Spanish verbs overview: basic Spanish grammar (A1)

Verbs are the words we use to say:

  • What people and things are and have: be, exist, have…
  • What happens to them: live, die, become, change, break…
  • What they do physically: breath, eat, run, wait, arrive…, and mentally: like, believe, decide, respect, dream, analyse… 

The infinitive, the base form of the verb

Spanish verbs overview

In a dictionary you find the infinitive (el infinitivo in Spanish) of a verb in English, this is the basic verb, which can have to in front of it: (to) invite, (to) depend, (to) decide. In Spanish, infinitives are identified by their ending, which can be –ar, -er or -ir: invitar, depender, decidir. When you remove  –ar, -er, -ir, you’re left with the stem of the verb: invit-, depend-, decid-. A range of other endings can now be added to this stem, each of them conveying precise information about:

  • How the verb is being used = mood
  • When it’s happening: present, past or future= tense
  • Who /what is doing it = person

100 Spanish infinitives

So the first step is to learn the name of the verbs, the infinitive, after that we can start seeing how to use them. Click on this link to learn 100 Spanish infinitives with flashcards.

Verbs endings in Spanish

1. The verb endings carry precise information about how the verb is being used when it’s happening and who/what is doing it.

They fit onto the stem of the verb, which you find by removing –ar, -er, or –ir from the end of the infinitive.

  • Trabajar (to work) trabaj-= trabajo (I work), trabajĂ© (I worked), trabajarĂ© (I will work)…

2. The replacement endings are very similar – but not identical- for the three groups of verbs (see the conjugation of the regular verbs in the present tense). Irregular verbs deviate from the standard patterns in the same way, but even most of these have endings that are similar to regular verb patterns.

3. Because the verb conjugation often suggests who or what the subject of a sentence is, subject pronouns are less used in Spanish than in English.

Reflexive verbs in Spanish

Some verbs have –se (oneself) at the end of the infinitive. Called reflexive verbs, many –but not all- of these include oneself or get in the English translation: casarse (to get married), lavarse (to wash –oneself), divertirse (to enjoy oneself).

When they’re not infinitive, reflexive verbs have the same endings as other verbs but they also have to be accompanied by a reflexive pronoun: me, te, se… (see more about reflexive verbs).

The mood of the Spanish verbs

The mood is used in Spanish verbs, to refer to a category which indicates if the verb expresses a fact (the indicative mood)  or a wish or possibility (the subjunctive mood) for instance.

Estoy sano (I am very healthy).

Ojalá esté muy sano (I hope I am very healthy).

Click on the link to learn more about the subjunctive mood in Spanish.

Finally, remember you can contact your tutor with any questions you have about the Spanish verbs. Don’t you have a Spanish online tutor yet?

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