Spanish Verbs – What You Need to Know

spanish verbs what you need to know

Whoa! Learning how to use Spanish verbs is like drinking from a fire hose. Nearly everything you hear and say in Spanish has at least one verb. And one verb has so many different forms, so it’s hard to tell what it means or how to conjugate it right.

An entire sentence can be held in one verb. They are the nucleus of every sentence and connect with the subject to match gender and number. The endings change for mood, tense, person, number, gender and formality. They follow patterns for their verb class. Understanding how these words function is essential.

Spanish Verbs and the Parts of Speech

A verb is one of the eight parts of speech. Every word fits into one of the following grammar categories. When doing a grammar analysis, these are the labels for each word in a phrase or sentence.

Only one of the parts of speech can make a complete sentence in one word. That’s a verb. Spanish is a language that can drop the subject in the sentence and still make sense.

Veo. — ( I ) see.

We can’t do that in English! This is one of the many reasons why understanding verbs is so challenging for second language learners. The Spanish verb system has a lot of different features English speakers are unfamiliar with. Below, you’ll find the most common pitfalls of verbs and strategies to accomplish your language learning goals.

What is a verb in Spanish?

A verb is a word that expresses:

  • action,
  • a state of being,
  • links two words together or
  • helps another verb

The English word “verb” is translated “verbo” in Spanish. Sort of funny, huh?! Add an -o to any word and that’s how you speak Spanish. If it was only that easy, you wouldn’t have to read any of this. Since that’s not the case, here are more grammar words for Spanish verbs:

verbo — verb
sujeto — subject
predicado — predicate
pronombre — pronoun
verbo infinitivo — infinitive verb

These are a few of the labels used in grammar analysis. Basically, from example sentences found in reading and listening sources, you can discover the patterns of words, phrases and sentences and practice them.

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Infinitive Verbs

First and foremost, the essential verb form is the infinitive verb in Spanish. The infinitive is used for verb definitions, reference and conjugation. Inside the infinitive you’ll find the key information to conjugate any verb, such as the stem and ending.

What is an infinitive?

Among the many verb forms, the infinitive is one of the neutral ones. They have no time, mood or subject changes. It has two parts, the stem and the ending.

An infinitive verb is time and subject neutral. The words for infinitive verbs in Spanish is:

verbo infinitivo — infinitive verb
raíz — stem
terminación — ending
desinencia verbal — verb ending

All these words are important when using the infinitive in Spanish. The word meaning is held in the root and the For example, verbs are listed by the infinitive form in a reference conjugation book like this one:

English Grammar for Students of Spanish: The Study Guide for Those Learning Spanish

This is cheating, honestly it’s the smartest way to start learning about grammar. Based on your knowledge of English, Spanish grammar concepts are explained. It is clear explanation of the similarities and differences between the languages.

Specifically, infinitives end with suffix -r after the theme vowel a, e, or i. As you can see in the following lists of basic Spanish verbs.

List of Common Spanish Verbs

Obviously, you’ll need to learn a whole new set of verbs, because they are different in Spanish than English. It’s a good idea to start learning the most common verbs first and expand from there. Chances are one of these verbs share the same pattern as many other similar verbs.

verbo regular — regular verb
verbo irregular — irregular verb
infinitivo — infinitive

Regular spanish Verbs

Typically, the regular verbs in Spanish follow the standard conjugation patterns. The most common regular verbs are:

amar — to love
ayudar — to have
dibujar — to draw
estudiar — to study
hablar — to talk
necesitar — to need
preguntar — to ask
usar — to use
aprender — to learn
correr — to run
esconder — to hide
vender — to sell
abrir — to open
escribir — to write
recibir — to receive
vivir — to live

As you can see all of the infinitive verbs end with the letter “r”. And the letter before determines the pattern for verbs classes. “ar”, “er”, “ir”. The ending patterns are different for each verb class as follows:

AR verbs in spanish

What are some -ar verbs?

acabar — to finish
besar — to kiss
cambiar — to change
disfrutar — to enjoy
dudar — to doubt
gastar — to spend, to waste
llamar — to call
mandar — to send
olvidar — to forget
pasar — to spend (time)
preparar — to prepare
terminar — to end
visitar — to use

ER verbs in spanish

What are some -er verbs?

beber — to drink
comer — to eat
deber — to owe
poseer — to possess
romper — to break
sorprender — to surprise
temer — to fear
toser — to cough

IR verbs in spanish

What are some -ir verbs?

aburrir — to bore
admitir — to admit
cubrir — to cover
definir — to define
describir — to describe
discutir — to discuss, to argue
interrumpir — to interrupt
subir — to raise

group of friends hanging out on a cafe

Irregular Spanish Verbs

On the other hand, the irregular Spanish verbs don’t follow the standard conjugation rules. These example show some of the most commonly used verbs in their conjugated forms.

estar — to be
ser — to be
tener — to have
haber — to have (helping verb)
hacer — to make
ir — to go
venir — to come
decir — to say or tell
poder — to be able
dar — to give
ver — to see
saber — to know

All of these are good examples of Spanish irregular verbs that are totally different than their regular verb counterparts. Did you notice these verbs can be complete sentences on their own? Yes, the conjugated forms include an implied subject, making a complete sentence.

