Easy Spanish Verb Conjugation in 3 Simple Steps

“I have no clue what I’m doing and I can’t seem to grasp this concept.”

It’s something I’ve heard a lot over the years. In fact, I said it too in the beginning. And while it sounds a bit defeated, I know Spanish learners mean it as a plea for help. Because Spanish verb conjugation seems complicated to English speakers.

What Spanish learners really want – what everyone wants – is to understand it enough to be able to communicate effectively without wasting heaps of time.

No worries, I’m here to explain what the basics of Spanish verb conjugation and how to conjugate easily. I’ll show you how to prep the verb and choose the correct conjugation ending. Truly, it’s more simple than it seems.

First, a little background information is helpful. Only verbs are conjugated, not any of the other parts of speech. A verb is a word that expresses action or a state of being of a subject. Every sentence has at least one verb always.

Spanish Verbs – What You Need to Know

So, let’s see how conjugation works in every sentence you will hear, read, speak and write.

Spanish Verb Conjugation Defined

The truth is verb conjugation in Spanish is really simple. Once you understand and practice conjugating verbs, it will become a natural and easy grammar topic to you.

What is conjugation?

In the simplest terms, conjugation means a verb ending changes. The verb conjugation ending tells us whether something is fact or opinion, the timeframe, and details about the subject.

Verb endings change to show:

  • Mood (fact, opinion, command)
  • Tense (now, past, future)
  • Person (first, second, third)
  • Number (singular, plural)
  • Gender (masculine, feminine)
  • Formality (formal, informal)

All of this information is packed into just a few letters tacked onto the end of the verb. That’s where it gets complicated for English speakers. There are a lot of different endings to learn.

What is conjugation in Spanish?

The internal parts of the verb are key to conjugation. Every verb has two parts – the stem and the ending. Here are some helpful words for conjugation translated into Spanish:

— verbo — verb
conjugación — conjugation
la raíz — stem (or root)
el final — ending
infinitivo — infinitive

How do we find the stem or root of a verb in Spanish?

Conjugation begins with the infinitive which is the base form of a verb. This is the form found in the dictionary. The infinitive gives us the stem and the conjugation class.

Three classes of verb conjugations:

The infinitive only has three possible endings. These classes determine pattern to follow for conjugation. There are three patterns that verbs follow:

  • First Conjugation: ar
    • amar
  • Second Conjugation: er
    • comer
  • Third Conjugation: ir
    • vivir

As you can see, these infinitive verbs show the root and the three conjugation class endings. Both are the basis for Spanish verb conjugation. Once you know the verb’s specific conjugation class, you can proceed to conjugate following the class pattern.

What is a stem in a Spanish word?

The stem is the part of a word that tells you it’s meaning. For a verb, the stem states the action or state of being. For example, in Spanish the verb “vivir” has the stem “viv-” which means to live.

The meaning of a stem is used across all parts of speech. For example, “vivo” is an adjective to describe something as being alive.

spanish verb conjugation example

For a visual of the conjugation concept, a single verb stem (vine) connects to the endings (bunch of grapes). There are only three conjugation class (bunch) patterns.

Spanish Verb Conjugation

As in most things, there are the rules and then the exceptions to the rules. The same applies to conjugation. We’ve got the regular verbs and the irregular verbs. They share the same class patterns, however the differences are found in the spelling of the root.

As I explained above, the conjugation patterns hold key information about mood, time and subject. Here are some useful conjugation grammar terms translated into Spanish:

modo — mood
tiempo — tense
persona — person
número — number
género — gender
formalidad — formality

By default we begin with the statement of facts, the indicative mood learning each of the tenses. Then we get into the other moods of subjunctive (feelings and opinions) and imperative (commands).

How do you conjugate verbs step by step?

  1. Choose the verb – in the infinitive
  2. Write the verb stem
  3. Add the matching ending

Conjugation is all about the stem and the ending combinations:

Here’s where all the juicy details come into the picture.

Spanish Regular Conjugations

Below, the charts show the patterns for each of the three conjugation classes. I’ve limited the selection to simple tenses in the indicative mood for beginning Spanish learners. This is the base for all Spanish verb conjugation.

Spanish Verb Conjugation Chart: PresenT Tense

Indicative mood is used to state facts. Present tense describes a current action or state of being.

Subject – Verb Agreement

Personal Pronouns
yo
el, ella, usted
nosotros
vosotros
ellos, ellas, ustedes

1st Conjugation Infinitive: Amar

am +
o
as
a
amos
áis
an

2nd Conjugation Infinitive: Ver

v +
o
es
e
emos
éis
en

3rd Conjugation Infinitive: Vivir

viv +
o
es
e
imos
ís
en
Present Tense Learning Tips
  • Use the present tense to explain who you are and what you do.
  • When you’re talking about yourself, often you’ll say “yo” with an “o” at the end of a verb.

Spanish Verb Conjugation Chart: preterite Tense

Indicative mood is used to state facts. Preterite tense is a verb completed in the past.

