Forming the Present Tense in Spanish

Now we are going to look at regular verbs in the present tense in Spanish. Regular verbs are verbs which follow a regular pattern. Most verbs follow this pattern in Spanish.

Verbs tell us what is being done and by whom. In Spanish there are three types of regular verbs, namely those that end in ar, ir, and er. This is the form of verb that you will find in the dictionary by default.

The dictionary form is the English equivalent of ‘to……’ (known in English as the infinitive), for example:

  • Hablar = To talk

  • Comer = To eat

  • Vivir = To live

The words hablar, comer and vivir are good for when we want to say ‘to talk’, ‘to eat’ and ‘to live’ (e.g. I want to talk). However when we want to say ‘I talk, you talk, I eat, you eat, etc.’ they are no use with the ar, er and ir left at the end, as we have no idea who is doing the action.

To form the present tense in Spanish, firstly you take off the two letters at the end of the dictionary form of the verb (i.e. with the ar, er or ir). This makes what is known as the verb stem. The verb stems for the three verbs above are therefore:

  • Habl = Talk (having removed the ar from hablar)

  • Com = Eat (having removed the er from comer)

  • Viv = Live (having removed the ir from vivir)

The stem of the verb tells us what is being done, but the words ‘habl’, ‘com’ and ‘viv’ are useless by themselves. These words do not tell us who is doing the action i.e. who is doing the talking, eating or living. To tell us who is doing the action we need to add an ending to habl, com and viv. The letter or letters afterwards tells you which person is doing the action. Some examples of verbs in the present tense in Spanish can be seen below:

  • Hablo = I talk (the habl part tells us the action is talking and the o ending tells us that the person doing the talking is ‘I’)

  • Hablamos = We talk (again the habl part tells us the action is talking and the amos ending tells us the person doing the talking is ‘we’)

  • Vivo = I live (the viv part tells us that the action is living and the o ending tells us that the person doing the living is ‘I’)

  • Vivimos = We live (the viv part tells us that the action is living and the imos ending tells that the people doing the living is ‘We’)

We are now going to look at the different verb endings for ar, er and ir verbs, as the verb endings differ between the three types.

‘ar’ ending verbs

The first type of verbs end in ar by default. Hablar meaning ‘to talk’ is an example of this type of verb. To form the present tense of ar ending verbs:

  • you take off the ar off the verb (this tells us what is being done); and

  • add the appropriate ending o, as, a, amos, áis and an (the ending tells us who is doing the action).

Take a look at the following example ‘hablar’ which means ‘to speak/to talk’ and is in the present tense as follows:

  • (yo) hablo = I speak
  • (tú) hablas = You speak (talking to one person informally)
  • (él/ella) habla = It/He/She speaks
  • (usted) habla = You speak (talking to one person formally)
  • (nosotros/nosotras) hablamos = We speak
  • (vosotros/vosotras) habláis = You speak (talking to two people informally)
  • (ellos/ellas) hablan = They speak
  • (ustedes) hablan = You speak (talking to two people formally)

In the example above ar has been removed from ‘hablar to make the word ‘habl’. You then add the appropriate ending (o, as, a, amos, áis or an) to tell us who is doing the action, for example:

  • Hablo inglés = I speak English.

  • ¿Hablas inglés? = Do you speak English? (asking one person informally)

  • Hablamos español. = We speak Spanish.

Although I have used ‘hablar’ above, you would follow the same process to form the present tense with other ar ending verbs (e.g. Viajar = To travel, .Viajo = You travel, Viajas = You travel (informal and singular ‘you’), etc.).

You may have noticed that I have not written the words ‘yo’ (I), ‘él/ella/usted’ (He/She/You), etc. in the examples above. These words are by default not necessary, as the verb ending already tells us who is doing the action. I will be writing about when to use ‘yo’, etc. in the future.

______________________

‘ir’ ending verbs

The second group of verbs end in ir by default. For the vast majority of ir ending verbs you take off the ‘ir’ and add the endings o, es, e, imos, ís and en to tell us who is doing the action.

Vivir = To live

  • (yo) vivo = I live
  • (tú) vives = You live (talking to one person informally)
  • (él/ella) vive = It/He/She lives
  • (usted) vive = You live (talking to one person formally)
  • (nosotros/nosotras) vivimos = We live
  • (vosotros/vosotras) vivís = You live (talking to two or more people informally)
  • (ellos/ellas) viven = They live
  • (ustedes) viven = You live (talking to two or more people formally)

Examples:

  • Vivo en Londres. = I live in London

  • ¿Vives en Inglaterra? = Do you live in England? (asking one person informally)

  • Vivimos en España. = We live in Spain.

______________________

‘er’ ending verbs

The final group of verbs end in ‘er’ by default. For the vast majority of er ending verbs you take off the er and add the endings o, es, e, emos, éis and en to tell us who is doing the action.

Comer = To eat

  • (yo) como = I eat
  • (tú) comes = You eat (talking to one person informally)
  • (él/ella) come = It/He/She eats
  • (usted) come = You eat (talking to one person formally)
  • (nosotros/nosotras) comemos = We eat
  • (vosotros/vosotras) coméis = You eat (talking to two or more people informally)
  • (ellos/ellas) comen = They eat
  • (ustedes) comen = You eat (talking to two or more people formally)

Examples:

  • Como el chocolate. = I eat chocolate.

  • ¿Comes carne? = Do you eat meat? (asking one friend)

  • ¿Come carne? = Do you eat meat? (asking one stranger) or Does he/she/it eat meat? – The context will tell you which meaning is being used.

  • Comemos el pescado. = We eat fish.

______________________

What about ‘I am talking’, ‘Do you talk?’, ‘Does he eat?’, etc.?

The present tense in Spanish covers what are effectively three sentence structure types in English. Examples of this are as follows:

  • Hablo = I talk or I do talk or I am talking

  • Comes = You eat or You do eat or You are eating (speaking informally to one person)

Additionally, unlike English, in Spanish there is no difference in verb ending when asking a question and making a statement, so by way of example:

  • Hablas.= You talk or You do talk or You are talking (speaking to one person informally)

  • ¿Hablas?= Do you talk? or Are you talking? (asking one person informally) (literally: You talk?)

Indeed there is no different in verb ending when asking a question and making a statement in any tense, but we will not discuss other tenses at the moment.

Note: We will in the future discuss an alternative structure in Spanish for the continuous present tense in English i.e. the ‘ing’ type tense structure. For the moment just use the normal present tense whenever you want say things like ‘I am talking’ = ‘hablo’, ‘you are talking’ = ‘hablas’, etc. The continuous tense in Spanish is used a lot less in Spanish than in English and the majority of the time people will just use the normal present tense.

______________________

Feel free to contact me with any questions or to discuss booking Spanish tuitions with me. (More details on my foreign language tuition services can be seen by clicking here).

You could take a look at my Facebook page and my Twitter page.

farehamtutor co uk logo