Present Tense Spanish: Discover How to Master It!

Present Tense Spanish: Discover How to Master It!

By Victoria | Blog

Present tense Spanish

The Spanish Present Tense is the perfect place to start when learning Spanish.

Not only is it the most widely used tense, but once you have the verb endings down, you will notice a pattern that repeats itself in nearly all the other tenses.

Verbs in the present tense are, for the most part, predictable, so mastering them is totally attainable!

The Spanish present tense is used not only to talk about what’s happening right now, but also…

  • To talk about the future.

               -No tengo tiempo hoy, voy mañana. => I don’t have time today, I’m going tomorrow.

  • To talk about an ongoing action.

              -Estudio música en el conservatorio. => I am studying music at the conservatory.

  • To convey an action you’re in the habit of doing.

              -Miro mucha televisión. => I watch a lot of TV.

  • To narrate past events.

You most likely have been doing this in English without realizing!

How many times have you asked your friends about the ending of a movie after watching it?

Motorcycle Diaries

¿Crees que al final se quedan juntos?

Do you think they stay together at the end?

English speakers have been using the present simple in these situations without even blinking an eye.

So strategically speaking, the present tense is going to help you immensely in your learning process.

You will need to devote a considerable amount of time on it but keep in mind that Spanish conjugation is the bulk of the hard work!

If you had trouble getting your point across before, you will now be able to express yourself in a clearer way while talking to native speakers.

Mastering the Spanish present tense will provide you with a nice boost to your confidence to push past your fear of speaking Spanish.

Ready To Get Started?

As far as Spanish verbs go, regular verbs are always the best place to start.

Why?

Best Spanish Phrases for Travel

They are nicely predictable.

Work your way through the article, taking time with each section, making sure you understand everything and have the concepts down before moving on to the next.

Start with the regular verbs. Conjugate, conjugate, conjugate.

I can’t stress enough how important is to work hard on those conjugations. Take mental breaks!

Then, move on to the irregular verbs. Look for patterns. Repetition will help you immensely.

When it starts reacting to improperly conjugated verbs, you will realize your brain has not burned up and you are making progress. It will take time, effort, and positive thinking! Yes, you can!

Finally, in case you feel like you have the basics down and want to skip to the tricky topics like the stem-changing verbs, feel free to use this clickable table of contents (below) to jump to the section you most need help on.

Present Tense Spanish, Part 1: Regular Verbs

There are three unique categories that Spanish verbs fall into:

  1. Verbs that end in AR -  For instance, cocinar (to cook), viajar (to travel), hablar (to talk/speak), etc.
  2. Verbs that end in ER - For instance, comer (to eat), beber (to drink), leer (to read), etc.
  3. Verbs that end in IR - For instance, vivir (to live), decidir (to decide), escribir (to write), etc.

To conjugate these verbs in the Spanish present tense, you take the root (also called the stem) of the word and add the correct ending, depending on the person (yo, tú, él, nosotros, etc.) and the type of verb in front of us (-ar/-er/-ir).

The type of verb (-ar/-er/-ir) determines the ending.

Let’s first start with the -ar verbs in the present tense.

1) -AR Verbs in Present Tense

Conjugate -ar verbs as follows:

Spanish -AR Verb Conjugations

Yo

-0

-as

Vos

ás

Él/Ella/Usted

a

Nosotros

-amos

Vosotros

-áis

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes

-an

Let’s put the puzzle together for the verb cocinar which means “to cook.”

Cocinar => Cocin- + ending

Yo cocino

Nosotros cocinamos

cocinas


Vos cocinás

Vosotros cocináis

Él/Ella/Usted cocina

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes cocinan

Now we can build a complete sentence. For example:

Spanish present tense

Yo cocino para mis hijos todos los días.​

I cook for my children everyday.

2) -ER Verbs in Present Tense

Conjugate the -er verbs as follows:

Spanish -ER Verb Conjugations

Yo

-0

-es

Vos

-és

Él/Ella/Usted

-e

Nosotros

-emos

Vosotros

-éis

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes

-en

present tense Spanish

Don’t the endings for the -er verbs look awfully familiar?

