The Ultimate Guide to the Present Tense in Spanish

present tense in Spanish

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Ah, the most basic of Spanish conjugations: the present tense.

Conjugations get a bad rep as being super difficult. The reality is, almost every verb follows a predictable pattern, making conjugations pretty straightforward. And since you don’t actually need to learn every conjugation to be conversational (far from it), learning just a few will take you far.

Obviously, the simple present (e.g. I eat, you eat, he eats, they eat) is extremely important.

The Simple Present tense is mainly used to describe habitual actions that occur frequently but the truth is that you can use this tense in many situations, let’s see:

Routine

  • Yo cocino en mi casa – I cook at home
  • This means cooking is something you usually do.

Action in progress

  • Me refiero a otra cosa – I mean the other thing
  • You are explaining what you’re talking about. Note, that this is not the same as the -ing form (I’m eating ≠ I eat). Click here to read about the present progressive in Spanish.

Emphatic form

  • Yo si como vegetales – I do eat vegetables
  • You are confirming that you actually eat vegetables.

Near future

  • Yo juego mañana – I play tomorrow
  • Even though it’s a future action we can use the present tense to express it.

Simple present structure

We’ll look at the conjugation itself in a second, but here’s how we use it.

Yo + juego + tenis
Subject + Verb in present + complement

Affirmative form:

  • Él come vegetales. – (he eats vegetables.)
  • Yo trabajo con mi padre en la tienda – (I work with my father in the store.)

Negative form:

  • Yo no leo el periódico cada día. – (I don’t read the newspaper every day.)
  • Alejando no corre en el maratón. (Alejandro doesn’t run the marathon.)

Questions

  • ¿Te gusta la música de Green Day? – (Do you like Green Day’s music?)
  • ¿Dónde compras tu ropa? – (where do you buy your clothes?)

Conjugation

To conjugate verbs in simple present we must drop the infinitive ending of the verbs (ar, er, ir) and replace it with the ending according to the pronoun or subject, the root of the verbs stays the same. Here’s what you add when dropping the ending:

Ar Er Ir
Yo o o o
as es es
Él, ella, eso a e e
Ustedes an en en
Nosotros amos emos imos
Ellos an en en

And some examples with real verbs:

Cantar (sing) Comer (eat) Vivir (live)
Yo canto como vivo
cantas comes vives
Él, ella, eso canta come vive
Ustedes cantan comen viven
Nosotros cantamos comemos vivimos
Ellos cantan comen viven

Present Tense Exceptions

Of course, there are always exceptions. I would focus on the regular verbs for now and memorizing the few very important irregulars (these are shown in the next section). So feel free to skip this section if you’re just getting started. If you want to know the exceptions and how they work, though, read on.

Exceptions in the first person singular

  • The following verbs are only irregular in the first person singular. In some verbs g must be added before the end of the first person singular. For instance:
Caer (to fall) caigo
Hacer (to do/make) hago
Poner (to put) pongo
Saber (to know)
Valer (to be worth/cost) valgo
Decir (to say) digo
  •  In some verbs ending in er / ir change the last consonant in the first person singular to keep the same pronunciation of the root. For instance:
the c becomes z ofrecer – ofrezco
the g becomes j elegir – elijo
the gu becomes g conseguir – consigo
the qu becomes c delinquir – delinco
  •  For verbs ending in a vowel or ducir + cer, we must add a z before c in the first person singular, for instance:
To translate traducir traduzco
To know conocer conozco

Some exceptions are:

To do/make hacer hago
To swing mecer mezo
To sew cocer cuezo

Exceptions for the singular and the third person plural

  • Some verbs change the vowel of the root. For instance:
the e becomes i servir(serve) – sirvo, sirves, sirve, servimos, sirven
the e becomes ie hervir(boil) – hiervo, hierves, hierve, hervimos, hierven
the o becomes ue acordar (agree) – acuerdo, acuerdes, acuerde, acordamos, acuerden

 

  • In verbs ending in uir, add y before endings that do not begin with i. For instance: Construir – construyo, construyes, construye, construimos, construyen

28 Common Spanish Verbs Conjugated in the Present Tense

In this section we will see how 28 of the most common Spanish verbs are conjugated.

