After memorizing the most important Spanish verbs, you should next learn how to conjugate these verbs. The most important tense to learn is the “Present” tense. You will use this one far more than any of the other tenses, and if necessary you can use this tense and fake other tenses like “past” and “future”, but I will get to that a little later in this article.
While you can normally get your point across by using a personal pronoun (in English I, you, he/she/it, we, they) and following by the verb in the infinitive form (the form you memorize the verbs in), somewhere along the line you are going to get tired of people laughing at you and you are going to need to learn how to conjugate the verbs.
In Spanish you don’t always have to use personal pronouns. Spanish mixes this pronoun into the verb when you conjugate the verb. While not needed, at first you can use the pronoun anyway so that if you mess up the conjugation you have a better chance of the person figuring out who you are talking about.
First you will notice that all the Spanish verbs end with these letters “ar”, “er” and “ir”. To conjugate a verb you simply replace those two letters with one of 5 possible endings which goes along with the pronoun you want to use. Spanish also has some “irregular” verbs that don’t use this pattern and force you to memorize the way you conjugate the verb but for now lets discuses the “regular” verbs. They are split into two groups, verbs that end with “ar” and verbs that end with “ir” and “er”
Conjugating Spanish “ar” Verbs
For Verbs ending in “ar” replace the “ar” on the end with:
- I – o
- You – as
- He/she/it – a
- We – amos
- They – an
For example the verb Hablar (which means to speak) would be conjugated:
- I speak – hablo
- You speak – hablas
- He/She/It speaks – habla
- We Speak – hablamos
- They Speak – hablan
Conjugating Spanish “er” and “ir” Verbs
For Verbs ending in “er” or “ir” replace the “er” or “ir” on the end with:
- I – o
- You – es
- He/she/it – e
- We – emos
- They – en
For example the verb Comer (which means to eat) would be conjugated:
- I eat – como
- You eat – comes
- He/She/It eats – come
- We eat – comemos
- They eat – comen
I know this sounds like a lot to memorize but with a little practice you will get the hang of it pretty easily. You use this to conjugate the present form of all verbs so it’s worth spending the time to get this down.
Faking Past and Future tenses
Without a doubt learning the tenses properly is the better way to go in the long run, but if you don’t have the time or just don’t know that particular verb you can fake it in a way that people will usually understand you.
Before I learned the proper conjugation of the future and past tenses I would first preface the time period that I am talking about by saying “in the past” or “in the future”. I know that there are purists and teachers out there having a fit over what I just said, but when you’re working with a limited vocabulary this does work.
The best part is that the Spanish words for Future and Past are very familiar.
- Future – Futuro (pronounced foo-too-row, with a slight accent on the too)
- Past – Pasado (pronounced paw-saw-doe, with a slight accent on the saw)
So if you start you sentence with “En el futuro” and then state what you are wanting to say in the present tense, they will usually be able to figure out you don’t know how to conjugate and know you are talking about the future. The same works for “En el pasado”. You’re going to cause a little confusion and expect to be laughed at, but at least you got your point across.