For the first person singular (yo), they are almost the same as the ones for the -ar verbs, except you use an “e” instead of an “a.”

Let’s take the verb beber which means “to drink.”

Beber => Beb- + ending

Yo bebo

Nosotros bebemos

bebes


Vos bebés

Vosotros bebéis

Él/Ella/Usted bebe

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes beben

Now we can use it in a complete sentence.

Spanish present tenses

Bebo cafe todas las mañanas antes de estudiar español. => I drink coffee every morning before studying Spanish.

3) -IR Verbs in Present Tense

Conjugate the -ir verbs as follows:

Spanish -IR Verb Conjugations

Yo

-0

-es

Vos

-ís

Él/Ella/Usted

-e

Nosotros

-imos

Vosotros

-ís

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes

-en

No, you haven’t lost your mind.

The -ir verbs share most of the same endings with the -er verbs, except for the vos, nosotros, and vosotros forms.

Let’s look at the verb escribir.

Escribir => escrib- + ending

Yo escribo

Nosotros escribimos

escribes


Vos escribís

Vosotros escribís

Él/Ella/Usted escribe

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes escriben

What about in a sentence?

Spanish present tense

Paula escribe para la revista desde hace quince años. => Paula has been writing for the magazine for fifteen years.

Now comes every Spanish learner’s favorite part. It’s perhaps the most difficult.

Have no fear, I’m here to teach you just what you need to know with the present tense in Spanish.

Present Tense Spanish, Part 2: Irregular Verbs

If the regular verbs had healthy roots, the irregular ones need a root canal.

They are so rebellious they will test your limits. The good news is, all you need is to learn the specifics and then practice with repetition and patience.

You can do this!

To make things a bit easier on you, we will start with simple examples then move on to more complex ones. Take baby steps.

First Person Irregular in Spanish Present Tense

Some verbs are irregular ONLY in the first person and regular in all other forms.

Yeah, what the heck, right?

However, as far as irregular verbs go, they are fairly easy to learn.

Most Common Spanish Irregular Verbs

 

Hacer - To do, make => yo hago

Saber - To know => yo sé

Salir To leave => yo salgo

Caer To fall => yo caigo

Traer - To bring => yo traigo

Caber - To fit => yo quepo

Poner To put, to place => yo pongo

Valer To be worth => yo valgo

Dar - To give => yo doy

Tener - To have => yo tengo

Venir - To come => yo vengo

Decir To say => yo digo

Let’s take a closer look at one of the verbs from the list: hacer which means “to do” or “to make.”

The first person form is irregular in the Spanish present tense.

Present tense in Spanish

Yo hago la tarea. ​

I do the homework.

The other forms are regular:

Hacer => to do or to make

Yo hago

Nosotros hacemos

haces


Vos hacés

Vosotros hacéis

Él/Ella/Usted hace

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes hacen

Tener & Venir in the Present Tense

The verbs tener and venir are not only irregular, but also stem-changers.

In addition, they have another thing in common; they share a pattern of conjugation.

First, let's take a look at tener.

Tener => to have

Yo tengo

Nosotros tenemos

tienes


Vos tenés

Vosotros tenéis

Él/Ella/Usted tiene

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes tienen

Now let's look at the useful Spanish verb venir which means to come.

Below, you will see the conjugations for venir in the Spanish present tense.

Venir => to come

Yo vengo

Nosotros venimos

vienes


Vos venís

Vosotros venís

Él/Ella/Usted viene

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes vienen

Present Tense Spanish, Part 3: Stem-Changing Verbs

As the word indicates, stem-changing verbs change their stem (or root) in the present tense in all forms EXCEPT for vos, nosotros, and vosotros.

present tense Spanish verbs

Starting to lose faith?

Do no panic!

It is a very common feeling that can be reversed. Take a break if you need to and remember to take baby steps.

When stem-changers are conjugated, the stem (root) changes in a predictable way.

Yes, you heard that right, PREDICTABLE!!!

Spanish Stem-Changing e => i

These types of stem-changing verbs in Spanish can ONLY be found in -ir verbs.