Subject – Verb Agreement

Personal Pronouns
yo
el, ella, usted
nosotros
vosotros
ellos, ellas, ustedes

1st Conjugation Infinitive: Amar

am +
é
aste
ó
amos
asteís
aron

2nd Conjugation Infinitive: Ver

v +
í
iste
imos
isteis
ieron
2nd and 3rd conjugation endings are the same

3rd Conjugation Infinitive: Vivir

viv +
í
iste
imos
isteis
ieron
Preterite Tense Learning Tips
  • Use the preterite to tell someone what did happen and was complete.
  • Second and third class share endings!

Spanish Verb Conjugation Chart: imperfect Tense

Indicative mood is used to state facts. Imperfect tense is a verb continuing in the past.

Subject – Verb Agreement

Personal Pronouns
yo
el, ella, usted
nosotros
vosotros
ellos, ellas, ustedes

1st Conjugation Infinitive: Amar

am +
aba
abas
aba
abamos
abais
aban

2nd Conjugation Infinitive: Ver

v +
ía
ías
ía
íamos
íais
ían
2nd and 3rd conjugation endings are the same

3rd Conjugation Infinitive: Vivir

viv +
ía
ías
ía
íamos
íais
ían
Imperfect Tense Learning Tips
  • Use the imperfect to tell what was happening.
  • The imperfect tense gets interrupted by the preterite.
  • There are only two imperfect tense patterns, you either “aba” or “ía”.

Spanish Verb Conjugation Chart: future Tense

Unlike the rest, the future tense includes the entire infinitive as the base for the conjugation ending. All the conjugation classes share the same endings.

Subject – Verb Agreement

Personal Pronouns
yo
el, ella, usted
nosotros
vosotros
ellos, ellas, ustedes

1st Conjugation Infinitive: Amar

amar +
é
ás
á
emos
éis
án
All three conjugation classes share the same endings

2nd Conjugation Infinitive: Ver

ver +
é
ás
á
emos
éis
án

3rd Conjugation Infinitive: Vivir

vivir +
é
ás
á
emos
éis
án
Future Tense Learning Tips
  • There is only one future ending for all the verbs!
  • Always add the ending to the entire infinitive, stem and root.
  • Instead of using future tense, the phrase “ir a… (infinitive verb)” is how someone tells what is expected to happen. Example: Voy a escribir (I’m going to write).

Spanish Verb Conjugation Chart: conditional Tense

The conditional tense expresses possibility of an action or state of being in a conditional situation. Even so, it is grouped with the indicative mood. Most likely, because it shares similar pattern with the future tense, adding the ending onto the infinitive.

In English, we use helping verbs to express the conditional, such as could, would or can.

Subject – Verb Agreement

Personal Pronouns
yo
el, ella, usted
nosotros
vosotros
ellos, ellas, ustedes

1st Conjugation Infinitive: Amar

amar +
ía
ías
ía
íamos
íais
ían
All three conjugation classes share the same endings

2nd Conjugation Infinitive: Ver

ver +
ía
ías
ía
íamos
íais
ían

3rd Conjugation Infinitive: Vivir

vivir +
ía
ías
ía
íamos
íais
ían
Conditional Tense Learning Tips
  • The conditional is handy for giving a polite command, similar to the English “would you please”.
  • There is only one conditional pattern for all the verbs!
  • Always add the ending to the entire infinitive, stem and root.

List of Regular Verbs in Spanish

Above, all the endings are patterns. These patterns are the same for every verb in their conjugation class. Now, you can apply the same endings to the following list of the most frequently used verbs in the Spanish language.

45 of the MOST FREQUENTLY USED SPANISH REGULAR VERBS

Listed by conjugation class in order of frequency

1st Conjugation

amar
pasar
dejar
hablar
quedar
llevar
llamar
mirar
tomar
tratar
acercar
esperar
gustar
contar
trabajar

2nd Conjugation

er
deber
correr
comer
meter
aprender
comprender
responder
suceder
vender
depender
romper
poseer
esconder
comer

3rd Conjugation

vivir
existir
escribir
permitir
ocurrir
cumplir
dirigir
subir
abrir
decidir
sufrir
insistir
recibir
permitir
prohibir

Remember, conjugating is all about the stem and matching the ending to the correct mood, tense, and subject details.

Spanish Irregular Conjugations

Every verb follows the conjugation class ending patterns, in including the irregular verbs. However, special attention needs to be given to the spelling changes in the stem of the irregular verbs.

Most Frequently Used Irregular Verbs List

  • ser
  • haber
  • tener
  • estar
  • hacer
  • decir
  • poder
  • ir
  • saber
  • querer
  • llegar
  • creer
  • parecer
  • poner
  • seguir

I treat these as sight words. Meaning, it’s best to learn the meaning of each conjugated irregular verb individually as a whole word.

As an example, the Spanish verb conjugation ir:

  • voy, vas, va, vamos, vais, van

Another example, the verb conjugation tener:

  • tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, tenéis, tienen

Both irregular verbs show how the spelling changes.

Each of these verbs need specific focus on their irregularities, word by word. A great way to do this is with a set of verb conjugation flashcards. You can make your own or use this set:

Now that you understand the concept of Spanish verb conjugation and how conjugating works, it’s time to start practicing conjugation.

More about Spanish Grammar

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How to Practice Spanish Verb Conjugation

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