Spanish Grammar: Verbs overview (A1)

InfinitivosVerbs 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… 

1. In a dictionary you find the infinitive 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

2. The verb endings carry precise information about a) how the verb is being used, b) when it’s happening, and c) 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), trabajé (I worked), trabajaré (I will work)…

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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).

6. Now it is time you start learning your first 100 Spanish verbs.

Remember you can contact your tutor with any question you have. Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?

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