The Spanish present tense –el presente de indicativo- is a very versatile tense. Its use is like its English counterpart, and in general, it refers to actions that are happening as we speak, general truths, and to habitual actions.
The present in Spanish, however, has other functions, referring to events in the future (to express certitude) or even the past (the historic present), which we will identify because of the context of the sentence. Let’s see most of them and after that, we will review the conjugation.
When to use the present tense
01. To refer to something which is generally true or universal, we always use the present tense in Spanish.
La Tierra gira alrededor del Sol (Earth rotates arounth the Sun).
02. To refer to habitual actions in the present.
Duermo unas ocho horas (I sleep about eight hours).
03. To express habilities.
Ramón toca muy bien el piano (Ramon plays the piano very well).
04. To refer to an action of state of affair which is valid in the present.
Mis padres viven allí (My parents live there).
05. To refer to timeless situation.
Me gusta viajar (I like to travel).
06. To refer to actions taking place al the moment of speaking.
Los niños juegan en el jardín (Children are playing in the garden).
The present progressive is also possible in these sentences.
07. To refer to the future, especially, pre-arranged events and, generally, with verbs of movement.
Mañana llega Antonio (Antonio is arriving tomorrow).
08. To refer to an action that began in the past and is still in progress.
Hace 10 años que vivo aquí (I have been living here for 10 years).
09. To refer to the past (historic present).
La Guerra Civil Española empieza en 1936 (Spanish Civil War started in 1936).
10. As an imperative, especially in directions and instructions.
En la esquina doblas a la derecha (You turn right at the corner).
Spanish present tense forms
Now you know when to use the Spanish present tense, so it is time to learn how to form it. You must notice that the present is the one with more irregular verbs so you need to work very much on them. They can be organice into four main groups:
All the links above have plenty of interactive exercises. Practice as much as you can!