Spanish Verb Conjugation: Helpful Charts & Tips
A big part of learning to speak Spanish is an understanding of basic grammar rules — and one of the first things you’ll need to know is Spanish verb conjugation.
Let’s start with the most important question: why is it important to learn conjugation? Conjugation enables us to use verbs to describe real live situations and events.
Without knowing how to conjugate verbs we would not be able to form coherent sentences. Just like in English, conjugating verbs (along with other Spanish grammar basics) is essential to learning the language.
Even though most native English-speakers don’t know this, we conjugate verbs all the time in English. Let’s use the example of the verb to watch in English. To conjugate it, we say:
- I watch
- You watch
- He/she watches
- We watch
- They watch
As you can see, verb conjugation in English is quite simple. Almost all English verbs only have two variants when conjugating (i.e. watch vs. watches), with the exception of the verb to be which has three variants:
- I am
- You are
- He is
- We are
- They are
How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs
Spanish, on the other hand, always conjugates verbs into five variants. Let’s use the same example of the verb to watch in Spanish, which is mirar.
- Yo miro
- Tú miras
- Él/Ella/Usted mira
- Nosotros miramos
- Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes miran
Again, as you can see, Spanish breaks down verbs into five different ending variants, which can feel overwhelming and confusing. Learning how it works can appear complicated at first, but luckily you can use the formula below that makes it so easy, it will become second nature.
Start with the following three steps to conjugate Spanish verbs:
How to Conjugate -ar Verbs in Spanish
Let’s take mirar (to watch), for example:
- If you are referring to ‘yo’ or ‘I,’ add the letter ‘o’ to end the conjugated verb, forming miro.
- If you are referring to ‘tú’ or ‘you,’ use the ending ‘as,’ to form miras.
- If you are referring to ‘él’ or ‘ella” or ‘he or she,’ use the ending ‘a,’ to form mira.
- If you are referring to ‘nosotros’ or ‘we,’ use the ending ‘amos’ to form miramos.
- If you are referring to ‘ellos’ or ‘they,’ use the ending ‘an,’ to form miran.
How to Conjugate -er Verbs in Spanish
Let’s take comer (to eat), for example:
- ‘Yo’ stays the same here, with the ‘o’ ending, just like -ar verbs, to form como.
- If you are referring to ‘tú’ or ‘you,’ use the ending ‘es,’ to form comes.
- If you are referring to ‘él’ or ‘ella” or ‘he or she,’ use the ending ‘e,’ to form come.
- If you are referring to ‘nosotros’ or ‘we,’ use the ending ‘emos,’ to form comemos.
- If you are referring to ‘ellos’ or ‘they,’ use the ending ‘en,’ to form comen.
How to Conjugate -ir Verbs in Spanish
- These verbs follow the same rules as with -er verbs, except that in the nosotros (we) form, the ending becomes -imos instead of -emos.
Here’s a great Spanish verb conjugation chart from Spanish411.net that summarizes these rules:
Spanish Conjugation Chart for More Practice
Use a simple chart like the one below, and practice conjugating each of the verbs.
It seems easy, right? The formula is straightforward but it does get a little tricky when the verbs are “stem-changers” or irregular, which a Spanish tutor can help you understand in more detail. Additionally, conjugation in Spanish varies significantly when the tense changes to past or future.
What About Vosotros?
As you’re working on your Spanish conjugation practice, you may notice that some charts have a space for vosotros conjugation, while others don’t. Spain is the only Spanish-speaking country that actually breaks down verbs into six variants, not five, which commonly isn’t taught in Spanish classes in the United States. Here, Spain makes a distinction between “they” and “you all,” which is used interchangeably in all other Spanish-speaking countries, as speakers use contextual cues to decipher the difference.
Want Extra Spanish Conjugation Practice?
Check out the CoolJugator, a free online Spanish verb conjugator that makes practicing easy. Search for any verb, and you’ll see all of the conjugations, as well as examples in Spanish along with the English translation.
Of course, your Spanish tutor will also have recommendations for exercises and activities to try. This article will get you started, but a Spanish tutor will be able to really help you conjugate Spanish verbs with mastery!
Photo by The LEAF Project