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Present tense in Spanish (el presente)

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The Spanish present tense is used to talk about what is true at the moment, what happens regularly and what is happening now. Like the English one! wink

What is the present tense in Spanish?

In Spanish, we use the present tense (Spanish: el presente) to talk about:

  • an action that is happening now.
  • things that happen frequently (habits) even though they are not happening in that moment.
  • express orders.
  • in reported speech.

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Regular and irregular present tense forms

In Spanish there are regular and irregular present tense forms.

  • regular forms: follow a pattern
  • irregular forms: do not follow the patterns and sometimes they change the root of the verb, the endings or both.

Regular present tense forms

The present tense in Spanish is formed with the following endings:

  • for verbs ending in -ar with -o, -as, -a, -os, -áis, -an
  • for verbs ending in -er, with -o, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en
  • for verbs ending in -ir, with -o, -es, -e, -os, -ís, -en

Regular verb endings (-ar, -er, -ir)

Pronouns-ar verbs conjugated-er verbs conjugated-ir verbs conjugated
 hablar (to speak)comer (to eat)vivir (to live)
Yohablocomovivo
hablascomesvives
Él / Ellahablacomevive
Nosotroshablamoscomemosvivimos
Vosotroshabláiscoméisvivís
Ellos / ellashablancomenviven

Examples:

  • Habláis muy alto. (You speak very loud).
  • Como muchas verduras. (I eat a lot of vegetables).
  • Viven en París. (They live in Paris).

Irregular present tense forms

These verbs do not follow the pattern of the regular verbs. We have different types of irregular verbs:

  • Verbs with diphthong changes
  • Verbs with stem-vowel change
  • Irregular only in the first-person singular (yo)
  • Verbs with multiple irregularities and completely irregular verbs.

Diphthong change with e: e → ie

In many verbs, the vowel in the stem of the verb changes to a diphthong. Unfortunately, there is no exact rule that makes clear whether a verb has a diphthong or not. Diphthongization changes -e- to -ie-, and -o- to -ue-. You will find a diphthong at all three-person singular and at the third-person plural.

querer 
yoquiero
quieres
él / ellaquiere
nosotrosqueremos
vosotrosqueréis
ellos/ ellasquieren

Examples:

  • Ellas quieren venir a la fiesta. (They want to come to the party)
  • ¿Quieres un trozo de pastel? (Do you want a piece of cake?)

Other verbs that follow the same diphtong change:

  • comenzar (to begin): comienzo...
  • empezar (to start): empiezo...
  • entender (to understand): entiendo...
  • mentir (to lie): miento...
  • pensar (to think): pienso...
  • recomendar (to recommend): recomiendo...
  • sentir (to feel): siento...

Diphthong change with o: o → ue

poder 
yopuedo
puedes
él / ellapuede
nosotrospodemos
vosotrospodéis
ellos/ ellaspueden

Examples:

  • Ellos pueden venir al viaje. (They can come to the trip)
  • ¿Puedes ayudarme por favor? (Can you help me please?)

Other important verbs with diphthong:

  • doler (to hurt): duelo...
  • encontrar (to find): encuentro...
  • mover (to move): muevo...
  • mostrar (to show): muestro...
  • volver (to come back): vuelvo...
  • oler (to smell): huelo...

enlightenedAttention: as a diphthong cannot be at the beginning due to pronunciation rules, oler becomes huelo, hueles ...

Diphthong change with: u→ ue

Here is jugar (play) the only example. But since it is a commonly used verb, you should also memorize this irregularity.

jugar 
yojuego
juegas
él / ellajuega
nosotrosjugamos
vosotrosjugáis
ellos/ ellasjuegan

Examples:

  • Ellos juegan al escondite. (They play hide and seek)
  • Juego con mi hermana. (I play with my sister)

Verbs with stem-vowel changes (e → i)

For some verbs ending in -ir, the stem vowel (vowel in the stem of the verb) changes during conjugation. This vowel change applies only to the three first persons in the singular and the third person plural.

pedir 
yopido
pides
él / ellapide
nosotrospedimos
vosotrospedís
ellos/ ellaspiden

Examples:

  • Piden un aumento de salario. (They ask for a raise)
  • Te pido que pares por favor. (I ask you to stop please)

Irregular only in the first-person singular (yo)

The first person singular is completely irregular. All other persons follow the same patterns explained above.