The letter “e” in the stem changes to “i” except in the vos, nosotros, and vosotros forms.

Some of the most common e => i stem-changing verbs are...

Most Common E => I Stem-Changing Verbs

 

Impedir - to impede, to prevent

Competir - to compete

Concebir - to conceive

Despedir - to fire

Pedir - to ask for

Repetir - to repeat

Medir - to measure

Vestir - to dress

Reñir - to scold, quarrel

Servir - to serve

Venir - To come => yo vengo

Decir To say => yo digo

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Repetir => to repeat

Yo repito

Nosotros repetimos

Tú repites


Vos repetís

Vosotros repetís

Él/Ella/Usted repite

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes repiten

How about another useful one, servir, which as you can tell from the name means "to serve."

Servir => to serve

Yo sirvo

Nosotros servimos

Tú sirves


Vos servís

Vosotros servís

Él/Ella/Usted sirve

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes sirven

Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs e => ie

These types of present tense stem-changing verbs can be found in all three verb forms (-ar, -er, and -ir).

The letter “e” in the stem changes to “ie” except in… yep, you guessed it, the vos, nosotros, and vosotros forms.

Some of the most common e => ie stem-changing verbs are:

Most Common E => IE Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs

 

Acertar - to manage to

Advertir - to alert

Atender - to attend to, to tend to

Atravesar - to cross, to go through

Calentar - to heat

Cerrar - to close

Comenzar - to begin

Confesar - to confess

Convertir - to convert

Defender - to defend

Despertar - to wake up

Divertir - to amuse

Empezar - to begin

Encender - to light

Entender - to understand

Enterrar - to bury

Fregar - to scrub

Herir - to injure

Hervir - to boil

Mentir - to lie

Merendar - to have lunch

Negar - to deny

Pensar - to think

Perder - to lose

Preferir - to prefer

Querer - to want

Regar - to water

Sugerir - to suggest

Temblar - to tremble

Tender - to spread over

Tropezar - to stumble on

Verter - to pour

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Entender => to understand

Yo entiendo

Nosotros entendemos

Tú entiendes


Vos entendés

Vosotros entendéis

Él/Ella/Usted entiende

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes entienden

Confesar => to confess

Yo confieso

Nosotros confesamos

Tú confiesas


Vos confesás

Vosotros confesáis

Él/Ella/Usted confiesa

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes confiesan

Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs o => ue

These types of stem-changing verbs can be found in all three verb types (-ar, -er, -ir).

The letter “o” in the stem changes to “ue” in these words.

Most Common O => UE Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs

 

Acordar - to agree, to decide

Acostar - to put to bed

Almorzar - to eat lunch

Aprobar - to approve, to pass (an exam)

Colgar - to hang

Contar - to count, to tell

Costar - to cost

Demostrar - to demonstrate, to prove

Devolver - to return (an object)

Dormir - to sleep

Encontrar - to find

Envolver - to wrap

Forzar - to force

Morder - to bite

Morir - to die

Mostrar - to show

Mover - to move an object, to motivate

Poder - to be able to

Probar - to try, to taste

Recordar - to remember

Resolver - to solve

Rogar - to beg, to pray

Soler - to be in the habit of

Sonar - to sound, to ring

Soñar - to dream

Tostar - to toast

Volar - to fly

Volver - to return

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Volar => to fly

Yo vuelo

Nosotros volamos

Tú vuelas


Vos volás

Vosotros voláis

Él/Ella/Usted vuela

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes vuelan

Volver => to return

Yo vuelvo

Nosotros volvemos

Tú vuelves


Vos volvés

Vosotros volvéis

Él/Ella/Usted vuelve

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes vuelven

Irregular as Irregular Can be (Ser, Estar, & Ir)...

The verbs ser (to be), estar (to be), and ir (to go) take the crown as far as irregularity.

They are so irregular that it is easier to just learn them on there own!

Ser => to be

Yo soy

Nosotros somos

eres


Vos sos (what?!?)

