How to Use Present Tense in Spanish

Three Parts:Using Present TenseConjugating Regular VerbsWorking with Special Cases

Present tense is a tense expressing an action that is currently going on or habitually performed, or a state that currently or generally exists. Conjugating the present tense in Spanish isn't too tricky for regular verbs, but there are some special cases to look out for.

Part 1
Using Present Tense

  1. 1
    Use present tense to describe something that is generally true in the present moment. For example, statements like "She is my wife" and "We use the Internet for research" would use the present tense.
  2. 2
    Use present tense for habitual or repeated actions. Things that occur in the present and repeatedly often get the present tense in Spanish. For example, "I talk on the phone in the evenings" and "She only eats junk food" would be in the present tense.
  3. 3
    Use present tense to describe facts that are true now. Just like in English, statements like "A zebra has white and black stripes" and "San Francisco is a small city" would be in the present tense.
  4. 4
    Use present tense to describe what someone is doing, sometimes. The Spanish present tense can be used to describe what someone is doing right now - for example, "Hablan" for "They talk" can be used to more or less convey that people are talking now. However, there is also the present progressive tense which can convey this more clearly. It's similar to saying "I am talking" in English. For these cases, you may want to use the present progressive, rather than simple present tense.
  5. 5
    Add an adverb to make your sentence more precise. Some Spanish sentences in the present tense can end up seeming a bit unclear; does "Hablan" mean they talk now, they talk every day, or they talk regularly? You can add adverbs to make this more clear and precise.

Part 2
Conjugating Regular Verbs

  1. 1
    Have an understanding of conjugation. To understand the present tense, you first need to understand conjugation. In grammar, conjugation is the variation of the form of a verb; in other words, the variety of changes that can be applied to a verb. In Spanish, you must first know which type of verb is to be conjugated. It may be any of these verbs:
    • -ar (verb ending)
    • -er (verb ending)
    • -ir (verb ending)
    • Spelling-changing verbs
    • Stem-changing verbs
    • Irregular verbs
  2. 2
    Find the root. The second step in conjugating a verb is to determine its stem, or root. The stem of the verb holds the meaning of the verb. To find the stem, remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, -ir). To the end of the stem, add the appropriate ending depending on who the subject of the verb is. The ending indicates who is doing the action at what point in time. The ending will also depend on which verb group the verb belongs to (-ar, -er, -ir). Some examples of roots include:
    • Hablar - Habl-
    • Comer - Com-
    • Escribir - Escrib-
  3. 3
    Add the correct ending for each conjugation. Depending on the subject of your sentence, you'll add a new ending to the root to explain who is doing the action. For example, "Hablar" becomes "Hablo" for "I speak" and "Hablan" for "they speak".
    • The endings are generally as follows:
      • I - o ("yo" - I)
      • You - as ("tú" - you as singular familiar)
      • He/She - a ("usted" - you as singular formal, or "el/ella" - he/she/it)
      • We - amos ("nosotros/as" - we)
      • You (plural) - áis ("vosotros/as" - you as plural familiar)
      • They - an ("ustedes" - you as plural formal, or "ellas/ellos" - they)

Part 3
Working with Special Cases

  1. 1
    Look out for spell-changing verbs. Spanish has several verbs whose spelling changes in order to preserve the pronunciation presented in the infinitive.
    • If memorizing the rules is too confusing or just too much information, remember that most spellings only change to preserve the original pronunciation of the infinitive. For example, if you hear a G sound in the infinitive, make sure the spelling reflects that same sound in all the conjugations.
    • Example Conjugations: Proteger - To protect
      • protejo
      • proteges
      • protégé
      • protegemos
      • protegéis
      • protegen
  2. 2
    Look out for stem-changing verbs. In all three conjugations of verbs (-ar, -er, and -ir) there are some verbs whose vowels change within the stem. These stem-changes occur in all persons except nosotros and vosotros. These two persons maintain the regular stem. There are six varieties of stem-changes: o into ue, e into ie, e into i, i into ie, u into ue, o into hue.
    • Each of these is described below with examples.
      • quiero
      • quieres
      • quiere
      • queremos
      • queréis
      • quieren
  3. 3
    Look out for irregular verbs. As in every language there will be verbs that do not seem to follow any of the rules. Irregular verbs are verbs that violate conjugation rules for one or more persons and do not fall into any of the stem-changing or spelling-changing categories. And unfortunately, these are usually the most useful and regularly used words in the language.
    • The following words are irregular only in the yo form. They are regular in all other conjugations.
      • caber - quepo (to fit)
      • caer - caigo (to fall)
      • dar - doy (to give)
      • saber - sé (to know)
      • traer - traigo (to bring)
      • ver - veo (to see)

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Categories: Spanish