Spanish - Verbs


The basic form of a verb is called an infinitive.

  • An infinitive is a verb that is not inflected, i.e. it does not change in form by inflection. (inflection = changes in the verb forms.)
  • it is indeterminate and general, not referring to a particular person, number, tense.
  • In English, infinitive = to + verb, e.g. to eat.
infinitive = stem + ending

Where ending could be:

  • -ar (like hablar)
  • -er (like comer)
  • -ir (like vivir)

conjugate: "give the different forms of (a verb in an inflected language) as they vary according to voice, mood, tense, number, and person."

Stem Changing

e to i

-ir verbs like servir, pedir, their e changes to i in most forms. The e does not change in the nosotros / nosotras form.

servir pedir
yo sirvo pido
sirves pides
él / ella / usted sirve pide
nosotros / nosotras servimos pedimos
ellos / ellas / ustedes sirven piden

Other verbs:

  • competir: to compete
  • concebir: to conceive
  • despedir: to fire
  • impedir: to impede
  • medir: to measure
  • pedir: to ask for
  • reñir: to scold, quarrel
  • repetir: to repeat
  • servir: to serve
  • teñir: to color, dye, stain
  • vestir: to dress

e to ie

The letter e in the stem changes to ie in all but the nosotros and vosotros forms. E.g. perder, querer.

cerrar entender
yo cierro entiendo
cierras entiendes
él / ella / usted cierra entiende
nosotros / nosotras cerramos entendemos
vosotros / vosotras cerráis entendáis
ellos / ellas / ustedes cierran entienden

o to ue

the letter o in the stem changes to ue in all but the nosotros and vosotros forms. E.g. contar (tell),almorzar and poder.

contar almorzar poder
yo cuento almuerzo puedo
cuentas almuerzas puedes
él / ella / usted cuenta almuerza puede
nosotros / nosotras contamos almorzamos podemos
vosotros / vosotras contáis
ellos / ellas / ustedes cuentan almuerzan pueden

a + Infinitive

Verbs like aprender, ayudar and empezar require a before the infinitive.


  • Empiezo a trabajar el lunes. (I am starting to work on Monday.)


Say no before the verb.

me / te / se

Some Spanish verbs always need a me, te, se before them.

  • me levanto
  • se ducha


  • Tense = time. 3 groups of time: past, present, future.
  • Mood
    • indicative mood: making a statement or asking a question.
    • conditional: would do / would have done something depending on something else.
    • subjunctive moood: indicating a wish, a fear, etc. It is used in Spanish much more than in English.
    • imperative mood: commanding someone to do something.
    • infinitive mood

Simple tenses vs Compound tenses

  • Simple tenses: one verb
  • Compound tenses: two parts, the auxiliary verb + past participle. (have done something)

Spanish tenses vs English tenses

  • In English:
    • 3 simple tenses: Present, Past, Future
    • 3 compound tenses: Present Perfect, Past Perfect, Future Perfect.
  • In Spanish: 7 simple tenses + 7 compound tenses.

7 Simple Tenses

  • presente de indicativo (present indicative, e.g. I eat.)
  • imperfecto de indicativo (imperfect indicative, e.g. I was eating.)
  • pretérito (preterit, e.g. I ate.)
  • futuro (future, e.g. I will eat.)
  • potencial simple (conditional, e.g. I would eat.)
  • presente de subjuntivo (present subjunctive, e.g. ... that I may eat.)
  • imperfecto de subjuntivo (imperfect or past subjunctive, e.g. ... that I might eat.)

7 Compound Tenses (haber + past participal)

  • perfecto de indicativo (present perfect or past indefinite, e.g. I have eaten.)
  • pluscuamperfecto de indicativo (pluperfect or past perfect indicative, e.g. I had eaten.)
  • pretérito anterior (past anterior or preterit perfect, e.g. I had eaten.)
  • futuro perfecto (future perfect or future anterior, e.g. I will have eaten.)
  • potencial compuesto (conditional perfect, I would have eaten.)
  • perfecto de subjuntivo (present perfect or past subjunctive, e.g. ... that I may have eaten.)
  • pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo (pluperfect or past perfect subjunctive, e.g. ... that I might have eaten.)

Progressive Tenses

Used only if an action is actually in progress.

  • Progressive Present: estar in the present tense + present participle, e.g. Estoy hablando.
  • Progressive Past: estar in the imperfect indicative + present participle, e.g. Estaba hablando.