Vosotros sois

Él/Ella/Ustedes es

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes son

Estar => to be

Yo estoy

Nosotros estamos

estás


Vos estás

Vosotros estáis

Él/Ella/Ustedes está

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes están

Finally, onto the all important Spanish verb ir, which ever Spanish learner needs to know.

Ir => to go

Yo voy

Nosotros vamos

vas


Vos vas

Vosotros vais

Él/Ella/Ustedes va

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes van

Present Tense Spanish, Part 4: Orthography-Ruled-Changing Verbs

This is a good time to take a break, have a cup of tea, coffee, meditate…whatever soothes your soul.

Maybe take the rest of the day off, recharge your batteries.

*****

Are you ready to tackle the last challenge from the Spanish present tense verbs?!

how to conjugate Spanish present tense

Brace yourself for the spelling-changing verbs.

Good news: they also have to follow certain rules!

Consonant + -Cer/-Cir Ending Verbs

When the verb ends in a consonant + -cer or -cir, you need to change the “c” to “z” in the first person.

The yo form seems to be selfish like this.

Remembering this will help you master the Spanish present tense!

Most Common Consonant + -cer or -cir Verbs

 

Ejercer - to practice a profession, to exercise a right

Coercer - to restrict, to constrain

Convencer - to convince

Zurcir - to sew up, to mend

Esparcir - to spread, to scatter

Esparcir - to spread, to scatter

Vencer - to defeat

Mecer* - to rock, as in rocking a baby to sleep

Let’s look at one example.

Ejercer - to practice a profession, to exercise a right

The first person form is irregular:

Yo ejerzo mi derecho al voto. => I exercise my right to vote.

The other forms are regular:

Ejercer - to practice a profession, exercise rights

Yo ejerzo

Nosotros ejercemos

Tú ejerces


Vos ejercés

Vosotros ejercéis

Él/Ella/Usted ejerce

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes ejercen

*Exception alert: the verb mecer follows this pattern, even though it ends in a vowel + -cer.

Vowel + -cer/-cir Ending Verbs

When verbs end in a vowel + -cer or -cir, you need to add a “z” before the “c” when it comes to the first person.

Let’s look at one example.

Conducir - to drive

The first person form is irregular.

Spanish present tense verbs

Yo conduzco despacio.

I drive slowly.

The other forms are regular.

Conducir - to drive

Yo conduzco

Nosotros conducimos

Tú conduces


Vos conducís

Vosotros conducís

Él/Ella/Usted conduce

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes conducen

List of Vowel + -cer/-cir Spanish Verbs

 

Conducir - to drive

Deducir - to deduct

Deslucir - to fade

Inducir - to induce

Introducir - to introduce

Lucir - to wear, to flaunt

Producir - to produce

Reducir - to reduce

Reproducir - to reproduce, to replicate

Conocer - to be acquainted with, to meet, and to have been to

Traducir - to translate

Agradecer - to thank

Aparecer - to appear

Carecer - to lack

Compadecer - to pity

Crecer - to grow, to grow up

Desaparecer - to disappear

Establecer - to establish

Merecer - to deserve

Nacer - to be born

Obedecer - to obey

Ofrecer - to offer

Parecer - to appear, to look like

Pertenecer - to belong

Reconocer - to recognize

Yacer - to lie, as in, here lies the truth of the matter, to be located at

**Exception alert: hacer (yo hago), decir (yo digo).**

Spanish -ger/-gir Ending Verbs

Verbs that end in -ger and -gir change the “g” to “j” in the first person.

Let’s look at one example.

present tense in Spanish

Dirigir - to direct

The first person form is unfortunately irregular.

Yo dirijo la película. => I direct the movie.

Thankfully, the other forms are regular.

Dirigir - to direct

Yo dirijo

Nosotros dirigimos

Tú diriges


Vos dirigís

Vosotros dirigís

Él/Ella/Usted dirige

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes dirigen

Most Common -ger/gir Spanish Verbs

 

Coger - to grab, to take, to catch

Colegir (e=>i) - to conclude

Corregir (e=>i) - to correct

Dirigir - to direct

Elegir (e=>i) - to choose, to pick

Escoger - to choose, to pick

Exigir - to demand

Fingir - to fake, to pretend, to imitate

Proteger - to protect

Recoger - to pick up, to tidy up

Sumergir - to submerge

Surgir - to emerge, to appear

Spanish -guir Ending Verbs

Verbs that end in -guir change the “gu” to “g” in the first person.