Comer (to eat) Cocinar (to cook)
(yo) como (yo) cocino
(tú) comes (tú) cocinas
(él) come (él) cocina
(nosotros) comemos (nosotros) cocinamos
(ellos) comen (ellos) cocinan

 

Bailar (to dance) Cantar (to sing)
(yo) bailo (yo) canto
(tú) bailas (tú) cantas
(él) baila (él) canta
(nosotros) bailamos (nosotros) cantamos
(ellos) bailan (ellos) cantan

 

Correr (to run) Dar (to give)
(yo) corro (yo) doy
(tú) corres (tú) das
(él) corre (él) da
(nosotros) corremos (nosotros) damos
(ellos) corren (ellos) dan

 

Dormir (to sleep) Decir (to say/tell)
(yo) duermo (yo) digo
(tú) duermes (tú) dices
(él) duerme (él) dice
(nosotros) dormimos (nosotros) decimos
(ellos) duermen (ellos) dicen

 

Enseñar (to teach) Escribir (to write)
(yo) enseño (yo) escribo
(tú) enseñas (tú) escribes
(él) enseña (él) escribe
(nosotros) enseñamos (nosotros) escribimos
(ellos) enseñan (ellos) escriben

 

Escuchar (to listen) Estudiar (to study)
(yo) escucho (yo) estudio
(tú) escuches (tú) estudias
(él) escucha (él) estudia
(nosotros) escuchamos (nosotros) estudiamos
(ellos) escuchen (ellos) estudian

 

Hablar (to speak) Hacer (to do/make)
(yo) hablo (yo) hago
(tú) hablas (tú) haces
(él) habla (él) hace
(nosotros) hablamos (nosotros) hacemos
(ellos) hablen (ellos) hacen

 

Ir (to go) Jugar (to play)
(yo) voy (yo) juego
(tú) vas (tú) juegas
(él) va (él) juega
(nosotros) vamos (nosotros) jugamos
(ellos) van (ellos) juegan

 

Leer (to read) Llamar (to call)
(yo) leo (yo) llamo
(tú) lees (tú) llamas
(él) lee (él) llama
(nosotros) leemos (nosotros) llamamos
(ellos) leen (ellos) llaman

 

Llorar (to cry) Mirar (to show/watch)
(yo) lloro (yo) miro
(tú) lloras (tú) miras
(él) llora (él) mira
(nosotros) lloramos (nosotros) miramos
(ellos) loran (ellos) miran

 

Preguntar (to ask) Reir (to laugh)
(yo) pregunto (yo) río
(tú) preguntas (tú) ríes
(él) pregunta (él) ríe
(nosotros) preguntamos (nosotros) reímos
(ellos) preguntan (ellos) ríen

 

Sentir (to feel) Ser (to be)
(yo) siento (yo) soy
(tú) sientes (tú) eres
(él) siente (él) es
(nosotros) sentimos (nosotros) somos
(ellos) sienten (ellos) son

 

Sonreir (to smile) Tener (to have)
(yo) sonrío (yo) tengo
(tú) sonríes (tú) tienes
(él) sonríe (él) tiene
(nosotros) sonreímos (nosotros) tenemos
(ellos) sonríen (ellos) tienen

 

Trabajar (to work) Vivir (to live)
(yo) trabajo (yo) vivo
(tú) trabajas (tú) vives
(él) trabaja (él) vive
(nosotros) trabajamos (nosotros) vivimos
(ellos) trabajan (ellos) viven

 

Spanish Present Tense Practice

Choose the correct sentence based on the image.

1.1

  • Ella habla por teléfono todos los días.
  • Ellos hablan por teléfono todos los días.
  • Nosotros hablamos por teléfono todos los días.
  • El habla por teléfono todos los días.

2.2

  • ¿El escucha música?
  • Ella escucha música.
  • Ustedes escuchan música..
  • Ellos escuchan música.

3.3

  • Él mira a través del lente.
  • Ustedes miran a través del lente.
  • Ella mira a través del lente.
  • Tú miras a través del lente.

4.4

  • Ellos cocinan la cena.
  • Él cocina la cena.
  • Ella cocina la cena.
  • Ustedes cocinan la cena.

5.5

  • El bebé llora.
  • Ellas lloran.
  • Ustedes lloran.
  • Nosotros lloramos.

KEY

  1. Ella habla por teléfono todos los días.
  2. Ella escucha música.
  3. Él mira a través del lente.
  4. Él cocina la cena.
  5. El bebé llora.

 
There’s a lot here, but remember that 90%+ of verbs follow the very simple rules laid out earlier. With a little practice (you need to actually speak and use this if you want it to flow naturally), you’ll have it down.
 

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