you need to conjugate the present tense of the auxiliary verb “haber” according to the person it refers to and the past participle of the verb. 

El pretérito pluscuamperfecto 

It is used to express an action that occurred before another action in the past. In Spanish it is formed with the conjugated form of the auxiliary verb “haber” (conjugated in the pretérito imperfecto tense) and the past participle of the verb. 

Let’s have a look at the conjugation of the verb “haber”  conjugated in the pretérito imperfecto tense: 

  HABER
yo había
habías
él/ella había
nosotros habíamos
vosotros habíais
ellos/ellas habían

Let’s have a look at an example:

Antes de que llegara a casa mi padre se había ido.  (My dad had left before I arrived home). 

Another use of this verb tense is to talk about an experience that you’ve never had before. For instance, “Nunca había estado en París”. 

Would you like to talk about your future plans or predict what is going to happen next year? Then you obviously need to know how to conjugate the future tense in Spanish. 

El futuro de indicativo 

It is used to refer to something that is going to happen in the future, to talk about the immediate future, future plans or to make predictions. Do not panic! It is one of the easiest tenses to learn in Spanish. 

Let’s now have a look at its conjugation: 

  AR ER IR
  BAILAR BEBER VIVIR
yo bailar-é beber-é vivir-é
bailar-ás beber-ás vivir-ás
él/ella bailar-á beber-á vivir-á
nosotros bailar-emos beber-emos vivir-emos
vosotros bailar-éis beber-éis vivir-éis
ellos/ellas bailar-án beber-án vivir-án

Let’s now consider a few examples: 

El año que viene estudiaré en París. (I am going to study in Paris next year) 

Encontraré un piso asequible. (I’ll find an affordable flat)

The future tense can also be formed with the conjugated form of the verb “ir” followed by the infinitive form of the verb we are referring to. For instance, “voy a ir al médico mañana”. 

El condicional simple de indicativo 

It is generally used to talk about hypothetical situations, probabilities or to express  suppositions/predictions about the future.  

  AR ER IR
  BAILAR BEBER VIVIR
yo bailar-ía beber-ía vivir-ía
bailar-ías beber-ías vivir-ías
él/ella bailar-ía beber-ía vivir-ía
nosotros bailar-íamos beber-íamos vivir-íamos
vosotros bailar-íais beber-íais vivir-íais
ellos/ellas bailar-ían beber-ían vivir-ían

Examples:

Si pudiera, iría de vacaciones. (If I could, I would go on holidays) 

Me gustaría hacer un viaje por carretera. (I would like to do a road trip) 

We hope you found the information you were looking for. Don’t forget to keep visiting our blog to find out a wide variety of material that will definitely come in handy and will help you take your Spanish to the next level. Furthermore, you can also sign up for a personalized online course with hundreds of practical and amusing lessons. Hispaníssimo is here to help you! The perfect course for you is at your fingertips!

Written by: Anna Roca Regué

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