Let’s look at one example.

Distinguir - to distinguish, to differentiate

The first person form is irregular:

Spanish mistakes

Yo distingo la diferencia entre un acento y otro.​

I distinguish the difference between one accent and the other.

Keep in mind the other forms are regular.

Distinguir - to distinguish, to differentiate

Yo distingo

Nosotros distinguimos

Tú distingues


Vos distinguís

Vosotros distinguís

Él/Ella/Usted distingue

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes distinguen

Most Common -guir Spanish Verbs

 

Conseguir (e=>i) - to get, to obtain, to achieve

Distinguir - to distinguish, to differentiate

Erguir (e=>i) - to straighten, to rise, to prick up

Extinguir - to extinguish

Perseguir (e=>i) - to chase, to pursue, to follow

Seguir (e=>i) - to follow, to understand

Spanish -uir Ending Verbs

Verbs that end in -uir (not guir) add a “y” before “o,” “e,” and “a” in all forms except vos, nosotros, and vosotros.

Let’s look at one example.

Construir - to build, to construct

Yo construyo

Nosotros construimos

Tú construyes


Vos construís

Vosotros construís

Él/Ella/Usted construye

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes construyen

Most Common -uir Spanish Verbs

 

Atribuir - to attribute

Concluir - to conclude

Constituir - to constitute, to make up, to form

Construir - to build, to construct

Contribuir - to contribute

Distribuir - to distribute

Destruir - to destroy

Disminuir - to lessen, to reduce

Excluir - to exclude

Fluir - to flow

Huir - to run away, to flee, to escape

Influir - to influence, to have influence, to affect

Instruir - to instruct, to teach, to train

Sustituir - to substitute, to replace

Spanish -iar/-uar Ending Verbs

These present tense Spanish verbs change with the exception of vos, nosotros, and vosotros forms (notice a pattern here?).

Some verbs that end in -iar or -uar take a written accent to the “i” or the “u.”

Let’s look at one example.

Espiar - to spy

Yo espío

Nosotros espiamos

Tú espías


Vos espiás

Vosotros espiáis

Él/Ella/Usted espía

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes espían

Now let's take a look at the most common -iar and -uar verbs.

Most Common -iar/-uar Spanish Verbs

 

Acentuar - accentuate, emphasize, to put an accent mark on

Ampliar - to increase, to extend

Actuar - to act

Confiar - to trust

Continuar - to continue

Criar - to raise, to bring up

Enviar - to send

Espiar - to spy

Fiar - to sell on credit, to vouch for

Graduar - to put away, to keep safe, to hang on to

Habituar - to get in the habit of

Situar - to position, to place

Valuar - to valuate, to appraise

Variar - to change, to modify

Conclusion: How to Conjugate the Spanish Present Tense

Congratulations, you made it this far!

Is your mind spinning with all the different variations and conjugations?

No worries, Spanish is meant to be learned piece by piece and not all at once! Take your time and learn as you go.

What part from this present tense Spanish article do need the most help on?

I included a clickable table of contents below for you to choose which section you want/need to come back to.

So there you have it. Do you feel like a pro yet?

Mastering the present tense in Spanish is often a Spanish learners first major achievement.

As mentioned at the beginning, understanding this tense frees you up to speak naturally on the here and now, the future, and even instances describing the past. It's a must learn!

Sure, you can always move on to other tenses, but make sure you understand the Spanish present tense first and fully so that the foundation is there.

Now it's time to get some confidence and get started speaking today!

About the Author

Victoria is a native Spanish speaker from Argentina. At 21 years old she embarked on an adventure that started in Wisconsin and ended in Colorado. She has a passion for teaching Spanish and offers online tutoring here: Victoria - Italki Teacher. New users get $10 after spending $10 with that special affiliate link. :)

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