Important Irregular Spanish Verbs

Learning these most common irregular verbs will count for a majority of the words you’ll hear and use day-to-day.

se — I know
digo — I say
estoy — I am (at a place), I am (feeling)
está — is at a place, is feeling
hay — there is, there are
tengo — I have
tiene — he has, she has, it has
soy — I am
es — he is, she is, it is
me gusta — I like it
le gusta — he likes it, she likes it
voy — I go, I am going
va — he goes, she goes, it goes, he is going, she is going, it is going
quiere — he wants, she wants, it wants

What are some CAR GAR ZAR Verbs?

As a group, these verbs have a similar pattern of spelling changes. This makes them predictable.

tocartoqué – to touch
pagarpagué – to pay
rezarrecé – to pray
vencervenzo – to overcome
averiguaraverigüé – to look into
escoger — escoja – to choose

Stem Changing Verbs

Not only do the endings change, but also at times stems change also.

What are the stem changing verbs in Spanish?

In total, there are three types of stem changing verbs, as follows with examples of each:

E to IE Stem changing verbs

querer — quiero, quieres, quiere, queremos, queréis, quieren
pensar — to think
cerrar— to close
mentir — to lie
preferer — to prefer
sentir — to feel
perder — to lose
entender — to understand

O to ue stem changing verbs

poder — puedo, puedes, puede, podemos, podéis, pueden
mover — to move
dormir — to sleep
recordar — to remember
volver — to return
morir — to die
doler — to hurt
morder — to bite
costar — to cost
contar — to count

E to I stem changing verbs

repetir — repito, repites, repite, repetimos, repetís, repiten
seguir — to follow
pedir — to ask
servir — to serve
repetir — to repeat
medir — to measure
vestir — to dress


jugar — juego – to play (u to ue)

person sitting on cliff raising up both hands

Questions About Learning Spanish Verbs

How do I learn basic Spanish verbs?

For starters, set your yearly goals and calculate your weekly pace for increasing vocabulary. Add new words, such as the most frequently used verbs from Spanish word lists. Then, practice using them until they become a part of your passive and active vocabulary. One by one conjugate into the verb forms you use the most often. Continue this process until you accomplish your language learning goals.

Basic Spanish Verbs

usar — to use
trabajar — to work
tomar — to take
mirar — to look
escuchar — to hear
viajar — to travel
comer — to eat
vender — to sell
ver — to see
responder — to respond
abrir — to open
escribir — to write

Why is learning Spanish verbs so difficult?

Overall, it is a challenge to learn any new word in another language. The verbs are even more difficult, because of the number of forms for each verb. Add to that the irregular verbs that are different and agreement with nouns in gender and number.

Nevertheless, it is possible to get to a point where you can understand verbs in Spanish speech and reading and even be able to say and write them from memory. This means, you need a system for increasing your passive and active vocabulary.

How many Spanish verbs are there?

In total, there are more than 12,000 Spanish verbs. On top of that, there are 16 Spanish verb forms consisting of 8 simple tenses and 8 compound tenses and

How many Spanish verbs should I know?

Since more verbs exist than necessary, let your learning purpose determine your vocabulary goal. For each skill, how many words do you need

How do you form Spanish verbs?

Every Spanish verb is formed or conjugated in regular or irregular patterns. In grammar terms, the ending changes to show mood, tense, person, number and gender. Simply stated the ending matches the traits of the subject. Also, the pattern tells about the timeframe and the type of expression it is.

All that to say, you add the correct ending to the verb stem which is found in the indicative verb form. For example, with the infinitive verb “hablar”, you add the ending to the stem “habl-“. In this instance, the verb is a regular “ar” verb. Matching the mood, tense, person, number and gender, you choose the correct ending.

hablar — to talk
habl- — stem
-ar — theme or class
hablo — I speak
-o — conjugated ending

(indicative mood, present tense, first person, singular number, feminine gender)

What are the 3 Spanish verbs?

Most likely, you want to know about 3 Spanish verb classes. Also called themes, they are the “ar” , “er” and “ir” verbs. These endings appear in the indicative verb form which is the starting point for all conjugations.

Each of these verb themes have a a conjugation pattern of its own. Only the regular verbs follow this pattern consistently. Unlike the regular verbs, the irregular verbs have spelling changes and variations that don’t follow the rules. They are important verb grammar exceptions to learn.

The good news is once you learn the pattern, you can apply it to more verbs in the same class. Unfortunately, for the irregular verbs, you need to learn each of their individual patterns. At least, some groups of irregular verbs have common patterns too, making it a little easier to learn.

Examples of the three verb classes

hablar — to talk
comer — to eat
vivir — to live

Why does the sentence not have a subject in Spanish?

Verbs are the nucleus, the heart, the centerpiece of a sentence. Within a sentence, at a minimum there is one subject and one verb. From the verb alone you can tell what the subject of the sentence is.

Or, in reverse, the subject tells the verb what gender and number to carry on the ending suffix. Connected verbs change based on the noun agreement rules. This is why the verb holds information about the subject even when it’s invisible.

El viento sopla. — The wind blows.
Sopla — It blows.

More about learning verbs

Free Verb Conjugation Practice Sheets

Ultimate Spanish Grammar Analysis System

Spanish Nouns

spanish verbs what you need to know

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