InfinitiveFirst person singular (yo)
hacer (to do)hago (haces, hace…)
poner (to put)pongo (pones, pone…)
saber (to know) (sabes, sabe…)
salir (to leave)salgo (sales, sale…)
traer (to bring)traigo (traes, trae…)
caer (to fall)caigo (caes,cae…)
dar (to give)doy (das, da…)
valer (to be worth)valgo (vales, vale…)
ver (to seeveo (ves, ve…)

 

Irregularities of the first-person singular (yo) depending on the verb ending

  • verbs on -ecer, -ocer, and -ucir change c → zc
  • verbs on -ger change g → j
  • for verbs on -cer, c → z
EndingInfinitiveConjugation
-ecerofrecer (to offer)
agradecer (to thank)
ofrezco (ofreces, ofrece…)
agradezco (agradeces, agradece…)
-ocerconocer (to know)
reconocer (to recognize)
conozco (conoces, conoce…)
reconozco (reconoces, reconoce…)
-ucirtraducir (to translate)
conducir (to drive)
producir (to product)
traduzco (traduces, traduce…)
conduzco (conduces, conduce…)
produzco (produces, produce…)
-gercoger (to take)
proteger (to protect)
cojo (coges,coge…)
protejo (protejes, proteje…)
-girrestringir (to restrain)
dirigir (to direct)
restrinjo (restrinjes, restrinje…)
dirijo(direijes, dirije…)
-cerconvencer (to convince)
vencer (to beat)
convenzo (convences, convence…)
venzo (vences, vence…)


Verbs with multiple irregularities and completely irregular verbs


Unfortunately, in Spanish there are some verbs with multiple irregularities or verbs that are completely irregular. These include some of the most important Spanish verbs such as ser (to be). Memorizing and practicing them is the only thing to do!

tener (to have)venir (to come)decir (to say)
tengovengodigo
tienesvienesdices
tienevienedice
tenemosvenimosdecimos
tenéisvenísdecís
tienenvienendicen
oir (to hear)seguir (to follow)ver (to see)
oigosigoveo
oyessiguesves
oyesigueven
oimosseguimosvemos
oísseguísveis
oyensiguenven
ser (to be)estar (to be)ir (to go)
soyestoyvoy
eresestásvas
esestáva
somosestamosvamos
soisestáisvais
sonestánvan

When to use the present tense in Spanish

There are situations when you always have to use the present tense: 

SituationExamplesTranslation
Actions happening nowAmparo dibuja en su cuaderno.Amparo draws in her notebook
HabitsJorge sube por las escaleras.Jorge always walks up the stairs
OrdersCoge una hoja y dibuja una casa.Take a paper and draw a house
Reported speechAyer por la mañana me preguntó: “¿Qué escribes en el cuaderno?"Yesterday morning he asked: What do you write in your notebook?

 

Marker words of the present tense

Marker wordTranslationExample
hoytoday

Hoy voy al cine.

Today I go to the cinema.

generalmente

normalmente
usually

Generalmente voy al cine los lunes.

I usually go to the cinema on Monday.
a veces sometimes

A veces como garbanzos.

Sometimes I eat chickpeas.
muchas vecesmany times

Muchas veces siento que no lo entiendo.

Many times, I feel I don’t understand.
siemprealways

Siempre bebo agua por la mañana.

I always drink water in the morning.
nuncanever

Nunca digas nunca.

Never say never.
varias vecesseveral times

Voy a nadar varias veces a la semana.

I go swimming several times a week.
a menudooften

Voy a menudo al mercado.

I often go to the market.
todos los díasevery day

Hago yoga todos los días.

I do yoga every day.
de vez en cuando from time to time

De vez en cuando bebo cerveza.

I drink beer from time to time.
casi nuncaalmost never

Casi nunca como pescado.

I almost never eat fish.

 


Exercises

  1. What is the right form of the verb?
  2. Find the right form of the present tense
  3. Conjugate the verbs in the dialogues

What is the right form of the verb?


Find the right form of the present tense


Conjugate the verbs in the dialogues


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